Weekend Song: Napolian Strickland
Of all the traditional styles of Blues music being played today, perhaps the fife and drum bands of Northern Mississippi just may have the deepest roots. The percussive sounds are almost a direct link back to the Western Coast of Africa, where slave traders took their heaviest toll; a land where stringed gourds, woodwind instruments and drums played a major role within the communities, and the memories continued with the poor souls being brought to a new land. The fife and drum bands thrived in the Hill Country of Mississippi for many years, with standout performers such as Sid Hemphill and his granddaughter, Jesse Mae, Ed Young and Othar Turner. But, as the practitioners of this music have been passing on, the tradition appears to be dying.
Another key member of the fife and drum family departed this world on July 21, 2001, as Napolian Strickland died following a stroke. Strickland was arguably the premier fife player of the genre, having appeared at numerous festivals, on several recorded compilations and on film in the documentary, “The Land Where The Blues Began”.