A Jackson Scene? by Randy Perkins

Take a survey of college music scenes around the country. College towns such as Austin, Chapel Hill, Athens and Olympia appear to be churning out indie-label rock bands by the dozen. Magazines produce college radio charts showing a myriad of seemingly disparate musical subgenres: noise rock, math rock, IDM, electroclash, blip-hop. Many would argue that not only do college students play an integral role in shaping musical trends, but they are often the source of cutting-edge music around the U.S.

Not being a Jackson native, I decided to ask local college students what they thought about the Jackson college-music scene. What are some of the current trends, if any, and do local students think that they are hip to current trends around the country?

Rebecca Day, a senior at Millsaps, thinks that college radio charts are not as applicable in Jackson, simply because there is no prominent college radio station in the area playing indie music. She cites old country music acts, such as Conway Twitty and Johnny Cash, as being popular with her friends. She also thinks that certain newer alt-country bands such as Lucero and Wilco are the norm around Millsaps. These acts definitely seem a far cry from what CMJ New Music Monthly and other college music publications purport to be common trends.

Jackson State student Patrick Johnson sees his fellow students as being very in tune with musical trends around the country, especially in Southern hip-hop. Johnson says he and many of his peers are into a variety of musical genres, old and new.

Akinwole Uhuru, a Tougaloo student, also expressed some optimism about his school's music interests. A fan of hip-hop stalwarts Talib Kweli and Dead Prez, he claims his friends at Tougaloo are into gospel and party music, among other genres. He also mentioned that KC and Jojo recently performed on campus.

I admit that I was relieved to hear from local students about some current trends in contemporary music. But what I guess I was looking for was more innovation and creative output coming from Jackson college campuses. Savage Republic, a seminal early '80s post-punk band, consisted of UCLA students who would collaborate and record on their campus parking lots. In a more recent example, Mike Ladd, a prominent rapper and producer, is also a practicing professor at New York University, and has encouraged many of his students to join his collective. Smaller cities such as Chapel Hill, home of the University of North Carolina, have produced solid underground record labels, signing popular local bands.

It appears that there are many great local acts here in Jackson, and I am sure many consist of current college students. Yet, wouldn't it be more interesting if local colleges became the source of the music scene here? Wouldn't it be great to see local students become innovators and put Jackson on the map, rather than just followers?

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