Rosephayne Powell releases first album Motherless Child
By Elzena Rankins
Powell recaptures African American Spirituals
In the midst of Black History Month we must go back in time in order to truly understand who we are and what we have endured. We must think back before Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa parks and all the other notable men and women who stood up and fought for a better life for blacks. However; we must go back and think about the first blacks who helped pave the way…Slaves.
African Americans were the first slaves, taken from their country to serve another. Slaves were thought of and treated like cattle, beat and belittled, stripped of their integrity, freedom and were treated as property. Freedom was always on the minds of enslaved Africans, how to gain that freedom was the question. Because slaves were forbidden from speaking their native language that would enforce them to communicate secretly, slaves developed a type of coding called spirituals. Spirituals were songs that held subliminal messages. These spirituals helped lead the way to free many slaves.
Now with more than fifteen years of researching African American Spirituals and a long resume of music expertise ranging from a Doctorate degree in Music for Vocal performance to being a Professor in voice in the department of Music at Alabama’s Auburn University, Dr. Rosephanye Powell is finally releasing her first album, Motherless Child.
(Inkhorn Music) Motherless Child is a ten song album mix of R&B, urban, gospel and jazz that touches upon an intimate look at slavery through song using African American Spirituals.
African American Spirituals was music slaves used to secretly speak to each other.
Powell says that because slave holders believed that slaves knew nothing about God, slaveholders would allow slaves to go to their church, however the intention was to Christianize slaves and use the bible against them to say that Paul said slaves were to be subject to their masters, they used those very scriptures to say slaves should not to revolt or try make their way to freedom, said Powell. So because they were able to speak about the bible that’s when spirituals developed. Songs like, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, “Wade in the Water” and “The gospel Train” were all songs that had subliminal messages.
Those songs to the slaveholders were just passages from the bible but on the other hand to the slaves that were codes that were either signal songs that someone is coming for them or map songs for an opportunity to escape. This was the only way slaves had an opportunity to communicate with each other in front of their masters without their master understanding what they were actually talking about. Heaven meant escape to the North and Jesus meant the conductor of the escape.
In Powell’s album she refers back to the Spirituals, the album is more than music, but it is an educational enlightening experience, said Powell.
“Motherless Child will take the listener on a musical journey into American slavery from Africa to America. The ten tracks are a tapestry of music, narratives and drama that provides insight into the heartaches, pains, joys, and hopes of the slave community,” said Powell.
Throughout the album you can actually feel and understand what it was like to be a slave just by listening to the music. Powell expressively pours her heart out as she emotionally sings the songs of our hurtful past. When asked in one word to describe the album, Powell passionately responded back as, “Provocative. However, I use it in a positive sense in it makes people think, and I think that music that is worth listening to and it goes beyond the superficial is music that makes one think about who they are, what their purpose is in life, where they are planning to go and what they want to leave behind.”
Powell believes that Spirituals were songs that enabled slaves to develop a sense of community, and are considered by many anthropologists to be the first true American Folksong. Powell said with the release of her first album she wants to speak to their minds, while at the same time encourage young people to look back to history for the strength to succeed and achieve in today’s society.”
When asked why did she choose Motherless Child as the title of her album, Powell responded back that, “it depicts the feelings slaves had when their loved ones were sold away, something to which every slave could relate to” Motherless Child is not only the title of her album, but the name of one of her songs on the album. Powell believes that the song was a shared expression of heartache that provided a sense of community for slaves, so I felt that it was the perfect theme for the project,” said Powell
I believe that the African American community can move forward as we appreciate our heritage and pass on to our children and all the wonderful accomplishment of our forefathers, including the strength and courage to overcome slavery, said Powell.
Powell’s Inspiration for the Album was due to the fact that, ” many African Americans do not embrace the spiritual or do not consider it relevant to the times in which they live; others are ashamed of it; and still others just see it as old music, however we still use coding today, said Powell, we hear rappers on the radio using types of code and we are trying to understand what they are talking about, even when we are at home or in our comfort zone we talk Ebonics and there are people who want to understand what we are talking about, that all originates back to spirituals, keeping out those who do not need to know, said Powell.
Powell connects slavery and blacks today using the phrase, ‘back in the day slaves were enslaved physically but not enslaved mentally, however we as blacks today are free physically but enslaved mentally because we do not know who we are, Powell suggest that listening to the album Motherless Child will give African Americans a better idea of who they are and where they come from.
Motherless Child CDs and MP3 downloads are available online at cdbaby.com, iTunes, Rhapsody and Amazon.com.
For additional information about Motherless Child please contact Edna or Damian Bruce at 310-827-9727 or www.inkhornmusic.com