Lynne d Johnson



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10.19.05 06:50 PM

is rock and roll racist?

Toronto-based writer Laina Dawes poses the question, "If hip-hop can be color blind, why do rock concerts still seem segregated?" Her article, Rock and Roll Apartheid, posted at today explores white hypermasculinity at rock concerts .vs. the multicultural open arms of hip-hop music.

Given that the progenitors of rock music were black — Chuck Berry, Little Richard — it often seems absurd that white people don't expect black people to enjoy rock music, nonetheless make rock music.

Just last year, the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto presented Bad Brains:Afro-Alternative Music Summit. The Summit, the brainchild of Dalton Higgins, discussed some of the new music forms from Orchestral Pop-Noir, Romantique, Afro-Kraut and Afro-Clash to Afro-Punk and the role that Black musicians have played in the creation of these genres.

Within the Sistah’s Who Rock panel discussion, Graph Nobel, Kim Bingham (David Usher), Michie Mee (Day After), Tuku (Blaxam), Syreeta Neal and others will tackled the culture and gender question. The women are joined by Alt-Afro luminaries James Spooner (Director of the acclaimed film Afro Punk which features Friday night's Late Night Now performer Tamar Kali), Murray Lightburn (The Dears), EMI recording artist k-os, Shawn Hewitt, Adrian Miller (20th Century Rebels) and Don Cash. The afternoon sessions included the launch of the Canadian Chapter of the NYC-based Black Rock Coalition.

Kandia Crazy Horse, author of Rip It Up: the Black Experience in Rock n Roll, and an African-American woman, had her Canadian book launch during this event. And who else but music critic Laina Dawes served as the moderator of the Summit.

It's amazing that these discussions have to continue to exist. In cities such as New York, prior to the evolution of WBLS, pretty much pop and rock was all we had. When black radio, and the later hip-hop, finally evolved, it wasn't strange to be checking for David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, The Talking Heads, and Hall & Oates, as well as The Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Breakout and the Funky Four plus one, or even Doug E Fresh and The Get Fresh Crew. Besides, break beats came from rock & roll breaks, just as much as funk and soul breaks.

This just all takes me back to what I wrote in "Blurred Lines: Somewhere Between Hip-Hop and Alternative": "While digging the party message and male posturing of Flash and the Furious Five and The Treacherous Three, she developed a strong craving for the Euro-imported rhythms of bands like Berlin and the Divinyls. And while she, that's I, has often taken shots from my African-American kinfolk for it, I am proud to understand, no, love both. How could you not love both? Alternative and hip-hop both make heads nod while speaking for your young soul, both offer an outlet to party and manifest struggle; both prove there are only two types of music — good and bad."

And for the record, Bad Brains and Fishbone, though as punk as they want to be, are also straight up soul brothers. (Sorry, I just had to get that in there.)

That the foundations of these music grew of similar sociocultural circumstances - the bridge between the two makes perfect sense. So then why does Laina Dawes have to ask such questions? It's because that shit is real. Masses of white folks feel that rock is exclusively white music, and likewise masses of black folks feel that hip-hop is exclusively black music (no matter that Eminem exists or that most of the money spent on hip-hop shows and CDs and downloads comes from white males aged 18-34).

Just check out Laina's popmatters piece to see where I'm going with all of this.

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