Celebrate soul all month long with More Than Rhythm: A Black Music Series
Multiple February events at the Columbia Museum of Art
January 17, 2023
Columbia, S.C. – The Columbia Museum of Art’s More Than Rhythm: A Black Music Series returns during Black History Month for a month-long Celebration of Soul, with programs including a free conversation and concert with The Mahoganëë Xperience, a free listening party with DJ Lady Marauder, and two film screenings.
Hosted by ethnomusicologist Dr. Birgitta Johnson, the series, now in its second season, takes attendees on a musical journey through multiple eras of Black musical expressions with live musical performances and intimate educational opportunities.
“In season two of More Than Rhythm, our musical journey through several eras of Black music continues with a month-long celebration of soul music at the Columbia Museum of Art,” says Dr. Johnson. “Each of our four events will include interactive components that take audiences back to the culture-shifting era of the 1960s and ’70s and the music that was the heartbeat of several artistic and sociopolitical movements.”
The Celebration of Soul kicks off on February 2 during Free First Thursday at the CMA with More Than Rhythm’s funk and soul listening party at 7:00 p.m. DJ Lady Marauder spins vinyl records that were the backdrop and heartbeat of the Black Film Renaissance of the 1960s and ’70s. She is joined by Dr. Johnson, who talks with the community about specific tracks and films that reflected the blossoming of Black dance music genres of that era and the soul aesthetics that propelled the music to the forefront of Black American culture and American social politics as a whole.
On Friday, February 3, at 7:00 p.m., the Celebration of Soul continues with More Than Rhythm: A Black Music Series Featuring The Mahoganëë Xperience. Mahoganëë is a South Carolina Lowcountry soul musician whose unique style, deemed “Funky Organik Soul,” is a blend of Southern soul, funk, jazz, blues, and hip-hop with African and Caribbean influences created by her husband, music producer André Amigér. After a conversation with Dr. Johnson, Mahoganëë performs with a full band, including reworkings of some familiar soul classics as well as music, poetry, and images from her recent album Textures of a Southern Soul (a Gullah Geechee Soul) Vol. 1.
“The Mahoganëë Xperience’s ‘Funky Organik Soul’ represents the diaspora rich flavors of soul music today,” says Dr. Johnson.
Rounding out the Celebration of Soul, More Than Rhythm offers two film screenings that are free with museum membership or admission. On Thursday, February 16, at 6:00 p.m., there is a screening of Soul to Soul (1971), a documentary capturing the story of Black American souls (re)connecting with Black West African souls through music. In March 1971, dozens of African American musicians traveled from New York City to Accra, Ghana, to perform at the Soul to Soul concert. Ultimately, the journey was about their personal roots, ancestral homeland, and history.
“Before there was WattStax or today’s Afrochella, there was Soul to Soul,” says Dr. Johnson. “Music legends Roberta Flack, Wilson Pickett, Santana, The Staples Singers, Ike & Tina Turner, and others traveled to Accra, Ghana, to perform an Independence Day concert with several Ghanaian artists at the famed Black Star Square.”
On Thursday, February 23, at 6:00 p.m., attendees can enjoy a screening of Claudine (1974), a romantic comedy with a social conscience starring Diahann Carroll (who earned an Oscar nomination for her performance), James Earl Jones, and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs. Praised for showing a new dimension in Black cinema during the height of blaxploitation, Claudine deftly balances warm humor with a serious look at the myriad issues — from cycles of poverty to the indignities of the welfare system — that shape its characters’ realities. The result is an empathetic chronicle of both Black working-class struggle and Black joy, a bittersweet, bighearted celebration of family and community set to a sunny soul soundtrack composed by Curtis Mayfield and performed by Gladys Knight & the Pips.
Series host 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.
Dr. Johnson’s 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, Dr. Johnson 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 USC she teaches courses on world music, hip-hop, the blues, African music, Black sacred music, Beyoncé, and the history of ethnomusicology.
Celebration of Soul programs:
- More Than Rhythm Listening Party
Thursday, February 2, 2023. 7:00 – 8:00 p.m. Free.
- More Than Rhythm: A Black Music Series Featuring The Mahoganëë Xperience
Friday, February 3, 2023. Galleries and bar open at 6:00 p.m. Conversation at 7:00 p.m. Concert at 8:00 p.m. Free.
- More Than Rhythm Film Screening: Soul to Soul
Thursday, February 16, 2023. 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Free with membership or admission.
- More Than Rhythm Film Screening: Claudine
Thursday, February 23, 2023. 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Free with membership or admission.
Presented by the Baker & Baker Foundation. This program has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom. This program is supported by a Connected Communities grant from Central Carolina Community Foundation. This program is supported by the Friends of African American Art & Culture and Love, Tito’s.
Lowcountry soul musician Mahoganëë performs February 3 (photo credit: Sancho Smalls).