ALRIGHT BABY! THE VINYL SESSION #2

After a very inspiring first one, and a very due change of name (apparently it’s common feature of all Italians to say “ALRIGHT!” quite frequently) I am coming back with a second date and I am once again very excited to invite you to a ✨ night of blues… fully on analog support! 🎶

Come enjoy the magic of listening and dancing to music on vinyls, 45 or 33 RPMs only!

Why?
✨In my journey as a DJ I have always had a passion for vinyls. I love the magic that comes from the turntable, I love the color, the texture and the warmth of the sound, I love watching music being pulled through a needle and I love putting my hands on the sleeve and reading what’s written on the cover, touching that thin piece of paper as a rare and precious book of spells.

✨ Simply, I love the respectuous ritual and sound that comes with selecting music from vinyls.

✨ Preparing the turntable, turning on the stereo system, selecting a record, carefully pulling it out of its sleeve, gently sliding it on to the platter, and placing the needle on its outermost grooves truly makes this a ritual; a ritual that prepares you to pay attention to the music, to put everything else aside and listen and connect with the notes and words of people who made the sounds.

I have been collecting vinyls for years and now, I feel ready to share those tunes with you all!

➡️ If you want to join me, here is the ZOOM link for the night:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89417214280

➡️ Check the Facebook event here: https://fb.me/e/1vxZD8kAr

➡️ The party is free and open for everyone.
If you can and want to send donations, you can do so at this link: paypal.me/bibiblues

I hope to see you there!

Alan Lomax: the man who recorded the world… not always with the best practices.

CW: Race, racism and black culture representation.

All the blues was born and developed following the slavery of black communities, and it was only almost three centuries later that it became possible to hear the voice of this human mass, uprooted from their land, frustrated in the most elementary expectations of life, desperate in an inferiority maintained with weapons and defined by “black codes”.

At first it was poetry handed down orally. Then, around 1870, poetry met music.

Let’s go to New Orleans and down the Mississippi Delta. It is here that the sadness and daily pain mixed with a vague hope of the future laid the foundations for the great history that would later caracterize the blues. This geography quickly expanded, including Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, and Tennessee.

And above all the first rudimental elements that made for blues, quickly turned it into a style and a music genre.

If some of this heritage of music and poetry is known today to white audiences, it is due to the research work of Alan Lomax.

Born in Austin, Texas in 1915, Lomax began his research work in 1933, following his father, John Avery Lomax, a pioneer of folkloric documentation. Equipped with a bulky recording system mounted on a truck, father and son traveled throughout the South and Southeast of the United States for years, collecting from the field a harvest of precious musical materials.

The father John Avery Lomax was a traditional researcher: what was recorded in the field, in his aim, was meant to serve as a reference source for a series of transcriptions, both text and music for publication purposes. This work had led in 1910 to the publication of the Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads collection, a text that gave a cultural physiognomy to the so-called cowboy singing and the practice of country music in the United States, contributing in a decisive way, in the following years, to the development of the Archive of Folksong at the Library of Congress in Washington.

The son Alan Lomax, however, in addition to recording musical pieces, began to interview the musicians, not limiting his studying to the mere description of musical materials, but investigating public and private lives, the historical and social context, the traditions of other eras, sensing for certain events of American history and culture a political relevance that was often (and most likely voluntarily) lost.

I will go back to this later in this post, please keep reading till the end.

In 1934, together with his father, Lomax published American Ballads and Folksongs, followed, in 1936, by Negro Folk Songs as Sung by Leadbelly, one of the first attempts in the history of white American literature to study a popular author.

In 1938, Alan Lomax, who in the meantime had continued to travel America together with his wife Elizabeth Lyttleton Harold, recorded in the wake of the work done with Leadbelly more than eight hours of conversations and performances of and with Jelly Roll Morton, that eventually gave life in 1949 to the volume entitled Mister Jelly Roll.

Between 1939 and 1940 he wrote and directed American Folk Songs, a radio broadcast produced by CBS involving artists such as Burl Ives, Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, Aunt Molly Jackson.

In 1946 he made a series of recordings and interviews with Memphis Slim, Big Bill Broonzy and Sonny Boy Williamson which were collected under the title Blues in the Mississipi Night and constitute evidence of exceptional relevance on the history of American music.

