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National Museum of African American Music to honor Chaka Khan, more 'Legends' for Juneteenth

·2 min read
The National Museum of African American Music in Nashville, Tenn., held a socially distant ribbon cutting ceremony with elected leaders, Museum board members, and community leaders on the Monday of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. The public opening is on January 30, 2021.
The National Museum of African American Music in Nashville, Tenn., held a socially distant ribbon cutting ceremony with elected leaders, Museum board members, and community leaders on the Monday of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. The public opening is on January 30, 2021.

The National Museum of African American Music's annual "Celebration of Legends" has always lived up to its name, but perhaps never more so than with this year's event.

There's plenty of cause for celebration: This is the first major concert the museum has put on since opening its doors in Nashville this past January, following 20-plus years of development.

And there's never been a more legendary class of honorees than this year's, which includes some true pillars of American music. Quincy Jones, Smokey Robinson, Lionel Richie, Chaka Khan and the Fisk Jubilee Singers will each be given the museum's "Rhapsody and Rhythm" award.

"I think (the honorees) wanted to be a part of celebrating the inaugural year of the museum actually being open," said museum president and CEO H. Beecher Hicks III.

"We're pleased to be able to honor such an august group of folks who are legends, and who will become legendary as things continue to unfold. We're really delighted with that."

Hallowed Sound: The trials and triumph of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, one of America’s great musical institutions

The recognition for Nashville's Fisk Jubilee Singers comes as the vocal group celebrates its 150th anniversary — and after the challenges of the pandemic placed numerous hurdles in their path. Earlier this year, the group won its first-ever Grammy Award for its live album "Celebrating Fisk!"

Fisk Jubilee Singers Musical Director Paul T. Kwami addresses the audience during a public celebration for the Jubilee Singers' Grammy Award at Fisk University on Thursday, April 8, 2021 in Nashville, Tenn. The Fisk Jubilee Singers won their first Grammy Award for Best Roots Gospel Album in the group's 150 years.
Fisk Jubilee Singers Musical Director Paul T. Kwami addresses the audience during a public celebration for the Jubilee Singers' Grammy Award at Fisk University on Thursday, April 8, 2021 in Nashville, Tenn. The Fisk Jubilee Singers won their first Grammy Award for Best Roots Gospel Album in the group's 150 years.

"Whenever I met with my students (last year), I told them, 'Let's keep going forward with focus on a brighter future," said Dr. Paul Kwami, the group's longtime musical director.

"Not knowing that we would be winning a Grammy, and not knowing that the museum would be giving us this award, and other things that are yet to happen. So for me, personally, I am just so happy."

The Fisk Jubilee Singers perform during the  58th annual State of Metro address at the Music City Center Thursday, April 29, 2021 in Nashville, Tenn.
The Fisk Jubilee Singers perform during the 58th annual State of Metro address at the Music City Center Thursday, April 29, 2021 in Nashville, Tenn.

Kwami and Chaka Khan will be attending tonight's event in person, while Jones, Robinson and Richie will accept the honor remotely.

Thursday's ceremony kicks off a three-day stretch of museum events observing Black Music Month as well as Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S.

On Friday, the museum holds its inaugural "State of Black Music Summit," with a full slate of industry panels and the museum's annual State of Black Music Report. On Saturday, a Juneteenth Block Party will be held on the rooftop of Fifth + Broadway.

"It's great to have a place where folks can gather and have a good time, listen, learn, go through some history and do it the Nashville way," said Hicks.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Juneteenth 'Legends' ceremony celebrates Black music artists

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