The Legacy Of The Jazz Epistles, South Africa’s Short-Lived But Historic Group

Jonas Gwangwa with Hugh Masekela and Kippie Moeketsi. Halim’s Photographic Service, Cape Town BAHA/Drum Social Histories / Baileys African History Archive / Africa Media Online hide caption

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Halim’s Photographic Service, Cape Town BAHA/Drum Social Histories / Baileys African History Archive / Africa Media Online

Jonas Gwangwa with Hugh Masekela and Kippie Moeketsi.

Halim’s Photographic Service, Cape Town BAHA/Drum Social Histories / Baileys African History Archive / Africa Media Online

Hugh Masekela was an up-and-coming trumpeter, all of 20, when he took an overnight train from Johannesburg to Cape Town to meet a pianist everyone was talking about in South Africa: Abdullah Ibrahim, then known as Dollar Brand.

Ibrahim, 25 at the time, was the forward-thinking figure needed to complete South Africa’s greatest bebop band of all time, The Jazz Epistles. On the morning that Masekela arrived at the Ambassadors club in Cape Town with two other formidable South African jazz players — Kippie Moeketsi on alto saxophone and Jonas Gwangwa on trombone — there were no arrangements for accommodation. Rehearsals started anyway, and for the first few nights, the three musicians slept on mattresses on the floor in the back of the club.

Abdullah Ibrahim (formerly known as Dollar Brand) before he left South Africa in 1959. Drum Social Histories/Drum Social Histories / Baileys African History Archive / Africa Media Online hide caption

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Drum Social Histories/Drum Social Histories / Baileys African History Archive / Africa Media Online

Abdullah Ibrahim (formerly known as Dollar Brand) before he left South Africa in 1959.

Drum Social Histories/Drum Social Histories / Baileys African History Archive / Africa Media Online

“There had never been a group like the Epistles in South Africa,” Masekela writes in his 2004 biography, Still Grazing: The Musical Journey of Hugh Masekela. “Our tireless energy, complex arrangements, tight ensemble play, languid slow ballads, and heart-melting, hymn-like dirges won us a following and soon we were breaking all attendance records in Cape Town. People would sit on the floor and around the edge of the bandstand at the Ambassadors when all the seats were filled.”

The story of The Jazz Epistles may be deeply engraved in South African cultural history, and perhaps even celebrated throughout the African continent, but for whatever reason this music and narrative never made it to the United States, even among the jazz intelligentsia.

“This story hasn’t been told because it’s a hidden history,” says Dr. Sazi Dlamini, an ethnomusicologist at the University of Kwazulu-Natal. “It’s waiting to be told. It can be told from so many angles. And it would take a really very focused research and attention to be able to tell it in its entirety.”

What it comes down to is this: Two of the greatest jazz legends of our time once played in a band featuring the top South African jazz musicians — all of them black — and were able to record one session together before the country’s brutally racist apartheid government forced them into exile. One recording was made, and with only 500 copies printed, it became a sort of Holy Grail. Then this remarkably fresh and modern recording from 1960 was buried, and almost lost forever.

Joining Ibrahim, Masekela, Moeketsi and Gwangwa were bassist Johnny Gertze and drummer Makaya Ntshoko. The name of the album was Jazz Epistle Verse 1. Gwen Ansell, the author of Soweto Blues: Jazz, Popular Music, and Politics in South Africa, calls it “the first all-black modern jazz album in South Africa.”

During this period, South Africa’s white nationalists in power were in the process of installing apartheid, one of the cruelest human experiments in modern history. They didn’t think too fondly of jazz. In fact, jazz was so forbidden that it spawned secret jazz listening parties, where people would travel long distances to hear, say, the latest Miles Davis recording. Jazz symbolized what the white nationalist government feared most: the social mixing of racial groups.

“At a time when apartheid itself was very backward looking,” says Ansell, “you had a collection of black musicians who were saying very defiantly: ‘We are here, we are modern-city people. There is no way you are going to exclude us from modern life.’ And that is the beautiful undertone in that music. Basically for the apartheid regime, this very kind of modern, non-tribal urban music was something they couldn’t cope with. It didn’t fit in to their perception of what Africans should be doing.”

Ibrahim, in a recent interview with Siddartha Mitter, put it this way: “The key was we had to play our own original music. And Kippie was the driving force saying that this was an affirmation of our culture and tradition. Some of the songs, he injected some of the traditional, dance music and integrated it in his composition.”

Moekesti also wasn’t afraid to acknowledge the oppressive legacy of apartheid in his music — as in “Scullery Department,” a brilliant original on Jazz Epistle Verse 1. “What Kippie Moeketsi was doing was describing the situation of musicians who were good enough to play for white patrons in a restaurant, but were only allowed to eat and sit in the scullery, in the back kitchen,” Ansell says.

Abdullah Ibrahim and Hugh Masekela managed not only to escape South Africa in exile, but also to pave two awe-inspiring career paths. They achieved their stature independently from each other, but have been cosmically linked as worldwide symbols in the Pan-African resistance movement.

After being discovered in Zurich by Duke Ellington, and then signed to Frank Sinatra’s Reprise label, Ibrahim fast achieved global recognition. He went on to create an impressive discography that mostly featured his original compositions. Some of these, like “Mannenberg,” became popular anti-apartheid anthems.

Now 82, Ibrahim cuts an almost monk-like figure, with each new recording more focused then the last. Over the years, his music with the chamber ensemble Ekaya has only become quieter and more introspective, a far whisper from what he originally sounded like with the Jazz Epistles.

When Masekela found exile in the United States, he also seemed destined for success. He formed an early friendship with the politically active folksinger Harry Belafonte, and then made two early smash hits: “Up, Up and Away” (1967) and “Grazing in the Grass,” each of which sold millions of units. (In the States, “Grazing” was a No. 1 single.)

In a marked contrast to Ibrahim’s subdued approach to music and activism, Masekela succeeded with a brash and extroverted signature. His path to stardom involved musical alliances with pop stars like Paul Simon, notably on a 70th birthday concert for Nelson Mandela at Wembley Stadium, viewed by hundreds of millions worldwide. Many of Masekela’s massively successful protest songs, like “Stimela (Coal Train)” and “Bring Him Back Home,” are still in his repertory today.

The aesthetic and personal differences between Ibrahim and Masekela could hardly be more pronounced. These differences help explain why these two have barely played together in half a century. Over the years I’ve interviewed both artists multiple times, always bringing up the prospect of a Jazz Epistles reunion. Ibrahim, Masekela and Gwangwa shared a stage last year in Johannesburg, but I wanted to bring these artists together for a concert audience in the United States.

That dream came tantalizingly close to a reality this week, with a program taking place on Thursday, April 27 — Freedom Day — at The Town Hall in New York. Presented by the Town Hall and Le Poisson Rouge in partnership with WBGO and South Africa Tourism, this was conceived and originally billed as a reunion of the Jazz Epistles — the first concert to feature both Masekela and Ibrahim in more than five decades.

But just days before his trip to New York City, which would have kicked off a statewide tour of the reunion band, Masekela experienced further complications from a recent fall in Morocco, dislocating his shoulder. He released a video expressing his regrets, along with his hope to join Ibrahim and be back on the road in a few months.

Fortunately, we were able to make some last-minute additions to the concert, notably the formidable vocalist Dorothy Masuka, who will perform with a quartet featuring bassist Bakithi Khumalo. Masuka, a dear friend of the late Mama Africa, Mariam Makeba, as well as a close associate of Masekela, was also a South African freedom fighter forced into exile.

She’s one of the first openly feminist South African singers, and claims authorship of Makeba’s most famous composition, “Pata Pata” — a song that directly calls out physical sexual harassment against women. She was also blacklisted by South Africa’s notorious government agency, The Special Branch, for her anti-apartheid songs, including “Dr. Malan,” which minced few words, and drew the attention of government censors. She will hopefully be playing both of those compositions in concert.

Meanwhile, standing in for Masekela is the young South African trumpeter Lesedi Ntsane, who says: “This concert is very special to me. The Jazz Epistles are legendary. They are the blood of the soil. We all grew up on them. They gave us life and this is historic.”

Even without the realization of a Jazz Epistles reunion, Thursday’s concert rings of the present moment. South Africa’s “Fees Must Fall” movement and our own #BlackLivesMatter protests are both engaged in a battle against social injustice and the capitalist institutions that preserve them. It’s freedom fighters like Ibrahim and Masekela who first planted these seeds, gracefully addressing racism and social injustice as a global problem, and linking them together from opposite parts of the world.

Jazz Night In America and WBGO’s The Checkout will capture this concert in audio and video, for a future program.

Simon Rentner is a journalist, radio show host, and producer in New York City, who has traveled to South Africa on several occasions.

First Lady of Jazz: Ella Fitzgerald’s 100th anniversary of birth

It all began with her voice. Everyone who heard it was immediately entranced. Her soft, crystal-clear tones would swing through dance halls, gliding up and down the scale.

As a performer, Ella Fitzgerald combined a certain childish naiveté and playfulness with feminine charm. With her unique talent, she first conquered audiences in New York, and later the whole world. One of the greatest jazz singers ever, she remains immortal.