Tireless traveler, this intellectual and researcher was, between 1950 and 1958, also in England, Scotland and Ireland, where his interest and his research on local folklore stimulated that folk revival that would soon spread throughout the country, extending its influence also on the commercial music of the place. Between 1954 and 1955 he even worked in Italy, where he established a collaboration with the ethnomusicologist Diego Carpitella.

The long journey made in 1959 throughout the southern United States gave birth to a very rich series of recordings, The Southern Heritage Series (reissued in 1993 under the name Sounds of the South) and Southern Journey.

In the sixties Lomax developed at Columbia University a series of techniques, Cantometrics, Choreometrics and Parlametrics, designed for a cross-analysis of the many musical traditions of folkloric origin, and in 1977 he was commissioned to choose the music included in the Voyager project, which would have brought into space evidence of human civilization. Lomax chose Blind Willie Johnson, Louis Armstrong, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Andean and Navajo songs, polyphonic music of the Pygmies and songs of the Georgian Caucasus.

Awarded the National Book Award in 1993 for his memoir The Land Where the Blues Began, in the last years of his life he dedicated intense efforts to the Global Jukebox project, a software capable of collecting the highest possible number of testimonies on cultures popular of the planet, a real mapping of the human musical genome.

He died in Florida in 2002, but thanks to him the United States were able to know their most hidden history and the incredible contribution of those who were excluded, forgotten, segregated and persecuted by society.

Today, with the great help of technology, we are able to listen to his and his father recordings through the Lomax Digital Archive:

https://archive.culturalequity.org/collections

The Lomax Digital Archive provides free access to audio/visual collections compiled across seven decades.

The entirety of Alan’s photographs and open-reel tape recordings—made between 1946 and 1991—are available here, as well as transcriptions of his 1940s radio programs, and a selection of clips from his film and video-work of the 1970s and 1980s.

The LDA also contains several large audio collections the Lomaxes made, together and apart, on instantaneously recorded discs under the auspices of the Library of Congress’ Archive of Folk Song between 1933 and 1942.

The catalogs are searchable and browseable by a range of taxonomies (person, instrument, location, genre, etc.) and every recording and image is described by extensive item-level metadata.

Now… If you got excited by this story, you should know that there are plenty of places where Lomax can, and should, be justly criticized. So to bring the glory back to its truth, blues wasn’t forgotten by all Americans and Lomax’s work wasn’t really meant to honor Black Americans. It was meant for white Americans, for press, for publications, for radio shows. Definitely not for Black Americans.

They way he approached folk music was not always respectful of the music and the culture. The time when he started collecting his recording was a time when the mainstream representation of African-Americans was a radio show, heavily stereotyping black characters. And also Lomax’s emphasis on the blues created a distorted and stereotypical picture of black culture to white audiences.

According to Karl Hagstrom Miller, the author of Segregating Sound: Inventing Folk and Pop Music in the Age of Jim Crow, when Lomax would show up in a black community, “he didn’t ask, ‘Share the songs that you enjoy singing.’ He asked for them to find songs that fit into his idea of old time folk songs.”

For Lomax, the locus of authentic black expression was best found in prisons. “The black communities were just too difficult to work in with any efficiency and so my father had the great idea that probably all of the sinful people were in jail,” Lomax once said. “And that’s where we found them — that’s where we found this incredible body of music.” The people Lomax and his father approached were often reluctant to display their culture for an outsider with a recording machine. But when the Lomaxes were able to get the cooperation of a prison warden, their subjects could be coerced. “Presently the guard came out, pushing a Negro man in stripes along at the point of his gun,” Lomax wrote about one session. “The poor fellow, evidently afraid he was to be punished, was trembling and sweating in an extremity of fear. The guard shoved him before our microphone.”

Lomax wasn’t ashamed of his methods. On the contrary, he saw prisoners as the people most sheltered from outside influences, and therefore most authentic. And much of the music he recorded this way, including many blues and work songs, are powerful expressions of overlooked cultures. But his quest for a ‘pure’ black music untouched by white influences was problematic. “By nature of the close proximity that two different cultures have by living next to each other, it is inevitable that the music and the cultural products that they are producing are intertwined and interrelated,” says Dwandalyn Reece, curator of music at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture. Throughout the history of the South, she says, “People were singing each other’s music, so to speak.” According to Karl Hagstrom Miller, this cultural mixing happened even under the brutally enforced segregation of slavery and Jim Crow. “White slave owners and black slaves lived together, worked together, and worked the plantation together,” Miller says. Black musicians played the waltzes, jigs and the reels at white people’s parties. During the Great Awakening, in the 1830s, blacks and whites went together to camp revival meetings, where Christian hymns mixed with African religious and musical practices to create the songs we know as spirituals. In the 1880s and ’90s, touring vaudeville shows and Tin Pan Alley music publishing created a nationwide music industry — long before the advent of radio. So, Miller says, “there was a difference between what folklorists were searching for and what people were listening to and enjoying.”

