How Can We Sing (In a Strange Land) is a project presenting New Freedom Songs as essential for the well-being of society. It introduces to us the twenty-first century descendants of the freedom song heard during the civil rights movement, and even earlier during slavery. Postmodern Spirituals are new freedom songs connecting the energy and resilience of past freedom struggles, to soul and jazz genres that proceeded from the Negro Spiritual. Songs that can be curative, stimulate action, develop loving compassionate community, and affirm humanity in the face of dehumanization. The current zeitgeist/mood in this country is the “strange land”. So the need to maintain transcendence, resilience, stability, and anchoring in communities wrecked by economic and social disparity, long-term effects of COVID and so much more is necessary. This music parallels the utilizing of freedom songs by another oppressed people. Those fighting for freedom - Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, Fannie Lou Hamer et al., and how music was key in rallies and protests.
For the past six years, How Can We Sing (In a Strange Land) has been presented in multiple venues, particularly in the Bronx at libraries and Lehman College. It is ordinarily given by a lecture accompanied by videos of relevant artists and my musical ensemble, Tyrone Birkett | Emancipation. This is along with just a performance with saxophone and vocals. However, for this concert presentation at Lehman College will consist of the whole seven-piece band in concert, performing Postmodern Spirituals with a short lecture and Q&A. This event will open to the general public in the evening. The Lehman College community and the Bronx public at large are invited. A date as this time is not set but will be ascertained by the beginning of the spring 2023 semester. Dr. Hank Williams a professor of Africana Studies upon witnessing the project invited me to lecture in his class in the fall 2019. This would be the second time at Lehman college by his invitation.
Tyrone Birkett | Emancipation will be performing as a septet consisting of saxophone/electronics, a vocalist, guitar, electric/acoustic bass, drums and two keyboard musicians. This ensemble has performed at the Apollo Theater, Symphony Space, Storm King Arts Center, Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Center, Schomburg Center for Black Culture, Blue Note Jazz Club, Harlem Arts Festival, and the United Nations. The program would be 45 minutes of music, followed by a 15 minute lecture with video providing the historical context of the freedom music that inspires Postmodern Spirituals, and to further discuss how music can empower and motivate change in communities. The venue would be a lecture hall in Carman Hall. The purpose is not to just give a great musical performance but to invigorate in the community hope, revival of spirit and a refreshing atmosphere. Armed with knowledge for change.