The Michigan Daily-Tuesday, February 13, 1979-Page 7
SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK
a sweet delight
By MATT KOPKA
The four powerful singers who call
themselves "Sweet Honey In The
Rock," and sing in a unique but true
gospel style, accompanied only oc-
casionally by percussion instruments,
put on an emotional and beautiful con-
cert at Trueblood Auditorium Saturday
The group of black women is centeredj
in Washington D.C. where Bernice
Reagan, the founder, is a cultural
historian for the Smithsonian In-'
stitution where she gathers material
and ideas for her songs and directs a
project on the African dispora.
Bernice was the obvious leader of the
group, exhorting them and keeping the
tempo with her eloquent hands during'
the concert, and directing the workshop
which was held that afternoon at Alice
Lloyd. She has a commanding presen-
ce. When she asked the gathering at
the workshop to join the group in song,
and they responded only half-heartedly,
she said, it will be proper to bring out
your big voice and you will be allowed
to stay in the room.' Everyone laughed
at this, but when the next chorus came
around, we sang.
The workshop was perhaps moreI
rewarding than the concert. The
women , Yasmeen Williams, Tulani
Jordan, Evelyn Harris, and Bernice
Reagan - introduced themselves and1
gave a little of their background. Theyr
are all activists, committed to black
equality and human rights. One of their
songs asked "Are you fighting?" and
demanded the listener's involvement
with his or her world.
THOUGH THE workshop ended with
a stirring song called "Chile, Your
Waters Run Red Through Soweto (The
hands of oppression are the hands of
hunger)," the women concentrated on
introducing us to songs about the black
experience, slave songs, chain gang
songs, and gospel melodies. They fur-
ther interspersed historical infor-
mation and stories as background to
Bernice described the evolution of the
word 'Juba' from 'giblets,' the word
slaves used to describe the foods white
men disdained and gave them to eat:
Sift the meal
gimme the husk
cook the bread
gimme the crust
eat the meat
Gimme the skin
that's where my momma's
We sang "Wade In The Water," and
Bernice told how one needed to go and
stand in the "troubled waters" the song
describes in order to make change.
Chain gangs were a source of cheap
labor for plantation owners after
manumission.(perhaps an ironic com-
bination of "abolition" and "eman-
cipation"), and it was a great source of
songs and chants:
Swing that hammer
Ain't no rush, baby
long way to go
chain gang never
let me go,
poor lost boy
White man tell me
Boy, damnyour soul.
got no need, baby
to be told.
SOJOURNEI TRUTH was a black
orator who inspired many slaves. She
was a strong, large woman who had.
worked in the fields and that showed,
upon her body. Bernice described how a
white man once called her a man, and
how Sojourner Truth then opened her
blouse and said, "I've suckled my
children and seen them soldk into
slavery, and I've suckled yours. Don't I
look like a woman?"
The concert itself was a very in-
spiring two-part performance in which
the women sang songs from their
albums and a . movie about the
Wilmington 10. The audience added
hand clapping rhythms, and loudly ap-
plauded each number.
Each of athe women revealed their
personality through beautiful
vocalization as they traded off the leads
in different songs. The music was
alternately soft and strong, with selec-
tive dynamics enhancing and
dramatizing each number.
ALL OF THE women have had
musical training in other genres, and
this shows up in their voices. Tulani has'
an elastic voice that dwells somewhere
between Bernice's low, gutteral, and
rhythmic tones 'and Evelyn's
classically trained voice and strong
higher lines. Yasmeen's voice seered
to be the highest, but as the women im-
provised, they traded high and low
Twice the number of people who
managed to squeeze into Trueblood
would gladly have enteredthe doors, or
so it seemed judging by the ticketless
throng which milled outside the doors.
Oasis, the women's collective which
hosted the concert, handled the
situation well: Many thanks to them for
bringing this unique and important
event to Ann Arbor.
U-M CENTER FOR
AFRICAN STUDIES presents
"Black African States
and the Struggle for
PROF. DAVID GORDON
Department of Government
College of William and Mary
February 14-12:00-1:30 P.M.