Although Lomax celebrated his blues artists as creative geniuses, and he championed performers like Leadbelly, who had been imprisoned, Reece says that those musical choices affirmed negative and dangerous stereotypes. Lomax’s selections suggested that “African-Americans are criminals, are illiterate. They are not serious, they are not smart. That ‘authenticity’ is rooted in having that kind of vision of what an African-American can or cannot be.” This much is undeniable: right at the time the Civil Rights movement was trying to bring whites and blacks together in a common cause, Lomax drew a hard line between white music and black music that — with help from the record companies — helped keep the two apart.

Now that the picture is more complete, please listen to the recordings from the archive but be aware of the whole story and of how many negative elements are in there. The end does not always justify the means.

Sources:


NEW COURSE STARTING SOON!

REGISTER HERE:
English form
Italian form

The NEW ROUND of my ONLINE SOLO BLUES Classes is about to start!
Join me for 6 WEEKS OF SOLO BLUES DANCING!

What? 6 weeks Solo Blues Dancing, classes of 1 hour each + 30 minutes Practice Session!
You don’t need a partner, you’ll be dancing alone!

When? On Thursdayfrom June 3rd to July 8th,

At what time? 20.30 – 21.30 + 30 minutes of Practice Session (GMT+1 – Rome Time Zone)
The course will take place with a minimum of 5 participants.

What language? Classes are held in English, with minor translations in Italian, if needed.

Level: The level of the course is Open, which means that everyone will find material to work on suitable for their level of experience, from beginners to more experienced dancers!

Pay what you can! Since many of us are going through a financially intense time, I think it’s important to support each other, so you can contribute with the amount that works best for you.
Suggested donation: 40€
Minimum donation: 25€

Practice session: After each class, there will be 30 minutes of practice session. I will be there for your questions or further insights on the content of the class.

REGISTER HERE:
English form
Italian form

 Issues with the registration form? Drop me an email at bibi.bluesdance@gmail.com

Great Depression, City Blues & St. Louis

The Great Depression of the 30s was devastating for America. It incorporated all the elements of a material, spiritual and moral disaster, impacting on the lives of millions of people.

In only a few month , starting from 1929, the whole country had to face the biggest social disaggregation in its history, going from a rich and expanding economy to a condition of poverty, food rationing, industrial bankruptcy and diffused crime.

Social disparities were making life harder and harder every day, the memories of the prosperous 20s were far and the conviction that “the business of America is business” was not so strong anymore.

It is in this context that, in the cities, the so called “house rent parties” started to be a response for the overly miserable living conditions that people had to face.
House rent parties, also known as “Too Tight Parties”, “Too Terrible Parties”, “Chitterlin’ Rag”, “Calico Hops”, “Kados”, “Skittles”, “House Shout”, “House Hops”, “Juggle and Struggle”, “Stomp”, “Breakdown”, “Boogie”, were organized on the day the rent was due to the landlord; the members of the household would invite neighbors and friends to participate for a 1$ ticket, this included live music and a jug of gin, and for the household, the ability to pay the rent.

Born under great misery, the rent parties were also a drain valve for the frustrations and neuroses of overcrowded ghetto life. The success of these parties led to a form of management of apartments specifically for this purpose, that took the name of “Good Times Flats” or “Buffet Flats”, flourishing of prostitution, gambling and liquor smuggling.

Slowly, but steadily, the Great Depression also changed the aspects of the Blues, known to those days.
Classic blues was somehow becoming anachronistic and the new times were in need of something different. The shortage of money, transformed the music industry: less known countryside musician were no longer given a one chance to get to recording studios to record their music and from that moment on blues became dominated by professional artists, almost stars, who were living in the cities, close to their place of work, the recording studios.

Winter view of “Welcome to St. Louis” sign at entrance to the Municipal Bridge, ca. 1917

St. Louis had a long history of blues music: blues was so much part of daily life that it was almost not considered as a special music genre. Music was connected, on one side, to the superficial world of night clubs and on the other to the working people, but its popularity became a thing in ragtime years. Among all the Mid-West cities, St. Louis was the one famous for being the place to be, where one could dance to the cakewalk at the sound of the ragtime piano.

