reading recs #3: horne, ghansah, sanneh, gaillot

"In case a weapon was not nearby, some musicians also developed a taste for boxing." -Gerald Horne on jazz

(photo of gerald horne via salon)

welcome to issue #24 of “tusk is better than rumours,” a newsletter featuring primers and album rankings of experimental and ‘outsider’ musicians. artist primers are published every other monday, and on off-weeks i publish a variety of articles ranging from label and genre primers to interviews to guest writers.

until the end of the month (meaning today) i’m using this space to highlight african american music critics. hopefully y’all will find a new writer or two to follow through these recommendations. in this issue i’ve picked a few of my favorite pieces from gerald horne, rachel kaadzi ghansah, kelefa sanneh, and ann-derrick gaillot.

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hello everybody if you’re just joining us this is the third in a 3-part series of recommendations of pieces by african american music critics. it’s come to my attention that june is african-american music appreciation month so this is fitting i suppose, though i didn’t know that when i started this little series. i’ll make it an annual event though if we still exist a year from now (the newsletter but also humanity). regular issues will resume next week and boy do i have a corker of a return issue lined up so look out for that.

Gerald Horne, Jazz and Justice: Racism and the Political Economy of the Music (Introduction) (Monthly Review Press)

gerald horne is a distinguished historian who has written around 30 books since 1986, which is just an insane clip. but this book from last year is, to my knowledge, his first on music so you can imagine the general delight of music history nerds at its publication. the link above goes to a page that hosts the introduction to the book. it starts with a fistfight in shanghai and only gets better from there. for more: order the full book here.

Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, “A River Runs Through It” (The Believer)

ghansah is an essayist who won a pulitzer and who writes about a lot of things but she returns periodically to popular music writing in pieces on kendrick lamar, missy elliot, beyoncé, and this one on jimi hendrix. this is a sort of history of electric lady studios, which she has spent considerable time in herself. the piece is subtitled “A BIOGRAPHY OF JIMI HENDRIX’S ELECTRIC LADY STUDIOS, ITS OWNERSHIP, AND OTHER BLACK MEMORIES” with the description “DISCUSSED: A Man of Zero Sentimentality, The Preservation of Psychedelic Sensibilities, Technical Questions for Les Paul, A Common Language, Keith Richards’s Desire for Privacy, Sold Souls, Employees for Hire, The Star-Spangled Banner, A Good Old Boy, Marlboro Reds, Something Ethereal.” the description doesn’t spoil what the “it” is that the river runs through but you can probably put it together and if not then read on because it’s wild. for more: you can find her pieces for longreads here and the believer here and she has a book forthcoming called The Explainers and the Explorers.

Kelefa Sanneh, “The Unlikely Endurance of Christian Rock” (New Yorker)

sanneh writes for the new yorker and has since forever so you’re probably aware of him if you’re a buttoned-up dweeb like myself but i wanted to share this strange article about christian rock, which to many folks sounds like an oxymoron. there are certain music scenes which i am not going to personally associate with in a million years but which hold a certain fascination (juggalos etc) and christian rock is one of them. so i’m always grateful for those writers brave enough to dive into what must be some atrocious listening for the benefit of the reader. for more: check out sanneh’s other stuff in the new yorker.

Ann-Derrick Gaillot, “How Long Does It Take to Make a Classic Album?” (Pitchfork)

gaillot is a freelance writer who HUSTLES. she has written for pitchfork, bandcamp, vulture, buzzfeed, the nation, eater, onezero, [takes breath] the cut, the guardian, fader, thrillist, flood, vice, the outline, and more. i selected this piece about the myth of the greatness of long-incubated albums because it is incredibly well-researched and interesting, but her range is, as you might guess, quite broad. for more: you can read most of her work for all these venues by following her contently page.


this week i’d like to highlight sonia weiser’s fund for black journalists’ mental health treatment, which is very close to its goal of $70,000. all money goes to black journalists who require financial assistance for therapy or other mental health programs. send a few dollars their way to help reach the goal! (that tweet is slightly out of date, as of publication they’re at $67,806).

alright see you here this time next week with a new “so you wanna get into…” feature!