Camille Yarbrough Chats Beyonce, Rihanna, State Of Black Music
What are your thoughts about women like Beyonce and Rihanna and their impact on pop culture?
I think that Beyonce has had a great impact on pop culture. I like her. She’s a tremendous performer. I also think that we’ve always had sisters who danced in a sexual way⎯always. Going back further in the culture, we have always used our complete body. We have not been afraid to use our pelvic girdle because that’s part of our culture, that’s part of our life. But it was done in such a way that it had other elements in it. But now I am a little weary of us just being represented as sexual figures. Beyonce has made a lot of money and so has her man.The had a show they produced, Fela, which was an extraordinary show in the depths of its cultural input and expression but that’s not enough. Image is worth a thousand words. Beyonce carries herself well but all around you see the ass and the thighs and the sexuality and that has its place but right now it is too prominent in our lives. It is really hurting us very badly. I think she’s a smart woman but we’re at a time where that part of us is overemphasized rather than our charm, our grace, our spirituality and our sensitivity.
How about Rihanna?
I don’t like Rihanna. I don’t like what she does. To me the sounds are not human sounds. The messages are not really inspirational. When I say inspirational, I say things that help you really stay alive and help you understand the world that’s around you.
On that note, what do you think the future is of black music?
The spiritual part of it has shaped up. When we were brought over here, we were not allowed to bring instruments. We were stripped of all clothing, jewelry and culture. And with nothing, we created the greatest music this world has known. Our music, our spirituals, helped to liberate, helped to free us. Not only did we use it to encourage each other, to soothe the pain, to heal the wounds, but it was taken by others who imitated it until we were free, after the civil war. That’s when most any of us were allowed to go on the stage for the first time. In the church, some of our spiritual power survived and was evident there. There are those who were raised singing. In sound, in pitch, in rhythm, if you hear certain sounds, they resonate in the body. Some of them will bring you peace, some of them will disturb you, so you have to choose. The antiquity of our people allows them to develop over those centuries, wisdom relating to the kind of music they play. We kept that, all during slavery. We kept that in the blues and the blues used to be story telling. It used to be what hip-hop started out doing. Today it’s ‘what are the police doing to us. Then it was, what was the KKK and what were the police doing to us. So, the message was there in the 60s. And the sounds were there. The sounds have been almost eliminated now. The music is mostly techno. And a lot of our young people did not come through the church. They did not get the sound of the music, so they’re left out there trying to find something of their own. So my belief, though, is that that ancient spirit that came with us from the motherland is never going to leave us. And we are then going to create music that supports our community. Not just the young people, not just the old people, but our whole community. That will happen. But it’s not going to happen on its own. We have to really begin to support artists who do positive work, who use pitch and sound and rhymes that are nourishing to our hearts, to our body, to our minds. And that’s what music does. It’s spirit sound, spirit words, spirit pictures. I’m on my last leg, I’ve been out here for quite a while and my poor knees are about to give out. But my spirit is not going to give out. As long as I’m here, I’m going to try to share with our people, and in particular, our young people, the power and the beauty of our culture.