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The Jonah People Along With the Power and Promise of Music Triumph at Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville

by Rich and Laura Lynch

In just under two hours and spread over two acts the Nashville Symphony's World Premiere of Hannibal Lokumbe's The Jonah People: A Legacy of Struggle and Triumph covered a lot of ground and centuries of time during its media preview dress rehearsal on April 12, 2023 in Music City.


The ambitious production was an epic operatic experience that featured the full Nashville Symphony; a 100+ person choir drawn from Tennessee and Kentucky Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the Nashville Symphony Chorus; ten vocal soloists; a Jazz quintet with Lokumbe on trumpet; an African drum and dance ensemble; and more than thirty actors. In this way, the program could very well be the most educational, expansive and diverse musical experience to ever take place in Music City - and that's saying a lot!

With much of the material re-enacting the harsh and shameful realities of the European slave trade this show won't be your typical feel good Broadway fare - even if the stage props are impressive. Still, the overriding moral and message within revolves around the idea that music can provide an important beacon of hope in the process of healing and overcoming almost any situation. So, even though the narrative begins in the jungles of Africa we ultimately end up in a jazz club in Harlem. And while the script traces the extensive suffering of a people it is a concluding psychedelic guitar riff in the style of Jimi Hendrix that reminds us all of just how far we have come.


The Jonah People in Nashville. (Photo Credit - Dokk Savage)

Tracing back 400 years when the first Africans were kidnapped and sold into slavery, Lokumbe's taps into his own family's legacy to recount the atrocities of the Middle Passage, the stripping of identity, and the oppression and servitude of slaves. Though the subject matter is challenging, Lokumbe's work is one of peace and transcendence, and a celebration of the human spirit of those who persevered to become Black visionaries, and whose achievements in every discipline have changed the world forever.

Audiences who attend the four-date run from April 13-16 will experience the journey from captivity, oppression and servitude, the loss of all freedoms, to the struggle to sustain hope for a way forward. Over the course of this powerful and epic production Lokumbe will celebrate the spirit of those who endured, those ancestors whose gifts of hope, perseverance and resilience have produced successive generations of Black visionaries and world-changers.


The Jonah People in Nashville. (Photo Credit - Dokk Savage)

Related Links: For more information on THE JONAH PEOPLE and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - The Jonah People | Nashville Symphony


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