African-American Music Appreciation Month Playlists

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This past Tuesday, JamBase joined others in the music industry by participating in Blackout Tuesday. The daylong event was organized by Atlantic Records executives Brianna Agyemang and Jamila Thomas in response to the recent deaths of, “George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other black citizens at the hands of police.”

Blackout Tuesday’s #TheShowMustBePaused campaign was intended to disrupt business as usual, as musicians, record labels, media outlets, record stores, streaming platforms and other music industry professionals stopped for a day to voice support for the black community and speak out against racism. Effective change cannot happen overnight, and the momentum generated by Blackout Tuesday must not be confined to a single day of action.

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June is African-American Music Appreciation Month, which was first called Black Music Month when President Jimmy Carter established it in 1979. The current moniker was declared by President Barack Obama in 2009, a portion of which states:

The legacy of African-American composers, singers, songwriters, and musicians is an indelible piece of our Nation’s culture. Generations of African Americans have carried forward the musical traditions of their forebears, blending old styles with innovative rhythms and sounds. They have enriched American music and captured the diversity of our Nation. During African-American Music Appreciation Month, we honor this rich heritage.

This legacy tells a story of ingenuity and faith. Amidst the injustice of slavery, African Americans lifted their voices to the heavens through spirituals. This religious music united African Americans and helped sustain them through one of the darkest periods in our Nation’s history. Years later, spirituals contributed to the advent of a new form of music: gospel. Both styles incorporated elements of African music and were rooted in faith.

The African-American music tradition also reflects creativity and individualism. Blues, jazz, soul, and rock and roll synthesize various musical traditions to create altogether new sounds. Their novel chord progressions, improvisation, and mood showcase individual musicians while also creating a cohesive musical unit. In addition, African-American composers have thrived in traditional genres such as musical theater, opera, classical symphony, and choral music, providing their unique imprint and creatively growing these forms of music. All of these contributions are treasured across America and the world.

During African-American Music Appreciation Month, we recall the known and unknown musicians who helped create this musical history. Their contributions help illuminate the human experience and spirit, and they help us reflect on our Nation’s ongoing narrative.

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In his final year in office, Obama’s 2016 African-American Music Appreciation Month proclamation stated in part:

This month, we celebrate the music that reminds us that our growth as a Nation and as people is reflected in our capacity to create great works of art. Let us recognize the performers behind this incredible music, which has compelled us to stand up — to dance, to express our faith through song, to march against injustice, and to defend our country’s enduring promise of freedom and opportunity for all.

Each Saturday in June, JamBase will honor African-American Music Appreciation Month by presenting playlists highlighting black musicians. This week showcases playlists created by Spotify and Apple Music. Spotify shared a Black Lives Matter playlist that was updated for African-American Music Appreciation Month, as well as Black History Salute and We Shall Overcome playlists that are part of Spotify’s Black History Is Now hub.

Apple Music shared a For Us, By Us Playlist. The playlist’s description explains, “‘F.U.B.U.,’ from Solange‘s seminal A Seat At The Table album, takes its title from a clothing brand that conquered urban fashion in the late ’90s. The label’s designers, four friends from Queens, New York, saw a hole in the market for clothing that spoke to the culture [where] they lived. Solange’s ‘F.U.B.U.’ is far from the first song to herald a similar idea of ownership, but its ethos carries unknowable weight in a time where culture and its influence travels as fast as it does today. Listen to For Us, By Us, an unapologetic celebration of Blackness, created for, and by, those who live it.”

Featuring Nina Simone, Sam Cooke, Billie Holiday, Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, Gil Scott-Heron, James Brown, The Roots, Kendrick Lamar, Beyoncé, Solange, Marvin Gaye, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, Childish Gambino, Prince, Sly & The Family Stone, A Tribe Called Quest, Janelle Monáe, Nas, 2Pac and scores of other talented black artists, stream the playlists below:

Black Lives Matter

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Black History Salute

We Shall Overcome

For Us, By Us

Resources and information via theshowmustbepaused.com:

  • Help the family of George Floyd HERE.
  • Fight for Breonna Taylor HERE.
  • Help the family of Ahmaud Arbery HERE.
  • Want to help protesters? Donate to one or more community bail funds HERE.
  • Visit Movement For Black Lives for additional ways you can help the cause.
  • Want to connect with leaders building grass roots campaigns? Click HERE.
  • Are you an ally and want to learn more? Here are some anti-racism resources.