Great Black Music

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Vybz Kartel, 'Kingston Story', 2011 / © Vice Records / Photo : Forts Bishop
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Billie Holiday, 'Downbeat', New York, 1947 / © William P. Gottlieb
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James Brown, « Say it Loud », 1968 / © Polydor. Collection Médiathèque musicale de Paris
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Servis Malgas, La Réunion / © René Paul Savignan
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Franco, Kinshasa, 1965 / © Jean Depara, Revue Noire
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Femi Kuti au Shrine, Nigéria, 2006 / © Andrew Esiebo
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Cold Crush Brothers, 'Club Negril', 1981 / © Joe Conzo / Cornell University Library
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Danyèl Waro et Firmin Viry, 1994 / © Nelson Navin
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John Coltrane, 'A Love Supreme', 1964 / © Impulse! Photo : Bob Thiele / Design : George Gray/Viceroy / Collection Philippe Ducat
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Dollar Brand Trio, 'Anatomy of a South African Village' / © Fontana, Collection Jean‐François Villetard
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Marvin Gaye, 'What’s Going On', 1971 / © Tamla Motown
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Orchestre Régional de Mopti, 1970 / Collection Jean‐François Villetard
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Funkadelic, 'Maggot Brain', 1971 / © Westbound Records. Design: Graffiteria, The, Paula Bisacca / Photo : Joel Brodsky
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Afrika Bambaataa, 'Zulu Nation War Chant', 1999 / © Eurotrend

At first glance, an exhibition on 'black music' may appear as absurd as a celebration of red-headed painters or a showcase of beardless dancers. Yet with 'Great Black Music', the Cité de la musique make a persuasive case for the term, joining the dots between the different musical genres of the African diaspora. This magisterial exhibition doesn't attempt to give ethnographic explanations for black musical traditions, nor does it somehow equate these with one another; rather, it demonstrates the development from blues to jazz, rock, soul and hip-hop, while grounding the whole in the black experience of slavery. It's a complex, pertinent, utterly fascinating subject, familiar thanks to its imprint on pop culture, yet too rarely understood. Kudos to the 'Great Black Music', then, for tackling it.

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