• Danica Johnson

Compositions & Coffee Presents: "Creative Soul Digest"

It's A Vibe!

Welcome again loved one’s to It’s A Vibe Friday! Today is the day to catch that VIBE and right it into your weekend. What better way to do that this week then with some SOUL! SOOUUUL! We are going to look at the birth of soul in the US and how it’s grown and diversified but also how it’s spread to our family in Ethiopia as well. Let’s dive in, here’s the facts and history:

The spirit of soul has been present in our music forever but the true birth of ‘soul music’ become popular in the early 1960s. Its musical elements combine gospel music, rhythm and blues, and jazz. Some popular record labels I’m sure you all know for this sound are Motown, Atlantic Records, and Stax because they were also part of the Civil Rights Movement. The uniqueness and power of Soul music was a direct influence in rock and music of Africa.


Soul music reflected the essence of African- American identity and stressed the importance of our culture. It led to a new style of music and brought about pride in being BLACK! Soul dominated the R&B charts in the 1960s and towards the end of the 60s new genres directly influenced by the music began to pop up such as funk, psychedelic rock, psychedelic soul, and by the 90s we were introduced to neo soul.

The artists:

I know ya’ll know the name drops I’m about to hit you with but I’m gonna do it to refresh your memory and categorize their sound. The originators of soul are: Clyde McPhatter, Hank Ballard, Etta James, Little Richard, Otis Redding, and the Godfather himself JAMES BROWN. Now the forefathers are Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson and they were the first to crossover from gospel to a more secular music. Now the female powerhouse dubbed the Queen of Soul is forever Ms. Aretha Franklin who was also originally a gospel singer that crossed over to more secular music with Atlantic records in the 1960s.

FUNK and variations:

By 1968 soul hit it’s peak in popularity and others began to venture into other sub-genres like funk music. The masters of funk were artists like James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone, The Meters, War, The Commodores, and Earth, Wind, and Fire. From there, another soul-funk- R&B variation grew with artists like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Al Green and, Curtis Mayfield. Their music was more politically conscious and more sophisticated. The next wave maintained some traditional soul sounds but also evolved into pop music with artists like Michael Jackson and Smokey Robinson. The blue-eyed soul acts during the 1970s were artists like Hall & Oates and Tower of Power. Now I know ya’ll remember Soul Train originally hosted by brotha Don Cornelius in the 70s. Soul Train gave rise to arists like The Whispers and Carrie Lucas and became the outlet for soul music. I honestly didn’t know the show continued running until 2006 but in the 1980s it shifted to focus more on hip-hop.

Birth of R&B and Neo Soul:

Starting in the early 1980s soul began to form into the quiet storm. The quiet storm received its name for its relaxed tempo, soft melodies, and its influence from fusion and adult contemporary. The most noteworthy artist during this shift were Jeffry Osbourne, Larry Graham, and Chaka Khan. Since disco and funk declined in the 1980s soul music was influenced by electro music. The shift from its original raw sound became more slickly produced resulting in contemporary R&B. Contemporary R&B was very different from its original rhythm and blues style. By the time we reached the 1990s Neo-Soul had begun to take a strong hold on the music scene.

Neo-soul, much like it’s predecessor, has influences of pop, rock, jazz fusion, and electronic music but also incorporates hip-hop and African music. Its popularity is based in its traditional R&B influences, conscious-driven lyrics, and strong female presence. Artists you may know are D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, Lauren Hill, and Maxwell. I’m going to save full discussion of Neo-Soul for another time but wanted to make the connection here.

Ethiopian Soul

Now that you know all things Soul music I want to take you to the motherland to see how African music influenced and was later influenced by the movement of soul music in the US.

The sound of soul in Ethiopia also began in the mid 1960s and its notable sounds consisted of horns, keyboards, and whip-crack drumming. Their music, funky, and groovy with Western instrumentation, is a beautiful amalgamation of the Black Diaspora. One of their most famous pop stars in the country was Mahmoud Ahmed.

