Black History Month, founded as Negro History Week by historian Carter G. Woodson in 1926, is an annual recognition of the centrality of African-American history and culture in the United States. While Black History Month provides an opportunity to celebrate, it is also a reminder that true equality and the rights of full citizenship is not yet a reality.
A celebration of African-American music must acknowledge the underpinnings of the quest for freedom and justice that the music represents. Black music inspires by its resiliency and evolution despite centuries of racial oppression. It is a repository of cultural traditions and beliefs and social commentary that is continuously challenging the status quo of musical boundaries and artistic expression.
This Tiny Desk playlist encompasses all of those things. Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah's "stretch music" includes echoes of the past and a vision that extends beyond notions of genre and musical styles, culminating in his harrowing tale of driving while black that he powerfully reenacts in "KKPD." Edmar Castañada alters the jazz vocabulary by creating a space for the harp, transforming the purely angelic into a rhythmic exploration of heaven and earth. René Marie performs a set that demonstrates an aesthetic sensibility that feels right at home, no matter where she chooses to land. Terri Lyne Carrington + Social Science's intergenerational collective of musical styles and voices show us why freedom matters and what it's all about. Finally, Gregory Porter invites us in for some quiet contemplation. —Dwandalyn Reece, associate director of Curatorial Affairs and curator of Music at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African American History and Culture