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This show is the musical result of scores of personal interviews that I conducted in Jamaica, South Africa, and the American South. These interviews, most of them with black and white musicians, explore the big issues surrounding race in intimate and vulnerable ways. Backed by a full rock band, a talented cast of 20 from all corners of UNC’s campus brings these interviews to life with the sounds of reggae, blues, rock, gospel, and bluegrass.
I grew up in Chapel Hill always knowing that ‘blacks’ and ‘whites’ were different in certain ways, but never knowing exactly why or how. My first semester at UNC challenged not just these notions of inherent difference, but of race altogether. Now, after a few years of going at the issues surrounding race relations in America head on, I find myself with new perspectives and convictions, as well as new questions to go with some of the old ones. I dove into racial issues to better understand why our common humanity is so often trumped by seemingly arbitrary distinctions and divisions, and although I haven’t found all the answers, so many of my stereotypes and prejudices have evaporated along the way.
My greatest hope for Soul Notes is that it will inspire in its audience some kind of new thought and soul-searching on race, culture, faith, rationality, love, and other big concepts…. Even in liberal Chapel Hill, a culture of racism works its way into our hearts and minds from when we’re young, and it seems that the ways we’ve tried to attack it aren’t working all that well. If the answer were purely intellectual or structural, we’d have figured it out by now. I can’t help but feel that if we let ourselves have a true and honest dialogue about race, from the bottoms of our hearts instead of the tops of our heads, if we really dig into our souls, then we’ll step closer to the harmony that the singers in this show embody.
Soul Notes can’t be performed without a shout out to those who opened their hearts to me in the interviews that bring life to this show. A handful of the standouts are Clive, Guke, Clint, Dan, and others in South Africa… Roger, Nick, Gubu, Benny, Rice, and Devon in Jamaica… and Clemmons, Todd, Velvet Thunder, Anthony, Jeff, Katmandu, and Phil in various cities across the American South. This show is theirs, through me, for you.