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Werner Graebner

taarab singer, drummer, and healer, was born in urban Zanzibar. Her parents had migrated to the islands from the Kilwa area of Tanzania on the East African mainland. She is better known as Bi Kidude. Some controversy surrounds Kidude’s birthdate; considering all evidence, the latest she could have been born is around 1920. Growing up in suburban Zanzibar’s Ng’ambo area, she showed interest from a young age in taarab song, a genre of poetry sung to musical accompaniment developed in nineteeth- century Zanzibar. One of her uncles, Buda Suwedi, was a member of Siti Bint Saadi’s group, then the most popular singer in Zanzibar. Kidude attended night rehearsals at Saadi’s place, pretending to sleep in a corner or on the outside baraza bench, soaking up the songs, which still form her main repertoire today.

When Kidude was in her teens, dhows traditional Arab sailboats from all over the ...

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was born in St. Kitts on 17 September 1925. Griffith learned to play the organ at the Methodist Church in St. Kitts before migrating to Trinidad in November 1943. She began missionary work in Trinidad by visiting hospitals and praying with the sick. Following a vision, she was baptized as a Shouter Baptist in 1951 by Pastor Lacaille, one of the leaders of the faith during the years of prohibition engendered by enactment and enforcement of the 1917 Shouters Prohibition Ordinance, which was repealed on 30 March 1951. Several years later she another vision: that of a short, dark man, clad in a black suit, felt hat, and tie. A few days later a man with a remarkable likeness to the man in her vision walked into the yard of her church. He was Elton George Griffith the leader of the public campaign to repeal the ...

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Bill McCulloch and Barry Lee Pearson

blues artist, was born Nehemiah James in Yazoo County, outside Bentonia, Mississippi, the son of Eddie James and Phyllis Jones. His father, reputed to be a musician and a bootlegger, moved north to Sidon, near Greenwood, to evade the law, leaving Skip with his mother on the Woodbine plantation, where she worked as a cook. After an attempt to reunite the family in Sidon failed, Skip and his mother returned to Bentonia, where he attended St. Paul School and Yazoo High School. At the age of eight or nine, inspired by local musicians—particularly the guitarist Henry Stuckey—Skip persuaded his mother to buy him a guitar. At the age of twelve he took one piano lesson from a cousin. Unable to pay for more lessons, he continued learning on an organ owned by an aunt.

After dropping out of high school at about age fifteen James went to ...

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Kevin Sliman

blues musician and preacher, was born in Pelahatchie, Mississippi. His father, a fireman in Jackson, Mississippi, died in 1911 and Lacy was raised by his grandfather, an African Methodist preacher. He attended school for five years and quickly turned his attention to music. Coming from a musically skilled family, Lacy organized his siblings into gospel quartets while his mother or other siblings played harmonica. He learned to play guitar and mandolin in his early teens from a man named George “Crow Jane” Hendrix, a professional musician. His uncle, Herbert Meiels a German who was highly educated and spoke five languages taught Lacy German history and politics At age twenty Lacy moved to Jackson Mississippi to pursue music but stayed only a short time before he began doing railroad work that took him all over Mississippi and then to Iowa Lacy moved to Chicago and lived with Meiels ...

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Barbara A. Seals Nevergold

minister, musician, and photographer, was born in Bayou Rapides, Louisiana, to Irene Lair and Giuseppe “Joe” Nasello. Nasello, who immigrated to the United States from his native Sicily in 1901, owned a dry goods store in Alexandria, Louisiana, that Willie remembered visiting with his mother from time to time. However, Joe Nasello had another family, and given the mores of the time, “Papa” Joe never acknowledged the two children he fathered with Irene. (A daughter, Alice, was born in 1912.) Although Joe Nasello lived until 1958, it appears that father and son never met face to face nor openly acknowledged their relationship. Seals talked freely yet sparingly of his paternity, and he jokingly noted to his children that he was an “Italian.”

According to Willie, “Seals” was a made-up name that he took from Lucille Ceil a favorite grade school teacher ...

Article

Bruce Nemerov

singer, guitarist, songwriter, and evangelist, was born Ola Mae Long in Atlanta, Georgia, to Mary Long, a laundress. Mother and daughter lived in racially segregated Atlanta's Summerhill district, just a few blocks from Decatur Street, Atlanta's black commercial and entertainment center.

In 1922, Ola Mae was put out to work as a cook and housekeeper in the home of Devereaux F. McClatchey, a Southern Bell Telephone executive. This was her first experience living outside the segregated Summerhill neighborhood. The following year she underwent a conversion experience at a revival held at the Fire Baptized Holiness Church, a Pentecostal denomination organized in Anderson, South Carolina, in 1898 and originally an integrated association.

The black members of the Fire Baptized Holiness Church, in response to increasingly strict enforcement of “Jim Crow” laws, in 1908 withdrew and formed the Colored Fire Baptized Holiness Church with ...