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June is Black Music Month and in addition to the sheer joy and excitement we are feeling about the potential release of some 60 incomplete demo recordings by Marvin Gaye (more on that later), we’re pretty jazzed by the vast vinyl collection of one of Africa’s biggest artists, El Anatsui.


The Ghanaian artist best known for his metallic bottle cap tapestries, is also a musician whose musical influences can be found in his artwork. At a recent exhibition at Efie Gallery in Dubai, Music, Change and Re-Invention, Anatsui’s vinyl collection was the focus alongside some of his early sketches that include song lyrics, music titles, and poetry.

Anatsui credits his time at university during which he played trumpet in a school band led by an American bandleader, as his introduction to music by Fela Kuti, even though the band was performing Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington. Having the chance to open for the originator of Afrobeat, Anatsui found himself exploring and collecting music by Kuti, Gladys Knight, Manu Dibango, Aretha Franklin, and many others. In an article by ARTnews, Anatsui is quoted as saying, “Just like Fela, with his bravery, courage, and audacity to break rules and set new benchmarks, I believe that my career has proven to me that the audiences are present and will always look to the artist to lead, to expand their experiences with new presentation, or renewals of old fare.”


Anatsui, like most probably legions of other visual artists, finds inspiration in music. There is a trigger for an idea that shows up in melodies, lyrics, and harmonies. His 2022 piece Keyboard of Life is illustrative of the inspiration to be found in musical instruments and cultural legacy.


And yes, we got more jazzed upon learning from an article in the BBC that 40 years after his death, an uncovered trove of cassette tapes could give us new Marvin Gaye music! And if that’s not enough, there is even a collection of costumes worn by Gaye during performances along with the cassettes.

Marvin Gaye by Jim Britt. Originally distributed by Motown Records. Scan via NYTimes

Gaye’s possessions are among those found in Belgium, presumably left in the care of Charles Dumolin, with whom Gaye resided during an incredibly tumultuous time in his life. Belgium is where Gaye recorded "Sexual Healing" and the entire era is well documented in David Ritz’s Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye. Even though Marvin Gaye's songs still garner more than 20 million monthly downloads, what joy could be found in hearing his voice on never-before-released recordings!


Whether you are into streaming, spinning vinyl, popping in cassettes, or the high unlikelihood that you might be able to fire up an 8-track, we wish you smooth rides with mellow vibes during Black Music Month and beyond, said in my sultry radio voice. Ha!


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