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On Max Roach's WE INSIST! Freedom Now Suite (1960)

Sharisse Stancil-Ashford


I wish I could have been there for the recording of WE INSIST! Freedom NOW Suite to witness live the birth of a new, conscious, PAN-AFRICAN sound. There was something about this particular project which stuck with me long after I initially heard it. It was full of truth and honesty; for those reasons alone, I immediately went home to download it to my computer, and so it began. Max Roach and Oscar Brown Jr., both Jazz musicians of the 1960s, arranged this project to express the current freedom situation concerning ALL AFRICANS, not only in America, but across the globe. This was not only projected through the aesthetics of Jazz, but also with traditional African Drumming and other instruments played by Olatunji. Abbey Lincoln adds PURE FIYA to this project with her rich, griot-graced vocals, which serve to tell the story of this Pan-African struggle, evoking as well a sense of consciousness and self-awareness. Her voice is deeply rooted in a newly discovered mother tongue, one seeming to provide a new-birth to those who listen. The mother tongue, as described by M. Noubese Philip in She Tries Her Tongue, is not foreign or full of anguish. For us it is Africa's tongue, Africa's languages, and Africas cultures, BEFORE the arrival of white imperialism. The art expressed in this project is ACTIVE and grounded in the concepts of Pan-Africanism, many of which can be tied to works by Frantz Fanon, Walter Rodney and Assata Shakur. Because of its groundings in the Pan-African struggle, WE INSIST! Freedom NOW Suite is not your average recording. It seeks to identify and convey the mother tongue to its listeners, helping us not to be tongue dumb, providing us with art that is both active and beautiful.

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ProudFlesh: New Afrikan Journal of Culture, Politics and Consciousness. ISSN: 1543-0855 (online).
Editor: Dr. Sonjah Nadine Stanley-Niaah.

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