Home Music intervention Branjae from Tulsa brings music and activism to the Woody Guthrie festival

Branjae from Tulsa brings music and activism to the Woody Guthrie festival



Branjae literally takes the idea that “the truth will set you free” with her latest musical project.

The Tulsa singer, songwriter and actor latest single, “Free Facts,” deals a blow to the current scourge of willful ignorance with a fiery funk sound and an upcoming sci-fi short.

“People grab small pieces of information, bytes of information, that just support their biases and what we want to believe. We don’t see all the evidence for the truth so that we can make informed decisions and decisions. appropriate and choose the way we want to believe, ”she said.

“So it’s really a tribute to people becoming more individual again, instead of going their separate ways. We’ve seen a lot in our country over the last five or six years, that it’s really split in two. a lot of people don’t take the time to do their own research, to make their own decisions, to choose what they want to be. “

“The most famous Oklahoman on the planet”:Woody Guthrie Folk Festival returns to Okemah

Branjae is a Tulsa-based singer-songwriter, actor and activist.

Artist and activist, Branjae brings her “Free Facts” and other new music to this year’s Woody Guthrie Folk Festival, where she will perform an intimate and stripped-down set at 1:30 p.m. on July 17 in the historic Crystal Theater at the end, the hometown of Okemah, a great folk icon.

“I’m a fan of Woody Guthrie and everything he stood for. And that’s super important,” said Branjae. “His music is something that we can look back and refer to. We’re fighting the same fight that Woody wrote back then. We’re still fighting him. So I’m still on my way to Woodyfest.”

After going fully online last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Woodyfest is back in Okemah, Guthrie’s birthplace, for its 24th annual edition, continuing through July 18 at multiple locations across the city.

“Branjae brings an energetic and expressive performance unlike anything WoodyFest has experienced before,” said Maddie Gregory, president of festival marketing.

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Tulsa activist and musician Branjae speaks at the unveiling of the Tulsa Race Massacre Memorial Tree on April 17 hosted by Plant Seads, Up With Trees and the Centenary of the Race Massacre Tulsa in the Greenwood district of Tulsa.

The return of Woodyfest

Two-time Grammy-winner, singer-songwriter Patty Griffin, Grammy-nominated Mary Gauthier, Brennen Leigh, Owned by Paul James, Jonny Burke, Bonnie Whitmore and Oklahomans Mike McClure and Saugeye are among those who make their debut at WoodyFest this year.

The Guthrie family are represented at this year’s festival by Cathy Guthrie and Sarah Lee Guthrie, two of Woody Guthrie’s granddaughters, and Serena Guthrie, one of his great-granddaughters.

Along with Branjae, Oklahoma favorites in the lineup include John Fullbright, Samantha Crain, Levi Parham, Kyle Reid & the Low Swingin ‘Chariots, Carter Sampson, Ken Pomeroy, Greg Jacobs and more.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Woody Guthrie Coalition, which runs the festival, enforces physical distancing, encourages face covering, and limits capacity at festival venues.

Shows inside the Crystal Theater are limited to around 250 tickets, well below the 600-seat capacity, and people are encouraged to stay within their social-distancing “bubbles” on the Pastures of Plenty stage. The festival also returns to Lou’s Rocky Road Tavern, which will be a free venue as well as the house of the open mic, as usual.

“We are also going to be getting vaccinated armbands, so that every time people check in they can show their proof of vaccination and they will get a vaccination cuff that will somehow help reassure everyone around them that ‘they’re vaccinated,’ Gregory mentioned.

Branjae Jackson performs a interpretive dance to close the ceremony at the unveiling of a mural by Michel Rosato in the Greenwood district on Thursday, May 27, 2021.

Back on stage

With the pandemic shutting down the majority of live music outlets for most of the past year, Branjae said she was excited to be back on stage at Woodyfest.

“It feels good to be able to come back. It’s time to start backing up and playing gigs again. For me, it’s a little different, coming out with fresh energy, with new songs,” said Branjae, which was part of last year’s Virtual Woodyfest lineup.

“I’m just ready to spread out and see what’s new and what’s changed and what’s different. It’s time to share some love and be with people again. I’m so excited. to be with people again, the audience being back on stage. It’s been too long. ”

One of her highlights so far this year has been performing at the recent Black Wall Street Legacy Festival, as part of the centennial commemoration of the Tulsa Running Massacre.

