The Center for the Study of Southern Culture is showcasing the effects of Southern music in everyday life with this year’s Southern Music Symposium.
The symposium will exhibit presentations, panels and lectures from scholars and musicians. It will also feature a free concert at Proud Larry’s. The symposium will begin at the Overby Center at 1 p.m. Monday with a welcome and panel discussion for student research. The day’s program includes discussions on the blues featuring Jacqueline Sahagain and Keerthi Chandrashekar along with a keynote address from Randall Stephens.
Sahagian, a University of Mississippi graduate student, will discuss Fat Possum Records and the relationship between white men and the blues. Her talk, “The Same Old Blues Crap: Fat Possum Records’ Matthew Johnson and How White Masculinity Continues to Shape the Blues,” depicts the life of Fat Possum Records founder Matthew Johnson. Sahagian will speak on Johnson’s history of supporting white men and their approach to blues music while ignoring other races and their efforts to be seen and heard.
“Though he makes fun of other blues fans, calling them ‘blues geeks,’ his rebel identity actually makes him have a lot in common with other white guys from the past who have sought to explain and present the blues to white audiences,” she said. “The problem with all this is that white men are still mediating audiences’ interpretations of blues music instead of allowing blues artists to present their art to the public themselves. I would like to point out to blues fans that although Fat Possum’s work seems edgy and new, it really shows that blues marketing has not changed much since the race records era.”
Sahagian said although she enjoys the music Fat Possum releases, she hopes to lay bare the struggles of minorities in the blues music industry today.
Darren Grem, assistant professor of history and Southern studies, said he has high hopes for the symposium. At 4 p.m., he will moderate a panel of musicians that will be performing that night: Lee Bains III, a punk rocker; Wu Fei, a rapper; and Marco Pavé, an instrumentalist and composer. His panel of diverse and talented musicians will explore their beliefs about the impact music has had on both them and others.
“The symposium will bring together diverse people to talk about what brings them together: music,” Grem said.
Grem said he hopes to impact listeners and bring them to the same conclusion that he has come to over the years.
“Music is human expression,” he said. “It brings a richer understanding of the past and can help understand broader politics like mill-workers singing to pass time, laborers finding happiness in small tunes, poor folks bonding to rock ‘n’ roll. Music shapes people.”
The history, the beauty and the sound of the South will be heard and celebrated at the symposium and concert. The lectures and panels will all showcase music from different perspectives and ways of life while bringing them all together to show the shared connection.