Black Trailblazers


At Roon our passion for music is illustrated by a growing selection of eclectic playlists featuring a diverse mix of genres, instrumentation, and voices from around the globe. As music lovers we’re fortunate to live in a time when music is so plentiful and easily accessible; when you sync a Qobuz or TIDAL membership with your Roon subscription the selection is practically limitless. An all encompassing palette of sound is at your fingertips, accompanied by the freedom to listen to, and enjoy, anything you desire. 

It’s easy to forget that this wasn’t always the case. But we’re not talking about the relatively new emergence of streaming music and its transformation of the music industry; we’re talking about a time in history when there were strict racial boundaries in music. When black music was heard only in black churches, black clubs and theaters, black radio stations, and when black musicians were relegated to Race Records Charts and Race Label catalogs. American Music was just as segregated as American society and culture.  But Black Jazz, Blues, Folk, and Gospel music was relentlessly working their magic; building enclaves in white record collections, fighting rhythmically for acceptance. Beauty, determined to be appreciated – like a rose growing through concrete to find the sunshine. 

The list below is a roster of the black trailblazing musicians who broke through the race barrier with music that was too beautiful to be ignored or denied. It makes sense that music would be a force that helped tear down racial discrimination in The United States. Music is a universal language, but one that speaks to us in ways that exceed our full understanding. Tonal color, pitch, tempo, texture, timbre, harmony, melody, rhythm, they communicate something deeper than language. They resonate with an emotional core that recognizes and reminds us of our commonalities – it’s a nonverbal language of brotherhood.

Racial division doesn’t have a chance when one group of people can recognize themselves in the art of another group of people. We’ve all had our lives enriched through that musical kinship. We hope you’ll find something that resonates with you in our Black Trailblazers playlist in Roon, Qobuz, and TIDAL music; offered in honor of the musical visionaries who first opened our ears, and our hearts.

Ethel Waters

Firsts in Black Music:

  • First African-American Ensemble to play at The White House (1882) – 
    • The Fisk Jubilee Singers, a choir from the Fisk School in Nashville, Tennessee became the first African American choir to perform at the White House for President Chester Arthur.
  • First Commercially Recorded African-American Singer (1890) – 
    • George W. Johnson – The Whistling Coon
  • First Black Musicians in a Motion Picture (1923) – 
    • Eubie Blake & Noble Sissle in Noble Sissle & Eubie Blake performing Affectionate Dan.
  • First Black Performer on US Television (June 14, 1939) – 
    • Ethel Waters on The Ethel Waters Show
Fisk Jubilee Singers
  • First Black Emmy Award Winner
    • Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program or Series (1959) – Harry Belafonte for Tonight with Belafonte 
  • First Black Grammy Recipients
    • Best Jazz Performance, Soloist (1958) – Ella Fitzgerald for Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook
    • Best Female, Pop Vocal Performance (1958) – Ella Fitzgerald for Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Songbook
    • Best Jazz Performance, Jazz Group (1958) – Count Basie for Basie (The Atomic Mr. Basie)
    • Best Performance by a Dance Band (1958) – Count Basie for Basie (The Atomic Mr. Basie)
    • Album of the Year (1974) – Stevie Wonder for Innervisions
  • First Black Oscar Winners
    • Best Music, Original Song (1972) – Isaac Hayes for Theme From Shaft – First African-American winner for Best Original Song. First African-American to win a non-acting award.
    • Best Original Song Score (1984) – Prince for Purple Rain.
Prince
  • First Black Tony Award Winner 
    • Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical (1954) – Harry    Belafonte for John Murray Anderson’s Almanac
  • First Black Musician to achieve an E.G.O.T (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) (2018) – 
    • John Legend
  • Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, First Black Inductees (1986)
    • Chuck Berry
    • James Brown
    • Ray Charles
    • Sam Cooke
    • Fats Domino
    • Little Richard
  • Country Music Hame of Fame, First Black Inductee (2000)
    • Charley Pride
  • MTV
    • First All Black Band to Appear on MTV (1982) – Musical Youth with Pass the Dutchie
Musical Youth
  • First Black Billboard Record Chart Toppers
    • Best Selling Popular Record Albums Chart Number 1 (Billboard’s First Album Chart) (March 24, 1945) – The Nat King Cole Trio
    • Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 (September 29, 1958) – Tommy Edwards with It’s All In The Game

Due to the scarcity of some of the recordings in this list, some selections had to be substituted for representative pieces from the same time period.

If you’d like to know more about Roon, simply get in touch with us. We’d love to help you get set up.

Alternatively, you can try the free 14 day trial here.

Get Back to The Beatles with Roon

The last few months have been an interesting time for 60s music fans. After all, how often do we see a decades-old sour story about a band or album evolve in such a way that history, and our beliefs, are permanently reconstructed? Rarely. All the more so when it involves a band like The Beatles and their final (released) studio album Let it Be. When it comes to Beatle lore, the icey saga of Let it Be was chiseled into stone as cold as the West London film studio where the band that created The 60s had allegedly unraveled. Those of us who saw the original film remember what it was like all too well. Dreadful stuff: frustrated and agitated Beatles bickering with each other. It was memorable for all the wrong reasons. I, like many Beatles fans, was certain that it would never see an expanded reissue, let alone a deluxe treatment. The album title itself seemed to confirm it! 