Humble beginnings

It all began quite modestly, in the town of Newport News, Virginia, where Ella Jane Fitzgerald was born on April 25, 1917. Her father left the family shortly after her birth, so Ella’s mother Tempie bought her up alone.

At the time, millions of African-Americans were moving from rural areas to big cities as part of the Great Migration movement. The small Fitzgerald family also moved to New York in the early 1920s, where they settled in the suburb of Yonkers, near Tempie’s sister.

The house was apparently always filled with music. Little Ella soon discovered a passion for pop music, especially by Arthur “The Street Singer” Tracy and the Boswell Sisters.

Ella Fitzgerald (Getty Images)She suffered from stage fright throughout her career

Tempie encouraged Ella’s musical talent with a few piano lessons, despite not having much money available to afford them. However, Ella Fitzgerald never had any formal music education.

The girl next door

The young Ella actually wanted to become a dancer.

In the early 1930s, she and her friends would watch street performers in Harlem. The girls also discovered the most popular Black musicians playing in larger clubs during the weekend. On weekdays, these concert halls, such as the Apollo Theater and the Harlem Opera House, invited amateurs to take the stage. During those amateur nights, musicians, singers and dancers could compete for the favor of the audience and win prize money, along with the hope of being discovered one day.

Ella dreamed of this, too, when she signed up to take part in one of those amateur nights as a dancer. It was quite a risk for the shy girl, as audiences wouldn’t hesitate to boo a performance they didn’t like.

When the curtain rose for her number, she was paralyzed by stage fright. She couldn’t dance, and her knees were like pudding. The audience was growing restless and Ella spontaneously decided to sing a song by the Boswell Sisters. As the orchestra started accompanying her, she became more and more confident and completed the song to the enthusiastic applause of the crowd.

The 16-year-old Ella Fitzgerald had found her destiny.

First steps

From then on, she regularly participated in such amateur nights and began attracting the attention of people in the music industry.

One evening she was offered the chance to sing for the drummer Chick Webb. He needed some convincing at first, because he didn’t want a singer in his band. Yet Webb was so impressed by Ella’s voice that he hired her. He quickly became her mentor; when Ella’s mother suddenly died, he took over the guardianship for the still minor singer.

Webb only progressively introduced his protégé to the music world, as he knew that sudden success could be just as quickly forgotten. At first, he restricted her repertoire to pop songs. In March 1936, Ella demonstrated she was capable of more when she replaced the already successful Billie Holiday to record a ballad with Teddy Wilson. From then on, her mentor agreed to let her sing ballads as well.

Becoming a jazz icon

When Chick Webb died in 1939, Ella Fitzgerald took over the direction of his orchestra for a while. She then started her solo career in 1941. During World War II, she recorded with several musicians, among which the Ink Spots.

Her career only really took off after the war. In 1951, she had the opportunity to record with her great idol Louis Armstrong, and her collaboration with one of the initiators of bebop, Dizzie Gillespie, was extremely successful.

In the 1950s, she found a new mentor and supporter: Norman Granz, the founder of the famous Jazz at the Philharmonic concert series. He became her manager and founded the record label Verve especially for Ella.

CD cover of The Complete Song Books by Ella Fitzgerald (Verve)CD cover of “The Complete Song Books”

That’s where Fitzgerald finally wrote music history by recording through the mid-1960s her Great American Song Books, a series of eight studio albums in which she interpreted the classics of the American musical canon, with songs by Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and the Gershwin brothers, among others. Ella Fitzgerald thereby contributed to intercultural exchange during the Civil Rights era.

A living legend

In the 1970s and 80s, the aging diva’s popularity was a strong as ever and she was showered with awards and honors. Fans also rediscovered her early works through new re-releases.

Health problems, however, imposed longer recovery phases in her otherwise tightly scheduled tours. Still, even a heart bypass surgery in 1986 couldn’t keep her away from the stage for too long: Her fans’ love was like medicine, she once said.

She gave her last concert in New York in 1991, in the city where it all began. On June 15, 1996, Ella Fitzgerald died at the age of 79 in her house in Beverly Hills.

‘Detroit’ Trailer: Kathryn Bigelow’s Film on the ’67 Race Riots Shows a City at War

kathryn bigelow detroit trailer

The trailer for Kathryn Bigelow‘s anticipated new movie Detroit has dropped, revealing a heart-pounding and gripping depiction of the 1967 Detroit race riots that rocked the nation.

The Oscar-winning director of The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty has tackled hard issues around international war and torture, but Detroit hones in on one of the most devastating riots in U.S. history, and the polarizing issues of systemic racism and police brutality that still impact the country today. Star Wars: The Force Awakens star John Boyega takes center stage as an African-American security guard in the Detroit trailer, which takes an unflinching look at the escalating tension and violence between the city and the police.

