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Monday, May 27, 2024

I Made Rock ‘N’ Roll campaign highlights roots of genre

GANGGANG and Forty5’s “I Made Rock ‘N’ Roll” campaign started in 2023 and highlights the historical ties Black artists have with rock and roll

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The I Made Rock ‘N’ Roll Festival will mark Indiana’s inaugural one-day Black rock event. The goal is honoring rock and roll’s origins while celebrating continued Black artistry and authorship in the genre.

Leading up to the festival, GANGGANG and Forty5 are hosting listening sessions to spotlight local and regional voices and talent. The intent is to spark conversations about race, music and culture in the origins of rock.

“The theme is super important to me as both a Black and female artist in the rock space,” said Nicole O’Neal who serves as co-chair for the festival and is a musician in the Indianapolis-based alternative rock band Wife Patrol.

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“There’s been a lot of erasure of Black voices and Black visibility in rock music to the point that most of the time when I was growing up and into rock and roll, people would go, ‘That’s weird,’ or thought it was surprising.”

She remembers friend groups assuming less of her knowledge of music when they would be discussing different bands and artists.

“They would be like, ‘Oh, you wouldn’t know about this,’ because the assumption was that as a Black person, I don’t listen to rock. I only listen to rap, or I only listen to certain things and that struck me as strange.”

This impacted her confidence in her own interests.

I Made Rock ‘N’ Roll

“It felt like, well, this isn’t Black. So, am I Black? Am I not Black enough? But at the same time this was something I was really into.”

As she got older, she started seeing other Black musicians like Lenny Kravitz, Fefe Dobson and Jimi Hendrix. Discovering their music opened doors for her to feel like she belongs, and she wants that feeling amplified for the festival.

Hayes Barnes, who helps coordinate the listening sessions leading up to the I Made Rock ‘N’ Roll festival, said the goal of this campaign is to get people to understand why this idea has been a long-standing narrative.

I Made Rock ‘N’ Roll campaign highlights roots of genre
Local rock singer Rusty Redenbacher . (Photo via Instagram)

“Here we are 70 years after the first rock and roll song, ‘Rocket 88’ by Ike Turner and Jackie Brenston, and there is still not a clear authorship that has been given to these musicians,” said Barnes.

“From 1953 to 1956 there was a change in rock and roll with Elvis and Bill Haley,” Barnes continued. “The Brits are looking across the Atlantic and seeing these white dudes making this music and that changes everything because it changes who is influenced.”

After seven decades, Barnes feels there is still not any clear and consistent recognition of Black Americans originating the music.

I Made Rock ‘N’ Roll is to keep the conversation about the genre’s origins alive so they are not forgotten.

“We’ve seen systems that have been organized to make us forget our power, our creativity, our musicianship,” said Barnes.

Rock and roll roots

He said people have to learn from their history.

“Black people have always been involved in rock and roll from its inception,” said O’Neal.

“But also, we never left.. [We’ve] had race records, certain radio stations were only allowed to play certain songs, segregated music halls and all kinds of things contributed to the separation and erasure.”

I Made Rock ‘N’ Roll is an opportunity to bring light to the history and present of Black artistry in the genre. People are learning about the heritage and history while finding other people who love what they do too.

“It’s that erasure that has impacted us as Black people as well as white people forgetting that history. We’ve been told this is not our space. That message gets carried on and then we have situations where people go, ‘Oh, that’s white people stuff,’” said O’Neal.

She cites Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a gospel singer who was also an electric guitar player, who inspired Little Richard and Chuck Berry and many others who came after her.

“Rock has so many styles and sounds now. It’s grown from many different places. Rhythm and blues impacted it and even gospel. All of those pieces came together to create not only the sound of rock and roll but the vibe and the way you perform.”

Featuring live performances by Janelle Monáe, Gary Clark Jr., Robert Randolph Band, Joy Oladokun, Meet Me @ The Altar, and Inner Peace, the I Made Rock ‘N’ Roll Festival will be Saturday, May 18 at The American Legion Mall downtown (St. Clair Street to North Street between Meridian and Pennsylvania Streets).

Get your tickets at IMadeRocknRoll.com.

Contact staff writer Jade Jackson at (317) 762-7853 or by email JadeJ@IndyRecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @IAMJADEJACKSON.

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