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National Museum of African-American Music to open in 2020 – It’s about time

June 07, 2019 at 07:00 am | Opinions & Features

Elikem M. Aflakpui

Elikem M. Aflakpui

June 07, 2019 at 07:00 am | Opinions & Features

President of Belmont University Dr. Bob Fischer and museum CEO Beecher Hicks present the "Rivers of Rhythm" digital platform. ANNA BUTRICO / WPLN

On the back of the fact that the month of June marks the beginning of Black Music Month, it is welcoming news that Nashville’s National Museum of African American Music is soon opening.

African-American music is an umbrella term covering a diverse range of music and musical genres largely developed by African-Americans. Their origins are in musical forms that arose out of the historical condition of slavery that characterized the lives of African-Americans prior to the American Civil War. Music styles that make up African-American music include country music, barbershop music, blues, disco, funk, hip hop, jazz, negro spiritual, R & B, reggae, soul music and trap music among others.

A rendering of the National Museum of African American Music/ COURTESY OF OLIVER MCMILLAN

The new museum will put up an exhibit to honour the endless African-American Music milestones achieved over the past centuries. Following the Civil War, Black Americans, through employment as musicians playing European music in military bands, developed a new style of music called ragtime which gradually evolved into jazz.

In developing this latter musical form, African-Americans contributed knowledge of the sophisticated polyrhythmic structure of the dance and folk music of peoples across western and sub-Saharan Africa. These musical forms had a wide-ranging influence on the development of music within the United States and around the world during the 20th century.

The display will also explore the current state of Black Music by reviewing the contributions of African-American culture to the music field and American culture.

The impact of African-American culture on music and American culture as a whole will be difficult to quantify, however, it is significant that as much as possible this museum will tell some of it. It is important to highlight the economic benefits especially through record stores which have served as a key vehicle for economic empowerment and critical public spaces for black consumers.

In addition, countless African-Americans have earned a living as musical performers, club owners, radio deejays, concert promoters, and record label owners. Also, African-American music has influenced and uplifted America, speaking up for generations and providing a voice to a group of people trying to deliver a message.

Apart from telling the stories of the past, I am also excited that the museum and its displays will push the current boundaries of African-American music, seek new audiences and promote innovation. This is good for all forms of African-American music.

The National Museum of African-American Music which is scheduled to open up next year in 2020 will be the sole museum dedicated to preserving African American music traditions along with celebrating the influence of African Americans on music. The art preservation institutions which come close to something like this have narrower focuses. They are Hip Hop Hall of Fame + Museum and T.I.’s Trap Music Museum. The National Museum of African-American Music is a novelty that needs to be celebrated by the African-American community and beyond.

Finally, another exciting aspect of The National Museum of African-American Music is the special feature called The State of Black Music exhibit. This will consist of notable highlights such as Hip Hop’s growing dominance over the music industry as a whole by showcasing that eight of the ten most-streamed artists last year stemmed from Hip Hop.

Moreover, there will also be a look at the black artists who lead or are currently leading mixing genres and defying categories. Considerably, Lil Nas X will thus be featured in the exhibit for his successful ability to mesh Rap and Country with his smash-hit “Old Town Road.”

Lastly, the display will take a look at artists with powerful legacies such as the late Nipsey Hussle, Aretha Franklin, James Ingram and more.

The National Museum of African-American Music has been a long time coming and we cannot wait to see its historic opening.

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