A couple of months ago, we launched MontgomeryTraditions.Org: a multimedia experience where you can hear the stories of Montgomery County’s diverse folk and traditional artists. I chatted with John Murph, our Montgomery Traditions Producer, about what’s coming down the pipe:
MP: When the site launched, we saw a very diverse collection of stories — diverse both in nationality and in artistic discipline. What kinds of stories can we expect this time around?
JM: We have several exciting new stories in the latest stages of production: Cheick Hamala Diabate, a world-renowned multi-instrumentalist from Mali; Lilo Gonzalez, an award-winning guitarist, singer and songwriter from El Salvador; Jay Summerour, a legendary blues harmonica player from Montgomery County; and C.B. Heinemann, who performs traditional Irish music weekly at McGinty’s Public House in Silver Spring.
MP: What’s the most exciting part of collecting these stories?
JM: For me, the most exciting things include discovering the riches of your own backyard. Earlier we did one on the bluegrass guitarist Bob Perilla; this time we did one on blues harmonica player, Jay Summerour. Both genres oftentimes get overlooked in America, because they haven’t obtained the national certification of being “high art” like jazz has, nor have they retained omnipresent popularity of today’s hip-hop and pop. Sometimes we casually and very ignorantly look down at blues and bluegrass as unsophisticated, old, poor people music with very little regard how difficult it is to perform these genres, without any historical perspective or clue that these genres still thrive. So those stories are always revealing. Then there are the stories about some artists who come from other places around the world, who arrive in U.S. for better opportunities yet they haven’t forsaken the folkloric artistry and traditions of their homelands. Some of these artists come from some very harrowing, war torn countries or places, where the government or social culture can be very restrictive in terms of creative and personal expression. In each story, I was able to relate to various parts of each artists’ journey. In the end, it’s a glimpse of what makes Montgomery County so vibrant and unique.
MP: Putting together all this content is a serious undertaking. Who do you have working with you to produce it all?
JM: Well, I have two very talented, very passionate and driven interns: Jack Slattery and Violet Cavicchi. In fact, it was Jack who took the initiative to interview C.B. Heinemann. Jack visited some of his relatives in Ireland earlier this summer and wanted to show how traditional Irish music thrives in Montgomery County. Violet studies anthropology with a heavy interest in Latin American culture. She translated the Lilo Gonzalez interview from Spanish to English. Those interns brought an understanding and professional skills that enabled us to bring these stories to Montgomery Traditions website.
MP: What is your ultimate hope in sharing these stories?
JM: Ultimately, I want people to be inspired to explore Montgomery County’s multicultural artistic scene. There’s also a diplomatic mission. The more and more we learn about people of different cultures and countries, the more unnecessary divisive walls are torn down. I think one of greatest gifts of Montgomery County is its diversity; we can easily use that to our advantage to promote community unity.
Visit MontgomeryTraditions.Org to hear stories from Montgomery County’s folk and traditional artists.