Repatriation in Como, Mississippi

Folk and blues singer Jessie Mae Hemphill (Photo by Steve Gardner)

Folk and blues singer Jessie Mae Hemphill (Photo by Steve Gardner)

(COMO, MISSISSIPPI) – Como will host a “Hill Country Blues Celebration” Friday, February 3, to mark the “Repatriation of Como, Mississippi Recordings, Photographs and Videos from the Alan Lomax Collection” and the loan of the Hill Country Blues Photography Collection from the Jessie Mae Hemphill (JMH) Foundation to the Emily Jones Pointer Library.

The event from 4 to 6 p.m. at the library on Como’s Main Street will include performances by Sharde Thomas and the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band, The Como Mamas and Glen Faulkner, said Como librarian Alice Pierotti who is helping plan and coordinate activities.

“This is about children’s education,” Pierotti said. “I want the kids to understand and be proud of their musicial heritage. The celebration day’s performers reflect that heritage: Sharde Thomas is the granddaughter of Otha Turner who founded the Rising Star band. The Como Mamas — Ester Wilbourn, Della Wright and Angela Taylor — are the granddaughters of Miles Pratcher, a musician who was part of the early 20th century hill blues genre, Pierotti said. Glen Faulkner is recognized for his incorporation of the diddley bow, a single-string child’s instrument brought from Africa, into the hill country blues sound.

Events leading into Friday’s celebration include diddley bow making for children at the library after school on Wednesday and Thursday. The children will play their newly-made instruments at the celebration on Friday, Pierotti said.

Hosts will include the Town of Como, the Como Civic Club and the Como Homemaker’s Guild, Pierotti said. “It will give us another chance to celebrate extraordinary Panola countians and their accomplishments,” the librarian said, “… another chance to be delighted by regional hill country music.”

Alan Lomax was a folklorist and musicologist who spent his lifetime collecting and celebrating music and musicians around the world, recording their songs, making photographs and films. His work is interwoven with the Library of Congress and the Archive of American Folk Song. During the 1950s and again in the 1970s, attracted by the lure of north Mississippi’s unique Hill Country Blues, Lomax visited the Como area. The repatriation will place Lomax’s recordings, photographs and film that captured this unique regional offshoot of the Delta Blues in the town’s library.

Likewise, photographs from the Hill Country Blues collection will be placed in the Como library. The JMH Foundation is a nonprofit organization created to focus public attention and help preserve the hill country blues music indigenous to North Mississippi, its web site states.

Representing the Lomax Foundation will be John Lomax III, nephew of Alan Lomax, a Nashville-based journalist and music exporter. Representing the Jessie Mae Hemphill Foundation will be its founder and president, Olga Wilhelmine, blues performer, music historian and member of the Blues Foundation’s board of directors.

Read more on the Association for Cultural Equality Website

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