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This Week in Beat Making: A Mashup of 'The Star Spangled Banner' and 'Lift Every Voice and Sing' This Week in Beat Making: A Mashup of 'The Star Spangled Banner' and 'Lift Every Voice and Sing'

This Week in Beat Making: A Mashup of 'The Star Spangled Banner' and 'Lift Every Voice and Sing'

by Pierce Freelon
July 4, 2013

This Independence Day, we decided to make a mashup of two of America's national anthems: the "Star Spangled Banner" and "Lift Every Voice and Sing."

In most cases, mashups are created by DJs and producers, who combine and synchronize instrumentals and/or vocals from two or more different songs—to get people to dance. At Beat Making Lab, we like to do things a little differently. While we hope you will dance to our anthem, entitled "Lift Every Spangled Banner," we also hope to spark some dialogue and reflection on what independence means in America.

In his 1852 speech, "What to a slave is the 4th of July?" Frederick Douglass famously addressed the hypocrisy of the "Star Spangled Banner," which spoke of "the land of the free and the home of the brave," when so many cowards owned slaves and so many African Americans weren't free. By 1915, in the throes of Jim Crow, James Weldon Johnson penned "Lift Every Voice and Sing." Many black communities adopted the song as their own and coined it the Black National Anthem because it spoke to the struggles and triumphs of a black experience, in a way that the U.S. National Anthem did not. By mashing these two anthems together, we hope to celebrate the diversity of perspective and experience in the United States.

We have had a long history of mashups in this country. Jazz evolved in New Orleans out of marching bands, African drumming, spirituals and blue scales, combined with European instruments, and compositions. A century later, in the Bronx, black and Latino DJs, rappers, graffiti artists, and dancers came together to create hip-hop.

If nothing else—these mashups, and others, show that the United States thrives in diversity; and the arc of history is trending towards possibility. That's a good thing.

Beat Making Lab builds studios in cultural centers around the world and trains youth musicians in the art of beat making. This post is part of This Week in Beat Making, a weekly series on GOOD—follow our adventures with new episodes here every Wednesday.

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