Siobhán Kane talks banjos, black history and Ireland with Dom Flemons and Rhiannon Giddens of Carolina Chocolate Drops who played Whelan’s on Monday night.
Rhiannon Giddens, Dom Flemons, Adam Matta, and Hubby Jenkins make up Carolina Chocolate Drops (Justin Robertson left last year), the brilliant string band that have breathed new life into “old-time” music. Emerging in 2005 out of the remnants of the the Sankofa Strings, Carolina Chocolate Drops are inspired by much of the traditional music of the Piedmont region, bonded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, around North and South Carolina, and over the last few years have released five records and one EP, with 2010’s Genuine Negro Jig winning them a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album.
Their multi-instrumentalism is astonishing, and they swap instruments such as banjo, fiddle, drums, jug, guitar, harmonies and harmonica with ease, illustrating their natural aptitude for the music they so love. Part of their passion stems from their love of history, and this comes through on their first record in 2006 Dona Got a Ramblin’ Mind, where they reinterpreted some older standards, a distillation of their inspirations, but also they were honouring what had gone before them – even moreso since Music Maker released the record, which is an organisation that helps older musicians from organising care to paying medical bills.
Siobhán Kane talks to the fascinating, erudite Dom Flemons and Rhiannon Giddens about being “old time” in the modern world; banjos, black history and Ireland.
Essentially the band emerged from an email group – what spurred you on to do it, was it that impulse to connect to other like-minded people? Before that, had it been more difficult to start a band, or navigate how you might do that?
Dom: The group was formed by a very interesting set of circumstances in academic as well as musical development of a few different worlds of music. The event that brought Rhiannon and myself together to make the Carolina Chocolate Drops with Justin Robinson was an event called the Black Banjo Gathering. The list server that you’ve mentioned preceded the group and we were not involved with its creation. The list did a set a series of events that led to the group’s creation. Around 2004, a fellow by the name of Tony Thomas started a yahoo list called Black Banjo Players: Then and Now, in reaction to the negative response he had received from the regular banjo list when he inquired about the role of black players in the banjo’s history. He based the group on the idea that racism is still prevalent in American society, and that the banjo is the musical, political and social tool that tells the whole story of the struggle of black people in America. The formation of this chat group drew many people who have spent much of their life studying and playing music while also searching and learning about American through the banjo’s very complex history. It also created a place for black people interested in the banjo and folk music to get together and discuss the history of the instrument.
With such an interest in the history of the banjo, it was decided that a meeting to get as many of the black banjo players that could be found together in one place. As the thought developed, Dr. Cece Conway, whose work African Banjo Echoes In Appalachia inspired Tony’s research into the black roots of the banjo – offered to have the Gathering at Appalachian State University during their traditional music week. There were several key figures in the organisation of the event – Tony Thomas, Sule Greg Wilson, Cece Conway and Rhiannon Giddens were all the main organisers, as Rhiannon got involved as a designer for the Black Banjo website.
I was invited to the event by Sule Greg Wilson who I met out in Phoenix, I was the only a participant and I performed as a promising young black banjo player. The first event was a revelation, even though it only got together by the skin of its teeth – a lot of different schools of thought were coming together at that event. There were academics like Cece Conway talking about the banjo as a living tradition reaching back to Africa. There were African players there, one Jali, a professional player with an n’goni and a folk player playing a folk instrument called the akonting. Mike Seeger, the great folklorist-performer was there talking about his experiences. The last black traditional black fiddler of anyone’s knowledge at that time, Joe Thompson was also there. The banjo collecting community was there representing the blackface minstrel history, and finally a handful of black performers who played banjo or were interested in learning more about the instrument. Some professionals like Don Vappie and the Ebony Hillbillies, and some advocates like Rex Ellis, Sule and myself.
It must have been heartening to get such a gathering together, what was the first Black Banjo gathering like? I believe various folklorists such as Mike Seeger also attended – was that very beneficial? To give an almost academic context as well as practical and musical?
Dom: What made the event so important was that it was the first time all of these different groups had gotten together all in one place. There wasn’t even a ton of music at the event itself, except for a few jams, just because the need to talk through the history and put together everyone’s research ending up taking precedent over the proceedings.
