afropunk bk: black women of rock tribute

September 4, 2018
70 Picks

By Toshi Reagon
Curator/Music Director

Black Women of Rock! Innovators, Pioneers, Hybrid making magicians. From the water of the blues, field hollers, and intentional mapping a trail to freedom through spirituals, to patterned step mastery and sway. Big hearted, eyes focused, brain expanding survivalist. Gourd beating language carriers, human hard drive holders of long ago prayers still activated. Ground planting determination and wisdom. Black Woman Music adds her own particular mastery to the creation of the genre of music we call Rock and Roll.

I don’t know if the 20th century was ever ready for Black Woman Freedom. Black Woman Voice. Black Woman entrepreneurship, but the end of the 19th century should have been a hint to what was coming.This fiery burst of new Black Woman businesses came like a wave from the south and all across the land. Our voices, our need for freedom and our need to have the life we knew we could have turned our dreams real.

Seher Sikander

A country built on slavery, violence, the stealing of the womb and the denial of it’s own people will always have to be tended with and moved forward until the idea of chains on bodies loses it’s institutional home. Black women have been relentless in this charge. The music that came up at the end of the 19th century produced some of the 20th centuries biggest entrepreneurs, storytellers, stars. A merger between the new transportation of free Black bodies and the technology of radio and the ability to record sound and duplicate the recordings.


Blues legends, Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Mary Lou Williams among others led the way. As the genres of blues, and Jazz, took shape so came gospel out of the sacred music of Black people. As they dared to write hymns not just from scripture but from their hearts tending to a very specific conversation with God. Lucy Campbell said He’ll Understand and Say Well Done. Blues poetry gave freedom to desire, and we here and not going nowhere intention. Music and Dance freed the bodies and voices of Black people and the world listened and learned. But the institution of slavery not legal still created a foundation of oppression and Black Women are still held to this idea of not being equal and the assumption is that it is us who will carry the load bearing work for everyone else. Our skill, our stories, our know how always under ownership. We. Black Women strongly reject that system.

Seher Sikander

There is a reason for the holler, for the wail and the moan. There is a reason for loud beats, cymbal crashes, The grind and deep earth shattering pulse of an organ. As the 20th century crept along the electric guitar was picked up by Memphis Minnie. Sister Rosetta Tharpe played such a particular voicing on the guitar always daring and on the edge. No one else merging so many musical and performative ideas together at the same time from such a deep and truthful place. She surely planted the seeds. Multiple genre’s and styles are rooted in the singing in her voice and the playing of her instrument. The way she moved when she played, her style and place in time. I think of her as one of the mothers of Rock-n- Roll. Rock a put together patchwork of permissions and categories. A pulling from the songs of Black Folks a tool of segregation for the music business that allowed White folks to claim their own category of music and pretend that it had nothing to do with the Black Music they had been listening to all along. This was moving along until Disco beat them back HA!

Seher Sikander

This reclamation project taking back and holding sonic space from the music industry is continuously on the rise. Koko Taylor’s pull from the inside out sonic declaration would snatch you out of your chair before you could stop yourself. Tina Turner who could sing anything and make it sound like it was something that was written just for her voice no matter who sang it first. Nona Hendryx’s voice and compositions with Labelle and later her own solo work. Betty Davis’s “Fuck you- this is what I do” attitude and ferocity.

Joan Armatrading weaving folk, Jazz, soul, rock flawlessly, innovative and boundless. Mother’s Finest Joyce Kennedy. The Legends and the new hang together Big Mabelle, Big Mama Thorton, Meshell Ndegeocello, Brittany Howard, X-Ray Specs, Allison Brown, Kat Dyson, SATE, The Skins, Tamar-kali, Skunk Anasie, Tetrach, Lavern Baker, The Objex, Dust Angel, Felicia Collins, Kat Dyson, Kimberly Nichole, and so many more. The Rock-n Roll, Punk, Metal, New Wave and whatever else you want to name or brand it is rooted in Black Voice attitude, musicality, and experience. Black Women have a particular narrative in this line.


We sit inside of every era and every innovation. There is a reason for a guitar that is electric, and amps that can broadcast that sound across a spectrum of sonic solutions. The microphone – A big ass PA. Speaker stacks taller than houses- Sound that travels miles past the crowd all the way across the land. This thing Rock- meets us in a good place. Expels the inside voice once hidden sets her free. Rock and Roll is a part of Black Woman’s Music.

Seher Sikander

The AFROPUNK 2018 Power Jam brings together some of today’s rising stars, established giants, and living legends to use their voices to shine an arch from the past to the now and turn to our future. Black Women intention makes clear that at this start of the 21st century we are fueling every aspect of living and connection to the earth. Our music is still our vibrating signature on the freedom line.