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Ted Lehmann
Apr-25-2018, 2:32pm
In my now bi-weekly column in No Depression I've written about the effect of Beyonce's acclaimed performances over the last two weeks at Coachella. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts and to participate in the discussion with you. - Ted

http://nodepression.com/article/beyonc%C3%A9s-message-and-what-it-means-bluegrass

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jesserules
Apr-25-2018, 4:39pm
Could you maybe provide a capsule description of what she did & why it was acclaimed?

Just reading that she did something & that it was doesn't really motivate me to click on any links. Heck, I don't even know what Coachella is.

FLATROCK HILL
Apr-25-2018, 4:57pm
I did click the link and I did read the article. I also clicked on the videos within the link.

It's probably my fault rather than the fault of the article, but I'm not sure I understand the point of it.

I can understand (Beyonce's?) the desire to give credit to the African roots of a genre that is today, mostly thought of as white-folks music (If that is the theme of the article).

All I can say is that if I like a certain style of music, or specific group or performance, I could't care less about the color of the performers or of the audience for that matter.

jaycat
Apr-25-2018, 5:31pm
Not sure I get it either. Charlie Pride broke the country music color line a long time ago. Oh, and it's a big deal, a black group singing Little Liza Jane? Check this (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UixlPnv6vHU)out.

Kevin Stueve
Apr-25-2018, 6:23pm
I care about neither the color of a performers skins or his/her preferences in sexual partners. I find it terribly sad that many try to label people as if that helps with "diversity".

Ted Lehmann
Apr-25-2018, 7:51pm
Coachella is a huge, mostly rock, festival in California. If you'll click on the link I placed in the first paragraph, I think you'll get pretty much all you need to know. Thanks for asking. = Ted

Explorer
Apr-26-2018, 12:52am
A friend of mine, who taught quite a few people who then went on to appear at quite a few festivals, was booked over the phone based on her former students recommending her. Since we were both going, and I had been before, we went together.

The look on the face of the festival manager, as well as other folks, at discovering my friend was black really pissed me off. I never went back.

I also remember occasions when certain bands were referred to disparagingly as "J*wgrass."

Maybe things have changed since those times, and that would be nice. I still hear discussions where folks claim that it was the white guys who created innovations like the fifth string on banjos, something which existed on the instruments before Africans were kidnapped and sold into slavery. It will take a while before appropriation of other cultures by whites, and accurate crediting, becomes the known story, and even then there will likely be pockets where folks won't like it and therefore won't repeat it.

Of course, there's also that weird dynamic where people who have the actual facts on their side are accused of "attacking" someone for stating those facts. Claimed victimhood by those who are historically and unmistakably privileged is a funny thing....

Ivan Kelsall
Apr-26-2018, 1:53am
Explorer - I don't think that the bands that were labelled 'Jewgrass' were looked down on in any way - it's just that many bands were formed by Jewish musicians who loved Bluegrass - just as they do today & the name was simply a ''play'' on the name Bluegrass. I do know that Gene Lowinger,one of Bill Monroe's former fiddle players got totally PO'd by BM constantly telling folks that he was Jewish. Personally,i think that was BM's naive way of telling folks that 'his music' was for everybody,regardless of faith.
Quote - "...at discovering my friend was black really pissed me off. I never went back." I'm with you 1000% on that !!!.

Realistically - ALL music genres are there for ALL of us to listen to or perform if we wish,we simply make our choices. Incidentally - I've often thought that the old time minstrels used to 'black up', more because as white guys,they just wouldn't have any credence in an area where Negro musicians had it 'sewn up'.

Do any of us really care about the ethnicity / creed of the musicians that we enjoy listening to ? - i somehow doubt it - we simply love their music,& long may it be so,
Ivan;)

grassrootphilosopher
Apr-26-2018, 3:32am
Ted, while I allways enjoy your articles, this one left me somehow stranded.

I did not follow the comparison (was there one?) between Beyoncé and bluegrass. I allmost expected Beyoncé giving a bluegrass performance thus boosting this niche music wide open into the mainstream and causing people like our Willie to call out TANPON. Well...

The responses to your collumn show that obviously our crowd here has the proverbial "God is colorblind" attitude, and quite rightfully so. I found that the only distinction being made here is the level of excellence.

I also find it interesting that musicians from every walk of life put their own spice in the music. This is true for first generation musicians like Big Mon, Jimmy Martin, Don Reno/Red Smiley/Bill Harrell, second generation folks like The Osborne Bros., Jim & Jesse, The Country Gentlemen, third generation people like The Newgrass Revival, Tony Rice, David Grisman etc.

