The thread that connects American popular music from 1619 to the present is Black. Scholars know that, as do some fans. Skylight Music Theatre makes it explicit in “Forgotten Voices,” a spirited show that goes from traditional West African rhythms to The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” in 84 minutes.

Skylight recorded the concert-style performance for an invited audience at the Broadway Theatre Center, and premiered it online on Saturday, which was Juneteenth Day. It can be streamed for free through July 18, but registration is required at

Director Sheri Williams Pannell also served as onstage griot (and occasional sixth singer). Her long poem connected and introduced segments and contextualized the Black experience reflected in these songs, including slavery and the Great Migration. Her words were sometimes celebratory, sometimes didactic. Pointing out how British white rock bands studied and imitated Black blues and rock, Williams Pannell declared “I’m not hatin’ / just recognizin’ the inspiration.”