I love music and it has always been a part of my life. From an early age, I have loved jazz, blues, rock n’ roll and alternative music. Now, more than ever, it is important to celebrate African American Music Appreciation Month. I have chosen artists (available on Hoopla) and a few videos that have captured my ear and heart.
One of my favorite elements in art is when a musician blends different genres of music that might seem incompatible. Black Violin is a duo of artists who have successfully blended classical music with hip-hop. I had the opportunity to see them live at Rockwood Music Hall a few years ago. Musicians Kevin Sylvester, and Wilner Baptiste met in music class. They became friends and realized they had the same taste in music. They pondered if they could combine classical music and hip-hop.
“Stereotypes” is an important song that incorporates powerful lines: ‘I know I’ll completely pressure people’s perceptions of not only what a violin can do; or what music can possibly sound like, but also of what a black man is capable of – is capable of – is capable of…”
Also, check out their video for the song “A Flat,” which includes beautiful shots of the Brooklyn Bridge and New York City.
Some people tell me that I have an old soul, and perhaps that comes from my love of jazz and singers such as Ella Fitzgerald. If there has ever been a Queen of Jazz, I would expect that title to go to Ms. Ella Fitzerald. This amazing jazz musician has always been one of my favorite African American singers. I have enjoyed her songs and her duets (especially with Louis Armstrong.) If you have never experienced Ella Fitzgerald, I highly recommend listening to this album. You will be enchanted by songs such as “Lullaby of Birdland,” “April in Paris,” and “Undecided.” The entire album is a treat on a rainy day or at night, sitting alone by the window, enjoying a glass of wine and listening to Ella Fitzgerald.
As much as I love jazz, blues also has a special place in my heart. When you listen to Skip James, you are haunted by his voice, lyrics, and the rawness in his voice. One of my favorite songs of all time is “Devil Got My Woman.” Skip James was confessional before confessional poetry and music became a favorite of the alternative bohemian culture. There is something sad, nostalgic, real and beautiful about Skip James that delves deep into the bone.
Esperanza Spalding has successfully managed to weave contemporary jazz with the improvisational and experimental sounds of classical. There is even an influence of Brazilian jazz (in the style of Astrud Gilberto) as witnessed in “Inutil Paisagem.” The young musician has a soothing voice, along with an impressive record of four Grammy Awards. Some of my favorite songs on this album include “Knowledge of Good and Evil,” “Wild as the Wind,” “Winter Sun,” and “Short and Sweet.”
One of my favorite superhero films is Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse (and this from someone who has always loved Batman!) The stunning shots and amazing music make this film special. Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse is a great soundtrack that features the explosive song “What’s Up Danger.” This song is a great mixture of hip-hop and rock n’ roll, and is about embracing the hero's journey. There is also “Familia,” (which has traces of reggae, hip-hop and reggaeton.) “Let Go” and “Scared of the Dark” are also universal songs about letting go of fear. If you love hip-hop, the film, and are looking for a family-friendly soundtrack, I highly recommend Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse.
Some of my favorite music videos:
- “Jump in the Line” is an amazing song by Harry Belafonte.
- “A Flat” by Black Violin; the video features wonderful views of the Brooklyn Bridge.
- Love ska, punk, funk, or alternative music? Check out Fishbone’s ”Ma and Pa.”
- The twins in the band Ibeyi (a word that means “twins” in Yoruba) trace their roots back to Afro-Cuban rhythms and culture. Listen to their song “River” live, or watch the music video.
- “New York” by Alicia Keys is a heart-warming song perfect for New Yorkers.
- Missy Elliot is an innovative hip-hop artist. “Get Ur Freak On!“
- Generation X probably has fond memories of this unforgettable TLC song: “Waterfalls.”