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Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times (The Nathan I. Huggins Lectures) Hardcover – January 30, 2012

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Product Details

  • Series: The Nathan I. Huggins Lectures (Book 13)
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (January 30, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674046242
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674046245
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #363,215 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


A fascinating and pathbreaking contribution to African diasporic and music studies. Africa Speaks, America Answers is a marvelous book. (Manthia Diawara, author of In Search of Africa)

Kelley vividly captures this all-star quartet riffing on new alternatives within jazz. Filled with stories and songs that need to be heard, Africa Speaks, America Answers is an essential addition to any jazz library. (Jason Moran, jazz pianist, composer, and 2010 MacArthur Fellow)

Africa Speaks, America Answers is an exquisitely rendered account of the lives of African and African American musicians, their music, and their worlds. Kelley transforms our understanding of jazz, the history of Africa and its diaspora, and the global circulation of culture. (Penny M. Von Eschen, author of Satchmo Blows Up the World: Jazz Ambassadors Play the Cold War)

Continually surprising. (Peter Monaghan Chronicle of Higher Education 2012-02-19)

An illuminating document. (Daniel Spicer The Wire 2013-07-01)

About the Author

Robin D. G. Kelley is Gary B. Nash Chair of U.S. History at the University of California, Los Angeles.

More About the Author

Robin D. G. Kelley never met Thelonious Monk, but he grew up with his music. Born in 1962, he spent his formative years in Harlem in a household and a city saturated with modern jazz. As a child he took a few trumpet lessons with the legendary Jimmy Owens, played French horn in junior high school, and picked up piano during his teen years in California. In 1987, Kelley earned his PhD in History from UCLA and focused his work on social movements, politics and culture--although music remained his passion.

During his tenure on the faculties of Emory University, the University of Michigan, New York University, and Columbia University, Kelley's scholarly interests shifted increasingly toward music. He has written widely on jazz, hip hop, electronic music, musicians' unions and technological displacement, and social and political movements more broadly.

Before becoming Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California, Robin D. G. Kelley served on the faculty at Columbia University's Center for Jazz Studies, where he held the first Louis Armstrong Chair in Jazz Studies. Besides Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original, Kelley has authored several prize-winning books, including Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression (University of North Carolina Press, 1990); Race Rebels: Culture Politics and the Black Working Class (The Free Press, 1994); Yo' Mama's DisFunktional!: Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America (Beacon Press, 1997), which was selected one of the top ten books of 1998 by the Village Voice. He is currently completing Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times (Harvard University Press, forthcoming 2011), and a general survey of African American history co-authored with Tera Hunter and Earl Lewis to be published by Norton.

Kelley's essays have appeared in several anthologies and journals, including The Nation, Monthly Review, The Voice Literary Supplement, New York Times (Arts and Leisure), New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, Color Lines, Code Magazine, Utne Reader, Lenox Avenue, African Studies Review, Black Music Research Journal, Callaloo, New Politics, Black Renaissance/Renaissance Noir, One World, Social Text, Metropolis, American Visions, Boston Review, Fashion Theory, American Historical Review, Journal of American History, New Labor Forum, Souls, Metropolis, and frieze: contemporary art and culture, to name a few.

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Mark Levine on July 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover
As one might expect from the author of the recent and superb biography of Thelonious Monk, Professor Robin Kelley has given us a fine, if smaller, book, an offshoot of the Nathan Huggins lectures. The subject here is the modern, rather than longer historical, interplay of American and African jazz music, focusing on the Ghanaian drummer Guy Warren, the great American pianist Randy Weston (who deservedly gets the lion's share of attention), the South African singer Sathima Bea Benjamin, and what we learn here is the American oud and bass player Ahmed Abdul-Malik, despite his lifelong claims to be Sudabese. Kelley questions neither his nor the others' musical credentials, nor their earnestness in spreading the music across the Atlantic in either direction. I should clarify that while Kelley does not re-inter the longstanding debate of the African roots of jazz, or AfrAmerican culture more generally (his conclusions in that regard are clear), his treatment of mid- to late-twentieth century history, particularly of South Africa, and its context for the music, is outstanding and welcome.
One of the most fascinating phenomena of jazz in recent years has been the cross-pollination of jazz with various forms of world music--- Latin American, Asian, even Klezmer--- in terms of style, rhythms, and instrumentation. Of all these, though, the African/America connection has, for historical reasons, the most resonance, and Kelley convincingly explores this, for want of a better word (and it is my word, not his) symmetry. It is elegantly written, informed, useful, and very entertaining, and adds (along with his own recent memoir) to what ought to be Mr. Weston's growing esteem and importance, which is not to denigrate the others covered here.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By merry on March 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in jazz, African American history, the evolution of the struggle in Africa and its support by African Americans.
Robin Kelly is brilliant.
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By Stephen Karpovich on October 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Another intelligent, well-researched book from Professor Robin Kelley. Fascinating account of musical cross pollination between Africa and the U.S. during a pivotal time of great cultural and political awakening. Especially liked the chapters on Randy Weston and Sathima Bea Benjamin.
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