The Back Beat

Medium: Oil on archival canvas wrap
Size: H 48″ x W 24″

I created this piece in “Plastic Space” to create the feeling of flowing in and out of space as the rhythm of the music carries the viewer in, out, and around  the images. You can see the Njarka in the painting representing the foundation of that basic back beat. Moving in a basic rhythm are other stringed instruments, the piano, the base, the violin, the guitar all aiding in the creation of the musical symphony from the past to the present.


This painting is the first of a series of musical pieces inspired by an upcoming juried show at the Hammonds House Museum Gallery in Atlanta, Georgia. The theme of the show is to be “From Songhai to Symphony Hall”. As I researched to find out a bit about music in the Songhai people of Africa, I discovered that it was once the greatest empire in all of Africa and greatly influenced by Islam. The music is centered from one particular instrument called a Njarka. It is a large gourd with a small hole carved into it and attached by a long neck with one string. This instrument is used to center the basic beat of all other instruments that were used in the development of music in the Songhai region. This basic one string and one beat brought to mind something the great Dizzy Gillespie once said, that “without a back beat, you ain’t got no jazz” And here is proof that there has always been a back beat in our early history of music all the way to today.


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