A short article with Jennifer Johns. In March last year we heard from Johns, who was traveling South Africa with the FUN Manifesto. Now that journey has resulted in an album.
A year ago I got on a plane to South Africa to ask people about freedom… While I knew this journey would change me forever, I was still not prepared for all that I encountered. For 10 (unexpected) months Spirit moved with me through what was one of the deepest, hardest and most transformational quests of my life. I learned about how hurt people hurt people, how lovers love regardless and how powerful and nuanced real love is…
Honestly I had no plan of recording music at all when I began this trip… but upon reaching Cape Town something shifted in me… I was made into the vessel I prayed to be and created a body of work that I am humbled chose me.
How do people first connect with music? Discover how. This is what a few of the contributors to this site said on this topic.
When you read it you might realize that two of the most important people in this perspective could very well be our parents... And it may just be some food for thought to those out there who are parents to young children now, when music might have taken a back seat to other things that go on in their homes.
TK Blue: - There were several factors that influenced my early attraction to the saxophone. I used to listen to James Brown as a teenager and I love Maceo Parker on alto sax. I used to pretend that I was playing those sax solos with “The Godfather of Soul”.
Kris Bowers: - My parents got me started in music. They aren’t musicians, but they put me in lessons when I was 4 or 5. They let me try other things as well besides music.
Lige Curry: - When you are a kid you are trying to figure it out. I had relatives who thought that I should get into sports and others who thought I should be a doctor. But my auntie, one of my mother’s sisters, got me a toy guitar and she was right. I started playing with it like I did with the rest of my toys, but the guitar was more interesting.
Joey DeFrancesco: - It definitely meant a lot that I grew up in a musical family – it’s why I play music! It is also why I play the organ. I got the love for it at home. If I hadn’t been around it I wouldn’t have known about it.
Jennifer Johns: - My parents say that I was singing before I could speak. As a child I sang with my dad, who was my first voice-coach.
Steven Kroon: - At a very early age I became paralized by the music on the radio. My older brother Bobby started playing before me, and I chose to follow in his footsteps. He was a great inspiration to me and my first mentor. When our parents discovered that we wanted to play musical instruments, they went and bought us our first drums, and were happy to let us practice in the basement. I often tell people that music chose me. I felt like lightening struck me the first time I heard music coming out of the radio. From then on it was love at first sight.
David Murray: - Music was always in front if me. My mother was a pianist and the director of music in a church, where she played the organ and piano, and directed the choir. My father played the guitar. I started taking piano lessons at five years old, for a local piano teacher. I started playing saxophone at nine. My brother played the clarinet by then.
Bria Skonberg: - My family were supporters of music, and there were musical instruments around the house. My brother played the fiddle. I picked up the trumpet in 7th grade, and then I joined the school band.
My parents say that I was singing before I could speak. As a child I sang with my dad, who was my first voice-coach.
Growing up I listened to Earth Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder and The Pointer Sisters. When my parents separated my aunt moved in, and introduced me to reggae. Bob Marley became a fixture.
Music is air. It is life. It's the language of spirit.
People often complain about circumstances, and for example about the media being manipulating, but the media is made by master artists.
We need to take our art seriously too. When I'm at my best I'm a sorcerer.
Jennifer Johns "Heavy" from the album HeavyElectroMagneticSoularPoeticJungleHop
My first album, a lifetime in the making, and then I recorded it in ten days, in a basement, with pneumonia. I hadn’t intended to do it that way, but I had already paid for the studio. The album represents a moment in my life. It’s a snapshot - where I was at the time.
Record company people are shady. What happened with my second album was a blessing. I don’t need to be controlled. I needed to take a break. It was my most poppy album.
Their goal was to have a new hot single. I called them and said that I was overwhelmed. They replied that I had a responsibility. I shifted courses, but I never stopped singing. I have done everything from opening for people to rocking the presidential debate. I soon learnt that my music was powerful in service to my community. I was upset with the label, but I am not subject to anybody else’s anything.
Jennifer Johns "I Am The One" featuring Vanessa German /audio
I have been aware ever since I was five or six years old. It's always been with me. I heard “We are the world” and was an activist already by then. I am from Oakland, home of The Black Panthers. I raised money for hunger - at the age of six. I allowed myself to feel, to feel the nuances of this human life. And by the time I was an adult living in New York I realized that I needed to stop trying to be a pop star. At that time my mom got a disease. I heard the news on International Women’s Day. I sang my prayer on stage that night, and Green For All were in the audience. After the show they said “You have a real understanding for how the green world effects the inner world”. And I wanted to talk about food injustice, about how in urban areas the likelihood that you are eating real and healthy food is almost zero. Green For All flew me across the country - to open for them. My voice is a tool that opens the spirit up to a message.
Introduction to The F.U.N. Manifesto
Currently I’m in South Africa. I am here for FUN, the Free U Now Manifesto.
My intention is to travel around the world to ask people about freedom. Being a black woman asking, seeing for example what’s going on in the US and in South Africa. I believe in America and in South Africa. I believe that we will get there and I believe that we will reconcile in time so we can move on. It requires willingness to engage, and from those who get benefits from oppression it does requires something more. We really need to get out of all the madness of the ego. - It requires for the people who can do that to set examples.
It's twenty-two years since South Africa rejected apartheid. There are no rules for where and how we go on fom here.
Jennifer Johns is a singer, producer and artivist, who is currently travelling the world with the F.U.N. Manifesto. After releasing HeavyElectroMagneticSoularPoeticJungleHop in 2004, she has opened for acts such as Ms. Lauryn Hill and The Black Eyed Peas, and for a long period of time she has also been an artistic spokesperson for awareness and social justice through her art, performing for example at presidential debates and alongside Reverend Michael Bernard Beckwith.