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Sweet Honey in the Rock's Four Decades of Music

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Tuesday January 16, 2018

From NPR Music

We Who Believe In Freedom Shall Not Rest: Sweet Honey In The Rock’s Four Decades Of Music And Freedom
By: Kim Ruehl

Live, Sweet Honey often sits in chairs, in a line across the front of the stage. Women sitting in chairs is an intimate thing, and it can feel as though the concert hall or theater is really someone’s living room; as though these women have been hard at work all day and now is the time to sit down, rest and sing. Built only on harmony and vocal percussion, the music they make is equal parts declaration and release. After all, it’s not long before their bodies start to move — arms swinging, feet bouncing. Particularly during the freedom songs, you get the impression they’re pulling from every part of their selves to add not only their voices but their entire being to the pursuit of that freedom.

The history of the group, which is currently a quintet, mirrors the effort of the civil rights movement from which it sprung: to raise voices, to empower individuals and to accomplish together what we cannot accomplish alone. They do this by filling out their music with only their voices. The sound moves into your heart and pushes it open wider.

As generations of movement participants have experienced, music can be a meaningful tool in a protest — civil rights groups famously filled the jails and sang freedom songs to the guards. Singing can help us understand how to transcend injustice. When we sing in a group, we have to listen to one another, adjusting our individual voices to match one another in tone, volume and pitch. We must cooperate rather than trying to drown one another out. And while the sound of a group of people singing at a protest can draw others’ attention to what’s wrong, it can also invite people to experience what it might feel like to cooperate, even if through disagreement.

Read more about Sweet Honey here