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CPA Series

Rhiannon Giddens, featuring Martha Redbone, Pura Fé, and Charly Lowry

March 26, 2024
7:30 PM

Tickets from $41.93. Discounts available. See details below.

Pulitzer-winning composer and Futures Artist-in-Residence Rhiannon Giddens continues to bring untold stories and essential traditions to the stage. This time, she’ll collaborate with Martha Redbone, Pura Fé, and Charly Lowry for a colorful celebration of indigenous artistry. Check back later this fall for more information on this exciting event.


Tickets available from $41.93. $10 UNC-Chapel Hill student tickets available with valid UNC One Card. Additional discounts available. Limits apply. Visit our FAQ page for details.


  • Runtime: TBD
  • Intermission: TBD
  • Additional information: Visit our FAQ page


Rooted in Research: Rhiannon Giddens in Conversation with Leoneda Inge

Presented in Partnership with UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries

When: Thursday, Oct. 5, 3–4 PM

Where: Pleasants Family Assembly Room, Wilson Library

In spring 2022, Southern Futures Artist-in-Residence Rhiannon Giddens began a two-year research residency at Carolina Performing Arts. As part of this residency, Giddens is digging into the roots of American music, life in the South at the turn of the 20th century, and the history of cross-cultural and cross-racial exchange in the development of essential American art forms. The archives of UNC’s Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library are crucial to this process of continual discovery.

Join Giddens and WUNC Race & Southern Cultures Reporter Leoneda Inge for an illuminating discussion of this experience. Together, we’ll learn about Giddens’ latest findings, the unique challenges of the research process, and how artists like Giddens use historical documents to inform the creation of contemporary works.

Registration is free! Click here to register.

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Rhiannon Giddens has made a singular, iconic career out of stretching her brand of folk music, with its miles-deep historical roots and contemporary sensibilities, into just about every field imaginable. A two-time GRAMMY Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning singer and instrumentalist, MacArthur “Genius” grant recipient, and composer of opera, ballet, and film, Giddens has centered her work around the mission of lifting up people whose contributions to American musical history have previously been overlooked or erased, and advocating for a more accurate understanding of the country’s musical origins through art.

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As Pitchfork once said, “few artists are so fearless and so ravenous in their exploration”—a journey that has led to NPR naming her one of its 25 Most Influential Women Musicians of the 21st Century and to American Songwriter calling her “one of the most important musical minds currently walking the planet.”

Forher highly anticipated third solo studio album, You’re The One, out August 18 on Nonesuch Records, she recruited producer Jack Splash (Kendrick Lamar, Solange, Alicia Keys, Valerie June, Tank and the Bangas) to help her bring this collection of songs that she’d written over the course of her career—her first album of all originals—to life at Criteria Recording Studios in Miami last November. Together with a band composed of Giddens’s closest musical collaborators from the past decade alongside Miami-based musicians from Splash’s own Rolodex, and topped off with a horn section making an impressive ten- to twelve-person ensemble, they drew from the folk music that Giddens knows so deeply and its pop descendants.

You’re The One features electric and upright bass, conga, Cajun and piano accordions, guitars, a Western string section, and Miami horns, among other instruments. “I hope that people just hear American music,” Giddens says. “Blues, jazz, Cajun, country, gospel, and rock—it’s all there. I like to be where it meets organically.”

The album is in line with her previous work, as she explains, because it’s yet another kind of project she’s never done before. “I just wanted to expand my sound palette,” Giddens says. “I feel like I’ve done lots in the acoustic realm, and I certainly will again. But these songs really needed a larger field.”

Her song-writing range is audible on You’re The One, from the groovy funk of “Hen In The Foxhouse” to the vintage AM radio-ready ballad “Who Are You Dreaming Of” and the string- band dance music of “Way Over Yonder”—likely the most familiar sound to Giddens’ fans. Her voice, though, is instantly recognizable throughout, even as the sounds around Giddens shift; she owns all of it with ease.

The album opens with “Too Little, Too Late, Too Bad,” an R&B blast (complete with background “shoops” and a horn section) that takes a titan for inspiration. “I listened to a bunch of Aretha Franklin, and then turned to fellow Aretha-nut Dirk Powell and said, ‘Let’s write a song she might have sung!'” Giddens recalls. Her danceable, vivacious tribute to Franklin’s sound is a vocal showcase, spotlighting her soaring high notes and nearly-growling low ones. Another of the album’s highlights, “If You Don’t Know How Sweet It Is,” intentionally puts an edgier spin on the sass of Dolly Parton’s early work, which Giddens channeled in the midst of some real life frustration. “I was like, ‘I’m giving you everything, why are you leaving?'” she recalls of writing the song, which started as a poem.

