November 15, 2013
Review of Susanna Vapnek’s Mabon Teenie Hodges: A Portrait of a Memphis Soul Original and Jonathan Isom’s I AM SOUL
Memphis Soul is a globally popular and widely recognizable brand of music and being-in-the-world. Created by the syncretic integration of West African rhythms, Mississippi Delta field hollers, blues music, and gospel riffs, Memphis Soul came of age in the urban and rural milieu of blues and racial repression from the plantations of Sunflower County to the juke joints of Beale Street. Soul, as a quality of being and an aesthetic, is quite literally at the root of every unique American artistic expression, from the collages of Romare Bearden and the choreography of Alvin Ailey, to the novels of Toni Morrison, to the expanses of hip-hop in the U.S. and beyond. And to be clear, Memphis has a premium on soul as an originary site of its spontaneous expression at the intersection of black urban and rural cultures by the Mighty Mississippi.