Greg Johnson, CBA President
If you look at the history of the world you will recognize that the arts have made a difference to our culture throughout time. Sure, military power may have played a role in developing borders and empires, but empires come and go and borders can change. But the art created by mankind is always remembered and stands the test of time. Be it literature, fine arts, architecture, or music. It will always be there.
It doesn’t have to be on an international level where only countries are noted. America took the creativeness of Europeans and Africans and developed their own signatures in music with the blues, gospel and jazz. It is something that should be celebrated. That goes for individual cities as well. It is what makes living in certain locations desirable. Weather and economy play their role obviously, but music and the arts make life more enjoyable. It gives a city its personality. And sadly so often it is these aspects that are overlooked by those in the power to make it enriched.
Recently for example we have witnessed media outlets that may have forgotten this fact. In Portland there is a huge blues community. It is rich with world-class musicians calling the city home. Yet despite a large fan base, the blues seem to be one of the first musical genres to be dropped from radio stations. In its place we see commercialized programming aimed at younger audiences. And it all sounds the same no matter where you go across the country. The same sounds being played endlessly over and over. Pop drivel that has no local personality and doesn’t bear the historical background behind the music as it has developed over time.
Print media, and more so online as printed outlets are also becoming something of the past, has not been much better. Local music, other than major events are not being noted as much as huge benefit shows or multi-act events happening somewhere else in the world. Even musical listings of venues or events around town are being cut drastically short or left out altogether. And what does that mean? A lot of people are not going to be aware of shows and events happening in our midst. It means that smaller audiences will show up. Venues will look for other means of grabbing your hard earned dollar or even having to close their doors due to lack of business. Touring acts will look elsewhere and local musicians will have less work and in turn may look to other locations to move to that might be able to offer more.
We need these voices to be heard. We need the media outlets to recognize the wealth and value of music and the arts in this city. We don’t want to sound the same as every other place in the country. Give us our individuality. Give us what makes our community special and unique.
The blues is one such point within Portland. Just look at the audiences at the Waterfront Blues Festival for example. But don’t be fooled, this is not a sound that only happens in early July every year. It is something going on every night of every week of every month. Unless it is silenced by a lack of attention or failure to recognize it.
Bring our music back home and let it be noted for all audiences of all ages. After all, it is a part of our local culture and something to be proud of. It is a part of our history and needs to be preserved. Let our arts be vital. In the long run we will all win when this is accomplished and the livability of community will rise.