And yet, the word got out that they were doing just that. A multi-disc box set was released last October, and about a month later there they were, in restored color, for Get Back – a three-part documentary series. It’s been absolutely dizzying, mesmerizing, and revelatory to witness. Still a bit uncomfortable to watch, in places, but, on the whole, a complete regenesis with plenty of musical and brotherly love. It’s certainly the most revealing and most human vista we’ve ever gotten of them. Seeing the Rooftop Concert in its triumphant entirety had me immediately Focusing on the Fab corner of my Roon Library, and I wasn’t the only one.

TIDAL: Get Back (Rooftop Performance) https://tidal.com/browse/album/213891547

Qobuz: Get Back (Rooftop Performance) https://open.qobuz.com/album/x9pgg6gsai8vc

Roon, as a microcosm, reflected the impact those releases had on dedicated fans and curious onlookers alike. Within days, The Beatles were the most listened-to band in Roon. Admittedly, they’re never too far outside the top ten anyhow; but, as John Lennon once said, they were toppermost of the poppermost again. It was easy to understand why, the Let it Be Super Deluxe Set remastering is very tastefully done, and sonically rewarding – as expected. But it’s the twenty-seven previously unreleased studio jams, outtakes, and rehearsals that provide a fascinating wellspring of ‘what-ifs’. What if All Things Must Pass had been born with three Beatle voices instead of just George’s alone? What if John Lennon’s brooding broadside Gimme Some Truth had landed on Let it Be instead of kicking off side two of Imagine?! What if Glyn Johns’ raw mixes had emerged as the finished product instead of Phil Spector’s strings and high sheen approach? The head swims, and those are just a few of many questions the set spawns! And it would be rude not to take a moment to just say the words, “thank you Billy Preston”, and smile. His contribution was such a transformational force in the entire proceedings.

The Roon ripples reverberated from Let it Be into the other Super Deluxe sets in the band’s reissue roster. Abbey Road, The Beatles (aka The White Album), and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band were getting a lot of residual play time on customer systems. But, in true Roon fashion, it was the stuff that was percolating under those sets that was most fascinating. 

The Beatles were/are masters of marketing and product. Over the years there’s been a staggering parade of Beatles releases, some official, some not – all of it well documented, meticulously indexed, and obsessively collected. Those factors make for a catalog that is perfectly irresistible to Roon customers and naturally suited for Roon’s music library superpowers. Much of The Beatles’ massive discography isn’t available on streaming sites. But because of how easy it is to import a personal music library, it was on full display in Roon and getting loads of play time: The Beatles in Mono, The E.P. Collection, The US Albums Box Set, Beatles Ballads, Love Songs, Anthology 2, Twist and Shout, The Lost Album, Reel Music, Hey Jude, Beatles Bop – Hamburg Days, Introducing… The Beatles – just to name a crate full.

Most people with digital music files will tell you that the bugbear of owning large collections has always been figuring out how to organize and use them in an intuitive and enjoyable way. Our customers have discovered that Roon solves the problem. Let me explain, for the non-Rooner, how this is done with just a few mouse clicks.

Scene opens: you’ve launched your Roon trial, installed the Roon software, synced your streaming services, detected and enabled all the audio devices that are connected to your local internet network, you’ve queued up some music to play and everything sounds great! But there’s your external hard drive with several terabytes of music on it. ‘Ugh’, you think, ‘I’ll mess with that later’. But, with Roon, there’s no need for dread. Especially not in your scenario, you’re importing an extensive collection of Beatles files and albums. This is heavily documented and easily recognized music. Roon utilizes data from several metadata providers and adds some secret magic that makes this process painless. When you link your collection in Roon, the metadata engine goes into high gear comparing your files against our data and in less time than you can imagine your music is in Roon, identified and ready to enjoy. And none of that processing alters a single bit or byte on your hard drive; Roon metadata is simply a nice set of clothes for your music files.

Roon does the same thing with all the other music on your drive. If an obscure vinyl rip or import compilation isn’t recognized, simply tell Roon to use your embedded artwork and file tags instead. It’s that easy. Your streaming favorites, digital music library, and live radio station presets are all integrated and ready to explore & enjoy in bit-perfect, high-resolution, lossless audio. That’s Roon through the fish-eye lens of a Beatle collection, but it functions the same way no matter what you listen to. If this sounds like something that would help you bring order to your digital collection and facilitate filling your listening space with your favorite music then we invite you to take a look at Roon. If you’d like to know more, simply get in touch with us. We’d love to help you get set up.

Alternatively, you can try the free 14 day trial here.

Playlists in Roon

At Roon our team of self-proclaimed music fanatics have a broad range of musical interests and a shared goal of creating the best experiences for our community of music lovers. 

We started sharing playlists of our favorite music with our community in partnership with our streaming partners TIDAL and Qobuz. We collaborated with artists and our own music team to bring you editorial content and playlists over the past year. 

