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Lara Downes

Nina Simone introduced me to Ledisi. I've been working on a project devoted to Ms. Simone's music, and from the very beginning my producer has been telling me about Ledisi's tribute album to Simone. It sounded interesting — a powerhouse R&B and jazz singer paying homage to an artist whose music provided her a lifeline in a time of crisis. And then, last month, Ledisi Sings Nina came out.

A few months ago I was scrolling through my phone and found that Jon Batiste had shared my new single with his Instagram followers. I DM'd him my thanks and we chatted about the music and its composer, a Black woman named Florence Price who was a brilliant musical pioneer in the 1930s. We talked about the trailblazers who've come before us and about the work we do to honor their legacy.

In the 1920s, a renaissance happened in Harlem. Black artists migrated north, rejecting centuries of a tragic status quo. They inspired each other to make art that expressed an audacious new vision of Black beauty, Black hope, Black truth and Black pride. A century later, Black artists are coming together again, somehow, though not physically this time.

Welcome to Amplify With Lara Downes, where you can eavesdrop on my intimate conversations with visionary Black musicians who share what they're making in this time of transformation — of reckoning, reimagining and maybe rebirth.