WBGO Blog
  • There's No Debate

    January 4, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Soundtrack Album Cover

    I haven't seen Denzel Washington's film, The Great Debaters. But I'm already hooked on the soundtrack with Sharon Jones, Alvin Youngblood Hart, and The Carolina Chocolate Drops. Among others, they collaborate on the opening track, a ring shout called "My Soul is a Witness."

    A ring shout is one of the most infectious and powerful types of music you'll ever hear. It's basically a religious song using traditional African dance patterns, with a counter-rhythm that can start easy but get extremely complex, depending on how intensely the performers get possessed by the spirit. Shouts were common ritual during slavery, and you might even find traces of the style in rural church services in the South, the Georgia coastal islands and the Tidewater region of Maryland and Delaware.

    For The Great Debaters, "My Soul is a Witness" is recreated from the original field recording by Alan Lomax. In 1934, Lomax spent six weeks in Louisiana. In one of the Acadian (Cajun) towns, Lomax recorded a series of ring shouts by Austin Coleman, with Joe Washington Brown and Samson Brown.

    Hear the original version of "My Soul is a Witness," as performed by Austin Coleman.

    I spoke with G. Marq Roswell, the Music Supervisor for The Great Debaters, about the music he selected music for the movie. You can hear that on The WBGO Journal. Or listen below. - Josh

    WBGO Journal - The Great Debaters

  • Obama rocks Iowa

    January 4, 2008

    Add new comment | Filed under: News, Notes

    We've been hearing about the Iowa Caucuses for more than a year now, so it was great to finally get it over with. I usually look at all politics with a jaundiced eye, and the Iowa Caucus was no exception. It wasn't that big a surprise that Sen. Barack Obama and Governor Mike Huckabee won their respective races. The polls predicted the outcome in the days leading up to the vote. Still, Obama's victory speech took many of us by surprise. His delivery has changed some over the last 18 months, but I've always thought he was just a so-so orator. When he took the stage to address his supporters yesterday, though, he actually looked like someone who could be president.

    Now, i'm not endorsing any candidate or any party, and I recognize that the winner of the Iowa Caucus doesn't automatically become the nominee (or the president.) But, if, as Obama suggested, we look back at yesterday as "the day it all began," his speech, with its measured cadence and perfectly-placed emotional punches, will be remembered right up there with the most significant in our political history. Just in case you missed it, you can see it below. - David Cruz

  • The Art of Music, The Music of Art

    January 4, 2008. Posted by David Rosenak.

    Oliver Lake sent this clip to me. Oliver, besides being one of the founding members of the World Saxophone Quartet, as well as a killer improvisational performer in the vein of Dolphy and composer of big band, string and small group music, is also a poet and painter. He looks at the world around him, and marvels at the surrounding surprises. This clip includes a wonderful surprise. Enjoy. Thanks Oliver.

    I'm David Rosenak.