Updated: Jun 14
'Hell You Talmbout' is a song released in 2015 by Janelle Monáe and other Wondaland artists, exactly one month after the death of an African-American woman by the name of Sandra Bland. On the 10th July, she was pulled over in her car for the apparently egregious crime of failing to signal a lane change. During the exchange, tensions escalated and Bland was forcibly removed from her car, arrested and placed in a jail cell. On the 13th July, she was found dead in her jail cell.
The song essentially serves two purposes: to preserve the memories of the men and women mentioned, and a call to action.
The song invites us to say their names, helping us to remember their stories, and encouraging us not to stay silent. The absence of harmonic instruments gives the song a raw feel, reminding us that while everything else may be taken away, we still have our voices. The repetitive drum pattern is militaristic and bold, while the choir provides some harmony in the choruses to slightly soften the overall tone of the song.
Monáe made the instrumental available to download so people around the world could make their own versions of the song. Here's a link so you can do the same in your classrooms.
Alternatively, you can use percussion instruments to create an ostinato, and a little research to find the names of other black people who have been unjustly murdered in the U.S., U.K, or anywhere else.
What is the time signature of the song?
Can you clap the rhythm of the chorus?
What is the structure of the song?
What kind of drums can you hear?