9 episodes

US 90-the Gulf Coast Highway-is one of the major east-west roads in the Southern United States, knitting together communities large and small and letting music and culture flow freely from Houston to Jacksonville. ARTSEDGE highlights the art and artists of the Gulf Coast Highway in this series featuring Grupo Fantasma, Nanci Griffith, Beausoleil, the Blind Boys of Alabama and more.

Gulf Coast Highway ARTSEDGE: The Kennedy Center's Arts Education Network

    • Courses

US 90-the Gulf Coast Highway-is one of the major east-west roads in the Southern United States, knitting together communities large and small and letting music and culture flow freely from Houston to Jacksonville. ARTSEDGE highlights the art and artists of the Gulf Coast Highway in this series featuring Grupo Fantasma, Nanci Griffith, Beausoleil, the Blind Boys of Alabama and more.

    Border Music: Grupo Fantasma

    Border Music: Grupo Fantasma

    Along the Texas-Mexican border in the 19th century, Mexicans, Native Americans, and Anglo-Americans living in the region intermingled with European immigrants looking for new opportunities. The clash and fusion of multiple languages and traditions resulted in a distinct "Tejano" culture."

    Tejano music is influenced by Mexican storytelling ballads called corridos, accordion-based polkas of norteño music, Anglo-American fiddle music, mariachi bands, Colombian cumbia, and the lively brass section of small, local bands called orquestas—not to mention salsa, rock, jazz, blues, funk, and country.

    Border music also owes its sound to German immigrants who filled dance halls with waltzes, polkas, and the distinctive tones of the accordion. Narciso Martínez was one of the first and most influential accordion players in the border region due to his virtuosic, fast-paced playing. When he brought together the accordion with the bajo sexto (12-string bass guitar) in the 1930s, conjunto music was born.

    • 8 min
    Texas Troubadour: Nanci Griffith

    Texas Troubadour: Nanci Griffith

    Texas has a rich tradition of troubadours—singer-songwriters who write, compose, and sing original songs. Grounded in the folk music tradition, singer-songwriters are recognized for their meaningful lyrics about real-life subjects as varied as social justice and family, war and love. Fueled by a strong sense of Texan identity and tried-and-true imagination, Texas songwriters tend to have a keen sense of place, revealed in the visual details of their lyrics.

    Texas troubadours Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clarke ushered in the Texas singer-songwriter movement of the 1970s with poetic, emotional lyrics and music shaped by country, blues, folk, and tex-mex. Today's troubadours are also greatly influenced by Willie Nelson's outlaw country music, a grittier version of the popular country music that was coming out of Nashville at the time.

    Backed by a tradition of independent spirit and grounded in multicultural roots, Texas singer-songwriters continue to imbue classic musical genres with new experiences and sounds.

    • 7 min
    Texas Blues: Marcia Ball

    Texas Blues: Marcia Ball

    Texas blues originated in the early 1900s alongside the sweat and tears of Blacks working on oilfields, lumber camps, and ranches. After a day of back-breaking labor, workers could unwind in nearby bars or on their own porches and listen to blues musicians who spoke to their own experiences.

    The Texas sound is known for being more relaxed than other blues styles, with breathier vocals and a swinging feel. Bluesman Blind Lemon Jefferson put Texas on the blues map with his jazzy improvisation and percussive way of playing the guitar. Jefferson's technique of picking along a single string and hammering out repetitive figures in the lower register influenced generations of musicians.

    After World War II, blues went electric. With the advent of the electric guitar came increased volume and resonance—a sought-after sound among recording studios in northern U.S. cities. Although many musicians migrated north to join the booming recording industry, the blues still thrives in Texas today.

    • 6 min
    Zydeco: Geno Delafose

    Zydeco: Geno Delafose

    In 1920s rural Louisiana, ten cents granted admission to hours of rollicking music at a "La La" house party. La La party music—characterized by the use of accordions, fiddles, triangles, and washboards or rub-boards called frottoirs—formed the basis of zydeco. The French-speaking Creoles of southwest Louisiana added elements of blues and jazz to the party mix. The result was zydeco, a musical style dominated by the accordion, frottoir, and heavy syncopation (a rhythmic technique of shifting accents to weak beats).

    Accordion player and singer Clifton Chenier was credited with naming this musical genre. After a long history of hits like "Zydeco Sont pas Sale," Chenier was dubbed the "King of Zydeco."

    Zydeco is often linked with Cajun music, but it has a harder, faster sound and employs more electric instruments. In dance halls today, elements of soul, disco, rap, and reggae can be heard among the rhythms of the frottoir.

    • 7 min
    Brass Band: The Tremé Brass Band

    Brass Band: The Tremé Brass Band

    Follow behind a parade in New Orleans and you'll still be a part of the show. Whether a parade was organized for a celebration or funeral, honorees and others in the main procession would be followed by a "second line" of participants hoping to get closer to the rhythms of the brass bands. The term "second line" would come to be associated with brass band music and the fancy footwork that accompanies it.

    New Orleans has a long tradition of brass bands, dating back to the early 20th century. Consisting mostly of brass instruments like trumpets and trombones and percussion, brass bands played a blend of European military band music, African folk music, and jazz.

    The brass band tradition experienced a revival in the 1970s and 1980s when bands like the Rebirth Brass Band and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band laced traditional sounds with funk, hip hop, bebop, and R and B.

    • 8 min
    Cajun Music: Michael Doucet

    Cajun Music: Michael Doucet

    Louisiana-based Cajun music has roots in unaccompanied, narrative ballads brought by European settlers. Sung at weddings and funerals as well as informal parties, these ballads told stories of love and death, humor and nostalgia. Cajun songs, traditionally sung in French, fused narrative balladry, Irish and Anglo-American reels and jigs, and Black and Native American folk traditions.

    The earliest instrument that typified Cajun music was the fiddle. In dance halls and house parties called fais-do-dos, two fiddlers performed together-the lead playing melody, the other playing back-up. The powerful accordion sound soon joined the twin fiddles along with percussion inspired by Creole music.

    In the 1930s and 1940s, steel guitars, mandolins, and banjos entered the scene, bringing a country-western swing to Cajun music. (This strong country influence differentiates Cajun music from the closely aligned zydeco music.) The Cajun bands of today are incorporating electric guitars and amplified instruments, proving that the Cajun sound is continuing to evolve.

    • 8 min

Customer Reviews

Robin's IPhone ,

Yes, we'll done

This documents different styles of music and spends just enough time on it to make the listener want more. I found myself wondering what the music is like on Route 66 or along the eastern seaboard. This podcast is great

gilmb ,

Great background, done beautifully

There needs to be more of this the real thing.

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