We’ve worked with artists including Patricia Barber, Daymé Arocena, AHI, and Stephen Moccio to bring you exclusive interviews and editorial, as well as producing weekly playlists with a particular genre or theme.

Up until now, our playlists have only been available on TIDAL and Qobuz, and haven’t been accessible in Roon. In our latest 1.8 Fall 2021 release, you can now access everything our music team has curated, directly from your Home Screen on both streaming platforms. 

This year our music team started curating more playlists available only in Roon, along with our playlists made in collaboration with Qobuz and TIDAL. We will also feature guest playlists, such as our recent playlists Jazz Waltz Decades by one of our founders Brian Luczkiewicz and Maestros of the Screen by composer Matt Wang.

Here are some of our recent playlists which you can find in the home screen of Roon.

Simphiwe Dana

Welcome to Joburg explores the sounds coming from Johannesburg’s progressive music scene. Enjoy the unique South African blend of electronic house, traditional African percussion, multilingual vocals, jazz, soul, reggae, R&B and rap.

HiFi JoyRide explores old and new music with a significant sound that shows how your hifi responds to different types of music. Some obvious, some out there. Take your system for a joyride and discover new favorites.

Phoebe Pearls explores Phoebe Bridgers steady climb from indie artist to icon. This playlist includes some of the pearls in the collection of well crafted songs that makes Phoebe Bridgers the tour guide of her generation.

Last Train to Lagos takes you on a musical journey to Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos, for an introduction to Afropop, a style of music that is dominating in global influence.

Future Icons highlights new music from new artists poised to reach iconic status.

Jazz Waltz Decades ​​focuses on the art of the jazz waltz, with a playlist of recordings spanning the 1950s to the 2010s.

Jonas Nordberg

Melancholic Lute explores music for the lute family, from the Renaissance lute to the theorbo. We highlight works by Hurel, Dowland, Josquin Des Prez, Kapsberger, Piccinini and J.S. Bach.

Maestros of the Screen is a collection of brilliant film and tv scores from composers Hildur Guðnadóttir, Shirley Walker, Mandy Hoffman, Thomas Newman, and more.

Eclectic Spirit is a mix of spiritual and electronic tunes for chilling, relaxation, or reading. Overall an electronic chill mood with a few pop pick me ups!

Mountain Jazz highlights a selection of the finest tracks from the jazz traditions of the Nordics. Transparent, floating, dreamy and with a constant undercurrent of folk music and dramatic scenery. 

Lieder A selection of songs from the Romantic era. We highlight German composers Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms, Wagner, Schubert, Mahler, Swedish composers Peterson-Berger, Rangström and Alfvén, and Czech composer Korngold.

All of our playlists can be found in the Home Screen in Roon.

Roon Music Editorial

We had the pleasure of speaking with some fantastic artists and recording teams last year about their creative process. We spoke to cuban jazz artist Daymé Arocena, jazz pianist and singer Patricia Barber, the engineering team behind Patricia Barber’s grammy nominated album Clique, songwriter and pianist Stephan Moccio, and singer-songwriter AHI.

Daymé Arocena: Cuban Music Breakout. Part 1.

In celebration of International Jazz Day, we spoke to the Havana born and raised 28-year-old singer, choir conductor, and composer Daymé Arocena about her music journey and Cuba’s rich music history.

Daymé Arocena: Music Roots & Creative Process. Part 2.

We continued our conversation with Daymé, discussing her musical upbringing, creative process, and her song Homenaje from our Cuban Jazz playlist.

Recording Patricia Barber’s Clique

Husband-and-wife engineering team Jim Anderson and Ulrike Schwarz discussed the making of Patricia Barber’s latest album Clique which has since been nominated for a 2022 Grammy for Best Immersive Album. Between them, Jim and Ulrike enjoy decades of combined recording and technical experience, awards and Grammys. 

The Patricia Barber Interview

We then spoke to jazz pianist and singer Patricia Barber about her album Clique, her creative process, and her inspiration.

A Conversation with Stephan Moccio

Canadian Oscar-nominated and Grammy-nominated pianist, songwriter and producer Stephan Moccio spoke to us about his new album Lionheart. Stephan discussed the relationship between his pop songwriting and his solo classical piano work, the inspiration behind Lionheart, and his career highlight of composing the 2010 Vancouver Olympics theme.

A Conversation with AHI

Canadian songwriter AHI talked to us about his new album Prospect. We covered the influences behind the album and certain tracks, AHI’s songwriting process, and the ways in which AHI’s extensive travel have influenced his music.

We look forward to speaking with more artists and recording engineers this year. Keep an eye out on our blog and socials for more editorial content.

For each interview we created an accompanying playlist, these can all be found in the Roon Playlists section of the Home Screen in Roon.

Holiday Playlists

We created a set of playlists for the winter holidays, covering a range of genres. We start with Fireside Jazz on TIDAL, a playlist of festive and winter-themed jazz, with a significant proportion from Norwegian artists. Acoustic jazz highlights include winter-themed tracks from Hoff Ensemble, Rob Luft, Stan Getz, Esbjörn Svensson Trio, Pat Metheny and Stephan Moccio.

