If you missed the first of this special series on African-American Music Appreciation Month by Aberjhani please click here. Part 2 starts now:
The potential inherent in an intercontinental cultural network linked by black music may have first become evident when entertainment icon and human rights advocate Harry Belafonte introduced the United States to the musical talents and political passions of the late great South African singer Miriam Makeba.
After the outspoken Makeba’s passport was revoked in 1960 and she was barred from returning to her native country, she and Belafonte staged a series of concerts during the first half of the ‘60s. In 1966, they shared a Grammy for the album An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba. Their artistic and political support of each other not only enhanced their individual friendship but helped draw attention to the brutal practices of apartheid in South Africa, which during that period were not completely unlike similar practices in the United States.
It would be inaccurate to describe the recent International Jazz Day Global Concert held in Istanbul, Turkey, solely as an expression of musical Pan-Africanism because musicians from backgrounds as diverse as China, Russia, Israel, and France also––as was intended––added greatly to the occasion. However, it would be accurate to note that the event did contain strong elements of Pan Africanism from the fact that it was spearheaded to a large degree by program moderator Herbie Hancock and Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz chairman T.S. Monk, Jr. On top of that, among the headliners were South Africa’s Hugh Masekela, Cuba’s Pedrito Martinez, and Brazil’s Milton Nascimento.
The point just noted might strike some as a minor one. But given that any number of individuals, and/or groups (particularly of African descent), have seen their creative labors appropriated by more dominant influences while they themselves have been largely marginalized, it is not a minor issue at all. The accumulative economic impact, as Kenny Gamble observed when he first proposed Black Music Month, can make all the difference between whether one manages to squeeze out an existence below the poverty line––or earn a living above it.
Women at the Center of the Stage
Pianist, singer, actress, and masterful entrepreneur Alicia Keys has been a powerhouse in the world of music ever since her 2001debut album, Songs in A Minor, largely dominated the 2002 Grammy Awards with five wins and went platinum five times over. As if to make sure the world understood she planned on being around for a while, she racked up another four Grammy wins in 2005 for the album The Diary of Alicia Keys and to date has won some 14 total.
Her staying power and cutting edge brilliance may be evidenced by her willingness to go beyond playing to sold-out crowds for her current Set the World on Fire tour and to share with appreciative fans such intimate freebies as live-streaming “Secret Sessions.” She participated in such an event, presented by BlackBerry Keep Moving, on May 31 following a high-energy performance at London’s O2 Arena. Although she had already put on a full concert, she performed three songs specifically for the Secret Session. The diverse audience logging on to chat during the session identified themselves “representing” Brazil, Dublin, Prague, Nigeria, Spain, the Czech Republic, and other countries and cities.
The New Yorker and the Scotswoman
Rising star Emeli Sandé gained her entrance into the music industry by penning tunes that fellow musical artists found impossible to resist. Among those who have recorded work by Sandé to date are: Rihanna, Susan Boyle, Leona Lewis, Bruno Mars, and Frank Ocean.
Keys is a native New Yorker who has proudly claimed the legendary neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen as one of her early stomping grounds. By contrast, Sandé grew up the daughter of a Zambian father and English mother in the rural area of Aberdeen shire in northern Scotland. The two women have nevertheless developed a creative camaraderie that fits well within the scope of classic Pan African ideals and aspirations––even if such a fit were only incidental rather than intentional.
Upon the release of Keys’ latest album, Girl on Fire, a number of publications pointed out that Sandé co-authored three songs for it: “Brand New Me,” “Not Even the King,” and “101.” What many have overlooked is that Keys and Sandé initially teamed up for a concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall on June 13, 2011. Moreover, they co-wrote the ballad “Hope” for Sandé’s debut album, Our Version of Events. If the CD’s credit notes are correct, Keys also did Sandé the extraordinary honor of playing drums and keyboards on the track.
NEXT: African-American music links cultural legacies around the globe Part 3 Emeli Sande
co-author of Elemental The Power of Illuminated Love
and Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance
More on Celebrating Legacies of Black Music
- African-American Music Links Cultural Legacies around the Globe Part 1
- Alicia Keys on the Biography Channel
- Summer-Song Rhapsody for Michael Jackson Editorial and Poem
- The Consecrated Soul of Whitney Houston
- World-class Musicians Honor Turkey’s Long Relationship with Jazz Part 1
- Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz
- Jazz Legend Nina Simone
- Jazz Legend Abbey Lincoln