The long road to freedom an anthology of black music

The Long Road to Freedom: An Anthology of Babsence Music. Edited by Harry Belafonte. New York, NY: Buddha Records, dispersed by BMG, 2001. 5 Compact discs; DVD; book.




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The title The Long Roadway to Freedom defines both the journey of the African Americans whose music Harry Belafonte engages in this collection and also the route of the project itself. Conceived in the late 1950s, The Long Roadway to Freedom has depictions of Afrihave the right to Amerihave the right to musical traditions from their roots in West Afrideserve to cultures via the job-related songs sung by detainees on chain gangs in the wake of the Civil War and also on right into the 1960s. The recording procedure for this monumental project—originally five documents and an accompanying book—extended the decade in between 1961 and ‘71. If that were not sufficient, the corporate alliance that initially sustained the project had broken up by the time the recordings were completed and also, as he tells it, Belafonte determined to shelve the task incertainly quite than revamp its scope for circulation as a smaller sized product. Nat an early stage thirty years passed before it was taken up aacquire when an executive at Buddha Records searched the archives catalogue and also retrieved a record for a project dubbed “Anthology of Negro Folk Music.” Lamenting Americans’ basic lack of expertise around cultural history, Belafonte imagined the project as a way to educate listeners around the history and also breadth of Afrideserve to Amerideserve to musical techniques while at the very same time providing an entertaining musical package. He reasoned that the older recordings documenting some of these practices were inobtainable to a lot of audiences because of their location in archives and their primarily poor sound top quality, and also chose instead to direct a repertoire of brand-new performances fairly than assembling currently existing recordings. Belafonte’s desire to make such a arsenal primarily easily accessible is an admirable guiding principle, yet the performance, content, and style decisions that complied with from this option warrant critical commentary. Even in its earlier incarnation, The Long Road to Freedom was intended to include both recordings and also an accompanying message with commentary and historical indevelopment. In its present form, the handsome book includes an introduction by Belafonte recounting the history of the project, countless reproductions of artwork-related pertained to the topics of the task and also photos documenting the recording process, and also a prolonged musical essay by Mari Evans with a section on minstrelsy by Al Pryor. Both the recordings and the esclaims are grouped along thematic lines, such as “Shouts and Early Spirituals,” “Ballads and Frolics,” “My God is a Rock,” and so on While I admire the inclusion of such an extensive essay, the material spanned in each area of the message is fairly uneven.

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“The Long Roadway to Freedom: War,” containing songs pertained to Afrideserve to American participation in the Civil War, includes both notes particular to individual pieces and also historical indevelopment about the Babsence 54th Massachusettes Volunteer Regiment, the appeals that significant leaders such as Frederick Douglass made for babsence guys to sign up with the military, and the function of servants aiding Union soldiers. Other sections, such as “City Moods,” perform bit even more than offer three paragraphs vaguely describing the setting and also do not even mention songs by name. The richness of the historical and also musical context of the previous example goes much in offering the educational suffer Belafonte wanted, however the contrast in between the two sections also starkly reveals the paucity of the latter, leaving listeners interested in that product with few contextual resources. With the extensive trend in releasing archival and also field recordings on compact disc in a consistent pursuit for sonic authenticity, The Long Roadway to Freedom presents an exciting situation, for it is both an early attempt at such a job and an historical object itself. Since the task aimed at representing musical methods that existed before the arrival of recording, the performances are, by necessity, acts of historic and imaginative interpretation. This issue affects both the option of material and also the shaping of performances, and Belafonte et al. have provided a number of philosophies. To recurrent the earliest sounds of African Amerihave the right to music, Belafonte tape-recorded practitioners of then-existing musical methods as a kind of living history. Two examples of this are “The Roots,” performed by West Afrideserve to musicians, and also the many contributions of musicians from the Georgia Sea Islands. Many type of have actually become hesitant about this representational strategy bereason it carries with it an aura of static primitive practices existing external of cultural readjust and also, once supplied without important comment, perpetuates historic inaccuracy. The choices to stylize vernacular and religious music to accomplish a much more concerted sound, to produce musical–dramatic units for particular sections, and also to record present methods as living background will no doubt attract criticism on the grounds of inaccuracy and also inauthenticity. Though I hesitate to enter right into the quagmire surrounding this hot-button topic, it is an issue raised by the creators and marketing tactics of the job itself. The participants interperceived in the film—a record executive, an archivist,
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