Thursday, July 03, 2008

Another Open Letter to Branford Marsalis on Why He Shouldn't Play Tel Aviv

Another open letter to Branford Marsalis

Published Jun 29, 2008 9:19 PM

Mr. Marsalis, perhaps by now you’ve seen or heard about the open letter to you from the British Committee for Universities of Palestine regarding your quartet’s concert date in Tel Aviv on July 17.

It’s an appeal I’d like to echo here, while again raising the call for a boycott of Israel by academicians and cultural artists that the BRICUP letter mentions, which can be found at .

I’d like to appeal to you not solely on the basis of my being an aficionado of the Black musical tradition, and you being a giant in that tradition, but as one brother to another—a brother who is a writer to a great musician who has embraced the entire scope of Black music and culture; a brother who has been to Palestine to a brother who is slated to play in the capital of the Zionist entity.

The lament of the Palestinian is a similar refrain to our own. Music, all culture, cannot help but reflect the material conditions of the people that the music-maker comes from. A person’s artistic self is an extension of her or his political self. Jazz is indeed subtle, and perhaps more open to interpretation, but at its essence, when created by a Black person in tune to the conditions of Black folk, it is an expression of the desire and the struggle for true liberation.

Of course, you know that our musical tradition sprang from our history of struggle. From the Sorrow Songs of the days of slavery to the vocal blues tradition to jazz, soul music and hip hop, the evolution of our music is tied to the dialectical nature of the Black freedom struggle that continues to this day.

Then, the traditions of the Palestinians, though from a different historical development and a unique struggle, are similar to ours.

To play a concert in Israel, which recently celebrated 60 years of the creation of the Israeli state that usurped Palestinian land, displaced 750,000 Palestinian people and has balanced its weight on the hopes and dreams of all Palestinians, would be a disavowal of the suffering of another people and a validation of the crimes of the state of Israel.

All of history is important, but we are at a crucial juncture and living in a world rife with contradictions and suffering. Even in a rich nation like the U.S. there is a seething lower rung of the poor and disposed, whose greatest numbers are people of color—Black, Latin@, Asian, Arab—and poor whites as well.

Now, moral conviction is needed—not the moral conviction of those who hold power, but of the oppressed and artists like yourself who play to thousands and whose music touches the lives of millions.

How can the suffering of the Palestinian people be ignored—millions of people denied freedom of movement and their human rights? Israel is a nation that possesses numerous nuclear warheads, has bombed and occupied not only Palestine but Lebanon, Syria and parts of Egypt, and has destabilized an entire region.

Israel is also a nation that supported apartheid South Africa with weaponry and political support. Yet, we can both agree that the history of oppression and repression of the peoples of South Africa and the southern Africa region was a great evil.

How can such a thing be right when perpetrated anywhere? I’d like to point you to a statement from South Africa regarding this issue, at .

I cannot pretend to understand the constraints put upon an artist—the record labels, recording contracts, contractual obligations—so I can’t speak to you about the toll the moral stance you are being asked to take would exact from you.

You may lose jobs, face being blackballed, censured, who knows? But did Ray Charles not face the same thing when he refused to play in Georgia? Did the great Paul Robeson not suffer a high cost? Did the boxer Larry Holmes face an unsure future when he refused to fight in South Africa? And, of course, Muhammad Ali refused to fight in Vietnam—for that he lost his belt.

The history of the great majority of people around the world, who create all wealth and who struggle to get by, holds a different set of truths. This history will remember and embrace you tighter than a dear love.

The people of Palestine, of Iraq, Africa, Haiti, the world over will remember you and you can set a precedent, similar to that of Kanye West when he broke script to speak about the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. Don’t go. Your refusal will open new doors.

As the appeal from the British Committee for Universities of Palestine asks, “How can you, in all conscience, play Sonny Rollins’ ‘Freedom Suite’ in Tel Aviv?” Don’t go, brother.

—Larry Hales
Articles copyright 1995-2008 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
Page printed from:

No comments: