These days, the voice as a dominant instrument is finding new favor among music lovers. The group that has been central to this development within the contemporary music scene is a quintet of electrifying vocalists based in Washington, D.C., Sweet Honey in the Rock.
Singing unaccompanied, except for body and hand percussion instruments, this ensemble of African-American women singers has, in 17 years, built an solid international reputation and following. The strength of Sweet Honey lies within her repertoire rooted in the tradition of African congregational choral style and its many extensions. One hears the moan of blues, the power of early 20th century gospel, echoes of the community quartet, and jazz choral vocalizations freshly tinged with church melodic and harmonic runs. A Sweet Honey in the Rock concert is a transforming experience, drenching audiences with harmonies. The rhythms change, leads change, and women dance: breathtaking music.
The women of Sweet Honey sing fiercely of being fighters, tenderly of being in love, and knowingly of being women. They take their evergrowing audiences through a complex journey of celebration and struggle rooted in the history of the African-American legacy.
The concept and leadership of the group rest primarily with Bernice Johnson Reagon, who, as vocal director of the D.C. Black Repertory Theater, founded The Sweet Honey in 1973. Reagon began her work as a socially conscious artist in 1961 during the Albany, Georgia Civil Rights Movement campaign. The musical and political groundwork set by Reagan is constantly expanded by the other singers who join her on Sweet Honey's stages. Twenty African-American women singers have lent their voices, over the years, so that there could be a Sweet Honey in the Rock.
Among Sweet Honey in the Rock's many albums are Live at Carnegie Hall (1988) and Feel Something Drawing Me On (1989), both on Flying Fish Records, Still on the Journey (1993), Sacred Ground (1995) and Women Gather (2003), all released by Earthbeat! Records, and Still the Same Me, released on Rounder Records in 2000. Raise Your Voice appeared on Rhino Records in 2005. ~ Laura Post