Jazz in the Culture of Nazi Germany Essay

1185 WordsMar 28, 20075 Pages
"Different Drummers: Jazz in the Culture of Nazi Germany" by Michael Kater There has only been one moment in history when jazz was synonymous with popular music in the country of its origin. During the years of, and immediately prior to World War II, a subgenre of jazz commonly referred to as swing was playing on all American radio stations and attracting throngs of young people to dancehalls for live shows. But it wasn't only popular amongst Americans; historian Michael H. Kater, in his book Different Drummers: Jazz in the Culture of Nazi Germany, has turned his eye away from the United States in order to examine the effects jazz had on German culture during the years of swing popularity. In his introduction, Kater explains the…show more content…
One famous critic of the genre was Theodore Adorno who, while priding himself on being an avant-gardist, refused to categorize jazz as an actual art form, instead he relegated it to the class of "arts and crafts." This view of the music could be fairly attributed to underlying prejudices that were ingrained in the German psyche. By the time the Nazi Party had gained significant political power, they had begun to successfully exploit the ignorance of the general populace regarding the characteristics of dark-skinned peoples. Although during the republic there were a number of African and African-American jazz musicians occupying spaces in German bands, as well as in foreign bands touring through the country, German culture was not as accepting of people of color as, say, France was at the time. One reason for this racism that stood out in Kater's book was the mistreatment of German women by North African colonials in the French Army during the occupation following World War I. But even those exceptionally tolerant Germans who praised the African-Americans that invented jazz still regarded them with a paradoxical objectification that attempted to hold the black man up on a pedestal for his mystical musical skills, but consequently turned his image into a threatening one. This concept would be later known as "Crow Jimism" in American bebop circles. What the Nazis found threatening about jazz, according to Kater, was its spirit as well
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