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Soul to Soul

Soul to Soul(1971)

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On 6 March 1971, African and African-American musicians join together to celebrate Ghana's 14th anniversary of independence from British rule. After Ike and Tina Turner perform the concert's title song, "Soul to Soul," marked by high energy and the dancing of Tina and the Ikettes, the film shows the airplane ride into Ghana taken by the concert's many artists. As the tour guide explains the nation's history, the mostly African-American performers, including Wilson Pickett, The Staple Singers and Les McCann, explain that they feel like they are coming home to their motherland. On the plane they enjoy impromptu performances, and once they land are thrilled and overwhelmed by the rapturous reception from the locals. Pickett in particular is hailed by the Ghanaian people. The group is brought to a local restaurant, where a Ghanaian professor educates them further about the country's history. He notes that he can stand on a New York City corner and identify each person's specific African ethnicity, so obvious are their individual roots. The performers are treated to several trips and activities meant to illustrate Ghanaian culture. One night, they attend a presentation of indigenous music and dance, watching raptly as the many tribes perform. On the morning of the concert, which takes place in the Black Star Square in Ghana's capital, Accra, the site is blessed with a libation ceremony. That night, the concert begins with Ishmael Adams and the Damas Choir, followed by Pickett's rendition of "In the Midnight Hour." The 100,000-person crowd is thrilled and vocal. On another day, the musicians take a bus tour to the village of Aburi and wander the market, noting the vibrant textiles, jewels and crowds. After chieftain Nana Osae Djan II is carried in on a pallet and brought to a seat on a dais, the locals teach the American performers their music and dance, and the group The Voices of East Harlem play for the chief. Back at the concert, performances by The Voices of East Harlem and Santana with Latin jazz percussionist Willie Bobo electrify the crowd. By the time jazz musicians Les McCann and Eddie Harris play, the sun has set. McCann invites onstage with him Ghanaian musician Amoah Azangeo, a witch doctor and drummer whom McCann calls "a hero" and whose music mixes elements of ballet, basketball and rhythm. The film then follows Azangeo to his home village, where he performs, then later joins in a ritual. In a series of quick scenes,the following Ghanaian rites are shown: African men working in fields, crowds worshipping in church with a choir, the welcoming of a new baby, a wedding ceremony and a funeral. Later, the Americans visit a slave dungeon and are strongly affected and saddened by the sight of the thick brick walls and shackles on the floor. At the concert, The Staple Singers perform several songs, intercut with scenes of them shopping at a market for print batik, watched with amusement by the locals. After Tina Turner sings "Ooh Poo Pah Doo" and "River Deep┬┐Mountain High," she performs the blues song "I Smell Trouble." Pickett wraps up with "Land of 1000 Dances," and despite the very late hour, the delighted crowd sings along. Some young men are so moved by the music that they climb onto the stage, kick off their shoes and dance into the night.