Freedom Sounds from Smithsonian FolkwaysIn honor of the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, we have curated a playlist of some of our favorite and most influential African American musicians from Smithsonian Folkways. From the booming sound of New Orleans brass bands to the gentle ballads of Len Chandler and the powerful poetry of Sonia Sanchez, African American sounds have powerfully shaped musical expression within the United States and beyond. The depth of African American music making is incredible—jazz, gospel, blues, and folk are all rooted within African American communities.
This playlist includes many artists who will be performing at Freedom Sounds: A Community Celebration, a co-production of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival honoring the museum’s grand opening September 23 to 25. The McIntosh County Shouters perform slave shouts in the traditional form of their ancestors, a form which earned them a National Heritage Fellowship. Sweet Honey in the Rock, an a cappella female gospel group, will return to the National Mall after performances at the Folklife Festival. We also celebrate the legacies of civil rights activists Fannie Lou Hamer and Paul Robeson, who both used Christian church hymns as protest songs.