I also like culturaly interesting twists like The Greenbriar Boys, Red Wine (from Italy), Jussi Syrren (Finland), Turquoise (France) etc. Each brings their own ideas.

Now, being a recluse is not the answer when you play a highly artistic music such as bluegrass. This is a flaw of some musicians that on the one hand would like more exposure while on the other hand they try everything to alienate a broader audience by thinking backward. How´s that for a topic for a future article.

JL277z
Apr-26-2018, 3:55am
Well I'm not qualified to comment on deep philosophical stuff, ~:> but I can say that I absolutely enjoyed the "Ebony Hillbillies" video in the OP's article - love that fiddle groove, :grin: :mandosmiley: it reminds me of Cajun or French fiddle music, great toe-tapping stuff! And the dulcimer and other instruments fit in nicely there too.
Fast forward to 1:17 :


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_wmFxiOJOU
(or direct link (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_wmFxiOJOU))

The vocal styles in the above video are compelling too, took me a while to remember what it reminded me of: Bessie Jones and Georgia Sea Island Singers (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcRB062Ay1M). Maybe the call/response thing is what I'm hearing as similar? If so, I suppose that's probably not a defining feature as such, because it's probably found worldwide... guessing, I really don't know.


... Oh, and it's a big deal, a black group singing Little Liza Jane? Check this (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UixlPnv6vHU) out.

Different rhythm seems like, IMO the rock (or whatever genre it is) version is like just a straight rhythm or something, no syncopation, it didn't make we want to tap my feet like the fiddle version did. And I'm not sure the rock version would have much to do with bluegrass (would it?), whereas the fiddle version at least has a fiddle and (IMO) a good dance beat. I think it's more about the style of the instrumentation, more than the name of the song or the lyrics etc.

Something I don't understand though. As long as it's fashionable again nowadays to once again speak of inherited biological things such as ethnicity (such topics became taboo for a few decades after the events of WWII), then what about the lady singer on the far left (1:44 to 1:52), she looks more Native American than African American, :confused: if that's the case then did she 'choose' just one 'group' to identify with, accept what was assigned to her by society? Should any of it even matter anymore?

I'd say play what sounds good *now*, if a particular music brings the players (and the audiences) joy and brightens up people's day for a little bit, then go for it. :)

P.S. In the "Ebony Hillbillies" video, the cowboy hats were surprisingly likable. :)) Usually I don't much care for cowboy hats ;) because the wearers often look uncomfortable wearing them, but those folk managed to pull it off and make it look like a natural thing they wear every day, instead of some special stage prop or something. I like the effect. :)


P.S. 2: Now I'm quite dense, ok, I realize that, :redface: but I wonder if the point of the article was that people not shun their own musical heritage just because of a bunch of ugly historical stuff way in the past. As they say in the 12-step programs, "Take what you like and leave the rest." The unfortunate days of white-only "blackface" minstrel shows are long behind us as a nation (a U.S.-centric thing, apparently?), and it's 'ok' now for African Americans to actually play fiddle and banjo again without fitting into some musty old stereotype or whatever. Or something like that. :)

Beanzy
Apr-26-2018, 4:37am
While there definitely used to be issues with overt segregation by bookers etc. I’m hoping those days are gone by & the exceptions will get panned. However lack of overt segregaion is only the hard wall being knocked down, there are many self imposed and silent barriers too.
I think many bands are formed by playing with people you mix with socially, neighbours, friends & family, so the band you’re in will reflect that. If you mix it up socially then you’re more likely to get a representative spread in the bands and genres people play in.
If people tend to ‘huddle’ in gender or ethnic groups then you’ll likely see that reflected in the line-up. There are good reasons why people form social tribes, often because of percieved external threats. However once the tribe is formed it in turn can be seen as a threat, even where there is no intention to be threatening. These separations aren’t easy to get around as they tend to be self reinforcing.

Mando Mort
Apr-26-2018, 8:05am
I long for a day when people are not categorized, denigrated or lauded by anything other than they are either good people or bad people (and that may be hard to determine for some folks). Same goes for musical genres.

JEStanek
Apr-26-2018, 8:55am
Personally, I feel knowing the history of an art form is valuable. Knowing the context of it's origins and it's evolution is important, to me. Just consider all the youngsters now playing bluegrass (and it's variants) that were born well after Bill Monroe died. Keeping his memory and history alive in the form is important as well as the folks who influenced and taught him. I like history. It informs the present.