For a whole generation the city kept its tradition of blues music for piano, being at a crossroad for migration routes, with streams of people from southern states continuously flowing to the city, contributing massively to the great variety and musical richness of St. Louis.

All of a sudden one could find barrelhouse and boogie pianists playing with ragtime guitarists and gut bucket trombonists for the “low-life blues” in Deep Morgan, you could find influences from the sounds of New Orleans, big stars like Mamie Smith, Bessie Smith and Ethel Water playing in town theaters or Jelly Roll Morton on the boats on the river. If you wanted to have a “big chance” in music, you wanted to be in St. Louis at some point.

St. Louis boogie style of blues continued to be popular all throughout the 30s, intersecting with the swinging blues jazz styles that were emerging in the Midwest. At the same time, a rougher and more rural style of blues, incorporating harmonicas and slide guitar, was beginning to be heard in the city as well, giving life to trios and small groups.

At the end of the 30s, the artists that made St. Louis popular started to travel more frequently to Chicago, to recording studios and, quite soon after that, most of them had left to move to Chicago, where the action seemed to be. It was only in the 50s, with the spreading of boogie piano for rock n roll that the St. Louis style had a revival, but certainly the focus had shifted to different areas.

While researching  on this topic however something came clear to my mind: other big cities became more popular, but for sure St. Louis didn’t contribute less to the music. Little I knew of several of the artists I came across in my research and this is just a first step to get to know the history and music better!

Sources:                                  

  • Giles Oakley, “The Devil’s Music: A History Of The Blues”
  • Harriet Ottenheimer, “The Blues Tradition in St. Louis.” 

HEY BABY! THE VINYL SESSION

I have been wanting to do this for a while… and now I feel the time has come! ✨
I am excited to invite you to a ✨ night of blues… fully on analog support! 🎶
Come enjoy the magic of listening and dancing to music on vinyls, 45 or 33 RPMs only!

🎼Why?

✨In my journey as a DJ I have always had a passion for vinyls.
I love the magic that comes from the turntable,
I love the color, the texture and the warmth of the sound,
I love watching music being pulled through a needle and
I love putting my hands on the sleeve and reading what’s written on the cover, touching that thin piece of paper as a rare and precious book of spells.✨

Simply,
I love the respectuous ritual and sound that comes with selecting music from vinyls.

✨ Preparing the turntable, turning on the stereo system, selecting a record, carefully pulling it out of its sleeve, gently sliding it on to the platter, and placing the needle on its outermost grooves truly makes this a ritual; a ritual that prepares you to pay attention to the music, to put everything else aside and listen and connect with the notes and words of people who made the sounds.

I have been collecting vinyls for years and now, I feel ready to share those tunes with you all!

➡️ If you want to join me, here is the
ZOOM link for the night:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88355044891

➡️ The party is free and open for everyone.
If you can and want to send donations, you can do so at this link:
paypal.me/bibiblues

I hope to see you there!

Check the Facebook event here:
https://www.facebook.com/events/288948469443642

THE BIG SPRINGTIME BLUES

REGISTER HERE:
English form
Italian form

Spring is back and so is the NEW ROUND of my ONLINE SOLO BLUES Classes!
And for this edition we are going BIG… VERY BIG!
There will be 8 WEEKS OF SOLO BLUES WITH ME!

What8 weeks Solo Blues Dancing, classes of 1 hour each + 30 minutes Practice Session!
You don’t need a partner, you’ll be dancing alone!

WhenEvery Thursdayfrom April 8th to May 27th,

Did you miss some classes? No problem! It’s not too late! You can join at anytime!

At what time? 20.30 – 21.30 + 30 minutes of Practice Session (GMT+1 – Rome Time Zone)
The course will take place with a minimum of 5 participants.

What language? Classes are held in English, with minor translations in Italian, if needed.

Level: The level of the course is Open, which means that everyone will find material to work on suitable for their level of experience, from beginners to more experienced dancers!

Pay what you can! Since many of us are going through a financially intense time, I think it’s important to support each other, so you can contribute with the amount that works best for you.
Suggested donation: 60€
Minimum donation: 40€

Practice session: After each class, there will be 30 minutes of practice session. I will be there for your questions or further insights on the content of the class.

