Rhiannon Giddens Is Reclaiming the Black Heritage of American Folk Music

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2019-02-26 02:34Z by Steven

Rhiannon Giddens Is Reclaiming the Black Heritage of American Folk Music

TIME
2019-02-21

John Lingan


Shahar Azran—WireImage/Getty Images

In early 2018, folk-music torchbearer Rhiannon Giddens decamped to Breaux Bridge, La., with minstrelsy on her mind. In her early work with the Grammy-winning bluegrass band the Carolina Chocolate Drops and across two solo albums and a role in the TV series Nashville, Giddens has been as much a historian as a singer and banjoist. She’s won acclaim, including a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant, for her attention to America’s folk traditions, but she felt that minstrelsy, with its troubled history, remained relatively unexplored…

..For the Louisiana trip, she enlisted three of her favorite contemporary musicians: Leyla McCalla, Allison Russell and Amythyst Kiah, all, like Giddens, black women with a focus on the banjo and early American string-music traditions. All four brought original songs to the sessions, and their collaboration quickly expanded beyond its initial historical focus. The resulting album, Songs of Our Native Daughters, which comes out on Feb. 22, has one foot in acoustic minstrel sounds but is also a tribute to the strength and resilience of black women in the antebellum era

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Interview: ‘White people are so fragile, bless ’em’ … meet Rhiannon Giddens, banjo warrior

Posted in Articles, Arts, History, Interviews, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2018-07-29 01:04Z by Steven

Interview: ‘White people are so fragile, bless ’em’ … meet Rhiannon Giddens, banjo warrior

The Guardian
2018-07-23

Emma John

‘I’m not here to be famous’ … Rhiannon Giddens, who is curating the Cambridge folk festival.
‘I’m not here to be famous’ … Rhiannon Giddens, who is curating the Cambridge folk festival. Photograph: Tanya Rosen-Jones

She pours fire and fury into powerful songs that target everything from police shootings to slavery. The musician reveals all about her mission to put the black back into bluegrass – and Shakespeare

‘We’re all racist to some degree,” says Rhiannon Giddens. “Just like we’re all privileged to some degree. I have privilege in my system because I’m light-skinned. I hear people say, ‘I didn’t have it easy growing up either.’ But when did it become a competition?”

As someone on a mission to bridge such divides, Giddens thinks about this stuff a lot. The Grammy-winning singer and songwriter was born to a white father and a black mother in Greensboro, North Carolina, in the late 1970s. Her parents married only three years after the landmark Loving v Virginia decision, which reversed the anti-miscegenation laws that had made interracial marriage illegal. Their union was still shocking enough that her father was disinherited.

While much has changed in the 40 years that Giddens has been alive, her latest album, Freedom Highway, is a powerful testament to the inequality and injustice that remain. It opens with At the Purchaser’s Option, a devastating track inspired by an 1830s advert for a female slave whose nine-month-old baby could also be included in the sale. “It was kind of a statement to put that one first,” says Giddens. “If you can get past that, you’ll probably survive the rest.”…

Read the entire interview here.

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