Jamie

Timbofood
Apr-26-2018, 10:33am
Dare I repeat myself?
“You have to know where you came from to know where you’re going!”

Jeff Mando
Apr-26-2018, 11:05am
+1 Olaf, Jussi Syrren is great! A Finnish dude who sounds like a cross between Ralph Stanley and George Jones.......:cool:

Darren Bailey
Apr-26-2018, 11:10am
Are people still discussing this stuff? I didn't realise it was an issue in 2018. Perhaps not having a TV protects me from such nonsense. I have, however, heard of Beyonce, but I couldn't name a single song she wrote or sings - and I don't feel any poorer for it.

Tom Haywood
Apr-26-2018, 11:19am
Getting the "true" history out through discussion seems necessary. IMO all the music that's ever existed has been a mixture of music from whatever people and cultures were in the vicinity, and all music constantly changes as the mix of people changes. There will always be some folks claiming the music and its history as their own in order to make money from those who would like to believe that it is all about their tribe. I think the Ebony Hillbillies video definitely contributes to this discussion about the history of bluegrass. The Beyonce/Coachella video is a bit of a stretch.

Beanzy
Apr-26-2018, 12:18pm
I think the Ebony Hillbillies video definitely contributes to this discussion about the history of bluegrass.
I know you’ve got to leverage every angle to get noticed in show business, but I reckon we’ll really be getting places when a band name based on wordplay around the colour of the members becomes an anachronism.


The Beyonce/Coachella video is a bit of a stretch. I thought that too, :disbelief: but it’s a great advert for the strength & durability of modern elastics.

Timbofood
Apr-26-2018, 12:26pm
I’m not so sure I’d really ever want to see Bill Monroe “twerking” or offering the at Ms. Knowles provides ad nauseum in her video offerings. To be honest, I’m not that wild about most of the style using the pelvis as a “new”musical instrument. Well some think it’s new.

Rush Burkhardt
Apr-26-2018, 1:32pm
Ted: Beyonce's message, in regard to what it means for Bluegrass, is no part of nothin'! Her performance, her attire and her disrespect for anyone thinking differently, will have a great impact on my grandchildren, who have been raised to believe that skin color and musical preference have little to no influence on life. To each his/her own! Diversity is what makes us who we are; Beyonce's expressionism drags us backwards. What happened to the forum moderators? This thread belongs on Facebook!

jesserules
Apr-26-2018, 2:16pm
Coachella is a huge, mostly rock, festival in California. If you'll click on the link I placed in the first paragraph, I think you'll get pretty much all you need to know. Thanks for asking. = Ted

Oh, I get it.

Clickbait.

Jeff Mando
Apr-26-2018, 5:54pm
In a larger sense, everything these days is pretty much rock'n'roll, IMHO. Beyonce is rock'n'roll. People putting on funny hats and playing ole time music, is a quaint, academic excercise (resulting in good music, BTW!) but the doing of it is rock'n'roll. I got frustrated in the 80's when people wrote about the Austin blues scene. Huh? The Austin blues scene was rock'n'roll. "Blues" might have been a smart way to market it, but it was rock'n'roll. OTOH, Bill Monroe was never rock'n'roll. Although, he influenced many rock'n'rollers including Elvis and Carl Perkins. Hendrix, OTOH, had no problem being rock'n'roll. BB King, Furry Lewis, Fred McDowell were blues artists who played big rock festivals cause it paid better. So, I don't know if that is rock'n'roll or just being smart! Seems like an old argument to me, but there might be some younger folks who might not have put it together.....

John Rosett
Apr-26-2018, 6:36pm
I heard about this band, Gangstagrass, and watched a video, expecting that it would be an awkward and disingenuous mashing together of two wildly different styles. Instead, I feel like they really understand how similar the experiences of poor, Appalachian white people and poor black people are.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnAlILSj8aQ

Kevin Stueve
Apr-26-2018, 6:43pm
other than the sugar hill gang, I can't say I am enamored of rap or gangsta. But I do indeed admire their artistry. That was good mashup

Mark Gunter
Apr-26-2018, 7:49pm
I've posted in other threads my own opinion - that Black cultural roots and (even more so) Native Amercian cultural roots in music can be overlooked by many people historically, and not surprisingly so, since those groups, like other minority groups, have historically been oppressed and excluded from the larger culture.

That said, the role of Black culture in what we might call American Folk or "roots" music is fairly well-understood and well-documented these days.

