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*Junkanoo Isnít Enough
By Barrington H. Brennen, 2007
This article is practically for the Bahamian reader, however, the principles can be applicable to any culture


A few weeks ago I attended the first-ever concert by the College of the Bahamas Concert Choir. It was a delightful evening of rich choral music performed by the youthful choir. The audience was honored to have Dr. Uzee Brown, Professor of Morehouse College, as the choir performed a few of his pieces and arrangements. Dr. Uzee Brown Jr, hails from Cowpens South Carolina. He is a performer, narrator, published composer and arranger, researcher, lecturer, choir director, President of the National Association of Negro Musicians, a member of Morehouse College Board of Trustees and he is co-founder and chairman of the board of directors of Onyx Opera Atlanta. I believe that this was a renaissance of good choral music in our lovely country, something I believe we needed very much.

While sitting and listening to the disciplined, and cultured, melodious voices blending together in rich four-, six-, and eight-part harmony, I could not help thinking about the lack of wide appreciation for music in our country today. Although I was extremely pleased with the packed ball room on both nights of the performance, I could not help but wonder if those who attended only came because they have had a friend or relative singing in the choir. As I watched the faces more intently, I was convinced that at least the majority of the guests truly appreciated the variety of semi-classical, traditional spirituals, and art songs performed by this exciting mixture of students and faculty members at the College of the Bahamas. Congratulations to choir conductor Audrey Dean-Wright and guest conductor Dr. Uzee Brown for a job well done.

However, something is still missing in our society. I am convinced that the general Bahamian society has a serious lack of appreciation for a wide-cross section of music. If it isnít Junkanoo or some up-polished gospel singing, or folklore, then it isnít music, some would say. The Government of the Bahamas is spending lots of money encouraging the growth and development of what they call an "authentic Bahamian Sound" - Junkanoo. Unfortunately, not enough money is being spent to help develop the more classical, and disciplined forms of music.

While I appreciate the place Junkanoo has in our Bahamian culture, yet Junkanoo alone cannot provide the well-balanced cultural society that is needed today. I have observed that too many Bahamians show disrespect and chagrin toward performances of a classical nature or serious art form styles. I have been in audiences where serious art songs are being performed and the audiences were unusually noisy and disinterested. However, when a less refined form of presentation was taking place, all ears were intent and interest was to its highest.

Junkanoo is a simple form of music requiring more energy than skill. It is the constant beating and playing of a few notes in repeated successions. Unfortunately, the louder the Junkanoo music, and the heavier the beat, the more it is accepted. While that type of music may have its place, yet it cannot develop the brain to its fullest potential. The lack of appreciation for other forms of music is seriously needed to enrich the person.

Research now tells us that the music of Mozart when listened to by high school students enhances the learning process. It assists in the functioning of the brain. Hence students are being encouraged to listen to Mozart when they are studying. On the other hand, it is my opinion the Junkanoo has very little to do with brain development and good study habits. In fact, the very nature of Junkanoo music--its hypnotic, mesmerized rhythms--has a potential of doing more harm than good. This is even more reason Bahamians need to appreciate a greater variety of music. I am not asking us to abandon Junkanoo, but to expose minds to other forms of serious disciplined music, thus helping to create a more well-balanced, cultural society.

We are blessed to have a few serious musical art groups in our country. These are the Diocesan Choral, the Renaissance Singers, and the Bahamas Concert Orchestra to name a few. When these groups perform, the audiences wonder why hundreds more are not present. Usually the mostly interested foreigners and the upper class Bahamians attend such concerts. Why is this? I have attended many similar concerts in Jamaica and the USA, and also performed myself in countless concerts there. Hundreds and thousands of the mass population would come out to show appreciation for the art being performed, whether it was Mozart, Chopin, or Bob Marley.

I am often amazed how so many Bahamians get so excited over musical renditions where the performances leave much to be desired in the serious world of music. The guitars are not properly tuned. The players are picking unrhythmically loud while the drummers hit the drums tumultuously beyond the sound of the voices. The trumpets and horns are being blown through with gusts of air producing harsh sounds. In addition, the singers shout with vain-engorged necks, thus ending the performance with sore throats. The music seriously lack dynamics or color. But to the uncultured ear, these unrefined aspects of the rendition cannot be recognized. After such cheap "grand" performance, the people stand to their feet in all excitement and "respect." But when a well-in-tuned, dynamic, harmonious form of music is presented, there is an awesome uneasiness, laughter, or disrespect. These two stunning differences are too commonly obvious at concerts in our country today.

