4 Things Bebop Taught Me About Change

I was recently invited by the Center for Social Change at Latrobe University to present on how social change takes place in the cultural sphere.



Truth is almost always more fascinating than fiction. It is also more complex.

Take for example the story I’ve told in other places and times, of how a schismatic Muslim group from South Asia played a critical part in the transformation of American popular music.

The story is a fabulous one, full of colourful characters, political struggle and crazy subplots. And in order to give the rest of this article meaning I’ll provide a Reader’s Digest synopsis of the tale.

In the early 1940s jazz music was big money. From coast to coast, mini orchestras played a brand of silky, synchronised, swing music that got people dancing but not much else. Swing was the world’s pop music. And like all such things, when they go mainstream, they become homogenised, safe and sound-alike.

In New York, a small group of African American jazz musicians were hearing sounds in their head…

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