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Genres Part 2 (featuring Incognito)

I recently wrote about musical genres and sub-genres, and then shared the story with friends on my mailing list.  You can imagine how exited I was when I got a direct response from Jean-Paul Maunick (aka Bluey) of Incognito! It’s always exciting when you get to communicate with your inspirations, and I’ve had the pleasure of getting to talk with a number of them when writing for Leisure Lab. But hearing from Bluey was even bigger than that. He and Incognito helped lay the foundation for many of my favorite styles such as Nu Jazz and Broken Beat.  They were at the forefront of the Acid Jazz movement, and the group has continued to make amazing music for 25 years. So of course his input on the subject of musical genres is pretty meaningful to me, and I thought you’d be interested in it too… Here’s what was in my email: What do you think about music genres?  I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. Some musicians hate them because they think they’re too restrictive.  Some artists try to perfect specific sub-genres in order to be more successful financially – they find their niche and use it for all it’s worth. I actually find them creatively useful, like paints on a canvas. Whether it’s downtempo, deep house, or drum and bass, the different styles inspire me to communicate different emotions or ideas. But that’s from a musician’s perspective.  As a fan of music, I like them because they give me a way to explore all kinds of different sounds, and find new music. I wrote about that on...

On the Contempt for Genres and Sub-Genres

Many musicians, especially independent musicians, hate genres and their associated sub genres.  We argue that we don’t want to be locked into categories; we are unclassifiable in our art.   We defy categorization. When we meet people and they ask us what kind of music we make, we tell them we can’t be labeled with any particular style.  In fact, we have such disdain for these labels, we’re offended when anyone attempts to categorize our music, even if that listener or critic likes what she hears.  Why is that? For some, the contempt for genres stems from an identity problem.  The artist hasn’t found her unique voice yet, and thus can’t describe it.  Most of us experience this – it’s normal, and part of discovering our identities. Nearly all of us go through it, and most of us grow out of it as we learn more about ourselves and the music we love. Others may have insecurities about the genres or sub genres with which they’ve been associated.  That is, a musician may not want to be tied too closely to a trendy sub genre that could fall out of favor by next year.  This view is a little short-sighted since styles always come back around.  However, more unfortunate is the musician’s concern over trend and stylishness.  I think artists who worry about not being too trendy while still trying to maintain some sort of relevance water down their music for fear of over-committing to a particular sound.  The result is moderately popular, and somewhat bland, music. I’ve known some artists who dislike genre and sub-genre for an altogether different reason....
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