Listening Library

Building a vault of our musical journeys

E. T. Mensah and His Tempos Band (1961) Tempos Melodies: Ghana Guinea Mali– Flowing with a revolutionary Pan-African sonic, this song is a jubilant celebration of the decolonisation of the first African countries and their formation of a political union, (re)imagining Africa as a continent of socialist utopias.

Billie Holiday (1939) Strange Fruit: A hauntingly beautiful protest song, marking a radical shift in America’s social landscape and a declaration of Black liberation in a violently racist society.

Eugene McDaniels (1969) Compared to What- first radical song written by Eu(gene) McDaniels-a raw social critique on the state of the political landscape of the US. Below, a genealogy of the song.

Eugene McDaniels (1970) Outlaw- an explosive and militant record of resistance; an ode to Black feminist praxis, embodiment of intersectionality and love imbibed struggle for justice.

Eugene McDaniels (1971) Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse- an equally subversive part II to Outlaw, carving out space for a tender and sensitive Black masculinity (Lovin’ Man); calling out Mick Jagger for his outrageous relationship to Black culture (Jagger the Dagger); rapping about the blues of everyday racism (Supermarket Blues); exposing the violent origin stories of the US (Pararsite (for Buff)

Buffy Sainte-Marie (1966) Little Wheel Spin and Spin: My Country ‘Tis Of They People You’re Dying– a chillingly beautiful (re)writing of American history, through the prism of an amazing activist and musician, platforming the truth and sorrow that consists the underside of American history.

Dane Belany (1975) Motivations: Complexium– Placing Aimée Cesaire’s words to music, Belany invites us into a world of Francophone decolonial sonics and nascent modalities of Black feminist revolutionary praxis

Don Cherry (1976) Hear and Now: Universal Mother– this track encapsulates Cherry’s stunning centring of the ensemble; the ensemble as a way into sound, the ensemble as a way of connecting and creating self-determined soundscapes. This joint citational practice embodies Cherry’s approach to making music, with his wife at the time, who wasn’t a practising musician, featuring on the tambura.

Laura Nyro (1976) Smile: Sexy Mama– A (re)imagining of The Moment’s track, Nyro’s iteration of this track is so beautifully coded and queer. The track holds her interior world, her heart’s yearnings and her love of/for women. Paving the way for a generation of female singer-songwriters, Nyro was a border-crosser and convention-challenger, always already queering the norm, in the most sensual and subtle of ways.

The Coup (1993) Kill My Landlord: Dig It– Typifying different iterations of revolution, with their staunch anti-capitalistic, anti-patriarchal and antiracist critique, the Coup not only articulate revolution through a Black Marxist sense but embody it in the community organising they do.

Doug & Jean Carn (1973) Revelation: Contemplation-A McCoy Tyner piece, recorded by beautiful spiritual jazz couple, Doug and Jean Carn, this track captures the potency of Black spirituality and connectivity taking place in the West Coast at the time. Released on Black Jazz, a label that was conceived of to promote the talents of Black American music, the couple cemented the label’s aspirations to establish Oakland as the capital for Black musical power.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1944) Strange Things Happening Every Day- A traditional Black Spiritual reconfigured by Tharpe with her gorgeous vocals and fierce resonator guitar. Often cited as a precursor to rock n roll, this record was rock n roll, carrying the spiritual essence of gospel music with a slight refashioning. Queering the song, Tharpe was a pioneer in the world of music, extended the realms of possibility for Black American women artists.

Rance Allen Group (1972) Lying on the Truth- Performed at Wattstax concert, commemorating the anti-racist uprisings which took place in the Black communities of Watts in 1965, Memphis based label Stax, created a space where its artists could engage in celebration of the Black American sonic tradition. Rance Allen signifies the importance of the Black Church in generating this tradition. We witness the Church binding and connecting artists from The Staple Singers to Isaac Hayes.

Georgia Ann Muldrow (2009) Umsindo: Roses and I Have a Revelation at AGAPE Church- Using Muldrow’s music we can trace the collective power of the Black Church’s sonic. We see how boundaries collapse in much of her music and how the sonic evolution still carries the spiritual core that Church represents: community, kinship and fellowship.

Sam Cooke & The Soul Stirrers (1951) Jesus Gave Me Water- Before his solo career, Cooke was part of male gospel group The Soul Stirrers, a group typical of their time and epoch.

Sly and the Family Stone (1969) Stand: Medley of choons- From the Church to multi-kulti funk..

