The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, January 13, 1999, Page 12, Image 12
Photo Courtesy of Jackson Hill INDEPENDENT FOLK-ROCK musician Ani DiFranco narrates the documentary focusing on the contemporary music of the Mississippi River Valley. Series looks at music on Mississippi By Liza Holtmeier Senior staff writer 4 By the waters of the Mighty Mississippi the music of a nation has flowered and thrived. And from the gospel of the South to the rock ’n’ roll of Minneapolis, the people along the Great River have woven this music into the fabric of their communities. This month, the Nebraska ETV Network and other public television stations celebrate the proliferation of music along the Mississippi and in the Midwest. “The Mississippi: River of Song” is a four-part documentary that began Jan. 6 and will be broad cast over the next three Wednesday nights. Tonight, NETV presents the sec ond installment of the series, “Midwestern Crossroads.” The series follows the Mississippi riv^r from northern Minnesota to Dielacroix Island in Louisiana. The musicians included represent everything from contem porary pop and rock to bhies, gospel and American Indian music. Narrated by independent folk rock musician Ani DiFranco, tonight’s segment celebrates the vitality and history of the music that has sprung up in the Midwest - an area in which musical contributions are often marginalized and over looked. “People on the coast seem to think that there is not much but wheat fields and corn fields and more wheat fields in the Midwest,” said John Junkerman, producer and director of the series. But one need only look at Midwestern musicians to realize the impact of the region, he said. Artists such as Bob Dylan, Tina Turner, B.B. King, and The Artist Formerly Known as Prince are not accidents, he said. “All of those people came out of very specific contexts,” Junkerman said. The series explores the impact of these contexts on the musi cians and their communities. As filming progressed, Junkerman said, the crew discovered the loyalty artists often felt to their home. “Somebody might have a gig and not make much money but be there for 20 years and make enough money to stick with it,” Junkerman said. Communities generally returned this fidelity by incorporating music into their day-to-day lives. They used music as a way to socialize and share their stories, holding festivals and congregat ing in clubs to swap music with their friends. Deborah Reinhardt, an associate professor of music education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has discovered the same community impact in her research. Reinhardt has been studying the variety of music in Nebraska, traveling across the state making recordings of local musicians. From religion to work to pleasure, Reinhardt said music pro vides a hub for people to revolve around. Junkerman said these factors have led to robust local music scenes in the Midwest. “There seems to be a revival in a way. A lot of this music is being sustained in a bigger way than it had been in the past,” he said. Junkerman attributed this rejuvenation to the growth of sum mer music festivals, citing the bluegrass festivals in Illinois, Iowa and Missouri as examples. / “They have scores of people coming to these campgrounds swapping music and stories. It’s a very democratic environment, and everybody gets a chance to sing a song. These people come back every summer to the same place and play their musie with old friends,” he said. * The final focus of the series is the diversity of music in the Midwest. seem to think (hat there is not much but producers director, « “Xlie MlMlMlppl, River of Souk** Reinhardt attributes the variety to the differ ent cultural influences present in the region. “Forty to" 50 years ago, there was little televi- _ sion and a little less access to popular music as a whole. With this isolation came a blending of styles,” she said. “The same is true in Nebraska. In these com munmes, i Know n s a oiena or music I’m hearing. It’s not pure Czech, and it’s not pure German. There’s been a natural kind of a tendency to blend and to work with other music.” To accommodate the variety of music, the documentary is divided into four parts, which began on the first Wednesday of the month. Part one, “Americans Old and New,” covered music along the Mississippi from Northern Minnesota to Iowa. Beginning with the music of American Indians and ending with folk and polka, this segment emphasized the fusion of past and present at the r headwaters of the Mississippi. “Midwestern Crossroads,” die second segment in the series, addresses the impact of river trade and commerce and emphasizes tl importance of rock and soul. Parts three and four air Jan. 20 27 at 9 p.m. Part three picks up the strand of die story in La Center, Ky. and continues to Jackson, Miss. Tided “Southern Fusion,” this section pays special attention to the music of Memphis, Tenn., as wellas gospel and blues. The filial part of the series, “Louisiana, Where Music is King,” covefs the last stretch of America’s largest river from Natchez, Miss., to Delacroix Island, La. Set in the bayous of Louisiana, the final segment revels in the various cultural influences of the area, from French to Caribbean to Spanish. A culmination of five years of research arid planning, the series includes a total of 50 acts and more than 500 musicians from all 10 states along the Mississippi. And although the series can teach an audience a lot about music along the Mississippi, Junkerman said it was not created to convey a message. “(The messages) were only things that we discover along the coupe of documenting this music,” he said.