Stories from Main Street: Episode 1
Musical Shelby: AftanCi
Where do you look for new North Carolina music? Durham, Raleigh, Asheville, and Charlotte are well known for their scenes, but smaller towns are also producing big sounds. Shelby is one of them, and Aftan Smith, who goes by the creative moniker AftanCi, is a driving force behind it’s creative sound. Her work draws from many genres, and from Shelby’s own musical lineage.
Shelby is perhaps most famous as being the hometown of Earl Scruggs, originator of the three-fingered banjo picking style that many say defined bluegrass and influenced pickers across the board, including Bela Fleck, Tony Trischka, and Steve Martin. Shelby is also home to Don Gibson, country music giant. The Gibson Theater in Uptown Shelby is named after him and he wrote such country standards as “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” and “Oh, Lonesome Me.” Shelby is home to other trailblazers as well, whose names may not be as well known. David Lee, a black songwriter, performer, producer, and manager worked behind the scenes and on stages throughout the state and country, and his career spanned nearly three decades.
AftanCi is carrying on Shelby’s rich musical tradition. Taking inspiration from her hometown’s country and bluegrass roots, as well as from R&B, Pop, Soul, and Gospel, AftanCi is forging her own own sound. She began singing when she was three years old, and first performed at nine with her family group, the Keys of Harmony. Beyond performing music, she also runs a recording studio. According to Aftan, recording music in a small town offers a more comfortable and laid-back environment. Many artists are drawn to this, and visit to record and create, and AftanCi and her musical community are waiting with open arms. Safe to say, Shelby’s musical legacy is in good hands.
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