SFJAZZ.org | Rhiannon Giddens - Shining a Light on Southern Music

On The Corner Masthead

Rhiannon Giddens
Shining a light on southern music history

June 14, 2022 | by Rusty Aceves

Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi and Jason Sypher at the SFJAZZ Center

We are excited to welcome Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi for two performances during the 39th San Francisco Jazz Festival on 6/15 and 6/16.
To get ready, here are a number of illuminating press articles that speak to Giddens’ incredible career, her latest projects, and her exploration of the African-American development of the Southern string band tradition.


With Her First Opera, Rhiannon Giddens Returns to Her Roots
5/19/22 • The New York Times • by Brian Seibert

"In (a) 2017 speech, Giddens said, 'The question is not how do we get diversity into bluegrass, but how do we get diversity back into bluegrass?' Opera is no different, she said in Charleston. Echoing a point about how opera is a form built on hundreds of years of cultural exchange, Giddens spoke of how 'every person puts their imprint on tradition' and how 'we can look at music and see where we have come together.'



Rhiannon Giddens On Lockdown, Laments, and Language
11/4/21 • Northeast Public Radio – The Roundtable • by Sarah LaDuke

On the music that makes up the GRAMMY-winning They’re Calling Me Home: “They were songs we were doing to comfort ourselves — we were trying to create a little bit of America, a little bit of Italy in our Irish home. They were these old folk songs that deal with these themes so well and so beautifully. We were doing them for ourselves and these streams we were doing – trying to adjust to not being performers on stage anymore.”



Rhiannon Giddens On The Many Meanings of “Home”
4/12/21 • NPR – All Songs Considered • by Bob Boilen

“What exactly is home? Is it a concept? Is it a physical place? Is it emotional? Is it all of these things? When you move to somewhere else through choice, you look for the similarities in the new culture and your culture, and that's how you build points of connection. When you can no longer go back home, even to visit, you start feeling the differences.”



Rhiannon Giddens Channels The Words Of Enslaved Musicians On “Build A House”
6/19/20 • NPR Music • by Jake Blount

"“Many modern Black activists, like Kimberly Jones, have emphasized the deep connections between our people's historical oppression and the struggles we face today. Giddens has woven these threads deftly together, linking today's movement to 400 years of history, both lyrically and musically.”



Rewriting Country Music’s Racist History
6/5/20 • Rolling Stone • by Elamin Abdelmahmoud

“You know, Henry Ford would hold fiddle competitions and forbid black people from entering. … Folk festivals were thinly-veiled attempts to recast the music as white mountain music, as part of a project to create a white ethnicity.” At the turn of the 20th century, Giddens tells me, “half of the string bands are black. Within 20 or 30 years, you have complete erasure because what gets recorded is what gets remembered.”



Rhiannon Giddens Believes Ken Burns Documentary May Shift Perceptions of Country Music’s Origins
9/17/20 • WPLN 90.3 Nashville Public Radio • by Jason Moon Wilkins

“It’s a hard needle to move. It really is. The narrative of where people think country music comes from has been really reinforced in very strong ways for very specific reasons.”



Rhiannon Giddens and What Folk Music Means
5/13/19 • The New Yorker • by John Jeremiah Sullivan

“Nobody owns an instrument. No culture gets to put the lockdown on anything. Say the word ‘bagpipes,’ and, if you are anything like the me of a few years ago, it conjures up the image of a kilted Highlander and the land of moors and heather—but now I know it should also bring to mind an old man in a doorway in Sicily, the smartly uniformed military band in Iraq, or a modern young woman from Galicia.”




How Rhiannon Giddens Reconstructs Black Pain With The Banjo
4/22/18 • NPR: All Things Considered • by Michel Martin

“I got started in old-time music and roots music, and the history of the banjo was a great spur for where I ended up, really getting into the historical milieu for the music that we were doing. So finding out the banjo was an African-American instrument, all of that just blew my mind because I had no idea.”



“White people are so fragile, bless ‘em”… meet Rhiannon Giddens, banjo warrior
7/23/18 • The Guardian • by Emma John

“People say, ‘I’m tired of thinking about race, it’s a drag.’ Yeah, well, welcome to my life! I don’t care who you are. We have the time and the headspace for this stuff. The least you can do is take a moment.”


Original version posted June 10, 2020

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