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Angela Scharfenberger
African American Arts Institute

George Vlahakis
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2004

African American Arts Institute to hold reception for Lotus Fest artists Jamesie and the All-Stars

Jamesie and the All-Stars

Print-Quality Photo

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A reception for Jamesie and the All-Stars will be held on Sept. 19 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at Indiana University Bloomington' s Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center located at 275 N. Jordan Ave. Jamesie and the All-Stars, musicians from the Virgin Islands, will perform at that weekend's Lotus World Music and Arts Festival.

At the event, which is sponsored by the IU Office of the Vice President for Student Development and Diversity, the artists will interact with students who participate in IU African American Arts Institute ensembles. Last year, a similar event was held with the Holmes Brothers.

"The exchange between the students and the artists is our main goal for this gathering," said Charles Sykes, director of the African American Arts Institute. "Students will have exposure to the rich tradition of Caribbean music with Jamesie and his band."

Jamesie -- known as the "King of Scratch Music " -- and the All-Stars perform scratch band music, a grassroots form that is the official music of the Virgin Islands. The form developed in the days of slavery, and its name is derived from homemade instruments that can be "scratched up." The instrumentation has evolved over time, yet the storytelling tradition has remained intact.

Scratch music lyrics describe the tribulations of life on a small island, and like its musical cousin reggae, the music is catchy, magnetic and highly danceable.

Jamesie, born in St. Croix in 1929, has been performing for more than 50 years. A documentary team is following him on his current U.S. tour, which includes his stop in Bloomington, and will produce a film to honor him and the music he has unflaggingly helped to preserve. Documentary producer Andrea Leland observed, "Jamesie has developed a unique style of playing and performing for which he has become widely known."

During the reception, students in the ensembles will give brief performances, and Jamesie and the All-Stars will answer questions about scratch music and similarities between different musical traditions in the African diaspora.

The IU African American Arts Institute -- which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year -- has three ensembles. The African American Choral Ensemble, the African American Dance Company, and the IU Soul Revue all are composed of talented IU students selected every year from a very competitive pool. Specializing in African American performance traditions, the institute is unique among collegiate performing arts programs in the United States. Its ensembles are offered as courses through the IU Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies.