The Lists: William Modisane’s ‘Blame Me on History’, Black Unity and Howlin’ Wolf

The Playlist
Shabaka and the Ancestors’ Wisdom of Elders: This project by London-based Shabaka Hutchings and local talents Nduduzo Makhathini, Mthunzi Mvubu, Mandla Mlangeni, Siyabonga Mthembu, Ariel Zamonsky, Gontse Makhene and Tumi Mogorosi is an exciting assemblage of jazz’s new guard. I was lucky enough to write the liner notes. (LN)

The Howlin’ Wolf Story — The Secret History of Rock & Roll: The other night I happened upon the story of Howlin’ Wolf, in documentary form. I had no idea that the imposing, theatrical bluesman played until he dropped, partly out of sheer passion and partly out of the oppressive economics of the time. In Wolf’s case, this was mitigated by his shrewd wife and manager, Lillie Handley, every much as powerful as the giant himself, but written out of history. (KS)

Pharoah Sanders’ Black Unity: Sanders 1971 masterpiece is true to its title, melding the complex, uncontainable talents of Stanley Clarke (bass), Norman Connors (drums) and Joel Bonner (piano) to a wider cast. With the civil rights movement disintegrating, Sanders squeals and bleats, but his team catch these far-out wails and bring them into orbit, as if sheltering him from the raging storm. (KS)

The Reading List
More Brilliant than the Sun: Adventures in sonic fiction: Kodwo Eshun’s book sits deep in the intersection of myth-science, futurism and music. It looks at machine music, sonic surrealism and how the electrification of jazz, instead of jolting us forward into the future, forced the future to catch up with black music. (LN)

William “Bloke” Modisane’s Blame Me on History: This autobiographical tome is not just an extraordinarily well-written book: Modisane’s acerbic nature, which slides between despair, witticism, humour and hope, cuts through the romanticism of native nostalgia and the sepia-toned amnesia of the Drum era. (LN)

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