The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre is now known as one of the worst episodes of racial violence in US history. Between May 31 and June 1, 1921, crowds of white residents attacked, torched, and ultimately devastated the Greenwood district of Tulsa, which at the time was one of the wealthiest black communities in the United States, this which earned it the name of “Black Wall Street”. The deadly tragedy has been covered up for decades and omitted from the history books, but the centenary has captured national media attention.

“It can be something quite sensitive when we talk about race and racism, white supremacy and things that have happened.… It is such a tragic event,” said Branjae, becoming moved.

“Now we’re finally looking at it. We’re finally opening the lines of communication. I’m happy to see more of my white siblings… who actually want to learn and want to listen and want (to get) rid of white supremacy.”

Tulsa singer, songwriter and activist performs in music video for her cover of Lowell Fulson's song

Spectacular short film

In 2019, Branjae released a music video for “Street Light,” which she co-directed with Basil Childers. More of a short film than a traditional music video, she said the song and visual came from her personal experiences with domestic violence. She became active with the Domestic Violence Intervention Services in Tulsa and donated the proceeds from “Street Light” to support the organization.

“Street Light” stars the artist (aka Branjae Jackson) as a woman who leaves when her partner becomes violent and is greeted by a street party with circus performers ready to lift her up.

After this clip “went around the world,” the Broken Arrow High School graduate was taken to continue to develop visually, including making her film debut playing Sugar Plum in “Finding Carlos,” a hip-hop holiday movie inspired by the classic ballet “The Nutcracker” and directed by Oklahoma City filmmaker Lance McDaniel.

“I learned so much working with these actors and this team, and it was so positive,” said Branjae. “We’re looking to do more. We’ve been on the phone and exchanged emails and talked about new opportunities for more roles and more films.”

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Branjae appears in a photo from her upcoming short "Free facts."

Cover songs and laser beams

The Tulsan stars as a singer who had a hard time in the short film of her cover of “Tramp,” a song by Lowell Fulson, a Tulsa-born bluesman who was African American and Native American. She worked with Jeremy Charles, director, screenwriter and producer of Tulsa-based Cherokee, owner of FireThief Productions, to create the short, which was shortlisted for the New York Lift-Off Global Network Film Festival.

Branjae recorded the cover of the album “Back to Paradise: A Tulsa Tribute to Okie Music”, a compilation of 17 songs written by influential Oklahoma icons recorded at Leon Russell’s famous Paradise Studio on Grand Lake and released. last year on the Tulsa- based on the non-profit label Horton Records.

“It’s kind of an arrogant song. And I wanted to take the song, and kind of give it a twist… because I’m a woman and the song is called ‘Tramp’. So we wanted to flip it over a little, ”Branjae said in a spring interview at a spring event of the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial.

“Brian Horton from Horton Records contacted us saying, ‘Hey, we want to do a video for you.’ We said, “We want to make a short film. … So we developed this character, and she makes her way to the top and fell hard through the hard times and really seeks her dream and becomes that star.” which she has always thought about and imagined for whatever life has thrown at her. ”

In addition, Branjae reunited with Brian Hicks, with whom she worked on “Street Light”, to edit the short film for her new song “Free Facts”. She said she hopes the cut will be completed by the end of the month on the sci-fi drama she wrote and directed.

“This is a future society controlled by laser technology and computers. So everyone who is stuck in this society is controlled by a pendant embedded in their head,” she said.

“My character arrives in this weird, stark, completely white place, and everyone is tanned, walking in some sort of robotic movement – and their job is to break free.… I have to bring up a serious subject concerning the individual being thought of, then create this awesome visual. “

To fund the project, she launched a Kickstarter campaign, which raised nearly $ 8,000 towards the planned goal of $ 6,500. She worked with the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa to make tax-deductible donations and pledged to donate 20% of the campaign to the nonprofit.

“This is one thing that artists in general, but especially black artists lack, is support.… They are always a part of what is happening in our community, lobbying for the community and pushing for black artists. and keeping it diverse and really telling the truth, ”Branjae said. “Woody’s legacy, his memory, what he stood for… it’s really important. We’re just happy to be a part of it.”

Tulsa Branjae musician appears as Sugar Plum in OKC filmmaker Lance McDaniel's holiday hip-hop flick

24th Annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival

When: Until July 18.

Or: Several locations in Okemah.

Tickets and information: https://www.woodyfest.com.