The seven principles of the Nguzo Saba are designed to help us reflect on community building and communal advancement. Unlike its holiday counterparts, Christmas and Hanukkah, there is no canon of Kwanzaa songs. For ethnomusicologists like us this was a delightful challenge to confront. The following playlists are our interpretation of what the music of Kwanzaa could sound like. We hope that listening to each playlist is a launching pad for you to think of your own songs that reflect the spirit of Kwanzaa.
Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
1. Nommo by Max Roach
2. Unity Part by Afrika Bambaata & James Brown
3. What A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong
4. Africa Unite by Bob Marley & The Wailers
5. Spread Love by Take 6
6. Are We a Nation? by Sweet Honey In The Rock
7. Red, Black & Green by Roy Ayers
Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves stand up.
1. To Be Young, Gifted And Black by Donny Hathaway
2. You Gotta Be by Des’ree
3. Move on Up by Curtis Mayfield
4. Eyes On The Prize by Dianne Reeves
5. Brotha by Jill Scott
6. You Will Rise by Sweetback
7. Keep Your Head To The Sky by Earth, Wind & Fire
Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems, and to solve them together.
1. People Get Ready by Aretha Franklin
2. You’re Not Alone by Mavis Staples
3. We Can Work It Out by Stevie Wonder
4. People Make the World Go Round by The Stylistics
5. Lean On Me by Bill Withers
6. Brother Sister by The Brand New Heavies
7. Get Up, Get into it, Get Involved by James Brown
Ujamaa (family): The belief in family and general communal understanding.
1. Brotha by Angie Stone
2. Grandma’s Hands by Bill Withers
3. Cousin Mary by John Coltrane
4. Sista by Rachelle Ferrell
5. Family Affair by Sly & The Family Stone
6. We Are One by Maze (feat. Frankie Beverly)
7. Family Reunion by O’Jays
Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
1. Free by Goodie M.O.B.
2. I Can by Nas
3. Woke Up This Morning with My Mind by Sweet Honey in the Rock
4. Headed in the Right Direction by India.Arie
5. Higher Ground by Stevie Wonder
6. Wake Up Everybody by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes
7. We Are Here to Change the World by Michael Jackson
Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
Black is by Fertile Ground
Individuality (Can I Be Me?) by Rachelle Ferrell
Cloud 9 by Donnie
Umi Says by Mos Def
Cleva by Erykah Badu
Chocolate City by Parliament
Free Your Mind by En Vogue
Imani (Faith): To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
1. Open Your Eyes, You Can Fly by Lizz Wright
2. There’s Hope by India.Arie
3. Optimistic by Sounds of Blackness
4. On the Ocean by K’Jon
5. Testify by Dianne Reeves
6. Tomorrow (A Better You Better Me) by Tevin Campbell
7. Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing by Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir
CONTEST: In the spirit of giving, we are offering a signed musical gift from Tulani Kinard, former member of Sweet Honey in the Rock to one randomly chosen person who leaves a comment below. Contest Details: Contest starts Thurs., Dec. 22, 2011 and ends Wed., Dec. 29, 2011 at 8 p.m./EST. Winner announced on Sat., Dec. 31, 2011. Contest open to residents of the continental United States, excluding Alaska, Hawaii and U.S. foreign territories. No additional purchase or shipping expenses are necessary. Prize cannot be exchanged. Must provide an email used only to notify the winner and for shipping information.
Aja & Free are ethnomusicologists who are speedily completing their doctoral work at University of Michigan and Indiana University respectively. As ethnomusicologists, Aja & Free are concerned with how people use music to live their lives. This can be as simple as considering how parents teach their kids the “alphabet song” to help them become literate members of Western society or thinking about how iPods allow each of us to become a curator of our own individualized musical experiences. We believe that looking at music of a specific genre, culture, or context are significant ways to capture how people are creating themselves and their lives…and even better, explore the possibilities of what their lives could be. Follow us on Twitter @ajaandfree and visit our website at AjaAndFree.com.