Arkansas Roots Music Festival returns, honors tradition of Delta music

(Source: KAIT-TV)
(Source: KAIT-TV)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The annual Arkansas Roots Festival took place on Saturday at the City, Water and Light Park in Jonesboro.

KASU Station Manager Mike Doyle said this is always the last event of the Delta Symposium and named for a program that airs on the station.

"This is a gathering," Doyle said. "Of scholars and of people who love the Delta and its many cultures and folk traditions. So, this concert celebrates the roots of Delta music. We call it the Arkansas Roots Festival because of the radio program, 'Arkansas Roots' which is on the radio noon hour Monday through Saturday on KASU radio."

Doyle said the event has grown over the years.

Saturday's festival consisted of performers both from home and visiting the area.

"We have groups from Memphis," Doyle said. "Groups from Mississippi, Minneapolis, St. Paul and even New York City today. Along with local groups like the Spencer Brothers. They've been in Paragould, their family has, since the Civil War. They're singing old-time country and western songs. We close with the Arkansas Brothers with their own brand of blues and original songs. In between, there's all kinds of music."

Jonesboro resident Chuck Turner has been coming to the festival for years.

"I just like music out in the park," Turner said. "I've gone to different things in the Jonesboro area for several years. I like it when people come out and visit. The event is very relaxed and enjoyable. It's just a good time to sit out and visit and see what's going on."

Doyle said this music festival not only exposes younger generations to an era of music they might otherwise be unfamiliar with, but it brings people together.

"These are many of our Ph.D scholars who have researched this music," Doyle said. "But perform it really well. Over the years, many of them turn out. And it's sort of a celebration and intermingling of scholarship and research and the community and entertainment. What brings us together? It's always the music. And we live in an area of the country that's really the fertile crescent, the cradle of American popular music. In the South, there are 10 to 15 different genres of music from here. If you took the South and its contributions to music out, there wouldn't be much left."

Turner said he looks forward to the event each year.

"There's a variety of music, you know," Turner said. "I think there's a lot of people in the community that would enjoy this and it's a real good thing that's going on."

The festival took place from noon to 5 p.m.

For more information about KASU Radio and the Arkansas Roots Music Festival, click here.

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