The trailer opens on Boyega’s character, who diligently works through the night as riots rage through the streets of Detroit. His faith in his work is shaken when the police stage a raid on the Algiers motel, where a group of partying African-American musicians set off tensions after a toy gun goes off. The events escalate further, with the cops lining up the partygoers and Will Poulter‘s character threatening further violence if the gun isn’t found. Avengers star Anthony Mackie is shown briefly, as is Game of Thrones actress Hannah Murray.

Not many more details are known about the film, but here’s a brief official synopsis:

From the Academy Award winning director of THE HURT LOCKER and ZERO DARK THIRTY, DETROIT tells the gripping story of one of the darkest moments during the civil unrest that rocked Detroit in the summer of ‘67.

The real riots that inspired the film began on July 23, 1967 after the police raided an unlicensed bar in Detroit’s Near West Side. But escalating violence forced the governor to call in the National Guard, and eventually compelled president Lyndon Johnson to also send in the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. By the time the five-day riots were over, 43 people were dead, nearly 1,200 were injured, and more than 2,000 buildings had been destroyed.

The film also stars Jack Reynor, Ben O’Toole, Jacob Latimore, Kaitlyn Dever, Jason Mitchell, Algee Smith, Joseph David-Jones, and John Krasinski. Along with the new trailer, a stunning poster for the movie was also released. Here it is:

Detroit poster

Detroit hits theaters on August 4, 2017.

Correction: This post previously stated that John Boyega plays a police officer. He is playing a security guard.

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A Forgotten Piece Of African-American History On The Great Plains

What remains of the home of O.T. Jackson, the founder of Dearfield, Colo., sits on the town site in rural Weld County. Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media hide caption


Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

What remains of the home of O.T. Jackson, the founder of Dearfield, Colo., sits on the town site in rural Weld County.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Blink while driving on Highway 34, east of Greeley, Colo., and you might miss the former town of Dearfield.

All that’s left of the once-thriving town on Colorado’s eastern plains are a rundown gas station, a partially collapsed lunch counter and a former lodge. They are the only indication that there was once a community here. The grass around these buildings is crispy and straw-colored, whipped back and forth by relentless winds. The snowcapped Rocky Mountains barely peek through the haze to the west.

Abandoned towns from the early 20th century are far from unique on this stretch of the Great Plains. Withered storefronts and collapsed homes are common. Boom and bust economics and harsh weather made it tough for turn of the century settlers to succeed long-term.

Few ghost towns, however, have all the elements that make Dearfield’s story so compelling: larger than life characters, struggles to live off the land, tales of racial integration at the height of the Jim Crow era.

The Thriving Farms Of Dearfield

Nearly a hundred years have passed since Dearfield’s streets were bustling with homesteaders, the people who made this town special.

“It was the most successful, best known, African-American farming community in the United States at the time,” says George Junne, professor of Africana Studies at the University of Northern Colorado, and the resident expert on Dearfield.

George Junne, professor of Africana Studies at the University of Northern Colorado, has spent years digging into the town’s history. Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media hide caption

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

George Junne, professor of Africana Studies at the University of Northern Colorado, has spent years digging into the town’s history.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Starting in 1910, Dearfield began attracting hundreds of black homesteaders from across the South, the Midwest and the eastern portion of the Plains. They came for opportunity. At its height in the early 1920s, 700 residents lived in town, with churches, a school, a blacksmith shop, a dance hall and a restaurant. And nearly all of the residents were black.

The community sustained itself on farming, taking advantage of the relatively abundant rains at the time. They had bumper crops – strawberries, squash, wheat – for more than a decade.

Unlike many Colorado towns, Dearfield did not come to be during the large wave of westward expansion spurred by the passage of the Homestead Act of 1862, but rather, a later iteration called the Enlarged Homestead Act. It enlarged the amount of land a homesteader could access and encouraged movement into more marginal lands, like where Dearfield was located.

“It pulled together primarily African-Americans who were interested in owning their own homes and their own farms,” Junne says.

The Man Behind The Town

The community was the vision of its creator: Oliver T. Jackson, a successful black entrepreneur from Ohio. He started restaurants, ran the catering operation at Boulder’s Chautauqua Dining Hall, and acted as a messenger for a series of Colorado governors.

Jackson wanted a place where black people could take out loans, work the land and get ahead. And he saw promise in the patch of land that eventually became Dearfield.

“He had a vision,” Jay Trask, head of the University of Northern Colorado’s archives, which houses found letters from Jackson and other Dearfield ephemera. “He had a really exciting vision. And I think it was a vision shared by a lot of African-American folks in Denver. There was a desire to create an African-American community, an agricultural community that would be their own.”

