Sweet Honey in the Rock, the world-renowned, award-winning female African American ensemble, which performs a cappella (except for percussion), has released a new CD, Experience…101 , aimed at teaching kids some of life’s basic lessons in 18 exuberant, non-preachy songs. The joyful sound of six magically interwoven voices and upbeat advice – utilizing folk, gospel, jazz, blues and even rap styles – will appeal to children and parents alike.
The CD’s colorful packaging – an eye catching digipack and a 16-page booklet in-the style of a school composition notebook contributes to the theme of learning through music. Children from the ages of 9 to 12 pose questions about the mysteries of the adult world in print, and the members of Sweet Honey (six vocalists at the time of this recording, now five, not counting their onstage sign language interpreter) respond with songs of about peaceful coexistence, the virtues of education, the nurturing support and reassurance of parents and elders, following one’s moral and spiritual compass, and working to better the surrounding world.
Emphasizing the group’s roots in African culture, the songs are matched up in print to Adinkra symbols used in Ghana, West Africa, to indicate wisdom, strength, unity, good fortune, harmony and other emotions crucial to leading a meaningful life.
The sound of Sweet Honey is almost intoxicating, as they deploy their voices in myriad combinations and styles – call-and-response, scatting, percolating percussive effects, waterfalls of harmonies and counterpoints, rounds, spoken rap-like segments, and just about every other pleasing way the human voice can be utilized.
Founded in 1973 by Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon at the (Washington) D.C. Black Repertory Theater Company, Sweet Honey in the Rock has become a significant presence in black culture, folk/gospel music and political activism around the world. Over the course of 20 previous CDs and more than 20 changes in personnel, including the 2004 retirement of Dr. Reagon, the group has toured much of the globe, performed at major political rallies and events and been featured on Grammy Award-winning and -nominated recordings, in documentaries and books. Experience…101 marks the first Sweet Honey release since Dr. Reagon’s retirement and is the group’s fourth CD for children.