REGISTER HERE:
English form
Italian form

 Issues with the registration form? Drop me an email at bibi.bluesdance@gmail.com

CHICAGO AND THE CHESS RECORDS

In April 2018 I went to Chicago for the first time. I went there with my bag full of dreams and ready to experience the blues in one of the places where it had lived, developed… I wanted to breathe the blues.

So in this post today I want to share a tiny bit of Chicago blues history and some of the pictures from my trip.

Chicago blues is probably to most popularly recognized among blues genres. It began in the early 1940s, following the Great Migration of African Americans, which was both forced and voluntary at times, fleeing from poverty and oppression in the South to the industrial cities of the North, including Chicago. This new population inlcuded several musicians, who shaped the evolution of the music by playing as street musicians, at rent parties, and other events in African American communities.

Contributing to the realization of Chicago blues there was also the tecnological development in music instruments: Chicago blues is based on the sound of the electric guitar and the amplified – almost to distortion – harmonica. It also features a rhythm section of drums and bass (double bass at first, then bass guitar) with piano.

Chicago quickly became an incubator for blues music to develop. One of the most significant ones was the large open-air market on Maxwell Street, a natural location for blues musicians to perform, earn tips, and jam with other musicians.

Then there were the blues clubs, true heart of blues music. The first ones were located in the black neighborhoods on the South Side of Chicago, with a few in the smaller black neighborhoods on the West Side.

And finally there were Records companies. One of these was Chess Records, located in the south side of Chicago, in 2120 S. Michigan Avenue.

Chess Records was founded in 1950 by Leonard and Phil Chess, two Jewish immigrant brothers from  Poland.

At the beginning, Leonard and Phil focused their recording and publishing ventures primarily in the area of popular jazz, but soon expanded into blues. Chess Records was a fixture in the world of music and its recordings and the songs remain the most impressive collection of blues music in the world. From their experiences in the nightclub business on the South side of Chicago, the Chess brothers understood the popular preferences of their predominantly African-American audiences, but also saw the marketability of blues music to a broader audience. In the beginning Chess Records was ran as a two man business, with Phil overseeing the nightclub and the offices of Chess, while Leonard alternately scouted talent, produced the sessions, and hand delivered fresh recordings to radio stations in the Chicago area.

They produced and released many important singles and albums, which are now regarded as central to the blues and rock music genre. At one time, Chess Records was considered “America’s greatest blues label” with notable acts including Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Etta James, Buddy Guy, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley.  Willie Dixon was one of the main producers, songwriters and arrangers of the signature “Chess Records Sound”.

In 1993, Willie Dixon’s widow, Marie, purchased the Chess building which was then renovated and re-opened in September 1997 with a dedication ceremony. It is now home to Willie Dixon’s Blues Heaven Foundation.

Sources:

BLUES POETRY: STERLING A. BROWN AND THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE

Despite its humble origins and its often formulaic and repetitive nature, the blues has represented one of the most flourishing resources and one of the most important deposits for African American culture. Poets and writers have turned to it in search of powerful tools and symbols, shapes and figures suitable to describe a peculiar and particular vision of the world: above all a deep and ancient knowledge, an inalienable code through which to filter experiences and expressions, a interpretative prism suitable for reading and rereading the present.

The simultaneity of two very important phenomena was instrumental and functional: on the one hand, the phonographic explosion of the blues, from 1920 onwards; on the other, the beginning of a decisive movement of reformulation and rearrangement of the cultural and social coordinates of the African American people initiated by a group of brave intellectuals – poets, writers and musicians – remembered under the generic definition of Harlem Renaissance.

In that neighborhood of New York, the first great reflection on the black identity of the post-slavery era was launched, accompanied by an extraordinary flowering of artistic experiments tending to mix and weld the primitive strength of Afro-American expressiveness with the most modern forms of contemporary arts.

Over the course of a very bright twenty years, Harlem became the cultural ground for African American artists and intellectuals to explore, deepen and express the historical experience of African Americans: challenging the paternalistic and racist attitudes of whites, they exalted black dignity and creativity, while also claiming their freedom to express themselves in their own way. They examined their identity as black Americans, celebrating the black culture that had emerged from slavery and their cultural ties to Africa.

Within this cultural fervor, poets and writers began to measure themselves with the blues; not only with its formulas and rigid schemes, often reused as such, although intended for the written page and not for singing, but with the widest range of motifs, themes, representations.