I have been thinking a lot lately about how black people have to hold on to our stories, or tell them for ourselves. I have been thinking about how I learned to write, to tell the stories I have, largely at the feet of black women who then became ghosts-ghosts by death, or ghosts by erasure of their living contributions, and sometimes both. I think of Nina Simone’s legacy, and I see the legacy of many Black women I know, who have had their work reduced by all of the hands that are not their own…Nina Simone unlocked a part of my imagination that I have always returned to, I hoped the story of Nina Simone to be one that was larger than life, because that is what she has always been for me. I wanted to hear folklore, a story of a great black women surviving violence through more violence, driven by her incredible gifts. Here is the story I hope we tell: Nina Simone’s blackness didn’t wash off at the end of a day. Nina Simone sang “sinner man” for ten minutes in 1965, and the whole earth trembled. Nina Simone played the piano like she was cocking a gun. Nina Simone was dark, and beautiful, and her hair piled high to heaven. Nina Simone Survived what she could of the cicil rights era, and then got the fuck out. Nina Simon rode away on the troubled ocean, standing on the deck of a black ship, looking back while a whole country burned, swallowing itself” Hanif Abdurraqib (2017)

Origins of Rap in Black America:

Scott-Heron and the Last Poets are “not only important; they’re necessary, because they are the roots of rap—taking a word and juxtaposing it into some sort of music,” he said. “You can go into Ginsberg and the Beat poets and Dylan, but Gil Scott-Heron is the manifestation of the modern word. He and the Last Poets set the stage for everyone else. In what way necessary? Well, if you try to make pancakes, and you ain’t got the water or the milk or the eggs, you’re trying to do something you can’t. In combining music with the word, from the voice on down, you follow the template he laid out. His rapping is rhythmic, some of it’s songs, it’s punchy, and all those qualities are still used today.” Chuck D from Public Enemy

Pigmeat Markham (1968) Here Comes The Judge
Mohammed Ali’s Poem to Joe Frazier on the Parkinson Show (1971)
The Last Poets (1970) The Last Poets: When The Revolution Comes
Gil Scott Heron-freestyling Washington DC

Hip-Hop: In the Beginning

Afrika Bambaataa: peace, love, unity
Pete Rock, OG hip hop producer reminding us of hip hop as a Black cultural citation praxis
Pioneering Sugarhill Records creator, Sylvia Robinson, on the commercial viability of hip-hop-putting the culture on wax.
Repped by Sugarhill Records, Sequence were a fierce hip-hop trio, spitting fire about their sexual autonomy and power as women. Angie Stone, who would later launch a career as a (Neo)soul icon was part of this group.
L-Boogie on the role of community within and in hip-hop.

Reflection(s) on Hip-hop’s evolution(s)

Listen.. people be askin me all the time,
“Yo Mos, what’s gettin ready to happen with Hip-Hop?”
(Where do you think Hip-Hop is goin?)
I tell em, “You know what’s gonna happen with Hip-Hop?
Whatever’s happening with us”
If we smoked out, Hip-Hop is gonna be smoked out
If we doin alright, Hip-Hop is gonna be doin alright
People talk about Hip-Hop like it’s some giant livin in the hillside
comin down to visit the townspeople
We (are) Hip-Hop
Me, you, everybody, we are Hip-Hop
So Hip-Hop is goin where we goin
So the next time you ask yourself where Hip-Hop is goin
ask yourself.. where am I goin? How am I doin?
Til you get a clear idea
So.. if Hip-Hop is about the people
and the.. Hip-Hop won’t get better until the people get better
then how do people get better? (Hmmmm…)

Mos Def (1999) Black On Both Sides: Fear Not Of Man

Common’s Call and Response(s) Soulquarian-style

Common (1994) Resurrection: I Used To Love H.E.R
The Roots ft Common (1999) Things fall apart: Act too (Love of My Life)
Erykah Badu (2002) Worldwide Underground: Love of My Life (Ode to Hip Hop)

Black Diasporic Migrations: Black (South) London’s Hip Hop Flex

Monie Love (1990) having assembled with different hip hop crews in London, transposing hip hop culture from the US to the UK, she migrates to the heart of the movement.
Having met Queen Latifah at a gig she had in Dingwalls, London, Monie rapped with Latifah after the gig and the two hit it off royally. The rest is history
Monie’s killer track “it’s a shame”, evokes a sense of collective Black feminist resilience, exploring themes of domestic violence in all its manifestations.
Conversating with the our now ancestor Ty, Monie Love and Ty create a beautiful inter-generational space where we see the ways in which hip hop connects through space, time, gender and generation. A gorgeous portal into the tapestry of Black British hip hop.

Rest in Power, Peace and Beauty. “As a performer, Ty was a giant and excelled beyond most of his peers in this arena. He was the benchmark, that we would always present as an example to artists and musicians, of what it means to actually perform. He understood more than most what it means to give your all and leave it on the stage. His energy and ability to bewitch and move a crowd, showed an incredible passion for all aspects of his craft. It wouldn’t matter if there were 5 people or 5000, he would produce the same insatiable energy and give you the show of your life…As everybody knows, Ty was community minded and was extremely active in making sure that the cultural communities that he represented were energised, connected and protected. He made it a priority to reach across barriers of age and connect, always looking to guide and mentor those coming up behind him, with a particular affinity and affection for young people. As a member of our crew affectionately refers to him, Ty was ’The Gatherer of the Village’…the world has lost an artistic powerhouse… Ty can never be replaced and will forever be missed by everyone who knew him, however he leaves a legacy of incredible music, activism, influence, friendship, love and laughter, that will remain forever.” Crew at Jazz Re:freshed

Ty (2003) Upwards: Dreams
could only have come outta South East London! Roots Manuva Witness (1 Hope)
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