Herman Fuselier is considered to be one of leading Louisiana historians of Zydeco music. A native of Opelousas, Louisiana, he first started in journalism as a sports writer. He asked his editor about whether he could write a music column, noting that the city’s great local musicians rarely were covered in the paper. His editor gave him permission and his career began. Fuselier’s work has included radio and television broadcast, writing and lecturing endeavors that have taken him from the Apollo Theater to the Grammys. For the past twenty years he has hosted a radio show, Zydeco Stomp, now heard on KRVS Radio Acadie in Lafayette. Currently, Fuselier serves as food and culture editor for Lafayette’s Daily Advertiser and its weekly entertainment section, The Times of Acadiana , writing extensively about Zydeco music and Louisiana culture. His work appears in syndication in Gannett publications nationwide. He has contributed to Offbeat Magazine, Living Blues, SHOUT! and Oxford American. He also serves as the on-stage musician interviewer at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (JazzFest).
Fuselier is a graduate of Louisiana State University.
Jim Hobbs has been listening to Cajun, Louisiana Creole and Zydeco music since the late 1970s. He enjoys writing about it, dancing to it, and sharing it with others. Raised in Shreveport, Louisiana, Hobbs initially had little exposure to Cajun and Zydeco music. Instead, he grew up listening to R&B, and Country music, including the Louisiana Hayride show on KWKH radio. He learned an appreciation of music from his mother who was a classical vocalist and his younger sister who interested him in Pop and Broadway music. Hobbs landed in New Orleans in 1973 and never left. It was at JazzFest that he was first introduced to Cajun and Zydeco. Professionally, Hobbs is a librarian at Loyola University, but his Zydeco and Cajun music blog, involvement with New Orleans JazzFest, and hosting of the Cajun and Zydeco show on New Orleans WWOZ are his passion. Hobbs has undertaken the compilation of a computerized discography of commercially-released Cajun and Zydeco music, which has been funded by the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation and the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.
Scott Billington, Vice President, A&R, Rounder Records, Music Producer
With over 100 albums to his credit, among them two Grammy winners, ten Grammy nominees, and many other award winners, record producer Scott Billington balances a broad musical background and a keen ear with a knack for bringing out the best in the artists with whom he works. Scott makes records which are renowned not only for their production values, but for their soulfulness. As half of the duo Tangle Eye, he has brought an uncommonly organic sensibility to the art of the remix. Scott has also been active in the music industry as a writer, multi-media author, graphic designer and musician.
Along with recordings by such legendary American musicians as Ruth Brown, Charlie Rich, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Solomon Burke, Boozoo Chavis, Irma Thomas and Johnny Adams, Scott was involved early-on with such roots music innovators as Buckwheat Zydeco (his first national album, which was a Grammy nominee), the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Beau Jocque. For Rounder Records, he created the label’s highly-regarded Modern New Orleans Masters series. Newsweek called the series “the best possible introduction to the deep, rich world of pop music made in New Orleans.” He has worked with musicians as diverse as the African soukous superstar Tabu Ley Rochereau, trumpet legend Dizzy Gillespie and Boston’s Klezmer Conservatory Band. The body of Scott’s work is characterized by a respect for tradition, but with a forward-looking vision that often inspires his artists to achieve the same. His roots-oriented records make full use of contemporary technologies and ideas, especially on remix projects such as the Tangle Eye album, Alan Lomax’s Southern Journey Remixed. Yet, his work is ultimately about the pursuit of qualities such as emotion, spontaneity and engaged musicianship. “I like to create situations where the music actually happens, and to capture that on tape,” says Scott. “There’s an emphasis on pre-production — finding songs, working on musical arrangements and hiring the right players — but I leave room for accidents. I try to make records that surprise and move people”
As a writer, Scott’s work has appeared in the Oxford American, Gambit, the Boston Globe and numerous other publications. He has lectured at Harvard University, the New England Conservatory of Music, and Loyola University, and at several Grammy in the Schools events. He is the author of Allons en Louisiane, an interactive CD ROM. Scott has worked for Massachusetts-based Rounder Records for over thirty five years, currently serving as Vice President of A&R. In fact, Scott met the three owners of Rounder Records before they had actually founded the company. He lives with his wife, the children’s author and musician Johnette Downing, in New Orleans.
