The Set List

S1 E6 | FULL EPISODE

Imani Uzuri -- Wild Cotton at BRIC JazzFest

Come to the foot of the stage with live performances, exclusive back-stage access and in-depth artist interviews with The Set List. In this episode we experience and learn about “Wild Cotton,” vocalist, composer, and cultural worker Imani Uzuri’s improvisational conceptual project exploring the undocumented soundscapes of enslaved Black American ancestors.

AIRED: April 03, 2019 | 0:26:47
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

♪ Sometimes I feel like a motherless child ♪

♪ A long ways from home

♪ A long ways from home ♪

My name is Imani Uzuri.

I'm a vocalist, composer, and cultural worker,

and a cultural worker is someone who uses art

to support social change,

resistance, resilience, revolution.

♪ I'm almost gone, I'm almost gone ♪

♪ I'm almost gone, I'm almost gone ♪

♪ I'm almost gone, I'm almost gone ♪

"WILD COTTON" is a conceptual improvisational project

that deals with thinking about the undocumented soundscapes

of enslaved African-Americans on this continent.

♪ A longs ways

♪ A long

♪ A long ways

♪ A long

♪ I'm almost gone, I'm almost gone ♪

And thinking about the types of music

that came out of the pain, the joy, the testimony,

so it's this conceptual project that is allowing me to honor

the ghosts, these ancestral ghosts

and the way that we're still haunted.

♪ Ooh

I think of people like, you know, Harriet Jacobs

who literally lived under a crawl space

on the plantation that she was enslaved.

♪ Ooh

Harriet Tubman, you know,

and all the named and unnamed people in the fields

and houses and the backwoods,

and how did sonics play in helping them

maintain some type of strength?

That's part of the inspiration for me,

this idea of using sound, percussion, vocals,

tambourine to create a whole soundscape.

The great Marcus Gilmore, drummer, is joining me tonight,

and he's done the project with me a couple of times,

and it's just amazing to work with him.

His musicality of when he plays the drums

is just really phenomenal,

and the melody that he actually brings out on the drums,

the way he tunes his drums.

His sonics are a ways to kind of think through how we survived

and how we are still surviving.

♪♪

I grew up in a small town in rural North Carolina,

and I would attend church, you know,

small rural Baptist church with my grandmother

and my mother and my extended family,

and so I grew up singing African-American spirituals,

and I grew up in the tradition of what they call long-metered

hymns or line-singing so that

very much informed my idea of kind of a euphony of sounds.

♪♪

♪ Steal away

One of the spirituals that you will probably hear for sure,

a melodic motif sneaking in, is "Steal Away."

♪ Steal away

♪ Steal away

♪ Oh, steal away home

♪ Steal away

♪ Steal away

♪ Oh

♪ Oh

♪ Oh

♪ Away

You know, the spirituals were, like, coded,

so it could sound like they're talking about,

you know, a completely kind of

separated spiritual kind of opportunity,

to steal away and go pray, but it's also coded to say,

"Steal away," like escape, you know?

And so you'll hear...

You know, the texts that I'm singing, some of the words

will definitely be interpolations of these texts

and the melodies of this body of music

we call African-American spirituals.

♪ Ohh

♪ Ohhh

"WILD COTTON" is improvised with a thesis in mind

because I'm thinking about these modalities.

I'm thinking about the spiritual, so you, you know,

the audience, will hear elements of the melodic lines

from some of the spirituals.

I use some of the cultural vocal strategies

that are very much prevalent in Black American sound,

guttural sounds, the moans, the melismas...

[ Vocalizing ]

♪ Ooh

♪ Ah

...as well as screams and moans.

[ High-pitched scream ]

♪ Ahhhh

Improvisation is one of the aspects of jazz

that's very important, you know,

and especially coming out of a Black-American tradition

or African diaspora for a tradition.

Improvisation is embedded

in a lot of the forms that have come out,

you know, from jazz to rock to soul to blues.

♪ Oh

♪ True believer

It's conceptual, so it's not about,

"I'm singing a song."

It's like, "Really, we're going to go on this journey,

and this is the thesis,"

and the audience just needs to be with us,

or they will be with us. I will bring them with us.

We'll invocate them to come.

We'll invocate the spirits, these ancestral spirits

to be present with us and be a witness as we remember.

♪ True believer

♪ A long ways from home

A lot of my music and conceptual work

is steeped in a particular type

of historical understanding of things,

and so I wanted to have an even more stronger foundation

on the types of topics that I like to talk about,

the sharpest themes in my various projects.

