Many moons ago, I worked at the Schomburg Center For Research In Black Culture of the New York Public Library system — in the last days of the tenure there of my hometown hero Ellis Haizlip, onetime host of the best television show ever: SOUL! I was seeing Mr. Haizlip’s ghost ’round every corner, strolling around in his typical dashiki & tailored slacks, last night @ the Schomburg even before his name was invoked by an elder audience member after the Black Banjo event we were in attendance at the Langston Hughes Auditorium: Banjo Stories & Songs From Haiti & New Orleans, featuring my acquaintance Laurent Dubois (a banjo-playing, Belgian-American scholar from Duke University; I did a talk with him @ CUNY Graduate Center in Midtown back in the spring for the release of his new Harvard tome: The Banjo – America’s African Instrument) & my new friend Leyla McCalla, the Haitian-American banjoist who resides in New Orleans singing songs in English, French, Kreyol & the lone member of my friends’ band the Carolina Chocolate Drops that I had yet to meet. The cited episode of SOUL! featured Taj Mahal (ex-Rising Sons) doing an entire suite of banjo & ole-timey music, talking about the instrument’s African origins and encouraging youngbloods to take up the instrument; this aired back when I was a babychile and obviously there remains a stark racial & generational divide regarding banjo players when the instrument is trendy primarily amongst white Millennials who adopted it after the release of the Coen Brothers’ pastoral pastiche film O! Brother Where Art Thou? with its peerless ole-timey/Americana soundtrack, and the rise of these bands in the Aughts: Mumford & Sons, The Avett Brothers (I was one of the first to cover them as a rock/country critic alongside the Carolina Chocolate Drops, as they were emerging from the North Carolina Piedmont), & Old Crow Medicine Show. Nothing against these bands & the untimely passing of Pete Seeger has also played a role – indeed, he looms large in Laurent’s book — but we still have high hopes that young black kids will get hip to the banjo & take up our decades of work in keeping the black twang musical traditions thriving. I was interviewed for Joaquin Cotler’s podcast on these issues after Leyla’s performance, at the Schomburg; I will share it when it airs.
My dear #BlackHillbilly / twang family of the Ebony Hillbillies were also special guests like myself & we were in high cotton, enjoying the themes and music of the program. The Ebony Hillbillies generously performed at the Standing Rock benefit I curated @ Decolonize This Place back at the dawn of October; I look forward to future collaborations with them — and now — also with Sistah Leyla.
The banjo was my favorite instrument even before I knew of its African roots & I still hope to take it up — possibly in 2017, since I have been invited to the Danny Barker banjo festival in New Orleans by the guitarist/banjoist Detroit Brooks Sr. of jazz titan Donald Harrison’s band who does a lot of outreach in his community and beyond to keep black banjo traditions alive. Black artists (& the Afropolitan ones trying to appropriate southern accents and songlines in the UK) in country music are not a novelty nor a trend; whatever the outcome for current youtube sensation Kane Brown, who’s an Afro-Native (Tsalagi)/biracial country singer from rural Georgia in the “bro” mold (Young Kane & I have several thangs in common), we are here to stay. So #SaddleUp!
