Rhiannon Giddens

Singer, multi-instrumentalist, composer, and artistic director of Silkroad
Portrait of a woman.

Photo by Ebru Yildiz

Transcript available soon.

In July, singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Rhiannon Giddens was named as the new artistic director of Silkroad.  A classically-trained singer, MacArthur Fellow, banjo and fiddle-player and composer, Rhiannon excavates the past to bring forgotten stories and music forward. Giddens is co-founder of the Grammy-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops, which insisted reclaiming  a central and historically-accurate place for black musicians in old-time music. She then went on to create solo albums of haunting beauty and power born of African-American struggles past and present. Giddens is, first and foremost, an artist determined to be of service and put her wide knowledge of different musical traditions to good use. She found a good match with Silkroad. Begun by Yo-Yo Ma in 2000, Silkroad brings musicians together from around the globe—not just to make music but to use art to have a positive impact across borders.  In this podcast, Rhiannon talks about the importance of fiddler National Heritage Fellow Joe Thompson to her musical lineage, her drive to be of service, her current projects (she just wrote an opera!), the centrality of history in her music, and her plan to have Silkroad explore the musical worlds within the US.

As we celebrate Women’s History Month this March, the National Endowment for the Arts will shine the light on some phenomenal women, past and present, through the agency’s blog, podcast, and social media channels. While the stats may continue to be disappointing in terms of equity, we believe that as we work to address those disparities it’s also important to celebrate the impact women have made and continue to make in the arts. From Phillis Wheatley, an enslaved woman who was also one of the best-known poets in pre-19th-century America to dancer and choreographer Martha Graham, whose work lives on not only through her dancers but through the company’s venture into mixing dance with technology, we’re celebrating women who, to borrow from Maya Angelou’s famous poem “Phenomenal Woman” have fire in their eyes and joy in their feet.