An Evening of Celebration with Musician Galen Abdur Razzaq
By Michael Schwartz ’14
The incomparable Galen Abdur Razzaq, a flutist and spoken word artist from Montclair, N.J., kicked off Arcadia’s celebration of Black history by captivating students in the Chat Performance Area with soothing and chill jazz music and thoughtful poetry.
“Students enjoyed Galen’s performance [last year] so much that I had to get him back here again this year,” said Judith Dalton, the Associate Dean of Institutional Diversity. “I actually think the show was better than last year’s—and last year it was really good. The performance was just wonderful.”
Razzaq has performed for audiences at home and abroad for more than 30 years, and his work is cherished by people across the globe. Colleges and universities are among his favorite places to perform due to his affinity for teaching. “It’s all a learning process and I love to teach,” he says. “Teaching is my thing. If I’m not teaching, then I’m not learning, so I’m kind of a selfish guy because I better teach in order for me to learn more. So that’s what I really enjoy. It’s all reciprocal.”
In addition to showcasing his seemingly effortless musicianship, Razzaq took time between songs to deliver humorous and insightful spoken pieces, riffing on clichéd phrases that use the word “jazz,” the debate about who first introduced jazz music and more. Razzaq is a fascinating entertainer whose years of experience in the world of jazz have made him a great spoken word artist.
Razzaq’s band mates—a keyboardist, saxophonist, bassist and drummer—were all exceptional and guided audience members on a wonderful musical journey.
Eugene Ghee, an experienced saxophonist and former music teacher, summed up the connection he feels to jazz when he said, “Playing jazz is a lot of freedom. You can play what you feel. I play a lot of different types of music but jazz gives me the most freedom. We are not restricted. I mean, we play according to the melody and the chord progressions and what not, but it’s not restricted. You can get a hundred people playing the same tune, same chord changes and same melody in different ways, and that’s what’s so beautiful. From their personal experience and from their creativity they express themselves a hundred different ways.”
Ghee also talked about how he likes introducing young people to jazz: “I like bringing the music to the young people because they are really unfamiliar with the music. They aren’t exposed to the music. This is such a great, great art form and once they get the exposure, they will love it.”
Tanesha Wade ’13 enjoyed the show and found the performance to be a memorable experience. She said, “I thought it was really cool. I have seen a lot of different musical performances at Arcadia but never a jazz band. And I liked all the historical bits that he threw in too.”
Razaaq’s performance was a fantastic way to kick off Arcadia’s celebration of Black History Month. Dalton summed up how special the evening was when she said, “It’s said in America that the true American music, the one that was born in this country, is jazz. So given that jazz is the music form that is true to America and this being the first day of African American history [month], what better way than to start it off than fusing the music with the history.”