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Sweet Honey In The Rock

Challenge and change are the themes underlying the 40-plus-year career of the revered female African-American a cappella ensemble, SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK. In the course of creating its adventurous and diverse mixture of blues, African, jazz, gospel and R&B music, with excursions into symphonic and dance theater, 23 vocalists have passed through the group, formed as a quartet in 1973 at a workshop at the D.C. Black Repertory Theater Company in Washington. Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, Carol Maillard, Louise Robinson, and Mie drew their name from the first song they learned, “Sweet Honey in the Rock,” based on a Biblical psalm. “Sweet Honey speaks of a land that is so rich when you break the rocks open, honey flows. And we thought it was something like us African-American women . . . strong like a rock, but inside [there’s] honey – sweet,” explains Robinson.

Since 1973, this remarkable all women, African- American group has been creating historical and stimulating topics expressed through song, dance and sign language. The ensemble has produced over 20 albums and has interchanged with many vocalists. However, embarking on a new chapter in their musical journey, Sweet Honey In The Rock now includes four core vocalists—Louise Robinson, Carol Maillard (both founding members) Nitanju Bolade Casel, and Aisha Kahlil—plus Shirley Childress (an American Sign Language Interpreter who has been performing live with the group since 1981). One of the early highlights of their 2016 performance season will be Sweet Honey in the Rock’s 34th appearance at Carnegie Hall which will include special guest appearances by highly-regarded violinist Regina Carter and trumpeter Terence Blanchard.

Their soon-to-be-released 24th studio album, #LoveinEvolution, highlights Sweet Honey In The Rock’s signature blend of jazz, blues, soul, gospel, and African chants, containing 14 touching songs produced by Nitanju Bolade Casel. The album features an eclectic mix of new original songs and covers of a few popular classics.

SWEET HONEY’s founder, Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon (who retired from the group in 2004), first became aware of the political power – the “rock” – of song while in jail in 1961 for her participation in a civil rights march in her Albany, Georgia, hometown. After her release, she became a member of the original Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee Freedom Singers and a leader in the Sixties civil rights movement, traveling the country spreading its songs and message – “We Shall Not Be Moved.”

With political and social activism as much a cornerstone of its objective as vocally painting a multi-genre rainbow of music with an a cappella (aside from its members’ hand percussion) approach that is part of its African American legacy, SWEET HONEY began performing in 1974 and was soon performing various festivals in the US and Canada, including the Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife at the National Mall in Washington. After the 1976 release of its first album, eponymously titled, the group expanded its touring, which included appearances at the 1979 Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE) concerts in New York City that became the “No Nukes” concert film and album. In the summer of 2011, SWEET HONEY and other MUSE musicians (Bonnie Raitt, Crosby, Stills & Nash, et al) performed a benefit concert for disaster relief efforts in Japan.

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Album Discography

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

#LoveInEvolution

SHE-ROCKS 5, INC./Appleseed Recordings (distributed by E1 Entertainment)
2016

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Sweet Honey in the...

Appleseed Recordings
2013

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