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Fife and drum music probably isn’t the first kind of music that comes to mind when you think of music inĀ Mississippi, but until recently it was regularly heard there.

Field hands socialised to the sound of the cane-carved fife leading a troop of drummers at family gatherings and “picnics” which went on late into the night.

Fife and drum music arrived in America’s deep south with military marching bands as early as the 17th Century, and was adopted into the blues traditions of the black slaves.

But the music has slowly disappeared.

Sharde Thomas is 24 and is thought to be the last of the region’s fife players. She was taught by her grandfather, the most famous name in fife and drum blues – Othar Turner.

Video journalist: Patrick Bodenham. Producer: Joshua Bullock

Archive footage from the Alan Lomax Collection at the Folklife Centre, Library of Congress. Used courtesy of the Association for Cultural Equity.


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