The Artists Redefining Roots Music

This year’s idea for Black History Month came about near the end of 2021. We were compiling the best albums and songs for the year when I noticed a trend: many of the artists on our list were Black women, making music in genres like folk, Americana and country that have historically (seemingly) been dominated by white artists.

Inspired by music from Yola, Adia Victoria, Valerie June, Amythyst Kiah, Rhiannon Giddens, and many more, we’ve decided to share those artists’ experiences with you in their own words throughout February. We also want to give a nod of appreciation to the African American artists who formed the foundation of roots music, but whose ideas and contributions were appropriated. We hope you enjoy all the great songs and special features.

-Liz Felix, WYEP program director

We’ll also spotlight local Black artists and what it means to be a musician of color in Pittsburgh. Check out our interviews here:

Livefromthecity

Royce

Check back for more features throughout the month!

For Black History Month 2022, we’re also honoring the history of early folk artists, including Richie Havens of the Woodstock generation and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the “Hendrix before Hendrix.”  Check out some of our interviews with these musicians and prominent artists over the years, including some who represent generations of contribution.  Akina Adderley, the vocalist of Austin folk/jazz band Nori, talks about carrying the tradition of her grandfather Nat; Toshi Reagon reflects upon the influence of  Bernice Johnson Reagon, her mother and the founder of folk group Sweet Honey in the Rock.  Also, listen out for our favorite tracks, as well as images from Pittsburgh performances.

Leyla McCalla with Soul Show Host Mike Canton

From February 2020

Toshi Reagon with Soul Show Host Mike Canton

From November 2019

Shemekia Copeland with Big Town Blues Host Wrett Weatherspoon

From April 2016