Our group was formed after the event starting, first with Sule and Rhiannon e-mailing each other and wanting to keep the good feeling we all walked with after the event. First, we formed Sankofa Strings with Sule then after I moved to North Carolina, we formed the Carolina Chocolate Drops with Justin Robinson who only came for one day for the chance to meet Joe Thompson. He got Joe’s phone number and after the Gathering starting going to to his house to start learning his repertoire.
The idea of starting a group was really a simple idea at first. Justin did not have a desire to do music as a profession, and Rhiannon wanted to do music as a profession and played in several groups and made her money with something called called contra dance, a form of social dance similar to square dancing. I had recently graduated from college, and had a desire to make music my profession but at that point I was driven more by the music and the thought that we could do some good in creating awareness about this rarely talked about style of folk music.
We were fortunate to come along at a time when the Internet became an invaluable resource for getting the word out about music. Rhiannon’s background in design got us a website, and from there we had requests coming in almost instantly with people wanting to hear more about our group even though our group had only played together a couple of months! We also have Rhiannon to thank for being an advocate for educational programs in schools. That became our main source of gigs before we started really gigging full-time. As black performers talking about black history and placing the notion in a non-militant fashion for kids and also adult audiences became our cause. Most people were like us and had no idea about black string bands. At the same time, the black string band is such a foundational piece of American music that just pointing out the connections that can be made between musics that people knew about – blues, jazz, gospel, country, jug band music – made a powerful state statement in itself. It also made people aware of how important the mixture of black and white was and still is to this day.
Had you grown up with old time string band music? Or where did the love of this come from? The sound of the band is so generous, that it makes me think your musical tastes are also generous.
Dom: I started playing music in the school band. I played percussion in grade school and bass drum in high school. In high school I was also inspired to play guitar from listening to Bob Dylan. I also had a strong interest in rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, country blues, honky-tonk and played all of those types of music as I developed. I am also a rabid record collector and arm chair folklorist, developing my own theories about the origins of music and how it all connects together. I did not really play old-time music until I moved out to North Carolina. My love for music came from an interest in history and a love of words and stories. I have always enjoyed songs, words and music, as well as unique voices. I have always been drawn to singers who have interesting or unconventional voices – Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Ray Charles, Hank Williams, Roger Miller….the list can go on and on, especially when I got into field recording and commercial recording from the pre WWII era – there were so many unique voices.
My musical style seems generous because I guess it is. I come from the perspective of sharing this unique music with folks who may not be aware of it and then disseminating ideas that I’ve picked up along the way to explain the context of a piece or relate the song to my life so that people can understand why it’s important to me. For example, the music that we learned from Joe Thompson is Piedmont string band which is unique, since most of the popular is mountain string band music. Most people have heard of Piedmont blues and this string band is actually the root of it. Famous Piedmont blues players like Etta Baker, Elizabeth Cotten, Brownie McGhee all knew, learned from or heard string band in one form or another before they developed their guitar styles. That’s the sort of stuff I love to talk about. Making connections that are there but haven’t been researched fully by my folkloric predecessors and getting those ideas out to an audience. That is something that I learned from Alan Lomax’s work. Folk music does no good in a museum. It must live out in the world for people to use and apply to their own lives.
I am very interested in the geographical roots of the music – around North Carolina, and the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the palpable sense of history – did you grow up with stories about the Great Migration, and the effect it had on that region?
Rhiannon: I didn’t really hear Piedmont blues or much early roots music growing up, I also didn’t really hear stories about the Great Migration – we were just living through the effects of it – going up and visiting relatives that had relocated to Delaware, for example. Of course my family were ones that stayed behind, and that’s a story that doesn’t get told very often! People that left of course had changing musical tastes and they did influence those back at home but some communities still kept making the older music, like Etta Baker’s family, and Joe Thompson’s family.
There is a strong link between Irish traditional music and culture and African-American – which was formed roughly around mid 19th century and evolving well in the mid 20th century – there is an interesting mingling at work – could you expand a little on that?
Rhiannon: There has most definitely been a mingling of Irish and Black music as long as the two groups have been mingling themselves, which has been for a lot longer than people think. There still needs to be more research on the Black-Irish interaction in the Caribbean, for example, but in terms of the States, there are some scholars who are saying that the earliest minstrel music is an imitation of the Black-Irish hybrid being born on the river banks and boats, as sailors entertained together, and of course in New York there was a lot of cultural exchange going on, which heavily influenced dance forms. Groups of a similar socio-economic status tend to be pushed together and that is what happened, there’s loads of evidence that the Blacks and the Irish were living together cheek-by-jowl in New York, particularly in Five Points. There’s much more to say on this but this interview will turn into a book! Let’s just say, with a husband from Limerick, it’s a particular interest of mine.
