Big up the BBC and Brook Lapping Productions. Erykah Badu presents two half hours of radio on the Black Power movement and the aesthetics and music that accompanied it. Great montage and interviews with Archie Shepp, Amiri Baraka, Ornette Coleman, Sonia Sanchez, Lloyd McNeil and Talib Kweli.
Kweli describes a situation from around 10 years ago where he booked a plane ticket over the phone. In the background he was listening to Stokely Carmichael speeches. When he turned up at the airport the authorities were waiting for him. The lesson he takes from this is that white power sees no problem with violence in the ghetto, but when anger turns righteous and directs its attention out to a broader context it becomes a serious threat. Even someone listening to a speech becomes a potential threat.
Here’s the write up. links below:
“Singer and songwriter Erykah Badu presents a two part series exploring the extraordinary underground music generated by the Black Power movement of the late Sixties and early Seventies: radical, beautiful and rare
Black Power – with its symbol of a fist clenched in anger and defiance – politicised African American music in ways the Civil Rights movement had not. The desire for integration gave way to a new, fighting impulse of cultural separatism and self-determination. Politics and music became explosively attuned. From 1968 The Black Arts Movement – ‘the cultural and spiritual sister of the Black Power concept’ – flourished, dedicated to the foundation of an authentic Black aesthetic in literature, poetry and music. ‘The Black Power and Black Arts concept both relate to the Afro-American’s desire for self-determination and nationhood’ wrote the African American philosopher Larry Neale in 1968,’…a main tenet of Black Power is the necessity for Black people to define the world in their own terms. The Black artist will make the same point in the context of aesthetics.’
The quest for freedom had both a musical and political resonance. Musicians opened up new and unexplored worlds of musical possibility. Players like Ornette Coleman and Archie Shepp pioneered the ‘New Thing’ – an avant-garde in jazz, pushing the limits of harmony and rhythm. Music was explicitly pressed into political service: The Black Panther Party even produced its own album of underground anthems ‘Seize the Time’ and Black music as a whole became far more vocal in its opposition to white mainstream society. Poet-musicians like Gill Scott Heron and the Last Poets delivered stinging attacks on the political failure of Civil Rights and the reality of the black experience in cities across America. Meanwhile Africa became as a powerful symbol for a younger generation of black American artists, a source of political identification, spiritual sustenance and often exotic, musical inspiration.
Black Power transformed the way musicians negotiated control and ownership of their own music. The club and bar circuit gave way to performances in galleries, lofts, community halls and public spaces. The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians was inaugurated in Chicago (and still thrives today) and other collectives followed. Radical independent labels flourished with very limited vinyl release. Many of these records, infused with the Black Power ethos, are extremely rare, and are featured throughout the series.”
Black is a Country pt1
Black is a Country pt2
There’s some more music from these times in this old post.