23 March 2021

New podcast series on black Appalachian music

The subject of black music in Appalachia is deservedly receiving greater attention, and the Great Smoky Mountains Association has accordingly launched a new mini-series, 'Sepia tones: exploring black Appalachian music' on its 'Smoky Mountain Air' podcast channel. To be broadcast every other month, the six episodes are hosted by two distinguished scholars, Dr William Turner and Dr Ted Olson.

The image shown above comes from the Association's Facebook, where there is a basic introduction and a link to the fuller details on the Association's website. See also John Lawless's feature on Bluegrass Today. The first episode can be heard here. The 33 minutes include five musical examples; one contributor is the English folksinger Martin Simpson, performing 'John Hardy' with Dom Flemons.

Listeners can expect to learn a lot, and not just about Appalachian music. It was revealed that though 1619 is widely regarded as the earliest date at which African slaves came to North America, Spanish explorers and their Moroccan slaves were in the Smokies "at least one hundred and fifty years before then" - that is, in 1469 or earlier. Which raises the interesting point: did anyone think of telling Columbus before he set out?

© Richard Hawkins

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