I read Ted's article, and was a bit confused from the very first, when I read, "In putting on a show that celebrated the diversity of black people, she conveyed that no matter how much fame or money she has, she will refuse to divorce herself from black culture ..." -- quoting Johnson's op-ed in the New York Times. I suppose I'm just ignorant, having never heard of this "watershed" festival, and having never known that prior to performing there, Beyonce had evidently given reason to question her "blackness" - I suppose Johnson felt he had reason to question her loyalty to black culture prior to that performance, or else I've completely missed the sense of his statements.

Past that opening, I have to confess that I was as clueless as some others here as to the point of Ted's article. I don't think it's a bad article at all, and I'm ready to admit that the fault in understanding its point probably lies with my own comprehension.

If the point is to make people more aware of the influence of black culture on the music which became Bluegrass, I'm all for that. If a secondary point is to introduce more people to the phenomenal Arnold Shultz who had a profound effect on Bill Monroe, Merle Travis, Chet Atkins and others, I'm all for that. Likewise, introducing folk to Rhiannon Giddens is a wonderful thing.

It may be that Ted was writing the article more for himself as a reminder of something? And no one can fault his hope that more diverse individuals be brought into the bluegrass tent.

Thank you, Ted, for continuing these columns and for sharing them here. If this one was a bit foggy for some of us, at least it generated conversation.

Ivan Kelsall
Apr-27-2018, 1:13am
Jamie - While understanding your point perfectly,i wonder just how many youngsters do actually know / understand the legacy of Bill Monroe. Many youngsters are awed by the technical aspects of playing & simply wish to emulate their 'idols' & become 'superpickers'. IMHO - all too often they and up being able to play all the notes but NONE of the music. They play without any real feeling for the music & just don't 'communicate'. I've seen that all too often even over here. A group of talented players will form a band,but when they play,they play as individuals,not 'together' as a band. It makes me wonder just how much 'Trad.' Bluegrass music they've listened to to be able to know ''how it works & how it should sound''.

I'm thankful that there are still some good younger bands coming through the ranks,playing 'trad. style Bluegrass,
Ivan

vetus scotia
Apr-27-2018, 4:07am
They play without any real feeling for the music & just don't 'communicate'.

How, may I ask, do you know what someone else is feeling? And how do you know that the breakdown in communication is not a lack of receptivity on your part, rather than a lack of communication skills on theirs?

And why does this imperative for historical discovery always seem to conclude with WSM? Isn't that the point of the thread? Some canned history of BG music that makes Monroe the beginning and the end of BG history is not, for lack of a better term, true.

JL277z
Apr-27-2018, 6:00am
... A group of talented players will form a band,but when they play,they play as individuals,not 'together' as a band. ...

Lack of experience. Happens in all genres, not just bluegrass. Some of the players will get better.

Whether it's the neighborhood rock garage band, or bluegrass or oldtime or Irish trad or whatever, sounding good in a group requires the ability to listen to the overall sound and how one's instrument fits in with that, recognize if it doesn't fit and change the playing to correct that, rather than just focusing all one's attention on only the instrument being played.

That ability doesn't happen overnight, it takes a lot of practice and time. Some of the young bands that Ivan referred to, just might not have reached that level yet. Some might not ever reach that level due to differing abilities, but they can't *all* be bad... can they?

Ivan Kelsall
Apr-27-2018, 7:11am
Quote - " How, may I ask, do you know what someone else is feeling ? ". I didn't say that i knew what '' someone else is feeling'' - i should have said ''that they play the music without any feeling'' = it's pretty darned bland & expressionless.

JL277z - It's not a simple matter of a lack of experience with some of the younger guys,they want to 'shine as individuals' & being part of a band is secondary. We've all seen sportsmen who,even as part of a team, don't pass the ball or 'whatever' when they should,they try to go it alone so they can grab the glory & often louse up. Sometimes egos can be a bad thing, & more than a few bands ( not neccessarily Bluegrass bands) have folded because of it,
Ivan

FLATROCK HILL
Apr-27-2018, 7:25am
How, may I ask, do you know what someone else is feeling? And how do you know that the breakdown in communication is not a lack of receptivity on your part, rather than a lack of communication skills on theirs?

This is a hard question to answer. If you've never recognized the difference between a musician that plays with feeling and one who plays without, it really can't be explained. It's like asking "how do you know that instrument is out of tune?" If you can't tell, you can't tell.


