Rhiannon Giddens-Folk Music Pioneer

Folk music originates from oral story-telling that has been down through generations of families. The folk music that we know and love today, would not be here if it was not for efforts of African American/black people. Folk music like many other music forms was crafted and perfected by black musicians and artists. Rhiannon Giddens is one of the many folk artists that stay true to its roots. Rhiannon Giddens’ unique approach to folk music encompasses the traditional rules of folk while addressing major social themes. Thus, proving that Giddens is a pioneer that is committed to her craft. Through her work in “Freedom Highway” and “there is no other,” Giddens vocalizes her artistry by taking the audience on a journey through the black experience with assistance from folk elements such as banjo melodies, timbre, and social commentary. Giddens’ art displays the depth and range of black voices across all genres, not just urban; instead, Giddens demands that all follow as she takes you on an enlightening journey to freedom.
Into the Music

Freedom Highway

Freedom Highway is the response to the call of Freedom that has been ringing for generations. It starts with a powerful melody with Gidden’s voice echoing “You can take my body/You can take my bones/You can take my blood/But not my soul.” Giddens carries the tempo with Come Love Come. Giddens demonstrates her unique vocal control as she switches between deep and soft belts. A key characteristic of folk music is timbre which is a significant component to Giddens’ music. 

 

My personal favorite from the album is “Following the North Star.” In historical context, Harriet Tubman used the  Underground Railroad and the North Star as a guide to lead her people to freedom.  Imagery from the song depicts the stomping and running of African American feet through secret highways and hidden routes. Refer to the video on the left to witness the greatness, that is Rhiannon Giddens and Rowan Corbett.

Giddens’ “Freedom Highway” demonstrates the singer’s strong vocal ability, social commentary that ties in historical context from the past, and melodic lyrics over banjo and percussion sounds, as seen in “Following the Star.” Giddens’ album serves as the soundtrack to Freedom which dares the audience to answer the call.

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