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MUSIC WITH UNIVERSAL APPEAL
By LES A. HAMASHIMA
Tar Heel Staff Writer
r 'ij he clear, vibrant notes of the
t piano floated into the audi
JL ence. The audience was a mix
ture of many ages and races, and the
room hummed with whispered conver
sations as guests talked, drank and ate
together. The pianist, Joseph Blair, bet
ter known as Brother Yusuf Salim, was
in his. element. He was getting people of
different races, ages and social classes
together through the music he loved:
simple, classic jazz.
"Jazz was incubated on the continent
V lit ycJ
of America, but it has become univer
sal," said Yusuf. "Jazz transcends
racism and materialism and is a thera
peutic art form for the whole planet."
Yusuf, who was born in Baltimore
Md., on July 10, 1929, listened to Ella
Fitzgerald, Count Basie and Duke
Ellington when he was growing up.
"There was no bad music then," he
said. "There were criteria for cultural
status; you couldn't just buy your way.
Yusuf spoke about black musician's
contributions to jazz. "As African
Americans, I think we have reached our
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Bus Brown performing at the ArtSchool in Carrboro
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cultural epitome," he said. "We have produced music
from people like Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington and
Billie Holiday." He said that much of early jazz began in
New Orleans, where African and European music was
blended together. v
"Music is a social and cultural reflection," Yusuf said.
As customary after his performances, well-wishers
moved toward the stage to meet Yusuf where he received
them graciously. His genuine love for people is expressed
by hugging, clasping of hands and use of the expressions
"brother" and "sister." "I want to do everything I can
to bring about peace on earth, and goodwill toward men
in my small humble way in the name of Allah," he said.
"Brother Yusuf is a humanitarian," said Kathy Johnson
of Carrboro, a long-time friend of Yusuf s. "He reaches
put to all people and tries to bring them together."
Yusuf, a Moslem, said his faith helped, him to find
peace and develop an identity. "I'd like to think that
Islam is an Arabic word meaning peace'."
"We as humans, search for peace and struggle for
identity. I wasn't born into peace or Islam, but in a sense
it was the kind of struggle that we have as a people: con
fusion and the search for identity. I discovered peace
The search for identity has been a major problem for
African-Americans, Yusuf said. "As a 54-year-old African-American
I've watched us jump and evolve from
titles like nigger, negro and black," he said. "All of these
titles are really a search for an identity." "We are going
to have to reconcile the fact that we are a people of multi
national identity." "I have come to the realization and
the appreciation that God has. blessed me to have the
blood of at least two continents, Africa and Europe, run
ning through my veins, and I feel good about that. I feel
like a mediator with the bloods of conflicting factions
racism and mate
rialism and is a
form for the whole
Brother Yusuf Salim
Tuesday, July 19
Great Hall, Carolina Union
A Carolina Union Program
flowing through me." '
At age IS, Yusuf became a heroin addict and remained
addicted to the drug for 30 years. He said the addiction
was a blessing in disguise because he was forced to social
ize with whites when there was a strong black national
istic movement. He was able to benefit from the move
ment without becoming a fanatic.
Besides his music, Yusuf also expresses his humanitar
ian love through community services that include the
Clean-Up Squad and the Sallam Cultural Center in Dur
ham. Yusuf is one of the founders of Durham's Sallam
Cultural Center which provides a meeting area for local
jazz musicians and community groups.
"The West End Clean-Up Squad keeps me young,"
Yusuf said. The Clean-Up Squad, which Yusuf has
worked with for more than five years, cleans up litter and
initiates community projects in the West End section of
Durham. The purpose of the Squad is to promote com
munity spirit and togetherness.
, The name of Yusuf s band is Yusuf and Friends. The
personnel of the band often changes because of schedules
and improvisations but Yusuf said that there are some
consistencies. "I am Yusuf and you are all my friends."
Yusuf and Friends play frequently at nightclubs in the
Triangle, and Yusuf accompanies many local jazz artists
including Eve Cornelius and Constance Prince.
Yusuf and his wife Mary Salim have lived in Durham's
West End with their daughters, Mary am, 7, and Chrys
tal, 14. He moved from Baltimore to Durham in 1974. "I
love the temperature and the temperment," he said. "It's
city enough to be 'hip'; and country enough to be
- Yusuf is responsible for bringing many other jazz mu
sicians from Baltimore to the Triangle area. "When I. got
down here the ground was so virgin and had so much po
, , ?y"-
Tar HeelJoel Katzenstein
. Dynamic Constance Prince
-.filled with peace and love for life
s . - I i - -
tential, I called my brothers," he said. "When you find
the promised land, you call the people you promised to
. call when you found the promised land."
Woodrow "Bus" Brown, of the area's oldest, active
jazz vocalists, was one of these. " 'Bus' Brown is like a,
sage. A good human man and a sage," said Yusuf, who
has known Brown for more than 40 years.
Yusuf and Brown , work to help local aspiring jazz
musicians and try to preserve classical jazz. "We need to
pass the art form down," Yusuf said. "It's our duty and
you don't get no medals for duty. If it (the art form of
jazz) hadn't been passed down it wouldn't have gotten to
us. It's a civilized man's duty to pass on cultural art and
the heart." '
Brown, a member of a Baltimore street gang as a
youth, became interested in jazz as a teen-ager. He
formed a singing group and toured with Ida Cox, a
popular jazz singer, for three years. They eventually went
out on their own and lived and worked in New York City
and were called the Harlem Highlanders. Drugs, conflict
between band members and the lifestyle of touring
caused the group to break up after a tour of the United
States and Europe.
After the break-up, Brown returned to Baltimore for
two years until he formed a new band. This band was the
opening act for prominent jazz artists including Ella Fitz
gerald and Count Basie. "
Returning to care for his invalid mother, Brown re
mained in Baltimore for 30 years until he moved to
Durham in 1981.
Today is Brown's 76th birthday. There will be a cele
bration at the Chameleon Club in Durham with perfor
mances by jazz artists including Brother Yusuf, Eve Cor
nelius, and Constance Prince. Tickets are $8 at the door
and reservations are accepted.
ILady Sings the B
Tar Heel Arts & Features Editor maKi
For music lovers who want to find an artist with the ing if
style of Roberta Flack, the range of Sarah Vaughn and feeliij
the Dersonalitv of Bilhe Hollidav. thev need look no fur- manq
- - f w - - 0
ther than Durham, the home of Constance Prince. ence
A performer of jazz, rhythm and blues, pop and gos- but
pel, Constance Prince is likely to be one of the best artists You.
that this area has ever known. At a Derformance Tuesdav of tn
nieht in the Carolina Union. Ms. Prince made mmical muci!
love to a verv receDtive audience. "Her music is so mov- o!
ine both emotionally and SDirituallv. that 1 came awav word
feeling that I've been through some kind of religious ex- begii
perience," an exhuberant member of the audience ex- at DJ
Prince has made regular appearances at the Union for mini
the past three years, and each time her audience grows "l
bi2er and stronger. With no fewer than 300 Deoole in at- a veri
tendance at Tuesday evening's performance, Prince can ance
be credited with much more than getting up and singing. area
Her music, like her attitude, is filled with beace and love this I
for life, and it is indeed a religious experience to be in her local
presence both on stage and off. me d!
Sultry and even slightly seductive on stage. Prince has a or ui
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