It is a powerful tradition in music to comment on current developments in society. Recently many artists have responded to the turbulent topics of our times. More than before you can hear and feel the social awareness of the artists playing at the festival this year.
Take, for example, the singer Solange. She is often called the contemporary Nina Simone. Beyoncé’s sister dedicated her latest album A Seat At The Table to the Pro-Black cause, quoting her own mother: “Pro-black doesn’t mean you are automatically anti-white.” Rapper Mick Jenkins also emerges his animated raps in his protest of social injustice. Soul singer Mavis Staples paved the way in that respect; during her active life she constantly showed her social involvement. On Friday, Typhoon will spread his message of love in an intimate duet with Belgian jazz hero Jef Neve.
Saxophonist Kamasi Washington, Yussef Kamaal with his album Black Focus and trumpeter Marquis Hill with his Blacktet, as well as other artists, demonstrate that it’s also possible to convey a powerful message without words. The music of these artists is all about protest. Shabaka & The Ancestors and Washington also add a very strong sense of African self-consciousness. And then there is the Brexit Big Band of the sympathetic activist Brit Matthew Herbert: guaranteed political immediacy.