Mwalim's "Land of the Black Squirrels" Explores the Connection between Jazz and Hip-Hop

May 15, 2020

"Land of the Black Squirrels" explores a section of the Bronx that has produced jazz and hip-hop artists
Credit Mwalim

COVID-19 has ushered in the era of virtual performance in all types of art … hip-hop no exception. These performers are taking their shows online … and not just the younger generation. Mwalim is a Grammy-nominated musician and multi-faceted artist … he says the names he remembers from the 70s and 80s are popping up online.

"It’s reinvigorated the relevance of some of your older performers and musicians, cause suddenly names that I remember from early in my youth, almost childhood, like Grandmaster Caz you’re finding online, you know, one of the early hip-hop pioneers."

Mwalim’s new book, Land of the Black Squirrels: A Bronx Boheme Novel, explores how the black arts movement was the launching pad for hip hop in a section of the northeast Bronx known as "The Valley", thanks to the influence of local jazz musicians.

"One who comes immediately to mind was the famous jazz sax player Lou Donaldson, lived in the valley, and he was very influential with a lot of young musicians and you ended up with a lot of young jazz artists coming out of the valley."

Mwalim says he wanted to write not only about hip-hop artists … but kids who play the piano … bass… and drums as well.