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Soul of a Nation — ‘Black Power’

Soul of a Nation — ‘Black Power’

August 12
10:50 2017


Soul of a Nation

(Soul Jazz)

Soul of a Nation is the musical accompaniment to Tate Modern’s exhibition of the same name about artistic responses to the rise of Black Power in the 1960s and 1970s.

Compiled by archival label Soul Jazz, the album opens with Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”, originally released in 1970 and named after a Black Panther slogan, a peerless if obvious choice. But the rest of the 13-song overview of “underground jazz, street funk and the roots of rap” from 1968 to 1979 proves less predictable.

Rather than corral all forms of black musical activism into its limited span, from free jazz to James Brown, it focuses on jazz’s fertile crossover with funk and soul. “These are African rhythms, passed down to us by the ancient spirits,” announces a member of Oneness of Juju on “African Rhythms” over tribal percussion and psychedelic guitar and saxophone.

David McKnight’s “Strong Men” turns an anti-slavery poem by Harlem Renaissance writer Sterling A Brown into an Afro-Centric proto-rap. Final track, Carlos Garnett’s “Mother of the Future”, touches on the cosmic fantasies of Afrofuturism, the abandonment of this world for a better one elsewhere.

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