Mudcat Café message #426891 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #32425   Message #426891
Posted By: Don Firth
27-Mar-01 - 05:22 PM
Thread Name: When your group disagrees wth you...
Subject: RE: When your group disagrees wth you...
First, I would say to Cait, if you like the song, go ahead and sing it. If you self-censor because you're afraid someone might be offended by something you sing, you won't have much of a repertoire available to you. No whaling songs, no lumberjack songs, no murder ballads, and on and on. No lullabies, either. Rockabye Baby obviously advocates child abuse. Hanging a cradle with a baby in it up in the top branches of a tree?? My God! Call the SPCC!

Second, pardon the thread creep, but if I don't say something about this, my keyboard is going to explode!

Some of what olliamh said, I agree with. But this --

Most North Americans are from the great middle class and are assimilated to Anglo beliefs or are Anglos themselves. They come to folk music for very different reason's than people from a traditional music background. They do folk because they lack a personalized culture, whilst the traditional people do it because they have a culture.

Whoa up, there, ollaimh!

I've heard statements like this before, usually from a member of a readily identifiable ethnic background, such as Native-American, African, African-American, Middle-Eastern, Asian, Irish (yes, Irish!), and numerous others that "Anglos don't have any culture." That is totally bogus!

I get the impression that it springs from a kind of snobbishness that says "I belong to a more close-knit group than you do, so I'm more ethnic than you are. As a result, I have a number of traditions (rituals, songs, stories, etc.) that are strongly identified with my group, and that is why I have a culture and you don't." That's wrong on several counts:

First, it's a put-down. Second, it's lumping all "Anglos" into a single group and regarding them as all the same, and that's what's generally called "racism." Third, it's simply not true.

What are "Anglo beliefs?" I fall into the category of "Anglo" myself, and I am not aware that there is one specific collection of "Anglo beliefs." Is my education lacking?

By "Anglo," I presume you are, at least roughly, using the dictionary definition, which says, "An English speaking person, especially a white North American who is not of Hispanic or French descent." Okay! Reality check: scratch a white North American and what are you going to find? Quite a number of very different national and ethnic groups with readily identifiable traditions and cultures. My father's grandfather came to the United States from the Orkney Islands. My mother's parents came from Dalarna, Sweden. There are some pretty well-defined cultures there, "Anglo" though they may be. My wife is a mix of English, Scots-Irish, Swedish, and Czechoslovakian. She pretty much has her pick of cultural backgrounds. Both my wife's and my forebears brought sizable chucks of their "old country" traditions with them (I never did develop a taste for lutefisk, but I love pickled herring!). With the exception of Native Americans, (and if you go back far enough, they, too!) all North Americans are immigrants, and most of them brought at least some of their traditions with them. I could give a long list of examples, both real and hypothetical, but I think I've made my point.

In fact, an "Anglo" of no particular ethnic origins (and you will never find one because they don't exist) has such a rich selection of available cultural backgrounds to chose from, the problem is not the lack of culture, but the size of the smorgasbord (there's a good, ethnic word) to choose from.

My father was not a singer, but he sang to my sisters and me when we were little,. They were songs he had learned from his grandfather and from people he knew as he grew up on San Juan Island. He didn't call them "folk songs." They were just songs. When I grew older, I heard records of Burl Ives singing some of the same songs. So I learned them, and others, and sang them too. I don't claim that I grew up in the oral tradition, but at least I was familiar with it as a youngster. I think most Anglos don't "do folk because we lack a personalized culture," but because we hear the songs and something very powerful resonates within us. We like them -- indeed, we come to love them -- to the point where we feel impelled to learn them and sing them too. Not because we lack a culture.

Sorry. Had to get that off my chest.

Don Firth