Rapping Around the Business Blues


Rapping Around the Business Blues


Face The Music was founded around the premise that "Everyone in any organization or business has the blues, what they don't necessarily have is a way to express those blues and move past them." We got juiced around that idea and started sending blues bands around the country and the world and helping folks write and perform blues songs about their worklife. Our invitation was to tell in your lyrics what's really going on, and how you're feeling about it. "The blues is about what's true for you," was our motto.

We've since expanded our repertoire into many genres we love, rock, hip-hop, country, pop, etc. (

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for our program options), but the blues is the foundational medium of all those, and is still the simplest and most direct.

One thing we learned early on was that as well as having some fun with gripes and complaints, there was plenty that people are proud of, excited about and feeling good about what they are creating—that was also what was going on and how they were feeling. Great! The connotation that the blues are about whining and complaining ("No, that's country music!" as we like to say...) is limiting and the important element is a simple, direct tool to speak the truth as a "tribe" — to provide a space where they can "jam" together and have an experience that can make a difference.

Jamming is collaboratively improvising music that is fun, innovative, in-the-moment, feeds to and from each of the participants, and has an underlying structure that everyone doing it understands. What would it be like if everyone on your team at work was jamming together? How would it feel? What kind of results would you be getting? Maybe you've been in work situations where the people were jamming—it's the best! Everyone around wonders what you're up to. How do they get those results? Why do they seem to be smiling a lot? Luck seems to fall their way. Even their mistakes turn into good things. That's jamming. When you're in that mindset, it's like Miles said, "There are no wrong notes."

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The working blues are always there, but they change and shift from era to era. There was the tedium of the work that brought field hollers, and the depression blues of no job. The feeling of being left out of the confidence of prosperity and security that some seemed to be enjoying. Many got the re-engineering and downsizing blues in the 1990's, and that seems to recur in waves. Organizations that used to offer a job for life, ended up changing that culture—free agency blues.

There have been junk bond blues, internet boom blues (good, then frantic, then bubble burst), Enron blues, China Calling Blues, global blues, market crash and boom blues, and my stock ain't worth diddly anymore blues. There are big macro waves of blues, the trends that affect many, and there are small, localized blues situations beyond count, in every nook and cranny, every cubicle, on planes and trains, at meetings and conferences, in every work team, every time someone gets promoted or fired, anticipating a hostile takeover, celebrating the best year ever, and the blues are connected to the emotions that are experienced: tingling anticipation, disappointment, frustration, delight, surprise, anger, resentment, joy, uncertainty, sadness, gladness, madness—the whole spectrum.

In the modern workplace we are encouraged structurally to experience our feelings, our blues, alone. People are isolated at their computers, making their contributions through the keyboard and teletech, and experiencing life on their screens. The process of bringing people together in the blues writing facilitates establishing a conversation about what's really going on and what people are feeling. These conversations are key. They help raise the self-awareness from individual to team and organizational level. And when you get a couple hundred people from say, the same division of a company, in the same room having similar discussions, and sharing the results as blues songs, we start getting some self-awareness as an organization. "We are defined by our stories." The stories are given a stage and a venue to be told. You better listen!!

What if I don't want to hear what these stories have to say? Many potential clients are afraid of what a company truth-telling session might look/sound like. "Won't we be opening up a can of worms?" "I don't know. What's really going on in your company?" From an energetic perspective, energy always finds it's way to the ground to complete the circuit. If the people in an organization are truly having issues with what's going on, not listening to what they have to say will direct that energy into other channels—absenteeism, turnover, backstabbing, low productivity, gossip, disgruntledness, etc.


Of course, listening is not enough. If you listen, then you've got to do something about it. What am I going to hear, and what can we do about it? Well, the solutions are never simple, and are rarely the ones that anyone would have guessed. If we have the technology in our current operating system to address the big issues, we would have already done so. It's like the old Einstein quote: "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." The solutions are usually in evolving the system and the consciousness of those in it to the next level, and finding solutions that do not even occur to us now. That is the key to going beyond your blues.

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Blues: A Double Edged Plectrum?

What are the blues? Talk to a musician and most will tell you it's a 12 bar music form. Ask kids and they sing the famous riff by Muddy Waters made popular by George Thorogood's "Bad to The Bone". Face The Music's Paul Kwiecinski says "Blues is about telling your truth; a lot of people think it's about whining, but that's country music." The late Albert king said "I think a little baby's got the blues if you don't think he got the blues, don't give him that bottle and he'll be kicking and screaming and all that. That's the blues man."

On a recent PBS special its roots were explained in this way: "On Southern plantations, the roots of blues were introduced in work songs and "field hollers" based on the musical forms and rhythms of Africa. Through singing, call and response, and hollering, field workers coordinated their labor, communicated with one another across adjacent fields, bolstered weary spirits, and commented on the oppressiveness of their bosses." Kimberly Sambol-Tosco


The blues as we know it also incorporated spirituals, folk music, and minstrel music traditions that came together in an anonymous and informal way before it surfaced into the public consciousness.

Out of one's need to express and communicate a musical form is born. The genre is rich in culture and is one the most influential elements in 20th century music. A therapeutic aspect is also added that by singing the blues or listening to the blues one loses the blues. Many blues performances are up beat and rambunctious in nature. Blue's Artist Buddy Guy: "Once I was checking to hotel and a couple saw my ring with blues on it. They said, 'You play blues. That music is so sad.' I gave them tickets to the show, and they came up afterwards and said, "You didn't play one sad song."

"Blues is easy to play, but hard to feel". Jimi Hendrix

The blues form is so simple that I was able to teach a 5th grade music class to write a song in 45 minutes; but none of their songs sounded like Robert Johnson. Its most popular lyric form is AAB. Say a line, repeat it and then say something different. The harmony is made of three chords and quite often-just one. But without the feel the blues sounds lifeless. Musicians spend years trying to get that feel into their music.

"I dabbled in things like Howlin' Wolf, Cream and Led Zeppelin, but when I heard Son House and Robert Johnson, it blew my mind. It was something I'd been missing my whole life. That music made me discard everything else and just get down to the soul and honesty of the blues". Jack Black

The blues has many different aspects, and an almost secret, hidden, intangible element that only a selected few get to express to a wide audience. Check out our new video

"How to write a blues lyric", you might be one of the chosen.

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