The Tambourine Bash is Back with Even More Stellar Music Collaborations

For the past several years, Music Export Memphis has held an annual fundraiser event known as “The Tambourine Bash,” a showcase of some of the city’s finest musical talent. What sets the event apart from similar events is the unexpected collaborations between artists, many of whom had never worked together previously. This year’s event is slated for October 12 at the Overton Park Shell and tickets are available now. To learn more about the event, we sat down with Music Export Memphis’ Executive Director Elizabeth Cawein.

1. First things first, the Tambourine Bash is obviously a major annual fundraiser for Music Export Memphis. Tell us a little bit about the organization and your personal goals.

Music Export Memphis is a non-profit export office for Memphis music. We’ve been around since 2016, and we really grew exponentially during the pandemic because we ran an almost half-a-million dollar COVID relief fund for musicians and music professionals. This helped to massively increase our donor base and our revenue, but also the number of local artists who were aware of our work. Our primary focus is on subsidizing working artists through unique and innovative programs that all address elements of career promotion and building audiences outside of the city. So we’re funding tour grants, merchandise, and the like. We recently launched two new grants that help to fund publicity and marketing, both of which are incredibly key in building your career and helping to get your music out into the world. We believe that when we help artists extend their reach, it helps the whole city because it allows artists to remain in Memphis and build their careers here.

2. When did the Tambourine Bash begin and how has it changed over the years?

The Tambourine Bash started back in 2018 as a pretty straight-forward benefit event. One thing that eventually became  a thread linking the first event with the subsequent event was that the two bands we had performing were completely different. One was reggae and the other was Southern rock. That next year, we really embraced the idea of collaboration. That really came from recognizing that this was really the only event we were holding in Memphis every year, so we really wanted to push the creative ceiling and create something that was bigger than just a concert and silent auction. This idea of collaboration really grew in 2019, when we paired Talibah Safiya and Marcella Simmien together, along with Nick Black and Daz Rinko and Future-Everything and Unapologetic.

After having to cancel the 2020 event, we were concerned about getting people together in ’21 due to the ongoing pandemic, which is largely what led us to the Overton Park Shell as an ideal outdoor venue. As you know, the Shell is a massive venue, so it also allowed us to go even bigger than we had in the past. It was honestly a big leap for us, but with the help of our sponsors we were able to pull off a really successful show with a ton of artists. I knew that I wanted to end the night with a “super jam” finale, which was largely planned by Boo Mitchell, who is returning again this year for assistance.

While we now do more events during the year in Memphis, the Tambourine Bash is still our marquis night that continues to push the creative boundary of our artists. We also wanted to do something that you would never see again, and I can guarantee that the Tambourine Bash will give you some performances that will never be replicated.

3. Collaboration between seemingly disparate artists is at the core of what makes the event so unique. How do you go about pairing up different artists that may have not worked together before?

First of all, I’m already working on the 2024 event because I am constantly hearing from artists who want to participate or getting suggestions for artists. I also have particular concepts that I want to execute each year, so a perfect example of that is this year we have Dirty Streets collaborating with Alexis Grace and Deonna Sirod, who are both unbelievable vocalists. Dirty Streets rock so hard, and while I love their vocals, I knew I wanted some big powerhouse vocals with a gritty rock band. There are plenty of other examples like that as well, but I think finding artists who are in different genres but who share a similar spirit is at the core. There are also times when I’m a bit scared or apprehensive when I pair the artists together, but so far it’s always worked out! A perfect example of this was during last year’s event when Lucky 7 Brass Band, Aquarian Blood, and Rachel Maxann were paired up. It was completely ridiculous–there were like 17 musicians on stage at one time–but it was incredible. I mean, people still come up to me and want to talk about that set. I especially love when the artists tell me “there is no way we would have collaborated together otherwise, but now we’re working together on a new song or project.”

The other thing is, now that we’re going into the fourth year of the event, I think artists are much more understanding of the concept and therefore less hesitant to try out something that on its face may seem absurd. This year especially, I’ve found that artists are particularly enthusiastic because they’ve been wanting to participate.

4. Tell us a bit about this year’s line-up and what may be different from years past.

One thing that is different about this year’s Tambourine Bash is that we have a headliner, which we’ve never done before. In the past, we always had equal billing and set time for everyone, but in brainstorming ideas of how to get even more people in the audience, we decided to have a headliner. One thing that was really important to us was ensuring that the headliner was an artist that the city claims, which is certainly true of Cedric Burnside. There obviously needed to be that collaborative element as well, but Cedric’s partners have yet to be announced. I’m thinking we may keep it a surprise until that night, but that’s still to be determined.

Other than that, I would say the formula is pretty much the same, but because we never repeat artists, it will be a completely different show from years past and each of the sets will be totally unique.

5. I know that this is probably a tough question, but do you have any favorite performances from the past that you think exemplify what the Tambourine Bash is all about?

So I already spoke about one, especially when talking about what exemplifies the Tambourine Bash, and that would be last year’s set featuring Lucky 7 Brass Band, Aquarian Blood, and Rachel Maxann. To me, that is such a beautiful example of what we try to do. There are also some other favorite moments, like Jody Stephens, Steve Selvidge, and Amy LaVere doing a set together. While those three musicians had played together before, they had never done a trio performance like that. We also got to see Jody singing the Chris Bell classic “You and Your Sister,” and you could’ve heard a pin drop. It was such a beautiful and memorable moment, especially from a guy who always claims that he’s not a singer. There are always these great unexpected moments and I think each individual in attendance tends to leave with their own. Oh, and how could I forget the “super jam”! Having all of the artists come together is just magical and a reminder that you can’t get anything quite like this in any other city than Memphis. That level of talent coming together is just off the charts and always a great reminder of why we do this work.

6. Before I let you go, is there anything else that you wanted to add?

Beginning on September 18th, we’ll be rolling out our big annual giving push as a lead-up to the Tambourine Bash, which will include artist testimonials, a new video podcast called “Export 101,” along with a lot of other content. One thing that’s more Tambourine Bash related is the silent auction, which will be held online this year. That will also go live on the 18th. Finally, I think it’s important to stress that no other city has this type of organization or is doing the work that we’re doing. It’s incredibly unique to say the lease and when I travel for conferences or festivals and meet folks from other cities, they are flabbergasted at the work we’re doing. In fact, other cities have begun to reach out to us about assisting them with getting their own artist support programs set up. I just want Memphians to know that this doesn’t exist elsewhere and that when you come out to support us, you’re ensuring that we can continue to innovate and grow and keep Memphis as a world class music city.


*All Photos by Craig Thompson 

You Might Also Be Interested In…


5 Questions with Jared “Jay B” Boyd

1. Tell us about your background. How did you get into the music industry? I was born and raised in […]


5 Must See Concerts in August

Following a particularly notable July, August is looking to be another strong month for live music in the M-Town as […]


Glockianna Is Taking Over – And She’s Doing It Glockianna’s Way

By Katie Kelly You wouldn’t know it at all from looking at her, but Glockianna is nervous. It’s September 2022 […]