Freedom Within The Chains
As Perceived Through Nelly Ruach
Throughout our time period, music has found its way being passed down and transformed with each passing century. As time goes on, people begin to add their own spin and twist to the musical genres; thus creating their own musical flow that still remains true to the original sounds. While some may be complex, one style that remains in simplicity while also allowing for originality is Folk Music. The name for this genre alone signifies how this style of music was shared and passed along the people, consisting of a simple tune of an instrument, usually only two to three cords played in its entirety. Whether it was played by string instruments, or the beat of a drum, folk music was almost always accompanied by a strong, deep, and powerful vocalist that sang for the struggle of those who once came before them. Folk Music has found success within even our 21st century artist but I would like to shed light on one person in particular, Odetta, who was infamous in her talent and how her uprising was groundbreaking not only within the black music spectrum but shed light on the difficulties that many African Americans faced to even get to positions that she was in.
Odetta’s upbringing mirrored that of most young black kids growing up in America. With not much money growing up, it was up to Odetta to work extra hard as her personalized vocalist training was subjectivae to what her mother could afford. With years of resisting the genre and not wanting to pick up on the acoustic guitar, she soon grew to love the craft but all of her work and talent was overlooked as she did not fit the petite and feminine figure that a white america deemed acceptable. Her love of singing took an abrupt turn as her songs of strength were seen as songs of blues and her white audience members made her feel as a slave as she performed.
Rather than allowing this perception of her life and music deter her from no longer pursuing music, she essentially found her freedom in knowing she did not have to conform to what society perceived to be acceptable. Classical music did not resonate with her because that form of music had no value and truth to the life she was living. Her freedom went beyond being tied to a genre of music as once she did begin to have serious recognition by the likes of other artists, she could not depend on her manager to properly execute deals that put her on records with greats, let alone make sure she was fairly compensated for her work.
Odettas musical talents took her to many heights that most African Americans never dreamed possible as she became a cultural ambassador for the United States and found herself performing in four separate continents. This new area of work created an impasse on her ethics as she prides herself in performing with the ideation of the rough black experience that many faced but the government wanted her to sing praises to make it seem as though there was no bad blood among our people and the whites. She was loved worldwide and made it her mission to stay true to her purpose and sing with meaning.
Odetta to this day is widely known for her dedication to activism and raising awareness for the injustices that her fellow African Americans faced. She was well known for hosting many events that would generate a profit that she could then donate to different organizations. She lendeded her voice for the likings of Martin Luther King Jrs. peaceful protestings’. She sang around the world and shed light on the many struggles the black american faced. She did not allow herself to be used by the white man but instead used the white man’s greed for money to stand on platforms and speak for those with no voice.
As her age grew older, Odessa mentored and taught her craft in institutions with the sole intent of allowing this genre to flourish and continue on. This woman defined all the statistics that were placed on African Americans and allowed her voice to shed light on their hardships. Whether her tunes made it to the top of the charts or not, she was a household name for those who were born into her same situation. She did not allow the critics that called her “handsome” deter her from getting on stage and greeting her guests with kind regards and small tak to generate a welcoming response from her audience. She was able to captivate and draw attention globally through her facial and body expressions that matched the power and force that sang from her body. She was, and is still to this day even though she has passed, the embodiment of what Folk Music represents. Her legacy will forever be passed down till the end of time to those who hold truth to the genre.