WMU News

Annual music festival tackles R&B music, Elvis

Jan. 29, 2004

KALAMAZOO--So where did Elvis learn to shake those hips?

That will be just one subject to be examined during Minifest XVII--Expo 9, an annual two-day music and lecture extravaganza at Western Michigan University. With the theme "Old School Music: Grown Folks Grooves," this year's fest will explore the roots and significance of rhythm and blues music. Previous festivals have explored such African American music forms as rap and hip-hop, jazz, blues, reggae and funk.

The event, held in conjunction with Black History Month, is 7:30 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 30-31, in the Dalton Center Recital Hall. Activities are free and open to the public.

Friday will feature guest lecturers Dr. Melvin Peters, associate professor of African American studies at Eastern Michigan University, and Dr. Alphonso Simpson Jr., assistant professor of African American studies at Western Illinois University. Peters will delve into the legacy of R&B music and its deep influence on American music at large, including its impact on a young Elvis Presley growing up in Memphis, Tenn., which was a hotbed for seminal blues, soul, and rhythm and blues music. In his lecture, Simpson will trace the evolution of rhythm and blues music.

On Saturday it will be toe-tapping time, as Priscilla Price and the Soul Band, veterans of the Detroit music scene, entertain the crowd. Once a regular at New York's famous Apollo Theatre, Price has performed for the likes of President John F. Kennedy on the White House lawn and Queen Elizabeth and Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson in Montreal. She put her music career on hold to get married and raise two sons, settling in Detroit. She later returned to performing and in recent years has become a mainstay among Motor City entertainers. She is known for her rock-solid stage presence, and has performed nationally and internationally, particularly in Paris. Her latest CD, 1997's "I'm Not for Sale," received glowing reviews in such national publications as Living Blues magazine.

Sponsors for this year's Minifest include the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation, WMU alumnus James Norman, the Africana Studies Program, College of Arts and Sciences, departments of English and Sociology, Division of Multicultural Affairs, the Lewis Walker Center for the Study of Race and Ethnic Relations, University Admissions and Orientation and the University Budget Office.

For more information, call the event's organizer, Dr. Benjamin Wilson, WMU professor of Africana Studies, at (269) 387-2667.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 269 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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