Posted by: kaleidophonic | February 25, 2012

Back on track with the Black Power Mixtape

Okay, okay. So clearly I’ve been a little lax about the blogging this month.

In my defense, it IS February, the depressingest month of the year. It’s hard to keep the motivation going when it’s cold and dark, and spring seems so very far away…

But it’s not like I’ve been sitting around not doing anything. Work on the PhD dissertation progresses – quite a lot of work, actually, which is another major reason I’ve been neglecting all my beautiful, faithful Kaleidolings. My sincerest apologies to y’all. Somehow I figured site traffic would have dropped off to a trickle during my absence, but to my very great surprise, when I opened up my WordPress Dashboard today I discovered that there have been almost 300 views of this blog in February. *gawk*. This is even more than in January, when I was posting stuff fairly regularly. So THANK YOU for sticking around! I promise not to abandon you again. HUG.

As recompense for my absence I will blog like a crazy-person for the short remainder of the month, offering several neato sound-related links courtesy of fine people who oh-so-gently pointed out to me that even if the Kaleidophone had gone into radio silence, the world (thankfully) did not.

So here we go!

First up, in honour of Black History Month, I thought I’d turn you all on to a remarkable documentary: The Black Power Mixtape: 1967-1975.

Okay so it’s not really a mix-tape. It’s a film. But trust me, it’s plenty rad.

Assembled from footage found in the basement of a Swedish television studio, this film presents clips and interviews from many of the figures central to the American Black Power movement of the 1960s & 1970s. The film footage was the result of material gathered by a Swedish film crew who traveled to America during that turbulent period, determined to document the ‘true nature’ of an American society in the throes of social and cultural revolution.

Alongside historical footage of Stokeley Carmichael, Eldridge Cleaver, Angela Davis, Harry Belafonte, Bobby Seale, Huey P. Newton and others, the film presents authentic images of the ‘other’ America: an America of unemployment, ghettos, drugs, prisons, militant government oppression, violence, and revolutionary rhetoric. These images were in stark contrast to the ‘official’ image of the United States at the time, an image of affluence, suburban nuclear families, white picket fences, and comfortable white-collar office jobs.

An important element of this film, and one lacking in many of the other documentaries that cover Civil Rights or Black Power subjects, is the emphasis on the international dimension of Black Americans’ struggle for liberation. This means explaining both how U.S. racism played poorly overseas (with scenes of race riots played out on the television screens of US allies as well as providing their communist foes with plenty of anti-American propaganda); and how Black Power philosophy was tied to African national liberation and anti-colonial thought. It is no accident that the Black Panthers maintained an international headquarters in Algers, courtesy of the Algerian government!

It’s a relatively short feature film, clocking in at just over an hour and a half, but it’s crammed full of amazing footage that continues to have revolutionary reverberations. At one point, for example, Talib Kwali relates an incident involving his being questioned by American security forces about the fact he was listening to an old recording of a Carmichael speech — 40 years after the Civil Rights era! Proof that a simple and passive act such as listening can be considered a radically subversive act, especially in today’s hyper-vigilant post-9/11 American security-state.

The soundtrack of this film consists of soul, r&b and funk hits from the era, as well as original music composed by Questlove, of The Roots. I was unable to find a track listing for the soundtrack, which appears to not have been released separately from the film. You’ll have to watch the film (its available on Netflix) to hear the music, but more important are the speeches and commentaries provided throughout. I urge you to check it out – you won’t regret it.

Stay tuned!!


  1. Thanks for the hug. 😀
    Make sure you take sound notes at Nuit Blanche tonight…

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