The weird culture of minstrelsy is fascinating, its form eroding so much over time. Do you see a reclaiming of sorts through your music – in a different way? There is such a complex history with minstrelsy.
Rhiannon: The thing about minstrelsy is that it was an art form that stretched over 80 years or so – as a distinct form, of course it still has echoes today in entertainment – and so it changed over that time. In the beginning it was only whites, as blacks were still enslaved, and it was more of a class thing – still grotesque characters, but more sympathetic portrayals – but after emancipation minstrelsy changed – among the white community it turned more and more vicious, as black freedom became a reality, and among the black community it was the only avenue allowed to black entertainers for some years. So they really had no choice, and it began to be subverted; and those performers became pioneering black entertainers under tented minstrelsy – folks like Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith got their start there. What’s being “reclaimed” at the moment is the earlier form of minstrelsy, in conjunction with Civil War Reenactments. You could say we are reclaiming aspects of it as well – there’s a lot of wonderful music that has effectively been buried as tainted – again, this could be a book!
Dom: One of the hardest things about talking about minstrelsy is that there are several aspects of the form, and each generation who used minstrelsy did something different with it. Also with the post-civil rights black community completely disowning minstrelsy as a valid form of theatre confuses things even more. There is a extremely strong racist sentiment that is being fought when dealing with minstrelsy. The theatre style is based on the mimicking of black people in one form or another and that makes it hard to look at the music objectively. It also makes it very easy to categorize blackface as ‘white guys making fun of blacks guys’ when the story is far more complex. Through the black minstrel shows, many black performers found an outlet to perform and such luminaries such as W.C. Handy, Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Eubie Blake and a boatload of others started their professional career in black minstrel shows. It’s a very complex and messy history and it will take quite a long time for folks to be able to start looking at this subject critically. We’re just getting to a place where people are far enough removed from the situation to not be directly involved in the pain of the racism that spawned these art forms.
There seems to be something of a resurgence in modern music of “old time” music, I feel like there are more fiddles and banjos appearing on records, and not only that, but a deeper appreciation of the roots of this music – why do you think there is a resurgence? And why do you think it dipped some decades ago?
Rhiannon: There’s definitely been a resurgence of old time music instruments in mainstream music, the banjo is more assuredly getting more play out there in front of the world, but in terms of real ‘ol time music’ that resurgence is still more of a niche thing. It’s definitely happening, but not in the pop world. But the niche that is old time music has never been stronger, for sure.
Dom: I have a few ideas about why there is a resurgence in old-time or the use of folk music instruments in popular recordings. I think music moves in cycles, there are many factors, for example, it’s easy – anyone can play these instruments, and in a few years someone can be fairly good whether they wish to pursue it professionally or not. In terms of history, our global society allows us to be everywhere and see everything at all times. I think people like having things that are organic and old and very much present in the physical world. Not all folk is old or organic, but people only need the impression of it to be hooked. They see everything that music offers without gimmicks. Also, it doesn’t sound like normal pop music. Part of it is that it’s not as dense as modern pop music can be. Even outside of folk music, look at Adele. Her music is very stripped down and I think people like that. A performer just delivering a song without a bunch of production is appealing to a lot of people. Also, just like in the early 60’s, folks are coming out of a post-war society, a bad economy, questionable political situations and they are fed up. Woody Guthrie didn’t call it ‘hard hitting songs for hard hitting folks’ for nothing, and people relate to that. And also, it has history. After decades, of performers writing all of their material of various quality, people love the old songs that are great and have been for years. Its like Shakespeare, his stuff never dies, it just sits around until folks want to use it again.
There have been some recordings and performers that have been influential as well, such as O Brother Where Art Thou?, Johnny Cash’s The American Recordings, Old Crow Medicine Show- OCMS, Tom Waits – Mule Variations, Dolly Parton’s On Sugar Hill records, VH1 Storytellers – and these are just a few examples. Most times it takes many recordings to start a movement. Even Time Of Your Life by Green Day, or What It’s Like by Everlast, or even Lauren Hill Unplugged can give people the idea to pull out an acoustic guitar and play, and then as they go they add a little more here and there.
