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BLACK MUSIC MONTH AND THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSIC: MAKING THE CONNECTION

Due to open in Nashville later this year, the National Museum of African American Music will be devoted entirely to chronicling the achievements and legacy of black music creators. With Black Music Month nearly upon us, it seemed a good time to review our prior report on NMAAM.

Among the exhibits being prepared are Rivers of Rhythm Pathways: The Evolution of African American Music Traditions; Crossroads: The Great Migrations and the Emergence of Blues; A Love Supreme—Harlem Renaissance and the Emergence of Jazz; One Nation Under a Groove—Civil Rights Movement: 1940s-Present; and The Message—Urban Renewal: 1970s-Present. There’s also a capacious research library.

“The museum's narrative is told chronologically, through the lens of black music,” Museum CEO H. Beecher Hicks III explains, noting that the institution’s 1400+ artifacts and 25 interactive displays will trace that timeline for visitors from all over the globe.

Rivers of Rhythm is the corridor of the NMAAM, Hicks adds, showing visitors how artists like Beyoncé and Adele “are connected to the traditions born out of the African-American experience. It’s a way to reinforce one of the museum’s key messages. Music is much more connected than we realize.”

In preparation for the launch, the Museum has been active on social media, releasing an entertaining video report on the state of black music in 2019 (spoiler alert: it’s strong), among other dispatches.

Hicks points out that pre-launch awareness has been built via public schools (using the “Nothing to Something” curriculum about black musicians’ innovations), and that community programming will continue to be augmented with digital content for worldwide access.

Why situate NMAAM in Nashville and not, say, Memphis, Detroit, New Orleans or NYC? The reason lies in Music City’s moniker. The city has supported music at every level, and music is in the DNA of its political and social organization. The idea for the museum was proposed by members of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce way back in 2002; after many years of planning and incubation, it broke ground in 2017 in a 56k square-foot facility at 5th and Broadway in the heart of town.

 In addition to serving as an exhibit title, “One Nation Under a Groove,” borrowed from Funkadelic’s 1978 hit, is also the Museum’s slogan, a tribute to its fundamental belief in the power of this music to unify and inspire.

“We have so much more in common than we sometimes recognize,” says Hicks. “‘One Nation Under a Groove’ came out at a time when America needed to be reminded of that, as it needs to be today. We hope that this museum will be a place of unity and joy, similar to the fun that comes out of that song.”

 

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