Wednesday May 11th, 2016
In anticipation of the upcoming Pairings at Ted’s event with YoungArts alumni Samora and Elena Pinderhughes, we asked Samora (2009, Jazz) about his most recent projects and how they will inform his upcoming performance with his sister Elena (2013, Voice + PSA) on May 20 and 21. Here’s what he had to say:
This upcoming performance at YoungArts is a combination of two current projects: The Transformations Suite and VENUS.
The Transformations Suite combines music, theatre, and poetry to examine the radical history of resistance within the communities of the African Diaspora. Continuing in the tradition of artists such as Bob Marley, Duke Ellington, Marvin Gaye, Billie Holiday and Tupac Shakur, the suite paints a musical picture of the current state of social inequality and injustice in the United States and beyond.
The Transformations Suite connects contemporary issues, such as the prison industrial complex and the Black Lives Matter movement, with the history of revolutionary movements of color, building a bridge between the past and the future.
I began this project on Martin Luther King Day in 2011. I noticed that in tributes throughout the nation, as well as at the school I was attending at the time, Dr. King’s body of work was being reformed to fit the notion of a ‘post-racial’ America, focusing on platitudes about equality and individual acceptance while ignoring his calls for systemic change, pacifism and economic justice. This mirrored so many radical figures who after their passing had their legacies twisted – and reminded me of how much power historical narrative holds in shaping the possibilities of present day revolution.
The Transformations Suite has been performed throughout Brazil and the U.S., at venues including the American Museum of Natural History, the Harlem Arts Festival, Juilliard, NYU, Joe’s Pub, the Jazz Gallery, and Columbia University. In Salvador, Brazil, the music was performed in collaboration with a number of local groups including the Orquestra Afro-Sinfonica. Each performance was followed by a discussion with members of the audience/community, focused on how the issues brought up within the piece apply to their experience, such as the effects of historical enslavement and disenfranchisement on the African-descendant population of Bahia. Most recently, the project was featured as part of Blackout for Human Rights’ #MLKNow event at Riverside Church, which was viewed by over 500,000 people and trended #1 on Twitter.
Centered in the belief that there is a soundtrack to every revolution, the vision for this piece is that it will contribute to the powerful growing movement on behalf of black lives around the country, challenge white supremacy, use art for the purpose of social change, and empower all people – especially youth – to make their voices heard.
VENUS is a project that looks at how personal problems affect the formation of loving relationships. It examines all the different stages of a romantic relationship, from infatuation to immersion to betrayal to loss; its goal is to be honest about all the moments that usually go unsaid in between these experiences – all the ‘gray areas’. By extension, VENUS seeks to bring to life the thoughts that may only exist in one’s mind and heart, but affect all the ways we exist in the world. And hopefully, in the process, it can help illuminate the various ways to love oneself as well.
VENUS is a brand new project, which I started in February of this year.
The Transformations Suite has been recorded as an album, which will be released in the fall of this year.
I am really truly looking forward to presenting this music with my sister and musical soulmate Elena Pinderhughes, and hope it gives you something to think and feel on.
In the meantime, here are some of the inspirations behind the upcoming performance:
James Baldwin: “The Artist’s Struggle for Integrity”
James Baldwin: “The Fire Next Time”
Laura Mvula: “Sing to the Moon”
Herbie Hancock: “The Joni Letters”
August Wilson: “Fences”
Robert Jones Jr.: “The Matter of Forgiveness”
Emily King: “The Switch”
Audre Lorde: “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action”
Radiohead: “In Rainbows”
Drake: “Take Care”
Anderson .Paak: “Malibu”
D’Angelo: “Black Messiah”
Nina Simone: “Pastel Blues”
Carrie Mae Weems: “The Kitchen Table Series”
Brittney Cooper: “I Could Have Been Sandra Bland”
Piper Anderson & Marlon Precedent Peterson: “Love in the Era of Mass Incarceration”
Kanye West: “808’s and Heartbreak”
Frank Ocean: “Nostalgia, Ultra” and “Channel Orange”
James Baldwin: “The Paris Review: The Art of Fiction”
Saul Williams: “…said the shotgun to the head”
Follow Samora Pinderhughes on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, or on the Transformations Suite website.
For tickets to the upcoming Pairings at Ted’s events featuring Samora and Elena Pinderhughes, visit youngarts.org/teds.