Free Your Mind: Funk Transfigured as Black Cultural Aesthetics

Author:Tony Bolden Time:2019-07-10 Click:

“Free Your Mind: Funk Transfigured as Black Cultural Aesthetics” is a social history of the development of funk music in the late 1960s and 1970s. Using a multi-disciplinary approach that includes literary criticism and a variant of ethnomusicology, the essay examines the coalescence of various socio-historical factors that gave rise to funk music and the transfiguration of the word “funk” as a cultural metaphor of honesty and integrity. As such, the essay explains how funk developed as a preeminent aesthetic framework in African American culture. During this period, the emergence of black radicalism, that is, the black power movement enabled black youth to question and rethink racial mythology, e.g., black inferiority. As activists redefined the meaning of blackness, artists redefined the meaning of “funk.” Although the word “funk” had existed generations before the mid-1960s, there were racial stigmas associated with the term. Positive connotations of “funk” were previously restricted to black working-class enclaves. However, young black artists reimagined the meaning of “funky” by emphasizing cultural characteristics that had oftentimes been demeaned, especially by privileged African Americans. Funk music thereby projected an unruly, affirmative attitude that was reflected in themes and performance styles that typified the genre. Musicians created a new sound by blending blues, jazz, gospel, and, in many cases, elements of rock, while songwriters demonstrated poetic ingenuity by transposing preexisting precepts of funk into various quasi-religious themes that were often interrelated. These included the funk (spirit), Afrofuturism, ancient Egyptian culture, partying, beauty, blackness, and sexual relationships.


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