Sunday, April 22, 2018

Music Review:
Dana Murray "Negro Manifesto"

With a name such as "Negro Manifesto" you would expect this to be a strong standing piece of music not only in the sense that the musical parts are being played exceptionally well (and they are) but also that there is this message to it that you don't always find in today's music but you could find from the likes of KRS-One and Rage Against the Machine.   This all does hold true, but some of this for me is more of a matter of already knowing these things while I forget it is targeted to the masses, some of whom probably think Harriet Tubman did that one hook on that Drake song.

This is a manifesto for those who post Bitmojis saying they're "#Woke" but haven't even ever read The Autobiography of Malcolm X.  (Don't worry, if you're missing the point there was an episode of "Fresh Prince" I'm sure can explain it to you better)  When everyone else in my class was being force-fed Animal Farm in high school, I was out reading Langston Hughes.    Perhaps the most important point of this entire album and I'm going to make it right now instead as my conclusion: while these words can apply specifically to black people, they also should be heard and taken to heart by everyone regardless of race.

Dana Murray is a drummer who has an ensemble cast on this album playing sax, singing and, well, the credits are on Bandcamp so you can see all of the instruments and names associated with them.   But first off, yes, I need to recognize that all of this being put together by a drummer is quite the achievement since no one ever wants to seem to play the drums and most drummers remind me of Ringo.    Through jazz, soul and beauty these songs convey a message which is long overdue.

"The System" is perhaps the most lyrically challenging song on "Negro Manifesto".   And also, if you have an issue with this being called "Negro Manifesto"- if that makes you uncomfortable because you're white, then good.   In a lot of ways I feel like this album was meant to take you out of your comfort zone.  White people don't want to play this one too loudly because what if a black person overhears it?  Then they might have some explaining to do.    But, yes, "The System" is about how we are all being held down and we need to somehow tear that down and start over. 

Perhaps my favorite line though is: "downtown full of rappers that refuse to give up even though their stuff sucks" though there is so much more to take from it, I suppose it is just the music writer in me (And how people say "Rap sucks" and I say "Yeah, cause you listen to the radio")   Audio clips are in here quite a bit, talking about various things and even the song "Comfortable Discomfort" is made up in that sense lyrically.    "Stand By Your Man" has a more traditional sound and then we dive into the three part "Suite Kaepernick Mvt", something I just feel too many people misunderstood, but again, in this country, sadly, ignorance often reigns supreme.

The words are spoken, almost rapped, in anger until everything fades and there is only the last line:

If MLK could run it back he’d keep a piece up in his suit
You want us to take the high road,
But that ain’t what you do 
I’ve been meaning to find meaning in these bad dreams,
Then I realize
It’s a machine

CJ Mills is on here quite a bit and has become one of my personal favorites.   What you have to understand most about "Negro Manifesto" is that it will appeal to those who enjoy jazz, yet it pushes the boundaries of what jazz is/could be.   Musically, this is one of the most powerful albums I have ever heard which is what initially drew me to it.   The content of it though is not just something which needs to be taken to heart in 2018, but something which needs to be held onto for a long while.  This is the type of knowledge I wish they taught in high school.  

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