String Noise – Alien Stories

 

Title: Alien Stories
Artist: String Noise
Label: Infrequent Seams (Dist. Bandcamp)
Formats: CD, Cassette, Digital
Release date: April 2, 2021

 

The New York-based classical avant-punk duo String Noise, featuring violinists Conrad Harris and Pauline Kim Harris, is celebrated for their wide-ranging performances of contemporary music. Since the duo’s founding in 2011, they have added more than 50 new works to their repertoire. Their latest release, Alien Stories, was influenced by the Black Lives Matter movement, which also increased attention on issues of racial equality with the musical realm. In support of Black artists, the duo decided to co-commission, with Carnegie Hill Concerts, new works from five young Black composer-performers based in New York City. These five works are featured on Alien Stories.

Continue reading

Cha Wa – My People

 

Title: My People
Artist: Cha Wa
Label: Single Lock
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release Date: April 2, 2021

 

Since the late 19th century, Mardi Gras Indians have paraded the streets of New Orleans outside of the gaze of tourists that flock to Bourbon Street. The Mardi Gras Indian community is a group of primarily Black New Orleanians who pay respect to Native Americans through their wardrobe, music, and dialect. The tradition of Mardi Gras Indian krewes is said to have originated to pay tribute to the Native groups that sheltered Black New Orleanians fleeing enslavement. Drawing on this rich heritage, Cha Wa’s My People captures the sounds of Mardi Gras Indian street parades and blends them with other New Orleans influences including the ‘70s era funk of The Meters, brass band music, jazz, R&B, hip-hop, and African-inspired rhythms.

Continue reading

Jupiter & Okwess – Na Kozonga

 

Title: Na Kozonga
Artist: Jupiter & Okwess
Label: Everloving
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release Date: April 23, 2021

 

Hailing from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Jupiter & Okwess makes music that pulls together international musical influences in a stand against global injustice. Their newest release, Na Kozonga, is an explosive and energetic compilation of music featuring the Preservation Hall Jazz Band horn section, pioneer of Brazilian rap Marcelo D2, and the vocals of American Maiya Sykes and Chilean Ana Tijoux.

Continue reading

Welcome to the March 2021 Issue

Welcome to the March 2021 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

In celebration of Women’s History Month we’re featuring new releases from female artists including singer-songwriter Valerie June’s eclectic The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers; Prince protégé Judith Hill’s Baby I’m Hollywood; L.A. singer-songwriter and acoustic guitarist Sunny War’s Simple Syrup; blues-rock singer Skylar Rogers’s Firebreather; and scholar Maureen Mahon’s book, Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll.

Classical releases include the Catalyst Quartet’s Uncovered Vol. 1: Samuel Coleridge-Taylor featuring acclaimed clarinetist Anthony McGill and pianist Stewart Goodyear; and the woodwind quintet Imani Winds’ Bruits featuring guest appearances by soprano Janai Brugger and narrator John Whittington Franklin.

Also featured is composer Adrian Younge’s unapologetic critique of systemic racism on The American Negro, pianist-composer Cameron Graves’ thrash-jazz fusion release Seven, and the London-based fusion group Nubiyan Twist’s Freedom Fables.

Wrapping up this issue is our list of February 2021 Black Music Releases of Note.

Valerie June – The Moon and Stars

 

Title: The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers
Artist: Valerie June
Label: Fantasy
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: March 12, 2021

 

Valerie June’s The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers is an amalgam of genres, referencing 1960s psychedelia, 1980s pop, gospel, Americana, and especially Memphis soul. The connection to Memphis, where June began her career, is evident throughout, from an appearance by Carla Thomas to sessions recorded at Sam Phillips Studio and Royal Studios. Like this album, Memphis is a melting pot of styles, and the instrumentation on The Moon and Stars is just as diverse as its stylistic influences—from lush strings to horns, pedal steel, and banjo. Jointly produced by June and Jack Splash (Alicia Keys, Kendrick Lamar, John Legend), the fourteen tracks of original music have all of the elements necessary to guarantee success.

Continue reading

Judith Hill – Baby I’m Hollywood

 

Title: Baby I’m Hollywood
Artist: Judith Hill
Label: Regime Music Group
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: March 5, 2021

 

Many may be familiar with Grammy-winning artist Judith Hill through her work with Michael Jackson, or any number of other artists ranging from Josh Groban, Stevie Wonder and John Legend to the late Andraé Crouch. Hill was also one of the featured backup singers in the Academy Award winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom (2013), and that same year she made it to the finals on The Voice. Yet despite these successes and a debut album co-produced by Prince, the singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is still struggling in her pursuit of a career in music. Hill’s new project, Baby I’m Hollywood, speaks to the highs and lows of life in the spotlight, and so much more.

Continue reading

Sunny War – Simple Syrup

 

Title: Simple Syrup
Artist: Sunny War
Label: Org Music
Format: LP, Digital
Release Date: March 26, 2021

 

Following a captivating NPR Tiny Desk performance and an acclaimed album in 2019, Sunny War became an artist to watch for fans of acoustic roots music. Since then, the L.A.-based singer and guitarist has certainly kept busy, founding a Los Angeles chapter of the nonprofit Food Not Bombs, marching for BLM protests, and recording her newest album, Simple Syrup.

Continue reading

Skylar Rogers – Firebreather

 

Title: Firebreather
Artist: Skylar Rogers
Label: CD Baby (distrib.)
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: January 29, 2021

 

With a sound that draws comparisons to Etta James and Koko Taylor, Chicago-born vocalist Skylar Rogers is a relatively new force on the blues scene. After the success of her debut EP, she began touring nationally in 2019 and dropped her first single last year. Now Rogers tears into her first full-length album, Firebreather, with a powerful blast of energy that fuels her unique blend of “soul rockin’ blues.”

Continue reading

Maureen Mahon – Black Diamond Queens

 

Title: Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll
Author: Maureen Mahon
Publisher: Duke University Press
Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle
Release date: October 9, 2020

 

Maureen Mahon’s Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll is a chronological collection of case studies of African American women’s contributions to rock from 1953–1984, and, simultaneously, a feminist critique of the forces that have prevented African American women from enjoying more success in the rock world. Mahon, an associate professor at New York University, demonstrates that African American women and their music were foundational to the rock genre, and that their contributions have continued to be a driving force in the development of rock over time. These women, however, have found success to be elusive, due to barriers of genre expectations, gender expectations, racial expectations, and record industry marketing.

Continue reading