Just in case you didn’t know, it’s #NationalRiceWeek.
Just like all the countries of the West, the rice industry has black people to thank for its very existence. Thousands of enslaved African laborers launched and sustained South Carolina’s commercial rice industry. Unfortunately, they have been mostly forgotten.
However, a new musical hopes to honor these under-appreciated heroes in magnificent fashion.
According to the Pittsburgh City Paper, Unburied, Unmourned, Unmarked is a string orchestra piece inspired by traditional African music and African-American folk music that was created to honor the labor of slaves working the rice fields of South Carolina and Georgia.
It is the first part of a work-in-progress opera called Requiem for Rice that will tell the story of these slaves. Created by Trevor Weston, a Drew University professor of music, and Edda Fields-Black, a Carnegie Mellon professor of African and African American studies, Requiem for Rice is based on Verdi's Requiem.
Although the opera hasn't been finished yet, it is already winning awards. Unburied, Unmourned, Unmarked was selected as the final project in Carnegie Mellon University's Center for the Arts in Society's Performance Initiative in 2015.
If you're in Pittsburgh, you can get a free preview of Unburied, Unmourned, Unmarked this week at CMU’s School of Music.
The piece will have its official premiere later this year will be at the Colour of Music Festival in Charleston, S.C.