Black Vocality: Cultural Memory, Identities, and Practices of African-American Singing Styles
The symposium Black Vocality II will nurture a discussion – among scholars, singers, and vocal performers – on the ways in which singing voices have shaped, defined, chronicled, and continuously recontextualized the black experience.
As popular music scholar Simon Frith explains, “we have to approach the voice under four headings: as a musical instrument, as a body, as a person, as a character.” The symposium takes in consideration these four headings, but at the same time recognizes the importance to look at the intersections of them. Listening to Lou Rawls’ voice, for instance, means to be exposed to a sound that is simultaneously an instrument, a body, a person, and a character. In addition, in order to fully comprehend interrelations among cultural memory, identities and practices, we need to examine the kind of narratives that have shaped our understanding of black vocality. Questions that the symposium addresses are: ‘how do we listen to a singing voice that is defined as black?’, ‘how blackness is recognized and expressed through singing voices?’, and ‘what are the values and the potential of a black singing voice?’
Honoring the Legacy of Nina Simone through Innovative Re-Interpretations
the performance ‘Channeling Nina’, held on November 19th, concluded the 2014 symposium
Voices That “Rebuild Foundation.”
Vocal artist and activist Yaw Agyeman will illustrate his work at the Rebuild Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that enlists teams of artists, educators, and community activists to work together to integrate the arts and creative entrepreneurship into a community-driven process of neighborhood transformation. Drawing on his re-interpretation of the Dr. Wax collection and from his performance with the ensemble The Black Monks of Mississippi, Agyeman describes the practices through which an artist can give voice to archives.
Whether in an acoustic setting or in a music hall, you can expect the self-named “Storieteller” to deliver a performance that features crooning and velvety muted trumpet vocals that are immersed in R&B, jazz, swing, and vintage soul. Her unique form of storytelling is infused with fundamental elements of poetry, hip hop, and high emotion. Devereaux, a Chicago native, embodies her name by capturing audiences with her rich vinyl texture and high-spirited messages that are doused with love, empowerment, social awareness and consciousness, and her personal trials and triumphs that combine to wrap her listeners in what she calls “DirtyRedVinyl,” or, put more simply, an intimate conversation with the world.
If you mix one part joy and one part pain, then add soul, you will taste the sound of Allegra Dolores. These Chicago-born biological sisters are a multi-talented force of nature. Dolores is the emcee with overtones of sarcastic humor, while Allegra carries an edgy rocker vibe with an element of Negro spiritual. Molded from influences that range from hip hop to punk rock, with soulful harmonies, Allegra Dolores has been likened to the Jones Girls. Both singly and as a duo, they have developed a commanding stage presence and vocal prowess through their performances in dead prez, Omar, Siji, Nadira Shakoor, and Rahbi, among others. Allegra Dolores is an emcee favorite in Chicago’s indie hip hop community, and their talent is seen in other media, such as Dolores’ acting work, as featured in the opening credits of HBO’s True Blood.
“The Influence of Nina Simone: Meanings and Potential of a Life as a Vocal Artist.”
Napoleon Maddox, the Cincinnati beatboxer, rapper, and singer, is well known as the leader of the hip hop group “ISWHAT?!” He has collaborated with many well-known jazz artists such as Magic Malik, Henry Grimes, Archie Shepp, Oliver Lake, Hamid Drake, Roy Nathanson, Joe Fonda, Claire Daly, and Burnt Sugar, among others. He has also shared the stage with KRS-ONE, Big Daddy Kane, The Roots, Dwele, Jurassic 5, and Antibalas. A prominent and proficient performer in both jazz and hip hop, Maddox is a pioneer in bridging the two forms.
(Photo by Jesus Moreno; used with permission of the artist.)
“Telling Your Story: Making Connections within Genres.”
Vocalist and educator Tammy McCann will draw on her own career as a singer to unravel the complicated relationship between finding a personal voice and embodying an identity. During her wide-ranging career, McCann has navigated operatic belcanto as well as gospel, jazz, rhythm and blues, and soul. Her musical search has been not only an exploration of genres, but also an intellectual and spiritual journey that finally led to Love Stories, her new release that was arranged by Laurence Hobgood. McCann will close by describing her purposeful decision and artistic practice of making connections within genres, in order to tell a story that is personal.
LaShera Zenise Moore
LaShera Zenise Moore attended Calumet High School and is a graduate in vocal performance of Columbia College Chicago. As a child, she sang in the church choir, and, as an adult, directs both youth and adult choirs. Moore is a freelance songstress who is equally at home with country, pop, rock, jazz, gospel, blues, R&B, and soul. She has performed regularly with, among others, Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor, Mavis Staples, Brian Culbertson, and Wycliffe Gordon. She performed at the 2012 Chicago Blues Fest and for the funerals of Koko Taylor (2009) and Chicago’s First Lady, Mrs. Maggie Daley (2011), and was a featured soloist in the “I’ll Take You There” homage to blues and gospel. Moore is also active as a singer, producer, and director of musical shows in the Chicago area. She is singing lead with The Forte Band and with her own band LaShera Zenise and Soulful Experience! While studying at Columbia College, her teachers and mentors included Bobbi Wilsyn, Fernando Jones, and Chris Forte, among others.
(Photo by Cameron Derby)
Sage Xaxua Morgan-Hubbard is the Academic Partnership Coordinator in the Columbia College Chicago Dance Department and is a multidisciplinary artist, poet, activist, and educator. In 2011 at Columbia College, she was the Cipher Organizer for Words, Beats & Life’s inaugural Midwest Hip Hop Teach-In, “Remixing the Art of Social Change.” She served as the Outreach Director of Young Chicago Authors and as a teaching artist throughout the Chicago metropolitan area, instructing kindergarten through college-level students in jail and beyond. She earned the MA degree in Performance Studies at Northwestern University and is a graduate of Brown University, where she studied Performance Studies: Socially Conscious Art of the Everyday and Ethnic Studies. She was a member of Real Talk Live Chicago poetry collective, the founder of WORD! spoken word artists and activists in Providence, Rhode Island, a youth poetry slam coach in Washington, D.C., and one of the original members of Spoken Resistance and the performance group Sol y Soul.