Ben Hunter Photo by Amber Zbitnoff
Sunday, February 25, 7:30pm
The Hillman City Collaboratory
5623 Rainier Ave S
$15 / $18 at the door
South Seattle’s Hillman City Collaboratory welcomes noted activist, author, historian, theologian, documentary filmmaker, and performer Rev. Osagyefou Sekou on February 25, with an opening performance by local artists Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons.
Last year, Rev. Sekou released his debut musical project, In Times Like These, “an honest testament to the rural folkloric roots of black music” (All About Jazz). For this record, he returned to his Southern home searching for his family’s musical roots in the deep Arkansas blues and gospel traditions. Produced by six-time Grammy nominated Luther Dickinson and his brother Cody, who also perform guitar and drums on the album, respectively, In Times Like These, preaches a new vision for what Southern blues and rock can mean today.
Seattle blues and roots duo Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons open the evening’s program with their unique blend of pre-blues a cappella field hollers, fiddle and banjo breakdowns, and duet distillations of early jazz. In the five years they have been performing together, they have appeared at the Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Festival, placed first in the 26th annual International Blues Challenge in Memphis, and released several albums, including 2016’s The North Wind & The Sun.
Of the show’s artistic pairing, Ben Hunter says: “Rev. Sekou is a dynamic performer….It fits really well with how Joe and I present, because it is based in storytelling which supports the musical element.”
And as civil rights issues continue to be in the national spotlight, it is more important than ever to present programs that speak to systemic racism and the marginalization of communities. Hunter notes the importance of hosting this show in Seattle’s quickly changing south end:
“Nestled close up to a pretty gentrified Columbia City, it’s important for us to remember how this city is changing and what that means for the various communities that lived in this part of the city who are no longer here,” he says. “The music that we and Rev. Sekou perform speaks to the exploitation and appropriation of marginalized communities. As well, it highlights our common humanity and the threads that connect us as people. Part of that work, though, is reminding us how we got here, and why we’re still here. Our music speaks to that work that we need to do as communities. Part of that means performing it in the place that the music speaks to.”
As the music of these artists is steeped in the Black American experience, Hunter adds that it’s important for audiences to listen to this performance with open minds and a sense of self-reflection:
“One of the hardest things for people these days is self-reflection,” he says. “When it comes to race, most are quick to say ‘but I’m not racist’…. System racism, systemic discrimination period, is systemic because it has seeped into our daily lives so invisibly that people act out these systemic ‘–isms’ without knowing it. How do we reflect on our actions, and our words, by actively critiquing and reflecting on our position in the context of a history that has privileged one over the other?”
This show, however, is also about celebration: “Celebrating that we are here. Giving us a chance to breathe, and exhale, dance and shout, and release the burdens and stresses of our lives,” says Hunter. “That’s what the blues is. It’s singing a song to take you out of an oppressive state of being. Singing the blues away. Dancing the blues away. It takes reflection, and a deep breath.”
Rev. Sekou and Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons is co-hosted by Black & Tan Hall, Community Arts Create, and American Standard Time. Tickets and more information is available at brownpapertickets.com.