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Photo of Bobby 'Chickenhead' Rush singing
Bobby "Chickenhead" Rush performs at the Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival, 1998

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Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival
A Local Legacy

Think about all the emotions expressed in the music you listen to: joy, happiness, loneliness, nervousness, and, of course, sadness. Music with sad themes is often called the "blues."

Blues music developed in the United States among Southern blacks after the Civil War. When slaves were brought to America from Africa, they brought their musical traditions with them. Blended with folk and popular music of whites, these African musical traditions developed into the blues.

The blues is believed to have originated in the Mississippi Delta, a wedge-shaped region in northern Mississippi between the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers. This is a rural area where the poorest and most disadvantaged black people lived -- this lifestyle created a need for the expression of sadness that is so often sung in the blues. The conditions in this area -- poverty, racism, and inhumane working situations -- led many blacks to go north, to cities such as Memphis, Chicago, St. Louis and Detroit.

The blues did not vanish from the Mississippi countryside, however, and in 1978, the Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival was founded to celebrate and promote the blues and the culture of the Mississippi Delta people. What started out on the back of a flatbed truck is now the oldest and largest blues festival in the South, with 20,000 visitors and performances on three festival stages.

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