UC Press is proud to celebrate Black Music Month by spotlighting a range of titles that explore the richness and expanse of Black music in America and beyond. The following books feature a multitude of genres and artists, beginning with Amiri Baraka’s seminal Digging, and including a women-centered hip hop collective in Detroit to African American musicians in Paris at the end of World War Two, a titan of jazz music to the grassroots musical efforts of spiritual leaders in LA.
The Afro-American Soul of American Classical Music
by Amiri Baraka
“What sets Digging apart from similar treatises are the rhythms and textures of Baraka’s prose, which render audible the thrill of listening to and engaging with black musical sounds. Over the course of Digging, we hear Baraka extolling the virtues of Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You” (one of the most universally derided songs in the recent history of popular music), providing an intimate portrait of Nina Simone in the 1980s, disparaging mainstream jazz criticism, writing lyrically about John Coltrane and Miles Davis, and exploring Bill Cosby’s jazz hipster roots. These seemingly disparate subjects are held together by Baraka’s lyrical imagination as well as his critical incisiveness.”—African American Review
For almost half a century, Amiri Baraka has ranked among the most important commentators on African American music and culture. In this brilliant assemblage of his writings on music, the first such collection in nearly twenty years, Baraka blends autobiography, history, musical analysis, and political commentary to recall the sounds, people, times, and places he’s encountered. He brings home to us how music itself matters, and how musicians carry and extend that knowledge from generation to generation, providing us, their listeners, with a sense of meaning and belonging.
Black Cultures from Bebop to Hip-Hop
by Guthrie P. Ramsey
“To an outsider it is an eye opener to read just how varied the musical scene was in the 1960s in the black experience, just in religious context alone . . . . The idea that it all stems from the blues from the southern states and that the newly migrated black population in places like Chicago simply carried on that tradition—could it be that Afro American music is just a hybrid of all it encounters? These issues and many others are debated in this serious, informative yet very readable volume.”—Beat Scene
This powerful book covers the vast and various terrain of African American music, from bebop to hip-hop. Guthrie P. Ramsey, Jr., begins with an absorbing account of his own musical experiences with family and friends on the South Side of Chicago, evoking Sunday-morning worship services, family gatherings with food and dancing, and jam sessions at local nightclubs. This lays the foundation for a brilliant discussion of how musical meaning emerges in the private and communal realms of lived experience and how African American music has shaped and reflected identities in the black community. Deeply informed by Ramsey’s experience as an accomplished musician, a sophisticated cultural theorist, and an enthusiast brought up in the community he discusses, Race Music explores the global influence and popularity of African American music, its social relevance, and key questions regarding its interpretation and criticism.
Women Rapping Revolution
Hip Hop and Community Building in Detroit
by Rebekah Farrugia and Kellie D. Hay
“Women Rapping Revolution is a thorough dissection of how the streets of Detroit were calling for a hip hop revolution and women rose to the occasion. Farrugia and Hay craft a lively history of just how the socioeconomics of this Midwestern hub inspired a movement of sound and places women at the forefront in this much-needed lesson in Detroit hip hop.”––Kathy Iandoli, author of God Save the Queens: The Essential History of Women in Hip-Hop
Detroit, Michigan, has long been recognized as a center of musical innovation and social change. Rebekah Farrugia and Kellie D. Hay draw on seven years of fieldwork to illuminate the important role that women have played in mobilizing a grassroots response to political and social pressures at the heart of Detroit’s ongoing renewal and development project. Focusing on the Foundation, a women-centered hip hop collective, Women Rapping Revolution argues that the hip hop underground is a crucial site where Black women shape subjectivity and claim self-care as a principle of community organizing.
