The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, January 13, 1999, Page 12, Image 12

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    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
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
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
“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
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
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
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
“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.