Amiri Baraka: jazz side of the brain

July 18, 2013

I’ve always loved this account of jazz from Amiri Baraka: “Jazz enabled separate and valid emotional expressions to be made that were based on older traditions of Afro-American music that were clearly not not a part of it.  The Negro middle class would not have a music if it were not for jazz.  The white man would have no access to blues.  It was a music reflecting not only the Negro and a black America but a white America as well.”

Not an ornate passage, by any means.   But not so easy to tease apart, either.   In fact, I’m still trying to figure this out — his claim that jazz enables emotional expressions based on Afro-American traditions other than itself.   What kind of counterintuitive intuition is that?

Maybe there’s something like the jazz side of the brain?

Recently I read “Cuba Libre” — a syncopated account of the Revolution, it seems.   About Article 16 of the Agrarian Reform Act, Baraka writes: “an area of two caballerias (about 66  acres) of fertile land, without irrigation and distant from urban centers, is established as the ‘vital minimum’ for a peasant family of five persons engaged in crops of medium economic yield.”  He also adds: ” as long as this law is upheld, the majority of the Cuban people will love Fidel Castro even if it were proven that he was Lucifer himself.”

Not the same as what he says about jazz, of course.  But definitely in that vicinity.

About wcd2

Professor of English and American Studies
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