The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon
by Maxine Gordon
“Maxine Gordon astutely frames the fiery daring of Dexter Gordon’s generation of bebop innovators in the context of rising black consciousness and creative agency in midcentury America…“Sophisticated Giant” is a work of considerable sophistication, the first-person testimony of its subject employed with affectionate discipline, smartly contextualized and augmented by material from interviews Maxine Gordon conducted with the tenor saxophone masters Sonny Rollins and Jimmy Heath, the record producers Bruce Lundvall and Michael Cucsuna, and others.”—David Hajdu, The New York Times
Dexter Gordon the icon is the Dexter beloved and celebrated on albums, on film, and in jazz lore–even in a street named for him in Copenhagen. But this image of the cool jazzman fails to come to terms with the multidimensional man full of humor and wisdom, a figure who struggled to reconcile being both a creative outsider who broke the rules and a comforting insider who was a son, father, husband, and world citizen. This essential book is an attempt to fill in the gaps created by our misperceptions as well as the gaps left by Dexter himself.
Race, Music, and Migration in Post-World War II Paris
by Rashida K. Braggs
“In Jazz Diasporas,Rashida K. Braggs explores the creative tensions inherent in jazz as both African American and global music, between the particular and the universal. In doing so she gives us a noble and insightful portrait of black expatriate Paris in the decades after World War II.”—Tyler Stovall, University of California, Santa Cruz, author of Paris Noir: African Americans in the City of Light
At the close of the Second World War, waves of African American musicians migrated to Paris, eager to thrive in its reinvigorated jazz scene. Jazz Diasporas challenges the notion that Paris was a color-blind paradise for African Americans. Using case studies of prominent musicians and thoughtful analysis of interviews, music, film, and literature, Rashida K. Braggs investigates the impact of this postwar musical migration. She examines key figures including musicians Sidney Bechet, Inez Cavanaugh, and Kenny Clarke and writer and social critic James Baldwin to show how they performed both as artists and as African Americans. Their collaborations with French musicians and critics complicated racial and cultural understandings of who could represent “authentic” jazz and created spaces for shifting racial and national identities—what Braggs terms “jazz diasporas.”
Holy Hip Hop in the City of Angels
by Christina Zanfagna
“While most scholarship on hip hop is focused on lyrical analysis, Zanfagna takes the sanctifying process of lyrical conversion in holy hip hop and situates it within the religious, cultural, and physical landscapes of LA. . . . Holy Hip Hop in the City of Angels is a thorough and engaging account of race, religion, and personal striving for musical authenticity and spiritual movement within and across spaces that historically have denied and constrained both.”—Reading Religion
In the 1990s, Los Angeles was home to numerous radical social and environmental eruptions. In the face of several major earthquakes and floods, riots and economic insecurity, police brutality and mass incarceration, some young black Angelenos turned to holy hip hop—a movement merging Christianity and hip hop culture—to “save” themselves and the city. Converting street corners to open-air churches and gangsta rap beats into anthems of praise, holy hip hoppers used gospel rap to navigate complicated social and spiritual realities and to transform the Southland’s fractured terrains into musical Zions. Armed with beats, rhymes, and bibles, they journeyed through black Lutheran congregations, prison ministries, African churches, reggae dancehalls, hip hop clubs, Nation of Islam meetings, and Black Lives Matter marches. Zanfagna’s fascinating ethnography provides a contemporary and unique view of black LA, offering a much-needed perspective on how music and religion intertwine in people’s everyday experiences.
A free ebook version of this title is available through Luminos, University of California Press’s Open Access publishing program for monographs. Visit www.luminosoa.org to learn more.
New Orleans Suite
Music and Culture in Transition
by Lewis Watts and Eric Porter
“Mainly, a kaleidoscope of styles, voices and sounds – all re-imagined and visualized in image and text… [the book] grounds the reader in the myriad of beats and rhythms of the city as well as historical and contemporary figures who performed [from] Ellington and Blanchard to Mahalia and Mos Def.” — Deborah Willis, author of Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present
With New Orleans Suite, Eric Porter and Lewis Watts join the post-Katrina conversation about New Orleans and its changing cultural scene. Using both visual evidence and the written word, Watts and Porter pay homage to the city, its region, and its residents, by mapping recent and often contradictory social and cultural transformations, and seeking to counter inadequate and often pejorative accounts of the people and place that give New Orleans its soul. Focusing for the most part on the city’s African American community, New Orleans Suite is a story about people: how bad things have happened to them in the long and short run, how they have persevered by drawing upon and transforming their cultural practices, and what they can teach us about citizenship, politics, and society.