Jackson was Dearfield’s biggest cheerleader. He championed its early successes in farm magazines and newspapers that served African-American readers, and to local and regional politicians.

The visionary behind Dearfield, Oliver T. Jackson, lived in the town until his death in 1948. Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media hide caption

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

The visionary behind Dearfield, Oliver T. Jackson, lived in the town until his death in 1948.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

“He was not shy about getting his name out there,” says Trask.

While Jackson spent his time marketing the community and working in Denver, his wife, Minerva, acted as the town’s “judge, jury and executioner,” according to Junne. She ran the town’s day-to-day operations, and ran them tightly. “When she snapped her fingers, you jumped,” Junne says.

In promotional pamphlets, Jackson touted the community’s rich soil and view of the mountains. Always on the lookout for newcomers to town, he made clear they were looking to grow. He never stopped thinking up new ways to make Dearfield succeed and fill its coffers, Junne says. Even Prohibition offered Jackson an opportunity.

“For a while, this town was known as ‘Beerfield’ because he was bootlegging here,” Junne says. “He needed to make money to keep things going. The people all around here knew about it and they gave the nickname.”

Early Signs Of Integration

Dearfield gained a foothold during an incredibly tense time in America.

Along with other predominantly black towns like Nicodemus, Kan., and Boley, Okla., Dearfield sprang up at the height of the Jim Crow era. An active Ku Klux Klan chapter started in Denver around the same time, which was eventually infiltrated by Dr. Joseph H.P. Westbrook, a Denver resident and early Dearfield booster.

Yet, Coloradans and other homesteaders on the plains did not see new black residents to the state as a threat, either culturally or economically, Junne says. Despite rampant racism and violence in parts of the country, Junne says Dearfield’s residents mostly found harmony with their neighbors.

“People had to work together. You had to work together, even if you didn’t like the person,” Junne says. “So I think this whole thing about the solitary Westerner is a bit overdone because you had to rely on your neighbors.”

An abandoned gas station is one of the last few remaining buildings at Dearfield. Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media hide caption

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Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

An abandoned gas station is one of the last few remaining buildings at Dearfield.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Newspaper articles in nearby Greeley marveled at the work ethic of the new residents. Many black farmers would pick up extra work on the white-owned farms surrounding the town, Junne says. A black Dearfield farmer was one of the first in the region to purchase a newly redesigned mechanical reaper and would lend it out to white farmers in the area. The plains communities, white and black, developed an interdependence on each other.

Elsewhere in the country, post-Reconstruction African-Americans were marginalized and disenfranchised in a myriad ways. Their votes suppressed or never counted. Schools were off-limits to black students. Violence against black communities was commonplace. And that’s part of why Dearfield gained its rosy reputation. Just the fact that it existed and was largely successful, became a bright spot for black Americans.

While the town was certainly an agricultural experiment in testing out dryland farming techniques on Colorado’s plains, it quickly became a social experiment, too. Early signs of integration were on display at the town’s dance hall.

Dearfield was home to Squire Brockman, a well-known black musician. He would set up shop on Saturday nights to play fiddle and mandolin.

“The white people in the area would come out here and they would dance,” Junne says. At the time, black people and white people were not dancing as couples, “but they were on the same dance floor together.”

“So, again, you started to have the roots of integration because people respected each other,” Junne says. “They needed each other.”

A marker on Highway 34, east of Greeley, Colo., shows where the African-American farming community of Dearfield once existed. Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media hide caption

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Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

A marker on Highway 34, east of Greeley, Colo., shows where the African-American farming community of Dearfield once existed.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

An Endangered Landmark

For about 20 years, the town was a success. Then came the one-two punch of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.

In the early 1930s, the large thunderhead clouds that were so common before, stopped materializing. Dearfield’s seasonal creeks dried up. So did its wells. The residents had not acquired water rights to properly irrigate fields; instead, they relied on natural rainfall. Without rain, they could not grow their crops.

By 1940, Dearfield was largely deserted. Its founder, O.T. Jackson stayed until his death in 1948. Many people moved to Denver’s Five Points neighborhood in search of work, or moved even further west. Just a few residents hung on. The last known full-time resident of Dearfield was Jackson’s niece, Jenny Jackson, who lived on-site until she died in 1973.

Today, a plaque sits outside the dilapidated lunch counter that tells the history of Dearfield. The town site’s ownership is a patchwork: some owned by a real estate developer, other plots owned by descendants of the original homesteaders, and parcels owned by Denver’s Black American West Museum.

