“We are all a work in progress, and one of the great benefits of life is that we have the opportunity to evolve. It takes effort to not fall into the societal traps we have been exposed to for most of our lives, and to move beyond these traps, we have to question ourselves—our ethics, our value system, our ideology.”
These are the words of Terri Lyne Carrington, a three-time Grammy award-winning drummer, composer, and multi-genre producer, taken from her article on “Sexism in Jazz”. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/sexism-in-jazz-agents-of-change_us_58ebfab1e4b0ca64d9187879 Terri currently holds the position of Zildjian Chair in Performance at Berklee Global Jazz Institute, Berklee College of Music.
Touching on various points in her article, including the many elements of jazz which have remained in the past, the blatant lack of female peers in a career that spans over 30 years, as well as the lengths which female jazz artists have to go to to feel like they are “on par” with their male counterparts, Carrington further argues that it’s up to all of us to be the difference if we truly want to see the difference.
“Concerning sexism, men have to acknowledge their male privilege and ask ‘what am I doing to contribute to sexist thought and behaviour in my field and what am I doing to abolish it?’ And for women the question can be ‘what am I doing to destroy the stereotypes and what am I doing to educate and encourage others to put their sexism or internalized sexism in check?’”
The great thing about jazz music, or any type of music for that matter, is that it’s indiscriminate. Music transcends gender, race, time and space. However, it is up to the men and women cradling, caressing and mastering the art of playing or vocalising their instruments and making music, to also be like music. It is up to the stewards of this world, those who can hear, see, sense, touch and feel music to break through the glass ceiling that inhibits women from reaching their full potential, and flood the airwaves with the sounds of equality.
On the eve of International Jazz Day (30 April), it is important to not only reflect on current and longstanding issues like sexism in jazz, but to also honour the men and women who have built jazz in South Africa – note for note – to what it is today.
As a continuation of this celebration, come and support an all-woman, local jazz line-up on the 14th of May as Gloria Bosman and Omagugu Makhathini kicks off the first of three Sunday Serenades at Durban’s BAT Centre in the build up to the International Jazz Extravaganza (Durban ICC, 17 June 2017). Tickets cost R150, and will be available at the door. The show starts at 3pm.