Florida fiddlers are among the best anywhere. Enjoy a rare recording of Cush Holsten, rustic Cracker fiddler from the Gulf Hammock area, and the renowned Chubby Wise - who some say was the first real bluegrass fiddler. Chubby Anthony bows a blistering version of "Lee Highway Blues" that includes a homespun spoken introduction. Vassar Clements, who has played with everyone from Bill Monroe to Stephane Grappelli and the Grateful Dead, serves up a large helping of his tasty fiddling. There's a sample of Michoacán-style Mexican ranchera fiddling from the Redlands agricultural area and the stellar fiddling of James Kelly, one of the finest Irish fiddlers of this or any generation. Jonita Aadland and Amber Randall, who play in the Norwegian twin-fiddle tradition, make some of the sweetest music to be found.
With more than 364,000 Floridians of Mexican descent, our state's Mexican-American population is the largest in the southeast. Enjoy a generous sampling of accordion-based musìca norteña, the pulsing dance music of the working class; hear Mother's Day serenades sung tenderly before daybreak; then listen to the plaintive strains of ranchera music by Los Halcones de Michoacán. Thrill to the soaring falsetto, brilliant brass and stirring strings of Orlando's Mariachi Cobre, one of the world's top mariachi bands. Marimba Mayalandia delights with intricate melodies played on their beautiful, three-person marimba doble.
Florida is home to a small but culturally active population from the Pacific Islands, many of whom came to work as entertainers at restaurants and theme parks. This program focuses on two of the larger Pacific Island cultural groups in Florida: Hawaiians and Tongans. Enjoy ancient chants and drumming, poignant falsetto and smooth contemporary three-part harmony singing. Slack-key artist Roy Pang and steel guitar virtuoso Dick Sanft demonstrate their mastery of two vibrant but endangered guitar traditions from Hawaii. Tongans are known for beautifully harmonized group singing. The Wolfgramms of Orlando pound kava root to make a relaxing drink, then sing a romantic song from a Tongan courtship ritual.
Old-Time Country and Bluegrass
Don't understand the difference between old-time and bluegrass music? Both are demystified as you meet the folks who play and enjoy this music. Richard Seaman, who was born in 1904, provides a musical link to the nineteenth century. Along our journey we attend an old-time dance and a community picking session to experience first-hand how tunes are passed from one generation to the next. Florida bluegrass fiddle greats Vassar Clements and Chubby Wise keep your toes tapping with their inventive music. Tuck Tucker of McIntosh plays a sample of the fiery picking that made him a Florida Dobro legend.
The religious freedom enjoyed in the United States has resulted in a tremendous range of sacred music. In this program we explore black and white Christian music such as shape note singing, hymn lining, vocal quartets, the fiery "sacred steel" guitar tradition of the House of God Holiness-Pentecostal Church, and Easter chanting at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs. Departing from Christian music, we hear Susana Behar sing poignantly in the Sephardic Jewish tradition, drummer Ezequiel Torres lead an Afro-Cuban batá. ensemble in sacred music of the Orisha religion, and witness a rarely recorded HaitianVodou ceremony.
Blues: Roots and Branches
A blues program with a different twist, this installment mines Florida's rich vein of blues and related music with an emphasis on recordings not commonly heard today. Included are excerpts from field recordings from Key West to Jacksonville made by pioneering folklorists Alan Lomax and Stetson Kennedy in the 1930s and 40s. Selections range from work songs and blues performed by farm workers and muleskinners to a Bahamian pianist's jazzy blues improvisations. Enjoy delightful vintage performances by acoustic fingerpick guitar stylists Blind Blake and Tampa Red. Among the recent field recordings are acoustic blues from north central Florida that include a rousing performance by one-string diddley bow artist Moses Williams. Ray Charles, the Sunshine State's most renowned rhythm and blues artist, delivers the electrifying "A Fool for You," recorded at a Miami radio station in 1952.
The 833,000 Floridians of Cuban descent have had an enormous impact on the state's cultural landscape. Cuban music selections range from ballad singing in Key West to modern Latin jazz standards. We explore the country music known as punto de guajiro, delve into the mysterious realm of Afro-Cuban Orisha worship and the consecrated drums that provide its heartbeat, and feel the infectious rhythm of Israel "Cachao" Lopez, the original mambo king. Contemporary artists Gloria Estefan, Willie Chirino and Albita Rodriguez showcase their synthesis of roots music and contemporary popular stylings. The brilliant Latin jazz and Cubop improvisations of trumpeter Arturo Sandoval simply soar.
Hundreds of thousands of West Indians have made Florida home. Our program begins with rousing Bahamian-American junkanoo parade music. Next, we visit Michael Kernahan as he makes Trinidadian steel drums and plays samples of big band and calypso music on this fascinating folk instrument. Reggae great Bob Marley's mother, Cedella Marley-Booker, and Taj Mahal give their rendition of a traditional Jamaican song. Members of Miami's large Haitian community serve up a spicy menu ranging from an acapella lullaby to a folksong by the former mayor of Port au Prince to pulsing raraand konpa dance music. Button accordionist Guillermero Guante pumps out a sizzling Dominican merengue with lyrics that comment on the September 11 terrorist attacks. The program and the series closes with hot Puerto Rican plena jazz by Los Pleneros de Borinquen.
Music from the Sunshine State is available only as a public radio broadcast. The programs are not available in CD, or any other recorded format.