Black Lives – from Generation to Generation describes itself as “a collective of artists who are continuing to fight for equality and social justice through music”. The two-disc album features over 60 musicians from across the globe, and now a select few are bringing this message and music on tour to Europe with a gig at Clapham Grand in London on 19 November. Leah Williams spoke with Stefany Calembert, who is responsible for bringing the project together under her music promotion company Jammin’colorS to find out more:
In the official promo video [watch below] for the two-disc album [reviewed by LJN], Guadeloupean saxophonist Jacques Schwarz Bart says: “What we have seen from Black history is the ability to find beauty even in the darkest hour. And art is all about rising above.”
It’s a sentiment clearly shared by Stefany Calembert, the instigator and executive producer of the Black Lives – from Generation to Generation project. It was a project borne out of the restrictions and misery of lockdown and the brutal death of George Floyd at that time in the States.
“We were in the middle of the pandemic, and it felt like the end of the world,” says Calembert. “I was also in pain to see all the horrible events in the United States with the police brutality. I wanted to try and create something positive that could help us all. As a White person, I wanted to do something to open a dialogue about this worldwide mess. All too often the Black community is left to battle on its own, but all of us must become aware of the daily reality of racism and the injustice and pain it inflicts.”
Calembert reached out to a range of artists, with the aim of uniting voices from as many different generations, countries and cultures as possible from across the States, Caribbean and Africa.
Asked to write a song “against racism in the world”, each composer brought their own experiences and influences, offering a listening journey that is both beautifully diverse yet centred around the same desire to speak out against injustice and unite people.
The music spans many different instruments and genres. We hear languorous jazz rhythms in E.J. Strickland’s Language Of The Unheard, powerful spoken word in Oliver Lake’s Pre-Existing Conditions, smooth saxophone tones against atmospheric guitar soundscapes on Immanuel Wilkins’ Dancing, and the understated yet anguished vocals of Tutu Poane’s From The Outside In. And this is just scratching the surface.
“The first thing was to choose composers who touch me musically and are beautiful human beings,” says Calembert. “I wanted to have different testimonies from different places and generations. All these composers are also engaged in fighting for social justice and equal rights. They deserve a lot more recognition worldwide for their work.”
Another draw was that these were all musicians who can play across different genres, which proves useful for the upcoming tour in Europe. Starting in Brussels on 10 November and finishing up at Clapham Grand in London on 19 November, the tour will feature 13 to 15 of the composers involved in the album. Furthering the spirit of unity, each musician will play both as leader on their own songs and sidemen in the other pieces.
“This tour is so exciting, because live music is simply one of the most important things. The album was recorded at distance so this is the first chance for some of the people involved to come and play live together,” enthuses Calembert. “It’s a historic line-up with music that is smart and powerful. It speaks right at you.”
If that’s not reason enough to make sure you’re there, London will be the last show of the European tour and Calembert implied there may be a surprise or two in store. Also, all profits from this project, including the live concerts, will go to the composers involved.
More than anything though, Calembert hopes people will enjoy the music and come away thinking about how we can connect and unite together, lifting people and giving strength to those who are confronting systemic racism.
“We can do a lot together,” she says, “Communication and dialogue are essential nowadays. Music is one of the most powerful and universal tools we have to talk to one another and amplify our voices. It gives us a way to scream our pain, our love, our hope to this world. Music expresses things better than human beings.”
Line-up for London gig on 19 November:
Marcus Strickland – saxophone
Jacques Schwarz Bart – saxophone
DJ Grazzhoppa – turntables
Christie Dashiell – vocals
Tutu Puoane – vocals
Sharrif Simmons – spoken word
Jean-Paul Bourelly – guitar
David Gilmore – guitar
Adam Falcon – guitar
Federico Gonzalez Pena – piano & keyboards
Reggie Washington – acoustic & electric basses
Marque Gilmore – drums, sampling & drum programming
Gene Lake – drums
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