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  • Shaka Zulu is a drummer, Black masking Indian, and stilt dancer from New Orleans. He grew up in his father's performing arts company, Free Spirit, where he learned stilt dancing, as well as African drumming. He began masking in 1999 under Big Chief Darryl Montana, son of Chief Allison "Tootie" Montana of the Yellow Pocahontas Tribe. Later, in 2018, Shaka Zulu started his own tribe, the Golden Feather Hunters. He's passed Black masking and stilt dancing traditions on to his daughter, ensuring that future generations will carry on as well.
  • Shemekia Copeland's dad, Texas guitarist Johnny Copeland, moved his family to Harlem, where Shemekia was born and grew up surrounded by hip-hop, but dedicated to the blues. She's been in the blues scene since she was a little girl singing at her dad's shows. All grown up she's recorded nine albums and won numerous awards for her music. We began back in those early days, on stage, with her father.
  • Jerry Lee Lewis was the first interview I ever did, back in college radio, 1969. I’ve talked to him a couple of times in the nearly fifty years since. It’s always memorable. In 1999, American Routes went to his Nesbitt, MS ranch near Memphis for the Killer’s 64th birthday celebration. The next afternoon, a just-awakened Jerry Lee kindly came to the back kitchen screen door in his robe and glasses, barefoot with Chihuahuas nipping at his heel.
  • I've known pianist, songmaker, and performer Heath Allen for over fifty years. We met at Penn in Philadelphia where Heath studied under composer George Crumb. Heath Allen is originally from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, but stayed on in West Philly, building a career as a cabaret band leader, in musical theater, and creator of the Popera, Andy, an opera about Andy Warhol, among many other activities. Over the years, Heath has worked with performers ranging from singer-songwriter Susan Werner to a legendary troupe called the Bearded Ladies. Today, at home in the large light filled piano room of his stately West Philadelphia row house, surrounded by electronic keyboards, books, and paintings, Heath Allen sits barefoot at his Steinway Grand Model A, looking out over Japanese maple and Juneberry trees.
  • This is American Routes for Halloween, All Saints, All Souls days from the Christian and pre-Christian Celtic calendars of saints and spirits, and now the African diaspora to the Caribbean and Gulf South, first with a late beloved Neville Brother of blessed memory.
  • This is American Routes with a tribute to the legendary New Orleans drummer, James Black. Black also composed tunes like "Monkey Puzzle" and "Dee Wee," both recorded by Ellis Marsalis' ensemble in the early 1960s. As a composer, Black received support from the National Endowment for the Arts.
  • Singer/guitarist Charley Crockett plays what he calls "Gulf and Western” music, a combination of blues, R&B, soul, country and more found along the Gulf Coast from Texas to Louisiana. It makes sense, since that's where he grew up, living with his mother in a trailer. Charley’s lived many lives, hitchhiking with his guitar from coast to coast, playing in subways and city streets in New York City, New Orleans and Paris; working farms in California, running into trouble with the law and later his health with open heart surgery. He's recorded several highly acclaimed albums and is known for his takes on classic country tunes as well as original songs. But for Charley, the blues is where it all began.
  • Carlos Santana began playing mariachi on violin in the streets of Tijuana, but he was soon drawn to blues musicians: BB King, Jimmy Reed, and John Lee Hooker. At age 8, he switched to guitar and began developing his own sound, incorporating blues, rock, jazz, with Latin and African percussion. His father José Santana, a mariachi violinist, was not pleased, but allowed Carlos to follow his passions.
  • This is American Routes Live with New Orleans trombonist Corey Henry and his Treme Funktet at Marigny Studios, at the edge of the French Quarter. As the name of the band suggests, the Faubourg Tremé is an important part of Corey’s family history and his development as a musician. I asked him about the origins of the group.
  • Los Cenzontles means “the mockingbirds” in the indigenous Nahuatl language. The band mixes traditional Mexican music with contemporary sounds including American rock and soul. They’ve collaborated with Linda Ronstadt, Taj Mahal, David Hidalgo of Los Lobos, and Jackson Browne, but their main collaborators are children. Los Cenzontles is also a community-based arts academy that teaches music, dance, arts and crafts to its young students. We sat down with Los Cenzontles’ founder and guitarist Eugene Rodriguez and with singers Lucina Rodriguez, and Fabiola Trujillo.