In a recent post on the company’s blog, Bandcamp announced that on June 19 (known as Juneteenth), it would be taking measures to give additional support to the cause of fighting racial injustice and inequity. Today, the streaming and sales platform (which is often defined by its particular alignment with musicians’ interests and success) will be donating 100% of its music sales revenue (“from midnight to midnight PDT”) to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Bandcamp has also committed to making this Juneteenth donation annually.
If you’re looking to not only support the NAACP LDF but also directly support Black art, it makes the most sense to focus your purchasing power on the music of Black artists today. It goes without saying that this is only a very small list, but the selection you’ll find below are merely a few suggestions for great music made by Black musicians in Chicago (specifically those who have music available for purchase on Bandcamp). Some of it is new, some of it is not; some of the artists have been featured on AudPod, and some haven’t. This is simply meant to be a tiny, tiny beginning of the work that white musicians, podcasters, writers, etc., have to do in amplifying Black voices and art; it's only a jumping off point from which hopefully people can discover more of the excellent work that Black artists in Chicago (and everywhere, really) have been doing.
We can’t fix systemic racism simply by including more Black work in our conversations about and presentations of art, but I believe it is one component in a larger effort to not only create a more equitable society, but also to actively celebrate the lives and work of our Black colleagues. To assert that they matter is only the bare minimum.
Seth is not just an excellent cellist, but actively collaborates with composers and other artists, commissions new works, and is always contributing in new and interesting ways to the contemporary music landscape. If you haven’t heard about his ICED BODIES project yet, do yourself a favor and check it out— it’s just one example of the great work he does. His 2016 Bandcamp release asinglewordisnotenough gets its name from Pierre Alexandre Tremblay’s piece “asinglewordisnotenough3 (invariant),” which uses the sounds of Seth’s cello-playing as a single source from which to build a larger, immersive sound world populated by electronic crackles, squeaking scratch tones, and low, almost pitchless bellows.
Gathering his knowledge and experience of classical, jazz, contemporary classical, and commercial music together into his own genre-defying musical identity, Julian has been creating and contributing to spaces where Black music can thrive and flourish. In sessions recorded in both in Chicago and at the Banff Centre, he collaborated with fellow Chicago improvisers as well as other contemporary musicians at Banff to create All the Pretty Flowers— an avant-garde tapestry of emotional release, spoken word, and sonic surprise.
Calling the songs on this album “bed songs,” Tasha has created an aural space of rest and rejuvenation for those wishing for and fighting for a better world. For all the warriors of love and freedom,“Take Care” (a spoken word piece) reminds you to, well…take care; the beautiful “Kind of Love” might remind you that love can take you by surprise, and the optimism that comes with it is worth protecting. In addition to this 2018 release, Tasha has released recent singles “But There’s Still the Moon” and “Bed Song 1 (Demo).” They are both in a similarly dreamy, gentle vein, but “Bed Song” uses the slightly earthier sound of an acoustic guitar, and 50% of the proceeds from its sale are being donated to the Chicago Community Bond Fund.
Released on June 5 of this year, Black Plight is an EP created partly to raise money for eatChicago and Assata’s Daughters— it also happens to be a really amazing trio of songs whose lyrics speak directly to the experience of being Black in America and suffering violence at the hands of police. We already knew that NNAMDÏ was great from releases like the recent album BRAT, but this new EP is an unapologetic musical condemnation of the modern-day racism woven into the fabric of our society, AND it supports two important Chicago organizations.
The duo created by Indigo Finamore and Manae Hammond juxtaposes sounds of nature and electronic sound effects over synth pads and thick percussive tracks on this first EP. The pair tend to subscribe to a philosophy of "more is more" when it comes to making music, and the extensive work they put into their lyrics combined with the complex layering of so many sounds reflects that. Even if the almost Mariah Carey-reminiscent birdsong at the top of the first track doesn't hook you, the intriguing and imaginative production that follows will.
This is a collaboration between Ben LaMar Gay and JayVe Montgomery released on Bandcamp (via International Anthem) on Juneteenth of last year. The album is a true sonic journey of improvisation and experimentation between two extremely imaginative artists. “Freedom (Juneteenth Theme)” sets the album on a straightforward, strong beginning that provides no hints as to the surprises in store in other tracks like “Freedom Day,” which creates a kaleidoscopic intertwining of electronic and acoustic sounds, and the jaunty, not-altogether-comfortable groove of “Jubilee.” This is an album that only gets more exciting and more intriguing with each listening.