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ENCORE: A Sign Of The Times, Unearthing History One Song At A Time

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Ron Ross Photography
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A Sign of the Times share oft-forgotten stories of black history through music, dance and spoken word.

“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots,” said civil rights leader Marcus Mosiah Garvey, a thought that could just as easily apply to the history (or lack thereof) of music.

Look at the iconization of Elvis Presley, which rarely mentions the influence of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, or chart-topping Bruno Mars who learned how to bust a move from soul forefathers like James Brown. For Tyrone Jefferson and Toni Tupponce, A Sign of the Times’ legacy is to share these oft-forgotten stories of black history through music, dance and spoken word.

"It’s a great experience, to have an 80-year-old and an 18-year-old on the dance floor."
– Tyrone Jefferson, band leader of A Sign of the Times

Interview Highlights:

Toni Tupponce on the realization of the segregated world she grew up in:

It really hit me when I was about seven. Someone wanted to bring a Girl Scout troop to the school, and the only stipulation was that I could not join. And so, I told Tyrone, when I write my memoir it’s going to be, “Too Black to be a Brownie.”

Tyrone Jefferson on what makes their performances unique, and fun:

We try to make sure we provide a historical context — depending on the gig — to make it interesting. [It’s] on dance, music and the spoken word so we’re covering all aspects.

Toni Tupponce on teaching the next generation:

I think you do it, unfortunately, one conversation at a time.

Tyrone Jefferson on the Charlotte music scene:

I find Charlotte — well, when I got here [or] got back — to be sort of a music desert. Everybody had their own. It’s very myopic. I do this, and I play these little clubs and this hotel four nights a week and that’s it.

On what they want their legacy to be:

Tyrone Jefferson: That we made a difference.

Toni Tupponce: [That] A Sign of the Times, and Tyrone Jefferson or Toni Tupponce, came into the conversation of something that was foundational for them and inspirational for them to move it forward.

Music featured in this #WFAEAmplifier chat:

Tyrone Jefferson and Abiodun Oyeole - “Connections”
James Brown - “The Payback”
A Sign of the Times (Live)

Stay Connected:

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Joni Deutsch is happy to call Charlotte home as WFAE's manager for on-demand content and audience engagement, where she's led the first Charlotte Podcast Festival (named one of the “best podcast conferences” by Buzzsprout) and helped produce such podcasts as FAQ City, SouthBound, Inside Politics, Work It and the Apple Podcast chart-topping series She Says. In addition to being an NPR Music contributor, Joni is also the creator and host of WFAE’s Charlotte music podcast Amplifier, named “Best Podcast” by Charlotte Magazine and honored for excellence in arts and music podcasting by the local Edward R. Murrow Awards and The Webby Awards (called “The Internet’s Highest Honor” by The New York Times).