by Anthony R. Green
In anticipation of Castle of our Skins’s “From the Motherland” project this June, BIBA would like to bring your attention to the incredible world of Emahoy Tsegué‑Maryam Guèbrou ፅጌ ማርያም ገብሩ. Pan African Music published a fascinating article about her in January, which was shared with Castle of our Skins by our friend Bongani Ndodana-Breen, a fantastic scholar and composer from South Africa. In this article, one can dive into Ms. Emahoy Guèbrou’s rollercoaster of a life, which includes studying violin and piano in Switzerland as a child, becoming a prisoner of war, further studying music in Egypt, being supported by Emperor Haile Selassie, releasing her first album in her 40s, speaking 7 languages, and more. Her story and accomplishments form yet another example of a talent whose ethnicity, geography, and skin color most likely contributed to her position within the greater music world.
After reading this article, I remembered that this year was not the first time I came across the life and music of this quiet Ethiopian genius. 5 years after graduating from the New England Conservatory of Music (where Ashe and I first met!!), another classmate of mine – Mary Sutton – released the above video and shared her research and interactions with Ms. Guèbrou. Sutton considers Guèbrou “the most unique pianist of our time”, and I cannot agree with her more. Throughout YouTube, a simple search of Emahoy Tsegué‑Maryam Guèbrou will result in numerous videos of her playing her compositions and some of her albums. The search will also reveal some of the upcoming videos of other pianists performing Ms. Emahoy Tsegué‑Maryam Guèbrou’s compositions, one of whom is the focus of the PAM article, the Israeli pianist and sound artist Maya Dunietz. We here at Castle of our Skins highly suggest spending some time in this intimate world. YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT!
This week, Castle of our Skins turned our Instagram over to the Black Student Union (BSU) at the Longy School of Music of Bard College! Read more about their organization and check out our Instagram @castleskins to learn more about the Black conservatory student experience in 2021.
The Longy Black Student Union exists to serve as a place 1) of fellowship for students and alumni of the Longy School of Music of Bard College, 2) to raise awareness for minorities (especially from the African diaspora), 3) to foment and moderate open discussions on any and all topics related to race, diversity, socio-economic status, gender, inclusion, and intersectionality, 4) to promote and celebrate the accomplishments of Black creatives, and 6) to curate events that highlight elements of the Black experience.
We were founded in 2019 by twelve students and staff members who noticed that Black students within the Longy community needed additional support in navigating the classical realm as well as the Cambridge/Boston area. We anticipate that our current membership of fifteen will double within the next couple of years as we prepare to welcome more Black immigrant students through Longy’s international programs and more Black American students through Longy’s partnership with Alabama State University.
Despite the difficulty of the pandemic, we have been able to continue virtual programming around issues like Black agency within Black music, connecting across the Afro-diaspora, and healing Black trauma. We hope that we will be able to open back up to more in-person programming opportunities one day soon. Until then we enjoy bi-weekly check-ins concerning the wellness of our members and monthly conversations with the Longy community at-large.
Castle of our Skins is seeking out our second Shirley Graham Du Bois Creative-in-Residence! This program – funded through a generous donation from Arlene and Larry Dunn – kicked off its inaugural year for our 8th season, with the stunning Tanyaradzwa Tawengwa at the helm. Nobody could have predicted the drastic change in the world, but Tanyaradzwa handled these changes with the same dignity, grace, and enthusiasm she takes into every project. Creating an incredible video for out “Black Love” project, prepping for curation and performance for our “From the Motherland” project, leading an educational workshop, gearing up to write BIBA Blogs, and more, Castle of our Skins has undeniably benefited from Tanyaradzwa, and her artistry will have a strong impact on us for years to come!
Would you like to collaborate with Castle of our Skins in this capacity or in other creative efforts? Do you know someone who would benefit from this collaboration? Then check out the call HERE, and act quickly as the application deadline is MAY 5TH! While you can read the details of the call on the official page, this blog post is to provide a bit of extra information to the mix. And, of course, if you and any of your friends and colleagues have any specific questions about this opportunity, please don’t hesitate to e-mail us at info [at] castleskins [dot] org!
1) This position is open to any creative artist. In our history, Castle of our Skins has worked with visual artists, spoken word artists, fashion designers, culinary artists, interdisciplinary artists, dancers, historians, writers, transmedia artists, and more. IF YOU ARE A CREATIVE ARTIST UNDER 40 YEARS OLD WORKING IN ANY GENRE OF ARTISTIC CREATIVITY, THIS OPPORTUNITY IS FOR YOU!
2) Castle of our Skins has a clear mission : we are dedicated to celebrating Black Artistry through Music. Therefore, if you are applying to this opportunity, be sure to be prepared to clearly explain (in your proposal and in any interview) how your practice fits with our mission.
3) Last year, we had and gladly accepted applicants working in photography, documentary film, music composition, music performance, music improvisation, philosophy and performance art, and more. Many of the applicants were interdisciplinary artists, combining music with visual art, photography with dance, and more. We encourage thinking outside the box!
4) Do we have any pre-conceived expectations of what the second Shirley Graham Du Bois Creative-in-Residence (CiR) will do for Castle of our Skins? Yes and no, but mostly no! We expect the new CiR to write at least three BIBA Blog posts, be available for consultation, and design/curate some projects with Castle of our Skins. But, as you can imagine, there is a high amount of creative freedom in this position! And also remember that the $1,ooo honorarium is SEPARATE from additional curational and project-related fees that will develop throughout the season.
Hopefully these additional tips and tidbits will encourage you to apply or encourage you to send this call to the creative people in your life. We look forward to receiving and reading as many applications as possible, and selecting our second annual Shirley Graham Du Bois Creative-in-Residence!
by Anthony R. Green
Happy Easter, to all who celebrate!
Today’s BIBA Blog post is, admittedly, the furthest post away from Castle of our Skins’s mission of “Celebrating Black Artistry through Music” as this post is about the compositions and music artistry of indigenous composers. While these composers are not Black or belonging to the African diaspora, the past four years have seen a massive increase in hate crimes against MANY peoples of diverse cultural backgrounds and abilities. 2021 has been particularly focused on the massive increase in hate crimes against the AAPI community, and it is incredible that people are speaking out against such hate crimes. It is important for humanity to come together in support and community. That is why Castle of our Skins is taking this moment to acknowledge the injustice against many diverse peoples, and using this particular blog space to uplift the Native American community, a community often left out of many conversations concerning equality, justice, and freedom.
Recently, our neighbors at Shelter Music Boston have started to release videos from their “Voices from the Land” project, focusing on mostly young Native American composers. They include Xavier Ben, Sialik King, Gemal Benallie, Arika Morningstar, Christina Shupla, Gregory Cortez, Sage Bond, Dennalia Stevens, Thylia Yazzie, Cina Curley, and Damien Jones, and they were mentored by Michael Begay and Raven Chacon (who I had the pleasure of meeting in 2019 in Omaha, NE). This project is in collaboration with the Native American Composers Apprentice Project (NACAP), which is a nationally recognized program that has shared the art of composition with many indigenous youth. In these videos, you’ll also hear the beautiful violin playing of a friend of Castle of our Skins, Annegret Klaua! And remember to keep this blog in mind on August 9th, which is International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, October 12th, which is Indigenous Peoples Day (started in 1992), and November, which is Native American Heritage Month.
Check out this project from Shelter Music Boston HERE, and enjoy your own exploration into the music of Native American Composers!
Writings, musings, photos, links, and videos about Black Artistry of ALL varieties! Feel free to drop a comment or suggestions for posts!