We're pleased to present the studio debut of "In the Morning," which updates the fife and drum tradition for a hip-hop world.
“In the Morning,” the new song by The Rising Stars Fife and Drum Band, finds a place for the Mississippi Hill Country tradition in post-Electric Daisy Carnival world.
African-American fife and drum bands date back to before 1900, and Como, Mississippi’s Othar Turner helped carry it through the 20th century. His granddaughter, Shardé Thomas, began playing with him when she was a child, and she has led the group since his death in 2003. “In the Morning” is the band’s first studio release, and it’s true to the tradition with its the reliance on handheld drums, and Thomas’ voice to say a lot while saying very little. She lets the song’s only two lines—“Gonna wake up in the morning / wash my face”—linger and gain meaning through repetition until the phrases and song strike a note of resilience.
The fife and drum tradition has been an acoustic, portable one, but Thomas updates that for this track. The core of “In the Morning” is traditional, but the song starts as a drum playing a pattern that pitch-shifts up, and after a cymbal splash, an electric piano plays chords that hang in almost dub-like suspension of reverb in a sonic landscape that brings to mind early house records. A high-pitched sound might be Thomas’ fife recorded with the needles pinned in the red, or it might just be feedback. The hybrid she achieves doesn’t fall neatly into any EDM sub-genre, but its sensibility is informed by a number of them including hip-hop, the fountain from which EDM flows. Late in the track, Othar Turner’s voice is sampled and layered in, but like all good ghosts, he’s impossible to understand.
Traditionalists will be concerned by “In the Morning,” but Thomas’ update retains much of the simple, elemental quality of fife and drum band music, and it picks up on the hypnotic quality of the traditional sounds and replicates it in a semi-electronic space.
Shardé Thomas and Rising Stars Fife and Drum Band will play Jazz Fest in New Orleans twice on Thursday—1:50 p.m. in the Blues Tent and 3:10 p.m. in the Cultural Exchange Pavilion—and once on Friday in the AARP Rhythmpourium (really!) at 1:15 p.m.
The song will be available for streaming and download on Friday from Normaltown Records.