Martha Redbone

She // Her // Hers

[ID: A headshot of a Native and African American woman, wearing a Senegalese braided hairstyle. She wears pink lipstick, wampum shell earrings, heishi shell necklace, and green-patterned blouse.]

Vocalist, Songwriter, Composer, and Educator
Brooklyn, NY
2022 USA Fellow

This award was generously supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Martha Redbone is a Native and African American vocalist/songwriter/composer/educator. Redbone is known for her music gumbo, which infuses the folk, blues, and gospel from her childhood in Harlan County, Kentucky, with the eclectic grit of pre-gentrified Brooklyn.

Inheriting the powerful vocal range of her gospel-singing African American father and the resilient spirit of her mother’s Cherokee/Choctaw culture, she broadens the boundaries of American Roots music. With songs and storytelling that share her life experience as an Afro-Indigenous woman and mother navigating the new millennium, she gives voice to issues of social justice, bridging traditions, connecting cultures, and celebrating the human spirit. Her latest album, The Garden of Love: Songs of William Blake, has been described as “a brilliant collision of cultures” (New Yorker).

Her recordings, touring, and cultural preservation workshops are under her own indie label, a partnership she shares with longtime collaborator/husband Aaron Whitby. Their recent work has been in theater and music education. Redbone received the 2020 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music in a Play for For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf at the Public Theater. Other works include Bone Hill: The Concert, a multidisciplinary theatrical concert touring nationally, The Talking Circles at the New York Theatre Workshop, and Black Mountain Women, currently in development at the Public Theater in New York City. Redbone is based in Brooklyn.

Portrait photo by Christine Jean Chambers.