Jason Isbell joins Giddens on “Yet To Be” as her duet partner and the album’s only featured artist. “He’s been such an ally in the industry to black women,” Giddens says. “He’s a great singer, and he’s uncompromisingly himself—also just a really good person.” “Yet To Be,” the story of a black woman and an Irish man falling in love in America, is meant to channel some of the optimistic flip side of the brutal, real, and undertold history that Giddens has so effectively brought to the forefront with her work. “Here’s a place, with all its warts, where you and I could meet from different parts of the world and start a family, which is the true future,” Giddens explains. “I think so much about all of the terrible things in our past and present—but things are better than they have been in a lot of ways, and this is a song thinking about that.”

One of the album’s more sentimental songs, “You’re The One,” was inspired by a moment Giddens had with her son not long after he was born (he’s now ten years old, and she has a fourteen-year-old daughter as well). “Your life has changed forever, and you don’t know it until you’re in the middle of it and it hits you,” Giddens says. “I held his little cheek up to my face, and was just reminded, ‘Oh my God, my children—they have every bit of my heart.'”

“You Louisiana Man” blends Giddens’ banjo acumen with accordion, organ, and fiddle to create a Zydeco-funk classic. About a feeling that Giddens “turned up to eleven” during the songwriting process, the song shows the power of framing a record around banjo instead of guitar: “It just gives you a bit of a different vibe,” as she puts it.

Perhaps most potent is the song “Another Wasted Life,” Giddens’ composition inspired by Kalief Browder, the New York man who was incarcerated without trial on Rikers Island for three years. “People are making so much money off prison systems,” Giddens, who has performed for incarcerated people, says. “They just don’t want anyone to remember that that’s happening.” Inspired sonically by another musical icon—Nina Simone—the forceful, anthemic song channels Giddens’ rage at the broken system. “Doesn’t matter what the crime, if indeed there was this time,” she sings. “It’s a torture of the soul.”

The album teems with Giddens’ breadth of knowledge of, curiosity about, and experience with American vernacular musics. Though it might be filtered through a slightly more familiar blend of sounds, You’re The One never forsakes depth and groundedness for its listenability.

“They’re fun songs, and I wanted them to have as much of a chance as they could to reach people who might dig them but don’t know anything about, you know, what I do,” Giddens says. “If they’re introduced to me through this record, they might go listen to other music I’ve made with a different set of ears.”

Giddens also is exploring other mediums and creative possibilities just as actively as she has American musical history. With 1858 replica minstrel banjo in hand, she wrote the opera Omar with film composer Michael Abels (Get Out, Us, Nope) which received the 2023 Pulitzer Prize in Music, and, with her partner Francesco Turrisi, she wrote and performed the music for Black Lucy and the Bard, which was recorded for PBS’ Great Performances; she has appeared on the ABC hit drama Nashville and throughout Ken Burns’ Country Music series, also on PBS.

Giddens has published children’s books and written and performed music for the soundtrack of Red Dead Redemption II, one of the best-selling video games of all time. She sang for the Obamas at the White House; is a three-time NPR Tiny Desk Concert alum; and hosts her own show on PBS, My Music with Rhiannon Giddens, as well as the Aria Code podcast, which is produced by New York City’s NPR affiliate station WQXR.

“I’ve been able to create a lot of different things around stories that are difficult to tell, and managed to get them done in a way that’s gotten noticed,” as Giddens puts it. “I know who to collaborate with, and it has gotten me into all sorts of corners that I would have never expected when I started doing this.”


Martha Redbone is a vocalist, songwriter, composer, and educator of African American, Cherokee, and Choctaw descent. A multi-award-winning musician, the charismatic songstress is celebrated for her tasty gumbo of roots music embodying the folk and mountain blues sounds of her childhood in the Appalachian hills of Kentucky, mixed with the eclectic grit of her teenage years in pre-gentrified Brooklyn. Inheriting her powerful gospel-singing father’s voice and the resilient spirit of her mother’s Southeastern Indigenous culture, Redbone broadens the boundaries of American Roots music with songs and storytelling that share her life experience as a Black and Native American woman and mother navigating the new millennium. Martha also works in partnership with longtime collaborator/husband Aaron Whitby. Their works give voice to issues of social justice, connecting cultures and celebrating the human spirit.

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Her album, The Garden of Love: Songs of William Blake (produced by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band founder and Grammy-winner John McEuen) is “a brilliant collision of cultures” (New Yorker). Redbone and Whitby are the composers, arrangers, and orchestrators of original music and score for the 2022 revival of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuff, the 1976 classic choreopoem by the late Ntozake Shange, premiering at the Booth Theater, garnering seven Tony Award nominations and critical acclaim. Redbone and Whitby are the 2020 Drama Desk Award recipients for Outstanding Music in a Play and the 2020 Audelco Award recipients for Outstanding Composer of Original Music and Score for the Off-Broadway revival. Redbone is a 2021 United States Artist Fellow.


Pura Fé (Tuscarora/Taino) is an Indigenous activist, singer-songwriter, and storyteller known for her distinct, soulful vocals and for breathing life into several musical genres. Her work as a musician has brought her around the world to do work at festivals, benefits, in classrooms, online, and in the studio. As a Native activist and cultural leader, she has done work to combat the erasure of native culture, restore traditions, build community, fight corporate takeover of native land, and give a voice to those facing social injustice.

