Influence of African-American music focus of upcoming show

By Page H. Gifford

American music is a unique blend of many sounds derived from various cultures; from the country fiddler to the classically trained violinist, from the haunting harmony of field slaves singing a capella to the cowboy playing a guitar or harmonica around the campfire. It is what makes American music extraordinary. All these musical experiences have contributed to American music throughout the centuries since colonial times.

On Saturday, Feb.  25, at 7 p.m. at Carysbrook Performing Arts Center, Horace Scruggs will present a musical program titled In the Mix, focusing on the elements that give African-American music its distinct sound.

“These elements are mixed together to create music that we know and love. I will be pulling the music apart and then reassembling it to show the common themes and building blocks of African-American music,” said Scruggs.

Scruggs explained the format will be similar to his Odyssey of Soul music programs where he gave a historical perspective, but this program will explore a variety of music and “elements of improvisation playing a large role in the performance.” 

The elements of African-American music are key features that developed over time from chants and improvised instruments and evolved into ragtime and later blues, jazz, R&B, rock and roll, funk, and hip-hop. Many of the components were a hybrid of other cultures including African, European, and Native American. One example was enslaved people and their descendants adding fluidity and expression to their vocals as well as a highly developed and unique sense of rhythm to European hymns. This morphed into the present-day gospel. Not only was music an integral part of the enslaved and free Black’s religion, it also accompanied work and celebration.

Joining Scruggs on stage will be Travis Smith on keyboard and vocals, Wilbert Harris on bass, and Greg Brown on the drums. They will recreate the music that is familiar, highlighting its unparalleled style and influence.

“I’m hoping the program will be informational and entertaining. Above all it will be a great concert,” adds Scruggs.

For more information and tickets, visit

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