I happened to be watching Urban One Honors: The Soundtrack of Black America the other night (it was really good, by the way) and it got me thinking about how music has always been an integral part of our lives and our culture. We can trace music back as far as biblical times. In fact, the book of Genesis, Chapter 4, speaks of Jubal playing the harp and flute, and in I Samuel 16, David played for King Saul and it soothed and uplifted his spirit. Gospel music will always do that for me.
During slavery, music was a spiritual, mental, and emotional escape from our ancestor’s horrific conditions and songs were created to conceal their routes to freedom. Music was a promise that we would overcome, and that change would come during the Civil Rights era. It is a symbol of protest against the many injustices throughout time. It has always been a part of any occasion; good or bad. Music simply brings us together.
Music is ever-evolving and there’s something for everyone’s listening to pleasure. The genres are endless. From early American music like ragtime and jazz to gospel, R&B, and hip-hop. From rock n’ roll and rap to country, and everything in between. Even the Black influence on country music started with the banjo, which is an instrument brought over by our West African descendants. Music has and will always be one of the most important, influential, and impactful forces in our culture and our world.
We look for music that we can connect to. That makes us feel. It’s that song that reminds us of when we first fell in love or experienced our first heartbreak. What are those songs you play when you’re mad or sad-the ones you know are going to make you cry? What song causes you to be reflective or want to dance? I remember when I was a kid, my brothers and I would listen and sing to gospel greats such as Walter Hawkins. We really thought we were doing something with our play microphones in our hands. LOL! We were also sneaking (my parents only played gospel) to watch Soul Train on Saturday mornings, listening to our favorite musical artists perform and watching all the smooth dance moves. To this day, I still can’t dance, but I’ll try. LOL! Oooh, what about 90’s R&B! LOL! Let me stop! Man, those were the days!! There’s some great R&B music out there, but I will always say the ’90s was the best decade in R&B music, in my opinion.
There’s just something extraordinary about Black music. It is no wonder why other artists try to mimic our sound. It’s timeless. It just draws us in like a warm blanket on a cold day. Whatever your choice of music, keep listening and let it continue to inspire.
Janet Downs is an instructor with over 20 years of experience, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and non-profit organizations. She volunteers and is a resource for the homeless community and is working towards starting her own non-profit. She’s passionate about mental health and seeks to bring more awareness to the black community. She is active in church ministry, a writer, and loves music, hiking, and travel.