“Soul Kids”: the committed legacy of the soul label Staxtransmitted to the underprivileged youth of Memphis


In Memphis, one of the most disaster-stricken cities in the United States, an out-of-school music school welcomes teenagers from disadvantaged backgrounds free of charge to enable them to obtain university scholarships following their training. Founded in 2000 on the legacy of the Stax Records label which accompanied the struggle for civil rights by propelling the careers of Otis Redding, Sam & Dave and Booker T. and the MG’s into the 1960s, among others, the program closely linked to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music provides high level education. Filmed without a star or a podium, the Stax Music Academy (SMA) does not share much with the Star Academy.

By giving his time to music, Hugo Sobelman delves into the hearts and thoughts of the future of soul

In the curious and enthusiastic eye of French documentary filmmaker Hugo Sobelman, barely older than the SMA students fresh as roach, the a cappella covers of the great standards of southern soul shake up idle college outings and arouse emotion bubbling and less conventional than any TV set. Sliding from one rehearsal room to another, from a school bus to a basketball court, the film cultivates face to face, a taste for improvisation, ready to be guided by the whirlwind of joyful interpretations of Born Under a Bad Sign and Send Peace and Harmony Home. Attentive to the talent of these teenagers raised in gospel, Sobelman does not prioritize, paying particular attention to small groups where energy, faith and dreams circulate. By giving his time to music, he delves into the hearts and thoughts of the future of soul.

Awaken the consciousness of students

“It’s a long walk to DC”, sings Christina, rocking from one foot to the other, in a still timid cover of the Staple Singers, without really knowing what it is. As is often the case, there are those moments when soul hits pave the way for the narrative of American black history: “I think it has something to do with the great march on Washington…”, she launches before resuming, inhabited by the memory of the elders who traveled for miles to listen, on August 28, 1963, to the speech of Martin Luther King, I have a dream.

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One of the most astonishing speeches comes from Chandra Williams, director of a cultural center in Mississippi. At a time when rap accompanies the lives of young people and shatters the download records, she chants the lines of a poem of her own to awaken the consciousness of apprentice artists, as perplexed as they are seduced: “Our gangster image fills the prisons, and these private prisons are the new cotton fields, but it’s the game we played, when we signed in a record company, by reminding children: steal, deal, die . ”

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“Soul Kids”: the committed legacy of the soul label Staxtransmitted to the underprivileged youth of Memphis