And why does this imperative for historical discovery always seem to conclude with WSM? Isn't that the point of the thread? Some canned history of BG music that makes Monroe the beginning and the end of BG history is not, for lack of a better term, true.

What "canned history" would that be? To deny Bill Monroe's place in BG history is just silly. Sure, in most any musical genre there are many influences that come together... ingredients that comprise the result. If the result you're discussing is Bluegrass music, then yes, by definition WSM is pretty much the "beginning and end"

This is like discussing wine and asking "what makes grapes so important?"

Edit: Sorry Ivan, I see you jumped in on your own behalf while I was jumping in for you!

JEStanek
Apr-27-2018, 9:33am
I’m not so sure I’d really ever want to see Bill Monroe “twerking” or offering the at Ms. Knowles provides ad nauseum in her video offerings. To be honest, I’m not that wild about most of the style using the pelvis as a “new”musical instrument. Well some think it’s new.

I don't think WSM minded when Elvis the Pelvis made him so much money.

Re: GangstaGrass - some mash ups work. Snoop Dog and Willie Nelson dedicated to Johnny Cash.



Jamie

JEStanek
Apr-27-2018, 9:52am
Playing with feeling or emotion is often subjective (not always but often). I hear ya. In general, I don't really like covers of songs because I usually love the first version I have heard and covers tend to either do exact copies (a tad boring unless live) or they add their own nuances that can be cringe worthy (evidenced by Taylor Swift Covering the phenomenal September by Earth Wind and Fire - Oh, T-Swizzle, you shouldn't have).

I've heard really technical players kick but with soul and others who can't. I've heard marginally technical players rip the soul and some who can't. There's a lot of music out there. I'm happy to have the stuff that I dig. I'm happy to know the history behind a good bit of it as well.

Jamie

Willie Poole
Apr-27-2018, 11:27am
I do believe that Black folks were sort of left out when it came to country or bluegrass music...I had gig booked one evening years ago and my bass player came down sick and he called me and said he would send his friend to fill in for him and that was a good bass player and could follow just about every song we played, when he showed up he was a black man and he was one of the best bass players that I ever had in my band he also sang baritone and knew just about every bluegrass song that there was..This bass player was also an anchor news man on one of the local TV channels... When we got set up to start this bass player said to me, "Willie, I feel like a ####### at a family reunion" meaning he wondered if he would be accepted, I told him that if he wasn`t the whole band would just leave........

Another time I was playing in a bar in Northeast DC and a black man was sitting at the bar and I noticed that he was mouthing the words to just about every song that I sang so during a break I went over and talked to him and he said he had a record collection of just about every bluegrass recording ever made and he liked coming to this particular bar because they always had bluegrass and he couldn`t find it anywhere else in that area, he named off names of bluegrass players that I had never heard of, he was familiar with every song that we played and could cite what album they were on and who recorded each song...I was amazed by his knowledge of bluegrass music...

Bluegrass doesn`t know any color barrier

Timbofood
Apr-27-2018, 11:49am
Folks we are all missing one little fact much closer to home!
One of the most generous and sensitive members of this forum we have is DataNick! His knowledge knows no color, nor his kindness any barriers.

Never said WSM wasn’t happy to be receiving any of those “Powerful” checks from Elvis, just that I’d rather not see HIM (WSM) twerk.

dhergert
Apr-27-2018, 1:27pm
... Bluegrass doesn`t know any color barrier

I wish that were true. It is better in some parts of the country and it is better now then it used to be. But it's not completely true.

I could tell stories... But best to say, there's still some distance to go.

Also, not at all editorializing about Beyonce's presentation, but Coachella is not known for its bluegrass programming content. I think it's somewhat of a stretch to try to tie bluegrass and Coachella together in an article.

Timbofood
Apr-27-2018, 2:52pm
Don, people will always be short sighted with respect to color. It will take many more years for that to be a thing of the past. Doubt it will happen our lifetime.
Coachella, is a mainstream music self absorbed bunch of media hype Hooey!
The bigger problem I see is that if we continue to remove all the monuments of the past, we will end up repeating it, case in point is the removal of a statue from the city park in Kalamazoo, it is listed on the National historic register but, it seems to offend some minority so, is being swept under a rug so to speak. What I see is when we remove thought generating pieces of art, overly homogenize the world so, “no one is offended” we lessen the very principles onwhich this country was founded are being called into question.
End rant.
I don’t watch Beyoncé, never have bothered other than getting to another station, not that she isn’t talented, I just don’t care.