Program Notes for Martha Redbone Roots Proejct by Aimée M. Petrin

Dear Friends,

Thank you for joining us this evening. You are in for a special performance in a venue new for Ovations, First Parish Church, chosen for its sense of history and its practice of being welcoming to all.

Martha Redbone – award-winning vocalist, composer, songwriter, storyteller – is an artist for the millennium. One that is able to simultaneously look forward and backward without dizzying effect. In fact, her music, her work, her very presence is incredibly grounding.

Born in NYC and raised in Kentucky coal country, Redbone draws from these urban and rural worlds as well as a rich familial background that includes African-American, Cherokee, Shawnee and Choctaw ancestors.

What I find particularly captivating about Redbone is that she is both a pioneer charting new ground – multi-inspiration roots music with a heavy does of P-funk – and an archivist plumbing the depths of cultural histories that honor the homelands, stories and music of her elders. This wholly unique sound leaves critics defaulting to cliched metaphors such as “musical melting pot,” “colorful tapestry,” and “tasty gumbo.” What her music is, however, is pure Redbone, a distillation of her heart, soul, mind and voice that defies pat description or labels.

Also a generous educator, Redbone regularly teaches on traditional Southeastern tribal music as an expression of her deep commitment to preserving and sharing her Native American cultural heritage. As part of her time in Maine, Redbone is spending time visiting with Portland students and their teachers, sharing her music, experiences, stories and perspective.

It is these many facets – her musicianship and singular style, the identities she represents as a Black Indigenous woman and mother, her impact as a social activist and educator – that are the reasons Ovations is honored to share the music of Martha Redbone with Maine audiences.

We hope you stay for the post conversation with Maine’s own master musician Samuel James, who, like Redbone, draws on the richness of his ancestry to create music that is fully forward looking.


Aimée M. Petrin
Executive & Artistic Director