Our beautiful sister-friend and contributor Angelique Arroyo of The Passionate Wise Woman had the deep honor of interviewing Chloe and Leah Smith of Rising Appalachia. The work these women are doing in the world to “use Music as a tool with which they yield political prowess” is so truly important and powerful, we had to publish pieces of the article here for you. You can find the entire interview in Amulet’s Autumn Field Guide.
As a Passionate Wise Women-Tell us a little bit about what you are up to in the world.
Rising Appalachia is on a mission. We are continuing to learn our work as soul crafters…piecing together the deep seeds of story and song and making them explosive and applicable to the bodies that need them. Its been an amazing journey to carve out ones life through sound. It has not always been an easy road, but it has been fiercely rewarding. Rising Appalachia began as a tendril of revelry for our musical upbringing, and has turned into an entire bright and powerful movement dedicated to bringing voice to the voiceless, bringing melody to people’s stories, making space for people to be heard.
Our work through traditional music studies and contemporary lyrical composition keep digging us deeper and deeper into the role of troubadour. Its an ancient role…the song catcher, the bard, the griot.
We have to leave room in our lives to catch the songs when they come, and follow the muses. And then be truly dedicated to the work of brining it to stages and making it an experience that our audience can connect to. Deepening our art, and provoking it to be a true experience and hopefully a catharsis for our audience.
Cultural expression is not only present in your songs but in your expression, how important has your heritage & culture been in your work?
***Yes. Well we are continuing to sculpt our relationship to both cultural identity and creative expression. It has been a deep part of human identity to adorn and decorate oneself. I decided at a very young age that my aesthetic would be self designed and not tied to any fad. I shaved my head when I was 10, and started painting my face and building my own costumes when I was very young. Then as a traveler, I began very naturally to pick up elements of the dress in the places I was living and working. I spent many years in Latin America and the Caribbean, and then several years in India. Returning to the US felt like a bit of an attack on the senses …all the plain clothes and bright lights. I have always felt a bit like an alien in my own culture . When Chloe and I moved to New Orleans we took very strongly to the relationship that that voracious city has to costuming, parades, masks, and the catharsis of carnival. Its deeper there than simple festivity. The art of building your costumes (and there are many more celebrations than just Mardi Gras. There is also Super Sunday, LundiGras, the Eris Parade, Ash Wed, many many more) is often a year long process and the act itself is a full on ritual. You build your dreams and sorrow into your aesthetic. You use the art of dress to tell your story, and simultaneously to set yourself free of the struggles that are knocking at your door that year. It imbedded in us an even stronger relationship with how we want to hold our image. The lines can feel quite blurry between honoring a tradition and using something as a fashion statement, and we walk that think line. Our aesthetic is influenced by traditional and creative expressions from all around the world, but also from our own stories and relationships to those places. We have been accused by a few of our critics of all kinds of psudu-hippy, wannaby native, neo-tribal things…but really we would be much less comfortable in a pair of khakis and some Nikes. We adorn the way we are, and hold a close relationship to the way that we present ourselves individually. It has been very very important to us both as performers and as individuals, to move through the world with the utmost relationship to creative expression, and also honor culture identity by creating our own voice, and not borrowing traditions that are not ours. Culture appropriation is a real thing, and it can be hurtful to the communities that hold their dress and traditions sacred. It is a deep part of our dialog to learn how to be present within the diversity of our communities, how to honor everyone’s voices and stories, and how also to create our own unique way of being and adorning. We are crafting our own culture here. All of us.
What’s some extra sauce you can share with other Passionate Wise Women as they work out living their Passion?
***I have been working on a new song that I want to be a rallying song for all of us when we feel feeble- as we ALL do feel feeble sometimes. It ties in a Howard Zinn quote that has helped me for many years that says “What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.”
This continues to feed me so deeply when I am tired or worn down.
I am adding verses and the chorous says: “ Find a way, just steady your gaze, weather you fumble or stand graceful darlin’, just find your way…”
It will hold also my favorite thoughts from a dear friend Mr Nick Slie working down in New Orleans who always says “you got to fake it till you make it”
What is next for you and Rising Appalachia?
***Rising Appalachia is at a really important cross roads right now…We are for the first time researching some more industry, which would help our ability to reach a larger audience, as well as the ability to hone in on our creative voice. This is a new move for us, as we have been fiercely proud of our autonomy as a self run powerhouse…But we are finally in a position where the work load is too much for us to handle on our own. This is such an honor that we have come this far in our own hands, and to have more work than we can handle, but also brings forth a real sense of vulnerability as we have to ask for help. We are calling in the right mighty forces and people who know how to move with this project, from a well crafted business perspective, as well as a strong hand in the music industry itself. We don’t want to loose our relationship to radical arts, but we don’t want to start loosing impact due to things simply falling through the cracks either. In order to take the next step we need some well-versed professional crew to join us. The family is growing. But it is not just about the music industry either…Its about finding the right soul who can work within the business of good music and understand the deep roots of our mission. We have A LOT of work to do. We need our team to be well oiled badd asses, and ready to take it all on with us…
So, that being said, if you are out there…we are seeking you. We are ready to take this whole thing up to the next level, more touring, new recordings, bigger stages, cultural education projects, outreach projects, ready to build bigger and bolder collaborations…We are ready to let the world know what we are doing! …and we will need help to make that happen.
The call is out.
Seeking hard working angels!
Leah (& Chloe), I want to thank you deeply for doing the work you do in the world! And for honoring us with your presence here at The Passionate Wise Woman. You heal us.
Rising Appapalchia BIO
Growing up in the American South, and taking great inspiration from global roots music from their travels around the world, Sisters Leah and Chloe tear into sound with sensual prowess as stages ignite. Listen to their beautiful sound for strong poetic voclas, soul singing, spoken word rallies, banjos, fiddles, many beats of drums, kalimbas, beat box, eclectic instrumentation, groove and dance parties alike…
Intentionally self-managed and produced for the last 6 years…they have toured heavily both nationally and internationally boasting events all across the board but including: Joshua Tree Music Fest, Envision Festival, Burning Man, Rootwire, Naropa University, the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, National Public Radio All Songs Considered, The School of Americas Vigil, Nunez Arts Festival New Orleans, Emory University Schwartz Center, The Floyd Festival, The Beacon Theater NYC, The Lake Eden Arts Festival, Radio Popular Italy, Guerilla Radio Amsterdam, The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, The Highlander Center 75th Reunion, Urkult Sweden, and this year their line up includes several new markets including Lightening in a Bottle, Symbiosis, and the Ozara festival in Hungary…
They have self-produced 5 albums, one full length documentary DVD, a new collaborative release with The Human Experience, and more coming on the daily…
1.Rising Appalachia Music Videos:
Scale Down- http://youtu.be/Bmr5rdaemYk
2. Rising Appalachia Documentary trailer (brief history of our work and background)- http://youtu.be/zjmeoawIfR8
3.Music: (these tracks are available for you to download for free off bandcamp and are a good mix the Rising Appalachia sound! Thanks!)
Bandcamp http://risingappalachia.bandcamp.com/
Angelique Arroyo is breeder of passionate wise women, a keeper of the Way. This Way is the passionate woman’s way of diving into the center, being with ourselves {all parts of ourselves} so we can heal and honor the whole of our souls, raw and real. You can find her at ThePassionateWiseWoman.com liberating, reigniting & nourishing the souls of her sista’