Nigerian Music and the Black Diaspora in the USA : African Identity, Black Power, and the Free Jazz of the 1960s

In Martin A. M. Gansinger & Ayman Kole (eds.), From Tribal to Digital - Effects of Tradition and Modernity on Nigerian Media and Culture. Scholars Press. pp. 15-44 (2016)
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Abstract

This article is the attempt of an historically oriented analysis focused on the role of Nigerian music as a cultural hub for the export of African cultural influences into the Black diaspora in the United States and its anticipation by the Free Jazz/Avantgarde-scene as well as the import of key-values related to the Black Power-movement to the African continent. The aim is to demonstrate the leading role and international impact of Nigeria's cultural industry among sub-saharan African nation states and its specific ability to absorb and incorporate elements of Western culture. After a short discussion of African influences on jazz music in general and the socio-political, cultural, and artistic context in which Free Jazz emerged, examples for the articulation of African consciousness among influencing key figures such as saxophonist John Coltrane or the Art Ensemble of Chicago are being presented. Furthermore, the personal and ideological links between the Avantgarde Jazz-scene and the Black Power-movement - especially the Black Panther Party - are made transparent. In a second step the central influence of the Nigerian drum-pioneer Babatunde Olatunji on the Africanization of US-Jazz musicians, his personal and creative impact on John Coltrane, as well as the Black Power-movement is being highlighted. On the other hand, Coltrane, Free Jazz, and the Black Panther Party are being portrayed as a central creative and ideological turn in the career and work of Fela Kuti and towards political activism and his efforts to implement and apply the Africa-inspired Black Power -struggle of the US on the African continent in order to fight post-colonial forms of oppression.

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Martin A. M. Gansinger
Al-Akhawayn University

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