I’m spinning a wedding in Brooklyn, New York . The couple talked to me about their playlist. A lot of 90’s hip hop, top 40, plus some indie rock. I was killing it, blended all those genres in an out, everyone was having a great time. Except for one old white guy. He asked me once to “Turn down the bass”.
My friend Ricardo and I always laugh at that, because it happened to us so often. Actually it went more like, “It’s not the music, I like the music, it’s just, can you turn down the bass” So I did, it was dinner, whatever. Nothing special about that story right?
Well, fast forward 30 min or so. Same older guy comes up to me. Puts his finger in my face and begins to berate me and the music I was playing. He asked me who told me this was music. I replied that the bride and groom did, the people you came here to celebrate.
He then says, I told you to you turn it down! (finger in face, extremely angry). As soon as this began I immediately explained to him that he cannot speak to me like that, he is not in control, I am. He kind of flew off the handle after that.
A few quotes
“It’s Jungle music, and you know it”
“I know you know about Jungle music”
“You are only talking to me like this because you are hiding behind a table, like you all always do”
“Turn down the Jungle Music”
I went through all of the feelings really quickly. Anger, hatred, sadness, confusion, bitterness.
The party was going well, and I did not want to be there anymore. They did not deserve what I was providing.
I was upset, I wanted to press stop and just leave. I didn’t, this is my profession and I want to keep it that way.
Some ignorant bigot cannot deter me. I love this job, and I am blessed to be able to live out my passion. So, after I calmed down. Thought about it. I realized something.
One thing about “Jungle Music” is that I usually freaking love it. Anything that gets the stigma of “Jungle Music” usually holds close to my heart.
Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington to Chuck Berry and James Brown, and of course Wu-Tang, Outkast and the Roots. All technically “Jungle Music”.
A jungle where the vines connect in the most beautiful patterns, that never repeat. A jungle where the thunder claps boom from sp and technic 1200’s. A jungle where the oppressed inhabitants sing together for healing and strength. A jungle where the rhythms are natural and cyclical, they get played with, shifted at times, but they always come back home.
Jeru said it best.
“It started on sands of the land of the mother, word to mother. King like my father. My sound survive slave ships, whips and chains, hardships, still through all this. The praise roll off my lips.”
That is the power of music of the African Diaspora. Circumstances no matter how dire cannot change it. It cannot be tied down, it cannot be suppressed, or ignored. It fought it’s way from the bottom of ships to being sung from the highest cliffs.
So the next time I get a “Jungle music” comment, I’ll just say
“You think this jungle music? Yesssss, I love jungle music, I’ll turn the bass up for you.
Musical Time Stamps- Great examples of “Jungle Music”
Jungle Music- by Jeru the Damaja
This is the theme song for this post. Jeru gives us a history of how black music began, and how it hold strong today. Even in the face of those who hate it, and in turn hate us.
Blacker the Berry- Kendrick Lamar
As this racist rant was happening to me this is how I felt, this is what I wanted to say.
You hate my people, your plan is to terminate my culture
You’re fuckin’ evil I want you to recognize that I’m a proud monkey
You vandalize my perception but can’t take style from me
And this is more than confession
I mean I might press the button so you know my discretion
I’m guardin’ my feelin’s, I know that you feel it
You sabotage my community, makin’ a killin’
You made me a killer, emancipation of a real nigga
Duke Ellington- Didjeridoo (Afro- Eurasin Eclipse album)
Ellington often got the stigma of Jungle Music, however he is now known as possibly the greatest American composer. This is some of his later work.
Black Brown and Beige is my favorite Ellington album.
Hammer Ring- Texas Prison Songs
This is an example of Work Song. These tunes have roots in the slave fields of the deep south. Slaves sang songs like this to pass the time, communicate with one another, and to uplift their spirits. Sometimes with praise, sometimes with sorrow. Music like this is the precursor to what we call THE BLUES
One thing I wonder about Outkast is. Would all the mainstream listeners who only know The Love Below and Speakerboxx really like Outkast if they heard SoutherPlayalisticadillacmusik, ATLiens and Aquemini? Please leave a comment below.