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Sunday, September 11, 2016

MAMA AMELIA - founder of the Musical Messenger


to Amelia Tighlman - pronounced Tilman - founder of the Musical Messenger

Ahhh, Mama Amelia; so good to make your aquaintance. Good to know who the ancestor of my endeavour is. What I'm doing in 2016, is only a continuation of what you began, in 1886. I'm honoured to meet you Mama Amelia: Mother of the Black Music Magazine.

You were the first to enrich the world - through periodical - with the knowledge of our music. You flew into Montgomery, like an envoy of brilliance; our Musical Messenger. You wrote of Blind John Boone and Rachel Walker. You came to celebrate, what others didn't rate. Thankyou for the Musical Messenger: thankyou for the piece of treasure. Now I've met you, I won't forget you: introducing you to one and all. Proud to present my ancestor, Mama Amelia. To get yourself up on the colder mornings, out of the warm bag, did you give yourself a Scott Joplin tonic – did you listen to Champagne Rag?

Voices (chanted): Mama Amelia,
Hope you can you hear me.
We are saluting you,
From the 21st century.

I set up The Dub in June of this year, Mama Amelia. To tell the world of roots reggae, dub, rocksteady and ska; as the Messenger spoke of church music, spirituals, blues and rag. Just as you introduced your readers to composers from other genres, such as Beethoven and Mozart, I'm introducuing mine to the pioneering figures from another artform – that of journalism; such as that greatl monthly you produced, that crucial stepping stone. In the pages of your creation, you celebrated musicians of the aforementioned genres, as well as performers of opera, such as Nellie Mitchell: as I honour Burning Spear.

Enter our primma donnas. Let the parade begin. The first of the classicly-trained female singers from the Black community, some of whom were your fellow performers. Come in Marie Selika, come in Sissieretta Jones: step into the concert hall, after time in the Conservatory. But not all the trail blazing concert singers, were classicly-trained. Here comes one called Flora Batson Berger, who sings in her local church – and will sing for a Pope in the Vatican. Behind her is Annie Pauline Pindell, known nationwide as the ''Black Nightingale''. Amelia Tighlman will see to it, that they do not go unnoticed: that they are given their due respect.

They sang in Carnegie Hall, as well as the White House – and always in the places of worship. Worldwide they went, including Europe. Marie Selika, gave an 1883 concert, to Queen Victoria. But racism darkened their potential:limiting their places of performance and the length of their careers.

If the mainstream press won't, Amelia Tilghman will. She shall see that your work is given recognition and remembered.

Resting at midday, after the morning's exertions and labour, did you take some time out for a Scott Joplin treat – did you listen to Bethena?

Voices (chanted): Mama Amelia,
Hope you can you hear me.
We are saluting you,
From the 21st century.

In April earlier this year, looking through the five music magazines in the Truck Shop on the Cowley Road – the main thoroughfare in East Oxford – I once again noticed that none of them featured Black music: roots reggae a rare occurance. As you deduced Mama Amelia, its time to start our own.

It is a free magazine, edited by myself. Technical assistance has come from Kalum Charles, Stephanie Alexander and Tecza. Like the Musical Messenger, as well as articles and poetry, there is information and reviews.

Your magazine has given us a souvenir, of late 19th/early 20th century Black musical achievement. When no one did - you did.

Concert pianist, singer and producer: another recipient of the Conservatory. Yet you told us of the field holler, as well as La Traviata: you told us of each other. You came to educate, to shed light: to enrich.

Ahhh Mama Amelia: blessed be the cities of Montgomery and Washington. Let all the museums and cultural centres in those cities, mount exhibitions of your life and work; let them study you, in the courses on Black and Music Journalism; let your name be mentioned, when they talk of female role models; let there be festivals of culture, where homage is paid to you, verbally and visually; let there be scholarships founded in your name.

What you gave us in the 19th century, is still relevent in this one. I thank you again for the stepping stone, iridescent in the murky waters. I remember W.C Handy, I remember Harry Burleigh.

As the day begins to sleep, relaxing to Weeping Willow, has me thinking that maybe you listened to Scott Joplin, while watching the evening glow?

Voices (chanted): Mama Amelia,
Hope you can you hear me.
We are saluting you,
From the 21st century. 

                                                                                      (c) Natty Mark Samuels, 2016, The Dub.

Natty Mark Samuels
Social Media: Facebook

Check out: 
Celebrating the early Black journalists and roots reggae songwriters
written by Natty Mark on Reggaediscography

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