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Black music represents one of the oldest and broadest rivers that pours into America’s sonic ocean. Whether it be in pop or rock, classical or hip-hop, the history that the music of Black Americans affirms is key to its enduring popularity and influence across lines of race, gender, age, class, and even language. 

More Than Rhythm: A Black Music Series aims to tell stories of that influence and celebrate the ways music has historically brought us together. Hosted by ethnomusicologist Dr. Birgitta Johnson, this series takes you on a musical journey through several eras of Black musical expressions. Through live musical performances and intimate educational opportunities, audiences will find common ground and nurture a deep appreciation of Black music traditions. 

Over the next two years, join the Columbia Museum of Art and Dr. Johnson to explore different subjects, genres, and conversations. All experiences take place at the CMA and involve -renowned musicians, cultural scholars, community discussion, and the celebration of Black music!

Presented by the Baker & Baker Foundation.

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Meet Birgitta J. Johnson 

Birgitta J. Johnson, Ph.D, is a jointly appointed associate professor of ethnomusicology in the School of Music and African American Studies Program at the University of South Carolina. Her research interests include music in African American churches, musical change and identity in Black popular music, and community archiving. She has published articles in the Black Music Research Journal, Ethnomusicology Forum, Liturgy, Oxford Bibliographies in African American Studies, and the Grove Dictionary of American Music

Her most recent publications include a chapter about 21st-century gospel archiving in The Oxford Handbook of Musical Repatriation, a chapter about gospel remixes of Beyoncé songs in Beyoncé in the World: Making Meaning with Queen Bey in Troubled Times, and sacred themes in the music of Outkast in An OutKast Reader: Essays on Race, Gender, and the Postmodern South. She has been quoted or featured in media and news outlets such as Rolling Stone Magazine, NPR, Vox, Public Radio International, and South Carolina ETV. 

A multi-instrumentalist and singer, she has performed professionally and/or recorded with artists and ensembles from a variety of genres including the Southeast Symphony Orchestra of Metropolitan Los Angeles, the Gospel Music Workshop of America, Francisco Aguabella’s AfroCuban Folkloric Group, and the ESPY Awards with Justin Timberlake, The O’Jays, Yolanda Adams, Talib Kweli, and BeBe Winans. At UofSC she teaches courses on world music, hip-hop, the blues, African music, Black sacred music, Beyoncé, and the history of ethnomusicology.

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Upcoming Performances