Interview; Kurt Farquhar: The Brother Behind the Music of Black Lightening.

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(ThyBlackMan.comThe score of a television show, or movies, is a vital part of the feeling and emotion the show conveys to us. Many of us don’t know many of the people behind the scenes of a show that creates those moods for us the viewer. Kurt Farquhar has scored more show than any African-American in history. He is the composer for the CW superhero show Black Lightening. ThyBlackMan sat down to talk to him about his career, and the impact of Black Lightening on our community.

TBM: A lot of readers won’t know who you are by name, but they do know the show Black Lightening. Could you tell our readers a bit about who you are, and you career?

KF: I’m one of the top composers in television. I’ve done shows form Moesha and Sister Sister and Soul Food, to King of Queens, The Game, Girlfriends, The Quad, All of Us, Black Lightening, and as of yesterday we just picked up a new CBS show called Welcome to the Neighborhood starring Cedric the Entertainer. You are one of the first persons I’ve talk to that knows that.

TBM: Well thank you for telling me. I’m such a Cedric the Entertainer fan.

KF: You are going to be in love with the show. This is the show he was made to make…its so funny. He is so amazing in it. It’s the first new show they’ve picked up for CBS for the season.

TBM: As a composer how s Black Lightening different from other projects?

KF: Black Lightening is the first super hero show I’ve done, and the first African-American starring superhero on network television. A lot of the music is geared towards making sure you have an understanding that it’s happening that it’s a superhero show but it happening to an African-American. We do that in different ways without just necessarily putting out a hip-hop beat every time you see a black face on the screen because if that was the case it would be off from word go. We do a lot more interesting things. I was just thinking about a scene in episode 112 where the streamlines I did for when they young man Khalil attacks the school was basically rhythmically in lock with based upon an old Miles Davis solo that was the inspiration for it.

There are times where I might do a hip-hop beat but with strings where the basses are the kick drum, and basses and cellos are the kick drum and we break up the rest up top. There are things like that are an interesting approach other than just turning on a hip-hop beat. At the same time, we don’t shy away from that too; there are a lot of songs that the music supervisor and producers put into the show. There is that combination of the score moving in and out of the songs and you have to do it in a way that is cohesive and makes it feel natural its not like you’re just jumping from one thing to the next.

TBM: Working with this particular show being on TV, verses a film, what type of effect do you feel this will have on black community.

KF: It’s an interesting thing as a television show. We’re in your living room every week. Every week you get to invite us into your home. A lot of times people have a pretty large attachment to those characters for that reason if we are doing it right, and I think the writers definitely are, in terms of making stories that really speak to you. Though Black Lightening is a superhero show a lot of the stories are metaphors for what is actually going on in real life. The idea of a black person getting pulled over as what happened in episode one for no reason isn’t something that is foreign to the average African-American today. There are many of the other stories, not just racial, such as a lot of female empowerment within Black Lightening. The two young daughters are starting to show they have powers too, and the older sister “thunder” is totally kickass, and I love that! Again, back in episode 112 it was the first time we actually saw her seriously battling someone else who was very powerful as well when she was battling Cyanide.

I remember when we were doing the scene one of the things I wanted to have happen most in that episode, because she was battling Cyanide and Black Lightening was battling his nemesis Tobias, I was the most kickass themes was for the girls. I wanted no apology to these women being powerful…absolutely no apologies so in a way we made their music just a little bit more aggressive. I think it really came off powerful. A lot of young women that talk to me about seeing that scene felt that I didn’t step back when the girls were kicking butt you really let it go.

TBM: The only black female superhero I remember growing up with was Storm from the X-men so this is profound.

KF: Yes, that’s a big deal when you get to see yourself. When you look on the screen and you see someone life yourself in a positive role. To your question earlier its incalculable how much that actually will mean societally overtime. Now little girls will grow up saying I grew up seeing Thunder kicking butt and taking up for herself, and I thought maybe I can take up for myself. Maybe I can be strong in the law, in whatever endeavor they decide to do. When I first saw the show I though OMG these girls are going to be huge. One girl wants to kick butt, and the other sister is saying I don’t want tot save the world I want to go to prom. I thought they did a great job of writing this and the actresses are doing an amazing job. Its just a joy to watch them do their work. They are amazing actresses.

TBM: Bit of a challenging question…as a black composer how do you handle the challenges of that? So many of us don’t know the behind the scenes or inner workings for what we are seeing. We are finally getting to really start seeing black directors, but not so much the music side. What are the challenges you find you’d face, and how would you advise someone that aspires to follow the path you are on?

KF: I’ve been doing this for 30yrs and the challenges have changes. With that said the biggest challenge is within yourself. That challenge everyday to wake up knowing that you belong…not hope that you belong, not ask someone for you to belong…wake up knowing it. I belong here; I’m good at this. I have earned my right to be here. I am one of the most successful composers to ever do television. I’ve done well over 100 TV series and films. That doesn’t happen because of an accident or someone like me. it happened because I worked harder, I believe I could do this, and I woke up everyday trying to do better and be better within myself because that’s the only thing I can control. I can’t control whether somebody wants to get their nephew off their couch to give them a job. I can’t do anything about that its beyond my paygrade. I can’t control it if someone just happens to want something else.

They may just want something else because they do no different than that. What I can control is who I am going to be every day. When I walk in there I’m doing to be the best that I can be, do the music to be the best that I can be, I’m going to be all over my craft, I’m on time or early, and I’m going to be the happiest person you ever say. When you are working 16-18hr days trust me you start questioning who you want to be around. These are the things I can control; I can’t control any of the rest of that. I think I change people, and their thoughts about me and people that look like me, by being the best that I can. I’m not holding on to any of the rest of that…I’m really not. That’s my advice. You in there being the strongest you can be, and know that you belong. Know it in your soul. You have to actually believe you belong there. So many of us come up in our heads thinking we don’t belong and we are second class…some of us. My thing is none of us are, we all have to seize opportunity.

There is some opportunity out there and we have to grab it, take it and say this is mine. From here is where I start battling this is my ground. Even when people didn’t want me there, and I said I need to be here I’m supposed to be here. I’m going to earn your belief in me. I don’t accept that I’m not getting something. I wake up every day thinking that I’m going to win, and I do when. Within the things that I can control I’m doing the best that I can do and being the best me I can be every day.

Our people have been breaking ground in so many areas that we are just learning about. With that said I hope someone reading this will walk away from reading about Kurt Farquhar is the knowledge that you much accept that you belong in the areas you are passionate about. He has created the musical score to most of the shows many of us grew up watching, and currently watch. Regardless of what he faces he represents us in the area of television composition because he belongs there. In that regard he isn’t just the brother behind the music, but an empowering message that instructs us to be our best and step into our greatness already knowing we are great.

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Staff Writer; Christian Starr

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