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INTERVIEW: SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK'S Ysaye Barnwell

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Tuesday December 07, 2010

From The Root

The Root Interview: Sweet Honey in the Rock’s Ysaye Barnwell
By: Monée Fields-White

The composer and longtime member of the famed a cappella group talks about collaborating with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, taking on controversial material and why black music is in a fragile state today.

For almost 40 years, the Grammy Award-winning a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock has captured in song the struggles, tenacity and triumph of black America. They have also not been afraid to rattle thoughts on key issues — ranging from diversity to racial intolerance — that continue to divide the nation. Take their recent single, “Are We a Nation?” released this summer, which tackles the national debate on the controversial SB1070 immigration law that was enacted in Arizona.

This month the group of six women will join their vocal prowess with the strength of dance at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the classic spiritual dance piece Revelations.

This marks the second collaboration between the two legendary arts organizations. In 2008 Sweet Honey was featured in an original piece, Go in Grace, to commemorate Ailey’s 50th-anniversary national dance tour. Sweet Honey composed and performed the music for the piece, which was directed and choreographed by Ailey protégé Hope Boykin. The group released the music independently on its label, She-Rocks 5, Inc.

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