After the Dust Bowl and Great Depression wreaked havoc on Dearfield, its founder tried to rebrand the town as a vacation spot for hunters. Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media hide caption

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Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

After the Dust Bowl and Great Depression wreaked havoc on Dearfield, its founder tried to rebrand the town as a vacation spot for hunters.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Grant money over the years has allowed historians and anthropologists to restore and protect the few buildings still standing, but Junne says it is in serious danger of disappearing. There is little money available to keep Dearfield’s structures from further succumbing to the harsh weather. In 1999, the town was listed as one of Colorado’s “Most Endangered Places.”

Still, Dearfield’s legacy remains intact, Junne says.

“It was a wonderful idea, a wonderful experiment, and the spinoffs are just as important,” he says.

Take for example, one of Colorado’s first integrated schools just down the road from Dearfield, and the dozens of other black farm communities on the plains that tried to replicate the town’s success. Denver’s Five Points neighborhood owes some of its history to the early homesteaders at Dearfield.

That’s the legacy of Dearfield, Junne says. It thrived for years during a period that was fraught with racial tension. And its residents were able to build a community from scratch at a time when it seemed impossible.

Luke Runyon reports for Harvest Public Media and is based at member station KUNC in Greeley, Colo.

Future’s Hit ‘Mask Off’ Inspires New Internet Challenge, The #MaskOffChallenge

Since its release, Future’s self-titled album has been a crowd favorite. The album’s hit “Mask Off” was deemed a certified hit, with its mesmerizing flute and catchy hook, the song was an instant sensation and is now the inspiration for the latest internet craze!

According to XXL, the #MaskOffChallenge showcases young black musicians who upload videos of themselves recreating the track. Produced by Southside and Metro Boomin, the #MaskOffChallenge created many versions of the project’s best track with various instruments including the violin, recorder, flute and piano.

“Mask Off” is featured on the Atlanta rapper’s first album of 2017, titled FUTURE. However, it wasn’t the only album Future dropped. About a week after Future released his fifth album, he announced the release of his sixth album HNDRXX. The hypnotizing flute sampled in “Mask Off” comes from Tommy Butler’s “Prison Song”. Released in the 70’s the sampled song is from the “Selma” Album, A Musical Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, according to Genius.

Photo Credit: PRPhotos

Sepultura Continues to Prove Metal Isn’t Just for White Guys

Tuesday, April 11, 2017 at 9 a.m.



Photo by Brandon Marshall

Outside of country music, no musical genre is as white — or at least believed to be as white — as metal. Blame it on Beavis, Butthead, Bill, or Ted, but if asked to describe a typical metalhead, most Americans would draw a long-haired Caucasian bro making the Devil’s sign with his hands and possibly snorting glue.

But all it takes is one visit to a Churchill’s metal night to see the prominence of metal in Hispanic culture. And no band exemplifies the Latin love for roaring-loud and seizure-fast music like Sepultura.

Formed in Brazil in 1984 and based on a love of death metal and Iron Maiden, Sepultura took only a few years to make it big outside of South America. The band’s 1989 release, Beneath the Remains, was hailed as an instant thrash-metal classic, opening the doors for massive stadium tours around Europe and North America. The band opened for Alice in Chains and Ozzy Osbourne despite the fact that its four original members barely spoke English.

After moving to the States in the ’90s, Sepultura began to find mainstream chart success with two albums — 1993’s Chaos A.D. and 1996’s Roots — breaking into Billboard‘s Top 50. But success cracked a schism into the band. In 1997, original singer Max Cavalera left and, after a lengthy audition process, was replaced by African-American musician Derrick Green. He’s now backed by new drummer Eloy Casagrande, longtime guitarist Andreas Kisser, and original bassist Paulo Jr. Though Sepultura isn’t as megapopular as it was in its ’90s heyday, it continues to play a throbbing, pulsating show of metal that will make its way to Culture Room this Thursday.

With a new album, Machine Messiah, due out this year, Green spoke with Antihero Magazine about how his bandmates’ Brazilian roots served as lyrical inspiration for people of all cultures and ethnicities in the United States.

“We talk a lot about the political situation that is happening in Brazil with a lot of people going to jail, a lot of people standing up wanting to change, wanting to see a change,” Green said. “There is a mixture of a lot of these different events that are happening during the process of writing. They had a big influence and impact on the album.”

Sepultura Continues to Prove Metal Isn’t Just for White Guys

7 p.m. Thursday, April 13, at Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale;; 954-564-1074. Tickets cost $30 via

John Legend on Trump, his marriage and recent album

The ‘Beauty and the Beast’ singer is workin­g on a new album titled Darkne­ss and Light



In the midst of all the chaos, sitting with his piano, crooning to his famous track, All of Me, John Legend gave the perfect distraction to the commuters at King’s Cross St Pancras.