I just got a master's in African-American Studies

from Columbia, so in general,

my work is always kind of thinking

about this kind of ancestral haunting,

and "WILD COTTON" specifically

is dealing with the soundscape of this legacy.

[ Vocalizing ]

I want my art to be healing.

I want my art to be cathartic.

I want people to have an opportunity

to transform in the moment.

I want to be transformed.

I want the people I'm collaborating

with to feel transformed,

to take us to a new place or to be more present

for the place that we're already in or to transfer an old place

or to look at an old place in a new way.

♪ Ahhh

I continue to develop my skill set as I live

and work in the world of my art form.

[ Tambourine jingles ]

[ Drum beating ]

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪ Steal

♪ Steal

♪ Steal

♪ Ah, ah, ah

♪ Away

♪ Steal

♪ Steal

♪ Steal away

♪ Steal away

♪ Steal away

♪ Steal away

♪ Steal away

♪ Steal away

♪ Steal away

♪ Steal away

♪ Steal away

♪ Steal away

♪ Steal away

♪ Steal away, steal away, steal away, steal away ♪

♪ Steal away, steal away, steal away, steal away ♪

♪ Steal away, steal away, steal away, steal away ♪

♪ Away, away, away, away, away ♪

♪ Away, away, away, away, away ♪

♪ Away, away, away, away, away ♪

♪ Oh, oh, oh, oh

♪ Oh, oh, oh, oh ♪

♪ Oh, oh

[ Vocalizing ]

♪♪

♪♪

[ Continues vocalizing ]

♪ Ohhhhh

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪ Ahhhhh

♪ Ahhhhh

♪ Ah, hee

♪ Ah, hee

♪ Ah, hee

♪ Ah, hee

♪ Ooh

♪ Ooh

♪ Ooh-ooohh

♪ Oh

♪ Hooo

♪ Ooh

♪ Ooh

♪ Ooh

♪ Ooh

♪ Ooh

♪ Oh, ooh, hee

♪ Oh, ooh, hee

♪ Oh

♪ Oh

♪ Ooh

♪ Ooh

♪ Ooh

♪ Ooh

♪ Ah

♪♪

[ Breathing rhythmically ]

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪ Ah

♪ Ooh, ooh

♪ Ahhh

♪ Ahh

♪ Oooh

♪ Oooh

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪ True

♪ True

♪ True

♪ True

♪ True believer

♪ True believer

♪ A long ways from home

♪ True believer

♪ True believer

♪ A long ways from home

♪ Sometimes, I feel like a motherless child ♪

♪ Sometimes, I feel like a motherless child ♪

♪ Sometimes, I feel like a motherless child ♪

♪ A long ways from home

♪ A long ways from home ♪

♪ Sometimes, I feel like I'm almost gone ♪

♪ I'm almost gone, I'm almost gone ♪

♪ I'm almost gone, I'm almost gone ♪

♪ I'm almost gone, I'm almost gone ♪

♪ I'm almost gone, I'm almost gone ♪

♪ I'm almost gone, I'm almost gone ♪

♪ I'm almost gone, I'm almost gone ♪

♪ I'm almost gone, I'm almost gone ♪

♪ I'm almost gone, I'm almost gone ♪

♪ I'm almost gone, I'm almost gone ♪

♪ I'm almost gone, I'm almost gone ♪

♪ I'm almost gone

♪ A long ways

♪ A long

♪ A long ways

♪ A long

♪ A long ways

♪ A long

♪ A long ways

♪ A long

♪ I'm almost gone, I'm almost gone ♪

♪ I'm almost gone, I'm almost gone ♪

♪ I'm almost gone, I'm almost gone ♪

♪ I'm almost gone, I'm almost gone ♪

♪ I'm almost gone, I'm almost gone ♪

♪ I'm almost gone, I'm almost gone ♪

♪ I'm almost gone, I'm almost gone ♪

♪ True

♪ True

♪ Believer

♪ Ooh, ah

♪ Oh, yeah

♪ I'm almost gone

♪ I'm almost gone

♪ I'm almost gone

♪ I'm almost gone

♪ True believer

♪ I'm almost gone

♪ Oh, I'm almost gone

♪ Oh, I'm almost gone ♪

♪ Oh, I'm almost gone

♪ True believer

♪ Ah

[ Vocalizing ]

♪♪

♪♪

[ Continues vocalizing ]

