CDS by Dee Dee Bridgewater
RED EARTH - A Malian Journey
Love & Peace: A Tribute to Horace Silver /
Just Family /
Dear Ella /
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Dee Dee Bridgewater—Afro Blue
Commentary by Mtume ya Salaam & Kalamu ya
For so long, for so many
women of color, we’ve been afraid to embrace
our ‘blackness’ fully, whole-heartedly.
We’ve waltzed around our color, the many
hues of browns and beiges. But we are in the
twenty-first century, where the world is
upside down, where nothing is as it seems.
In these desperate times,
I have felt the yearning to go back in time.
I’ve felt the need to finally stand up and
admit that my origins stem from the
Motherland. Oh, sure, like so many of my
brothers and sisters around the world, my
lineage is of mixed bloods. We bear the
traces of history itself. In my bloodline
alone there is Chickasaw, Cherokee, Irish,
German, and even Chinese. And those are just
the ‘lines’ that can be traced.
However, until recent years there was an
invisible line that few people of the darker
hue chose to cross. It was as if we did we
would be contaminated, condemned. But my
spirit grew restless, my physical being
began to make visible statements, my music
began to turn to rhythms, to the drum. I
instinctively knew it was time…time to find
my way home. And so, as it is impossible for
me, like so many of my sisters and brothers
of the darker hue, to trace my past, I
decided to let the musical universe be my
guide. Africa was calling, but I was not
sure which part of Africa. Not until I heard
a particular music, from a particular land,
did the call become distinctively clear.
The calling was so strong, so forceful, that
I had to heed its inaudible cry. I took
wing, and was guided to the land of my
forefathers. The RED EARTH has always spoken
to me, from the time of my birth in Memphis,
When I touched the red earth of Bamako, when
I inhaled the Malian air, when I heard the
tambours, and listened to the griots, I felt
my spirit begin to dance.
I saw myself in the people; I saw that our
customs were the same. I found the answers
to long-standing questions about the ‘how’,
the ‘where’, and the ‘why’. I was
invigorated and inspired; my soul was filled
with an inexplicable peace.
This project is my ode to Mali and to
Africa; it is the story of a lost child
finding her way home. It is my reawakening.
And I hope it stirs your spirit, that it
inspires you to begin your own personal
RED EARTH - A Malian Journey is simply
put, my journey home.—
Dee Dee Bridgewater
They—the anonymous experts on
everything—say that Dee Dee went to France to find
herself, never bothering to ask themselves how is it a
person has to leave home to find themselves? Or to put
it another way, what is missing, what’s so foreign about
our native land that some of us are compelled, indeed
forced, to leave where we were born in order to find a
space we can truly call home?
From my vantage point, Dee Dee went to France to be free
to be Dee Dee. When she went to Mali, that’s where she
found her self in all the others surrounding her there.
Is it not so: the truest home is that place where in the
others who inhabit that space you actually see yourself?
Not just a physical reflection, but ways and attitudes,
taste and touch, habits and inclinations, food and
weather, feeling and sound. Or as the jazz musicians
would say: you’ll known when you get there.
Do I have to state how hard it is for Black us to see
ourselves in mainstream America? We call out but there
is no positive response. The reflections we mostly catch
are us on the run, or hung, or socially twisted,
certainly an unhealthy taste of dissatisfaction fouling
For us, America is a house of funny mirrors, distorted
mirrors. Mirrors so convincing that sometimes we are
convinced it is us who are twisted, distorted rather
than mirrors into which we are forced to peer.
But on the other hand it is not just home that hellish;
even France turned on Dee Dee, strangeness returned when
she cut her locks and had short hair. Her presence was
then perceived as a threat or at best an annoyance.
Anyway, let’s talk about the music.
Dee had been to Senegal and though it was an interesting
trip, she felt no spiritual embrace. Then she embarked
on a project to record music from various African
countries, music which, for one reason or another, she
enjoyed. Gradually the realization dawned: the music she
really liked was Mali’s vibes. So she went to see and
you know the rest.
Black male blues musicians have long been fascinated
with Mali. Taj Mahal and Corey Harris in particular have
both made magical music with Malian musicians. But as
far as I know, no Black woman vocalist had made that
particular long journey into the origins of her sound.
When I heard
Red Earth I was immediately struck by the freedom
sound. This was not a jazz artist trying to go native
nor the other way around. Everybody was doing them and
some magical how the different selves meshed into a
truly moving “us.”
In interviews, Dee Dee talks about how the music not
only felt right, she was easily able to add her flavor
to the mix without messing up the meal, a meal that was
based on centuries old recipes and ingredients.
Go here for a video interview with Dee Dee Bridgewater
Go here for a short video about
the making of Red Earth.
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1. “Afro Blue”
It will help you to
fully appreciate what Ms. Bridgewater has achieved if
you skip ahead in the jukebox to the second "Afro Blue"
from a 1974 recording. That version is from the
beginning of recording career when she started out as a
jazz vocalist. You can hear the African elements added
in; the thumb piano and the percussion touches. But it
is clearly a jazz version.
Now the “Afro Blue” from Red Earth is a whole other
level. Baba Sissoko’s killer talking drum is orating
some heavy shit—the rapidity of the beats not missing a
beat. Pianist Edsel Gomez hammering those Afro-Cuban
rhythms on top of the mélange of poly-rhythms while Dee
Dee floats her long tones over the fast-paced staccato
of the rhythm section.
