KENT: Kent may be the home of a booming college town, but it’s no stranger to visitors who come to the city for another claim to fame—its unique music scene.
Part of the rich heritage of Kent music is the rich tradition of folk music. With staples such as the Kent Stage and events such as the Folk Festival, Kent is a haven for folk music fans.
One group that enjoys being part of the Kent community is the Kent Shindig All-Stars. The self-titled “Old-Time” music group is a jam band, inviting anyone with a love of Appalachian music to play.
“This group we have, it’s not really a band, it’s a jam group, so anyone who shows up and has an instrument can play with us,” said group member David Badagnani.
The Shindig All-stars play standards associated with “Old-Time,” a genre referencing the historical importance the music has in the United States.
“Back in like the early days of the country, there wasn’t TV, or movies or even radio so everyone pretty much played an instrument,” Badagnani said. “Today we call it ‘Old-Time’ music because it’s music that dates back to the founding of the country. People played banjos, fiddles, and guitars and mandolins back then.”
The music has its roots in the Appalachian mountains, but “Old-Time” fans are have definitely found a place in Northeast Ohio, where folk sounds and foot stomping have a new home.
“A lot of West Virginian people have moved to Cleveland in the last fifty years,” Badagnani said. “The mountain music is very, very strong, and many people love it in our area.”
Last month, the Kent Shindig All-Stars performed at the Kent Cider Festival. They enjoy jamming for crowds who might not be familiar with their genre, but learn to love it by the end of their performance.
“We think it’s really fun to share this music with families who don’t know that much about it,” Badagnani said.
The group meets once a month at Europe Gyro, a Kent pizza place and bar, to practice standards most Old-Time players know. If they have an official event, such as the Cider Festival, they practice standards, but know most musicians who show up will learn the songs on the spot, even if they’ve never heard them.
“Anywhere you go in America, and even in foreign countries, there are groups like ours that have a regular meeting where they jam, and we play a couple of standards, like Oh, Susanna,” Badagnani said.
One of the newest standards Badagnami learned was popularized four years ago, and was titled “Obama’s March to the White House.” It found popularity on YouTube and became a modern hit.
“A lot of time we’ll learn the tunes the first time through,” said Rob Rhamy, a fiddler who joined The Shindig All-Stars at the Cider Festival. “They’ll play it one or two times through, and after awhile, the better musicians can learn it.”