BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – Some of the best country singers in the world have come from Bakersfield. But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll also find plenty of jazz and soul music.
There are some popular artists that come to mind when I think of the black music scene in Bakersfield. One of them is two-time Grammy-winning singer Gregory Porter. He spent his entire childhood in Bakersfield. His mother moved here from Louisiana when she was 14 to pick cotton.
“She even took us to the cotton fields to show us how to pick cotton,” Porter said. “It wasn’t a job we could do as kids, but she just wanted to show us that I used to do that.”
He says his mother brought Mediterranean music with her and sang these hymns often in church.
“There were great voices that I grew up with,” said Porter. “I think of Pastor Richardson who was pastor here in Bakersfield. He sounded like Sam Cooke. “
His childhood in Bakersfield was a crucial part of his artistic development.
“Some of the themes I draw from church find their way into my music,” Porter said. “That’s what I’m most excited about, the idea that I made my childhood experiences and turned them into music.”
Most of his music revolves around issues like resilience and revitalization.
“In an environment that you might think is less than – using your talent to show your beauty, humanity and grace – is something I consider a gift from music,” Porter said.
He says the idea of overcoming racism is intertwined in his lyrics.
“The idea of black history is something in the way you wear, you wear on you,” Porter said. “It is a pride that you carry with you. This is something I teach my son. “
Crimson Skye is a local singer-songwriter who wants to unite the Bakersfield community with music.
“Black people have so many freedoms that they didn’t have 100 years ago,” said Crimson Skye. “We are living in good times, but there is still so much growth to be made.”
She has organized peaceful sit-ins to support gay pride and women’s rights. The last one was after the death of George Floyd.
“This was the only thing I could do and people needed it,” said Crimson Skye. “We could get together with music at the center, with love and peace at the center, and that has really become a big part of me.”
Crimson Skye also works closely with local media personality Danny Morrison to promote black artists in Bakersfield.
“Those of us who grew up in the Kern County’s Bakersfield town understand that the black community has long been ignored when it comes to music,” said Morrison.
Morrison says he sees a lot of underground talent who only need one stage.
“So I took it upon myself to say, you know what, we’re going to put on my town,” said Morrison. “All of these rappers, R&B artists, folk singers and spoken word artists, we’re going to give them time for the frequency. Local events that we make, I always bring them in and say, “Show Bakersfield what we are.” And they did a great job. “
Experience a special on black history on February 27, here on TV-17.