Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Blanca


I find it enriching to listen to music that communicates from a cultural context different than my own. 

Blanca
Artist: Blanca (www.officialblanca.com)
Label: Word
Length: 14 tracks/48:35 minutes

In the wake of recent events, I want to find solidarity with African Americans. One small way I can do that is gaining a greater appreciation for their music.

Looking back I had little influence toward the work of black artists. What I heard was on the radio or the occasional Supremes record played by my dad. As I reached the record-buying age, my first purchases were Jan & Dean, The Beach Boys and The Beatles. Most of the sounds that surrounded me were pop and then later rock. Maybe I naturally gravitated towards this, and not having family and friends into Motown and R&B, left me listening to mainly white artists. Whatever the reason, I can see that I was impoverished by not exploring other styles.

Imagine the void in our culture without the music of African Americans: no Hendrix, no Robert Johnson, no Miles Davis, no Aretha, no Michael Jackson, no Sister Rosetta Tharpe, no Ethel Waters (who else could have immortalized “His Eye is on the Sparrow”), no B. B. King, no Stevie Wonder, no Whitney, no Smokey Robinson (“The Tears of a Clown” is a classic), no Reverend Gary Davis, and I could name many more. Not only the black community, but our world would be the poorer without the Negro spirituals.

How can the haters hate a race that has helped bring humanity together through its music? In this sphere alone they have shined like a light from heaven.

Perhaps unknowingly and in a small way, African American artists have done what professor and author, Jeremy Begbie envisions as a role of Christian art, “Christian art, I believe, whatever else it evokes, will surely have a dimension of promise about it, a flavor of hope” (Image No. 85, p. 55). 

Now unless I’m mistaken, Puerto Rican-born, Blanca, shares this ethnic origin. If I’m wrong, there goes my introduction, even though it’s something that I have wanted to say. It should now be obvious that racial violence and injustice remain a problem.

From 2003-2013 Blanca was a member of Group 1 Crew, a Christian hip hop group. On this, her first full-length release, she branches-out from that base, fusing electronic and organic elements with urban and pop styles, tending toward one or the other on different songs.

Interestingly, “Sunshine” has a wonderful Caribbean rhythm, made all the more sunny by the happy sound of steel drums in the background. Is this the island influence? Perhaps more importantly, it is the flavor of hope. The theological concepts in her music provide that added dimension of promise.

Similarly, “Echo” adds euphoric notes on the stanzas. Listen closely for those sounds of joy. We need all the encouragement we can get.

Two of the more urban-sounding songs feature guest appearances by Lecrae and Tedashii giving rapid-fire raps.

Some tracks deal with identity and affirmation; others are discipleship-oriented, advocating surrender and obedience in relation to God. Blanca is not coy about sharing her faith.

This is a fine debut (not counting an EP released earlier this year) that stands on the shoulders of artists, some previously mentioned, who have given us some of the best music this world has ever heard.

I find it enriching to listen to music that communicates from a cultural context different than my own. We can learn to hear what may be foreign to us and become part of a conversation. It involves effort to get out of one’s comfort zone, but the reward can be greater understanding and communication. It’s detrimental when we dehumanize those who are different. Engaging with releases like this enhance my ability to dialogue.

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