Tru Skool Tuesday: How Great Musicians Do

I recently had the privilege of sharing some space with a great jazz singer who was lamenting the loss of music programs for children in Philly. As she spoke, she commented on the difference between synthesized music (which she said children were forced to create in the absence of traditional instruments) and performances with instrumentalists (she didn’t distinguish between those who are trained and those who play by ear). Specifically, she stated that synthesized music doesn’t capture human emotion. In many ways, i agree with her. Although i disagree with the claim that synthesized music lacks human emotion, i do believe that instrumentalists better capture and, therefore, transmit that aspect of humanity through music.

I think that is why i appreciate The Roots so much. Ever since i first heard “Proceed” and “Silent Treatment” (i heard them on the same day), i’ve been a fan. Black Thought was on point, but there was something about the “beats” that really resonated with my soul. When i later learned that The Roots are a band, it began to make sense. The live instruments seemed vibrate at a level that forced me to be more critical of everything else i listened to. I believe that they were a major factor in my embrace and promotion of what i then called “real” and/or “underground” hip hop.

Since that Saturday afternoon in 1995, The Roots have not ceased to impress me. Their 13th album, the Undun is great, and i believe that i’ll have it on heavy rotation for a while. You can read all about the album concept on Okayplayer. As you’re reading about, STREAM IT FOR FREE. The link probably will not work after today (Nov. 6), so once you’re convinced that it’s good, cop it and enjoy it to your heart’s content.

So, there it is. Happy Tru Skool Tuesday!

– Brotha Onaci

This is my ish right here:


3 thoughts on “Tru Skool Tuesday: How Great Musicians Do

  1. charleski81

    I definitely agree with you about the Roots. Can’t say that I entirely agree with the synthesized music lacking a human emotionality. Some of the stuff recently that has most affected me emotionally has had “synthesized” (computer generated right?) elements – FlyLo’s Cosmogramma and Badu’s New Amerykah albums come to mind. Does the synthesized umbrella include sampling too? I can recall so many 90’s jams that still move me more than anything today – synthesized, traditional, or otherwise…

    1. Brotha Onaci Post author

      Word life! Thanks for the response, fam. I def think that it’s interesting how people sometimes approach synthesized music with disdain. Some things appeal to people more than others, so i think that they/We should recognize that our opinions and critiques of sound are based on our subjective experience with them. I personally like a lil bit of both, because they both sound GREAT to me. Your example of Flying Lotus is perfect! His track, “Roberta Flack,” continues to get regular play from me because there is just something in that song that i connect with. The track that you allowed me to use on first “Radiant Souls” mixtape is the same way. It “speaks” to me, because (i believe) you adequately delivered your positive energy. Much of the South African house that i like — almost all synth (from what i can tell) — touches me in the same way that people describe religious experiences. So, i value sythed music greatly!!!

      I guess to sum up, and maybe even clarify/recant(?) what i wrote above, people give their souls in their creations, regardless of the medium. I feel that indescribable “something” in the Roots’ music more consistently than i feel from many of my other favorite artists. I believe that it comes from their use of live instruments. But it’s still my opinion, and i would never state definitively that synth can’t produce that same effect.

  2. charleski81

    I feel what you’re saying about the Roots. There are several songs off the last lp, especially The Fire, that I can play all day. Nothing tops Do the Astral Plane for me though (which, interestingly enough, combines synth and live orchestral sounds). I think there needs to be fluidity in how we share our positive energy, and the tools we use to to shape/express it.

    Thanks for the positive energy explanation by the way. I hadn’t really thought of music quite like that before but it makes so much sense – taking the intangible and making it “real.” Plus, the sounds and frequencies are literally energy 🙂


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