For those of you who aren’t familiar, Rhiannon Giddens is a singing angel who floated down from heaven plucking a celestial banjo.
Ok, well actually she’s a real live person who can get hilariously salty in interviews. In addition to being one of the best banjo players on the planet, she is a virtuoso in multiple stringed instruments and has a positively entrancing singing voice. She is best known for her work in country, jazz, blues, blue grass, early American folk, and especially African American old-time music, but she is also accomplished in Celtic (Irish and Scottish) folk music.
She is a historian as well as musician and songs from her projects “Freedom Highway” and “Songs of Our Native Daughters” take inspiration from historical slave narratives. Her ballad, “Julie” is absolutely haunting (the fretless banjo she is playing in the video is a recreation of the kinds of instruments that were played in the 19th century).
According to this article from the New York Times she is now working on an opera based on the autobiography of Omar Ibn Said, an African Islamic scholar who was captured and sold into the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. His memoir is the only known Arabic language autobiography by a slave written in North America.
I fully expect it to be spectacular. It’s opening at a festival in North Carolina, hopefully it will get some kind of tour too. Otherwise I will definitely be keeping an eye out for the album version.
Seriously, she can do pretty much anything (this re-mix isn’t her usual style but she’s on point like always):