For those who enjoy a more festive feel, we feature acoustic arrangements of Christmas carols from Bugge Wesseltoft, Vince Guaraldi, Jan Gunnar Hoff, Ola Gjeilo, Charles Lloyd & The Marvels and Cyrus Chestnut. Vocal highlights include Norah Jones, Katie Melua, Dianne Reeves, and Norwegian singers Ellen Andrea Wang, Helene Bøksle, and Solveig Slettahjell.

Solveig Slettahjell. Photo: Andreas Frøland

Our playlist Christmas Carols, for TIDAL, is a celebration of traditional choral Christmas music. This playlist contains carols ranging from Renaissance composers William Byrd and Tomás Luis de Victoria to contemporary composers such as John Rutter and Philip Stopford. The playlist begins with Voces8’s Praetorius: Est Ist Ein Ros Entsprungen, a composition dating back to 1609, and Cornelius: The Three Kings. English composer Benjamin Britten’s choral works have become a staple of many Christmas concerts. A Ceremony of Carols: Balulalow and A Hymn To The Virgin are performed here by The Sixteen.

Highlights from award-winning choir Tenebrae are Tchaikovsky: Legend (The Crown of Roses), Tavener: The Lamb and Rathbone: The Oxen. Siglo de Oro takes us to Renaissance Mexico with composer Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla’s Joseph Fili David from Christmas in Puebla. Other highlights include carols from Rodolfus Choir, Stile Antico, Oxford Camerata, Cambridge Singers and Trinity College Choir, Cambridge.

We end with carols from The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge and The Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge with german composer Otto Goldschmidt’s A Tender Shoot and the traditional carol The Linden Tree arranged by Reginald Jacques.

Stile Antico. Photo: Marco Borggreve

Our playlist Winter Warmers for Qobuz is full of festive favorites, both old and new. Many of us tire of hearing the same Christmas pop classics played on repeat during the winter months. Here we highlight some less well known festive music along with classic Christmas crooners such as Nat King-Cole and Ella Fitzgerald.

We begin with new releases from Norwegian rising star Sigrid’s Home to You (This Christmas), Norah Jones’ Christmas Glow, and ABBA’s Little Things. We then feature the iconic Joni Mitchell’s River, followed by Brit-award Rising Star Celeste’s soulful A Little Love. The silky vocals of jazz-band Pink Martini’s A Snowglobe Christmas brings a peaceful cheer, along with female crooners Stacey Kent, Carole King, Holly Cole, Natalie Cole, Emmylou Harris, Aretha Franklin, Jane Monheit and Doris Day.

Kandace Springs brings a jazz-inspired rendition of (Everybody’s Waitin For) The Man With The Bag, followed by Amy Winehouse’ I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus from new release The Singles Collection.

We then turn to a blues and country Christmas with The Teskey Brothers’ Dreaming of a Christmas With You and Brandy Clark’s Merry Christmas Darling. We end with the festive nostalgia of Leonard Cohen, Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Simon & Garfunkel, Marvin Gaye, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and Otis Redding.

Norah Jones: I Dream of Christmas

Our playlist Soulful Season is full of old-school Soul, R&B, Jazz, and Blues holiday classics and originals. Motown and Stax Records heavies Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Booker T. & the M.G.’s, The Temptations, and The Staple Singers stir up sounds that warm the spirit. We include soul giants James Brown, William Bell, Solomon Burke, and Donny Hathaway.

Early R&B, Doo-Wop, and New Orleans sounds come courtesy of The Drifters, The Penguins, The Harmony Grits, The Moonglows, and Huey ‘Piano’ Smith, adding fun and rhythm to your holiday party. Kenny Burrell contributes jazz guitar groove that’s matched in kind by two kings of the blues, B.B. and Freddie King.

Chuck Berry brings his rocking homage to the most famous reindeer to lead Santa’s Sleigh. Perennial favorites from the classic 1963 Phil Spector LP A Christmas Gift for You From Philles Records are sprinkled in liberally, and plenty of other surprises await.

Donny Hathaway. Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Enjoy these and all of our playlists directly from your Home screen in Roon. Happy holidays from all at Roon, we hope you enjoy this music.

Autumnal Acoustics

Every year an interesting shift occurs in my listening preferences at about the middle of October when the evening air turns crisp and the autumn sun flames out in fallen-leaf orange behind the trees on the hill. The tones from my speakers reliably reflect this seasonal change, with pastoral hues of wet earth and black trees, as the hypnotic strains of British Folk drift through my space. I can’t quite explain why my mind equates colder weather with that genre; perhaps it’s an ancestral memory that has been stripped of all its features but sound. Whatever the cause, my default fall selections are always a familiar narrow rotation of Brit-Folk favs. Just as routinely, I have vowed that I’ll investigate the golden era of British and Irish Folk music more thoroughly. And, despite never having managed to keep that promise in the past, I’ve always meant to.