Visit Scott’s web site here.
Ben Sandmel is a New Orleans–based journalist, folklorist, drummer, and producer. In 2012, he published Ernie K- Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans, the second volume in the Louisiana Musicians Biography Series, elected as Blues Book of the Year for 2012 in Living Blues magazine. Sandmel’s articles about Louisiana music have appeared in national publications, including the Atlantic and Rolling Stone, and have been anthologized in such collections as Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 and From Jubilee to Hip Hop: Readings in African American Music. Sandmel has written liner notes for over a hundred albums. He is also the author of Zydeco!, a collaborative book with photographer Rick Olivier. Sandmel has worked for the Louisiana Folklife Program as a field researcher and writer documenting traditional music and occupational folklore. He produces the Allison Miner Music Heritage Stage, an oral history venue at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. He has produced and played on four albums, including the Grammy-nominated Deep Water by the Cajun/western swing band the Hackberry Ramblers.
Nick Spitzer, the producer and host of American Routes, is a folklorist and a professor of anthropology and American studies at Tulane University. Nick specializes in American music and the cultures of the Gulf South, and received a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Texas in 1986 with his dissertation on Zydeco music and Afro-French Louisiana culture and identities. American Routes, which is distributed by PRX, reaches nearly a million listeners each week on over 268 stations and via its website.
Nick was founding director of the Louisiana Folklife Program, and edited and co-wrote Louisiana Folklife: A Guide to the State (1985) and The Mississippi Delta Ethnographic Overview (1979) for the National Park Service. He created the Folklife Pavilion for the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition, where he curated The Creole State: An Exhibition of Louisiana Folklife. He has also served as senior folklife specialist at the Smithsonian Institution (1985- 1990), the artistic director for the Folk Masters concert/broadcasts from Carnegie Hall and Wolf Trap (1990-97), and the Independence Day concerts broadcast live on NPR from the National Mall (1992-2001). As Louisiana State Folklorist (1978-85), he created films, festivals, exhibits and recordings of regional music, and co-produced a 90-minute Folk Festival USA special on Louisiana music for NPR, helping to bring Cajun music and zydeco to national visibility. His work continued at the Smithsonian, where he curated folk festival programs and directed or served as commentator in films about American music, including Great Performances, broadcast on PBS and the Discovery Channel. He has also served on the boards of the Fund for Folk Culture and the National Council for the Traditional Arts.
Nick has been a cultural commentator and producer for NPR’s All Things Considered and Fresh Air, CBS’ Sunday Morning, and ABC’s Nightline. Spitzer directed the film Zydeco: Creole Music and Culture in Rural Louisiana (1986), and has produced or annotated two dozen documentary sound recordings. In 2002 he co-curated ‘Raised to the Trade’: Creole Building Arts of New Orleans at the New Orleans Museum of Art. He is an essayist and co-editor for the book Public Folklore (1992, 2007) and co-author of Blues for New Orleans: Mardi Gras and America’s Creole Soul (2006).
A former resident scholar at the School of American Research in Santa Fe, and a Fellow of the American Folklore Society, Nick received the AFS’ Benjamin Botkin Lifetime Award in Public Folklore, an ASCAP-Deems Taylor Excellence in Broadcasting Award in 2004, the New Orleans Mayor’s Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award, and in 2006 was named Louisiana Humanist of the Year for cultural recovery efforts after the catastrophe. Nick’s radio experience goes back to the 1970s, when he served first as program director of WXPN-FM, the college radio station at Penn in Philadelphia, where he majored in anthropology. After graduation, he was afternoon drive host on the popular “underground” rock station WMMR-FM in Philadelphia, and later worked as a deejay on the legendary progressive country station KOKE-FM during the early boom days of the Austin music scene. His interests include ethnography of the Gulf Coast, cultural creolization, American vernacular music/culture, and public cultural policy. Nick received a Guggenheim fellowship for work on traditional creativity in Louisiana Creole communities.
