Between a tear and a smile

I went to an event at the Manchester Jazz Festival called Jazz, Roots and relevance hosted by new organisation, Lifting the Lid. A chaired panel of Jazz musicians gave an insight into their inspirations and influences and cultural heritage of Jazz and some of the barriers that still remain for black musicians. Whilst I found this interesting and I was introduced to some musicians that I’d not heard of, like Aki Takese and Fred Frith, it set me musing on the way Jazz has influenced my life and been a link into black politics and anti-racism. In essence Jazz was brought to me by my mother, a white danish woman who listened to Jazz on the radio as a kid on a farm in Denmark. Our story is one in which Jazz has crossed cultural boundaries, countries and down a generation. Jazz became a way-in to a political and cultural heritage that they still don’t teach you in school. It gave me strength, vibrancy and an understanding of the struggle of black people around the world that i eventually encountered as a black kid in a white world. I connected with (and still do) the need to create, to escape, to improvise, to catalyse. Jazz captures the spirit of revolution, of resistance and the need for change. Here are a few songs played throughout my childhood that i keep close at hand, especially when external pressures, beyond my control, push me into the crack between a tear and a smile.

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