08 November 2009

100 Issues for 100 Days: #84

#84: Smooth Like Chocolate

Rounding out my weekend of concerts was the Carolina Chocolate Drops, a Black bluegrass band. Much like Halloween, the image of bluegrass music has strayed far from its roots. Although most people think of rednecks and backwoods when they hear the banjo play, the truth is that the banjo is an African-American instrument that has many names across the African diaspora.

What makes the Chocolate Drops so dazzling is their ability to not only play a ridiculous amount of instruments but also their reverence for the history of bluegrass and it's African/African-American roots. Even the titles of their albums (Heritage, Colored Aristocracy) show their dedication to reclaiming bluegrass music for the Black community. At one point they took a bluegrass rhythm cut the meter in half to get a Charleston beat and cut that in half to get an R&B vibe going. How better to illustrate that bluegrass is part of the continuum that is Black music?

The show I saw was a family matinee and the performers were completely engaging as well as great educators. They taught the audience rhythms, rhymes, dances and the basics of all the instruments. During the Q&A, all one kid could say was "It was just fun!". It was a completely sweet moment.

I really enjoyed myself this weekend but this show was definitely the best way to cap off the performances I saw. I felt like this opened my eyes to something completely new. I've always loved ountry and bluegrass music but it seemed like an anomaly. In actuality, I was just being true to my roots. In my heart, I'm a Carolina girl and the Chocolate Drops definitely struck a chord with me.

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