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Roger in Sheffield do young folk musicians need new ideas? (60* d) do young folk musicians need new ideas? 04 Nov 01


The Danu thread reminded me of my annoyance after reading an editorial in Folk Roots (Froots) magazine. I will paste it below.
Folk music is still fairly new to me, only a couple of years ago I heard some tunes that were inspirational and it went on from there. Went to Sidmouth for the first time this year and really enjoyed the whole thing, left lots of the events just wanting to get out on the beach and play something there and then. So I was disappointed to read the piece in Froots which seemed to me to be unfair, sour grapes.
I understand that I have not heard countless people and groups playing and singing the same pieces for the last thirty years or so like, some of you have, and that if I had I too might be a bit weary of them. For now I am quite happy to be entertained and inspired by these young groups even though there is a hint of envy at their talent. And who knows which of them will stumble across the refreshing new direction that some people crave, these youngsters seem best placed to find it in years to come. No doubt then they will be scorned for not playing in a traditional way!

From Folk Roots Oct 2001 No.220

..........At Sidmouth there's always a lot of chewing of the fat over breakfasts and many midnight bar-proppings in the Bedford or the Late Night Extra.
One of the topics which kept coming up this year was inspired by the numerous younger bands around.
Sidmouth was pulsing with them, and the sheer abundance seemed to bring an obvious problem to people's attention.
It's this:
playing standards are fantastic, with instrumental skills beyond the dreams of the folk club generation of two or three decades ago,
but where on earth is the imagination, the adventure, the creativity?
Time and time again we were seeing bands content to play in predictable, well-trodden styles
- a scary mirror of the state of the UK pop music scene. Clone rangers...
Why, people were asking, should this be?
Why were musicians in that era from Davey Graham through Planxty, early Steeleye & Fairport, Nic Jones
(who everybody was pleased to see visiting Sidmouth this year)
to the Old Swan and New Victory Bands (just as a few examples) all able to take the music on big leaps forward?
Whereas today's generation - who have far greater playing talent at their finger tips - are mostly content to tread familiar water.
Where's the danger, the risk, the pushing at the edge?

Many interesting theories were floated comparing that '60s/'70s Britfolk generation to today's.
Then, pretty much everybody was self-taught, the mother of invention, whilst now there are extensive courses and workshops available to show young musicians the 'right' way to do things.
Then, there were relatively few recordings out there as sources for material, thus forcing people to uncover or invent new repertoires,
whereas now the supply of recorded music to reproduce is almost infinite.
Then, there were more older traditional players around to inspire, whereas now most of the role models are revivalists.
And back then everybody was playing to their own peers and age group who were often developing musicians too,
whereas now the audience for young performers is largely their parents' generation, who know what they like.
Whatever the causes, the results are there to see. Playing the notes is not enough.
But turning up the volume, playing faster, adding a few half understood clichés from rock or dance music is not the answer either
- it would just be a predictable yawn. Been there, done that too.
What the folk scene could use right now, suggested one venerable revival giant, is an equivalent in its effect to what the 1977 punk revolution did to the flabby, self important pomp rock scene of the day: kick it up the backside, grab baby, drain bath.
In the end it comes down to this, true not just here but all over the world. Real traditions continually evolve and progress, they are living things.
Stand them still, put them in glass cases or turn them into Art and they atrophy.
They need to have a function, roots, not just be something for nice polite people sat in rows. Where next?

Ian Anderson


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