September 17: John Buchanan at School Without Walls
On September 17, John Buchanan visited two of Kerry Sylvia’s D.C. history classes at School Without Walls (DCPS). Buchanan began with a powerpoint presentation describing the formation of the music that would become go-go. He described the song Mister Magic by Grover Washington Jr. and how its melody was a major influence on early go-go rhythms. Buchanan asked students to snap their fingers and stomp their feet to the music in order to feel the rhythms that laid the foundation of go-go. As the class joined in, the floor vibrated to the beat.
Buchanan brought old photos of the bands he played with and his gold record for the hit single “Bustin Loose.” Students asked questions about go-go, Chuck Brown, and the future of the music today. While describing his years with the Soul Searchers and Rare Essence, Buchanan stated “A band that is very successful is like a Super Bowl team. They have to blend together to make a successful sound.” When asked why go-go became so popular, he stated: “The go-go beat is a conduit that you can add anything to.” One of the students commented,
I have always been extremely proud to call D.C. my home, and have always heard go-go music but I never fully understood it. I never listened on my own and never felt a connection to it. After the visit from John Buchanan I feel as though I can say I do in fact have a connection to the music. And in doing so feel more like a Washingtonian. —Max Vichr
Read more powerful reflections by the students about what they learned.