Published on April 20th, 2023 | by Nature Humphries0
Sharde Thomas Brings The Evolution of Fife & Drum Music to The Powerhouse April 27
In a state where blues heritage runs deep, Sharde Thomas has managed to stay relevant in her legacy as the leader of The Rising Stars Fife & Drum Band. The granddaughter of Hill County Blues legend Otha Turner, Sharde has carried on the traditional fife music of her ancestors while continuing to evolve as an artist in her own right.
Fresh off a special tour of Africa as a participant for American Music Abroad, a “cultural diplomacy program that brings together American musicians with global audiences, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by American Voices,” Sharde has been working hard to hone her craft.
The Rising Stars had the opportunity to visit Senegal and Guinea-Bissau to participate in concerts, workshops, and educational outreach within the community. Describing the trip as a dream come true, Sharde said, “Getting to hear the local artists perform and play their instruments—and for some of the people, it was their first time hearing about the fife—was amazing to me … [Getting the] chance to play together there was definitely a highlight.”
Although I tried to get Sharde to tell me all about the trip (Senegal is on my own bucket list!), she kept tight-lipped and would only say that she has “something special coming out” related to the experience, so we will all have to stay tuned to find out more about The Rising Stars’ recent adventures abroad.
Last month, Sharde and The Rising Stars released a modern version of the classic “Sitting on Top of the World.” The modern take features G Love rapping along with the track while Sharde’s clear voice holds down the melody. It’s a whole new vibe for this well-known song and can be heard online wherever you like to stream music.
In addition to recording new tunes, Sharde has cooked up a fresh performance with The Rising Stars Presents: The Evolution of Fife and Drum Music, a scaled-down version of the band that features just Thomas on fife and vocals and Chris Mallory on bass drum.
“I just wanted to do something new and different, so it’s just keeping that authentic, traditional feel to it. Our first performance was in Florida last month. It’s kind of a laid-back type of show. We’re more intimate with the audience. You get to hear more of the fife and more of the bass drum, which is what the fans really want anyway. It’s definitely something to see and I’m pretty sure everyone would enjoy it.”
Having grown up performing this music, Sharde knows a lot about evolution. She credits her growth as an artist to time spent practicing and getting to know your art and your audience. “You just can’t wake up one day and say, oh, I’m gonna, you know, switch it up a little bit,” she said. “It comes with time. It comes with dedication, and it comes with studying and practicing. It comes with bettering yourself as an individual first … so you can put more into your craft and you can give more to your fans.”
Oxford will soon get the opportunity to see this new two-piece performance when The Rising Stars Fife & Drum Band comes to The Powerhouse Thursday, April 27 for a special night of music, food, and art. “Delta Rising” boasts a “Taste of the Delta,” which promises to be a night full of Mississippi Delta culture. The program will also feature a performance by Blue Mother Tupelo and cuisine by Georgia Abraham, Soul Chef Michael Banks, and Pitmaster James Butler. Cocktails will be provided by Cathead Vodka alongside stories by Mohead and art by Bill Abel. The program will start at 7 pm after the Thacker Mountain Radio finale. You can get your tickets in advance online at OxfordArts.com. Admission is $20 and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council and Thacker Mountain Radio.