In the past few years, the rise of ‘experiential’ events has grown significantly. Held off only for a short while whilst the pandemic raged this form of entertainment has been around since the 1960s yet technology has heightened these events into breathtaking emotive nights out. Once an artist called Pierro Manzoni invites people to view a live art event, Corpi d’Aria (Bodies of Air) in May 1960. This was an edition of 45 balloons on tripods that could be blown up by the buyer, or the artist himself, depending on the price paid to be immersed in the experience. Nowadays, these interactive events utilise new technology to bring an even more deeply emotive experience. A new event by LexTempus, immersive event LexTempus – VLT-001 “The Greats” at Aures London journies through the social and political injustices in American history that shaped Black music and culture. Weaving through the 50s to the 80s, stopping at three destinations where the narrator shines a light on generational pioneers who shaped the soundscape of not only America but the world. Held at Aures, London, a dedicated space that stimulates all five senses with a live performance alongside state-of-the-art, immersive technology. Find out more in Sound in Situ here
The Singer Nina Simone had always included songs in her repertoire that drew on her African-American heritage, such as “Brown Baby” “Zungo”. On her debut album for the Philips record label, Nina Simone in Concert (1964), for the first time she addressed racial inequality in the United States in the song “Mississippi Goddam”, her response to the June 12, 1963, murder of Medgar Evers and the September 15, 1963, bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, that killed four young black girls and partly blinded a fifth.
She said that the song was “like throwing ten bullets back at them”, becoming one of many other protest songs written by Simone.
The song was released as a single, but it came with strife. It was boycotted in some southern states. Promotional copies were smashed by a Carolina radio station and returned to Philips. She later recalled how “Mississippi Goddam” was her “first civil rights song” and that the song came to her “in a rush of fury, hatred and determination”.
The song challenged the belief that race relations could change gradually and called for more immediate developments: “me and my people are just about due”.
Although her political activism certainly affected her career negatively Nina Simone’s music had a huge impact partly because it spanned a wide variety of styles like classical, folk, gospel, blues, jazz, R&B, and pop.
Others at the time and earlier, including the likes of Duke Ellington, Miles Davies, Ella Fitzgerald, and John Coltraine all struggled with segregation and racism in the 1940s to 1950s America but their perseverance effected changed forever. But it was a slow slow move towards equality.
A decade or so later Marvin Gaye’s protest anthem What’s Going On was a powerful and groundbreaking song at the time of its release in 1971 when the fight for equality was beginning to impact deeper it also join forces with anti-war protesters and the hippie movement.
Initially written by Renaldo “Obie” Benson, who was prompted by the unprovoked police brutality he witnessed in May 1969. Benson, a member of Motown vocal group the Four Tops, was on tour with the band and as their bus arrived in San Francisco, he saw the police attacking a crowd of hippies over a disused urban lot called People’s Park. The song was slightly altered to fit Marvin Gaye’s take on the troubling times as his brother had served in the army and completed a tour of Vietnam.
In the hands (or voice ) of Marvin Gaye, it became a sad yet beautiful, pleading, world-weary reflection on the situation in the United States. This was a time when Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy had all been assassinated, race relations were deteriorating, poverty levels rising and there was increasing anger against the escalating Vietnam war.
When Berry Gordy ( the founder of the Motown record ) heard the actual song he called it “the worst thing I’ve ever heard in my life” and said he hated the “Dizzy Gillespie-styled scats”. Gordy responded like a father whose favourite son had just rejected an Ivy League scholarship to become a Yippie.
Other important voices at this point in time were legends such as Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye and James Brown all of whom via their voices explored the inner-city lifestyle and political struggles of the time.
Also during the 70s, Billy Paul was one of the many artists associated with the Philadelphia soul sound created by Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, and Thom Bell. Paul’s voice ranged from mellow, and soulful all the way to low and raspy and he was often equated with Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder.
