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The Genius of African-American Music

Featuring experts and transformative African-American artistic performers, the six part series, The Genius of African-American Music, presents for the first time the amazing story of struggle and triumph as former enslaved people, building on their African musical heritage, created spirituals, blues, Jazz, soul, rap and finally Afrofuturism musical genres.
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Full Title (includes all individual Programs)
Streaming License includes all individual programs listed below, as well as downloadable supplemental files.
AAM $165.00/yr
Individual ProgramsSKUTermPrice
Program 1: Spirituals
Beginning in the early 1600s, hundreds of thousands of Africans – men women and children – were ripped from their homelands and brought to the America’s English colonies. Deprived of basic human freedoms, these enslaved people created a remarkable form of communication now known as spirituals or Negro spirituals. Embodying the creativity and improvisation characterizing African-American music, these spiritual songs moved through the South as a result of people being traded on the slave auction block. In particular, the spirituals’ use of call and response can be found in every black musical genre that came after emancipation. In a wonderful stroke of luck many spirituals were preserved through the efforts of the Fisk Jubilee singers and were performed in the 20th century by gospel choirs.
AAM-001 $27.50/yr
Program 2: Blues
Blues is an original African American musical genre that many say got its name from its connection with downhearted stories and sounds of former southern enslaved people. The main musical features of blues are call and response … Specific chord progressions … A walking bass… Dissonant harmonies … Syncopation … And the famous flattened ‘blue’ notes. Blue notes form the emotional basis of all popular music going forward into the 21st century. Significant early blues performers include Robert Johnson … Ma Rainey … And Bessie Smith. Led by Muddy Waters, after World War II, the blues moved north and became electrified. Today the blues are considered the purest of African-American music genres.
AAM-002 $27.50/yr
Program 3: Jazz
At the beginning of the 20th century something magical happened in New Orleans … a brand new musical sensation known as Jazz was created by bringing together the ear talents of African-American musicians and the sheet music skills of Creole people. The foundational element of Jazz was improvisation. Going forward this would characterize not only African-American music but the African-American way of survival and innovation. Early Jazz was made famous by Louis Armstrong during the 1920s in what became known as the Jazz Age. Big Band Jazz followed during the depression years as people danced to the likes of Count Basie and Duke Ellington. Following World War II, Jazz initiated a new era known as bebop and featured such virtuoso performers as Alto saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker … Trumpet player “Dizzy” Gillespie … Pianist Thelonious Monk … And trumpeter, Miles Davis. In the 21st century Jazz is undergoing a return to its improvisational roots within Afrofuturism.
AAM-003 $27.50/yr
Program 4: Soul
In the 1950s everywhere across America saw the emergence of the Civil Rights movement … The struggle for African-Americans to achieve social justice and equality. At the same time in the African-American musical community something special began to happen. The creative spark that had driven African-Americans for 350 years once again brought forth something new and transformative. It was simply called Soul. The Soul genre is the blending together of the electrification of blues instruments, the secularization of spiritual lyrics and the power of African-American gospel performances. Early Soul pioneers were Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye and Aretha Franklin. Soon two powerful centers of Soul arose. One was led by Berry Gordy’s Motown record label and featured polished performers out of Detroit. The other, based out of Memphis, produced a shimmering, sultry style and included such notable artists as Otis Redding, Booker T and the MGs and Isaac Hayes. During the latter part of the 20th century Neo-Soul captured Audiences across the country.
AAM-004 $27.50/yr
Program 5: Rap
In the late 1970s something truly remarkable happened in the boroughs of New York City. A youthful African-American community musically birthed something that bridged the gap between spoken poetry and instrumentation. That birth reached back 400 years to the rhythmic storytelling and the hypnotic beat of the drum from West Africa. It was a musical creation that infiltrated every American musical genre while at the same time spread globally in a mere 30 years… That piece of African-American musical genius was Rap … A musical genre embedded in a new cultural expression and way of life known as Hip-hop. Rap started with spontaneous neighborhood gatherings that introduced new instruments and new ways of creating a performance … performances where a DJ and an MC called out rhymes to the beat of the music. Well-known pioneering rappers include Lil’ Kim, Puff Daddy, Queen Latifah, Lamar Kendrick, LL Cool J and Jay-Z. Rap and Hip-hop culture ushered in a whole new way for African-Americans to take control of their artistic creations which led to an explosion of musical innovation.
AAM-005 $27.50/yr
Program 6: AfroFuturism
AfroFuturism is the joining of African-American music, technology and people of African descent across the globe in creating a future without limits for once enslaved people. In fact, the next evolution of the genius of African American music is already here … But not everybody knows about it …Knows what this powerful creative force in music is bringing forth. It started with music of Sun Ra, a cosmic philosopher who pioneered Afrofuturism’s aesthetic tropes — a rich color palette, African iconography and a fascination with the exploding techno culture and outer space. Led by Erykah Badu and D'Angelo, Neo-soul was one of the earliest recognized African-American musical genres to embrace the ethos of Afrofuturism’s creative mixing of past and present genres. Neo-soul was followed by Drexciya’s creation of techno music and then OutKast’s progressive Southern Rap. The essence of AfroFuturism is that the 400-year sufferings of enslaved people is no longer the central theme of African-Americans and replaced with a new form of African-American agency brought about the freedom provided by digital technology and the ability to rewrite history and create a new future as exemplified in the feature film Black Panther.
AAM-006 $27.50/yr