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Tradition, Race, and Gender in the Celebration of Traditional Music

Appalachian Sound Archives Fellow Deborah Thompson focused on the ways race and gender are represented in Appalachian music, particularly in the context of such events as Berea's Celebration of Traditional Music.

Audio Highlight

Buddy Moss - Fulton, GA
"Tricks Don't Work No More," 10-26-1978.
Celebration of Traditional Music, (AC-OR-005-088)

What Counts as Traditional Music

Throughout the Celebration’s history, the tension between presenting traditional musicians that are not well known and having headliners that will attract a wide audience has not been resolved. The Traditional Music Committee was not always in agreement as to what constituted the traditions or who represented the traditions. The committee clearly wanted to represent mountain traditions in their diversity, but did not want to include much Bluegrass or recent, composed music, so the notion of how much change could be tolerated remained contested.

While it often remained unstated, it was the traditions of the Appalachian region that were typically represented. The organizers, however, often stretched their ideas of the region’s boundaries to make sure a good variety was presented, particularly to include African American musicians that represent the musical culture traditional to the Appalachian region. For this, then, they often included artists from Atlanta or Washington, D.C. if their music was traditionally linked to the region.