To entertainer Ray Kamalay, music is much more than a mere collection of notes on a blank page.
“I’ve always been interested in the history behind the songs,” said Kamalay, a Detroit native who has a passion for teaching others about the origins of American music.
A degree in political philosophy and a love of music history led to the development of Kamalay’s unique program, “Slavery and the Rise of American Music,” which he will bring to the Pendleton Library Sunday at 2 p.m.
The 75-minute presentation is “mostly a musical program,” said Kamalay, who has been entertaining audiences as a professional guitarist and singer since 1974.
During the program, Kamalay sings and plays everything from spirituals and blues to ragtime and jazz. In between songs, he traces the development of early American music from its links to slavery up to the early jazz age.
The depth of these early American tunes strikes a chord in Kamalay’s soul.
“As time went on, I gained a bigger perspective than just the music," he said. "I find great meaning in these songs. I find myself in these songs.”
Throughout his 40 years as a professional musician, Kamalay has played various styles of music and has led a number of bands, including a popular jazz group called “Ray Kamalay and His Red Hot Peppers.”
“At one point I had an Irish band, a French band, a jazz band and a country band," he said. "Every night I was playing something different.”
But early American music kept positioning itself in the forefront of his heart and mind. And the people he meets while presenting his program are one of the main reasons he loves doing what he does.
“I love to meet people,” he said. “People ask the best questions after the program, and that’s always where my next research comes from — it spurs my own curiosity.”