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New museum in Nashville pays tribute to African-American music

But at an address on this central artery of the capital of Tennessee, we can hear many other sounds. Jazz, R&B, hip hop, gospel: so many styles that are in the spotlight in the brand new National Museum of African-American Music.

Using sounds, videos and interactive screens, the private, non-profit establishment emphasizes the role that the African-American community has played in the development of the music scene in the United States, and this, since the period of slavery.

Visitors to a blues and rock’n’roll room at the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Raphaël Bouvier-Auclair

Museum vice president of branding and partnerships Tuwisha Rogers-Simpson says telling people about people’s cultural contribution is crucial who, at the base, had no choice to come in the USA.

It is through their experience, their struggles and their celebrations that today we can enjoy the music of artists like Prince and styles like the blues.

A quote from:Tuwisha Rogers Simpson, vice-president of the museum

The exhibition rooms that the visitor passes through are among other things devoted to the influence of religion on music, the impacts of the great migration of African-Americans from the southern countryside to the northern cities on the development of the blues, as well as than the emergence of jazz across the country.

Why Nashville?

This national institution, whose creation has been mentioned for twenty years, could well have opened its doors in Detroit, capital of Motown, or Memphis, a city renowned for its blues scene.

And yet it was Nashville, home of country music, that was chosen.

Yes, Nashville is known for country, but it is also a central location for many events that have occurred in African American history., explains Tuwisha Rogers-Simpson, highlighting for example the presence in the city of three historic black universities.

We also learn in the museum that it is thanks to one of these universities, and not because of the significant presence of the country music industry, that Nashville holds the nickname of Music City.

The Fisk Jubilee Singers, an African-American choir.

The Fisk Jubilee Singers contributed to Nashville’s musical reputation.

Photo : Getty Images / Hulton Archive

After the Civil War, a choir made up of African-American singers and associated with Fisk University, the Fisk Jubilee Singers, undertook tours of the United States and Europe, where they notably performed before Queen Victoria. , thus contributing to the musical reputation of Nashville.

Music, a tool for advocacy

In addition to its emancipatory role, the Nashville Museum also emphasizes the advocacy function that music has exercised for the African-American community.

Walking through an exhibition hall devoted to the links between music and the struggle for civil rights, one can hear emblematic songs of the time, such as A change is gonna come, composed by Sam Cooke in 1964, but also works by Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin.

Tourists passing through this museum dedicated to African-American music.

Tourists passing through this museum dedicated to African-American music.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Raphaël Bouvier-Auclair

Its very important. Music gave a certain energy to the struggles against injusticesays African-American culture scholar Tracy Sharpley-Whiting, professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

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Telling this story is particularly relevant right now, as the United States has just lived through a year marked by protests against brutality, according to the vice-president of the National Museum of African-American Music, Tuwisha Rogers-Simpson. police force and racial inequalities.

There is no better time to try to bond and understand this culture. This museum and African-American music make it possible to do so.

A quote from:Tuwisha Rogers-Simpson, Vice-President of the National Museum of African-American Music
The vice-president of the museum, Tuwisha Rogers-Simpson.

Museum vice-president Tuwisha Rogers-Simpson believes the private facility could not have opened at a better time.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Raphaël Bouvier-Auclair

This museum, which opened in the midst of a pandemic, now faces the challenge of making a name for itself and attracting tourists to visit Tennessee’s country scene.

Question that the trumpet melodies of Louis Armstrong, the guitar solos of Prince and the voice of Whitney Houston can also be part of the sound environment of Nashville.

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