Jorja Smith has released a cover of St. Germain’s “Rose Rouge,” an accompanying music video showing videos and photos from the current Black Lives Matter protests and flashes a footage from a young Angela Davis walking the streets in protest and the 1960s Civil Rights movement. Proceeds from the sale of the “Rose Rouge” 7” will be donated to the non-profit organization Kwanda, which works towards helping to give back and build black communities. “Rose Rouge” comes from the forthcoming album, Blue Note Re:imagined, a collection which will feature various UK artists on the Blue Note record label.
“Rose Rouge” has Smith’s quiet voice flowing over sounds of soft jazz, the smooth tune highlighting footage from protests all across the country. She repeats the lyric “I want you to get together/ Put your hands together one time,” over videos of crowds walking together in protests, fists in the air as they hold up posters declaring “Black Lives Matter” and “Your Silence is Deafening.” Samona Olanipekun created the film utilizing videos and photos from the Black Lives Matter protests which had sparked throughout the country at the end of May, following the death of George Floyd, a black man killed after a police officer had kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
The protests continued throughout the month of June and into July with public knowledge of the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery and many others. Taylor was killed after police officers serving a no-knock warrant shot her in her sleep, McClain dying after being injected with ketamine due to officers claiming he had resisted arrest. Arbery was killed after being chased by armed white residents of his neighborhood while he had been going for a jog.
“We have to continue the conversation around injustices that are and have been inflicted upon black people all over the world,” Smith said in a statement. “This video is a tribute to all the people who have paved the way for black empowerment and freedom. We are not going to stay quite – black lives matter – they always have. Samona, who directed the video, captured the togetherness and power of the movement and I hope when you watch, you feel with us.”
Beginning with her smooth voice above a flowing piano, the screen flashes each city involved in protests before settling on “Worldwide.” W.E.B Du Bois quote, “A system cannot fail those it was never meant to protect,” then appears as a young girl marches as she chants “No justice, no peace.” Olanipekun’s direction includes black and white photos of the protests flashing across the screen amid footage of the current protests, Angela Davis, members of the Black Panther Party and Martin Luther King Jr.
“With so much currently happening and even more yet to happen, I felt it was important to take stock,” Olanipekun said in a statement. “The film was an opportunity to highlight the immense effort being made including the strength and the spirit display. It’s so easy to get disheartened and lose sight of what we’re fighting for. Jorja’s ‘Rose Rouge’ is a beautiful track that has the power to unite and inspire. It was only right that we aimed to match that energy with the visuals. It was also important to draw a link to the freedom fighters that came before us. We’re part of a fight that began long before most of us were born and it’s highly likely that it will continue after we are gone; all we can do is carry the baton and continue to demand change.”
The track’s deep tones and sparkling piano balance with the protests, Smith masterfully carrying her voice in harmony with the instruments. Quotes from Nina Simone, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and James Baldwin are all included to help highlight how long the protests and movement has existed. The video ends as a group of protestors riding horses group together on top of a small hill.
Blue Note Re:imagined will include classic Blue Note tracks reworked by younger artists, with Ezra Collective, Shabaka Hutchings, Nubya Garcia, Mr Jukes, Steam Down, Skinny Pelembe and many more featured alongside Smith. Some of included covers are from Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Bobby Hutcherson, Joe Henderson, Donald Byrd, Eddie Henderson, McCoy Tyner and Andrew Hill.
Smith’s most recent music video had been for last year’s “Be Honest,” featuring Burna Boy. She had also been featured on Black Panther: The Album in 2018. “Be Honest” and “Rose Rouge” have been Smith’s most recent tracks since her 2018 album Lost & Found.
Photo credit: Boston Lynn Schulz