The problem has been that as much as I love this music, and recognize a smattering of artists and albums outside of my favorites, exploring the genre can feel at times like getting turned around in the forest. There’s so much stylistic similarity in the landscape, ensembles absorbed and discarded personnel frequently, and groups embraced new sounds so often that it’s quite difficult to find your footing on the path of discovery. But if one is fortunate enough to have Roon, and a synced streaming service as a guide, the same challenge suddenly becomes an inspired adventure of autumnal acoustics.

This time I tried something different by beginning with a favorite selection and then allowing Roon to influence my new route – the scenery promptly changed and offered a wealth of surprise and variety I’ve never encountered previously. A few hours later I’d been reacquainted with a few forgotten gems and had acquired a handful of new discoveries. Each one of them linked to my original selection by Roon’s unparalleled understanding of the web of sound. All the listener must do is simply follow the notes.

My first go-to of fall is always TrafficJohn Barleycorn (Must Die). It’s something of a wonder that the record exists as a Traffic album at all. It was to be Steve Winwood’s first solo release, but it was having trouble getting started. Former bandmate Jim Capaldi was invited ‘round to collaborate, a second former partner, Chris Wood, showed up – and a trio incarnation of Traffic was accidentally formed. Winwood, at twenty two years old, reimagined an Elizabethan-era folk standard for the title track which recounts the story of John Barleycorn – a character who suffers a wrath of indignities that correspond with the phases of barley cultivation. It exhibits a staggeringly brilliant folk authenticity not found anywhere else on the album, and only rarely in Traffic’s discography. You’ll catch yourself checking the credits in Roon incredulously for confirmation that this was a trio when you hear how much music these guys put down. Winwood’s delicate acoustic guitar ties Celtic patterns through his accompanying piano chords as Chris Wood weaves flute airs around Jim Capaldi’s tasteful rustic percussion. Winwood and Capaldi’s vocals relay the story of Barleycorn’s saga with the skill of master storytellers. It might not even be British Folk by some definitions but it defies any effort to argue it otherwise.

TIDAL: https://tidal.com/browse/track/77629646

Qobuz: https://open.qobuz.com/track/15197455

From Barleycorn, my go-to is always Fairport Convention but this time I vowed to do things differently. So instead of instinctively queueing up their What We Did On Our Holidays album I scrolled to similar artists instead, and chose Sandy Denny. Her discography revealed the long out-of-print compilation I’ve Always Kept a Unicorn: The Acoustic Sandy Denny, which served up Sandy Denny with Fairport Convention She Moves Through the Fair. A favorite from the aforementioned Fairport album, but here rendered in a deft acoustic version, with guitars simultaneously articulate and percussive supporting Denny’s angelic voice to absolute perfection. Fairport Convention could strip the music down to nothing and still dig into the marrow of the listener. This track is a superlative example of that. As always, Roon makes unearthing these previously unknown alternate versions an unburdened joy. New favorites are always waiting at the end of a few mouse clicks.

TIDAL: https://tidal.com/browse/track/59412740

Qobuz: https://open.qobuz.com/track/31434205

Nick DrakeTime Has Told Me is synonymous with fall to my ears. There isn’t a year that goes by where Nick Drake doesn’t become a regular on my turntable. I’ve heard that listening to his music is permitted at other times of the year as well but I’ve never risked testing the theory. This beautifully written and performed original is the auditory equivalent of a warm fire in the cold of the countryside. And it’s a natural follow up to the previous selection because two members of Fairport Convention contribute to it. If that’s not something you knew previously, it’s no problem. Roon hips you to that stuff in the track credits. All through the software it’s that simple. This track is one to follow the lyrics on, it’s another example of Nick Drake’s poetry outshining the transcendent music that carries it along. 

TIDAL: https://tidal.com/browse/track/77611146

Qobuz: https://open.qobuz.com/track/12738446

I typically follow Nick Drake with Bert Jansch or John Renbourn, but this time I let Roon point me toward PentangleBasket of Light where both were band members. I chose the album because I recognized it’s cover from a former roommate’s vinyl collection but had only a vague memory of the music on it. The record is a spellbinding chimera, an eclectic hybrid of Indian influenced modal sounds and progressive jazz-psyche infused with British Folk originals. It provided an intriguing inroad into a band I’ve been curious about for years. In Roon the transition from curiosity to discovery is as natural as the change in seasons.

TIDAL: https://tidal.com/browse/album/64013871

Qobuz: https://open.qobuz.com/album/5414939525476

From Pentangle I was served up a selection in the Similar Albums section that yielded a thick vein of gold that cut straight through to the heart of the music. Various ArtistsAnthems in Eden: An Anthology Of British & Irish Folk 1955-1978 is an eighty four track, multi-disc collection, that reveals the complete genetic encoding of the idiom. Finding recordings that thoroughly unlock the mysteries of a genre is commonplace in Roon because the design was built with this in mind. Try to imagine another place where that’s facilitated with such ease, effortless discovery of new favorites that are informed by an intimate understanding of the interconnected storylines of the music we already love. That’s what Roon does, and it’s the reason why I’m finally able to explore British Folk in the way I’ve always wanted.

