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Monday, 16 September 2013

Knowing your area

One thing I am finding increasingly difficult is knowing exactly what constitutes folk music.

I find this with most musical genres as these days so many things cross over, how do you actually say "Yes this is folk" or no "this is defiantly not". Its really hard when things sit in this kind of grey area.

The trouble with music is it is not clear cut, it actually more like a spectrum with lots of overlapping it makes things more complicated.

On my old folk show I would play things which people would then e-mail me claiming that it is not folk but indie music I just played. Well what? What is 'indie'? How do you know.

Folk, world roots, traditional, acoustic, country, Celtic. Even rock and indie. It all overlaps to such an extent that anyone claiming to be an 'expert' in folk must be lying because frankly it is impossible! I know I've tried. Through my different review publications I see this problem approached different ways.

Bright Young Folk has a very specific remit where it has to be traditional English music that can be considered 'root' music. Fatea magazine on the other hand allows the cross over into Jazz, Country, Irish and American folk. Is this a bad thing? No probably not. It just makes it complicated and impossible for anyone to know what they are doing.

Sure when trying to become an expert you'll get to know the big names, but so will everyone else. With the number of artists really going for it it is impossible to recognise every band. This is why I get really fustrated when someone says to me "Oh, your into folk? Well you must know x" and I stare at them blankly. They then reply with "So you don't really know anything about folk do you?".

This annoys me, simply because it is impossible.

You'd of course think that there must be a limited number of artists so of course you can get to know them all. This is true but the number of folk artists is so high that it may as well be infinite.

I spend a lot of money collecting folk music and this is not even to mention the amount I get for free from reviews and I've only scratched the surface. Unless your a billionaire you just can't do it..

How Cecil Sharp managed to collect as well as he did I'll never know!

I'm interested to see what EFDSS and North West Folk (two publications I am now getting involved with, hurray for shameless self promotion!) do to define what they consider folk.


Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Strange perceptions and easily answered questions

So you may know that recently a pilot has been charged with raping African school kids during a charity event thing.

What is really interesting is a picture of the pilot shows him playing an accordion which promoted an acquaintance to say to me 'You play one of them things don't you?' to which I wanted to explain the difference between an accordion and a melodeon but instead decided to let it go and just say 'yes'.

He then gave me the evilest look ever and walked off. I wasn't really sure what happened but then I remembered another time a few years ago when I was considering paying the banjo. A large number of people I knew begged me not to because they said it was a symbol of being an inbred hick. They are of course referring to Deliverance and the famous Dueling Banjos scene (which is an amazing bit of playing, inbred hick or not). People are judging an entire music instrument based on one film and deciding that anyone who plays that instrument or enjoys the music must be on the same level as the fictional people in the film.

I can only guess that the reaction of my acquaintance over the accordion is a similar thing. In his mind accordion = rapist. I found this insane. Why the accordion? Why not him being a pilot? Both are as equally unconnected to being a sexually assaulting nutcase as the other, yet that assumption was made in his head?
I think I really get how catholic priests feel now.

In other news, another friend asked me why Folk music seems to have different names. At first I thought they meant the way old folk tales often get given different titles as it passes through different groups, but are still essentially the same tune or story.

What was actually is meant is why do many folk sets, particularly dance ones, do this:

Next Stop: Grimsby/ The Three Rascals/ Aunt Crisps

I remembered that when I first got into Folk music I didn't quite get this either, and I suppose it isn't something you see in most musical genres. What this is three different tunes merged into one set. Often folk tunes are actually quite short, often because they get repeated over and over.

So here Next Stop: Grimsby is one short tune, the artists want to make a full track out of it so merge it with Three Rascals and Aunt Crisps to make one set made out of three tunes. This is of course where the real skills of the musicians come in. You can't just throw any three tunes together, they have to fit with each other, be easily transitioned and of course involve the same instruments (for the most part).

It is when you think of this that you realise that musicians don't just sit there and learn some tunes and play them again, they do much more than that.