How can we create an appreciation for a wider variety of music? First of all, I believe that the primary avenue for music appreciation is in the home. Parents must understand their role in providing a broad-based foundation for education in the home. Children, even the smallest infants learn through music. The author Kristian David Olson in his research paper "The Effects of Music on the Mind" states "People learn through music and their minds grow faster because of it. Some music, when implemented properly, can have positive effects on learning and attitude. . . . . The earliest stages of learning for young children are the most important. The fundamentals of learning are instilled into a child at a very young age and how much importance is placed on these fundamentals can have dramatic affects on the future of the child's learning. Music, when applied in a constructive way, can have positive effects on a child's learning and help them in many ways." Parents should expose their children not only to Junkanoo-type music, but to Mozart, Beethoven and Bill Gaither as well.

I am also convinced that we need more bands and orchestras in our schools, thus exposing our students at all grades to the various forms of disciplined music. Frances H. Rauscher of the University of California at Irvine discovered in a research that music instruction can improve a child's spatial intelligence for a long time, perhaps permanently.

Our children need to be exposed to other types of instruments, such as the violin, cello, clarinet, French Horn, etc. It would be a travesty to limit their exposure just to the piano and the goat skin drum. We must find ways of developing a serious music world in our country as we are developing sports and Junkanoo. There is a tremendous amount of discipline and skills needed to perform Mozart and Chopin (listening, maths, English, rhythm, accuracy) Instruction in music skills, appreciation, and theory provides a wealth of learning strategies that enhance children's analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating skills. Students learn to process information and transfer knowledge through these concrete, kinetic, and cognitive experiences (Olson).

I believe that one of the best ways to enhance the music appreciation in our country is to have a classical or semi-classical radio station. Too many of the radio stations concentrate on one type of music, often leaving much to be desired. Sometimes too much of the simpler, unrefined music is being played over the radio waves, leaving very little option for other forms of music. Having a classical radio station would provide an opportunity for growing children to be exposed to other types of music, thus developing a wider appreciation for music. Music teachers can give assignments for their students to listen to this station. Local musicians can be featured, creating an even more interesting cultural exposure.
I am convinced that there is a close correlation between the type of music we listen to and our behavior. Some music seems to be designed to be felt more than heard. These types of music tend to affect the brain more negatively. These types of music, when listened too repeatedly tend to produce more aggressive behavior and attitude in the listeners. It is my opinion why most young people generally prefer the louder, heavy rhythmic forms of music, is because quieter, and more structured forms of music require them to think and be still more often than usual. Young people do not want to think and be still. But the fact remains that music variety is much better for brain development than a monotonous exposure to one type of music. In addition, if one only enjoys and appreciates less cultured, unpolished, and less disciplined forms of music, this would certainly keep the mind the same wayĖsimple and unrefined.

Centuries ago in China, the Emperors of that great country had a very unique way of evaluating the cultural, economic, and social development of a particular village. The Emperor would first listen to and evaluate the forms music of the village. It was known that the development of a village was determined by the development of its music. The villages that were under development or with a higher rate of crime also had less discipline, unrefined forms of music.

I firmly believe that persons who expose themselves consistently to simpler, less disciplined, loud forms of music are at greater risk in becoming violent, and in the end criminals. Could it be that we are helping to create more criminals in our society simply because we have a disinterested response, and a lack of respect for other types of music?

Dear reader, this article was written to encourage you to think and to hopefully stimulate you to begin to examine your own interest in music. We can keep Junkanoo, but we must also include Mozart, Handel, and Chopin, Bill Gaither, Isaac Watts, and Andrea Crouch. Perhaps this can be one avenue to preventing the rapid decline of cultural and disciplined behavior in our country.

Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and family therapist, and board certified clinical psychotherapist, USA. Send your questions or comments to question@soencouragement.org   or write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or call 242-327-1980.


*Junkanoo is a cultural music festival street parade held twice a year in The Bahamas.  It takes place on Boxing Day (December 26) and New Years Day.  The parade starts at midnight and continues to sunrise. Horns, wind instruments and goat skin drums are used in the parade.  The costumes are colors and made mostly out or crepe paper and cardboard or foam "Junkanoo is a street parade with music which occurs in many towns across The Bahamas every Boxing Day (December 26), New Year's Day and, more recently, in the summer on the island of Grand Bahama. The largest Junkanoo parade happens in Nassau, the capital. There are also Junkanoo parades in Miami in June and Key West in October, where the local black American populations have their roots in the Bahamas." Wikipedia





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April 26, 2000, TAGnet/NetAserve / Network Solutions

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