The state's music scene is centered around the capital city of Providence, which became nationally known in the late 1990s for the noise rock scene that revolved around the Fort Thunder artists' collective. The state is also home to artists performing several other genres, most notably folk rock, jazz, hardcore punk, hip hop and Cape Verdean music. It is also home to the famous Newport Jazz and Newport Folk festivals.
Providence, the state's capital, has a very strong local independent music scene, known especially for its contributions to the genre of noise rock, most notably the groups Lightning Bolt, Black Dice (who later re-located to New York City) and Arab on Radar.
Based in Providence, the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra is one of the most influential music institutions in the state.
Notable musicians who graduated Providence's Brown University include Wendy Carlos, Lisa Loeb, Mary Chapin Carpenter, OK Go singer, Damian Kulash, Duncan Sheik, ZOX, and Will Oldham, who dropped out after one semester.
Newport has a much smaller scene, with Throwing Muses being its most successful rock band. The group formed in 1981 and recorded and toured until their hiatus in 2003. The band's lead guitarist and secondary songwriter, Tanya Donnelly also formed Belly, best known for their hit "Feed the Tree", which went to #1 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart in 1994. Donnelly was also briefly guitarist for The Breeders.
Other well known Rhode Island musical artists from elsewhere in the state include John Cafferty, Blu Cantrell (who had a #2 Hot 100 hit with "Hit 'Em Up Style (Oops!)" in 2001), Combustible Edison, Sage Francis, Monty Are I, Draco and the Malfoys and Billy Gillman. The pop music producer and songwriter Dr. Luke was born in Westerly.
Due to the large population of Portuguese immigrants in Southern New England, Portuguese traditional music is played in small communities. Usually Roman Catholic churches are the center of the communities activities, where music is played.
Fado is a form of music characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor, and infused with a characteristic sentiment of resignation, fatefulness and melancholia (loosely captured by the word saudade, or "longing"). Fado performers play at local venues throughout Rhode Island and Southern Massachusetts.
The Azores is the major heritage of many Portuguese-Americans. In Rhode Island, most Portuguese traditional music is played by Azorean people. Azoreans maintain some distinct musical traditions, such as the traditionally fiddle-driven chamarrita dance. This dance and music is played mainly at weddings and Church festivals.
Azorean-Portuguese sensation Jorge Ferreira is a popular musician throughout New England, singing at many festivals and events.
Of special importance is the music of the large Cape Verdean population. Though Cape Verdean music is largely unknown outside of the expatriate community, Rhode Island is the acknowledged center for Cape Verdean morna and other styles in the United States.
The Newport Jazz Festival began in 1954 by George Wein and has been documented on recordings by Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, Muddy Waters, Nina Simone, Ray Charles, John Coltrane and Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. The 1958 festival was documented in the 1960 film Jazz on a Summer's Day. The festival moved to New York City in 1971. In 1985, the festival was revived in Newport as a JVC Jazz Festival.
The Newport Folk Festival began in 1959, co-founded by Jazz Festival founder George Wein. The festival is best known for the July 25, 1965 performance of Bob Dylan, where he performed for the first time with electric instruments. Like the Jazz Festival, the folk festival moved to New York City in 1971, but returned in 1986. Notable performers at the festivals included: Joan Baez, Phil Ochs, Bob Dylan, Buffalo Springfield, Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Richie Havens, Bonnie Raitt, Alison Krauss, Ry Cooder, Little Feat, Janis Ian, Suzanne Vega, Violent Femmes, The String Cheese Incident, Indigo Girls and The Pixies
The Newport Music Festival is a classical music festival that began in 1969 as a summer season of the Metropolitan Opera. The outdoor venue was not conducive to classical music performance, and instead the grand rooms of the stately Newport mansions were put to use for chamber music concerts. The early concerts utilized many members of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Mark P. Malkovich, III has been the general director for 31 of the 37 seasons. It has become known for giving young international artists, such as Inessa Galante, a venue for their American debut.
The Sunset Music Festival began in 1997 in Newport and has included performances by acts as varied as Saves the Day, Jason Mraz, Paula Cole, moe., Little Feat, Jack's Mannequin, Peter Frampton, Bo Bice, Bruce Hornsby, Guster, Something Corporate, Ben Folds (who has played at several festivals), Better Than Ezra, Cheap Trick, Gin Blossoms and Anna Nalick and also local artists like Becky Chace, Zox and Monty Are I.