The sixth annual International Conference on the Blues brings both legendary entertainment and academics to Delta State University on Friday, Oct. 4, including a celebration of the gospel roots of the blues with The Como Mamas and visiting scholars from as far away as Norway to China, Chicago to California, as well as wide-ranging interactive workshops and panels for casual blues enthusiasts.
The conference, which is still open for registration, brings together blues scholars, historians, and fans from all over the United States in a place known as the center of Delta blues music and history.
Among the highlights of this year’s blues conference include:
- A free concert at the Courthouse with The Como Mamas on Friday at 7 p.m.
- A lunchtime author’s panel by University Press of Mississippi authors Tammy Turner (Dick Waterman: A Life in Blues) and DSU’s Will Jacks ( Po’ Monkey’s: Portrait of a Juke Joint)
- A presentation by Scott Barretta and Greenwood acoustic country bluesman Ben Wiley Payton about Mississippi Delta-regional gospel and blues connections to Alan Lomax and the Association for Cultural Equity
- Presentations on psychedelic music and the blues; the blues as a form of protest behind the Iron Curtain in East Germany; the Songhoy Blues band in modern-day Mali; blues connections in contemporary Chinese instrumental music; an interactive workshop demonstrating how African American vocal characteristics and the shuffle beat influence the blues; and the legacies of Memphis Minnie, Nina Simone, and West Tennessee’s role in blues history
- A “Blues in the Round” event on Friday night sponsored by Visit Mississippi and hosted by David Dunavent of Clarksdale’s Evol Love
- A pre-conference show on Thursday night, Oct. 3 at the Bologna Performing Arts Center featuring Grammy Award winners and chart-toppers Kool & the Gang (“Celebration,” “Cherish,” and “Jungle Boogie”)
Visit here for a complete schedule of events, or here for a complete list of presenters.
The sixth annual conference is a combined effort by the staff of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning, the Delta Music Institute (DMI), and the husband-and-wife team of Shelley Collins and Don Allan Mitchell, both DSU faculty members. This year’s conference is made possible by funding from the Chisholm Foundation, Entergy, and Visit Mississippi.
“This year’s conference promises to build on the vision established for the event when it began six years ago,” stated Collins, professor of music. “We could not ask for better partners than the good folks at the Delta Center and the DMI, and, in particular, the guidance of Delta Center Director Dr. Rolando Herts, Heather Miller of the DSU Grants Office, and the Delta Center’s Lee Aylward. There are too many people to thank, which is a good problem for us to have!”
Added Mitchell, “We have endeavored to establish a long-term, sustainable musicology conference not only on the blues but also the worldwide influence of a variety of African American musical traditions, and we especially want to foster the next generation of emerging scholars of the African American blues tradition,” said the associate professor of English. “Cleveland and Bolivar County pride themselves on hospitality, and we think that Delta State is the perfect place to host such scholarly dialogues.”