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Psychedelic funk band “Black Pumas” is what America needs right now

by Deon Osborne, Associate Editor
black pumas austin texas colors black pumas grammy awards
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Cutting through the noise of pandemic devastation, political stalemate, and social strife, the Black Pumas’ soulful lyrics and electrifying notes remind us there’s still some beauty left in humanity.

Labeled a “psychedelic soul” band by Rolling Stone, lead singer Eric Burton and producer Adrian Quesada brought together the Austin, TX-based music group with a self-titled debut album in 2019.

The genre-bending group performed their hit song “Colors” at the 2021 Grammy Award, taking home three grammy nominations in 2021 and one in 2020. The unique sound instantly pierces past the superficial, aiming directly at the soul.

Black Pumas remind of us of the beauty in humanity

Deaths in the U.S. due to the COVID pandemic has approached nearly 700,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Transformative legislation in the areas of climate, voting rights, and infrastructure remain muzzled by a gridlocked Congress. On top of that, communities must continue to push back against individual and systemic racism as nationwide restitution for Black people remains out of sight.


 


Enter: the Black Pumas. In 2017, lead singer Eric Burton was a street performer who moved to downtown Austin. He previously grew up in the San Fernando Valley. Adrian Quesada was already an accomplished, grammy award winner for a 2011 Latin album. 

Quesada was looking for a partner to start a new soul-funk and R&B venture. Since then, they’ve won Best New Band at the 2019 Austin Music Awards. A year later, the group was nominated for Best New Artist at the 2020 Grammy Awards.

“Soul music is very central,” singer Burton told Independent in 2020. “It’s by people who feel a certain way about their existence – they might not feel as accepted… it’s that reflection of old gospel and blues music.”

Beyond genres: A psychedelic, soul, funk sound

At this year’s Grammy Awards they performed their hit single “Colors,” and scored three nominations for: Album of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best American Roots Performance.

The two released their sensual debut single, “Black Moon Rising,” under ATO Records in 2018.

“Shoot me down and break my heart. / It’s the black moon rising,” Burton’s sultry voice proclaims in the chorus. “You brave the sight, I paint the picture / of the black moon rising.”

“Colors,” one of their most popular singles, sensually reminds us of the beauty in our shared existence. 

“I woke up to the morning sky first. / Baby blue just like we rehearsed,” Burton begins, illustrating a nature-filled journey into town before arriving at the chorus. “With all my favorite colors. / All my favorite colors. / My sisters and my brothers / see them like no other.”

Meanwhile, “Fire” stirs up the passion blazing within us, reminding us to experience human emotions at every vibration.

“If there’s a fire call the fireman. / If you’re in pain babe, call the doctor. / Don’t be afraid to say I need you. / I will understand.”

“It’s about inclusiveness”

The powerful duo didn’t intend to draw parallels to the revolutionary political movement known as the Black Panthers.

Yet, producer Quesada said they do have a goal to bring people together.

“One of our goals is unity in a time when there’s a lot of divisiveness,” Quesada told Independent last year. “We’re not trying to make a political statement, but you look at our live show and you see these people from all different backgrounds and ethnicities and genders – it’s about inclusiveness.”

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