Who some of your musical heroes?
Rhiannon: Joe Thompson, of course, as the man who most heavily influenced our sound, and Etta Baker, because she was such a rad player, Peggy and Mike Seeger, because of what they have contributed to the art form and the history…of course there are others, but that’s the short list! And I got to meet all of the above. I still have yet to meet Stephen Sondheim…maybe one day!
Dom: Bob Dylan, Dave Van Ronk, Mike Seeger, Leo Kottke, John Dee Holeman, Taj Mahal – and I have met all of them, then Tom Waits, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Hank Williams, Carl Perkins, Mississippi John Hurt, Dock Boggs, Jimi Hendrix, Leonard Cohen, Howlin’ Wolf, Henry Thomas, and Sid Hemphill
The Music Maker Relief Foundation is a wonderful music organisation – there are so many older musicians that need help, medical and otherwise – how did you get involved with them to release Dona Got A Ramblin’ Mind?
Dom: Maybe 6 months after we had formed the Carolina Chocolate Drops, we finally recorded a demo for our group, which ended up being our first release, Dona Got A Ramblin’ Mind. At this point, we had done a few shows of our own but for the most part we were gigging on school shows. We were doing about 4 shows a week at that time. Towards the end of the the previous year (2005), we had recorded a record with our early group Sankofa Strings called Colored Aristocracy, and we were finally getting around to recording a record of the CCD material. We jumped into the studio after a school show one afternoon and recorded everything, and then I sat with the engineer and mixed the album the next day. It was a few days later that we made our first appearance the Shakori Hills grassroots festival in Silk Hope, NC. It was at the festival that I first met Tim Duffy. Tim had heard through the grapevine that we were an exciting new group, and he approached me and asked if we had management. I told him we didn’t and began to chat about the idea of him managing us and releasing our record.
I had heard of Music Maker Relief Foundation when I was still living in Phoenix. They had copies of the first major releases from Music Maker and I fell in love with Algia Mae Hinton and John Dee Holeman’s music. I took note of Tim’s name from the liner notes, so when he approached me I knew his name and his work.
Music Maker Relief Foundation is a non-Profit organization that helps out older Southern musicians with resources to continue making their music, for example if they maybe some need instruments, or some heating oil for the winter and some money for their medicine. It’s amazing to see what a donation of maybe 100 dollars can do for someone who is earning less than 2000 dollars a year.
We had the tapes that would make Dona Got A Ramblin’ Mind and Tim agreed to release it. We had the first version which was all old-time out there, and when we decided to release it nationally we took tracks from Colored Aristocracy and put them into the record to give it a little more variety. What was amazing about working with Tim and his wife Denise, who run the company together, was that they taught Rhiannon and I how to make and run our own company. Of all things we have been so fortunate to be playing our music and also owning our own company.
I really love that record, particularly because it breathes new life into songs such as Sourwood Mountain and Starry Crown – what was that experience like, to revisit those songs? Do you collect songs as you go? It must be overwhelming – all the songs yet to uncover and breathe new life into.
Rhiannon: We all bring songs from our various different places; it can get overwhelming for sure, but you just chip away at it bit by bit. It’s also pretty amazing – there’s just so much material! And since we didnt’ grow up listening to a lot of this, it’s all new to us! So we don’t have so much preconcieved notion of what it should sound like, we just make it sound like we think it should.
Is it also important for you to fold in some other aspects of popular music and culture, for example the contributions of beatboxing or other forms? Old-time music is a generous form that can afford to bring these other musical forms in.
Rhiannon: We are modern people who heard all sorts of music growing up – we can’t change that, nor would we want to. Everything we do or hear is through that filter. So we have no interest in trying to completely emulate past recordings or trying to pretend that we were born in 1892. We love different aspects of old time music and we blend that asthetic into what we do, and then there are those aspects of modern music that work quite well with old time; they are just further along on the continuum.
Genuine Negro Jig was a record that had a special magic of its own, did you almost feel that when you were recording it? You must have been heartened by the response from it, did it then make it easier to record something like Leaving Eden? Could you expand a little on what the different impulses behind those records are?
