Jay Brown, Kevin Spears celebrate MLK through music

Kevin Spears' shows are a mix of composed and improvisational elements, as well as visionary use of digital loops and effects.

Anyone with even a casual knowledge of the work of Dr. Martin Luther King is aware of central role music played in the civil rights movement.

It provided hope, courage and camaraderie in difficult times, and the songs generated by the movement continue to echo wherever people are fighting for their rights. The ideals embodied in King's leadership have, in turn, inspired countless songs.

On Monday, Jan. 15 at 7 p.m., host Jay Brown and kalimba player extraordinaire Kevin Spears celebrate King’s legacy in the January segment of the “Mountain Made Music” series at White Horse Black Mountain.

 Spears’ chosen musical voice is the kalimba, a modern iteration of an ancient African instrument consisting of an array of plucked steel strips mounted on a wooden resonator. Spears takes the kalimba on a voyage through its past, present and future to allow it to emerge as a powerful voice for both tradition and innovation.

The past is manifest in the thumb piano’s proud place in African music, as well as its high profile use by proponents like the late Maurice White of Earth, Wind and Fire. The possibilities of the present moment are always front and center in a Kevin Spears show, exemplified by the mix of composed and improvisational elements, as well as  visionary use of digital loops and effects to expand the sonic palette. Futuristic digital magic can make the kalimba sound like virtually any instrument. But the electronic wizardry is always humanized by Spear's passionate real time contributions. 

Brown plays with a number of groups in the Asheville area, including The Lazybirds, the Indian-influenced group Shantavaani, Swing Guitars and his newest Southern roots project, The Appalucians. A prolific songwriter in an eclectic mix of genres, he’s spent years touring the U.S. and abroad absorbing musical styles. He’s the founder and sole member of the Jay Brown One-Man Band, singing original songs while accompanying himself on guitar, harmonica and foot percussion.