“…when most people see a 6-foot-2-inch, 260-pound black man, they don’t expect him to also be a classically trained violinist.”
I was thinking about Ashley’s initial idea to explore the images of black people put forward by the music industry, and just happened to come across this link to Black Violin’s new album “Stereotypes.” From the short interview I heard, I get the feeling that the two members never really thought they weren’t supposed to play the violin / viola based on their physical appearance (as is completely normal), but that people’s reactions to the perceived contrast between them and their music really prompted a deeper consideration of their position.
In an ideal world, Black Violin would not have to prove a point to anyone. They would simply exist as a music making duo that cared only about making the best music they could, and not have to worry about living up to or challenging the stereotypes they undoubtedly face. While this sort of psychological adversity can inspire and shape the identities of people, it can also place an unnecessary burden on artists and public figures.
I think people should have the ability to say “I am a musician and I play X style of music because that’s what I really love,” and not be forced into saying “I do X because it is my duty as a [insert minority here] to challenge Y.” I’m not saying the second statement is untrue or un-empowering for a majority of artists, just that it should not be a requirement for (anomalous) existence, and that people of colour and other minorities should have a right to say or do something purely because that’s what they want to do. This view isn’t nearly as widespread as it should be though.
Listen to the 5 minute interview with Black Violin and one of the songs off their new album here.