Currently in London, the Beauty and the Beast singer is working on a new album titled Darkness and Light. Discussing his latest album, Legend said, “It’s a really interesting blend on this album, all very soulful, and it feels like really honest, truthful music for me,” reports The Independent.

Giving his two cents about the Grammy Album of the year this time, the La La Land star asserted, “Album of the Year should be hugely important albums –  that are high quality – and of course Adele’s was that, but for a lot of people Beyoncé made the most important artistic statement of the year, and she did it in a way that was hugely successful and groundbreaking and news-making.”

The key to success is love – John Legend

“Ideally, the album should be commercially successful; it should be a big impactful album,” he adds. “But we do have other awards that are strictly by the numbers – AMAs, Billboard… those are more numbers-driven.”

On his fun relationship with wife, Chrissy Teigen, Legend smiled as he said, “We have fun. When we’re on Twitter, we truly enjoy the interaction, it’s not some planned out publicity scheme. We don’t talk with our publicist about what we’re gonna say… They wish we did sometimes, probably.”

“When I’m sharing aspects of my private life it’s because I feel good about sharing it. So it’s all very natural and comfortable for me to do it, and I don’t feel like it’s an imposition because if I don’t want to I just won’t do it.” He further adds.

Legend also commented on critics believing that the artists are less vocal about political and social conflicts now, as compared to those in the 60s and 70s era.

“In the 60s and 70s it was much more common for artists to sing and speak about politics,” he says. “I think there was no sense of urgency until he got elected, and now people are genuinely worried about the future of the country. I think people had gotten comfortable. People will protest, they’ll write songs, people are engaged.

Donald Trump Jr challenged by John Legend after singer calls father ‘racist’

Discussing the significance of Black Lives Matter movement, the You & I singer remarked, “Sometimes you need that sense of urgency to spawn a creative renaissance where we really talk about these issues. And between the Black Lives Matter movement and Trump getting elected, BLM really impacted a lot of black musicians and I think Trump getting elected will impact an even larger body of musicians.”

“You see that reaction in some of these elections in the US and Europe,” he asserted, adding “Hopefully everyone will calm down and stop operating out of fear and be more accepting of each other’s differences.”

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Prince Contained Multitudes, New Book Confirms

Throughout his career, Prince played around with constructions of race, gender and sexuality. Rico D’Rozario/Redferns via Getty Images hide caption

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Rico D’Rozario/Redferns via Getty Images

Throughout his career, Prince played around with constructions of race, gender and sexuality.

Rico D’Rozario/Redferns via Getty Images

When Prince first signed with Warner Bros. Records, he didn’t want to be categorized as a black musician. This was the late 1970s, before music by black artists was widely marketed to multiracial audiences; before kids in every household in America were glued to their screens watching “Thriller” on MTV.

To avoid being boxed in — which for black artists often meant making less money and reaching smaller audiences than their white counterparts — Prince encouraged rumors about his identity, hinting at being biracial when both his parents were black. In the 1984 movie Purple Rain, Prince’s parents are played by an African-American man and a white, Greek woman. The fiction of his racial background endured throughout his career, even creeping into some of last year’s obituaries.

The way Prince worked to dissolve categories is one of the central themes that Ben Greenman explores in his new book, Dig If You Will The Picture. Greenman said that combining multiple, often conflicting identities, was integral to Prince’s work. And race wasn’t the only way Prince stirred things up.

“From very early on, he just shattered ideologies,” said Greenman, who has been a Prince fan since middle school in the early ’80s. “[His] process was to isolate two theoretically opposed aspects of a self, of a person — male-female, black-white, straight-gay, good-evil. And he played out that opposition in his work. Sometimes he resolved it to his satisfaction; usually he didn’t. And the tension between those two things powered the work. That was the engine at the center.”

That tension resonated with Prince listeners of many different backgrounds. In an article for Time, Touré (who also wrote a book about Prince), wrote that “Prince sits at the edges of race, gender, and sexuality and rejects all borders.” He said that in doing so, Prince was almost able to become “a genre unto himself sonically and interpersonally.”

According to Greenman, multiplicities played out in all sorts of ways — in terms of musical style, fashion, album art, even the members of his bands. Musically, it meant combining different genres, techniques and influences. Sometimes it even meant creating different identities, like his Camille persona, a higher pitched alter ego that he used in the 1987 song “If I Was Your Girlfriend.” The song begins with the lyric, “If I was your girlfriend would you remember to tell me all the things you forgot when I was your man?”