♪ Almost gone

♪ I'm almost gone

♪ I'm almost, I'm almost, I'm almost gone ♪

♪ I'm almost gone, I'm almost gone ♪

♪ I'm almost, I'm almost, I'm almost ♪

♪ I'm almost, I'm almost, I'm almost ♪

[ Vocalizing ]

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

[ Screaming rhythmically ]

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪ Almost gone

♪ I'm almost

♪ Almost gone

♪ I'm almost gone

♪ Ah

♪ Almost gone

♪ Almost gone

♪ Almost gone

♪ Ah

♪ Almost gone

♪ Ah

♪ Ah

♪♪

♪ Ah

♪♪

♪ Ah

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

Woo!

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪ Almost gone

♪ Almost gone

♪ Almost gone

♪ Almost gone

♪ Ah

♪ Almost gone

[ Vocalizing ]

♪♪

[ Stops vocalizing ]

♪♪

[ Screaming rhythmically ]

♪♪

[ Continues screaming rhythmically ]

♪♪

♪♪

[ Continues screaming rhythmically ]

♪♪

♪ Hush

♪ Hush

♪ Hush

♪ Hush

♪ Hush

♪ Hush

♪ Hush

♪ Hush

♪ Hush

♪ Hush

♪ Hush

♪ Hush

♪ Somebody is calling

♪ Hush

♪ Hush

♪ Somebody is calling

♪ Hush

♪ Hush

♪ Hush

♪ Hush

♪ Hush

♪ Hush

♪ Hush

♪ Hush

♪ Hush, hush

♪ Hush, hush

♪ Hush, hush

♪ Hush, hush

♪ Hush, hush

♪ Hush, hush

♪ Hush, hush

♪ Hush, hush, hush

♪ Hush, hush, hush ♪

♪ Hush, hush, hush

♪ Hush, hush, hush ♪

♪ Hush, hush, hush

♪ Hush, hush, hush ♪

♪ Hush, hush, hush

♪ Hush, hush, hush ♪

♪ Hush, hush, hush

♪ Hush, hush, hush ♪

♪ Hush, hush, hush

♪ Hush, hush, hush ♪

♪ Hush, hush, hush

♪ Hush, hush, hush ♪

♪ Hush, hush, hush

♪ Hush, hush, hush ♪

♪ Hush, hush, hush

♪ Hush, hush, hush ♪

♪ Hush, hush, hush

♪ Hush, hush, hush, hush, hush, hush ♪

♪ Hush, hush, hush, hush, hush, hush ♪

[ Breathing rhythmically ]

♪♪

♪♪

[ Continues breathing rhythmically ]

♪ Hush, hush, hush, hush, hush, hush ♪

♪ Hush, hush, hush, hush, hush, hush ♪

♪ Hush, hush, hush, hush, hush, hush ♪

♪ Hush, hush, hush, hush, hush, hush ♪

♪ Hush, hush, hush, hush, hush, hush ♪

♪ Hush, hush, hush

♪ Hush, hush, hush ♪

♪ Hush, hush, hush

♪ Hush

♪ Hush

♪ Hush

♪ Hush

♪ Hush

♪ Hush

[ Whispering ] ♪ Somebody

♪ Somebody hush

♪ Somebody hush

♪ Somebody hush

♪ Somebody hush

♪ Somebody hush

♪ Somebody hush

♪ Somebody hush

♪ Somebody hush

♪ Somebody hush

♪ Somebody hush

♪ Somebody hush

♪ Somebody hush

♪ Somebody hush

♪ Somebody hush

♪ Somebody hush

♪ Somebody hush

♪ Somebody hush

[ Applause ]

Marcus Gilmore on drums.

My name is Imani Uzuri.

Thank y'all. "WILD COTTON."

♪ Ooh, ooh, ooh

♪ Ooh, ooh, ooh

[ Vocalizing ]

♪♪

♪♪

[ Continues vocalizing ]

♪♪

♪♪

[ Continues vocalizing ]

STREAM THE SET LIST ON

  • ios
  • apple_tv
  • android
  • roku
  • firetv

FEATURED PROGRAMS

Wyld Ryce
WQED Sessions
WLIW21 Specials
We Sing
Under a Minute
UNC-TV Arts
Tree of Life: A Concert for Peace and Unity
Tis the Night with Ben Folds & Friends
The Lowertown Line
The Jazz Ambassadors
The Experience with Dedry Jones
Sunshine Blues
State of the Arts
Stage Players
Southland Sessions