“We’re looking forward to a new sense of optimism, unity and peace for all American people,” said Eric Burton, frontman of Black Pumas at the livestream of “America United”. This event from Saturday, January 16th kicked off the countdown to the inauguration of President-Elect Joe Biden. It served as a celebration for change in America’s future. What better way to celebrate than with music?
The group, started by singer/songwriter Eric Burton and guitarist/producer Eric Quesada, formed in 2018 in the state of Texas. Their 2019 self-titled album picked up traction with the single “Colors”. From performances on Jimmy Kimmel to acoustic renditions, “Colors” caught on like a wildfire. What sounds like a lost tune by the Muddy Waters lives on through the modern R&B soul of Black Pumas.
Given the current circumstances, livestream concerts are relieving for music fans. Black Pumas streamed their performance from a room with light peeking through dark curtains, practically resembling a sunrise. Each musician was stylized in urban outfitting providing a solid color palette.
The performance had blues running through its veins. Burton and Quesada both seasoned the rhythm with telecaster guitars that echo the sound of blues. The difference that made it stand out from the studio recording was replacing the organ solo with a guitar solo. While the organ was still present in the performance, Quesada provided a strong solo to escalate the mood of the group’s performance.
In the groove of it all, there was a small window beside the performance of a woman communicating the lyrics in sign language. This was a smart approach to breaking a sensual barrier. Now, even the deaf can participate in the musical experience.
This style of writing is especially consistent with the Harlem Renaissance, a revolution of African-American artists in 1920s America. Those artists found an identity and independence in the color of their skin. Their value of color had a special presence in their creations and proved to be more lively than the Jazz Age, a cultural rival during the time. Writers like Langston Hughes, W.E.B. DuBois and Zora Neal Hurston have inspired many generations of African-American artists to spiritually embody the color of their skin.
“Colors” sends the message that color is natural and should not be taken away in our environment. Throughout the song, Burton recounts the colors that stick out to him. He walks amongst “… a meadow of green” brought by the trees. When he starts to fly, “Gray clouds or white walls or blue skies” cannot prevent his spirituality from rising up.
This song was a great choice to be performed on the livestream. It is a modern blues song; a genre that has been fading away in mainstream music. The spirit of the tune emphasizes rising. Burton lyrically describes a “good day” for himself, from rising up in the morning and eventually working his way up to the birds and the clouds. All this time, he is not alone. The chorus informs us that he is, “With all my favorite colors…/ My sisters and my brothers”. The colors are a physical presence just as much as the people around him. The colors unite the people as a community.
Music is the universal language of mankind. Black Pumas use it to unite the people of color. If this art form can unite people as a community of fans, it can be applied to help unite the American culture. Even if they cannot tour around America to spread the good word, the opportunity that livestream concerts bring can spread the message of uniting America arguably quicker. When all is said and done, it may truly be a good day for Black Pumas.
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