March 4, 2002 - African-American Museum

From Blind Lemon Jefferson to Master P, it's history with a beat. Singer Samirah Evans belts out an ancient blues melody. "Somebody play the blues!" she hollers as the band goes into a blues riff.

In the stands of the Gonzales Middle School gym kids from Assumption and Ascension Parishes are getting a lesson in history, and they're being taught through a unique perspective. "We're going to be talking about the blues," says Fayard Lindsey. "Oftentimes the blues is called a folk music because it tells the stories of regular everyday people."

The drummer breaks into a centuries old West African rhythm. The foundation of the blues can be found in the musical traditions of Africa. Throughout the continent the drum is very important. It's a lesson that begins before the first slave ship crosses the Atlantic, and it continues through the rap and hip-hop of today.

The River Road African-American Museum sponsored this visit by The International House of Blues Foundation Schoolhouse Band. Samirah Evans is by now singing an old spiritual, as Karen Boussy of the House of Blues explains, "The songs brought them together, gave them a sense of hope, strength and spirit. The work songs and field hollers eased the pain of the hard manual labor that they faced."

From slavery through civil rights, the program is entitled "A Way Out of No Way." It's history with a blues beat.