Andrei Strizek

Music | Musings

"Strange Fruit" Redux

About a week ago I found the following video online, in a review of For Colored Girls:

In a rash moment, I tweeted that I was offended by the remix of such a classic song, even though I usually like to hear new takes on old material.

After listening to it one more time, though, I changed my mind. In my opinion, it may not be as good as the original Billie Holiday version, but its difference doesn't necessarily mean it's any worse - it would probably be hard to match her version, not only because of its performance but because of the history connected to it.

What I started liking about this version, though, is that it deals with the topic of "Strange Fruit" - racism and violence - but in a new language, musically & verbally. And I think that's important. (What I tweeted was "A modern take in modern language.")

It's not only important in connecting to younger audiences, in order to continue discussing important issues with them, but to show that so much of our contemporary pop music (including rap, hip-hop, country, etc.) is connected to music from the past. (Much can also be said of classical music, motion picture music and jazz.)

It might be a small number of people who listen to this version, dig deeper and find a Billie Holiday recording. Which is fine - and kudos to them. As teachers we can point them in that direction.

Or we could use this as a springboard to talk about racism - in music, in other arts, in society as a whole - or as an example in how rap and hip-hop have dealt with social issues.

What other ways can we use this example - or examples like it - in music education? What about audience development - do songs like this (or similar, remixed examples) have a place in the classical community, to be used as a springboard to attract a larger, newer, and/or different audience?

Powered by Squarespace. Background image by Andrei Strizek.