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Posts Tagged ‘Sweet Honey in the Rock’

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I’m cooking up a batch of veggie stock. You know it, baby. Smells really good. I usually make it frequently, but I haven’t all summer for some odd reason. Fall is as good a time as any so away it simmers on my stove, filling the kitchen with heavenly scents. Will post “recipe” soon.

Okay, enough screwing around. You know what happens every October? Ysaye Barnwell, of Sweet Honey in the Rock (and a musician, teacher, artist, researcher, composer, singer extraordinaire in her own right), teaches a workshop up in Rowe at an old Unitarian Universalist camp at the almost-top of a mountain. This is her signature “Building a Vocal Community: Singing in the African American Tradition” workshop which I highly recommend to all citizens. You may be able to find it right where you live, as she teaches in various places in the US.

I go every-other year; this is my year off; I’ve studied with Ysaye 5 times over the last 8 years. Study, but not the way you might usually think, because mostly, you sing and sing and sing. Ysaye is the best singer and leader (conductor) I have ever experienced. She is a force, she is brilliant, she is talented, she is powerful, she is amazing.

What I learned, among other things, and what I know, is that songs can unite like nothing else when people are struggling. Totalitarian regimes fear free musical expression for good reason.

Remember, too, that babies sing before they speak. What does this tell you about the evolution of the human voice? We are born with free voices; speech is a later, highly-evolved modification. Peel back the layers of language and you will find rhythm and song, intertwined and inseparable.

What I noticed last weekend at my local Occupy rally was a lack of singing. I suspect that younger people haven’t learned to sing in groups, to sing out loud, to sing in unison for change. So guess what I’m gonna do next time we gather? I’ll be teaching and preaching some songs.

While the Occupy Wall Street movement is not about racism per se, I think that the people’s demand for less protection of corporate interests and corporate profits can free up other parts of our society. At least that is my hope. Now, learn the rhythm, learn the tune and add some lyrics. Here are some I thought of:

Ain’t gonna let Koch Brothers turn me ’round                                                                                                                                                             Ain’t gonna let corporations turn me ’round                                                                                                                                                          Ain’t gonna let distraction turn me ’round

You can co-opt tunes, you can co-opt lyrics. You can get the “older” folks you see at your local rally to sing the songs they knew when they were trying to bring down a war and when they were fighting for civil rights. They had many hardships and many successes; they’ll remember.

If you are looking for something to do to support the movement, you could take a batch of your own fall soup to your local OSW pals who are camping out. Take home a load of laundry to return to them, clean and folded. Teach them a song; print up the lyrics. Talk, exchange ideas, gather information, disagree, agree.

Go children and tell it to the world! Go preachers and tell it to the world! Go!

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