In the region of West Africa known as Senegambia, music, storytelling, and historical memory intertwine. The kora, a twenty-one-stringed musical instrument, was a main instrument by which Mandinka praise-singers and storytellers crafted their songs and stories of the past. Musicality and memory are just one of the cultural and ancestral chords that connect African peoples, Black lives, and the last 500 years of history in The Atlantic world.
Join us for Episode 48 The Province of Mutiny. In a week where the Olympic Games play out like the Age of Empire’s hangover, we here at History Against the Grain offer you a tonic of truth. With every medal ceremony the Olympics remind us just how ingrained the performance of nationalism is in modern life. So it is in history as well. Yet if national histories have been the standard template, they have most often told self-justifying stories of sovereignty with the emphasis on power and those who wield it. And much like one too many medley relays or an overdose of beach volleyball, these sovereignty-based histories become sterile with the telling. The solution? Ditch the sovereignty narratives in favor of real lived experiences, featuring not presidents and potentates but rather the cords of human community. This week we discuss why music tells us more about the communities we build than millionaires and military battles, and how from Africa to Appalachia we can follow the vital musical chords of the past to see how Black lives and Black music have shaped the American experience.
Click here to hear Episode 48 The Province of Mutiny
Sources Referenced and Items of Interest
Clint Smith, How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America (2021)
Adam Gussow, Beyond the Crossroads: The Devil and the Blues Tradition (2017)
Gus Cannon, Walk Right In (1929)
“Perhaps most significantly, they offer a different model of history, one that can challenge the dominance of traditional models which have misrepresented the African past.”Toby Greene