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Alexander Suarez Mendez, Cuban Uilleann Piper

Vic Smith 15 Jul 20 - 07:12 AM
GUEST,Peter Laban 15 Jul 20 - 07:33 AM
Vic Smith 15 Jul 20 - 08:06 AM
GUEST,Peter Laban 15 Jul 20 - 08:24 AM
GUEST,akenaton 15 Jul 20 - 08:29 AM
Mysha 15 Jul 20 - 08:45 AM
The Sandman 15 Jul 20 - 08:52 AM
GUEST,Peter Laban 15 Jul 20 - 09:04 AM
GUEST,akenaton 15 Jul 20 - 09:05 AM
GUEST,akenaton 15 Jul 20 - 09:08 AM
Bonzo3legs 15 Jul 20 - 04:13 PM
GUEST,matt milton 17 Jul 20 - 08:59 AM
GUEST,Peter Laban 17 Jul 20 - 09:10 AM
GUEST,matt milton 17 Jul 20 - 10:34 AM
GUEST,Peter Laban 17 Jul 20 - 11:15 AM
Vic Smith 17 Jul 20 - 11:36 AM
GUEST,matt milton 18 Jul 20 - 06:35 AM
GUEST,Peter Laban 18 Jul 20 - 08:41 AM
GUEST,matt milton 20 Jul 20 - 03:41 AM
GUEST,Peter Laban 20 Jul 20 - 04:20 AM
GUEST,matt milton 20 Jul 20 - 05:49 AM
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Subject: Black Pipers Matter
From: Vic Smith
Date: 15 Jul 20 - 07:12 AM

Black Pipers Matter!


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Subject: RE: Black Pipers Matter
From: GUEST,Peter Laban
Date: 15 Jul 20 - 07:33 AM

ALexander Suarez Mendez is one of a group of pipers from Cuba, nurtured by an outreach program of Na Piobairi Uilleann. He's been brought over to Ireland by NPU a few times, as was Rosalia Acosta Corrales.

There are uilleann pipers of many nationalities and ethnicities.

I am not sure what your reason for singling out a black piper is, there can be an element to this that makes me uneasy sometimes. I played a concert a few years ago where Alexander also appeared. After the concert finished I was talking to a friend, also a piper and as it happens black, a woman came up to congratulate him on his piping (thinking he was Alexander), saying something along the lines of 'it's great top see you guys doing so well on the pipes'. I know, it's meant well, but really?


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Subject: RE: Black Pipers Matter
From: Vic Smith
Date: 15 Jul 20 - 08:06 AM

Earlier this week, I emailed congratulations to an Englishman who had put up a video of himself playing the kora. Now I pride myself on knowing quite a lot about kora players and their culture as I have made 25 trips to West Africa, recording Manding musicians. I have released a number of albums of kora music; I have arranged and financed British tours by Gambian jali. He has spent months living in my house practising his kora every day even when I had to drive him to his many gigs.

I was very pleased to hear a black Cuban had absorbed Irish musical culture so well.
I was very pleased to hear a white Englishman had absorbed Manding musical culture so well.

Could I ask Peter Laban what is wrong with that? I felt that there was a sting in the tail of his post ending with I know, it's meant well, but really? and quite frankly, I resent it.


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Subject: RE: Black Pipers Matter
From: GUEST,Peter Laban
Date: 15 Jul 20 - 08:24 AM

There's nothing wrong with it but instead of commending him as a piper, you singled him out as a black piper and, really, I don't see the need, it's completely irrelevant.


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Subject: RE: Black Pipers Matter
From: GUEST,akenaton
Date: 15 Jul 20 - 08:29 AM

I agree the chap is excellent and I hear a lot of piping in this area, but the colour of his skin is of no importance


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Subject: RE: Black Pipers Matter
From: Mysha
Date: 15 Jul 20 - 08:45 AM

Could someone warn me if this thread is ever moved below the line?

Mysha


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Subject: RE: Black Pipers Matter
From: The Sandman
Date: 15 Jul 20 - 08:52 AM

the colour of skin in one sense can be important, just as the colour of the skins of people doing morris dancing is important because it is a sign of gradual integration of cultures, if there were more black brown and mixed race people doing morris dancing there would be less racism within it to overcome[imo] ,at one time the morris ring refused to allow womens morris sides into the ring, their attempts to Ban did not work.
its called integration, black brown or any colour could disguise and white people could disguise and unknowing bystanders would realise what it was bout....... disguise.
However it is correct that we do not mention white pipers as being white, but on the other hand people do on occasions mention irish pipers or scottish fiddler or english singer Martin Carthy,or irish singer jimmy crowley.where does it all end?


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Subject: RE: Black Pipers Matter
From: GUEST,Peter Laban
Date: 15 Jul 20 - 09:04 AM

Cuban piper would have sufficed Dick, if showing integration is what you aim for, it's a far more significant cultural indicator than 'black'.

Na Piobairi Uilleann has been running an Arts Council supported series of piping under lockdown : 'Piping in the parlour'. A wide selection of pipers from all over the world, of all genders, ages and backgrounds, selected only on the merit of their piping. Highly recommended viewing, if you're into that sort of thing. Videos are made by the pipers at home and posted on NPU's facebook page and are archived on their website pipers.ie, creating an overview of current uilleann piping as it stands all over the world.


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Subject: RE: Black Pipers Matter
From: GUEST,akenaton
Date: 15 Jul 20 - 09:05 AM

Sandman...I don't take your point, piping in this area is confined mainly to traditional tunes and often accompanied by traditional dress. The reason that there are almost no black pipers is simply that there are very few black people ....parity will never be achieved it is a matter of numbers, not any kind of discrimination.


