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Vanessa McMahon

Vanessa is a novel writer, screenwriter, rep and a film producer. She shares her discoveries and film surprises. :-)



THUNDER SOUL, a review

THUNDER SOUL screened at the 13th Thessaloniki Film Festival last week at the Olympian Theater to an international audience.

Winner of the Pan-African Film festival of Los Angeles 2011, is the documentary film THUNDER SOUL (USA, 2010) about inspiration, heroism, music, the vibrant 70’s and last but not least Thunder Soul… This is the story about a funk/soul band in the 1970s (my favorite decade) that began in the all-American Kashmere highschool, Houston, Texas. This was a time when American whites still held more authority and power within institutions and Afro-Americans still had to constantly deal with racial tension and inequality. There was no less discrimination in school than in the arts and in music.

At a time when American whites had appropriated Jazz as their own, from popular music to highschool bands producing a dry, structured soulless seeming Jazz, along came Professor Conrad Johnson (aka ‘Prof’). ‘Prof’ took it upon himself to turn the dry soulless highschool jazz music into a raging Funk and Soul band that would sweep the nation with its fresh sounds and vivacious energy, nothing of which any other highschool had seen before, not least from a highschool band. The all Afro-American band toured the nation with their funky beats and contagious soul music, winning prizes from several tournaments.

After thirty-five years without playing, the film focuses on a reunion of The Kashmere Stage Band when all the members have gotten older now with families of their own, most of them not having seen each other since highschool. The documentary follows their reunion and their struggle to bring back their now not so thunderous soul (after all the time having gone by) in the attempt to find their band’s mojo and play for ‘Prof’ once again. As the older and wiser reunited band goes through band practice, the film tells us the story through music, photos, newspapers, paraphernalia, of their glorious band’s past and the legacy it left behind. Owing it all to the inspiration and vision of their ‘Prof’ they attempt to play to Conrad Johnson once more before his death.

Near the end of the film, Conrad, ‘Prof’, watches his band play for him 35 years after the band ended, bringing tears to his eyes. With Conrad’s wife gone and the band’s final performance, Conrad died only a few days after the reunion concert on February 3, 2008, an old and accomplished man who touched the lives and inspired so many. The Kashmere Stage Band’s final reunion in the film is during Conrad Johnson’s funeral which is of course an emotional catharsis to a film about a great and visionary man. The final scene is the erection of a bronze statue of ‘Prof’ in front of Kashmere Highschool who will nevertheless continue to move and inspire present generations and future ones.

To read more visit here:

Written by, Vanessa McMahon March 23, 2011

The Kashmere Stage Band with their music instruments in the 1970's

Conrad 'Prof' Johnson in 70's introduces his highschool band.


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