There were themes at the Tuesday night Black History Month celebration at Silver Oak Academy in Keymar. Themes of struggle and transformation, themes of musical exaltation.
Local artist Lykoh combined them all, playing layered pop music with acoustic guitar and a loop pedal, and telling the story of how he grew up rough in Prince George’s County.
“I’ve been shot twice; I’ve been stabbed four times,” he told the crowd gathered, “two of which were by my own mother.”
But at one point he had what he called an “ah ha” moment.
“You can let the negativity affect you in a negative way, and get angry and lash out and be rude,” he said. Or, “the second option, obviously, is to make something of yourself.”
Lykoh said he started writing music and has even played with Pharrell. He wrote a song about the need to make progress or the need to take stock.
“I think that’s a very important question to ask,” he said. “If we’re not moving forward, where do we go from here.”
The keynote speaker and performer of the evening was Scott Ambush, a jazz bassist in the band Spyro Gyra, and who unleashed a relentless assault of funky, chunky rhythm for the audience during his performance.
“What would America be without music? Every form of American music has been influenced by the enslaved, which brought to this country a rhythmic complexity that really wasn’t heard in the European musics that were here at that time,” Ambush said in his remarks.
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“[The enslaved] not only held on to great swaths of their own culture, they were able to meld that culture with the culture of the people that enslaved them … melded it into new music and new art forms. The art form that is new and dear to my heart is jazz.”