In late October, the Ken Okoth ’01 Black American Music Project brought artist Jake Blount to campus to perform a free public performance and guest lecture in classes. The musician and scholar, whose latest album reinterprets traditional Black spirituals, is an expert on the African origins of the banjo and the important influence of African Americans on roots music and Americana. Guided by luminaries like Bruce Molsky and Rhiannon Giddens, Blount honed his craft in string band music.
His debut solo album, “Spider Tales,” which was released in 2020, garnered praise, with The Guardian lauding it as an “instant classic.” Blount’s latest album, “The New Faith,” released through Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, exemplifies his Afrofuturist exploration of traditional Black religious music in a post-climate crisis context. Blount has referred to the album as “Black folk music from the future,” and its acclaim solidified his status as a visionary in the musical landscape.
The Ken Okoth ’01 Black American Music Project at St. Lawrence supports a series of visual displays, lectures, seminars, and live performances that explore the history and origins of Black music and the influence of Black American musical traditions on the world. Generously funded by an anonymous donor, the Project honors the legacy of Ken Okoth ’01, a beloved friend of many Laurentians whose love of music was exemplified in his performances with the Laurentian Singers and the Singing Saints.