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
Uzee Brown, Professor of
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
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
MOZART AND JUNKANOO
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
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.
SERIOUS ART GROUPS
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
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.
BEGINS IN THE HOME
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.
MUSIC AND BEHAVIOR
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
CLASSICAL RADIO STATION
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
Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and family therapist, and board
certified clinical psychotherapist, USA. Send your
questions or comments to
or write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or
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."