The birth of the Carolina Chocolate Drops at the 2005 Black Banjo Gathering at Appalachian State University has become the stuff of folk music legend. “Of course it was an academic event,” Dom Flemons notes of the conference, “but it was also based on the idea of confirming that you weren’t the only one out there.” Once launched, the Drops’ music spread like wildfire. With it emerged a new public appreciation of the African American roots of old-time, bluegrass, and country music.
Watch: Kaia Kater, Dom Flemons, and Jerron Paxton perform at the Fletcher Opera Theater in Raleigh, North Carolina
A decade later, new artists are following in the footsteps of the Drops, carrying forward and putting their own stamp on the black banjo story. Canadian songwriter and banjo player Kaia Kater is one such artist. She met the Dom and the rest of the Carolina Chocolate Drops at the age of 13, and they confirmed her inclination toward the banjo. “I really looked up to you and Rhiannon and Justin,” she tells Dom Flemons in Episode 10 of American Songster Radio. “I thought you were presenting the music in a very honest way. And I was also very heartened because people were listening and people were getting excited about it. So I knew you guys had carved out a place for that.”
Also in this episode of American Songster Radio Podcast, Kaia and Dom look back at Kaia’s decision to take up the work of a touring musician. Then, they listen back to Kaia’s set from a February 2017 gig at Raleigh’s Fletcher Opera Theater.