1961. After 2 years in the Lionel Hampton Big Band, Horace is on the tour bus on Sunset Boulevard after a gig in Los Angeles
and the band is about to head back to New York. It is 4 o'clock in the morning and Horace has bigger things on his mind.
I got off the bus. Oliver Jackson, the drummer, said, "Where you going, Horace?"
"This is it brother, I've had it." I wanted to do something else. I wanted my own thing;
I wanted to write it, and I wanted to help preserve the music. The music was just going
off, and nobody knew who wrote the music or cared. I had been in school at Jeff with
Richard Barry when he wrote "Louie, Louie," and no one knew Richard Barry. And
that's why my feelings got to the point where these people, these men and women who
really were in the music, like Melba Liston and all those folks, should be recognized and
their contribution to this whole scheme of things should be recognized.
This is when I first started thinking about putting the Arkestra together and that's why
I got off the road to start my own band, to preserve black music. I wanted to preserve
and teach and show and perform the music of black Americans and Pan-African music,
to preserve it by playing it and writing it and taking it to the community. That was what
it was about, being a part of the community, and that's the reason I left Hamp's band that
night. I decided that what my family had gone through for me to get into the music was for
this particular reason, to make a point, to say something with it, for it to be accepted as good
music and to be accepted as part of the fabric of the whole society that we all dream of having.
And that meant being at home. - Horace Tapscott*
Horace would link up with Linda Hill, Lester Robertson, David Bryant, Al Hines, Jimmy Woods, and Guido Sinclair and start
the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra. This group would grow into a powerful band and community force in the Central Los Angeles
cultural and political scene with community concerts being given every month, and through UGMAA, the Union of God's Musicians
and Artist's Ascension, lead community efforts and activism as an artist collective with the community a central part of it's identity and
mission, bringing up young artists, musicians, dancers, actors, and poets to perform and grow, putting on workshops and plays, with the
the band doing benefits and playing at political rallies and events for people like Nate Holden and Tom Bradley.
The Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra and UGMAA would see every serious musician that knew the scene in Los Angeles stop by when they
came through. Members of Sun Ra's Arkestra (Horace got the spelling from Sun Ra's group) and the AACM would play in the group when
certain players were in Los Angeles and vice versa when Ark musicians were back in the other groups communities. UGMAA and the Ark
would see people like the great actor William Marshall put on big plays for the community and see great musicians like Arthur Blythe, Butch Morris,
Charles Lloyd, Red Callendar, Rufus Olivier, Sonny Criss, and see people like Stanley Crouch and Elaine Brown getting involved as well. It was
a serious, dynamic, and challenging time in the community when the Ark emerged and the people got involved and the music reflected that.
Over the years the band would stretch across multi-generational lines with the youngsters playing right along side the elders as they learned and
got a chance to cut their teeth in a big band of the community they were in right there in their community. The first album of PAPA, Flight 17, has
a song by Herbert Baker, a student at Dorsey High School that was in the band who died in a car crash when he was 17. The album was dedicated
to him. Jesse Sharps, Fuasi Abdul-Khaliq, Nate Morgan, Michael Session, Fundi Legohn, Kafi Roberts, Steve Smith, Amos Delone, and many others
were all youngsters coming up through the Ark in the 1970s. All of these current band members and many others spread throughout the world today
were playing, learning, sharing, and writing music in the group. The body of work of compositions represented by the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra
numbers in the hundreds and is growing still with new players and the next generations starting to contribute their own voices and music. Young
players like Isaac Smith, Randall Fisher, Nick Rosen, Tracy Caldwell, Kamasi Washington, Richard Grant, and others all lending their voices to the
group and sharing their compositions as well. Kamau Daaood and Dwight Trible still bringing their wonderful words and voices to the ears of those
lucky enough to share in the brilliance that this community arts collective and orchestra have to offer going on 50 years now.
TO BE CONTINUED
* Songs of the Unsung: The Musical and Social Journey of Horace Tapscott