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From Africa to Appalachia: Roots of Old-Time and Bluegrass
October 7, 2022 - November 19, 2022
From Africa to Appalachia: Roots of Old-Time and Bluegrass, a Music History Exhibit at the Alexander Black House
Music fans know that American blues music is rooted in West Africa. Less well-known are the African roots of old-time and its musical cousin, bluegrass. Blacksburg Museum and Cultural Foundation announces From Africa to Appalachia: Roots of Old-time and Bluegrass Music on exhibit from October 7 – November 19, 2022, in the Alexander Black House main galleries, 204 Draper Road SW,
Blacksburg, VA, blacksburgmuseum.org, 540-443-1600
Admission is free, hours are Tuesday –Saturday, 10–4
Old-time music is a genre of North American folk music, developing along with various North American folk dances, such as square dancing, clogging, and buck dancing. Old-time music got its start on the gourd banjos of African slaves, then intertwining with the Scots-Irish folk tunes brought into the Appalachian regions. BMCF honors that complex musical history and profound influences of African
Americans on not just blues and jazz, but also old-time, bluegrass and country music.
“I became aware of this lost musical history while at a concert featuring the original Carolina Chocolate Drops. Rhiannon Giddens, Dom Flemons, and Justin Robinson, the group’s musicians, shared the history of African music, and African American influences in the beginnings of the musical genre I grew up knowing as hillbilly music. I was stunned. As a native of Floyd County, VA, I was surrounded
by this music my entire life, yet had no idea of its roots. I am thrilled to now share this history through our exhibit,” stated Janean Williams, curator at the BMCF.
In conjunction with the exhibit, the BMCF is presenting music programming, lectures, as well as a showing of the film, “Black Fiddlers.”
Schedule of Events at the
Alexander Black House
204 Draper Road SW
All admission is free.
Earl White, October 14, 6:00 – 7:15 pm, presenting a lecture on the History of Blacks in Old-Time,
with a musical demonstration, and a Q&A section at the end.
Old-Time Music Jam, October 19, 7:00-8:30 pm, bring your instruments or come to listen in.
Patrick Salmons, professor with Virginia Tech’s Department of Religion and Culture, October 21, 6:00 -7:00 pm.
A lecture on how African Americans were pushed out of “hillbilly” music by distributors and labels, the discrimination they faced, and how this genre’s full history is being rediscovered in the modern day.
Corbin Hayslett, manager of County Sales music store in Floyd, VA, November 3, 6:00 – 7:00 pm, speaking on the African American influence in old-time, focusing on local musicians.
“Black Fiddlers” documentary, November 10, 6:0 -7:00 pm. “Black Fiddlers” traces the personal and family stories of violin players of African descent in New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, Texas, Missouri, and as far as Oregon during the Indian Wars and the Gold Rush. Inspired by the legacy of Joe & Odell Thomson, director Montes-Bradley reached out to musicians Rhiannon Giddens and Justin Robinson from The Carolina Chocolate Drops, and old-time fiddler Earl White, to reconstruct three hundred years of Black music with the help of local historians, academics, and award-winning authors like Kip Lornell and John J. Sullivan.