By: Katia Campos (Reporter ‘22)
As we all know, February is Black History month. In acknowledgement of the racial injustices that have occurred in the past, Friends’ Central School held a Meeting for Demonstration for those attending school, either physically or virtually, on the 25th of February. The students who chose to demonstrate at school took part in making posters to represent the Black Lives Matter movement and making buttons with icons. They peacefully stood in lines on either side of City Ave to express their strength and their beliefs to passersby.
In a similar vein, a small group of students have come together to create the “FCS Tiny Desk Black Music Archive,” honoring Black artists. The Black Music Archive contains a collection of over 300 songs created by black artists. In this article, you will be hearing from the two developers who made this a reality. The creator’s name is Sophia Haggray, and while she had this marvelous idea, she had some help from Calvin Mutsokoff, another musician here at FCS.
What is the Black Music Archive? What does it stand for? What was your goal in creating it?
The BMA (Black Music Archive) is a collection of over 300 songs created and/or performed by Black artists. This interactive archive has embedded playlists and videos containing music spanning the latter half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, as well as information about key artists from each decade. The BMA allows viewers to learn about how the cultural zeitgeist influenced the sound, style, and message of Black music. The goal with the BMA was to educate the FCS community on the enormous influence and contribution of Black artists in American culture. Whilst being an educational presentation, the BMA is also a virtual arts exhibition which allows viewers to both listen to curated playlists and watch a plethora of music videos from a diverse range of artists.
The interactive aspect of the presentation allows learning to be both engaging and enjoyable. I truly want to make Black music and Black artistry accessible. So by creating playlists, members of the FCS community can integrate listening to Black music into their daily routines. This will help people to familiarize themselves with key aspects of black culture. It is paramount that Black artists are given credit for the enormous impact they have had on our society. If more people become familiar with the original work of Black creatives, it can help prevent acts of racial ignorance like cultural appropriation.
What kinds of music did you use? Why that music? Do you think you’ll edit this arrangement for next year?
The music selection included Black music spanning from the 1950s-2010s. So there's a diverse range of genres included in the archive. Some of my favorites artists included are trumpeter Miles Davis, soul singer Donny Hathaway, pop singer R&B queens Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill, and rapper Anderson .Paak. This diverse range of music was chosen not only because the breadth of our artistry is so vast--and even a 300+ song tracklist does not suffice to prove the point that there are so many sounds and messages to explore--but also to show that Black people and Black culture are not monolithic. We are an extremely diverse community with so much to share. The BMA does not showcase any one aesthetic; it attempts to showcase as many as possible. Learning about the infinite diversity of Black music can help prevent people from making misinformed generalizations about Black culture.
Revisiting the BMA for next year would be exciting! By the year 2022 many more albums and music videos will have been released and there will be so much to explore with that work alone. However, (dreamily assuming that we will be in person next year), it will be interesting to see how being in person could affect the way we showcase music and arts performances. Though I am fully interested in revamping the BMA for the year 2022, I am anxious to explore how we can utilize live arts performances to continue teaching the FCS community about Black culture.
Would you mind accepting recommendations from students if you haven’t already done so?
I would be more than happy to accept music and arts recommendations for Tiny Desk programs in the future! Our shows and programming cater to the FCS community. So we are excited to hear feedback from students and teachers about what kind of content they would like to come out of our club. If readers ever have any questions or suggestions for Tiny Desk Concerts FCS they can reach out to leaders by our club email firstname.lastname@example.org (or even our personal emails: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org). My personal favorite musician is Stevie Wonder. I find his music is truly ethereal and consistently show-stopping. He has performed for decades and has never ceased to amaze me. So much of his art brings attention to Black excellence, the Black experience, Black love, and highlights the incredible resilience of our precious community through the harshest of times.
When Calvin Mustokoff was asked to speak about the project he said: “Sophie put a lot of work into it, and it’s well worth your time to check it out! I think it’s a good reminder of how much of the American music scene has been shaped by Black creators. This truly dawned on me when thinking about my experience as a guitar player. BB King, Jimi Hendrix, Wes Montgomery--so much of the electric guitar’s legacy has been cultivated by Black artists, and the genre defining sounds they've created.”
Even after making this new interactive playlist to honor the Black Community, it is a goal to have even more music recommendations added by anyone who is willing to share! This is a truly wonderful way to share a legacy that, as the years go by, will continue to grow and shape our nation.