We Asked 6 People What Black Music Meant To Them. Here's What They Said.

Black music for Black History Month

In a collaboration with Bedford’s Power In Discussion, we conducted a survey on black music and what it meant to people.

Tomorrow sees the return of Power In Discussion’s annual Black History Month event in Bedford, UK. For this year’s event, entitled Music Matters – Centring Black Voices in Community Conversations, the theme is black music.

I went to my first event last year and it was one of the most enriching experiences of my life and I’m excited about this year’s edition. As a way to promote the event and celebrate Black History Month, I created a survey to ask black people about their experiences with black music.

Before we get into what the 6 respondents had to say, here are their names.

  • Marcus
  • Ronke
  • Adriel
  • Davina Quinland
  • Tremayne Miller
  • Emeka Agu

And here are their responses. Enjoy!

How was music used to teach you about your identity and Black History?

Marcus: I never learnt about Black music at home or school from others so I sought out Black American music (soul/R&B) and learning about the artists and there influences gave me an insight into Black American history.

Ronke: My parents played a variety of music from Nigeria, African American and Caribbean communities. Music was used as a means of reinforcing our heritage and as a backdrop to many conversations about revolutionary individuals who Fela [Kuti], Bob Marley etc.

Tre: I don’t really recall music being used in such a way. Although there have been a few artists that have pointed out a few things that I may not have known.

Dee: In the home…. cultural music both in singing and recorded form was played, and particular importance was played to the singing of traditional songs, to forge a connection to Caribbean roots.

Emeka: In school, we did learn about some black musicians but it was primarily used in celebration. At home older relatives would stress the importance of certain things I needed to know about blackness, dealing with the world while black by utilizing music.

Adriel: No matter the genre, music has taught me to be proud of who I am and how I can be expressive through music. When the words aren’t there, the music can take over.

What traditions around music have you developed in your household?

Marcus: None really as I enjoy my music back home my parents weren’t big music fans other than ABBA & Boney M and Radio 2. I think that influenced me in that I really like melody (I’m not a hip hop fan, other than features on R&B records). My partner has different tastes than me but has come to appreciate the R&B/trip hop/pop I like.

Ronke: I play music to heal, to reflect and to self soothe.

Tre: We typically listen to reggae music and a lot of reggae music was about uplifting a people. As I got older I learned of some of the other connections.

Dee: I haven’t forged any as of yet.

Emeka: I clean, read, and reset mentally to music. It centers me.

Adriel: Blast whenever we can. Motivates us to cook, clean, etc.

In your opinion, to what extent can music be used to affect change on social issues?

Marcus: I think by learning about artists and their stories in some respects in can educate black people and reduce anti-blackness but as we know non-Black people may enjoy black music but it does not always follow rage it reduces anti-Blackness. We do not seem to be in an era of protest songs if you enjoy mainstream, well produced music. Where were the big R&B hits about #BlackLivesMatter?

Ronke: It absolutely can be used to affect change but only if the environment is conducive and the listener is ready.

Tre: The fact that music can reach so many people is a great asset and if we use it to teach people about the heritage that’s being hidden, people will be more receptive.

Dee: It is an effective communicator of messages, and has the ability to unify people of differing communities. It can be used as outreach to the disaffected or marginalised in society.

Emeka: it can be a gathering call or a beacon to those unaware of a pressing issue.

Adriel: I believe it can change a great deal. You can take “rambling” and make it artful. Music is extremely influential.

Michael Jackson and Prince

How does music make you feel?

Marcus: Happy, sometimes euphoric and nostalgic taking you back to a place and time.

Ronke: Whole.

Tre: Like I’m understood.

Dee: Joyous, sombre, peaceful, expressive.

Emeka: it depends on the music. lately I have been using it to relax. a lot of April + Vista.

Adriel: It can make me feel everything. From the song itself or an experience that happened while that song was playing.

What have been the stand out genres and artists to it have influenced you?

Marcus: R&B/pop, I grew up in the era of Whitney, Michael Jackson and Prince. Whitney was always my no.1, however the late 80s and the 90s were an incredibly important and prolific time in Black music, the new jack swing era when hip job met soul was very exciting. As well as Whitney I loved Toni Braxton, Mary J Blige, Faith Evans. Mariah, TLC, SWV, En Vogue, and other girl groups. I *only* used to listen to R&B but as the genre has declined in quantity and quality I find myself listening to more pop and trip-hop these days.

Ronke: Too many to mention, so many soul, neo soul, afrobeats, soft rock.

Tre: R&B, Jazz, reggae, hip hop.

Dee: Soul music

Emeka: All forms of black music. lately musicians like Sun El Musician, Dorothy Ashby, April + Vista, Donald Byrd, etc

Adriel: Gospel, R&B, Jazz, and Hip-Hop.

To what extent is music important to your wellbeing and mental health?

Marcus: I would say quite important. There’s nothing like putting on noise cancelling headphones and listening to new tunes or nostalgic classics.

Ronke: Extremely, it’s an important part of my well being routine.

Tre: It serves as an escape sometimes. Allowing me to feel what others may tell me I shouldn’t.

Dee: Very important…. helpful me to switch off.

Emeka: Extremely. it’s how I relax.

Adriel: Music can keep me sane. When upset, simply riding around and listening to music can change my whole attitude quickly.

Childhood Cassettes: Roberta Flack (and friends)
Roberta Flack

If you were asked, “one good thing about music?”, what would your response be?

Marcus: Everyone has an opinion about it, it’s a universal human experience.

Ronke: It’s powerful to heal, sooth and unite.

Tre: It’s always relative.

Dee: The ability to put words and/or sounds to complex feelings. The joy of a shared experience.

Emeka: Its ability to communicate things I, at not have the language for.

Adriel: It’s universal. No matter what language barriers we have across the world, everyone can understand music.

If you’re available on Saturday 26th October, check out the Music Matters event at The Higgins, Bedford, MK40 3XD. Check the map below for location details.

Hi, it's Luke, the editor of Sampleface! Why not subscribe to my Patreon and support the blog?

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