Rhiannon Giddens at Folk Fest

I’ve never met another Rhiannon (that’s what Rhi is short for if you are wondering). It’s a pretty rare name. Maybe I’ll find one or two in Scotland and Wales. Occasionally I hear about another Rhiannon.

One of the artists playing the Main stage at Folk Fest was Rhiannon Giddens. I had never heard of her but was excited to check out her set on the last night. My mother had heard her before and said she was good. She also gave me some money and sent me to the merch tent to buy a Rhiannon Giddens t-shirt because us Rhiannons have to stick together.

She is a talented musician. She can play a number of instruments, has a powerful stage presence and is a great singer. She is half-black and half-white. She sings songs from a variety of genres that reflect both sides of her heritage. She can even sing in gaelic. I’m happy to share a name with her.

I also enjoyed the moment at the end when she was promoting her website and said, “Rhiannon. It rhymes with Shannon. There’s this pop singer who ruined my life.” At this point I let out a loud cheer, that I am positive did not reach the main stage, because that pop singer also ruined my life and is part of why I wanted to shorten my name. Before she whose name everyone calls me came along there was at least a blank slate. My name was weird but at least I could give people the sounds. Now I am Rhianna unless you get to know me and figure out the difference.

My mother did some research on Rhiannon Giddens after the set. Apparently there was a large migration of gaelic speaking Scottish people to North Carolina at one point in time. Pretty much the same way there was everywhere else in North America. She also moved to Scotland.

It’s potentially unfair to impose these things on someone I don’t know just because we have the same name. It’s not anyone named Sarah is doing that. Then again it’s not like there are a lot of Rhiannons around. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I am drawn to Scotland and have the name I do. I feel connected to that place in a way I don’t to others. I want to go to Wales next year mostly because my first two names are Welsh.

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