The Words and Songs of Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, and by Melanie E. Bratcher

By Melanie E. Bratcher

This booklet explores the connection among 3 African American women's dance-art-music sensibilities in the context of a Pan African aesthetic. Its objective is three-fold: to teach commonalities among Bessie Smith, Billie vacation and Nina Simone's lives and unique compositions; to codify, study and review their chosen track performances in keeping with the Pan African aesthetic "Nzuri theory/model;" and to light up the large assets of transformational values that aesthetic research of African American track functionality can foster. Following concordant techniques and ideas of Afrocentricity, the examine specializes in Smith, vacation and Simone's performances as a part of a complete African creative and cultural worth procedure. The aim of the Afrocentric methodological constitution is to find appropriate African dynamics in songs and to advertise wisdom for cultural transformation and continuity. Its use during this research offers meta-criteria for interpreting African American song, which the writer has used to uniquely argue connections among African cultural reminiscence and African-derived cultural expression.

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Extra info for The Words and Songs of Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, and Nina Simone: Sound Motion, Blues Spirit, and African Memory (Studies in African American History and Culture)

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9). She argued that both deep and surface structures of African art—dance, music, plastic and visual art, and literature and folklore—were perceptible through her theory. She also asserted that perception led to judgment or valuation of art and that the scope of Musing African Memory 35 values included good, bad, ugly, and beautiful. Therefore, she conceptualized the Nzuri theory and model as a Pan-African aesthetic. Her conceptualization of Nzuri includes a model with three sources for examining the idea of spirit in creative processes: spirit, rhythm, and creativity; seven aspects for describing and interpreting creative products: meaning, ethos, motif, mode, function, method/technique, and form; and three principles for evaluating the idea of spirit in creative products: ashe, ehe, and oral.

Accordingly, the main methodological principle in my study is that African culture must be viewed as the foundation for analysis and evaluation of the selected songs written and performed by Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, and Nina Simone. I applied the four Afrocentric foci—cosmology, epistemology, axiology,1 and aesthetics—to data collection and throughout the data analysis in order to accomplish Afrocentric centering, which involves the following components: 1) Analytic—use [and filtering] of knowledge for cultural transformation/liberating consciousness of African minds; 2) Methodological—operations that involve the Afrocentric framework identifiable by 13 14 Words and Songs of Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, and Nina Simone agency, centeredness, psychic integrity, cultural fidelity; and, 3) Philosophical—relocation to and reorientation in dynamic African action and data as the rationale constant in all Afrocentric work.

Although Twum-Akwaboah (1973) came to a similar conclusion, his linguistic analysis was tour de force, riddled with a virtuostic use of linguistic terminology. The idea of action words was important in this study because Black singers have historically placed heavy emphasis on action words. For example, in “To Be Young, Gifted and Black,” Simone placed heavy emphasis on the word “Black” and turned the proper noun into a Musing African Memory 27 verbal or action word, as if to say “Black is”—to perform the state of being Black.

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