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Beyoncé brings new audience to country music and highlights the genre's Black roots


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Amna Nawaz: This week, Beyonce continued her reign at the top of the country charts.

Last week, she became the first Black woman to hit number one with her banjo-infused bop "Texas Hold 'Em." The song has brought a new audience to the genre and reminded music fans of country music's deep African and African American roots.

We take a closer look for our arts and culture series, Canvas.

Like many looking for connection during the pandemic, 47-year-old Marie Moring took her love of dance to TikTok, despite the protests of her daughter, Patience Hall.

Marie Moring, TikTok Creator: Hopped on TikTok after my daughters told me not to, because it was for the younger generation, but I had to prove them wrong.

Amna Nawaz: Mother and daughter soon teamed up online.

Tell me about the typical kind of dances you do.

Marie Moring: For me, in — particularly, it's the upbeat, funky, move your body in this rhythmic fashion, old-school kind of '90s hip-hop.

Amna Nawaz: But, last week, the duo stepped into a new genre, a country song, courtesy of Beyonce.

Marie Moring: I said, oh, we're doing country now, Beyonce?


Amna Nawaz: The song, "Texas Hold 'Em," is one of two new country singles she released off her upcoming album.

Marie Moring: Why not country? I started thinking about my mother and my grandmother and my great-grandmother, who are all in Texas, who gave me an upbringing of summers in the country.

Patience Hall, TikTok Creator: Just to hear that cowgirl attitude, it really made me want to jump into it too.

Amna Nawaz: Can I tell you my favorite part of your dance?

Marie Moring: What's that?

Amna Nawaz: The finger pistols.

Marie Moring: Hey.

Jasmine Jennings, TikTok Creator: I don't know how you dance the country music. So I just made it my own, like a lot of people are, and had fun with it.

Amna Nawaz: Thirty-year-old Jasmine Jennings is a professional dancer in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She created her own line dance to "Texas Hold 'em," which now has over 10 million views.

Jasmine Jennings: It blew up pretty fast. I was surprised that a lot of people enjoyed what I did. So someone asked me to make a less complicated version of that. So I did, and that one blew up a little bit. And then someone said, OK, now do a musical theater version, which I have never done musical theater.

So I had to do a little bit of research on that one. And so it's just kind of growing. I have seen people belly dancing. I have seen people river dancing to that song. It's sparking a lot of creativity and challenging people to move to music that they typically wouldn't.

Amna Nawaz: While some Beyonce fans turn to country through her new tracks, longtime country music fan Vinnie "Doc Coletti" was drawn to "Texas Hold 'em"'s opening chords played on his favorite instrument.

Vinnie "Doc Coletti", Country Music Fan: I mean, the first thing that stood out to me was the banjo intro. I recognized what that was right away. That was definitely like a low-tune fretless banjo. And I was fascinated, to me, to hear, especially from Beyonce.

Amna Nawaz: Coletti shared the songs on a country music subreddit, a message board devoted to the genre that he moderates. And he says while most of the response was positive, some questioned why Beyonce would step into country and why the songs were getting so much attention.

Would you expect to see some kind of backlash? I mean, I know country music is famously, especially modernly, overwhelmingly white, largely male.

Vinnie "Doc Coletti": There has definitely been a little bit of backlash, which is more gatekeeping than anything.

But there are always people who think that she's intruding on the white space music as a Black woman. And I have seen a few posts like that.

Alice Randall, Author, "My Black Country: A Journey Through Country Music's Black Past, Present, and Future": Without Black influences, country is folk music.

Amna Nawaz: Alice Randall is widely recognized as the first Black woman to co-write a number one country hit.

Alice Randall: Black people have been in country abidingly since the beginning of the genre. For example, the banjo has a long and complex history, but that history begins in Africa.

The kind of bent note open-throated singing that we hear in country or even the sound of the steel guitar, these sounds have their aesthetic origins in Africa.

Amna Nawaz: Randall spent over 40 years as a songwriter in Nashville. Her new book, "My Black Country," unpacks the erasure of country music's Black roots and the industry's exclusion of Black artists for decades.

Even today, a country music radio station in Oklahoma initially refused to play Beyonce's songs.

Alice Randall: Beyonce has blasted through the intended and not-intended boundaries, the cultural redlining, and she has ascended to a height no other Black woman has ascended to in country.

This is a tribute to her own genius, and it spotlights the genius that came before.

Amna Nawaz: A path forged by trailblazers like Charley Pride and DeFord Bailey and, more recently, Darius Rucker, Rissi Palmer, and Brittney Spencer, work that Randall argues allows the music to reach a wider audience, an audience that, thanks to Beyonce, now includes Marie and Patience.

Marie Moring: We have been digging into country music. Like, people are sharing more artists.

Amna Nawaz: I guess the big question is, does this mean we're going to be seeing more country music dances on your TikTok?

Marie Moring: Listen, I'm invested.

Patience Hall: Right.


Marie Moring: We got boots.

Patience Hall: I was just about to say, we went to the Target, and we got our — we got our country hats. We got our boots. We got our attire.

Marie Moring: Yes.

Patience Hall: So, we're ready for anything.

Marie Moring: We're ready.

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