Rhiannon: Genuine Negro Jig was actually quite a difficult album to record – we had been doing some of the music for rather a long time and it was challenging to keep it from sounding stale. Joe Henry had some really good ideas, and so he did a lot for shaping the record; as a band we were in a very exhausted spot, I was pregnant, and we’d been touring nonstop for a few years. So I am very happy a difficult time turned into such a great product. Leaving Eden was a different experience, we had new band members and had to dig deep for material, and Buddy Miller was wise and guided us without pushing.
Dom: Recording Genuine Negro Jig was unfortunately not a very romantic experience even though as we were recording it I myself had a good feeling that it would be received well. When we recorded Dona Got A Ramblin’ Mind, everything was new. We were excited that we were a new group and a force to be reckoned with, and building a new audience by turning people on to the music with every show. Recording the first album was a no brainer because we went in and cut everything fast knowing we were all on the same page.
We toured and sold Dona Got A Ramblin’ Mind getting acclaim wherever we played and as talks began to shift toward another the talk of working with a bigger label came up as well. Tim was very clear in telling us that he did not have the resources to take our next record to the next level which meant we had to start looking for bigger labels. We found Nonesuch and we have been very happy working with them. It did take a while to get the ball rolling though. We had maybe a year and a half period where were looking for the label, signing on, getting the ball rolling on a producer…. and in that time we honed the material that makes up most of Genuine Negro Jig. We had worked up Hit ‘Em Up Style, Cornbread and Butterbeans, Snowden’s Jig and Piece Behind the Bridge and had been playing them for quite a while by the time we hit the studio. We had 9 days to pull together the album before we started back up on tour, so we sat down with Joe Henry and cut the album. It was mostly just a relief to finally get the material out there because we had tried it out on audiences and they were just going nuts for it. That was how I knew the album itself would do well. At that point, most of our fan base was won by word of mouth. Genuine Negro was our first splash into the larger music world. We got to see the effect of people having their minds blown with the idea of a black string band all over again while also putting stuff like Hit ‘Em Up Style out there for people to hear. It was an exciting moment for our group. It was also the beginning of the end for our original trio.
Justin had become very restless on the road. He was never of the mind to be a professional musician and he started to burn himself out on old-time music as Genuine Negro Jig came out. He was also interested in writing songs as shown by ‘Kissin’ and Cussin” and wanted to move in that direction. His passion also remained in nature and animals. He is a very outdoorsy fellow and he had lost that part of himself in all of the touring. Nevertheless, as we received the nomination for the Grammy he chose to take that moment to step down. This placed Rhiannon and myself in a very awkward position. We had signed on to do an album with Buddy Miller in the spring and we also were working on a stage production called Keep A Song In Your Soul. We put the word out for new members fast. I had known Hubby Jenkins since 2006 and had been working with him on a solo record when Justin sent in his resignation. I asked him to join and fortunately he said yes. We also inquired about working with Adam Matta, a beat boxer who we had worked with through our collaboration with the Luminescent Orchestrii. He agreed to join up as well and from there it was on. We had a new unit to work with for the time being and we set out to work out new arrangements for the upcoming record. As we worked on the album, our manager Tim Duffy had started to work with a young woman named Leyla McCalla who played the cello and suggested that we might try her on the next record. We agreed on it and she played some great stuff on the album’s title cut, Leaving Eden.
In many ways, recording Leaving Eden was a relief. Though there was an added stress in forming a new group sound with different members it was great to get back into making good music and touching on new ground with new instruments and the new tunes. We also tried to make a point not to cater to trying to find another ‘hit’ song. We did the record like we always did making it an organic experience, making sure that each song spoke to us.
I was just at a concert a few weeks back – curated by Billy Bragg, and featuring Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny – celebrating Woody Guthrie – and his effect, and his love of history, and perhaps even more than anything, legacy of kindness – it was a really beautiful experience, because people of all ages were there, and some came to the concert through Billy, others through Andy, others through Woody – but the sense of earthiness, and what really matters was there – and also documenting history, and believing in community – what are your thoughts on all of this?
