Since it emerged as a distinct genre in the late 1960s and early 1970s funk has played an important role in American music and culture, in its foregrounding of polyrhythmic interplay, improvisation, and community formation, and in addressing issues of discrimination and marginalization.
Recent scholarship has examined funk from a feminist perspective, highlighting female musicians’ participation in the creation of black feminist thought and in rejecting externally defined roles and identities. An expansion on these feminist approaches focuses on the particular ways that sound organization helps to address the gendered nature of funk performance and discourse; the concept of Afro-sonic feminist funk demonstrates how female musicians use the sonic and performative tenets of funk to complicate the gendered politics and discourses surrounding funk music.
This according to “Janelle Monáe and Afro-sonic feminist funk” by Matthew Valnes (Journal of popular music studies XXIX/3 [September 2017]).
Today is International Women’s Day! Below, Monáe’s Tightrope, which provides a case study in the article.
In the 1970s George Clinton took funk to a new level when he formulated the P-funk concept, which was defined by a philosophy, attitude, culture, and musical style.
Grounded in the ideology of Black Power, P-funk advocated self-liberation from the social and cultural restrictions of society, creating new social spaces for African Americans to redefine themselves and celebrate their blackness.
P-funk had its own language, fashion, dances, and mythical heroes and villains, who Clinton presented as black science-fiction characters. The mastermind and producer of five P-funk groups, Clinton combined these cultural components to create stories about black people and black life from a black perspective.
This according to “Funk” by Portia K. Maultsby (The Garland encyclopedia of world music III [New York: Routledge, 2013] pp. 680–86); this encyclopedia is one of many resources included in RILM music encyclopedias, an ever-expanding full-text compilation of reference works.
Today is the 40th anniversary of the opening of the P-Funk Earth Tour, whose production budget was the largest amount ever allocated for a black music act to tour at that time. Below, an excerpt from the tour’s performance in Houston shortly after it opened in New Orleans.
BONUS: Wishing for more? Here’s the whole concert.
Sly and the Family Stone played a crucial role in introducing black church aesthetics to popular music audiences in the late 1960s.
Sylvester Stewart (a.k.a. Sly Stone) introduced secular audiences to what James Cleveland called the Sanctified Church through his own personal experiences in the black Pentecostal church.
In the foreground of Stone’s work are the recording Stand! (1969), particularly the single I want to take you higher. The band’s demographic—black and white, men and women—and the message that everyone needs to work together in harmony all represent the epitome of post-Civil Rights culture.
This according to “Sly Stone and the sanctified church” by Mark Anthony Neal, an essay included in The funk era and beyond: New perspectives on black popular culture (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).
Today is Sly Stone’s 70th birthday! Below, a performance of I want to take you higher from 1969.
Hosted by the Archives of African American Music & Culture at Indiana University, Black Grooves is a review site that aims to promote black music by providing monthly updates on interesting new releases and quality reissues in all genres—gospel, blues, jazz, funk, soul, and hip hop, as well as classical music composed or performed by black artists.
Reviews of selected new discs and DVDs are featured, with occasional attention to books and news items. An extra effort is made to track down releases by indie, underground, foreign, and other labels that are not covered in the mainstream media. While the primary focus is on African American music, related areas such as Afropop and reggae are also covered.
This post is part of our series celebrating Black History Month. Throughout February we will be posting about resources and landmark writings in black studies. Click here for a continuously updated page of links to all of our posts in this category.