TIDAL: https://tidal.com/browse/album/69046725

Qobuz: https://open.qobuz.com/album/0602527958880

Tell us about your experiences! Does a certain genre, artist, band, piece of music, song, or album make you think of the arrival of Autumn? If so, we’d love to hear about them. Share them with us in our Autumnal Acoustics music thread on Community. And thank you all for your wonderful contributions in the Classical Community Conversations thread! We’re looking forward to sharing your recommendations in an upcoming playlist. Please stay tuned for that! 


Take your Roon content to services around the world with Soundiiz

My name is Thomas and I’m the co-founder of Soundiiz, a French startup created in 2013 with my friend and co-founder Benoit.

You may be asking yourself, “what is Soundiiz?”.

It’s a handy tool to manage your music streaming services in one place, allowing you to connect and move your music collection between more than 40 services.

While we support a lot of music streaming services, many of our users have local media files and music collections that they have curated over the years. And, it’s in this context that Roon was introduced to us, thanks to our users, as powerful software to handle a local music collection.

I met the Roon team a while back and we decided to collaborate as we saw so many synergies between our respective communities. Many Roon listeners are streaming their music with the help of Roon’s support of Qobuz and TIDAL. For a Roon subscriber, the ability to export their music collection using Soundiiz, is a step forward in empowering the listener to feel like they “own” their collection.

We are proud to work with Roon, and to be a part of this new export feature that all Roon members can now enjoy.

Now, let’s see how easy and fast it is to export a personal playlist created in Roon to a music streaming service of your choice.

First, you need to open the playlist you want to export in Roon. Then, select the playlist option “Export” using “…”.

You will see the option to export a Soundiiz CSV file. Click on “Save to desktop”.

Next, go to the Soundiiz website and create an account* if you don’t have one. Once connected, select “Import playlist” in the top right of the interface.

*Use code “ROONVIP” at checkout to get 15% off the Soundiiz Premium subscription.

Choose “From File” and pick the CSV file you have previously saved to your desktop.

Confirm the tracklist and the playlist configuration (title and description).

Finally, select the music service where you want to import this playlist and… it’s as simple as that!

In a few minutes, your playlist will be available on your chosen streaming service and ready to be played! If some elements don’t match (they might not be available in your chosen streaming service, for example), you will be able to see and download a list with details of the elements found vs not found.

We hope you find Soundiiz useful for managing your playlists! Visit
soundiiz.com to find out more.

By: Thomas Magnano, Co-founder of Soundiiz
Guest contributor to Roon Blog.


A Conversation with AHI

AHI

We had the pleasure of speaking with Canadian songwriter AHI about his new album Prospect, out today. In Prospect, AHI reflects on his own identity and that of his community, fully embracing himself for the first time by putting his face on the album cover. AHI is known for his storytelling, with a unique voice full of influences from his travels, community and his West Indian upbringing.

[Editor] What can you tell us about your new album Prospect and the meaning and inspiration behind it?

Prospect is the title track of this album, and it’s also the opener. As the hook says, “I just want to live like someone before my time is counting on me…and walk beneath the wings like someone from another life is looking out for me.” For me, Prospect is a reflection on our shared humanity and what it means to be a link in a chain that stretches both forwards and backwards through time for eternity.

It’s a heavy concept, but I truly believe that our lives are part of something bigger and more meaningful than we understand. You and I are the prospect, and the gravity of our impact on one another is far greater than we can ever imagine.

Can you tell us about your songwriting process? Has anything in particular shaped or influenced it?

For me, songwriting is all about conveying a message that will reach people in a meaningful way. Sometimes it starts with a melody, and sometimes it’s a word that will spark inspiration, and other times songs will simply come to me in my dreams. But no matter how the inspiration may come, my first step is almost always to grab my guitar and record it while it’s fresh. From there, I usually let the feeling of the melody inform its lyrics. 

My songwriting has definitely been influenced by the greats – Bob Marley, Tupac Shakur, Tracy Chapman, Michael Jackson, Lauryn Hill, Bill Withers – artists who found ways to express the most complex human emotions in the simplest of ways that we can all relate to. It might sound simple, but as a songwriter, that’s often the hardest thing to do. 

AHI

You wrote Coldest Fire during the pandemic, can you tell us what it means to you and what you hoped it would bring to your audience?

I wrote this song at the height of the summer 2020 protests. While I’m often advised to stay safe and neutral with the hope of bringing people together, the world was more divided than I had seen in my lifetime and at times trying to find a balance felt like warfare inside. For me and countless other Black people, it can often feel like we are constantly living in a duality, where we have to silence a part of ourselves just to exist peacefully.

Coldest Fire represents the vulnerability that comes with that duality, but it also reminds us that we can find solace in our relationships with one another. I hope that anyone listening to that song can hear it with empathy and find comfort in knowing they’re not alone. 

We understand that Danger came to you in a dream, can you tell us what story this song tells?