Most often known for his 1972 single “Me and Mrs Jones”, a soulful ballad that shot him to fame, yet his follow-up almost destroyed it. The massive success was short-lived because his follow-up single “Am I Black Enough for You?” not only failed to reach the heights of “Mrs. Jones”, but because the song’s Black Power political message proved too much for mainstream radio. After all, everyone expected another soulful Ballard, not a protest song.
Once we got into the 1970s a happier mood did prevail and music became less political (until punk came along) For black music and culture disco ran supreme. The end of the civil rights movement (for a while) blossomed into a new era of love and unity, a period of more acceptance and togetherness, championed by legendary Disco Divas such as Chic, Sister Sledge, Donna Summer and Diana Ross.
This bought sultry sexy uptempo music (although disco has its roots in the much darker gay, black, male bondage clubs of NYC) this was a time of fun, frolicking and glitter balls. Music was about love, about happy things, and no longer, in this era of more freedom, was there room for political comment in music.
As we draw near to Black History Month a new interactive event celebrates all that music of African-American and Island-American Heritage has bought to the world of pop.
The genre would after all not exist without black pioneers such as Louis Jordan and Ray Charles or even earlier with the rock and roll nun who was Sister Loretta Tharp.
Aures London launches on the 8th of October alongside LexTempus VLT-001 “The Greats”. A 90-minute full sensory docu-musical that transports passengers to the defining eras of Black American music. A first of its kind, the digital time machine is a celebration and education of Black music that stimulates all five senses with live performance and state-of-the-art technology. This venue is transformed into a first-class aircraft that travels through time so you can experience musical greats up close, just feel as if you were time travelling in a regular plane with staff serving drinks as you cross the time frames.
An immersive experience that combines live dancers with studio-quality audio, visuals and bespoke cocktails. It journies through the social and political injustices in American history that shaped Black music and culture.
Weaving through the 50s to the 80s, stopping at three destinations where the narrator shines a light on generational pioneers who shaped the soundscape of not only America but the world.
The first leg of the journey (by plane) to 50s and 60s Chicago, the golden years of jazz with its rising resistance to segregation and how it fuelled some of the greatest music of all time. Think Miles Davies, Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone.
Then comes New York; where the Black movement birthed a new wave of individual and iconic Soul Kings. This music highlighted the struggle of Black American life through the height of the civil right movement and civil unrest; with titans such as Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye and James Brown utterly stylish yet still highlighting the political struggles of the time. Running at the time in history were the highly popular blacksploitation films that many of these singers created soundtracks for.
Final stop? San Francisco California. Embedded at the end of the 70s and 80s, when the end of the civil rights movement blossomed a new era of love and unity. The final chapter reveals a period of acceptance and togetherness, championed by the legendary Disco Queens, Chic, Sister Sledge, Donna Summer and Diana Ross.
The carefully curated playlist, digitally immersive technology, and visuals brought to life by live contemporary dancers, leave the audience engulfed in their surroundings. Crystal-clear sound is amplified through a34 speaker multi-plane hi-fi sound system by Pioneer Pro Audio, while Haptic 4D seating pulsates to the music. Customised scents replicate the aromas of each destination. The visuals are displayed on a 12k floor-to-ceiling screen, and 270-degree immersive visuals. Alongside the screens live dancers add another dimension.
Those who travel on this musical journey will physically feel the music with Haptic (Vibration) interface. Room Scent nebulizer by Ecoscent will refabricate the aromas of each destination.
Alongside are three cocktails one for each decade with push buttons on the table to get the attention of the servers during the performance.
Experts in producing immersive events, Aures London sits on Leake Street beneath Waterloo Station. Proudly housing the best sound system and acoustics in Europe. Flight VLT-001 “The Greats” will board at Gate 18, where the historical, full sensory round trip begins.
Sit in the audience like a guest on a rather special plane journey and let the entertainment commence all around you so that you can soak up the sounds on every level; thrilling every one of the five senses.
The show launches 8th October with tickets priced at£35 as an introductory offer for Black History Month each and are available to purchase from LexTempus’ website and Fever Up London.