Type of Document Thesis Author Swan, Scott URN etd-09182003-185527 Title “Music Is My Vessel:” An Exploration Of African American Musical Culture Through The Life Story Of Lavell Kamma Degree Master of Science Department Anthropology, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Bruce T. Grindal Committee Chair Michael A. Uzendoski Committee Member William T. Lhamon Committee Member Keywords
- African American Musical Culture
Date of Defense 2003-08-02 Availability unrestricted AbstractThe life story of Farouk Lavell Kamma offers a glimpse into the changing cultural attitudes about popular music, race relations, and black national consciousness in 1950s and 1960s America. His reflectively reconstructed musical life story serves as a window on the experiences of an African-American musician during a socially dynamic period in American history. Between 1960 and 1975, Lavell – as a “soul” performer -
participated in the genre of black popular music that became the vernacular soundtrack for the Civil Rights Movement. Musically, his career straddles the changes from doo wop to soul, and those changes in style are also reflective of social and cultural changes in black identity and consciousness. But the importance of music in the black community is not a contemporary phenomenon.
Historically, music served as a conduit for social interaction and a vehicle for cultural expression, allowing African Americans to express the “double conscious” nature of their existence. Reconsideration of music as a processual activity -homologous to ritual, is necessary to understand the importance of music in the black
community. In the century following emancipation, black communities encountered the forces of urbanization and secularization in their attempts to construct and maintain community. Music became a means by which individuals and groups within the
community could locate themselves experientially in a changing social and cultural landscape. Urban blacks communities in particular allowed African Americans to find experiential accommodation in a variety of social and economic opportunities. The black church and jook joints were two important social spaces in which African Americans found experiential accommodation. Music was instrumental to African American expression and interaction in both the church and the jook joint. Music itself also served as a social space in which African Americans could locate themselves existentially.
Lavell’s life story reveals the complexity of the black urban landscape and the foundational role of music both in his life and in the life of the black community.
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