Music comes to me in my dreams all the time. Danger was one of those songs where I dreamt I was singing the chorus to a huge crowd as they sang along to every word, and I immediately woke up and recorded it with a sense of urgency. This particular dream song was about a young man who falls victim to a stray bullet and his mother Evelyn who immediately senses trouble.

Little did I know, my song told the story of a real mother whom I would later meet for the first time, a woman named Evelyn Fox from my hometown of Toronto, whose son had been lost to gun violence in a manner eerily similar to the lyrics of the song I had dreamt. As I later learned, Evelyn now works tirelessly as an activist for community safety alongside other mothers who have lost their children and loved ones to senseless gun violence.

We finally met face-to-face for the first time on the set of my music video for Danger, and hearing her story affirmed for me that the solution and healing we are looking for is rooted in the realization that every life is fragile and precious.

AHI

We understand you’ve done extensive travel through the Ethiopian Highlands and jungles of Trinidad. Can you tell us how your travels have influenced your music?

Throughout my travels, I often relied on the kindness of strangers who helped me on my journeys, let me into their homes, and just plain cared about me a lot. When we’re not thinking about it, at the core of humanity we all just want to see the best for each other and see the good in all people.  

As corny as this might sound, traveling the world has shown me that we are really more alike than we are different. We’re all looking for purpose, connection, community and human connection, and I think these have become underlying themes in my music, which makes it almost universally relatable. 

Roon is all about enjoying your music listening experience at home. Can you tell us whether you have a specific home set up for music playback, how do you listen to music as a fan?

My family and I love to blast anything out of our living room speakers, and as a father of four, one of the best feelings in the world is watching your children fall in love with great music from before their time.

The other day I awoke to hear my 11-year-old daughter playing Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life on the record player, completely of her own choosing, and it’s now one of her favourite albums. Some days it’s Mavis Staples or BB King, some days it’s Mos Def & Talib Kweli, and other days it’s Carole King & Fleetwood Mac. But whatever the mood, I think the best way to listen to music is always to enjoy it with the family. 

AHI

AHI’s new album Prospect is now available on TIDAL and Qobuz.

Listen to our playlist AHI on TIDAL.

A Conversation with Stephan Moccio

Stephan Moccio

We had the pleasure of speaking to Canadian Oscar-nominated and Grammy-nominated pianist, songwriter and producer Stephan Moccio about his new album Lionheart. Moccio has achieved nearly 400 million streams on his solo work, and co-written hit songs for Celine Dion, The Weeknd, and ‘Wrecking Ball’ for Miley Cyrus. Having been classically trained at the Royal Conservatory of Toronto, Moccio returns to his classical roots on the piano in Lionheart. Stephan’s classical influence can be seen in this performance of ‘Wrecking Ball’. 

Stephan Moccio on composing Wrecking Ball (Miley Cyrus)

[Editor] You’ve written seven hits on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, earned three Grammy nominations and an Oscar nod for co-writing The Weeknd’s seven-times-platinum ‘Earned It’. Coming from a classically trained background, do you feel that your writing of pop songs has influenced your solo piano style?

100%.  As a matter of fact, for my composition process for Lionheart, I relied on my aptitude as a pop songwriter and producer.  Firstly, I am trained as a classical musical musician, however, for Lionheart I intentionally arranged my compositions as if they were pop songs, treating them in proper form (for the most part) with verses, pre choruses, choruses and a bridge. This helped me arrange the pieces effectively and succinctly. It is not to say that I didn’t have improvised moments, I still believe that contemporary piano must always be authentic, and not feel forced, however, I clearly pulled out my pop artistry.   

Can you tell us about any inspiration or meaning behind Lionheart?

The title track/composition has a nobility to it. I felt it needed a strong title. Therefore I began searching for famous knights, and eventually came across Joan of Arc. In my research, the adjective ‘lionhearted’ popped up, which means bravery and determination. I felt it summed up my current psyche, and mantra on life. I no longer need approval from people, or care for vapid opinions about things. 

You’ve co-written so many hit songs, the 2010 Vancouver Olympics theme, and music for TV/film, do you have any particular personal highlights from your songwriting career?

Hands down composing the theme for any Olympics, particularly your homeland, is one of the greatest honors bestowed upon a composer. My Olympics theme and song has become a national treasure which will outlive me. 

Stephan Moccio and Celine Dion

What made you take a step back from the pop music world and return to the piano and the studio on Sounds of Solace in 2020, and again on Lionheart?

I love this question. Simple. Life (for me) was way too complicated, and the return from what I was putting into it when I was producing and creating pop music, wasn’t worth it anymore. I craved and continue to crave simplicity… I never pursued music to become a famous pop producer or songwriter, I pursued music to impact lives emotionally. And frankly, in this moment of my life, I am able to do so as a solo pianist.   

You’ve referred to the making of Lionheart as a personal cathartic process of healing. Is it a more personal process to write these songs compared to songwriting for others?

It is an absolute pleasure to write for myself, as I am able to hold more accountability.  One of the most painful lessons in life is disappointing oneself. It is therapeutic, and healing. Writing songs for others can be thankless, and oftentimes, your best work remains shelved, because it is out of your control. I have had incredible success as a writer for others (which I will continue) which I am grateful for, however, this lane as a pianist feels very right for me.   

