BLACK MUSICIANS AS AN IDENTIFICATION MEDIUM FOR BLACK GERMANS
Today, we are proud to present you the first article of our series of Black womxn on Black music for Black History Month! Jutta Weber is the child of a German mother and a Jamaican father, born in Meerbusch in 1964. She works as a pediatrician and psychotherapist in her own practice in Krefeld. In 2017, her book ‘Rastavati’, a story about her childhood, growing up in Meerbusch, and the search for her Jamaican father was published by Rowohlt. Jutta also writes articles for the online-based magazine RosaMag, a magazine written by Black women for Black women. In this article, she discusses her relationship with music and elaborates why having Black musicians as role models helped her find her identity growing up Black in Germany.
Music is my life.
I mean, without music, I would literally not exist. My mother met my father in a bar in the early sixties. He was the singer and guitar player of a band with five Jamaican musicians, living in London and touring through Germany. In the early sixties, there was live music everywhere. Jazz, especially Swing and Bebop was gaining popularity in Germany. Music gave Black musicians the freedom to travel and live freely in the Germany of the sixties and seventies. The young German generation was full of lust for life. Less than twenty years after the Second World War, young people were looking to have fun, in contrast to very strict, disciplined parents, trying to build up a new Germany. Jazz and Rock'n'Roll were free and wild and opposed everything their parents wanted them to be. I am the product of a rather spontaneous, yet fortunate ending to an evening of live music and partying - this could be why music has always been a very important part of my life. In my early childhood, I grew up with my mother's music: Mahalia Jackson, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, and Nina Simone on one side and Elvis, the Beatles, Hildegard Knef, and Alexandra on the other.
When I could choose my own music, I loved many Black singers. It was a wild mixture: the one and only Bob Marley, Boney M, Joan Armatrading, Sade, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Hot Chocolate, Stevie Wonder, Kid Creole, and the Coconuts. Listening to Black musicians was my only contact with Black people. I was the only Black child at school and I never had or saw Black teachers or doctors. Even in the gospel choir, which I sang in from the age of ten, I was always the only Black child. It felt normal at the time, but looking back it now seems so very strange.
Because I grew up without my Black father, these musicians were forming the core of my identification of being Black during my childhood. Personally, I felt my presence among my classmates, friends, and family was nothing out of the ordinary but many saw me very differently. Despite being born and raised in Germany and naturally fluent in the native tongue, I was frequently asked where I came from and why I spoke German so perfectly.
I never wanted to be seen any different than anyone else, yet I never wished to be white; I just wanted to be me without having to explain…
"Black musicians showed me, that Black people can be just as successful as White people."
My mother and my stepfather always taught me that with hard work, you could accomplish your goals. Contemporary female singers such as Tracey Chapman and Joan Armatrading have always been my idols: as self-confident, successful, intelligent, emotional, open-minded women, they were loved by countless human- beings, despite being Black or White.
And nowadays? I still love music and when I look through my non-classical playlist, there are still many Black female musicians I love: in addition to Joan Armatrading and Tracey Chapman are now Corinne Bailey Rae, Cassandra Wilson, Fatoumata Diawara, Lauryn Hill, Lianne La Havas, Mahalia, Norah Jones, and Arlo Parks. What do they all have in common? They all find a way to speak to our hearts and soul and exuberantly bring people together.
In concert, the utopia of one love and one heart comes true with not only these women but for many fabulous Black artists alive.
Music ends division and sees no color.
You can read more about Jutta Weber's story and her experiences in her book, Rastavati, or one of her articles on RosaMag. If you are curious to read more personal stories and music analyses from Black womxn, stay tuned for our upcoming articles by guest authors. Happy Black History Month!