You might like… Gabriel Gbadamosi on Fela Kuti (BBC Great Lives series)

Image credits: Toludpilgrim (cc by-sa 3.0)

There’s an interesting 30 minute exploration of Fela Kuti’s eventful life here, courtesy of the BBC and Radio 4.

Poet, playwright, and critic Gabriel Gbadamosi chooses as his Great Life the political maverick and inventor of Afrobeat, musician Fela Kuti, and tells Matthew Parris why his work deserves to be better known.

Whether withstanding ferocious beatings from the Nigerian police, insulting his audiences, or demanding a million pounds in cash upfront from Motown records, his strength and stubbornness were legendary, and his gift for controversy unmatched.

Fela had more than 25 wives, some of whom he beat, and was President of his own self proclaimed Republic. He smoked dope and was the scourge of the rulers of a corrupt Nigerian state and was acclaimed as having the best live band on earth.

Gabriel Gbadamosi is joined by Stephen Chan, professor of International Relations at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, to discuss the musical and political life of this outspoken force of nature.

Presenter: Matthew Parris

Producer: Melvin Rickarby

Click here to stream the recording or right-click here to save the file as an mp3

You might like… Fela Kuti: Music Is The Weapon (1982)

Image credits: Toludpilgrim (cc by-sa 3.0)

Shot in 1982 on location in Lagos, Nigeria, this hour-long documentary mixes footage of Fela Kuti interviews with live performances, overlaid with some voice-over narration that explains some of Fela’s political beliefs. It goes behind the scenes in his Kalakuta Republic and highlights the threat he posed to the Nigerian authorities

You might like… Jazzie B on James Brown (BBC Great Lives series)

Image credits: Alexandre Dulaunoy (cc by-sa 2.0)

There’s an interesting 30 minute exploration of James Brown’s colourful life here, courtesy of the BBC and Radio 4.

Matthew Parris invites his guests to nominate the person whom they feel is a great life. In this programme, music entrepreneur and DJ Jazzie B of Soul II Soul chooses American singer and musician, James Brown, ‘the Godfather of Funk’. 

Jazzie B, who was awarded a CBE for services to black British music, spent time with James Brown towards the end of his life and says he became ‘like a big brother’ to him. Here, together with music journalist Charles Shaar Murray, they talk to Matthew about why they believe ‘Mr Brown’ is a Great Life.

Producer: Maggie Ayre.

Click here to stream the recording or right-click here to save the file as an mp3

Week 3 Lecture A materials: Soul, funk and protest

Lecture slides

Med332 soul, funk and protest (civil rights movement) from Rob Jewitt

Video playlist 

Audio playlist

Further reading

Paul Gilroy (2009) ‘”Get up, get into it and get involved” – Soul, Civil Rights and Black Power’ in John Storey (ed) Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader – 4th Edition, Harlow: Pearson. Chapter 31

Brian Ward (1998) Just My Soul Responding: Rhythm and Blues, Black Consciousness, and Race Relations, University of California Press. Chapters 5-9 [library link]

Craig Werner (2002) A Change is Gonna Come: Music, Race and the Soul of America, Edinburgh: Cannongate Books Ltd (section 1) [library link]

Joe Stuessy & Scott Lipscomb (2013) Rock and Roll: It’s History and It’s Stylistic Developments, Pearson – Chapter 9,  [library link]

Week 2 Lecture B materials: Music and the American counter-culture

These lecture slides may differ a little from Professor Storey’s presentation but they should be helpful.

Video playlist:

Recommended screening:

Born To Be Wild – The Golden Age of American Rock – Part 1 of 3. Broadcast 27th January 2014, BBC4 [show link]

Recommended reading:

Alf Louvre & Jeffrey Walsh (1988) Tell me lies about Vietnam: cultural battles for the meaning of the war, Milton Keynes: Open University Press [library link]

John Storey (2009) ‘Rockin’ Hegemony: West Coast Rock and Amerika’s War in Vietnam’ in John Storey (ed) Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader – 4th Edition, Harlow: Pearson.

See also John Storey (2010) Culture and Power in Cultural Studies: The Politics of Signification, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Recommended listening

Week 2 Task

This week I’d like to test the collaborative capabilities of Spotify. I’ve created a playlist entitled ‘MED332 Week 2 Task Black popular music

  1. I’d like you to add a song that you think best represents the appropriation of black music by a different culture. I’ve started it off with Elvis’s cover of Arthur Crudup.
  2. Leave a comment below explaining your choice
  3. Be prepared to explain your selection in class

If you want to read some articles dealing with this topic (for inspiration) then try this Time feature, this Noisey/Vice article, and this article from the Daily Beast

You should be able to find it using one of the following links:

MED332 Week 2 Task Black popular music (web URL)

MED332 Week 2 Task Black popular music (Spotify URL)

You might like… Radiolab investigates the myth of Robert Johnson

 

Image credits: Denis Barthel (cc by-sa3.0)

Week 2 will touch upon rhythm and blues and many of you may be familiar with the legend of Robert Leroy Johnson (May 8, 1911 – August 16, 1938). He was an American blues singer and musician who is famous because of the myth about him selling his soul to the devil by the crossroads in order to obtain amazing guitar skills.

Radiolab have investigated this myth and you might enjoy this – it’s a wonderful bit of radio, told brilliantly…

Here’s the link to the show and its accompanying blurb. It’s a great bit of radio.

In this short, we go looking for the devil, and find ourselves tangled in a web of details surrounding one of the most haunting figures in music — a legendary guitarist whose shadowy life spawned a legend so powerful, it’s still being repeated… even by fans who don’t believe a word of it.

For years and years, Jad’s been fascinated by the myth of what happened to Robert Johnson at the crossroads in Clarksdale, Mississippi. The story goes like this: back in the 1920s, Robert Johnson wanted to play the blues. But he really sucked. He sucked so much, that everyone who heard him told him to get lost. So he did. He disappeared for a little while, and when he came back, he was different. His music was startling — and musicians who’d laughed at him before now wanted to know how he did it. And according to the now-famous legend, Johnson had a simple answer: he went out to the crossroads just before midnight, and when the devil offered to tune his guitar in exchange for his soul, he took the deal.

Producer Pat Walters bravely escorts Jad to the scene of the supposed crime, in the middle of the night in the Mississippi Delta, to try to track down some shred of truth to all this. And Robert Johnson experts Tom Graves, Elijah Wald, David Evans, and Robert “Mack” McCormick help bring us a step closer to the real human at the heart of this tale. Plus, we hear, posthumously, from Ledell Johnson…a man of no relation to Robert, who unintentionally helped the world fall for a blues-imbued ghost story.

Read more:

Tom Graves, Crossroads: The Life and Afterlife of Blues Legend Robert Johnson

Elijah Wald, Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues

David Evans, Tommy Johnson

Peter Guralnick, Searching for Robert Johnson

The home of med332 – a module about popular music culture