About the series

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Stranger Fruit


Stranger Fruit is a live music and discussion series reflecting on the legacies of Jazz and Blues women on contemporary music and culture.

The title is inspired by “Strange Fruit” originally sung by Billie Holiday, written by Abel Meeropol. The song is recognised as a protest against the lynching of black Americans and identifies the victims with the fruit of trees. The central invocation/invitation of the series is to imagine what would it be like if strangers were seen as a product of a society, or community’s, own making, voices highlighting our fault lines and how we might imagine things differently.

Women have been central to the origins and evolution of Jazz and Blues. They have inspired some of the most famous musicians – Ma Rainey’s gravelly vocals inspired Louis Armstrong, Janis Joplin & Bonnie Raitt; Victoria Spivey nurtured the musical talent of Bob Dylan; Big Mama Thornton originally recorded ‘Hound Dog’ – one of Elvis Presley’s biggest hits.

Many jazz and blues women also advocate female empowerment through independence, sassiness & sexual freedom. Yet the women, their music & social interventions remain unknown.

The few women that are recognised tend to be cast as victims, their life stories turned into one-dimensional tales without agency and self-determination or as simply accidental adjuncts to the music industry.

In Stranger Fruit four contemporary musicians – Sharron Mcleod, Charlotte Keeffe, RENU, and Roella Oloro – reflect on the music and cultural legacies of four female pioneers of jazz and blues – Abbey Lincoln, Tiny Davis, Jeanne Lee, Esperanza Spalding. They will be interviewed and will play live leading into improvisations.

The aim of these sessions is to transform perceptions of women’s impact on
contemporary music & culture and inspire more liberating concepts of identity &
relationships across difference. Audience members will be encouraged to play an active part in the sessions.

Live sessions will be hosted by Debbie Golt and Marva Jackson Lord.

The series was envisioned and produced by Bilkis Malek of Transculturalvisions and project partners Outerglobe and Griots Arts.