Creator and composer Ashli St. Armant drew inspiration from an array of musical heroes, including crooner Nat King Cole, gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, Fela Kuti - father of Afrobeat, and legendary lyricist Stephen Sondheim.
As a result, the score of NORTH covers a wide breadth of musical genres including spirituals, worker songs, the blues, traditional pop, Afrobeat, musical theatre and of course, jazz!
Jazz is a foundational building block of NORTH, as jazz represents a culmination of many early Black American experiences, and their musical expressions.
What are Spirituals?
Spirituals were songs born from black churches during the 1700s and 1800s. Although lyrics often carried religious themes, spirituals also spoke to the Black experience in the Antebellum South and the quest for freedom. It is also said that freedom seekers use spirituals as codes to navigate the Underground Railroad.
Spirituals like “Wade In The Water” and Black American folks songs like “All The Pretty Little Horses” are woven through NORTH as musical interludes.
For many more resources on spirituals and Black American folk music, check out Smithsonian Folkways, an incredible non-profit national archive of music and sound recordings & history.