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FutureStarrMeet the Women in Music Honoree Who Escaped the Iron Curtain
The Iron Curtain was a wall that divided Europe from 1945-1991, representing the Cold War between the Soviet Union and Western world.
Popular music, particularly jazz and rock & roll, was an effective means for the United States government to spread American culture throughout communist countries of Eastern Europe. With its universal appeal, these forms of art served as perfect propaganda during the Cold War.
Josephine Baker was an iconic entertainer in her day, dominating Europe as its most popular performer. But she was also a fearless and outspoken activist who challenged racial segregation and spoke before Martin Luther King Jr.
Freda Josephine McDonald was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1906 but she left home at 17 due to racial discrimination. Her first job was with a vaudeville revue but soon after moving to Paris where she achieved fame as an international star.
After her performance at Folies Bergere music hall, Baker's popularity skyrocketed. Her rendition of "La Folie du Jour," which involved dancing only with 16 banana skirts, caused an instant sensation.
Her performance sparked interest in other black performers, and soon she became France's highest-paid female star. Exiting from America's still very much alive racist society that segregated public spaces and refused service to blacks, performing abroad provided her with an opportunity to escape it.
During World War II, Baker provided assistance to the French Resistance by passing on secret messages she heard while performing in front of enemy troops. She did this by writing down information on her music sheets with invisible ink.
She hid Resistance fighters at her chateau, Les Milandes, and provided them with visas. Additionally, she collected intelligence regarding German troop movements and harbors.
Lewis recalls that by the time she and Abtey left Paris for Morocco in 1941, they had established an important connection to Britain. She had collected intelligence on Axis embassies from French troops before their departure.
Kupferman recounts in her book how she returned to espionage with celebrity and connections, allowing her to pass freely between Vichy France and Nazi-occupied France. With these connections, she even managed to slip into an area occupied by both regimes in France - something Kupferman claims happened only once during her lifetime!
Baker's career exemplifies how entertainers can use their platform to benefit those less fortunate and challenge tyrannical governments. Her bravery and unflinching voice served as a weapon against fascism during the 1920s and 1930s, leading to her induction into France's Pantheon -- its mausoleum of heroes.
The Phantom Orchestra was a rock band that performed behind the Iron Curtain during the Soviet Union's Cold War. Their music provided viewers with their first unfiltered taste of American rock & roll in Eastern Europe and helped bridge cultural gaps between Westerners and Eastern Europeans.
In 1978, The Group formed in Paris and later relocated to Ireland. Since 1979 they have been recording their first LP and performing internationally. Furthermore, the band was part of Louis Stewart's Jazz Phantoms improvisational band which toured around performing original jazz compositions around the world.
Their musical career began in the early 1970s, when they performed at both Moscow Music Peace Festival and Berlin International Guitar Competition. By mid-1970s, the group had achieved success with several hit songs and began touring Europe and Russia.
Throughout their tenure in the Soviet Union, the band performed at numerous venues such as Moscow's Central Music Hall and Tbilisi Opera House in Georgia. Furthermore, they featured in several films.
In addition to their live performances, the group released several recordings, one of which featured a song called "Tibetan Rock." They also made a film of their music in 1979.
In April, they are set to release a new album with all their current material. The CD includes some covers as well as brand-new original compositions written specifically for this release.
Unknown to those unfamiliar with their music, the band's sound is a mix of symphonic and jazz influences. Their songs often conjure up images of an evening at the opera.
Though many of their songs have been recorded and released on CD, they also released a few singles in the 1980s. These included "Spirit of Freedom," "Crossing Over" and "Phantom of the Opera."
They have earned numerous accolades, including a Grammy nomination. Their work serves as a testament to the power and creativity that can arise through collaboration.
Throughout their career, the Phantom Orchestra has remained a source of inspiration. They have always strived to be creative and explore different genres of music.
The United States government is composed of three branches: legislative, executive and judicial. Each organ oversees a specific role in national leadership and is bound by the Constitution for their oversight responsibilities.
The legislative branch consists of Congress (the Senate and House of Representatives). This body creates laws, advises on key executive and judicial appointments, approves treaties, and makes all laws necessary for the proper operation of government.
Each state has a legislature that differs in size and power. This structure ensures each state has an independent, unified voice in the federal government.
Both the Senate and House of Representatives are elected by voters to represent their interests. Congressional elections take place every two years, with different seats up for election each time. The term of Congress begins at noon on January 3rd and concludes at noon on the 20th day of that same month.
Congress is responsible for organizing the executive and judicial branches, raising revenue, declaring war, and passing all laws necessary for government operations. With a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress, it may override presidential vetoes.
The executive branch is headed by the president and comprises vice presidents, cabinet members, and their departments. These agencies implement policies related to economics, defense, education, and other important matters.
It enforces the laws of the United States and safeguards the rights of Americans, consisting of 15 agencies.
Propaganda refers to the use of information or messages to influence people into taking actions they would otherwise avoid. It can be overtly aggressive or subtle, and is usually associated with totalitarian regimes.
Americans used propaganda reluctantly, yet it proved a powerful weapon in the Cold War battle. Through propaganda, Americans gradually spread the values of their system to Soviet citizens.
The United States government employed popular music as a form of propaganda to break through the Iron Curtain. Jazz was utilized to promote American culture among Soviet people through radio programs and official jazz tours that were designed to introduce them to America.
The Iron Curtain is a term that describes the rigid borders that divided Eastern Europe during the Cold War. These boundaries were created after World War II as Soviet-led regimes sought to tighten control and prevent both emigration and infiltration.
On March 5, 1946, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill made a speech that warned of the potential perils of an Iron Curtain being drawn across Europe. He lamented that "from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent and hidden behind it all the capitals of ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe."
At this time, Soviet-dominated countries began erecting various barriers spanning thousands of kilometers (miles). These separations were secured with alarms, watchtowers, mines and soldiers.
After Stalin's death in 1953, restrictions on travel and communication were somewhat relaxed. However, with the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 these physical obstacles were reinstated, preventing people from traveling freely between East and West or countries associated with Warsaw Pact or NATO. This physical barrier proved a pivotal factor during the Cold War as it prevented people from traveling freely between these groups.
In 1989-1990, communist governments in Eastern Europe abandoned one party rule and the Iron Curtain began to fade away. However, its legacy still influences contemporary European politics.
According to the United Nations, four countries that were once apart of the Iron Curtain remain in existence today: Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania.
In 1945, these countries were liberated from Nazism; however, their citizens continued to endure oppression under Communist regimes. Governments were pressured into adopting policies which promoted Communism and suppressed opposition groups.
By the early 1990s, many governments had begun to embrace more freedom of speech and democratic elections; however, these reforms were met with fierce resistance from Communists.
In 1991, the Iron Curtain was finally broken when the Warsaw Pact disbanded and former Eastern Bloc countries began replacing their Communist regimes with more liberal ones. This marked the end of Cold War era in these nations; by the late 1990s most had reunited and returned to more open societies.