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20 Mar 2020
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Arts & Culture

One of the biggest things people think of when they hear “Great Smoky Mountains” is the culture of Appalachia. Hunting, fishing, self reliance, and handicrafts are often things that come to mind, but one of the most iconic aspects of Appalachian culture is bluegrass music.

So, what is bluegrass music? Where did it come from? Why is it here in the Smoky Mountains? Bluegrass music is actually a type of music that comes from a combination of quite a few cultural influences. Often having a folksy and country-like feel, bluegrass originated from Western European folk music in the 18th century.

Places like Ireland, England, and Scotland were known for their very upbeat style of music that was meant to tell stories and to dance to. Using instruments like the fiddle, guitar, banjo, and almost any form of percussion they could find was common, and made each tune seem much different from the classical music of its time.

Large amounts of people from the modern United Kingdoms came to the United States seeking a better life and greater freedom, but this was not always what they found. Major cities in the North were having population booms and did not want anymore people, and the new immigrants were forced to scatter all throughout the South.

Because land was harder to farm in the Mountains and there were fewer access points to civilization, it was much cheaper for the immigrants with little means to settle in Appalachia. So, bringing with them their culture and their music. Bluegrass has a history of borrowing from other types of music in order to create something unique.

Now, modern bluegrass music is influenced by even more. Rock music has added the electric guitar on occasion, although some will say that it is no longer bluegrass if there are electric instruments. Jazz and the blues have added a swing to some more modern songs as well.

Here in Gatlinburg, bluegrass groups can be seen around everywhere downtown at night as a part of Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales; or, you could go to the top of Ober Gatlinburg’s scenic chair lift and listen to the bluegrass band that they have year-round. With the cultural importance of bluegrass music and the availability of it here in Gatlinburg, you should definitely go out and experience the sounds of Appalachia, the sound of bluegrass.