It is generally known that the American banjo’s origins trace back to West Africa and a gourd-like instrument the gnomi, among other names. However, the plantations were something of an incubator for music of the African American slaves in a variety of forms: the fiddle, learned at the plantation house; the call-and-response work songs from the toil of the plantation fields; spirituals stemming from church worship—often clandestine services or camp meetings with hidden messages of freedom’s call; and the hush lullabies sung by mammies to their babies, and sung with irony to the children of the plantation overlords.
In Scotland, Ulster and Appalachia, the songs have always been viewed as more important than any one individual singer. The anonymous authorship of much of the repertoire meant that no one questioned the fact that people often had their own family versions of ballads, or that they varied in different geographical areas. The tradition of singing and passing songs on has had an unbroken momentum across time and place. In fact, the urge to make music and share it has been even more vital than the repertoire itself. Like any good story, a good song (and the ballads are all stories after all) will live on. It’s the same with strong melodies: they also often have independent lives and may be paired up with many songs and different dances. No one owns this stuff. It belongs to everyone.
When NPR first partnered with me in presenting The Thistle & Shamrock®, we talked about using my radio show to open a doorway into a world of evolving Celtic music traditions for public radio listeners. I could never have imagined how far that door would swing open my way, too, helping inspire my search for the depth of connection that underpins our migration story in Wayfaring Strangers.
Help us make a great book even better! We need your support to insert a CD of music in every copy of a forthcoming book about Scots-Irish music in Appalachia. Listen to a sample to hear what’s in store.
I grew up watching OutKast videos on the now-defunct Video Jukebox Network, affectionately known as “The Box.” Although OutKast received some play on MTV and BET in the early 1990s, it was on The Box, which featured a range of underground southern hip-hop artists, where I could be sure to see André “André 3000” Benjamin, Antwan “Big Boi” Patton, and other southern rappers in regular rotation. Although initially record labels largely ignored southern artists, through homegrown ingenuity, southern rappers soon emerged as a formidable force in the global music industry. By 2005, top spots on music charts were regularly held by southern hip-hop artists, southern R&B singers, or hits produced by southern artists. As Memphis rapper Project Pat noted in 2006: “Now y’all was thinkin’ Dirty South was like, ‘hee-haw, hee-haw’/Is you worth over a hundred mil? We are, we are.” Indeed, the South had something to say.
UNC Press needs your help in a matching funds challenge to pay for inserting music CDs in a forthcoming book about the Scots-Irish music of Appalachia.
Civil War music is now a cottage industry.
Remembering Pete Seeger through interviews conducted by William Ferris in his book “The Storied South” and by Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr for their book “Wayfaring Strangers.”
Eastern North Carolina has produced some of the most transformative figures in the history of jazz, gospel and popular music. Among them are internationally renowned jazz pianists and composers Thelonious Monk from Rocky Mount and Billy Taylor from Greenville. African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina celebrates people, places and events in Eastern North …
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) recently announced UNC Press author Sheila Kay Adams as a 2013 NEA National Heritage Fellow. Adams is a seventh generation-ballad singer and has been performing Appalachian ballads and telling stories for over thirty years.
The Jesus music had a visceral effect on my peers and me. Music was all around us and a constant emotional and intellectual force in the 1970s. It was very much the vehicle for communicating this faith. Music identified us. It captured the emotion that was largely absent in the churches that emerged from the 1950s. The music communicated both an identity and a mission. We all felt like we were going to somehow change the world. Music, however could be exploited.
This week we revive our NC Icons series with a look at Doc Watson, number 51 on Our State magazine’s 100 North Carolina Icons list. The Deep Gap, North Carolina native and Grammy award winning singer/songwriter left a lasting legacy on traditional American music, revered for his influence on bluegrass, folk, country, blues, and gospel music.
I had a new image of the Times Op-Ed department as a kind of graduate seminar on steroids, not just fact-checking and copy-editing but asking the rigorous questions.
It’s a Twitter event! This Wednesday, December 12, from 9-10 pm EST join @LoriRotskoff, @uncpressblog, and @MamaDramaNY for a Twitter celebration and discussion of the 40th anniversary of Free to Be…You and Me, the popular nonsexist children’s album/book/TV special that has helped shape the childhoods and parenting practices of generations.
Our Holiday Sale is now underway! If you need some gift ideas for the folks on your list, our Southern Gateways catalog is a great place to start. Southern Gateways is where we collect of all our general interest books about this region we call home.