Appalachia and Bluegrass

Most people automatically associate fiddles and banjos with the Appalachian region, but others question whether bluegrass music and Appalachia actually have a strong relationship.  I think there’s no doubt that bluegrass music is tied to Appalachia.  Many, many songs are written about the mountainous terrain of Appalachia and jobs, such as coal mining and farming that are largely found in Appalachia.  The people that live in Appalachia are often found playing bluegrass music but bluegrass music can also be found anywhere in the United States from New England to California and it’s also enjoyed globally in Europe and Asian countries.   While many Bluegrass songs sing about the hard times of a coal miner in the mountains, a Japanese farmer who spends his days in the rice fields could relate to these songs.  So without Appalachia would bluegrass even exist? The instruments would still exist, the banjo has an African background and the people who play bluegrass would still exist.  Bill Monroe, not even from Appalachia, is considered the father of bluegrass and I’m sure he would have still been playing music without the existence of Appalachia.  The lyrics and hardships that are written about would certainly change but the music itself would remain.  The Appalachian region has definitely helped shape Bluegrass into what it is today but without it bluegrass still would have found its way into the world.

“The Business of Bluegrass”

Music and Politics

“They [music and politics] are not to be seen as separate entities whose worlds collide only occasionally, but rather are extensions of each other.”

Deciding whether music and politics are directly related is a difficult judgement to make.  In his book Music and Politics John Street states that the boundary between music in politics is merely illusionary. I’d say that it’s also hard to make the assumption that the line is illusionary because there are many songs that may incite some kind of emotion but nothing that would make one want to make a political stance.  When the Taliban placed a ban on music in 2002 many folks linked music to power and freedom. And when the violence in Rwanda between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes erupted the question was raised: are song, lyrics, and melodies able to create enough emotion within a person to compel them to commit genocide?  We know that many retail stores, car dealerships, and any type of business often use music in their lobby’s and stores to create a certain atmosphere that causes the consumer to feel comfortable and want to buy what the business is selling.  Obviously music has an impact on our emotions but this is not to say that every type of music is carrying a political message behind it to try to persuade listeners. If this were the case it could be argued that everything someone does and every way that they express themselves is a political statement.  Music that is to be considered political it must cause a group of people to feel strongly enough about the topic to take some type of action, not solely personal contemplation.