Friday, March 5, 2010

in relation to Soul. (music in my life part 2)

music in my life part 1

In response to Coming of Age with Hip-Hop I wondered, what have been the effects of soul music on this black woman as she grew up? Since there was little to no hip hop in our house, I grew up on the R&B, funk and soul music of the '70s and '80s that my parents love. Add a dash of classic and contemporary jazz, a pinch of the bunches of neo-soul artists of the last decade, and a handful of gospel, and well... you've got my iPod.

I think about what songs I identified with in high school; that got me through stress and tears, while supporting my happiness. The music that I clung to most helped me imagine and shape my future. I spent a lot of time in high school imagining who I wanted to be. A lot of emphasis was placed on the future: getting good grades to get into a good college to get a good job and be who and what I wanted to be. Figuring out who the future-Sydnie would be was my main charge in life, and I looked every where, at every one, and every thing for source material.

It was 2001 and three female vocalists debuted albums: India.Arie's Acoustic Soul, Alicia Keys' Songs in A Minor, and Jill Scott's Who is Jill Scott? Of all the music I had listened to in my 16 years (and trust me, it was a lot of music), it was the first time I felt like I was listening to my OWN music.

The melodies of Alicia Keys moved me. Her songs were emotional enough that when I sang them I was acting and dancing them out. At the time, I hadn't been in love, but that song made it easy for me to imagine what it must feel like. I can remember falling to my knees asking "How Come You Don't Call Me?"; and belting "Is this the end? Are you sure?/How should you know when you've never been here before?/It's so hard, to just let go/When this is the one and only love I've ever known," from her song "Goodbye."  I took that imagined feeling and danced to "Butterflyz," creating a work for my school dance company that was probably the most choreographically complex thing I'd made to that point. Keys' music gave voice to my youthful ignorance about love and relationships. It gave me the opportunity to manifest my ideas about romantic love in a physical way.

Jill Scott, on the other hand, brought the grown woman attitude that I wanted to acquire. The whole album just felt like Grown Folks Business. Between Jill whippin' some chick's tail in "Gettin' in the Way," and her love song(s) to "Lyzel in E Flat," I glimpsed what relationship highs and lows might be. "It's Love" brought back that old school funk that I was growing up on in the form of a recorded jam session. "Watching Me" and "Brotha" were the spectrum of social consciousness I'd hope to have. I always co-signed (and chuckled) when the former song asked "Direct TV. Am I watchin' it? Or is it watchin' me?"; and the latter asked "Am I my brotha's keeper? Yes I am."

And then I think about India.Arie's music. It was for the present and the future moment. More than love songs, it offered "Strength, Courage and Wisdom." It also offered "Beautiful." I printed those lyrics and posted them on the wall of my bedroom. Whenever I got discouraged, stressed, angry, and ever more ready to make the future the present, I referred to that song.

So what were the effects of soul music on this black woman as she grew up?

The music helped me to determine the woman I wanted to become. The musicians were women I could model myself after. Creative, thoughtful, bold, and comfortable in their own skin. Through music I imagined a future that I could look forward to.

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