OTHAR TURNER

 

 

 

 

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Blues fife and drum musician Othar Turner was born in 1909 in Rankin County, Mississippi and grew up near the Mississippi Delta. Fife and drum music is a traditional genre that has its roots in the northern Mississippi hill country and is based on African-American work songs and spirituals. The fife is an instrument similar to the flute, often made out of bamboo. Turner worked as a farmer in Como, Mississippi, where he also led the Rising Star Fife and Drum Corps for sixty years. The band eventually made it to Chicago, where for years they opened the city's legendary Blues Festival. Even in his  nineties Turner was still recording and preserved his historically significant music with the recordings "Everybody's Hollerin' Goat" and "Senegal to Senatobia".

 

Turner also appeared every year at the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival in Mississippi, where his Fife and Drum Corps was the opening act.  His band in his later years included his daughter, grandchildren and nephew. He received a National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Award, the Smithsonian Lifetime Achievement Award and the Charlie Patton Lifetime Achievement from the Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival.  Most recently his music was heard as part of the soundtrack of the movie Gangs of New York, which included his song "Shimmy She Wobble." Othar Turner died in February 2003 aged 94.