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IU Soul Revue Celebrates 40 Years

The IU Soul Revue prides itself on performing music from all eras of black popular music. The key is selecting tunes that are timeless.

IU Soul Revue rehearsal

Photo: Annie Corrigan/WFIU

Choreographer Ariel Simpson (white shirt) leads three students from the IU Soul Revue in the routine for the group's performance of "Poison."

Event Information

BCT presents Booker T

IU Soul Revue opens for Indiana University alumnus Booker T, launching a year-long celebration of the group's 40th anniversary.


Buskirk-Chumley Theater

Friday, October 28 at 8:00 PM

$30 Main Floor/ Lower Balcony -- $26 Upper Balcony

Buskirk-Chumley Theater

IU Soul Revue

This year is the 40th anniversary of the IU Soul Revue, Indiana University’s urban black popular music performance group.

Back when it was formed in 1971, it was the first collegiate popular music ensemble offered for course credit. Since then, the Soul Revue has performed at venues all over the country and opened for performers like James Brown and The Temptations.

All Musicians Welcome

Nathanael Fareed Mahluli, Director of the IU Soul Revue since 2005, is an accomplished professional musician himself, but he values working with students of all skill levels.

He says that some students come to the group with experience performing this music, while others come with no experience at all. “Part of the aesthetic of the music [is that it] allows for people to be involved in the sound who aren’t necessarily professional musicians, but who have a gift,” he says.

The Full Range Of Performance

The group employs a rhythm coach, a vocal coach, an instrumental assistant and a choreographer, because the students are expected to both sing and dance. Mahluli says it just comes with the territory. “After Michael Jackson, popular music and dance is almost one thing,” he says.

Fittingly, today is a movement day in rehearsal. Choreographer Ariel Simpson is teaching three students the routine for “Poison” by 90′s R&B trio Bell Biv DeVoe.

As a former member of the Soul Revue, Simpson has enjoyed being part of the process on stage and now behind the scenes. While she isn’t part of the musical decision making, she does have a lot of creative freedom when developing the choreography.

Once she’s given the musical selections, she researches the dances of that particular era. “It’s very very important to stay true to the original forms of the movement, depending on the decade,” she says.

Timeless Tunes

Songs on the docket this year, in addition to “Poison,” include contemporary tunes like Beyonce’s “One Plus One” and “Tightrope” by Janelle Monáe. They’re also working on older songs by Tina Turner, and one by Ray Charles from 1954, “I’ve Got A Woman.”

Performing music from all eras of black popular music is an important aspect of the group, according to Charles E. Sykes, Executive Director of the African American Arts Institute. He mentions that the music performed during the first years of the group is still in the repertoire; as the years have gone by, they’ve simply added newer selections.

The key is selecting tunes that are timeless. Sykes says that in addition to universal subjects, like love, money and having a good time, a good song “has a melody and a hook, and there’s something about that song that catches your attention.”

Annie Corrigan

Annie Corrigan is a producer and announcer for WFIU. In addition to serving as the local voice for NPR's Morning Edition, she produces WFIU's weekly sustainable food program Earth Eats. She earned degrees in oboe performance from Indiana University and Bowling Green State University.

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