Martha Redbone to perform 'Bone Hill: the Concert' tonight

by Victor Wu | 9/30/16 12:00am


Martha Redbone has African-American, Cherokee and Appalachian heritage.

by Craig Bailey and Craig Bailey / The Dartmouth

 “How sweet I roam’d from field to field and tasted all the summer’s pride,” Independent Music Award winner Martha Redbone croons in her third studio album “The Garden of Love.” The album sets the words of 19th-century poet William Blake to Appalachian folk music. It’s an odd combination, but somehow it works. Her album sounds contemporary and modern yet nostalgic. Of course, Redbone is not foreign to combining different cultures, time periods and places — she grew up in the Appalachians and has African-American, Cherokee and European ancestry.

Tonight, she will perform “Bone Hill: the Concert,” written by herself, Aaron Whitby and Roberta Uno, at the Hopkins Center. The concert describes a woman’s journey to her homeland in Black Mountain as she reunites and reclaims her roots ­­— a story inspired by her own Appalachian upbringing.

“No one really knows much about Appalachia except for that there is coal mining,” Redbone said. “You don’t hear about families of people of color or multiracial ones. In fact, [Appalachia] is a melting pot of different cultures of people who came for coal mining.”

Redbone said that language, and particularly the fusion of written language and song, allows her to explore her roots.

“My music has been affected geographically as well as culturally. When I was a kid there was just one pop radio station. So we played our own music,” she said. “We played everything — country music, rock music, R&B music, that one pop radio station and on Sundays we would play gospel music.”

Redbone said that she has always known that music was her calling.

“Music is everywhere. It’s something that’s a part of everyone’s life. Having a career as an artist in any of the arts is something you feel you have to do,” she said. “It’s not so much earning a living from it, but working on a craft that keeps calling you.”

Yesterday, Redbone visited two classes on campus and gave a reading in a women, gender and sexualities studies course called “Sex, Gender and Society” about race and gender.

Professor Francine A’Ness, who teaches the course, said that the Hop match class syllabi with visiting artists, and Redbone’s art ties in perfectly with the course’s theme of intersectional feminism.

Gustavo Silva ’20, a student in the class, found Redbone’s visit to be an elucidating experience that excited him for the show.

Redbone hopes that her show will be an opportunity for Dartmouth students to glean new knowledge about people from different places and cultures.

“The Bone Hill concert is a reading. It’s about a family life in the mountains,” she said. “I hope it will be a kind of history lesson.”

Following her performance at 8 p.m. in Spaulding Auditorium, Redbone will hold a post-performance discussion. Tickets, available on the Hopkins Center website, are $17 for Dartmouth students and $25 for community members.