Music of the People: Artists Talk About Music Inspiring Change

As a music journalist I love to attend frank, open music dialogues. We decided to take in the International Festival of Arts & Ideas music talk, “Music of the People: Artists Talk About Music Inspiring Change” this evening at the Yale Center for British Art.

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It proved to be a very valuable discussion. I learned a great deal in 90 minutes and walked away with many more music resources than when I arrived. The event was moderated admirably by noted cultural critic, Siddhartha Mitter. Not only was he poised and polished but he effectively managed time, task and gave each participant equal air time to unfold their thoughts and impart their knowledge to us.

The participants were Sunny Jain, MC for Red Baraat, a Brooklyn, NY, Indian bhangra and funky New Orleans brass ensemble. He was warm, genuinely enthusiastic about the music he and his colleagues create. He stated that Red Baraat evidences a blended ideology when it comes to inspiring change.

The next artist was Jessica Schmitz, Co-Director of the group, Asphalt Orchestra. Jessica positioned Asphalt Orchestra as a group that busts barriers by challenging new listeners and passerby’s with spontaneous, guerrilla performances. This is how they inspire change through direct interaction and expanding a listeners music horizions.

The most humble yet most charismatic performer was Noori, represented by songwriter, lead vocalist and guitarist, Ali Noor. They are from Pakistan and have achieved major artist recognition status in their country. Noori was formed to create music written to bring about change. Noori best fit the ideal profile of consummate activist and musicians affecting change. The very nature of their intellectual fabric has positioned them at the forefront to bring about social reform and change, which came across with a powerful immediacy.

The last panelist was Sujatha Fernandes, an academic and music author (I added her latest book, Close to the Edge: In Search of Global Hip-Hop to my must own and read list.) Sujatha was very in concert with the topic as she is an associate professor of sociology. She has written about black popular culture, global hip hop, and social movements in both academic journals and popular forums, including The New York TimesThe NationThe Huffington Post, and Colorlines.

Sujatha brought us two great music resources that we listened to and grooved with ;). One was Keurgui Crew, a Senegal Rap artist. We  heard their selection “Coup de Guele”. We also got to hear Magia MC, from Cuba, perform “La Llaman Puta”, a song about prostitution (an issue that doesn’t exist, according to the government).

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