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Carrboro concert series celebrates heritage and influence of N.C. Black musicians

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North Carolina musicians will fill the Carrboro Century Center with the sounds of jazz, gospel and soul for the Town of Carrboro’s third annual Black History Month Sunday Concert Series this month. 

The series is part of the Town’s Black History Month 2024 theme, “African Americans and the Arts,” which explores African Americans' significant influence on art forms such as literature, film and music. 

Recreation supervisor Michelle Blume said Carrboro aims to bring in local performers of different genres to entertain the community each year.

“We want everyone to be able to enjoy the music and to be able to know some of the songs that they are singing, whether it’s new school or old school music,” she said

Collective Groove Band, a Durham-based group, is next to perform at the Century Center with a show on Feb. 18. The band started in 2011 and specializes in R&B, jazz, pop and gospel. 

Band leader and drummer Kensby Blount said the band’s experience with different genres and work in theater makes them stand out. 

“Sometimes you can hit the stage and just feel it and just improv and have a good time,” he said. “But theater is one genre in which you cannot do that — you’d have to know exactly where to go, and you have to be super disciplined and in tune, and having that background has helped us.”

Over the years, the band has had members of varying ages, which has influenced their sound. Thename Collective Groove is derived from the experiences that come with age, making the group a collective effort.

The Triangle’s ever-evolving music scene inspires the band, Blount said

“That is inspirational, to see so many talented musicians work from ground level to achieve their goals,” he said

The band has two singles, "Definition of Funk" (2021) and "Can't Live Without" (2022) and plans to release another this year

During their upcoming performance, Blount said attendees can expect to smile, laugh and have a good time.

At her performance last Sunday, Greensboro-based soul artist Erin Blue mixed some of her original singles — "Ring" and "Happy Thoughts" — with covers of songs like “Killing Me Softly with His Song” by Roberta Flack.

Blue's singing career began in the church choir, and she sang solo for the first time at 15 years old for her school’s talent show.

“I feel like music pretty much saved my life,” she said

She intentionally includes imperfections, like a mumble in the background or an incorrect word, to reflect human flaws, she said. Blue said she also plays around with song structure and is guided by emotion when she sings. 

In 2016 her first single, “Navigation,” was released, and several followed before her first album, “Out of Stock,” in 2022. The title references Blue’s individuality, which she compares to a cloth no longer in stock.

Her new project, “84,” named after the address of the house she grew up in, is expected to be released in May. It will have an indie and neo-soul vibe — a genre that merges R&B with others like hip-hop and jazz. 

Raleigh-based gospel singer Mary D. Williams will wrap up the concert series with her performance on Feb. 25. 

Williams said she realized singing was her gift when she was 14 years old after a music teacher in school told her to join the chorus. 

“It was what my offering to the world would be and has been,” she said

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Williams has performed across the country and world — including for the U.S. Congress, in the North Carolina Capitol and for incarcerated men and women in state and county penitentiaries. 

She said she feels connected to gospel music and spirituals because of her African American heritage. Her voice was featured in the soundtrack for the 2010 film “Blood Done Sign My Name,” which is set in North Carolina during the 1970s. 

Williams said she is grateful that the Town of Carrboro is celebrating the heritage and influence of Black musicians, but believes they should be honored every month.

“So even though this is highlighted for February, I’m so fortunate that I sing somewhere all year long, doing this work, sharing this history,” she said.

@milaaamascenik

@dthlifestyle | lifestyle@dailytarheel.com