Upcoming, Bad Brains: The Afro-Alternative Music Summit, July 24
Another page of black history was discarded earlier this month as rock fans everywhere, especially in Memphis, celebrated rock 'n' roll's 50th anniversary based on the relatively arbitrary fact that Elvis's first song, That's All Right, was recorded July 5, 1954. Anyone who knows anything about music will tell you that saying rock began with Elvis is like saying hiphop started with Eminem. Rock's relationship with African America has largely been forgotten over the last five decades. Jimi Hendrix was considered an anomaly, and music made by black folks is now deemed "urban" - whatever the fuck that's supposed to mean.
But there are still black musicians working today upholding their ancestors' rock traditions ( Lenny Kravitz , Slash and Pharrell Williams come to mind), who often find themselves in the awkward position of being judged for being the wrong race or supporting the wrong genre.
How and why did this happen? And what does it mean for music in general? These questions, as well as the history and future of black music in the U.S. and Canada, will be discussed by a bright group of musicians who have spent much of their careers defying generalizations about their race in relation to their genre.
Murray Lightburn of the Dears , Graph Nobel , k-os , Tamar Kali, Kim Bingham of David Usher's band, Michie Mee and Shawn Hewitt , among others, will all attend a free conference and the Canadian release of NYC-based author Kandia Crazy Horse 's new book, Rip It Up: The Black Experience In Rock 'N' Roll, as part of Bad Brains: The Afro-Alternative Music Summit at Harbourfront Centre's Brigantine Room on Saturday (July 24), 3 to 6 pm, as part of the Omiala Festival of New Black Culture . (See also cover story, page 50.)
Summit curator and accomplished journalist Dalton Higgins , a NOW contributor, is an expert on black music history and outspoken about all aspects of the subject.
"Can folks really appreciate rock 'n' roll without knowing its origins?" he asks. "I don't think so. And I think without knowing that rock 'n' roll was birthed by African Americans and comes from a strong African-American blues tradition, you're doing yourself a disservice. Do the math...."