Friday, June 02, 2006

Black Music Month 2006--Featuring a Legacy of Cultural Achievement

Black Music Month gets into full swing across the nation with shows from the latest and the greatest.

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices
Sounds of Blackness

Brian Hineline, Retna, Frederick M. Brown, Getty I Rock & Roll architect Little Richard, King of the South T.I. and Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin are just three of the numerous music artists performing across the country during Black Music Month. "[Black Music Month] is something that we should take time to remember as significant because it's so pervasive and so much part of the world culture," Apollo Theater marketing chief Florene Wiley, who's presenting the three artists, told Black Voices.

Black music is everywhere.

From coast to coast, sounds from the urban music lexicon --Jazz, R&B, Hip Hop, Blues, Gospel and Pop-- continue to dominate the landscape via radio airwaves, music videos, and too many music concerts and music festivals to name.

In 1979, U.S. President Jimmy Carter passed legislation to officially recognize June as Black Music Month -- in an effort to officially preserve and promote black music as an art form throughout the world.

New York City's Apollo Theater --long considered the Mecca of Black Music-- will present a series of concerts in celebration of Black Music Month, with a diverse line-up of superstars including Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin (June 20 and June 21), Rock & Roll architect Little Richard (June 3), world music maestro Salif Keita (June 30), reggae legends The I-Threes (June 24) and rap kingpin T.I. (June 1).

"It's an honor to be the first artist to perform at this year's black music line up," the chart-topping rapper/actor told Black Voices. "I've performed at the Apollo several times before but never for my own concert. I used to spend summers in Harlem as a kid visiting my pops so the Apollo is like a second home for me."

Since 1934 when the Apollo first introduced its world-famous Amateur Night showcase, launching the careers of legendary artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown, Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross and Lauryn Hill, the famed venue has been the nation's premier arena for emerging and established black performers.

"[Audiences] come here for the talent, and they also come here for what we call the 'Apollo Experience'… that's whatever happens when you're here," Apollo Theater Marketing chief Florene Wiley said.

Based in the heart of Harlem, the national historic landmark (now recognized as a not-for-profit organization) continues to host major concerts and special events. This is the second year that it’s hosting a full scale Black Music Month program.

"[Black Music Month] is something that we should take time to remember as significant because it's so pervasive and so much part of the world culture, and sometimes we can take black music for granted," Wiley added. "But wherever you go in the world, it's a real common denominator. I'm glad that there is an American celebration."

Near the nation's capitol, black music will come alive during the 14th Annual Capital Jazz Festival, to be held at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland -- a 40-acre wooded setting located between Washington and Baltimore.

Contemporary jazz acts being showcased this year include Kem, Fourplay, Rachelle Ferrell, Will Downing and Incognito featuring Maryland native Maysa. Neo-soul hit makers Angie Stone, Eric Benét, Leela James and Dwele will also grace the stage, for the event considered "the Woodstock of jazz festivals." A special tribute to Grover Washington, Jr. -- entitled "Groovin' for Grover"-- will also take place during the festivities, running June 2-4.

New York City radio station HOT 97 will present its thirteenth annual "Summer Jam" concert on June 4 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. According to a rep, Queen of Hip Hop Soul, Mary J. Blige along with Jamie Foxx, Busta Rhymes, Sean Paul, Chris Brown, Ne-Yo, T.I., Young Jeezy, Mobb Deep, Dem Franchize Boys, Jermaine Dupri, Three 6 Mafia, Remy Martin, The Dipset, Lil' Wayne are among the star-studded lineup.

Out in Los Angeles, multiple Grammy Award winning artists India.Arie and John Legend are slated to join the likes of rap veteran Q-Tip, and others, for Sergio Mendes' 40th anniversary of the record, 'Brasil '66.' The event will be held June 25 at the Hollywood Bowl as part of radio station KCRW's World Festival.

In the Windy City, the Apple Store North Michigan Avenue will present 30 Days of Music, featuring music related events each and every day of the month.

On June 1, white R&B singer Robin Thicke (singed to Pharrell Williams's Star Trek label) will perform, and Gospel producer Percy Bady will host a workshop. On June 3, Chicago's own local rap phenomenon Rhymefest is slated to perform.

In the Dirty South, hip hop chart-toppers Young Jeezy and Paul Wall are scheduled to take the stage at Atlanta's very own Fox Theater June 16.

For this year's JVC Jazz Festival in New York City, living legend Etta James returns to the Carnegie Hall for the first time in 21 years June 20. On June 17, new-school jazz sensation Lizz Wright will make her headline debut at the famed venue, while Motown legend Smokey Robinson takes center stage for the first time in 31 years on June 22.

Marking a perfect culmination for the Black Music Month festivities, a stellar list of presenters are scheduled for the 2006 R&B Foundation Pioneer Awards, returning after a three year hiatus. The organization's Executive Director Kayte Connelly has confirmed that the ceremony is scheduled for June 29 at the Park Hyatt Bellevue in Philadelphia -- the inaugural event from their new home.

Honorees this year will include Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, producer Thom Bell performers Chubby Checker, the Delfonics, Bettye LaVette, and Barbara Mason. The posthumous Legacy Tribute Award will go to Otis Redding.

"The Rhythm & Blues Foundation is the only nonprofit organization dedicated solely to the care and preservation of our artists," Connelly told Black Voices. "Black Music Month is a testimony to their undying spirit as they paved the way, literally, for today's young artists.

"While the business of making music has changed dramatically, their lives were oft-times full of drama as they battled the disparities of the industry at the time, along with societal ills," she added. "[These artists'] legacies [are] celebrated through the culmination of this month at the Pioneer Awards Ceremony… they have made such an impact on American Music History."

Confirmed presenters include legendary performer/ songwriters Ashford & Simpson, Jerry Butler, Gamble & Huff, Bonnie Raitt, Paul Shaffer, Smokey Robinson and Patti LaBelle.

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