There is very little “blue” in this red hot version
bubbling with joy and dance. I have at least a dozen
versions, but this one is easily the most distinctive.
2. “Red Earth (Massani
A fair number of
ethnomusicologists and blues practitioners identify Mali
as the ancestral home of the blues. After listening to
“Red Earth” I’m convinced the case has unarguably been
made. That blues riff is immediately recognized. But
then the African vocalists slide in with the off-kilter
keen and fit right in the pocket.
This is blues so nasty it’s almost embarrassing. And
then on the out chorus when everybody is singing full
out but in different languages and with altered
melodies, man, it’s an amazing display. I love it. I
What can we say?
This sounds like what Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints”
should have always sounded like. Wherever this
arrangement came from, it’s magical. I especially
respond to the layering of rhythm on top of rhythm that
all the instruments do.
This is the kind of interpretation that brings us total
newness, offers us a whole new way to hear what we
thought we thoroughly knew. Also interesting is how
clearly this is not jazz and yet how much jazz is
contained within this music. Listen to the out chorus,
once again they are dropping advanced rhythm science.
4. “Oh My Love (Diarabi)”
On this cut Dee Dee
more than meets Africa halfway. This a journey into the
beautiful jungle of us, into the love forests and fields
of us. Here you can definitely hear the African/Mali
approach rocking on a heavy two step and then Dee Dee
blowing back with African-American inflections. No
mistaking one for the other, yet they are joined at the
hip. Lovers from different cultures locked in an amorous
This is that crying kind of love making. It be so good,
joy tears just be making diamond mines out of your eye
sockets. Rich, beautiful tears; you feel so good, you
cry. “Oh My Love.” This song is definitely correctly
5. “Compared To
How the funk do you
get down without a backbeat? Listen to this one. Listen
when we expect a breakdown the drummers step up. And
when Malian rapper Larry "King" Massassy comes strutting
thru shouting out new lyrics in Bambara and then that
organ from musical director Cheick, Tidiane Seck, ah
man, it’s insanely gorgeous.
I bet you they can do this one for at least a half an
hour in the club. I can see the tapestry of the dance
floor, all the syncopated hips, the angles of the bodies
in motion. God damn if this is not a different funk.
Five minutes of stank and not nary a back beat. I’m too
through. I know I said it already, but, wow, I have
heard tons of funk and beaucoup African music but I have
never heard a mix as amazing as this; a mix in which
each element remains itself while mating perfectly with
the other. Shit, you ought to get both street cred and
college credit for rocking with Ms. Bridgewater’s Red
Earth album—that’s how bad, how deep this shit is.
Damn, you may now go ahead and hit the back button four
or five times. I know you wanna, so, like we say in the
NOLA, go on and do what you wanna!
—Kalamu ya Salaam
* * *
Hitting the back
You got that right,
Baba. I’m definitely hitting the back button on this
one. I’m feeling every track I’ve heard. "Oh My Love,"
"Footprints," "Red Earth" - all fantastic. You’re right
about that blues, by the way. That’s some bad-ass,
back-in-the-day Albert King/Solomon Burke-type
soul/blues/funk they’re throwing down on "Red Earth."
Mali, huh? Very interesting.
One thing I have to
say, even though you already said it yourself. This is
the best version of "Afro Blue" I’ve ever heard. The
percussion work alone is enough to make me want the
entire CD. The arrangement is so vibrant and amped up!
About a year ago, Kalamu featured six versions of
"Afro Blue" and I threw in my favorite version of the
tune too (as performed by the Peruvian singer Susana
Baca). Dee Dee’s new cover of the song blows away all
the others…and those others were good.
It’s been a while since I was this impressed by a new
jazz album. What I like most about the music is that Dee
Dee and her band stuck to playing jazz, including fully
realized improvisation, even as they integrated what
they were doing with the beautiful playing of the Malian
musicians. This is a great album; I’ll be buying my own
copy soon. One question though. How in the world is
"Afro Blue" not the feature song?! It’s too good to just
be a jukebox track.
—Mtume ya Salaam
* * *
Afro Blue It Is
Mtume, I trust your judgment call on this one. And by
the way, go to the video hook-up and you can see them
working on Afro blue in the studio. Dee Dee Bridgewater
is an absolute monster.—Kalamu ya
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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays
Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a
collection of fourteen essays by scholars and
creative writers from Africa and the Americas.
Called one of two significant critical works on
Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late
1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of
Carter G. Woodson and
Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as
well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations
were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early
essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish
medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an
historical context for understanding 20th-century
creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone
writers, such as Cuban
Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist,
Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the
significance of Negritude in Latin America. This
collaborative text set the tone for later
conferences in which writers and scholars worked
together to promote, disseminate, and critique the
literature of Spanish-speaking people of African
descent. . . .
Cited by a
literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the
field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which
most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."
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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in
By Melissa V.
According to the
author, this society has historically exerted
considerable pressure on black females to fit into one
of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the
Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless
Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to
white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of
those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the
relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable
temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as
an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the
characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television
shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
points out how the propagation of these harmful myths
have served the mainstream culture well. For instance,
the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for
black females to feel a maternal instinct towards
As for the source
of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their
own bodies during slavery given that they were being
auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless,
it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate
the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate
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The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
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Ancient African Nations
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If you like this page consider making a donation
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Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
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