On March 29, my biological father and I headed to the Berks County Jazz Festival in Reading, Pennsylvania. Every year we say we are going to go and every year the Jazz festival passes us by. I got us tickets to see Gregory Porter, one of the greatest singers I have heard in a long time. For 90 minutes, he treated us to songs from his albums Liquid Spirit, Be Good, and Water. As soon as I hear his voice, I’m immediately hypnotized; he is a passionate singer with a voice that is strong, yet controlled and words that really resonate deep within my soul.
While Porter is categorized under Jazz, his sound is really a complimenting blend of Gospel, Blues, Old Negro Spirituals, R&B, and Jazz. With a dearth of great music playing on the airways in the United States, it’s great to hear an artist who, as he eloquently sings, “will not commit musical genocide”. Instead, he uses his voice to send messages of love, “No Love Dying” and raises questions around social injustice in songs like “1960 What”.
During the concert, I sang nearly every word to most of the songs as I sat on the edge of my seat. 90 minutes came and went and he didn’t sing my favorite song. After leaving the stage, the band came back and Mr. Porter closed the show with my favorite song, “Be Good (Lion’s Song)”. I will admit, I’m having a hard time deciphering the lyrics and metaphors in this song, but it is absolutely one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard. Perhaps it not about the actual words, but the music, the voice, and the awesome video that goes along with the song.
While this post is primarily about Mr. Porter, I had to mention another artist I am dying to see live, Concha Buika, a singer from Spain. Just like Porter, I was introduced to her music whilst living in Europe. Although I lived in Spain, my command of the Spanish language is non-existent. Therefore, I don’t know what she is saying in any of her songs. However, just like Porter, her passion and delivery really drew me in. Many people I met in Spain called her type of music “Gypsy Music”. Whilst living in Spain, Gypsies were a name used to categorize groups from various part of Europe that migrated or roamed into Spain. Many Gypsies are displaced, poor, and are not thought of in high regard. While the term Gypsy has a negative connotation (at least in Spain), the blending of various cultures and sounds from Flamenco to Arab and African music is absolutely beautiful and moving. Without deciphering the words, one can understand the common themes that resonate through the music – themes of journeys, pains, struggles, and love. I don’t believe there is a clearer example of this than Buika’s “Jodida Pero Contenta” which I posted below. Enjoy and tell me what you think!