The entire MusiQology staff wishes our readership a Happy New Year 2017! We are so excited for another year of bringing you our blend of scholarship and criticism, focusing on music of the African Diaspora. Given the political minefield ahead of us, now more than ever we need scholarship that is incisive and cutting, using our study of music to continue to explore the troubled world in which we are working and living.
What can you expect in 2017? For one, we will continue to develop our recurring branded content, including #16Bars, our aggregation of voices in concert on a particular topic; A Live Supreme, our space for live music reviews; special collaborations like Ben DuPriest’s Nothing New miniseries; and of course What’s Going On. We will also continue to expand our media presence: Follow us on Twitter if you aren’t already! We also plan to build out our Spotify page for more playlists and curated listening, plus our Soundcloud for more original audio. We also have other multimedia plans and other partnerships in the works. It’s going to be the best year yet.
One resolution everyone should be making for 2017 is to see more live music! Philadelphia’s spring concert calendar is unsurprisingly chock full of great touring acts. Hot off the release of another album, Run the Jewels plays The Electric Factory this Wednesday, January 11. Talib Kweli takes the stage at TLA on February 9 and Meek Mill follows the next day at Wells Fargo Center. Ravi Coltrane has a set of dates at Chris’ Jazz Café starting March 3, and perhaps most importantly, Dr. Guy is back with a set of shows at South on February 3 and 4. Save the date!
Separation of Church and Debate
The black church is hugely responsible for the life and growth of black musics throughout North America since the days of antebellum. Many singers and players (including Dr. Guy himself) grew up performing on Sundays, cutting their teeth with church bands before setting out on their own. This week, The New Yorker published a lengthy profile of entertainer Kirk Franklin and his ongoing quest to “make God famous,” which has included a high-profile appearance on the Kanye West Life of Pablo opener “Ultralight Beam.” But the church also sits atop many of the contradictions of our contemporary moment—particularly around the place of queer singers and performers within gospel music and the church itself. Another rising star of gospel—Kim Burrell—had her career rocked last week when a video surfaced showing her ranting against homosexuality during a church sermon. The video has again ignited debates among churchgoers, as the pulpit continues to be a stage for political and civil rights debate.
Nat Hentoff Dies at 91
There are a few names the fledgling scholar of jazz learns in the early days of study, when they are soaking up dates and sounds and records and icons. Nat Hentoff, who died Saturday, was both an important critical voice who helped acknowledge the early risers and a name-to-know himself. A prolific author, Hentoff founded The Jazz Review and wrote often for The Village Voice for more than fifty years. His co-edited oral history, Hear Me Talkin’ to Ya: The Story of Jazz as Told by the Men Who Made It(1955) gave voice to many artists not yet recognized and The Jazz Life(1961) encapsulated the heyday of luminaries like Duke, Lester, Monk, and Miles, describing what Hentoff described as a rising and articulable black consciousness during this era. Later, he became a fierce civil libertarian critic of American foreign policy, including condemning Barack Obama for a variety of offenses. Nonetheless, Hentoff understood what “history” meant and was an able maker and capturer of it at a time of seismic importance for jazz music. He joins the list of many who live on in his words.
Childish Grows Up
Rapper Donald Glover may be seeing his hard work pay off in 2017. At the Golden Globes this past weekend, he took home two awards (Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical TV Series and Best Comedy or Musical TV Series) for Atlanta, the FX show he created, directed, and starred-in. “The thesis was: How do we make people feel black?” Glover told Time as the series’ premiered. “It turned into something more attainable than that, but that was the idea. I was like, ‘Let’s make something that shouldn’t be on the air, something controversial.’ If it’s canceled in 10 episodes, I’ll be happy with those episodes.” Glover’s alter-ego Childish Gambino may be more known to MusiQology readers; and his latest record, Awaken, My Love!, is a revelatory re-envisioning of funk and soul a la Funkadelic. While many stars shone brightly in 2016, Glover’s is shooting upward in 2017.