Published on January 30th, 2019 | by Michael Ray0
Oxford, Mississippi Braces for Negro Terror
Memphis, Tennessee is widely regarded as the home of rock and roll.
Filmmaker John Rash introduces us to a sight not often seen in the clubs of Memphis with his musical documentary Negro Terror. The film follows the band of the same name as they deliver their punk/oi social messages to the masses.
Punk is nothing new to the scene that is the musical melting pot that makes up the Memphis sound, but in contrast to all the stereo types that punk brings with it, Negro Terror defies them all from the start by being an all black band.
Omar Higgins, of Brooklyn, New York is essentially a Memphis staple now. He has worked with a variety of bands including The Chinese Connection Dub Embassy and is the brains behind the music of Negro Terror.
“Elvis Presley was negro terror music. Ritchie Valens. Buddy Holly. Little Richard.’, says Omar. “I was always asked, “why do you listen to that white boy shit” all the time.”
That statement starts the story of a band that defies all stereotypes and genres who just want to spread the word of punk. The documentary, which will be featured at the upcoming Oxford Film Festival, delves into the prejudice that Omar and fellow band members, who just happen to be his brothers; David Higgins and Rico, along with Memphis native and drummer, Ra’id, faced in putting together a punk band in a town where most people would view them as rhythm and blues musicians, or rappers based solely on the color of their skin.
One fan who appears in the film really seems to sum up the essence of the band in her statement, “You know not all black people grew up listening to rap, a lot of us love rock, metal, and punk”. Memphis has never lacked in its abundance of bands, but the sheer mix of fans from all backgrounds depicted in the film attending Negro Terror shows is nothing short of multicultural event.
Drummer Ra’id explains “People always forget that rock and roll came from black people” and that sentiment sets the tempo and attitude of the film. Up front and center are the political and religious views of frontman Omar, who describes himself as a Skinhead that “hates Nazis and Reds. For me it’s the attitude of unity that has always appealed to me.”
Also explored is his involvement in the Hare Krishna movement and how it helped him overcome the tragic death of his fiancé and the role it plays in his music style and songwriting. Not what you would expect from your typical punk band.
In the vein of traditional punk musicians however, they are motivated by the current bureaucratic climate and the atmosphere of the city they call home. Racism, veiled and unveiled, including death threats made against the band for simply playing punk music, are showcased as well as the comparisons to other punk bands. Guitarist Rico sums it up saying “Don’t throw The Misfits in my face. Danzig. The Germs. I love all those bands, but at the end of the day, we’re Negro Terror and there is nothing wrong with that!”
Director John Rash who currently works as an Instructional Assistant Professor and Producer / Director for the Southern Documentary Project at the University of Mississippi, captures the raw feel of musicians in their natural element, on stage performing and paints a picture of a band that despite having vastly different beliefs and views, are able to come together as a cohesive unit that stresses one main underlying message throughout out the film and that is one of unity. Unity as band. Unity to the city and its various communities to which the band belongs to, and are not just as idle citizens of, but active members, trying to make Memphis a better place. Like I said, not your typical punk band and most certainly not your typical film about one.
Besides the showings at the Oxford Film Fest, Negro Terror will provide a live score of the film will be included as part of a concert at Proud Larry’s on Wednesday, February 6.