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Questlove Shares Details On 'Roots' TV Miniseries Remake

Questlove reveals that he wrote the theme song and is working on the score for the upcoming 'Roots' TV miniseries remake.


In July, the A+E Networks announced their remake of Roots, the 1977 miniseries based on Alex Haley‘s multigenerational portrait of American slavery. Back then, it was confirmed that Questlove would be joining the team as the show's executive music producer to “create the authentic African sound and themes for the characters as well as produce the overall sound as the music progresses each night.”

As Okayplayer points out, Questlove recently spoke with Ebony in an interview in which he revealed more details about the music of the upcoming Roots miniseries. “Right now I’m doing the score. I wrote the theme," he tells Ebony. "The main score of Alex Haley’s Roots re-do is called ‘Binta’s Theme.’ Basically, they’re having this recurring motif that will somehow travel through all eras of this movie. So it starts with Kunta Kinte’s grandmother in Africa singing this to herself in the fields. And somehow this haunting melody will find its way into the psyche of whatever character."

“So I mean, it could be Kunta on the plantation in a church and he hears something like, ‘oh damn, that reminds me of that song my grandmom used to sing,’ ” he adds. “And then Chicken George and Kizzy will hear that: ‘oh man, this is what Kunta used to sing in the church.’ And there’ll be a juke joint. And then Alex Haley will hear it: ‘sounds just like the song my aunt Kizzy used to…’ And then Alex Haley’s grandchildren will be at the EDM club [laughter].”

The Roots remake will air across History, A&E and Lifetime in 2016 as a 4-night, 8-hour event and already has the likes of Laurence Fishburne (Alex Haley), Forest Whitaker (Fiddler), and more on board.

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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