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The Diva's Review of Thunder Soul (2011)

This PG documentary is a wonderful reminder of the indelible impact a dedicated teacher can have on the lives of students. We follow the reunion of Houston's acclaimed Kashmere High School Stage Band, that had swept the state in the early 1970s with their powerhouse funk music. They come to pay tribute to their music teacher Conrad Johnson ("Prof"), who had a potential professional career in music but met the woman of his dreams and focused instead on her, then their children, and his high school band in Houston, Texas. Until the day she died, his world stopped when she walked into a room. His band LOVED her!

The band was the only all-black stage band in national competition and with "Prof" at the helm, they developed huge Afros, tight choreography, original funk, and, to the dismay of the conflicted judges, a dazzling style. ("And the winner is..." ...long pause... ...then a whisper... "...Kashmere...") Because that competition was in Alabama during Governor Wallace's militant segregationist days, they were understandably anxious to just collect their trophy and get outta town!

They were invited to play all over the country, so they were constantly raising funds for travel expenses. A trip to Europe almost eluded them until the State of Texas gave them a check to cover a shortfall. The Governor of Texas called them "Our ambassadors!" "Prof" trained them to watch their language, their dress and their deportment because he felt they represented their people. How appropriate that Texas send students who were specifically trained to be ambassadors.

The success of the band was infectious, and Kashmere High started generating winning sports teams, vocal groups, scholarship winners, and became a beacon of Black Pride in the city. Students from other parts of town smuggled themselves into classes and hoped not to be caught.

Clips of the reunion are mixed in throughout the entire film so we follow the band members as high school musicians and then, 35 years later, as giddy middle agers, some of whom hadn't touched their horns since graduation. The first few rehearsals are pretty rocky but they save our view of the "real" concert for the night their beloved 92-year-old teacher checks out of the hospital and comes to the event.

Expect lots of humor, many great reminiscences, a few tears and generally high spirits.

 

If you like funk, you'll LOVE this movie!

Developed by Francis Doody

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