February has been a busy month for Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Professor of Music Guthrie P. Ramsey, Jr. He commented in the national media on the death of music legend Whitney Houston, composed a musical tribute called Art Songs in the Kingdom of Culture to help commemorate the award of an Honorary Emeritus Professorship to W.E.B Du Bois and celebrated the official release of his latest album, The Colored Waiting Room.
In his new album, Ramsey explores the notion of the Colored Waiting Rooms, a Jim Crow-era holding place for black passengers as they waited to board public transportation. Historically, the rooms served as a type of containment for African Americans, but Ramsey says the rooms also served as spaces where black citizens were free to be themselves.
The freedom of identity black citizens expressed in the waiting rooms is echoed in the unrestrained nature of the album itself. “The music here, like any identity in the Colored Waiting Rooms, is not restricted and refuses to pin itself down to a specific genre,” says Ramsey.
With Art Songs in the Kingdom of Culture, Dr. Ramsey focused again on the past. “This project evokes the Negro spiritual tradition. Both Art Songs in the Kingdom of Culture and The Colored Waiting Room focus on the same spirit of engaging the past,” Ramsey says.
Watch below as Dr. Ramsey performs “Nobody’s Fault but Mine,” which is one part of Art Songs in the Kingdom of Culture. He is accompanied on saxophone by Garry Bertholf, a doctoral student in the Center for Africana Studies.