Photo Credit: Joyce Jones. Creative Commons licensed.
The next show will air on Sunday, April 13, 2014 from 11:00 PM – 1:00 AM Monday Eastern Standard Time on WBAI, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. During this installment, Suga’ in My Bowl continues its celebration of National Poetry and Jazz Appreciation Month with a 2011 interview we did with the late poet, playwright and activist Amiri Baraka.
With influences on his work ranging from musical orishas such as Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, and Sun Ra to the Cuban Revolution, Malcolm X and world revolutionary movements, Baraka is renowned as a founder of the Black Arts Movement in Harlem in the 1960s that became, though short-lived, the virtual blueprint for a new American theater aesthetics. The movement and his published and performance work, such as the signature study on African-American music, Blues People (1963) and the play Dutchman (1963) practically seeded “the cultural corollary to black nationalism” of that revolutionary American milieu.
On Thursday, January 9, 2014, Amiri Baraka left this world, but his Blues People (1963), remains a landmark work on African-American music a half-century after its publication and in 2012 he was given a lifetime achievement award by the Jazz Journalists’ Association for his music writings. With influences on his work ranging from musical orishas such as Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, and Sun Ra to the Cuban Revolution, Malcolm X and world revolutionary movements, Baraka is renowned as one of the founders of the Black Arts Movement in Harlem in the 1960s that became, though short-lived, the virtual blueprint for a new American theater aesthetics. His Obie award-winning play Dutchman (1963) and The Slave (1964), helped solidify the revolutionary aesthetics of Black Arts and laid claim to the movement’s position as the cultural wing of the Black Power Movement.
Baraka’s Somebody Blew Up America & Other Poems includes the title poem that headlined him in the media in ways rare to poets and authors. The recital of the poem “that mattered” engaged the poet warrior in a battle royal with the very governor of New Jersey and with a legion of detractors demanding his resignation as the state’s Poet Laureate because of Somebody Blew Up America’s provocatively poetic inquiry (in a few lines of the poem) about who knew beforehand about the New York City World Trade Center bombings in 2001.
Baraka lived in Newark with his wife and author Amina Baraka; they have five children and led the word-music ensemble, Blue Ark: The Word Ship. Baraka was Professor Emeritus at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and his awards and honors included an Obie, the American Academy of Arts & Letters award, the James Weldon Johnson Medal for contributions to the arts, Rockefeller Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts grants, and Poet Laureate of New Jersey.
Listen for our On the Bandstand segment with NYC metro area appearances of Suga’ guests at the end of the first hour with Associate Producer Hank Williams.
Show engineered by Joyce Jones. Hosted by Arts Producers Joyce Jones, Hank Williams and contributor Kazembe Balagun.
In February 2014, we aired portions of a combination poetry tribute to Baraka and Jayne Cortez (who we interviewed in 2013). Both can be found in our audio archives.
Web Extra: Watch Baraka perform his classis “Whys/ Wise” with saxophonist Rob Brown.