Concert Review

Rhiannon Giddens: A Goddess Among Goddesses

This past Wednesday (9/25) I joined my parents in attending the Rhiannon Giddens concert at the North Carolina Museum of Art. Rhiannon Giddens is a native to Greensboro, North Carolina and frontwoman of The Carolina Chocolate Drops, an old-style African American folk band. Rhiannon was on vocals, fiddle, and banjo. Italian musician Francesco Turrisi joined her and played drums and tambourine. Accompanying them were a stand-up bassist/pianist, and an unbelievable player of the spoons. This show was different from most in the way that is was more than just a concert. It was a history lesson of sorts. Giddens successfully integrates her music and the stories behind the songs she plays into one entertaining show. Some of the traditional songs she covers date back upwards of 200 years ago, and a majority of the music is by black musicians. She touched on things such as black face and minstrel bands for example, and how many of the songs she played were also performed in ways like these. While the historical exploitation of black music is a harsh reality, Giddens makes it a point to use her music as a teaching point throughout her set. I found this extremely inspiring, and learned a lot. The banjo she played is a replica of a model from around the 1850s – the neck has no frets and has a lower register than what many people are familiar with today. This is one of the original styles of banjo, and was often played in minstrel bands. I left this show with a new perspective on old-style folk music, and was eager to learn more (and also buy a banjo:)) Definitely a memorable experience. Rhiannon Giddens is a queen.

-Elizabeth Esser