Stephan Moccio

How do you divide your focus between songwriting for other artists and composing your solo piano music? Your solo piano work has been hugely successful, earning nearly 400 million streams. Will you continue to do both, or focus more on the piano now?

I will continue to do both. I can’t shut off the deep well of creativity, inspirations and ideas which just come at me at any time of the day. I have developed a sophisticated system to organize my musical brain over the last 20 years or so, to catch and organize how, and to whom, I want to give specific melodies.

Stephan Moccio on writing Earned It for The Weeknd

Roon is all about enjoying your music listening experience at home. Can you tell us whether you have a specific home set up for music playback, how do you listen to music as a fan?

I am blessed to have a set of vintage JBL speakers which I listen to my music on. I am old enough to remember what quality speakers sound and feel like. It is extraordinary how accessible music is for us today, however, the ability to listen to well recorded music on ‘proper’ speakers gives us the ability to appreciate the artistry, the love, the time and details which passionate and dedicated artists inject and emotionally invest into their work. 

Thank you for your thoughtful questions and for your support of solo piano music, it is not lost on me.

Listen to Lionheart on TIDAL and Qobuz

Listen to our playlists Stephan Moccio Songwriting (on TIDAL) and Stephan Moccio on Piano (on Qobuz).

Community Music Discovery: October 2021

Lately I’ve been reflecting on one of life’s greatest paradoxes: that classical music can be intimidating. It only takes a few moments of sitting with the thought for the absurdity of it to bleed through.  It’s like saying ‘I saw the most terrifying field of sunflowers the other day’….someone might think you had suffered a head injury and call for help. Yet, some of us have experienced hesitancy when approaching classical music. Fortunately, Roon cures that reluctance and makes exploration a pleasure.

Roon subscribers are uncommonly knowledgeable across an incredible range of musical forms. They’re all on display in the What Are We Listening To thread of our Community forums. They know classical music particularly well, and they love to talk about it. Many of the descriptions that accompany their listening choices are simply radiant in their perception and appreciation. Their suggestions stimulate interest, and with a streaming service integrated in Roon, they’re all right there waiting at the end of a search. It’s really that easy! It’s still somewhat stupefyingly unimaginable, to those of us who were hanging around music stores 30 years ago, that music can be found and heard so effortlessly… it’s science fiction for music heads. The next thing you know you’ll have added 160 definitive classical compositions to your Roon library. And, without even a twinge of hesitation.

My Roon classical journey was jump-started with an RCA Red Seal discovery: Gregor Piatigorsky’s Dvorak; Walton: Cello Concertos. It’s a lively conversation between Piatigorsky and the Orchestra; the cello and the symphony exchange voices in vibrant repartee. A listener doesn’t have to be fluent in classical music to know there’s something special happening on this recording. 

TIDAL: https://tidal.com/browse/album/4918900

Qobuz: https://open.qobuz.com/album/0884977773224

From there, Roon recommended a handful of other RCA Living Stereo and Red Seal classics. I selected one that featured Jascha Heifetz performing Violin Concertos by Sibelius, Prokofiev, and Glazunov. It’s absolutely stunning to me that Roon made it so easy to find an album as remarkable as this one. I can’t imagine being able to accomplish this so seamlessly anywhere else but in Roon. This album is packed with imagination and drama, richly painted as sound. I’ve listened to it nearly everyday since I added it. 

TIDAL: https://tidal.com/browse/album/62707810

Qobuz: https://open.qobuz.com/album/0886445075557

My most recent find required no effort at all. It was shared by a community member, Sjaak D, in response to last month’s Roon Rediscoveries story. It’s a Philips collection by Mitsuko Uchida, Mozart: The Piano Sonatas. Sjaak recalled an evening years ago when he returned home to find his Hi-Fi and modest collection of discs stolen, including this one. And how, despite auditioning several collections of Mozart’s Piano Sonatas over a number of years, none exhibited the same zest or excitement demonstrated by the Uchida set. His longing went unsatiated until he was able to secure another copy of this specific collection. It only takes listening to a few pieces on this set to understand why.

Immediately thereafter another community member, Christian_S, affirmed the brilliance of Uchida’s performance. An instant bond was formed between two people who have never met, but are simpatico in their deep appreciation of music. This is how friendships are born. Any album that sparks a connection like that has a place in my library. 

TIDAL: https://tidal.com/browse/album/4717063

Qobuz: https://open.qobuz.com/album/0002894683562

That’s Roon, everyday. I get to be part of that, and if you’re a Roon subscriber you know what I’m talking about. In Roon you’ll discover the Community vibe of a great record store and all the inventory you could ever want, right under your fingertips. Each great album and accompanying conversation leads the way to another. The music never stops. 

So, while we have you, what Classical performances do we need to hear? This music is too good to go unheard. If you know it well and love it, help us to know it and appreciate it too.  Tell us here, and we’ll share your recommendations in our upcoming listener-curated playlists.