346 Old A & D Bldg.
909 Monroe St.
R. J. SMITH ERIC ZORN
bill barbour, mary bacarella, tony
bloenk, mark coleman, anthony
chen, mark dighton, eleanora
diliscia, jim eckert, scott eyerly, pat
fabrizio, owen gleiberman, kurt
grosman, diane haith man, katie
herzfeld, steve hook, mark johans-
son, matt kopka, mark kowalsky,
marty levine, lee levine, rich
loringer, peter manis, anna nissen,
gerard pape, lily prigionero, kim
potter, alan rubenfeld, anne sharp,
nina shishkoff, mike taylor, keith
tosolt, peter wallach, dan weiss,
carol wierzbicki, tim yagle.
as the Mayor a
Wed.-Sat., Feb. 14-17, 8 PM
Sun., Feb.18, 2PM
' " .
Tickets at the PTP Box Office
in the Michigan League
313/764.0450 & through
all Hudson's Stores.
The University of Michigan
Professional Theatre Program
Guest Artist Series 1979"
PowerCenter :'Ann Arbor
Presented as part of an
all campus Russian Arts
Solve Your Summer Jobs Worries Now!
Summer Intern Program r i
Jewish Communal Service
June11 through ugust 10
Sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan
Chicago and College Age Youth Services, for Chi-
cago-area undergraduates interested-in exploring
careers in social work in the Jewish community. A
$600 stipend is granted to each intern.
if interested, contact Jill Weinberg or Joel
Poupko, College Age Youth Services, One South
Franklin Street, Room 805, Chicago, Illinois
60606, or call 346-6700 ext. 375.
carried off smoothly, and adds a
double-time banjo solo which gives just
a taste of what the tune "really" sounds
What the fiddle tunes "really" sound
like is sometimes a bit of a mystery,
especially when you listen to the im-
provisational pickers and gut-sawers
who would blush to play anything but
sixteenth notes around the melody.
Dick Dieterle, fiddler for the local RFD
boys, has a standing offer of one hun-
dred dollars for anyone who can whistle
his version of "The Grey Eagle," and I
have always held the opinion that there
really is no such tune, just a lot of fancy
licks behind a chord sequence. Though
he doesn't tackle "The Grey Eagle,"
Bowers does demystify the tunes which
he plays, and they are a delight to hear.
THE VIEW FROM HOME is a great
album for the amazing "new wave"
autoharp work, but it does not do very
well as far as the vocal selections are
concerned. Bowers has a rich and
powerful voice, but the studio
technicians have subdued it and taken
the guts out of it. The exciting part of
Bowers' singing is the way he
dominates the instrumentation, and
smooth mixing saps the energy out of a
very nice song like the title cut.
And in concert, when Bowers opens
up on a gospel tune, he sings with con-
viction, but his recorded version of
"Walkin' in Jerusalem" is cute and un-
believable: It doesn't sound much like
he and his fellow vocalists "wanna be
The next step for Bowers should be a
live album in which the magic of his,
personal appearances can come
through. It's hard to tell by The View
From Home that the scruffy fellow on
the jacket puts on a warm, energetic,
and thoroughly satisfying performan-
'he View From Home
/i/in Fish -037
Though this album came out in 1977,
it hardly seemed appropriate to spill
any ink about it until people in these
parts became aware of the remarkable
talents of Bryan Bowers. It's time: The
lanky autoharp virtuoso followed an
exciting set at the Ann Arbor Folk
Festival last month with two sell-out
concerts at th'e Ark this weekend, and
one might say that he has at last
"arrived" in the area.
Initially, I had my reservations about
the autoharp as a serious folk in-
strument, especially for all the fiddle
tunes which Bowers boasts on the
jacket: How could that thirty-six-
stringed tool of the untalented grade
school teacher possibly do justice to
"Blackberry Blossom," "Golden Slip-
pers," or the "Fisher's Hornpipe?"
In concert, the fiddle tunes seem mad-
deningly slow, and, even with the
imaginative harmonies which Bowers
intertwines, the more melodic he gets,
the more halting the effect.
In this respect, the album outshines a
personal appearance. With a tasteful
group of backup musicians behind him,
Bowers manages the instrumentals
with a stately grace which emphasizes
the melody: "St. Anne's Reel" is
MAPLE VILAG& SHOPPING CENTER
THE UNIVERSITY of MICHIGAN
SCHOOL of PUBLIC HEALTH
THE COUNCIL for
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"A QUESTION OF BALANCE:
An open question and
answer period will follow
SAT. & SUN.
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