( Leyla McCalla of New Orleans & Kandia Crazy Horse of Hudson Canyon, Sistahs of Twang, @ Schomburg Center, Harlem NYC )
( Kandia Crazy Horse & Kimberly Robison, Virginia Native American songbirds/activists of Cactus Rose + Gloria Gassaway, Catawba lead vocalist/bones player/activist of the Ebony Hillbillies (from South Carolina) – We southern belles love to gather, do actions for #StandingRock & sing to honor our Ancestors. Miz Gloria almost went out to Standing Rock last week with our heroine Pure Fe of Ulali; we hope to combine our efforts & make a sojourn together soon come – A’ho* )
(Throwback to last Thursday night in SoHo @ Morrison Hotel Gallery for private view of Neil Young: Long May You Run exhibit, featuring photographs by Henry Diltz, Joel Bernstein, Danny Clinch & others. Here I am “waging heavy peace” with Henry’s famed image of my hero Neil & his dog Harte in the barn door of his ranch in California, Broken Arrow (named after my favorite Buffalo Springfield native american-themed tune & a Delmer Daves western from the early 1950s), from the year I was born, NYC)
Howdy y’all / Osiyo skidoi, all my relations! I have not been able to report back much nor update this site, due to all the many #StandingRock actions & Native American circle pre-thanksgiving ceremonies & events I had over this past weekend & some. Among other events, I sang some of my Native Americana music @ the opening of Urban Native exhibit Cave To The Stars – Urban Natives Unrecognized @ Bread & Roses Project Gallery in Midtown last Thursday; I did #HonoringOurAncestors with the central Harlem Native circle on Saturday, followed by the Thunderbird American Indian Benefit Auction that night on the Upper East Side. And still working on my #LeonRussell memorial article, even as I rehearse for this Friday’s Benefit For Water Protectors concert in Brooklyn @ Jalopy Theater. Ho wa, will share some pix of all this activity by-and-by, but now am learning new songs & also preparing for tomorrow’s Standing Rock action in Midtown – if you somehow missed the horrible news of the chemical weaponry, water cannons & rubber bullets unleashed on the Standing Rock water protectors Sunday night in sub-freezing temperatures & its fallout, now is the time to become aware & join us in these support actions & by donating to the camps. I am receiving many communications suddenly from friends who have been relatively apathetic pre-election & several fellow country / Americana artists now querying me about the Standing Rock resistance; so it will be interesting to see how this continues to unfold & whether President “Walking Eagle” Obama will finally do something definitive in response to these unconscionable attacks on my prayerful relations out West. Still enjoying #NativeAmericanHeritageMonth somewhat — despite the unceasing musical losses: sadly, #SharonJones has walked on, claimed by the same cancer that took my dear mother. This has cast a further pall on the holiday week. A’ho*
Art for tomorrow’s #StandingRock action, by my brotha-in-struggle Kyle Goen #kyledidthis
& a lil’ lighthearted #ThrowbackTuesday snap by #NedSublette of me & my brothas Teddy K aka DJ Soul Punk & Cap’n #KirkDouglas of #TheRoots (the last time I got to see Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings live was @ The Roots Picnic in Philly) @ my live #BlackHillbilly #countryandwestern music series #TheHarlemHonkytonk #SaddleUp!
As a fan/supporter of the Americana & Alt-Country scenes for decades, as well as a longtime rock journalist/music editor covering the country genre, I became aware of Brooklyn’s Jalopy Theater at its inception & used to frequent it a lot in the earlier days of its existence when I socialized with a lot of rural transplants to the City from elsewhere in Mainland America. Since I started writing songs & then playing out, have long wished to play there for Jalopy is the main equivalent in NYC to what the Nashville country Mother Church, the Ryman, provided for generations of hillbilly singers & players during the 20th century. So I am pleased that I am finally making my debut appearance @ Jalopy Theater on 25 November, with my new Native Americana / Cosmic Country band Cactus Rose: Jeff McLaughlin (guitar, vocals), Evan Taylor (drums), Hilary Hawke (banjo, vocals) & our frequent guest star, Seminole elder/artist/activist Lonnie Harrington (guitar, vocals). Thanks to the organizer of this benefit for the water protectors of Standing Rock that we are performing in support of: Jan Bell of the Maybelles & #BrooklynAmericanaFestival
( My picker, Jeff McLaughlin, with his signature Heritage guitar, during our Cactus Rose band rehearsal this afternoon, High Harlem NYC – We are pleased to continue our activism & being of service via our art on behalf of Standing Rock — as well as the Split Rock — water protectors in North Dakota & New Jersey #mniwiconi #NoDAPL #NoAIM #StandingInSolidarityWithStandingRock #LoveWillWin )
It will be fun to again share a bill with the husband of my dear sistahfriend & fellow Georgia Peach, Amanda Jo Williams, that I have sung with for years: Matthew O’Neill – Matthew’s also a big Neil Young fancier & we commune often about Neil’s sounds & Native lore; so great timing to do a show with him during Native American Heritage Month & right after Thanksgiving. Looking forward! Nee Ah Nee – A’ho*
We three Native American sisters & NYC artists, representing three Nations & both the Upper and Deep South, had a lovely, impromptu gathering down by the riverside of Hamilton Heights yesterday before the rains swept along the Hudson River. Surrounded by several circling & swooping hawks, we began a powerful conjure straight out of Hudson Canyon — look forward to us being involved with the recently-discovered Lenape burial mounds at 125th Street in Harlem, among other projects – A’ho* #KandiaCrazyHorse #TessReese #KimberlyRobison / #Karline #HawkMedicine
(Kandia Crazy Horse on the Hudson River, view of the Palisades, by Tess Reese, Choctaw)
(Karline x Kandia x Tess, by Kandia Crazy Horse)
(Stormy Sunday in Hudson Canyon by Kandia Crazy Horse)
Between rehearsals for #ProjectAmericana & getting to assorted meetings around NYC, this has been a busy, heady week. Amongst the events I am glad I was able to make time for: Indigenous Forum @ Columbia University. The best part of this was hearing from some of the Oceti Sakowin youth who ran from Cannonball, North Dakota to Washington DC to raise awareness about the Dakota Access Pipeline & related resistance, which I have been engaged in since the dawn of August. Their emotional pleas underscored why we need to keep up our prayers and support for the water protectors at Standing Rock.
