A stage musical by D.C. native queer bassist Meshell Ndegeocello, No More Water | The Fire Next Time: The Gospel According to James Baldwin was performed at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater on December 16.
The musical, inspired by James Baldwin’s book The Fire Next Time, paid homage to the author by offering a “shared space for reflection, conversation and social change.”
The concert featured spoken narration, quoting from Baldwin’s book and songs written by Ndegeocello, Toshi Reagon, Justin Hicks and Staceyann Chin.
“Meshell’s transformative music and collaborative spirit ignites this genre-bending performance: a church service, a concert, a celebration, a testimonial, a call to action,” the event brief noted.
“When I was younger I couldn’t understand why people looked down on my mother just because she didn’t have much education, why my father was so bitter about not advancing in the military the way his white colleagues did, why I loved the music in church but disliked the fire-and-brimstone sermons,” Ndegeocello told the Washington Post.
“When I read The Fire Next Time, it all started to make sense. Baldwin was a game changer in creating a language for the marginalized,” she said regarding the writer’s impact on her life and career.
Ndegeocello has included the church service setup in the musical: “There’s a sermon and music, and I fit my ideas into that framework. We read his text as if it were his gospel, full of proverbs,” she said of the performance. “That’s the kind of feeling you get in church, and it’s a feeling that’s missing from a lot of art.”