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As the founding member of the internationally renowned Native Women’s a cappella trio Ulali, Pura Fé helped to create a movement throughout Indian Country, which not only empowered Native Women’s hand drum and harmony, but also built a bridge for Native music into the mainstream music scene.  Ulali’s unique fusion of ancestral music, cultural roots, and message has left its mark. Ulali has recorded music for soundtracks, television commercials, has had platinum sales in Italy, and appeared at several events for the benefit of Indigenous Peoples and the environment.

Pura Fé’s solo career has produced six studio albums with her Native Blues and lap-steel slide guitar work. While touring Europe with Music Maker Blues Review under Dixie Frog and Nueva Onda French labels, she won Grand Prix du Disque from L’Académie Charls Cros (French Grammy) for Best World Album in 2006 for Tuscarora Nation Blues, and a Native American Music Award (NAMMY) for Best Female Artist for Follow Your Heart’s Desire in the same year.

Pura Fé and Ulali appeared in and consulted for the Rezolution Pictures Documentary RUMBLE: The Indians That Rocked The World, which won first place at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Pura Fé commented on her experience with the documentary, “This gave me a chance to reenact a piece of the historical birth of blues music that no one considers or hears about.” Incumbent United States Poet Laureate Joy Harjo once said, “We are systematically being written out of everything.” To have a platform to help bring awareness to the mainstream was crucial to Pura Fé and Ulali.

Born and raised in New York City, Pura Fé was classically trained in dance and vocals. As a child, show business paid for her education by way of Broadway plays, truck and bus tours, television commercials, and jingles. She was raised by her mother, Nanice Lund, who also sang professionally, performing for Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concert Series. Pura Fé later went on to sing with the Mercer Ellington Orchestra.

Though she was a city kid, the influence of her grandparents’ mixed-race ancestry with at least eight generations of women singers, continues to be the doorway to her musical creativity. Pura Fé is the ninth generation of singers in her family, whom hail from the North Carolina Indigenous Tuscarora Deer Clan, who have black and Scotch-Irish ancestry as well. She later moved to North Carolina to connect with family from her maternal line and maintains ties with family and many Indigenous communities in the area. Her black ancestry stems from African banjo pickers from The Lee and Monk Plantations (from which world-renowned Jazz pianist Thelonius Monk descended) who married Tuscarora women during the Civil War.

Music is woven into the DNA on both sides of Pura Fé’s family. Although she did not grow up with him, her father, Juan Antonio Crescioni, was from Puerto Rico and grew up singing alongside his mother who played a cuatro, strumming out Jibaro music. Ancestry on Pura Fé’s paternal side is Taíno Indian of Puerto Rico, Corsican, and Spanish-Berber of the Canary Islands.

In her early teens, Pura Fé and her family became a part of the Urban Indian Scene through the American Indian Community House (AICH) based in NYC. AICH housed a collection of talented creators from Indigenous Nations all over North America. This is where she met what would later be the members of Ulali. With AICH, the group was able to take part in the beginnings of the United Nations Indigenous Permanent Forum. This brought the group around Indian Country, sharing their music and participating in Indigenous rights activism. Through the years, the group created a family network from all over Indian Country.

Today, Pura Fé lives in Canada and is writing a film for Rezolution Pictures. She is also working with First Nations dance and theater troops while recording a new album.


Charly Lowry, a musical powerhouse from Pembroke, NC, is proud to be an Indigenous woman belonging to the Lumbee/Tuscarora Tribes. She is passionate about raising awareness around issues that plague underdeveloped and underserved communities. Since her teenage years, Charly has established a career as a professional singer-songwriter with unique passion and voice. In addition to performing solo, for 10+ years Charly has been the front-woman for the multi award-winning band, Dark Water Rising. Most recently, Charly and the members of her newest project “Charly & The Sunshine” were selected by the U.S. Department of State and American Music Aboard to participate in the 2021-2022 American Music Abroad Virtual Season.

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Among her community, Native women are traditionally barred from the hand-drum and relegated to singing behind the men’s drum and/or dancing instead. Lowry defies that norm, following in the footsteps of her mentor, an artist and heir to the Tuscarora Indian Nation, Pura Fé; choosing to battle with her songs, hand-drum, and guitar to deliver songs that not only tell the plight of her people but all humankind that face oppression. Robeson County, her home, is one of the most diverse counties in the U.S., and Charly celebrates that  diversity in all aspects of her life. While she may be familiar to some from her success as a semi-finalist on American Idol, she has maintained close ties to her Native American roots and culture. It is important to her to express the struggle, sacrifice, and obstacles her people have overcome throughout history.

She serves as a voice for her ancestors, as well as the youth of today, and remains committed to music that honors roots but lives vibrantly in the here and now.

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