His voice is said to reflect that hardships of the time and offers a glimpse into the once vibrant culture of nightclubs and beer halls of Addis Ababa. He was known as “the soul of Addis” because his vibrato registered with what Ethiopians call achinoy, an expression of beautiful, strained suffering, and eskeusta, a sort of ecstasy that inspires a wave of tingling the flow through the body. Ahmed went from a shoe shine boy to the leader of the Imperial Bodyguard Band in the early 1960s during the reign of Haile Selassie. Soon music could be heard everywhere since Ahmed was said to have developed a voice that sounded like American funk and Ethiopian brass-band music. He would listen to American artist like Elvis Presley and James brown and put traditional Amharic songs into those contemporary settings. He would imitate Little Richards style and stage presence of Elvis Presley. Imitating the Motown-like love songs he would sing love songs in Ahmaric. Sadly, Mengistu Haile Mariam’s reign replaced Selassie’s regime in 1974 and cut off the government bands and forced the country’s musical culture into hiding. The curfew he enforced cut off all nightlife and musicians were forbidden from releasing albums and thrown into jail for writing love songs that may contain antigovernmental lyrics. For 13 years artists were unable to tour outside of Ethiopia. Only a few dozen singers remained working in the country including Ahmed and were forced to maintain a covert recording career playing in international hotels to tourists.

Since the end of the dictatorship and the establishment of democracy Ethiopia is now able to take advantage of the music industry both input and output. This means a new wave of artist coming from the country that has their unique sound with soul vibes. I’ll leave some artist below for you to compare as well as my 70s soul playlist.

The Point

So, what am I getting at right? My point this whole week has been to connect how we may have left the motherland but its always inside of us. The music, the art, the healing practices, and culture are ever present today but may have morphed and changed a bit with the times. It may carry a different name but its origins are clear as we’ve learned this week. We have even seen how "our way" has become mainstream and used by other cultures. We have always faced injustice, and have been through so much trauma as a people, and we are still in that battle today. The thing I want to stress friends is how to heal and unite to fight it. WE’VE HAD THE TOOLS AND WE ARE A STRONG FORCE! Our black is beautiful and the godfather reminded us SAY IT LOUD I’M BLACK AND I’M PROUD! So reference the healing tools here and get yourself to a yoga studio near you for healing and community! Meditate for strength and clarity, get your tools and cleansing sticks to remove that negative energy! Connect weekly with your brothers and sisters via coffee ceremony to reflect and inspire each other and collaborate on change. Connect to the music and let it heal you and ignite the fire inside you. Let it connect you to our people and the culture of the diaspora. Open your eyes to the art around you and the voices that transcend from the past to the present. Listen to their calling! Let the sounds of soul electrify your spirit! May you be encouraged and strengthened by it BUT ALSO sway your hip and clap your hands ya’ll because our music is GOLD!!

Well friends I hope you enjoyed this week and leave today feeling your best! Let this VIBE carry you through the weekend and have you ready to take charge of the next week. Until we meet again…

--Be Free

Your family at Eclectuals

"Where we mind your mental diet!"

Playlists to Vibe Out Friday With

Soul of the 70s

Best of Soul Train

80s Groove & Soul

Ethiopian Artists

Aster Aweke

GiGi (Eligayehu Shibabaw)

Mahmoud Ahmed

Zebiba Girma

Neo-Soul You May NOT Know

Corrine Bailey Rae

Ari Lennox





Book Recommendations:

The Triumph of Sam Cooke: Dream Boogie

Conversations with the Dead

Coffee Recommendations:

Eclectic Sunset

A sumatra and Indonesian coffee from the Ketiara collective (women farmers). It's a dark, earthy, deep, full bodied, and complex coffee. It's flavors are creamy, sweet, spice, and butterscotch.

We Are Someone You Should Know

--We are purveyors of literature, gourmet coffee, fashion, style and art." We believe in cooperative economics in the black community locally and nationally thereby promoting and/highlighting other black artisans and black owned businesses through our book subscription Eclectic Crates and our Artisan Market of goods and services.

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