Durham County

Giddens helped rewrite music history. Now she has a Genius Grant.

Rhiannon Giddens has received a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant. In this August photo, Giddens performs in concert at the N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh.
Rhiannon Giddens has received a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant. In this August photo, Giddens performs in concert at the N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh. ssharpe@newsobserver.com

Multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Rhiannon Giddens is one of 24 recipients of The MacArthur Foundation’s 2017 Genius Grants.

The MacArthur Fellowship grant is a “no strings attached” award, according to the MacArthur Foundation website. Each fellowship comes with a stipend of $625,000 to the recipient, paid out in equal quarterly installments over five years.

The MacArthur grant notice lauded Giddens, a North Carolina musician, for “enriching our understanding of American music by reclaiming African American contributions to folk and country genres and revealing affinities between a range of musical traditions, from gospel and Celtic to jazz and R&B.”

The announcement continued: “In her recordings and live performances, Giddens has mined the history of the African American string band tradition, introducing new audiences to the black banjoists and fiddlers whose influences have been left out of popular narratives of the lineage of folk and country music.”

Giddens, who now lives in Greensboro, was a founder of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, whose recordings include “Genuine Negro Jig,” “Leaving Eden” and “Heritage.” As a soloist, Giddens has released “Tomorrow is My Turn” and “Freedom Highway.” Giddens also was one of the musicians who played on “The New Basement Tapes,” which featured new music composed for Bob Dylan lyrics written in the late 1960s during his “Basement Tapes” period.

Giddens received a bachelor’s degree in music in 2000 from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. She has performed locally as well as nationally at various festivals and venues, among them Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and the White House.

Cliff Bellamy: 919-419-6744, @CliffBellamy1

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