(David Archambault II & Kandia Crazy Horse @ Columbia University, NYC)
It was also an honor to hear Standing Rock Sioux Tribe chairman Dave Archambault II speak, including about the long history of predations by the U.S. government & settlers on his Oyate’s sovereign territory and subsequent environmental threats to their lands; and then to get to speak to him briefly about my musical endeavors in Indian Country, as well as specifically on behalf of the water protectors of Standing Rock. Right now, we are watching the live feeds of leaders like LaDonna Allard & others, waiting to see what sadly is happening of the moment in North Dakota. Yet, I still have another musical benefit for Standing Rock in development (in NYC) & am committed to sing in support wherever, whenever may be called. A’ho*
#mniwiconi #NoDAPL #ProtectTheSacred #LoveWaterNotOil #RezpectOurWater #StandingInSolidarityWithStandingRock
Once again, we had a great day out at this event sponsored by the Eagle & Condor Community Center of Astoria, Queens, NY — despite the rains, which seemed to clear when the little Quechua girls of Ñukanchik Llakta Wawakuna started dancing. This year’s theme was focused on women & we Native women warriors; I sang one of my songs, about being a Virginia Native American sacred wild woman, “Bury My Heart In Rock Creek Park,” danced in the circle, and participated in ceremonies including the burning of the “Doctrine of the Discovery” as pictured below. Photos of me by my sisters-in-struggle Melissa Terra Makuriwa Ulto (Taina) & Alexis Stern.
(Sisters-in-Struggle @ Indigenous Day of Remembrance in Central Park / Columbus Circle NYC, by Melissa Terra Makuriwa Ulto)
(Prayers up! Kandia Crazy Horse @ Indigenous Day of Remembrance in Central Park NYC, by Melissa Terra Makuriwa Ulto)
(Listening to Brother Lance First Eagle, Oglala Lakota from Pine Ridge Reservation & nephew of Russell Means, speak while our Filipino #NoDAPL chronicler, Dan Vea, films)
(Group photo by Josefina Dilonez)
(My Brother Bejike Luis Sanakori Ramos of Eagle & Condor Community Center + Naguake Borinken & I by the altar)
(Performing the ceremonial burning, with Heather Henson looking on)
Please join us this Saturday night in Manhattan’s TriBeCa neighborhood downtown as I and my fellow indigenous artists & friends from the Brooklyn Country scene sing in support of the Dakota Access Pipeline resistance and in solidarity with the Oceti Sakowin of Standing Rock Reservation and all allied nations of the water protector camps that are defending the Missouri River and Lakota sacred sites out in North Dakota. All of the artists involved & I are committed to standing with Standing Rock until the end. We will also be featuring speakers on the topics of #NoDAPL, the Algonquin pipeline project, the Anti-Mountaintop Removal movement (particularly important to Morgan O’Kane & I, hailing from Virginia), & other environmental issues affecting Indian Country — some of whom have just returned from the frontline at Standing Rock.
We look forward to seeing you out – be ready to bust some of yer square-dancing moves!
WATER IS LIFE – SOLIDARITY CONCERT @ Decolonize This Place, 55 Walker Street btwn Church & Broadway, NYC | 6pm doors, 7pm show | $10 suggested donation
ft. KANDIA CRAZY HORSE (Pamunkey)
EBONY HILLBILLIES (Catawba)
LONNIE HARRINGTON (Seminole)
BEJIKE LUIS SANAKORI RAMOS+BAND OF TAINOS (Taino)
& TINA EAGLE WOMAN JOHNSON (Tsalagi)
+ SPECIAL GUESTS