Tsitsi Jaji is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania where she teaches courses on the poetry, fiction, film, and music of the African diaspora and the African continent. Many of her courses are crosslisted in Africana Studies, Music and Comparative Literature. In addition to teaching she serves as a faculty fellow in the University’s W.E.B. DuBois College House. Dr. Jaji earned her Ph.D. (2009) in comparative literature from Cornell University with concentrations in African, Caribbean and African-American literature in English, French and Spanish. Her first book, Africa in Stereo: Modernism, Music and Pan-African Solidarity (Oxford UP, 2014) traces Ghanaian, Senegalese and South African responses to African American music in print and film.
She is currently at work on two new book projects. The first, Classic Black: Art Songs of the Black Atlantic analyzes the literary commentary that composers of color have performed through setting poetry to music. A brief article from this project appears in the inaugural issue of J19: The Journal of Nineteenth Century Americanists (Spring 2013). The second project, Cassava Westerns: Gender, Empire and Black Reimagings of the American West examines the way writers, filmmakers and musicians of Africa and the Black Diaspora have critically engaged with tropes and mythologies of the U.S. West. The project ranges over texts from Jamaica, Martinique, the U.S., Guinea, Mali, Botswana, Senegal and France.
Her work has appeared in: J19: Journal of Nineteenth Century Americanists, Journal of Commonwealth and Post- colonial Studies, Safundi, Comparative Literature Studies, and several other publications. Her poetry has appeared in on Poetry International’s website, Bitter Oleander, Runes Review, InTensions and the Center for Book Arts Broadside Poetry Series, and her chapbook “Carnaval” is forthcoming in Seven New Generation African Poets: A chapbook boxed set.
Originally from Zimbabwe, Dr. Jaji has conducted fieldwork throughout Southern and West Africa, with generous support from the TIAA-CREF Ruth Sims Hamilton Fellowship, and has been a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, a Society for the Humanities (Cornell) Mellon Graduate Fellow, and a Penn Humanities Forum Junior Faculty Fellow. During the 2012-13 year she was the Mary I. Bunting Institute Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. Her primary research interests continue to be transnational black cultural relations and exchanges, the relationship between music and literature, theorizations of listening, and Africana expressions of feminism. On occasion she revisits a former self as an Oberlin-trained pianist; however, her primary commitment is to literary studies.
Robert Mugge is recognized as one of the foremost music documentarians in cinema today. In more than 30 films to his credit, he treats music as a metaphor for the human spirit, and a “leaping-off place for discussions of social issues, cultural issues, political issues, even religious issues.” Mugge recently held the Edmund F. and Virginia B. Ball Chair in Telecommunications at Ball State University. Previously, he served as Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s filmmaker in residence, documenting the state’s history and culture.
A Chicago native, Mugge great up in Silver Spring, MD and was influenced by family ties to the culture of the Deep South, as well as a family commitment to civil rights advocacy. After graduating from the University of Maryland- Baltimore County, he began making films: a documentary about an Appalachian mining town, and another about Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo. His first music movie, George Crumb: Voice of The Whale (1976), was a portrait of a contemporary avant-garde composer. His extensive list of subjects ranges from biographies of famous artists (Sun Ra, Sonny Rollins, Al Green, Gil Scott- Heron and more) to chronicles of musical cultures at key points in their evolution. The latter such films include 1991’s Deep Blues, featuring legendary Mississippi Blues artists, as well as 2003’s The Last of the Mississippi Jukes.
Known for his extended musical segments, powerful interviews and artful weaving of history, musicology and human interest, Mugge has given the American public authentic portraits of our nation’s roots music. His 2000 film Rhythm ’N’ Bayous: A Road Map to Louisiana Music highlighted the breadth of genres and talents in Louisiana. He was drawn back to Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, and his recent project, New Orleans Music in Exile, which profiled many artists featured in Rhythm ‘N’ Bayous and True Believers, Mugge’s film about Rounder Records, tells an important story of a musical community in transition – at the time Mugge made the film, the city’s survival as a music center was in jeopardy. Mugge’s honors include Lifetime Achievment Awards from the Cinema on the Bayou Film Festival and the Santa Fe Film Festival. His film Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise was named as one of the 50 Greatest Music Films Ever by Time Out London, and Deep Blues was named an essential Southern Documentary by the Oxford American and Rolling Stone called it one of the Top 25 Music DVDs of all time.
