Communication professor Josh Kun is the recent recipient of a $10,000 Casden Institute Faculty Research Grant for his proposal to document African American and Jewish relations in 20th century American life. The project will take the form of a musical anthology, tentatively titled “Go Down Moses: The Secret Musical History of Black-Jewish Relations,” and Kun will produce the study.
“This particular CD project will explore the myriad ways Jews and African-Americans have coalesced, clashed, mobilized, and struggled with each other but through a century’s worth of extraordinary and fascinating musical performance that finds Jews performing black music and African-Americans performing Jewish music and appealing to Jewish audiences,” Kun said. “I believe that the project speaks directly to innovations in the study of Jewish life in the context of multi-racial and multi-ethnic America.”
The CD itself will be released by Reboot Stereophonic, a nationally acclaimed non-profit record label Kun co-founded in 2004 that is dedicated to excavating lost treasures of Jewish-American musical history and re-examining dominant narratives of Jewish-American identity. The label's motto, "History sounds different if you know where to start listening," relates to its mandate of creating musical conversations "otherwise impossible in daily life," according to the label's website.
Kun said he hopes Reboot Stereophonic will do this by "unearthing lost classics from the archive, sounds that are languishing in thrift-store crates across the nation," thereby enabling new stories that accompany them to be told: "hybrid identities, eclectic communities, racial dialogue, and pioneering musical style." He said he plans to use the study to help relate to a greater social agenda.
"Indeed, this CD project understands the question of being ‘Jewish in America' as inseparable from the pluralistic and hybrid mix of American culture and society," Kun said.