[promoted by BooMan]

A few days ago, I wrote a diary about the then upcoming star studded Katrina benefit concert hosted by Wynton Marsalis, artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. I wrote at the time “Benefit concerts are always about compassion.  But sometimes they also surface deeper concerns and higher aspirations. Sometimes they inspire people to political action. I think this could be one of those extraordinary events.”

The event itself, broadcast on NPR, PBS, and BET, among other outlets, did indeed surface anger and outrage. A story written by Associated Press Music Writer Nekesa Mumbi Moody, captures some of this. She reported that the

“Higher Ground” hurricane relief benefit concert Saturday night….[was] stirring for the emotionally charged performances and speeches that assigned blame for the tragedy.

“When the hurricane struck, it did not turn the region into a Third World country…. it revealed one,” actor and activist Danny Glover said in a speech with Harry Belafonte in which both criticized the government, not only for the response to the hurricane but for the conditions prior to it.

Continued BELOW:

“Katrina was not unforeseeable,” Belafonte said. “It was the result of a political structure that subcontracts its responsibility to private contractors and abdicates its responsibility altogether.”

Robin Williams poked fun at the administration during his standup routine, in which he imagined an ethnically named Hurricane and its attitude: “I’m going to go to Kennebunkport and see if they respond any quicker!”

The Bush family compound is in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Bill Cosby played it straight as he called on the American people to hold government accountable.

“This happened to the people. The constitution says of the people, by the people, for the people,” he said. “But the people who got the office, got into office and forgot about the people.”

Elvis Costello, who performed with jazz giant Allen Toussaint, said he heard conservatives were worried about Katrina’s rebuilding cost: “I just hope we keep in our minds that an effort like this can never be too expensive.”

Jazz singer Jon Hendricks best summed up the tone of the evening. After singing one tribute, he said: “That’s the way I feel about New Orleans; This is the way I feel about the country right now.”

Then he launched into the angry song “Tell Me The Truth,” singing lines like “Nowadays, wrong is right, down is up, black is white, bad is good, truth is a lie” before defiantly singing, “Somebody tell me what’s right,” to applause.

But some of the most poignant moments didn’t need a political agenda.

Young jazz trumpet player Irvin Mayfield of New Orleans played the melancholy tune “Just A Closer Walk with Thee,” and dedicated it to the rebuilding of New Orleans and “to my father, who is still missing.”

Successful political movements have great music. The labor movement; the civil rights movement; the peace movement (Vietnam), and even the Christian right, has had terrific music that speaks to and from its participants.

I wonder what music(s) will emerge from the vast, gathering movement for social change of which the disaster of New Orleans is but a further catalyst?  

Can you feel it gathering?  Gathering with the political strength of a hurricane that will sweep away Bush’s congressional majorities in 2006?  

Can you feel it?

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