Long Road To Freedom

Long Road To Freedom

Long Road To Freedom

"Recorded between 1961 and 1971, The Long Road To Freedom: An Anthology of Black Music seeks to accurately portray the music of Black Americans from the period of their earliest arrival in the "New World" in the 17th century up through the spirituals, blues and folk music that heralded the great cultural explosion of musical expression at the beginning of the era of recording at the dawn of the 20th Century. This unprecedented collection will be the single most important historical package to be released in 2001.

Principal producer, Harry Belafonte, created the Anthology not by using Lomax style field recordings (for there was no recording technology in existence during the time period represented) but instead brought the culture to the technology to create a scholarly, performed, formal work conducted and arranged by the legendary Leonard De Paur.

Harry Belafonte (from BMG)
De Paur helped shape the voices of the singers and performances by the musicians into a musical retelling of the Black Experience in America prior to 1900.

Today one takes on faith that the music of Black Americans is integral to the whole history of music in America. Yet there is almost no place in a record store one can go to find an anthology of music which shows the relationships between the various forms of musical expression and the impact of those forms on successive generations of sounds and songs. This collection is comprised of 80 songs on five compact discs, which divides the various African American musical influences into 10 "chapters" of a narrative, which takes the listener from the chants of the Ashanti, Yoruban and other African people displaced by slavery through to the rich choral traditions of spirituals reaching into the 20th century. Along the way the voices and music of more than 50 artists are captured ranging from the chief architect and principal producer of the project, Mr. Harry Belafonte, to the blues of Brownie McGhee and the voices of Joe Williams, Bessie Jones and the Georgia Sea Island singers, Gloria Lynne and many others. There are work songs, ballads, deep blues, hymns, children's songs and minstrel tunes. One hears the influences of many of the West African countries from which the slave ships sailed, the Georgia Sea Island community's preservation of the African sound and tongue, the Louisiana creolization of African traditions and the Delta blues and it's big city counterpart.

There is music for Christmas, songs for the Underground Railroad, soldiers' tunes from the Civil War era and the chants and folklore of the post civil war street vendors, gamblers, workingmen and the women who took care of them. All of this music is recreated with both adult and children's voices, sometimes with musical accompaniment, sometimes not. It is Mr. Belafonte's belief that, "It (The Anthology) will give all Americans-black Americans, white Americans, people globally-an opportunity to know how truly dimensional the black citizens of this country really were."

This anthology will appear as a LIMITED EDITION deluxe box set manufactured and with the latest resources by Shorewood Packaging Corp., a business of International Paper. It will be packaged in an elegant full sized box featuring the art of Charles White and will include 5 CDs, a deluxe hardcover book and a bonus DVD featuring interviews with Harry Belafonte and the story of the discovery and restoration of the project and it's relevance today. The artwork, type set and graphics will reflect the cultural sense of the material contained in the anthology. The liner notes will consist of a forward by Harry Belafonte, an extended essay and track by track analysis by Mari Evans on the history of the music contained within the box set, reflecting on the eras, historical events, and social and political dynamics that gave rise to the music. Photos from the original sessions will be included shot by famed photographer Roy DeCarava.

All production will be of the highest order as this project will not only be sold to the record trade but is designed to become a staple of the educational market, the gift trade and other markets. There are plans for an accompanying book, television special, stage presentation, Internet programming and extensive collateral marketing.

At the time of its completion (circa 1971), changes within the publishing company that was preparing a companion book required that the project be put on hold. Mr. Belafonte vowed to release the Anthology only when he found a partner who could respectfully represent this work. The release of The Long Road To Freedom: An Anthology Of Black Music waited until Buddha Records and BMG found it and contacted Mr. Belafonte. Alex Miller, Vice President of Buddha Records says, "We are proud to present the worldwide release of this historically important, socially relevant and musically rich masterpiece. During the decade it took to create, Harry Belafonte explored and recorded the musical roots of the African American experience. No other work of its kind has ever been attempted and this labor of love has remained unheard until now."

"You will find in all of this a moment in which to reflect on the history of a people and in which you will find a great humanity and I think a great work of art." * Harry Belafonte

Harry Belafonte is also co-chair of The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center located in Cincinnati, which will open in early 2004. Mr. Belafonte is proud to associate The Long Road To Freedom: An Anthology Of Black Music with the Freedom Center. This fruitful relationship will result in additional exposure for both projects, as the music of the Anthology becomes a part of the Freedom Center's displays and exhibitions. In addition to educating the public about the Underground Railroad, the Freedom Center will prepare modern day freedom conductors for action built on the values of the Underground Railroad: courage, cooperation and perseverance. Visitors will experience state of the art exhibitions, dialogues, programs and collaborative learning stations that will highlight the relevance of the continued quest for freedom today.

Buddha Records was created in September of 1998 to mine BMG Entertainment's vast back catalog utilizing BMG Distribution to reach the marketplace.Reissues include classic albums from artists such as Captain Beefheart, Lou Reed, Woody Guthrie, Waylon Jennings, Harry Nilsson with John Lennon, Willie Nelson and The Guess Who along with previously unreleased music from Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. In addition, Buddha has entered into strategic partnerships with Entertainment Weekly for a series of greatest hits CDs and VH-1 for a new hits package from Gladys Knight and the Pips.

BMG Entertainment is the global music division of Bertelsmann AG, one of the world's leading media companies, with annual revenues of $17.6 billion. BMG owns more than 200 record labels in 54 countries, including Arista Records, RCA Records and Ariola. As a leader in using the Internet to bring fans closer to their favorite artists, BMG's online presence includes more than 35 wholly owned music & lifestyle Web sites around the world brought together under the umbrella. BMG also owns one of the world's largest music publishing companies, and one of the world's leading compact disc and cassette manufacturing companies."

text quoted from BMG News press release


- 2002 by Steven E. Schoenherr. All rights reserved.

Recording Technology History| this page revised 2/6/02 by Schoenherr
AES - Audio Engineering Society