ABSTRACT

Spike Lee is now widely acclaimed as one of America's leading filmmakers. But critics also reckon with him as a major intellectual force, prominently intervening in such films as Do the Right Thing, Jungle Fever, and Malcolm X in some of the most heated debates over issues of race, morality, and gender. One of the less celebrated of Lee's interventions is Do It A Cappella, a "filmic tour" of mostly black vocal harmony styles that premiered in the PBS Great Performances series in 1990 and was subsequently released on compact disc. The show involved a number of well-known and also less well known African American acts such as hip-hoppers True Image, the veteran Persuasions, and the six-piece gospel group Take 6. Equally represented are the white doo-woppers Rockapella and, no doubt in recognition of the globality of black musical intercommunication, the Anglo-African female sextet Mint Juleps and Ladysmith Black Mambazo from South Africa. As for the latter group's participation, it consisted of a rousing performance of the South African national anthem "Nkosi Sikelel IAfrika," the song "Nansf Imali" from the 1981 album Phansi Emgodini (In the mines), and a joint performance with the Mint Juleps of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" (Lee 1990, 84 Ladysmith 1981). It is a reading of the latter that I would like to concentrate on here.