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Ella Jenkins

Author John Cech
Air Date 2/5/2001

Ella Jenkins Transcript

That’s the Chicago-based singer, Ella Jenkins with an African chant from her new CD from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. It’s called “Songs, Rhythms, and Chants for the Dance,” and on it, Ms. Jenkins blends a score of musical genres, from spirituals and blues, to folk ballads and show tunes; from Afro-Cuban invocations to the Sea God, Yemayah, to children’s play songs and high school cheers. Her deep, rich voice and guiding hand are commanding presences on this sound journey. They take us back to the deep roots of American music in the strong, clear rhythms of African traditions and show us one of the flowerings of that music on these shores in the elegant phrasings of a jazz trio.

Ms. Jenkins purposes here, though, are to bring the listener, child or adult, to their feet. She writes in her notes for the CD: “My goal with this recording is to inspire children and adults to create movements to melodic songs, to unaccompanied voices chanted, and to instrumental sounds — and by doing so to discover the joy of dance.” And to this end she also includes in the CD, a group of interviews with dancers and dance teachers from the Chicago area about their engagement with this art form.

For over forty years, in dozens of recordings for young people, Ms. Jenkins has been preserving and perpetuating the inter-cultural rhythms of American life. In this regard, her work, and she, are national treasures — leading us to laugh and sing, and dance together.

Posted in Music