The Music District

This is a short preview trailer. You can watch the entire film at no charge on the Folkstreams website. Folkstreams is a nonprofit whose mission is to find, preserve, contextualize, and stream documentary films on American folklife.

Watch the entire film at Folkstreams

The Music District is a musical documentary profiling four distinct African American traditions flourishing in neighborhood churches and nightclubs just blocks from the monuments and government offices of Washington, D.C. The film was shot in the early to mid-1990s, during a time when news stories in the popular media portrayed Washington's African American community as a bastion of drug dealers, murderers and social depravity. The Music District shows another side of life in the nation's capital, a place of families, neighborhoods bound together by diverse music traditions. The film features: the Orioles, a third-generation rhythm & blues vocal harmony group, keeping alive a local sound and a national reputation; Junk Yard Band, the premiere young go-go group, playing a club-based, urban music created in Washington in the 1960s, combining call-and-response lyrics and polyrhythmic percussion with funk, jazz, rhythm & blues and popular music; The Four Echoes, D.C.'s last active jubilee quartet, a fast-paced, syncopated form of early gospel quartet singing; and Kings of Harmony, a gospel brass shout band from The United House of Prayer.

  • Film by: Susan Levitas
  • Produced by: Susan Levitas
  • Cinematographer: Thom Wolf
  • Sound: John Tyler, John Paulson
  • Editor: Susan Levitas, Barbara Burst, Neil Mean
  • Funding: National Endowment for the Arts/Folk Arts Program; D.C. Commission of the Arts and Humanities; Maryland State Arts Council; United Black Fund; Virginia Foundation for the Humanities; Smithsonian Institution/Office of Telecommunications; Smithsonian Insti
  • Original Format: Betacam SP
  • © 1996, Susan Levitas
  • 56mins, Color