I attended an event put up by the Langston Hughes Project which was called Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz. This musical presentation was revolved around the impact jazz had on American arts and culture. What is meant for students to gain from this is to gain an idea of another form of African American Literature, which was through jazz. Also, it is meant to introduce Langston Hughes’ poetry. These are the two main features of the presentation.
On the other hand, the presentation also included African styled food, which included ribs, fried chicken, and mac and cheese which was delicious. After gathering my food and sitting down, the presentation started with music. The sound of the music was very Gospel-like and there was much choir singing. People would call out and yell responses or reactions to the lyrics the music held. This occurred often because the majority of the presentation was made up with reading of poems accompanied by music. A very welcoming vibe was present throughout the entire performance.
Moving on, a way that the program is significant to the understanding of African American History is through the music and the feeling that is felt by the audience. This same feeling was felt by African Americans would gather and create a Church gathering in the woods. Dancing and singing were prevalent throughout these gathering and it brought those participating in these gatherings closer together. I also experienced a similar tight knit community with the peers that were listening to the music, which is what the African Americans experienced during the 1800s when they gathered in these particular groups.
This sort of Gospel-like music is also evident in Black musicians today. For example, musicians like Kanye West implement these sounds and chords into their music. On the track “Ultralight Beam” by Kanye West from his album The Life of Pablo, he utilizes choir-like sounds which are what I experienced during the presentation of The Langston Hughes Project, and which was also experienced by the African American gatherings I had previously mentioned. This example demonstrates how this event is relevant to both the past and today.
Moreover, another way that this presentation was similar to the church gatherings that the African Americans had was in the way some people shouted in response to the lyrics of the music. The first time somebody responded loudly it caught me off guard, but then I realized that that is how it has always been in these gatherings. There would be a singular leader and then the crowd would shout out words that would respond to the words or lyrics the leader was saying or singing.
On the other hand, there was also an aspect of the performance that hit on the sorrows and suffering of Africans Americans. This was evident when the singer said, “Nobody know my sorrows, nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen.” He is saying that there are personal experiences that African Americans went through which were not made public, and we have to be aware that much more harm was done to these people than what has been spread to the public.
All of these different aspects of the program gave me a better idea of the impact that jazz had on American arts and culture. Before having attended this performance, I had not realized that music I enjoy listening to today, has been affected by the sounds and melodies of Church gatherings in the woods during the 1800s. This goes to show the amount of impact this music has had on the sounds of popular artists in today’s generation. Also, the shouting responses that I experienced during the play made it feel as though I was in an African American Church gathering. It was an experience I had never been at before. The environment and vibe that was present during this presentation by the Langston Hughes Project was an extremely positive and welcoming one and I would recommend it to all people. All in all, this program really demonstrated to me the amount of impact that there has been on American arts and culture through the use of jazz and the strong lyrics that bring to light the hardships of African Americans that sometimes do not get the attention they deserve.