ODETTA / “New Orleans”

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4 Responses to “ODETTA / “New Orleans””

rich Says:
March 25th, 2007 at 2:03 am

what makes a legitimate audience? does race define taste? who controls the evolution of a music’s audience? Kalamu’s final comment rings true – why think in a way that closes us down?One of the most beautiful things about music is that it can so often cross that which can divide us. I’m Anglo-Asian, based in Australia, play keys and drums and have travelled around the world to see and play the music I love. I’ve sat in with players from as diverse locations as the USA, England, Senegal, Cuba, Italy and Hungary. I do get the point that a different kind a dialogue exists between a home-grown music form and a home grown audience. Maybe sometimes I just think that its as significant to see a smile open up on a new audience’s face as it is to see a familiar crowd dancing wildly.

Rudolph Lewis Says:
March 25th, 2007 at 2:24 pm

Real in a vacuum? Maybe so. But I’m not sure that that causes any diminution in value and significance. I suppose at one point that was my view about the Fisk Jubilee Singers. They did not sing the Spirituals in the same manner as folks did in the backwoods. On reading James Weldon Johnson’s sermons, though artistic, they seemed somewhat of a shadow of the authentic Negro sermon of, say, a C.L. Franklin, Aretha’s father. And I know I’ve said that the blues of Langston Hughes and those of Sterling Brown fall short in ways from the blues of Robert Johnson or Sun House or even Muddy Waters. The same applies to their ballads. These formally "educated" artists, however, brought something else, and important addition, I think, a self-consciousness, a self-awareness, possibly absent in the authentic folk artists, of a broader and deeper significance of the folk material. This "backward glance" and the understanding of the larger significance of the material made the folk material itself and more than itself at the same time. This may be a paradox. But there is indeed something in it. It is ironic too that it took a lot of young white men and women to refocus our attention on the importance of Negro folk material and folk artists. Without them I’m not sure we would have such a revival in the 60s and 70s. Different times, places, and audiences are indeed important for a greater appreciation.

— Rudy

      Mtume says:    

Honestly, my initial opinion about the Odetta records was I didn’t have an opinion. Not one I wanted to share, at least. First off, I know very little about folk music and virtually nothing about Odetta. I don’t like having to comment on something I really don’t know anything about. Second, I think Kalamu was being intentionally provocative with his response, trying to get me to go off on one of my rants. (And I almost did. Especially over that Condeleeza comment. Any mention of that brown-skinned snake is enough to get me going on general principle.) Kalamu already knows exactly how I feel about this whole issue and he knows this thing doesn’t boil down to race for me. Race is an issue with this, but it isn’t necessarily the issue.

As for what Rudy has to say above, I wasn’t trying to make an argument against Odetta. I was just explaining why I don’t like that type of presentation. And yes, that includes stuff like the Fisk Jubilee Singers – their story turns my stomach, frankly. Honestly, it doesn’t even matter to me what their music sounds like. I’m not critiqueing their music…or Odetta’s…or Robert Cray’s (who was the blues artist I saw making a dignified ass out of himself on PBS). My objection to what these artists do has less to do with music than it has to do with the style and context of their presentation. Generally speaking, when people take folk music out of its original context and ‘present’ it to people who don’t understand the original context (except perhaps intellectually), it pisses me off. That’s just me.

I’m not trying to write a thesis or convince anyone that I’m right. If all of this makes me racist, fine. I’m racist. I’ve been called worst. Bottom line for me: I think recreated folk music is jive and that’s that. I don’t give a damn if it’s a bunch of black people sitting there in the audience or if it’s white people sitting in the audience. Real folk music doesn’t have a damn audience sitting anywhere!

When intellectuals and theorists try to get all down and dirty it does nothing but work on my nerves. If you ask me – and that’s exactly what happened; I was asked to comment – they should stick to their doctorate thesises (or whatever the plural of ‘thesis’ is) and then go ahead and circulate those papers amongst themselves and call each other ‘Sir Doctor’ and ‘Madam Doctor’ and hold forums on university campuses during which they take turns applauding each other for how thoroughly they understand the unsullied savage innocence of the common folk, but meanwhile back in the real world, they should leave the music to people who actually live the stuff. Like Bob says: "Who feels it, knows it."

Oh well. I guess that sort of turned into a rant, didn’t it?  emoticon

Rudolph Lewis Says:
March 25th, 2007 at 5:34 pm

Mtume, you’re a funny cat. I don’t think any of this makes you a racist. But your criticism would eliminate so much that’s good. I’ve named Hughes and Brown but also Paul Robeson, Josh White, and many more would come under your umbrella of “phonies.” You should not let your prejudices get the best of you in this matter.
— Rudy

Russ Says:
March 29th, 2007 at 11:16 am

Music thats out context can definitely feel like a history lesson, and sometimes it feels like a history lesson where the teacher just got it wrong. Folk, Jazz, and Blues are all arguably out of context these days.

Remember when Wynton hit and the press stirred up all this Wynton vs. Miles stuff? Wynton was playing music rooted in the 40s through early 60s while Miles was playing more contemporary stuff

Miles, always good for a controversial quote, made some comments about Wynton – accusing him of playing dead music for white people (my paraphrase, not a quote) I saw them both at the Saenger – reality was they were both playing for a mostly white Jazz fest crowd.

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