Noise of Art announces Black Montmartre in lockdown
BLACK MONTMARTRE: American Jazz and European Street Music 1920’s-2020’s.
Noise of Art’s Black Montmartre project is inspired by the arrival of Black American music and clubs in Europe after WW1 and celebrates the way Europe has embraced black American music repeatedly over the last 100 years; creating the dominant musical narrative of the 20th Century.
The back story begins in WW1 with the 369th Regiment of the US Army; a unit of Black American soldiers. The troops had been recruited in Harlem by a jazz band and believed fighting for America would improve the status of black people in the USA.
On arrival in France The US Army wouldn’t allow black soldiers to fight alongside whites. So they gave them to the French army. The 369th were re-badged with French insignia and fought bravely – suffering more casualties than any other US division. They became feared by the Germans, who dubbed them the Harlem Hell Raisers.
As well as fighting for the French, the 369th’s Jazz band toured around France, introducing French people to Jazz. In France they’d been respected artists. But returning black soldiers were greeted with a rising tide of racism in the USA. Rather than the hero’s welcome, Black soldiers were attacked for ‘acting up’. There were more lynchings in 1919 than any year in US history – some still in army uniform.
Meanwhile, in Paris, a new type of jazz venue (the origins of modern nightclubs) opened in the cafe society around Pigalle and American jazz musicians flocked there to escape oppression at home. Soon one area became known as “Black Montmartre”.
Before long the first European sub genre of American street music emerged in France as ‘gypsy jazz’… It set the course for the next 100 years of music. Black Montmartre is a recording and touring live music, word and art project that will feature shows, physical and digital releases and other art forms, such as word, visual arts, interviews and exhibitions. We have been planning it since 2016 and had been planning to launch in 2020-2021 before COVID. We have now began working on the project during lockdown with contributions so far being made by Red Snapper, Leee John of Imagination, Jayhem Racon, H.E Ross, Martyn Ware and more.
We are very grateful for the support of Arts Council England, using support from public funds.