From the cotton fields of the Delta, from the brothels of New Orleans to Harlem, the blues is transformed into another peculiar and inimitable art form. In poetry.

It is in this fervent context that we meet the capable pen of Sterling A. Brown.

A well-rounded intellectual, poet and theorist, Sterling A. Brown devoted much of his energy to the blues. He wrote about it on several occasions, trying to grasp its perimeter, to identify its profound nature against the generalizations that many parts of white public opinion tended to trivialize with regard to the historical and social experiences underlying the twelve bars.

As a historian, Brown had very clear ideas: for him the blues was the result of the creative spirit of the African American people, not a simple record that the industry passed off as such. Blues as shared knowledge and code, irrefutable reference framework. 

Brown’s poetry is known for its frank, unsentimental portraits of black people and their experiences, and the incorporation of African American folklore and contemporary idiom into his verse. 

“I wanted to understand my people. I wanted to understand what it meant to be a [Black]. What the qualities of life were. With their imagination, they combine two great loves: the love of words and the love of life. Poetry results.”

Southern Road

Swing dat hammer—hunh—
Steady, bo’;
Swing dat hammer—hunh—
Steady, bo’;
Ain’t no rush, bebby,
Long ways to go.

Burner tore his—hunh—
Black heart away;
Burner tore his—hunh—
Black heart away;
Got me life, bebby,
An’ a day.

Gal’s on Fifth Street—hunh—
Son done gone;
Gal’s on Fifth Street—hunh—
Son done gone;
Wife’s in de ward, bebby,
Babe’s not bo’n.

My ole man died—hunh—
Cussin’ me;
My ole man died—hunh—
Cussin’ me;
Ole lady rocks, bebby,
Huh misery.

Doubleshackled—hunh—
Guard behin’;
Doubleshackled—hunh—
Guard behin’;
Ball an’ chain, bebby,
On my min’.

White man tells me—hunh—
Damn yo’ soul;
White man tells me—hunh—
Damn yo’ soul;
Got no need, bebby,
To be tole.

Chain gang nevah—hunh—
Let me go;
Chain gang nevah—hunh—
Let me go;
Po’ los’ boy, bebby,
Evahmo’ . . .

Riverbank Blues

A man git his feet set in a sticky mudbank,
A man git dis yellow water in his blood,
No need for hopin’, no need for doin’,
Muddy streams keep him fixed for good.

Little Muddy, Big Muddy, Moreau and Osage,
Little Mary’s, Big Mary’s, Cedar Creek,
Flood deir muddy water roundabout a man’s roots,
Keep him soaked and stranded and git him weak.

Lazy sun shinin’ on a little cabin,
Lazy moon glistenin’ over river trees;
Ole river whisperin’, lappin’ ‘gainst de long roots:
“Plenty of rest and peace in these…”

Big mules, black loam, apple and peach trees,
But seems lak de river washes us down
Past de rich farms, away from de fat lands,
Dumps us in some ornery riverbank town.

Went down to the river, sot me down an’ listened,
Heard de water talkin’ quiet, quiet lak an’ slow:
“Ain’ no need fo’ hurry, take yo’ time, take yo’
time…” Heard it sayin’—”Baby, hyeahs de way life go…”

Dat is what it tole me as I watched it slowly rollin’,
But somp’n way inside me rared up an’ say,
“Better be movin’… better be travelin’… Riverbank’ll
git you ef you stay…”

Towns are sinkin’ deeper, deeper in de riverbank,
Takin’ on de ways of deir sulky Ole Man—
Takin’ on his creepy ways, takin’ on his evil ways,
“Bes’ git way, a long way . . . whiles you can.”Man got his
sea too lak de Mississippi Ain’t got so long for a whole lot longer way,
Man better move some, better not git rooted Muddy water fool you, ef you stay…”

Sources:

Brown, S. Southern Road
Martorella, V. Il blues
https://poets.org/poet/sterling-brown
https://allpoetry.com/Sterling-A-Brown

BLUES LEGENDS: MEMPHIS MINNIE

For my new blog post I have decided to talk a bit about one of my personally favorite blues legends… a woman who has shaped blues history in many different ways, bringing a unique touch and a clear view of artistry through her music.

Let me introduce you to Memphis Minnie!

She is defined as “the queen of country blues”, but honestly I always felt the definition pretty reductive to describe how great she was… Many also said that she would play guitar “like a man”… well, being also an icon for feminism… I bet there were and still are quite a lot of men who wished to play guitar like her!

