Rising Appalachia

By Derek Halsey (reporter@mountaintimes.com)

Article Published: Jun. 6, 2013 | Modified: Jun. 23, 2013
Rising Appalachia

On June 21 and 22, the first-ever Siren Mountain Jam will celebrate the power and talent of women in music and art.

Taking place at the High Country Fairgrounds in Boone, the two-day event will feature everything from an artisan village to a stage filled with a diverse lineup of female musicians.

One of the bands to play at the Siren Mountain Jam is Rising Appalachia. Hailing from Georgia and now living outside of Asheville, the group is fronted by sisters Chloe Smith and Leah Song, who mix the roots music of their youth with percussive world music and modern beats.

Smith and Song grew up in a creative household, with a father who is an artist and a mother who plays everything from jazz piano to fiddle and banjo. The sisters sang at an early age before learning to play the fiddle, banjo and a myriad of percussion instruments.

What strongly influences their approach to music is their time wandering the world, where they met people from all walks of life and soaked up the various cultures.

“Leah and I were both travelers before we were performers,” Smith said. “And, through music, it’s given us a chance to explore and go to new places in the world, learning languages and learning songs and sharing and adventuring. But we also have something that we can offer, so we get invited to other countries now and are hosted by the people who live there. It’s a much more tapped-in and unique way to see a country. We’re able to share and learn music from people, and we get to share our traditions, as well, so it’s a really sweet and grounded way to travel.”

The sisters tend to play their old-time Appalachian tunes off-stage these days, saving those jams for hanging out around the campfire. But they do bring their roots music into the mix on their albums and in concert by combining it with other genres. That’s where their love of percussion comes in.

“That was super early,” Smith said, when asked about the introduction of percussion into their sound. “That stems from our upbringing and our youth in hip-hop, because we’ve always loved beats and rhythms and the bass and the low end of music. When we first started playing banjo and singing, we’d bring in djembe (drum) players and beat boxers or anyone we could find to sort of add that lower pulse to it.

“Leah has worked with a number of percussionists that play Afro-Cuban rhythms. We’re working on an electronic project right now with electronic beats that someone made, and it’s really nice, because you can have the melodies, as well as sounds, for us who like the lower chakras.”

Rising Appalachia is looking forward to bringing its traveling troupe of musicians to the inaugural Siren Mountain Jam.

“We’ve never played at an all-women’s music festival, although we have done a lot of all-women house and herbal gatherings, and those have been super powerful and amazing,” Smith said. “It will be fun to be there and be a part of an inaugural event and support the vision... Just the word ‘siren,’ in and of itself, is one that we like to claim when we can. It’s a very poetic word. There are all sorts of words for women singers throughout history — diva and so on. But ‘siren’ is the most majestic and magical to me.

“As soon as they said, ‘Will you play the Siren festival,’ we said, ‘Oh yeah.’ Even just the name of it told us that it was something that we wanted to be a part of. I’m excited to see what they’ve conjured up.”

For more information on Rising Appalachia, visit http://www.risingappalachia.com. For more on the Siren Mountain Jam, including tickets, visit http://www.sirenmountainjam.com.

Additional Images

Rising Appalachia, featuring sisters Chloe Smith and Leah Song, will perform at the inaugural Siren Mountain Jam, to be held June 21 to 22 at the High Country Fairgrounds in Boone.
Photos submitted

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