Hip-hop's place in Augusta examined

Some of Augusta's top creative minds met Thursday with intentions of increasing local artistic appreciation and encouraging the development of various artistic disciplines.

In a panel discussion dubbed The Black Aesthetic, The Current Status of Black Arts, an 11-member board provided personal insight on how to bring more focus on black artistic culture in Augusta. The event was held at The Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History.

Jonathan Martin, of WRDW-TV, was meeting moderator, and he quickly spurred panel discussion when asking if today's hip-hop music has helped mute other art forms such as poetry and dance in Augusta.

Ferneasa Cutno-Booker, the founder and owner of Augusta's Cutno Dance Center, said hip-hop has its place, "but our city is in a state of emergency when it comes to dance."

To support her bleak outlook, she cited the demise of the Augusta Ballet and said no dance companies exist here.

Because of increased media focus on music videos, Mrs. Cutno-Booker said, many of her potential students' parents are inquiring about hip-hop dance lessons versus modern, jazz and ballet dance.

Also, to her dismay, she said the exotic dance industry has increased significantly in popularity among young girls.

Kimberly "Isis" Wesby, Augusta Radio One promotions director, defended hip-hop, saying the genre should not be viewed as the death knell of other art forms.

"You can't just get rid of hip-hop. It's also part of music evolution," she said.

The Rev. Dr. Chris Lowe spoke of his professional music experience with the Wilson Pickett Band and spoke in support of his co-panelist, Isis. He reflected on how disco's technical beats and keyboard-based horns replaced live horn players such as himself.

Dr. James Carter, one of the older panelists, told the group that hip-hop is part of a long line of new American music forms that traditionally put older generations on edge.

"It happened in 1947 with Do The Huckabuck and in the 1950s with Sixty-Minute Man by the Dominoes," he said.

Those songs once had sexual innuendo, "but are now like singing Mary Had a Little Lamb," he said to audience laughter. "It's all about evolution."

Christine Miller-Betts, Laney Museum executive director, said other panelists will meet quarterly in similar meetings to continue what she described as "healthy and timely dialogue."

Reach Timothy Cox at (706) 823-3217 or tim.cox@augustachronicle.com.