We’re posting these Rays of Sunshine on Juneteenth, which celebrates the date in 1865, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation took effect on 1/1/1862, when a Union general in Galveston, Texas announced federal orders that enslaved people in Texas were free. (Although it’s not yet a federally recognized holiday, Juneteenth Independence Day was made a commemorative day in Maine by a 2011 statute.)
Kafari and Jake Hoffman:
Portland Intown Contra Dance hosted a workshop (Cultural Appropriation in American Folkways) with Kafari (a Portland-based pianist, beatmaker, and bluegrass percussionist, specializing in the rhythm bones) and Jake Hoffman (a multi-instrumentalist and singer who lived in greater Portland from 2009-2019).
PICD also referenced this video of Kafari & Jake presenting at TEDxDirigo in 2017 – Bones and Banjo: Confronting Cultural Appropriation.
A trad musician, founding member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, and MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, Rhiannon Giddens’ albums include Freedom Highway, There is No Other (with Francesco Turrisi), and Songs of Our Native Daughters. Written and recorded with fellow artists Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla, and Allison Russell, the Native Daughters album “confronts the ways we are culturally conditioned to avoid talking about America’s history of slavery, racism, and misogyny.”
In their “Live with Carnegie Hall” conversation, Giddens and Turrisi “restore minstrelsy to its global context through the journeys of the banjo and the tambourine, and in tracing those journeys show what there is to reproach versus celebrate in the birth of American music.”
Giddens also gave the keynote address at the 2017 International Bluegrass Music Association business conference. Here is the text of her remarks, entitled “Community and Connection”.
Other Black Voices in Trad Music and Dance:
Birdie in the Cage is a square dance that we’ve danced under the disco ball at the Legion. It’s also the title of a Radiolab podcast that dives deep into trad dance cultures, past and present.
This YouTube playlist compiled by CDSS draws attention to folk artists who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Rhiannon Giddens is there, along with Jake Blount (whose fiddling is featured in the Radiolab podcast) and Mali Obomsawin (who plays in Lula Wiles, writes on Indigenous issues, and is on the staff of Maine Fiddle Camp.)
Alex Mann has been researching Belfast dance history for several years and notes that “the first musician to gain significant renown locally was a Black man named John (Jack) Douglass. He played for local dances between about 1815 and 1859 and is credited with writing a tune called Mountain Hornpipe or Douglas’s Favorite which is still included in some fiddle tune books.”
Many thanks to the folks in the BFS community who brought these artists to our attention: dancer Coral Breuer, contra musician Bethany Waickman, board member Alex Mann, and CDSS (BFS is an affiliate member).