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Africa Speaks, America Answers

Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times

robin d. g. kelley
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Africa Speaks, America Answers
    Book Description:

    This collective biography of four jazz musicians from Brooklyn, Ghana, and South Africa demonstrates how modern Africa reshaped jazz, how modern jazz helped form a new African identity, and how musical convergences and crossings altered the politics and culture of both continents.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06524-6
    Subjects: Sociology, Music, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Prelude
    (pp. 1-10)

    The October 19, 1962, issue of Time magazine ran an unsigned editorial titled “Crow Jim” admonishing a new generation of jazz musicians for embracing black nationalist politics. The essay described a coterie of “angry young men who are passionately involved in the rise of Negro nationalism. Jazz compositions these days bear titles like A Message from Kenya (Art Blakey), Uhuru Afrika (Randy Weston), Africa Speaks, America Answers (Guy Warren), Afro-American Sketches (Oliver Nelson). Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite—We Insist includes tunes like ‘Tears for Johannesburg,’ a lament for the Africans shot down in the Sharpeville massacre.”¹

    Most of these...

  5. 1 The Drum Wars of Guy Warren
    (pp. 11-40)

    The Boy Kumasenu (1951), written and directed by the British filmmaker Sean Graham, tells an archetypal story about a restless boy anxious to escape his quiet, traditional life in a Gold Coast fishing village for the big city of Accra. Kumasenu was first enticed by the city while working in a local store known for trafficking in smuggled goods. The smuggler, a lorry driver named Yeboah—played by none other than drummer Guy Warren—epitomized modern urban life. And if his dark shades and hipster hat did not make this apparent, the film’s narrator drove home the point: “Here in...

  6. 2 The Sojourns of Randy Weston
    (pp. 41-90)

    Just as Guy Warren dreamed of coming to America and infusing jazz with his unique African rhythms, Randy Weston dreamed of coming “home” to Africa. But unlike Warren, he had no grand ambitions to bring jazz to the continent or to launch a musical revolution. He simply wanted to connect with his ancestors’ people, learn from the master musicians, and draw on the rhythms and sounds of Africa to enrich his own music. And unlike Warren’s American sojourn, Weston’s first pilgrimage to Africa did not end in frustration and disappointment. On the contrary, he had hit the musical and cultural...

  7. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  8. 3 Ahmed Abdul-Malik’s Islamic Experimentalism
    (pp. 91-119)

    In Randy Weston’s search for African roots, he discovered new branches that pulled him in surprising directions. He sought out the ancients and found modern highlife in West Africa; he carried his tape recorder to the “bush” but in the bustling cities of Lagos, Ibadan, and Bamako, he met a new generation of Nigerian and Malian jazz musicians anxious to blow; and in the sands of the Sahara he discovered in the Gnawa another tradition, rooted in slavery, that brought healing music to the northern reaches of the continent—Morocco and Tunisia. Weston had not set out to develop such...

  9. 4 The Making of Sathima Bea Benjamin
    (pp. 120-161)

    In the era of decolonization, when much of the black world saw Africa as the beacon of hope for the future of humanity, honoring and embracing African cultures underscored the continent’s arrival on the world stage. For African Americans, especially, identification with Africa and the Third World transformed a minority struggling for basic civil rights to a world majority demanding human rights for all formerly colonized and oppressed people. The journeys of Guy Warren, Randy Weston, and Ahmed Abdul-Malik reveal that the elements of indigenous culture they celebrated were not always ancient and traditional but new and modern—highlife being ...

  10. Coda
    (pp. 162-170)

    On November 13, 2010, a capacity audience filled the Tribeca Performing Arts Center in Manhattan to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Randy Weston’s suite, Uhuru Afrika. Before Weston and his twenty-six-piece orchestra struck a single note, the entire auditorium was on its feet applauding, shouting, some even crying. No one seemed to care that the band had taken the stage an hour late, or that an overwhelmed box-office staff was still wrestling with lines of would-be concertgoers. Men, women, and some kids draped in kente, mud cloth, dashikis, and djellabas, sporting kofi hats and head wraps, proudly displayed their identification...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 173-218)
  12. Further Listening
    (pp. 219-222)
  13. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 223-226)
  14. Index
    (pp. 227-244)