FolkWorld #73 11/2020
© Devon Léger / Hearth PR

Pickin’ for Progress

75 Years of Bluegrass

Joe Troop of Che Apalache launches powerful new video series and initiative - “Pickin’ for Progress”. With a new video released each week until November election, Troop is hitting the road to encourage North Carolina to get out the vote.

Joe Troop

Pickin’ for Progress
Artist Video Joe Troop @ FROG

Fresh off a Grammy nomination for his group Che Apalache, bandleader, songwriter, and activist Joe Troop is launching an initiative to get out the vote in North Carolina. Working with and, Troop previewed the project during a July 12th livestream which featured diverse artists from across the state, co-hosting with “chambersoul” musician Shana Tucker and featuring The Hamiltones, Los Guanajuatenses, and more.

Now Troop is debuting a series of videos to foreground key progressive voices from across NC by sharing songs and having conversations. This video series, “Pickin’ for Progress,” will release one mini-doc film per week running up to the elections in November. The videos will incorporate Troop’s original songs and highlight activist and minority voices.

The first video features a testimony from folk musician Nokosee Fields about the irony of an “immigration debate” in a country in which Indigenous peoples have been so severely disenfranchised. The second video features Juana Tobar who has been living in a sanctuary church in Greensboro, NC for over three years after being faced with immediate deportation. Tobar’s moving story is underscored by her plea to vote in an election that will directly affect the lives of immigrants. Future episodes will feature progressive political candidates, activists, organizers and influential artists from across North Carolina.

Che Apalache

Artist Video Che Apalache @ FROG

Joe Troop says, “Pairing my musical platform with grassroots political organizing, I hope to engage progressive-leaning people in North Carolina in the November elections, people like me who up until now haven’t been that engaged in politics. We need to step up! The outcome of this presidential election will mark the path of human history. And in a battleground state like ours, every vote counts, which puts us in a position of great responsibility. There is also a lot on the line in our local elections, and we need to elect officials that better represent all North Carolinians. This series of videos will speak to the diverse range of issues we must reckon with.”

Joe Troop and Che Apalache

Immigration is a powerful topic for Che Apalache bandleader Joe Troop. A polymath, polyglot, and world traveller, Troop left home at a young age, emigrating from this country in search of a better life. Raised in the North Carolina Piedmont, in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains, Troop came of age to the music of bluegrass and all-night jam sessions at festivals, but being a young, queer man in the South, at a certain point he no longer felt welcome in his own home region.

He took refuge abroad, traveling Europe and immersing himself in his two great loves: music and language. He studied Spanish in Spain, spent summers in Morocco, and eventually moved to Japan to teach English. He carried his music and his fiddle with him always, picking up elements of flamenco, jazz manouche, and swing. In 2010, Joe immigrated to Argentina, and, looking to make friends and build a scene, he began teaching bluegrass.

Nine years later, Che Apalache, led by Troop, features three powerhouse Latin American musicians – two from Argentina, Franco Martino (guitar), Martin Bobrik (mandolin), and one from Mexico, Pau Barjau (banjo) – and has been taking audiences by storm with their fusion of Latin and American roots music. Famed banjo player and cross-genre trailblazer Béla Fleck was so taken with the band that he signed on to produce their new album, Rearrange My Heart, for Free Dirt Records. It’s a success story, but Troop hasn’t returned to the States after over a decade abroad to comfort listeners. He’s here to challenge the narrative, to speak directly on what American policies and perspectives are doing to the world.

Photo Credits: (1) Joe Troop, (2) Che Apalache (unknown/website).

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