Visit Robert’s web site here.
Allons Danser has been the convener Philadelphia’s Cajun, Creole and Zydeco dance community for nearly 25 years. Kathleen Pearle and John Cameron, fans of Louisiana music who moved from that state to Pennsylvania, started organizing Cajun and Zydeco dances in the Philadelphia area in 1989. For many years the organization’s leaders brought Zydeco bands to Philadelphia and shared their love of dancing with new members. Effective Sept. 11, 2012, the organization became part of PATMAD (Philadelphia Area Traditional Music and Dance), a member-operated, non-profit group that supports and promotes music and dancing in our area. The new organization grew out of a gathering of 29 dancers who attended a community meeting at the TK Club on June 14, 2012. The group selected a committee to organize the transition and to generate support from over 100 members.
Over the years, Allons Danser has presented several leading Zydeco bands, including CJ Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band, Geno Delafose & French, Leroy Thomas & The Zydeco Roadrunners, Nathan Williams & the Zydeco Cha Chas, Roy Carrier & The Night Rockers, Zydeco-A-Go-Go, and many more. Group members travel to Zydeco festivals up and down the East Coast, and welcome fellow dancers and novices from far and wide to their dances.
Visit Allons Danser here.
African American Museum in Philadelphia
< Founded in 1976 in celebration of the nation’s Bicentennial, the African American Museum in Philadelphia (AAMP) is the first institution funded and built by a major municipality to preserve, interpret and exhibit the heritage of African Americans. Throughout its evolution, the Museum has objectively interpreted and presented the achievements and aspirations of African Americans from pre-colonial times to the current day. In 2009, the Museum opened a renovated anchor exhibit, Audacious Freedom, which re-counts the stories of and contributions made by people of African descent in Philadelphia. The Museum owns significant sound and photographic holdings including the complete archives of Jack T. Franklin, Pearl Bailey’s personal photographs and recordings, and Negro League photographs from the Cash/Thompson Collection. To date AAMP’s sound and photographic collections have been largely inaccessible to the public, but the Museum has begun efforts to digitize them. A vibrant roster of educational outreach and public programs for families and adult learners completes the AAMP’s offerings to the community.
Visit AAMP here.
Philadelphia Folksong Society
The Philadelphia Folksong Society (PFS) was founded in 1957 by a small group of folk artists and enthusiasts. Since its inception has offered community engagement and musical educational programs throughout Greater Philadelphia and the nation. These programs detail the evolution of folk music and its impact on culture while providing enjoyment to thousands of people of all ages. At the same time, The Philadelphia Folksong Society is committed to the preservation of a vast variety of musical styles and historical perspectives. PFS has acquired international recognition and local acclaim primarily through The Philadelphia Folk Festival. The Festival celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2011, making it the longest continuously-running festival of its kind in North America. The Society also presents Fall Fling, Spring Thing, and Cabin Fever Festival. PFS’s seasonal programming includes workshops, community service programs, concerts, “PFS Presents…”, Sings, and the Odyssey of American Music. These efforts serve a diverse range of community members, volunteers, artists, students, partner organizations, and PFS members. A network of thousands of dedicated volunteers allows PFS to execute these programs. PFS has been recognized with numerous accolades, including the PA Festivals Association Award, Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce’s Excellence in Arts Management Award, and the Philadelphia Music Alliance Institutional Award.
Visit PFS here.
Rounder Records was formed in 1970 in Cambridge, Massacheusetts by Ken Irwin, Bill Nowlin and Marian Leighton-Levy. They are one of the world’s premiere independent record labels with a diverse catalogue of music representing numerous genres of music including folk, soul, bluegrass, zydeco, blues, singer-songwriter, and world. Currently based in Nashville, Rounder has been home to many significant artists including Alison Krauss and Union Station, Buckwheat Zydeco, Marcia Ball, NRQB, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Del McCoury, Mississippi John Hurt, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Michael Doucet, Cheryl Wheeler, Jonathan Richman and many more.
Visit Rounder Records here.