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Meanings of Jazz in State Socialism

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Edited By Gertrud Pickhan and Rüdiger Ritter

During the Cold War, jazz became a cultural weapon that was employed by both sides to advance their interests. This volume explores the history and roles of jazz in Poland, the German Democratic Republic (GDR), Czechoslovakia, Hungary, the Soviet Union, and the Baltic States by means of several case studies. The American administration attempted to destabilize the political systems of the Eastern Bloc countries, while the powers responsible for culture in the Eastern Bloc countries tried to curtail the US propaganda campaign. This resulted in distinct jazz traditions and jazz scenes, each governed by a distinct behavioural codex, as well as official responses in each of the Eastern Bloc countries.
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Individualists, Traditionalists, Revolutionaries, or Opportunists? The Political and Social Constellations of Jazz in Hungary during the 1950s-1960s

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Gergő Havadi

Individualists, Traditionalists, Revolutionaries, or Opportunists? The Political and Social Constellations of Jazz in Hungary during the 1950s–1960s1

Abstract Focussing on Hungary, this study considers the role of jazz from the time it was banned by the cultural administration in the late 1940s to its acceptance and integration from the 1960s onwards. During the Cold War, the ethos of freedom permeating jazz was fuelled by American political hegemony and consumerist mass culture, on the one hand, and the anti-Americanism of the communist regime, on the other. Not surprisingly, it lost its revolutionary myth as soon as it was given official approval. Attempts to imbue the genre once more with ideology and use it to counterbalance the impact of rock ‘n’ roll and beat music failed, last but not least because modern jazz arrived in Hungary with no less than a 15-year delay. The irony in the post-1945 history of jazz in Hungary is that it had lost its potential audience by the time it was tolerated by the regime.

I.  Introduction

The myth that liberty permeated jazz during the Cold War was fuelled by American political authority and a consumerist mass culture on the one hand, and the America-phobia of the communist regimes on the other. These factors are what shaped the sometimes heroic image that many remember the genre by. János Gonda, the greatest and virtually only theorist of Hungarian jazz, agrees that jazz was a kind of...

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