Jazz Music Leads the Jazz Star into her Way Home
The story commenced through describing the warmth of Mali and its people. Dee Dee Bridgewater barged in a club to hear jazz but she turned out to be performing with the excellent jazz musicians in the house. Bridgewater is a jazz singer even before she had gone to Mali, however, she felt strange for the unexplainable bond between her and the culture of the Mali people, especially to the fine jazz music they have in common.
Jazz music, like the one dominant in Mali, is played with guitars, kora, ngoni, percussions like calabash and talking drum. Jazz in United States started from North American areas at the turn of 20th century and had the traits of West African black folk music and the voicing is characteristic of the Blues. Jazz is not a result of planning and choosing a tune but a result of passion and ideals that is created in mind. Life experiences, emotions and creative forces comprise the unique expressionism of jazz music (A Passion for Jazz, 2009).
Dee Dee Bridgewater’s excellence in jazz music can be accounted not only by her extraordinary talent in performing but also by her personal life history. She confessed that her inclination to American jazz itself did not give her a full appreciation toward jazz music. She felt she had found her identity and found her home only when she had the chance to converge American jazz with her newfound passion for Malian music. It did not go easy for her to excel in the formal jazz music industry because of the limitations set by some producers. Before her idea of producing her latest project, Red Earth: A Malian Journey, she had made some jazz albums with professional producers. Bridgewater’s Malian odyssey began when she became the US ambassador for UN Food and Agricultural Organization from when she had the chance to mingle with the culture of Mali people. Malians welcomed her with complements that her roots must be from some nomadic ethnic Malian group. It did not disgraced her but rather made her curious of her mother’s African roots and decided to pursue searching for her ancestry.
Though her crusade did not give her concrete answers of her roots, she was at least able to find herself a home where jazz expression is not limited. She remembered being held back for singing what she wanted because of her dark color: when Elektra Records expected her to sing only soul or disco. Bridgewater performed in musical plays when she moved to Europe and even regarded as the next Josephine Baker. It is until then that she was given opportunity by an international arm of Universal Records to produce whichever type of jazz music Bridgewater has passion with. Many producers trusted her by then and so the Red Earth project proceeded. The recordings were held at a single-room record bar in Mali with a set of jazz band that Bridgewater personally chose. She wanted to make a music out of her feelings and experiences with people she found a home with; the Mali people. At the same time she intended to introduce a new impression on Mali: that Malians are not asking for Americans for help but they are helping themselves. As a FAO ambassador, she concluded the leadership of Malian women over men even for being the bread-winner of their own families.
Dee Dee Bridgewater has many awards and actually won trust of many leaders in music industry and politics. Her story proved that there are things which can not be found with wealth and complements. Though her story seemed to be ideal and over-emotional we can not deny that some African-American people are still concerned on finding their ancestry. Maybe some blacks do not care at all about their roots and embraced only American side. Bridgewater is another black woman who experienced criticisms and realized limitations because of her race. She is a radical and free woman that is why she pursued to find a home where she really belongs. Her story is not only an issue of passion for music but finding one’s self.
A Passion for Jazz. (2009). Jazz History. Retrieved February 9, 2009, from http://www.apassion4jazz.net
Ouellette, D. Finding Her Roots.