Music City celebrates the history, culture and sound of vernacular American music. But, until now, one vital aspect has been neglected: the seminal importance of 400 years of African American music. On Saturday, that will change with the opening of the National Museum of African American music.
The 56,000-square-foot facility will be an anchor tenant within the urban development known as Fifth + Broadway, located in the heart of Nashville. It is the only museum dedicated to educating, preserving and celebrating more than 50 music genres and styles that were created, influenced and/or inspired by African Americans. These include spirituals, blues, jazz, gospel, R&B and hip hop. Using artifacts, objects, memorabilia, clothing and state-of-the-art technology, each of the museum galleries is designed to share a different narrative and a unique perspective on African American music and history. The museum will tell the story of how a distinct group of people used their artistry to impact and change the world.
Galleries are organized chronologically and by genre. Museum visitors begin their NMAAM journey in the Roots Theater with an introductory film presentation that gives an overview of west and central African cultures and the institution of slavery. The presentation focuses on the evolution of becoming African American, with specific emphasis on the creation of new music traditions.
The Rivers of Rhythm corridor, the central spine of the museum experience, showcases the evolutions of African American music traditions. It features touch panel interactives and an animated timeline that links American history with American music history. Museum visitors will experience the early beginnings of American music with Southern religious and blues traditions, as well as the most contemporary R&B and hip-hop musical forms.
Wade in the Water immerses us in African American religious music, from indigenous African music that survived during slavery, to the formation of African American spirituals and hymns, to the “Golden Age of Gospel” in the 1940s–1960s and its commercial growth. Exploration includes the influence of gospel vocal groups on secular singing in doo-wop, R&B, and soul music, as well as the impact that religious music had throughout the 20th century and into the new millennium.
The Crossroads gallery chronicles the history and influence of the blues, whose humble origins are rooted in the work songs and field hollers sung by sharecroppers and lumber mill workers throughout the post-slavery period in the Deep South and the Mississippi Delta in the 19th century. As African Americans migrated from the rural South to urban cities in the North, they took the blues and other musical and cultural traditions with them. Museum visitors will encounter female blues singers who recorded “race records” in the 1920s, the influence of the blues on white country music, and the rock and roll sound of the 1950s. The narrative ends with a further look into contemporary blues and its modern masters, many of whom were a part of the Great Migration.
The Love Supreme gallery begins with the survival of African indigenous musical traditions in Congo Square in New Orleans and explores their influence on a new form of music emerging from the city in the 1900s that became known as “jazz.”
The One Nation Under A Groove gallery documents the history and influence of rhythm and blues, or R&B, which emerged in the years following the end of World War II.
The tour culminates with The Message, which explores the origins of both hip-hop and rap in the urban decay of New York’s South Bronx inner city.
After the museum opens to the public on January 30th, 2021, it will be open Saturdays and Sundays only through February. For ticket information, contact the museum at 615)488-3310 or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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