Blog March 15, 2024
How Beyoncé Reclaims Country Music's Roots for Black Artists

You have no doubt heard that global music diva and 32-time Grammy Award winner Beyoncé dropped a pair of hit songs charting on Billboard's country music category—“Texas Hold ‘Em” and “16 Carriages”—in her performance at the Super Bowl in February. Both songs will be featured on her album Carter Country which comes out on March 29th.

“Texas Hold ‘Em” is in heavy rotation at Afropop Worldwide. Beyoncé's playful and joyous performance features tasty banjo playing by fellow Grammy Award winner Rhiannon Giddens.

These songs have sparked some controversy in the country world as in “Is this really country music?” Beyoncé has told reporters "This isn't a country album. It's a Beyoncé album." She also sings in the "Texas Hold 'Em" lyric“ "It’s a real-life boogie and a real-life hoedown.” Call it what you will. You go, girl!

Longtime listeners to Afropop Worldwide will likely know our program “The Black History of the Banjo,” which debuted in 2021, exploring the West African origins of the banjo in all its glory. As the show reveals, and Beyoncé’s song reinforces, there are strong ties between white-identified American roots music and the musical legacy of Africans in America. Giddens speaks to the history with eloquence on our program. This history came as a revelation to many in the banjo community during the last century when scholarship made it undeniable, and there may still be a few holdouts. But the banjo’s ancestry in West Africa is now widely understood, particularly in the era of popular Black roots musicians like Jake Blount, Tray Wellington and others. (See New York Times, November, 2023)

All this is familiar territory in our shop, going back to 2000, when we first aired “The African-American String Music Tradition,” a deep dive into the neglected history of Black pluckers and fiddlers. Now Beyoncé has broken the news in the American mainstream, and we’re mighty pleased to see it.

You go, girl!

Afropop Weigh in on Afropop's digital future and download an exclusive concert from the archives—free!