Musically speaking


LAST Friday after a gruelling spinning class our instructor apologised for the choice of music.

Spinning, for those of you who don’t foray into the gym is essentially an indoor cycling class. It is a high intensity cardio workout accompanied by music.

The type of music is selected at the discretion of the instructor. By and large, however, instructors will select music with a fast tempo. This is no brainer because nobody wants to spin to Percy Sledge.

This is not a yoga class! Our spinning instructor, Tebogo, makes use of house music. In my opinion it’s an excellent choice because the pulsating beat of the music pushes you to the limit and energises you when you feel like you are ready to collapse.

However, for some “White” folk who attend the class this is clearly not a shared sentiment as they complained about the music; complained that they could not sing along to it.

Essentially, in a nutshell what that really means is that the music is too dark for their tastes. So now the instructor has to compromise by incorporating some “White” music into his exercise repertoire.

So one wonders how we finally ended up with a racial divide in our choice of music. I always thought music was the one thing that managed to permeate through all colours and creeds. Play music and it is undoubtedly an ice-breaker.

Music is a unifier. Look at the following behind late Michael Jackson? It comprised all colours of the rainbow even though Michael himself was a misnomer when it came to identity.

So how is it that some music appeals to all races and other types of music considered white or black? Is music black because of the audience that consumes it?

Is a certain genré of music white by default like classical music? Others will say “black” music is driven by the vocals whereas “white” music is more instrumental as opposed to vocal.

Or are we letting stereotypes essentially define what is meant by black or white music? Typically “black music” refers to gospel, kwaito, hip-hop, rhythm and blues whereas “white music” refers to classical, country, electronic, opera and rock n roll.

Yet the irony with rock n roll is that it was created by black people even though this remains a highly contested assertion. The lines become more blurred when we foray into jazz music which has highly successful artists from all colours.

The same applies to gospel which is a genré which is dominated by different races. Does it mean if an artist is a certain race it defines the people who listen to that music? I tend to think not.

Look at Michael Bolton and Michael Macdonald. Both were success stories in the RnB genre of music yet both are very white. Similarly Jimmi Hendrix was a famous rock artist yet he was extremely black on the outside.

In the same vein now that we have artists like Eminem, Iggy Azalea who have taken the hip-hop genre by storm. Are we going to start calling it white hip-hop?

I honestly think we should take the racism out of music. Have you ever gone to a racially mixed function and the DJ goes to great lengths to mix the selection of music?

What you have is the dance floor going black at certain times and going white at other times. It’s for this reason that you end up with “white” nightclubs and “black” clubs.

I listen to music indiscriminately. I think of music more in terms of genré as opposed to the colour of the artists behind it. It just happens that certain races will tend to gravitate towards one genré of music as opposed to another.

So back to our spinning story. Maybe the white folk in the class don’t like 0ouse music because they can’t relate to it. I am sure there are many other Black people who don’t like house music.

However, in the same regard there are many Black people who do not enjoy rock n roll music, but will spinning to Guns and Roses or ColdPlay yet rarely do they make an issue out of it. Why are Black people expected to be more accommodating when it comes to their musical tastes?

Let’s all learn to accommodate each other’s diversity and musical differences. Music can actually unify in its diversity.

Sukoluhle Nyathi is the author of the novel The Polygamist. You can follow her on Twitter @SueNyathi