Dom: Woody Guthrie is one of those self-made folk legends that just gets deeper with each new piece of information we read or hear from him. It is great that this year he is celebrating a centennial. It’s also amazing that his music still stirs people’s soul. I am always amazed at Woody’s versatility. Though he known commonly as the topical dust bowl balladeer with his guitar, he played harmonica, fiddle and mandolin. His songs range from topical songs to children’s songs, old folk songs, cowboy songs and original songs. It’s very rare to hear folk musicians that have that sort of versatility. His music is good music. That’s why he appeals to so many people. You just can’t beat good music. If you don’t particularly care for Woody’s singing, you can hear someone else do his songs and anyone who doubts it will know a good song when they hear it. I am also very impressed with Woody’s sense of self-preservation. He was very meticulous about writing the dates, time and where he when wrote things so that his family at the archives have very detailed information about everything he did. That takes a ton of effort to be that consistent. Again, he just gets deeper to me every time.
You are all so prolific – so I am wondering what you are working on at the moment – and Dom, I am wondering about your own relationship to history – I know that you worked for the Newport Festival for their film archive, cataloging it and such – you must have unearthed some real gems, which must then give you other ideas for projects, or further people to explore – what has that been like?
Dom: I always have a few projects in my queue wherever I am. I have so many ideas for different things that I can’t help but do it. I like guesting on other people’s records which I always have fun doing. I’m also a strong supporter of doing archive work and writing articles and being a voice in the academic world and old-time revival world. On top of the recordings made by Sankofa Strings and Carolina Chocolate Drops, I have recorded two solo albums, Dances Tunes, Ballads and Blues and American Songster. I’ve been involved in two albums with Sule Greg Wilson, one is a revival of the Sankofa moniker on an album called The Uptown Strut and also Sule’s third solo record, Runaway Dream. I’ve appeared on the albums of the East River String Band, Allison Williams, and I even played quills on the Hunger Games soundtrack on Glen Hansard’s track ‘Take The Heartland’.
As for archive work, I have work a lot with the Southern Folklife Collection at UNC-CH mostly archiving the Carolina Chocolate Drops live recordings, video, programs, etc. for future use.
A big project I have been involved in is helping to archive the film footage of the Newport Folk Festival footage shot by Murray Lerner. Back in Phoenix, I was obsessed with the movie Festival! and I always wondered about who this fellow Murray Lerner was, and wanted to find out if he had any additional footage of the festival. When the group played the Newport Folk festival in 2008, I had the great pleasure of meeting one of the festival’s long-time producers, Bob Jones. He laid a huge compliment on our group and I went out a limb and asked him if he knew Murray Lerner and could he help me get in touch with him. He did know him and he passed me Murray’s contact info.
I finally called Murray and set up a meeting with him and I told him that I wanted to volunteer my time to help with the footage. I was specifically looking for footage of a performer named Joe Patterson. Patterson was one of the three known black quills players to be recorded and the only one with footage taken of him. His music was brought to my attention by Mike Seeger who used to perform a piece based on Joe Patterson’ style. I also mentioned that I had spent a lot of time enjoying and studying the music of the Newport Folk Festival from the wonderful Vanguard records that chronicled the event. He took me into a viewing room and played a 5 minute sampler for me. He asked to identify the performers. I easily identified them all and he told me to come into the office whenever I could and identify as many of the performers in the footage as I could. It took me about a year and a half but I was able to go in and identify nearly all of the performs on the raw footage Murray shot at the festival. I’m not sure when any of it will see the light of day but there is amazing stuff on there. Murray filmed every major act that performed at the festivals. From Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, the Staple singers, John Hurt, and so many more. I am proud that I made that time. My only wish is for it to get out there and also for me to get a copy someday. The footage gave a ton ideas for performing and also understanding the acts that I had heard on record for so many years. Particularly the Georgia Sea Island Singers. It is amazing to see those folks in action. Audio recording just cannot do it all. It sounds great but the music also looks great and Murray filmed a bunch of their performances. I never work literally when I absorb these styles. I keep them in my back pocket so that when I hear a piece of music I can apply parts to that music to make it stronger.
I would dearly love you to do a documentary exploring the bond between Irish communities and African-American communities, and the musical bond that was explored and new musical traditions that emerged.
Rhiannon: I’d be down for that absolutely! im really becoming obsessed with it; when you start digging, the evidence is overwhelming. The most famous black dancer of minstrelsy was a man named Master Juba – Henry Lane – and he came out of Five Points in the late 1800s, and he could do the jigs and the jubas and the mixtures of them both. The word ‘Jig’ itself became associated with black dance and black tunes. Also many minstrels were first or second generation Irish-American. One day…