Thursday, July 17, 2014

For The Love Of Black Music : The Record : NPR

For The Love Of Black Music : The Record : NPR: It still surprises me that a few of my colleagues who regularly attend music festivals like Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and Budweiser Made in America still haven't heard of, or don't seem to know much about, the annual Essence Festival, held every July 4th weekend in New Orleans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Given that the Festival is now celebrating its 20th anniversary and pulling in record numbers of attendees, that benign neglect is not only a crying shame — it's a kind of organized ignorance.

A feel-good, four-day super-event that glorifies soulful black music as a means of African-American community building, the Essence Festival feels more pressing and urgent than ever. Many of our trailblazing black female artist-activists have passed away in the last couple of years — Jayne Cortez, Ruby Dee and Maya Angelou come to mind. In their absence, it's been heartening to witness contemporary African-American artists furthering conversations about identity and community in the age of social media spectacle (I'm especially thinking about visual artist Kara Walker's eye-popping, controversial, lines-around-the-corner "A Subtlety" installation at the Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn, New York this summer).