Artists Pay Homage To Iconic Black Musicians And Cultural Moments While Recognizing 'Black History Is Happening Now'

Spotify's "Black History Is Happening Now" exhibition paid tribute to two Black queer icons and a lesser-known Harlem festival

Attendees speak with artist Brandan Odums
Photo Credit: Noam Galai/Getty Images

| March 12 2019,

5:14 pm

Spotify's been knowing: Black history happens every day.

In the second commemoration of its yearlong series, "Black History Is Happening Now," the music streaming giant partnered with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) to pinpoint some of Black music's most pivotal moments, traditions and musicians. During the February 24 event, the stunning visuals on display captured and educated visitors about the many people and events that helped shape the culture of Black music, including Rosetta Tharpe, the Chitlin' Circuit, the Harlem Cultural Festival and call-and-response rituals — also referred to as "the sacred music of survival." As visual artists who regularly celebrate Black music and history through their work, Joy Miessi and Brandan “Bmike” Odums were each tapped to represent the aforementioned through their art — let's just say they executed.

Among those Odums paid homage to was that to the African tradition of call and response. Intended to create a sense of unity, statements such as “when my cross is heavy” would invite the reply of “I shall not be moved.”

Noam Galai/Getty Images

The style of interaction was oft used in spirituals. While the level of affirmation and resilience in early forms of call and response may have lessened over time, it can still be seen in more contemporary music, like DJ Kool's "Let Me Clear My Throat."  

Noam Galai/Getty Images

“When you think about the identities we’re celebrating, in terms of how their boldness, or creativity or willingness to create despite what they saw still informs how we create today, a lot of the greatest musical traditions come from these oppressive moments — when you think about jazz, when you think about hip-hop, when you think about spirituals, when you think about rock 'n' roll.”

The refusal to let the hardships bought on by racial oppression interfere with the creation or consumption of art was also evident throughout the Chitlin' Circuit, a collection of musical venues where Blacks could perform and enjoy one another without the burden of racist club owners or patrons. Miessi paid tribute to these historical establishments. 

Noam Galai/Getty Images

The other tributes to Black music history from Spotify's "Black History Is Happening Now" event can be seen below: 

The Legend of Sylvester

Noam Galai/Getty Images

The Harlem Cultural Music Festival

Noam Galai/Getty Images

Rosetta Tharpe, Godmother of Rock 'n' Roll

Noam Galai/Getty Images

Tribute to the Role of Afro-Latinx Culture in Black Music

Noam Galai/Getty Images

Happy Black History Year! 



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