Musicians Discovering their African Roots

I recently saw Lisa Fischer (born December 1, 1958) for the fourth time at Koerner Hall in Toronto, Canada. 

 As usual, the American-born vocalist and songwriter knocked the sold-out audience out cold.

Fischer rose to fame as a backup vocalist for Luther Vandross, Tina Turner, Sting and the Rolling Stones.

She is also known for her 1991 Grammy Award winning smash single “How Can I Ease the Pain” and the 2013 Oscar winning film “20 Feet from Stardom.”

She joined other women like Darlene Love, Merry Clayton and Gloria Jones as unheralded backup singers.

Fischer is not just a marvel vocalist, but she is also a great storyteller.

She revealed during the set that she had recently taken the DNA test and found out that she is 70 percent Cameroonian. 

Fischer told the sold-out audience while she was performing that her African blood is from south of the Sahara.

Dr. Kwame Nkrumah maintained that the problem is not tribe but tribalism. I agree with Dr. Nkrumah.

After the show I told her that Cameroon was a huge part of the Black Radical Tradition. I explained that Ruben Um Nyobe, the creator of the  Union of the Peoples of Cameroon (UPC), was assassinated in September 1958 by the French army.

The UPC, founded on April 10, 1948, used armed struggle to obtain independence from French colonial rule.

After his death, he was replaced by Felix-Roland Moumié, who was assassinated by the French intelligence agency in Geneva in 1960. The French colonialist wiped out several of the UPC’s central committees.

I did not have enough time to tell her how Cameroon got its name. During the onslaught of colonialism, 15th century Portuguese explorer Fernando Po named the Wouri River Rio dos Camarões (shrimp river) after the many shrimps found in its waters.

Other musicians discovering their roots

Fischer and many of her vocalist peers were from Los Angeles and attended John Fremont and Jefferson High Schools. 

Dee Dee Bridgewater was born in Memphis and grew up in Flint, Michigan. She recently found out that she is Fulani.

According to a DNA analysis, Howard Hewitt of Shalamar is descended mainly from people of Guinea Bissau and from the Limba of Sierra Leone.

Donald Ray Johnson is on his way to Toronto where he will perform at the Maple Blues Awards at Koperner Hall on Monday, January 15, 2018. He is a Grammy Award-winning rhythm and blues vocalist and drummer.

Donald Johnson, Texas-born blues man is now based in Calgary, Canada. He won a Grammy in 1978 for best new artist as a member of the Los Angeles funk aggregation A Taste Of Honey, along with Janice M. Johnson, Perry Kibble and Hazel Payne. 

Johnson was nominated twice for the Maple Blues Award and was voted best male blues vocalist by Real Blues Magazine in 2007.

Johnson has toured with Teddy Pendergrass, The Isley Brothers, Phillip Walker, Big Mama Thornton and Smokey Wilson.

He took an early interest in music, as did his older sister, Janice Marie.

They sang in church and at family functions together, and at age seven, Donald became interested in the drums, beating on whatever he could get his hands on.

Forty years ago CHUM-AM was called out. They were the number one radio station in Toronto at that time. CHUM refused to play, “Float On” by the Floaters as was reported in the November 19, 1977 edition Billboard magazine.

CHUM was the number one radio station in Toronto and “Float On” was number 2 on the Billboard pop (white) chart.

David Farrell wrote: “Stations, Promoters Back Off: Canadian Airwaves Lack Soul.” I called them out in Contrast, a Black weekly.

This was years before Denham Jolly’s Flow, 93.5 Flow or Fitzroy Gordon’s G98.7FM. Only campus/community would touch black music or spoken word programming.

Peter Tosh and Prince Buster and the Black Radical Tradition

Peter Tosh and Prince Buster are a part of the Black Radical Tradition. Tosh was arrested in Kingston, Jamaica─when the Ian Smith regime declared independence in the rouge nation state of Rhodesia in 1965.

Prince Buster bailed him out. Buster led the demonstration but was not arrested.

I recently got this letter from Barbados from veteran vocalist Aubrey Mann, who happens to have been born in Gauyana:

 “Hi Otis, how are you my brother? Hope all is well.

“I just got back from Montreal where I had a fabulous show with Kevin Lyttle. I wanted to inform you that I’ll be celebrating 50 years in show business next year, therefore, if you’re still doing articles, I would like to give you the first opportunity at an interview.

“I am actually going on a 50th anniversary tour to Guyana, Barbados, New York, Tampa, Maryland, Atlanta, Montreal and hopefully Toronto. Let me know what you think.”


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