Then there’s the 1981 song “Controversy,” in which Prince delves into sexuality. In it, he asks, “Am I black or white? Am I straight or gay?” Thirty-five years ago, that was a more fraught question than it might be today. “Playing straight-gay was [a] very important thing for that time, in the ’80s, when AIDS was a relatively new major issue,” Greenman said. “Here was this guy who was so flamboyant and nobody could really pinpoint or put their finger on his sexuality, and he didn’t really clarify.”

Years later, Prince became a Jehovah’s Witness, “and a lot of that early flamboyance and that early dissolution of category went away,” Greenman said. “Part of it was that he just got older and his sense of himself, I’m sure, changed. But that early period Prince went to great lengths to blow up everything.”


In blowing up everything, Prince made space for a new generation of artists. When Prince died in 2016, Frank Ocean posted a tribute acknowledging the ways in which Prince was a trailblazer. “[Prince] was a straight black man who played his first televised set in bikini bottoms and knee-high heeled boots, epic,” Ocean wrote. “He made me feel more comfortable with how I identify sexually simply by his display of freedom from and irreverence for obviously archaic ideas like gender conformity.”

Behind the scenes, Prince was notoriously shy, and he didn’t do a lot of interviews. But when he did, he committed hard to the idea that he and his music were not to be put into a box. In a 1999 TV appearance, Larry King expressed confusion at what to call Prince, who at the time was not going by Prince, but an unpronounceable symbol. Later in the conversation, King asked Prince, “How would you describe your music? What idiom would you put it in?”

Prince responded: “The only thing I could think of, because I really don’t like categories, but the only thing I could think of is inspirational.”

Greenman said that the way Prince forced fans to reckon with their own notions of identity was a form of subtle activism. Later in life, that propensity to address social injustices became more overt, even as Prince himself tended to speak more conservatively. After he died, fans started learning about the scope of Prince’s philanthropy. Van Jones, an activist and commentator on CNN, has talked about the lengths Prince went to support causes he believed in, like green jobs initiatives, and teaching black kids how to code. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Jones said that in 2006, when he was working on George W. Bush’s Green Jobs Act, he received an anonymous check for $50,000. Later, he found out the check was from Prince. Prince also made direct reference to social issues in some of his later songs, like 2015’s “Baltimore,” which talks about the deaths of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray at the hands of police.

“A lot of the way [Prince] addressed social issues was revolutionary early on, and sort of slogan-based,” Greenman said. “He would urge people to educate themselves, or overthrow the existing order, or don’t listen to everyone … It was hard to imagine being a Prince fan in 1984, 85, 86, and not going through that process of reassessing beliefs all the time. Both because as a fan you had to follow him, and because every message was about searching and finding and questioning what you were.”

Students Slam Mural For Demeaning Portrayal

Demeaning Mural

After more than a year of being covered, the shroud has been lifted from a University of Kentucky mural that had drawn complaints from some students due to its depiction of Blacks and Native Americans.

UK President Capilouto ordered the mural covered in November 2015 after a group of black students told him the piece was demeaning because of scenes of blacks working in a tobacco field in which some argue are slaves, black musicians playing for white dancers and a Native American with a tomahawk. The mural was created in 1934 by deceased artist Ann L. Rice as part of the Public Works of Art Project during The Great Depression.

NBC Affiliate WLEX reports that along with the Memorial Hall mural re-unveiling, a plaque stands next to it to provide context about the piece and tell a more complete story. The sign describes the mural’s history, how it was created, concerns raised about it over the years, and steps the university is taking to ensure an inclusive environment.

Image: University of Kentucky mural
A University of Kentucky mural has drawn complaints due to its depiction of black workers, possibly slaves. via WLEX

In a blog post, Capilouto says the mural is now viewed through a modern prism.

“Nearly 90 years after its completion, it is challenging to look at the mural through anything but the prism of our current day,” Capilouto says. “Against that backdrop, the concern, for many, is that the mural does not adequately reflect the violence and inhumanity that many experienced through subjugation and slavery.”

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Sparking conversation across campus, some students say they are ready to move on.

“You have to put yourself in the shoes of black people essentially. We definitely need to recognize what went wrong and takes steps to make sure those things don’t happen anymore,” one student said.

While some say the mural should be taken down, Capilouto says the mural is necessary is to continue the conversation and learn from history.

“Like all conversations, our steps here are a beginning, not an end. They are not perfect, nor are they final or complete. They will stimulate more conversation; raise more questions; foster more debate,” Capilouto said.

“We will seek answers, not escape, knowing that our search and our journey will never be complete. Our work will be informed by our humanity — at once colored by strength and frailty, guided by dueling strokes of compassion and imperfection on a canvas we create together.”