Americana music has a voice.
Folk music IS a voice.
Bluegrass music seems content to exist in a self-created climate of politeness and keeping your head low.
It is rare for bluegrass music artists to share political or societal viewpoints through their craft.
And this is what makes Si Kahn an anomaly in our world. He is an artist/composer who travels an artistic path that most of his bluegrass industry colleagues wouldn’t choose to tread.
“All artists have points of view. There are those that we express and those we don’t express. If an artist is silent on an issue of their time, then that itself is a statement.” – Si Kahn
The world is faced with critical issues. Our local communities have their own challenges. And to bring it in even tighter, we are dealing with unsettling circumstances in our own bluegrass music industry.
Yet, as professional bluegrass songwriter/artists, we seem to steer clear of using our music to impart personal points of view – controversial or not. We don’t protest against hate and intolerance. We don’t write about our frustration with economic and political despairs. We rarely discuss or pen songs that offer our ideas on solutions to problems or celebrate when the world has been made better.
Unless it is Gospel and giving praise to the Almighty – or the safe bet of celebrating our military veterans – then we just don’t seem to be keen on owning our truths through our music.
Is it cultural?
Is it some sort of proper manners?
Is it lack of interest?
Is it fear of bullying or negative repercussions?
Or… is it a show of assent?
“I want to be part of a system where we say ‘we need to think about that, we need to talk about that, we need to figure this out together, we need to act in community. And that, I think, is the role of artists… to help stimulate and enhance that conversation.” – Si Kahn
We now live in a time where it is acceptable for bluegrass musical artists/composers to be more like our colleague Si Kahn. It is safe to raise our head and discuss, write and sing about critical issues that are important to us and to our communities, both small and large. This adjustment in artistry doesn’t widen the bluegrass music tent – instead it opens a flap that allows important thoughts and discussions to flow freely.
My Artist2Artist with Lisa Jacobi radio interview with Si Kahn, took place at the most recent World of Bluegrass in the stunning, sunlit atrium of the Raleigh, North Carolina Convention Center. Our conversation is a non-directed, heartfelt, intimate discussion. The interview includes some of Si’s beautiful music, including his bluegrass music with The Looping Brothers. The songs are a product of his commitment to thoughtful and purposeful writing and musicianship.
Right off the top you’ll hear the question that Si’s father posed to his son that would ultimately change Si’s perspective of the world and the musical contribution that he makes to it.
Then we quickly transition to discussing the need for independent, non-commercial radio stations and their hardworking and dedicated programmers and hosts. These industry professionals (most of them volunteers) spend endless hours searching out well written music that creates an intelligent connection-point between artist/composer and listener. It’s a connection point that is made even stronger when a musical artist owns their truth.
Scroll back up and give it a listen, and as always, thank you for reading, and for listening, and for sharing your comments and thoughts.