So… Who was Memphis Minnie?

She was born in Louisiana in the latest years of the XIX century and raised in the south of Memphis. Very early, at the age of 10 she proved to be a talent in playing both banjo and guitar and when she turned 13, her home became Memphis’ Beale Street. She quickly made a name for herself with the jug bands and string groups that played on the street and at Memphis’ Church Park. Music was running in her veins and she had to play it! At that time she was known as Kid Douglas, it was only a few years later, around the 1910s, that she changed her name into Memphis Minnie and started touring in the southern states.

Minnie was a unique talent: she did what the boys could do, and she did so while wearing a fancy dress, with full hair and lipstick on. She had everything: outstanding guitar skills, a strong voice, a wide repertoire with many original compositions, signature tracks and a glamorous, bawdy and tough stage presence at the same time.

She was above gender as well as genre and with her talent she spanned through decades, for years of undisputed career, which led her to move from country blues to electric blues in Chicago, becoming the first female guitarist to play electric urban blues.

Her style was raw, personal and edgy. Minnie was not following the mainstream, she was creating her own, to the point that she became one of the rare women of her era to gain prominence as an artist and as a guitarist.

In Chicago she performed in clubs, organized “Blue Monday” shows and formed a vaudeville troupe to tour theaters. She formally studied music and added some of the jazz and pop standards of the day to her repertoire. She joined the musicians union and bought a National electric archtop guitar, becoming part of that transitional generation between acoustic Delta blues and the electrified Chicago sound. But she was at heart a country blues singer/guitarist, and even though she was one of the greatest of all time, the changing tastes of the African-American audience found little room for what they considered a reminder of the grim life left behind in Mississippi.

In the latest years of her career she decided to move to small labels for her records, but for the artist that she was, she worked with some radio stations, to help, support, educate and promote eager and talented young blues artists.

Minnie overcame considerable odds to achieve success, battling both racism and sexism. She has been heralded as a champion of feminist independence and empowerment. 

Her unique storytelling style of songwriting inspired as many men as women and her influence was particularly strong on female musicians, her disciples include her niece Lavern Baker as well as Saffire and virtually every other guitar-slinging woman since.

Her songs have been recorded by women such as Big Mama Thornton, Lucinda Williams, and Maria Muldaur, as well as by men, including Muddy Waters, Elmore James, and Milton Brown and she was elected in the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980.

She has been music, she has been a fighter, she has been energy, boldness, power, fierceness and courage for all her life.

And to me, you never truly love blues until you get to meet her.

Sources:

Garon, Woman with Guitar: Memphis Minnie Blues

Newark, Feminist Blues: Choice and Independence in the Songs of Bessie Smith, Memphis Minnie, and Billie Holiday

Memphis Music Hall of Fame, https://memphismusichalloffame.com/inductee/memphisminnie/

Blues Hall of Fame, https://blues.org/blues-hall-of-fame/

Let’s SOLO BLUES Dance in MARCH!

REGISTER HERE:
+ English form
+ Italian form

The MARCH EDITION of my ONLINE SOLO BLUES Classes IS STARTING SOON!

What? 4 weeks Solo Blues Dancing, classes of 1 hour each + 30 minutes Practice Session!
You don’t need a partner, you’ll be dancing alone!

When? Every Thursday, from March 4th to March 25th,

What time? PICK YOUR SLOT!!!

  • Slot 1: 13.30 -14.30 + 30 minutes of Practice Session (GMT+1 – Rome Time Zone)
  • Slot 2: 20.30 – 21.30 + 30 minutes of Practice Session (GMT+1 – Rome Time Zone)
  • Each slot will take place with a minimum of 5 participants.
  • What language? Classes are held in English, with minor translations in Italian, if needed.
  • Level: The level of the course is Open, which means that everyone will find material to work on suitable for their level of experience, from beginners to more experienced dancers! The class will start with at least 5 participants.
  • Pay what you can! Since many of us are going through a financially intense time, I think it’s important to support each other, so you can contribute with the amount that works best for you.
    Suggested donation: 35€
    Minimum donation: 20€
  • Practice session: After each class, there will be 30 minutes of practice session. I will be there for your questions or further insights on the content of the class.

REGISTER HERE:
+ English form
+ Italian form

 Issues with the registration form? Drop me an email at bibi.bluesdance@gmail.com

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