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Subject: RE: Black Pipers Matter
From: GUEST,akenaton
Date: 15 Jul 20 - 09:08 AM

I would think the same criteria would apply to Morris in England, there must be relatively few black folks interested in traditional English dance.


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Subject: RE: Black Pipers Matter
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 15 Jul 20 - 04:13 PM

As indeed there must be relatively few white folks interested in the hideous racket blaring from within darkened windows of BMWs cruising the streets in certain parts of Croydon North!!!


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Subject: RE: Black Pipers Matter
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 17 Jul 20 - 08:59 AM

Dick Miles is bang on here:
"the colour of skin in one sense can be important, just as the colour of the skins of people doing morris dancing is important because it is a sign of gradual integration of cultures"

When I first got into traditional music I felt initially quite embarassed at how 'white' it all was. I was in my 20s and, having lived all my life in inner-city London, and having been a big fan of hip-hop, reggae and soul, it felt very strange to be in audiences of folk clubs where there was never anyone black or Asian in the audience or among performers.

I'm now in my early 40s and I've seen very little change on that front.

I'm aware of one black morris dancer and only one black professional traditional musician - the fantastic squeezebox player and singer Cohen Brathwaite-Kilcoyne.

As a white person speaking to other white people on this forum, I do share some of Peter Laban's uneasiness here: of every single statement about Alexander Suarez Mendez or Brathwaite-Kilcoyne cited their ethnicity at the expense of their musicianship that would be a problem.

But we end up in the absurd polar opposite position of never ever mentioning their ethnicity at all, which - given that racism exists in the world and is huge a problem - becomes a bit farcical.


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Subject: RE: Black Pipers Matter
From: GUEST,Peter Laban
Date: 17 Jul 20 - 09:10 AM

My uneasiness is not with the mentioning of ethnicity persé. I know a fair few pipers from all over the world, from Japan, Singapore, all over Europe and the Americas, Israel and what not, including various ethnicities.

But there's a tendency that I think is patronising, we have the Sean Nós singing Imam, the Nigerian stepdancer, the Japanese ceilibands and recently the young woman from the US that are not initially singled out for their achievement but rather for the colour of their skin (rather than perhaps doing something cross-cultural)and too often with the undertone of isn't i great they are learning 'our' music. An that's what I am uneasy with. It would be nice if we can look at different people and first and foremost see their (musical) achievements and that was my angle responding to this thread.


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Subject: RE: ALexander Suarez Mendez, Cuban Uilleann Piper
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 17 Jul 20 - 10:34 AM

Can't comment on the specific instances you mention Peter, as to whether they are condescending or not, I'd have to see them in context.

There's two slightly different contexts here. One is: someone from one country learning a style of music from another completely unrelated country, one they don't live in, have no connection to, and which they may never have visited. (If I, for instance, were to take up the Japanese koto and start learning that repertoire)

The other is: people from an ethnic group in a country (perhaps 2nd/3rd/4th gen immigrant) learning a style of music associated with the dominant culture in that country. Such as a black British kid learning English folk songs. (Slightly complicated, I'll grant you, by the fact that English folk music itself can hardly be considered 'dominant' within today's culture!)

I think it's brilliant that there are finally two or three black and Asian performers on the english traditional folk scene. It's a shame it's still only 2 or 3. And there's nothing patronising or condescending in welcoming that.

In the latter context it's not a question of 'isn't it great that they are learning our music' it is a question of 'isn't it great that they are learning their music'. What that means is that, ever so slowly, the UK's racial barriers are breaking down.


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Subject: RE: ALexander Suarez Mendez, Cuban Uilleann Piper
From: GUEST,Peter Laban
Date: 17 Jul 20 - 11:15 AM

I know Matt. I am aware of the different sides to it.
And I have no doubts about the intention of the original post. But as I said, Europeans or the various pipers from South America, there's fine piping in Argentina, wouldn't be singled out in a similar way and that is what makes me uneasy with this sort of thing.

I recommend the ongoing 'Piping from the parlour series' Na Piobairi Uilleann has put up, pipers from a wide variety of backgrounds showing it only takes love for the music and the instrument, and and a fair amount of dedication, to make a go of it.

Na Piobairi Uilleann is due credit for supporting the group of Cuban pipers, and pipers worldwide, sending out teachers and having players from various places over to facilitate learning.


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Subject: RE: ALexander Suarez Mendez, Cuban Uilleann Piper
From: Vic Smith
Date: 17 Jul 20 - 11:36 AM

I had a chance to talk to the great American blues man Guy Davis when he was in London for the Reclaiming The Banjo concert at the Barbican (about 10? years ago) and one thing that he said sticks out in my mind: -
"When I was growing up..." and Guy was born in 1952 "all the kids in my district thought that the blues was the music played by Brit bands that were just a few years older than us".


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Subject: RE: ALexander Suarez Mendez, Cuban Uilleann Piper
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 18 Jul 20 - 06:35 AM

Are there any black Irish pipers, or indeed any black Irish traditional musicians in Ireland? just looked it up and I note that only 1.38% of Ireland's population self-identified as black in the last census (2016). The great, young London-based trad fiddler Matt Tighe is half-Trinidadian, half-Irish.

In the English traditional music scene, there is almost no racial diversity whatsoever. Well, I can only speak for London, but audiences and performers are almost exclusively white. As mentioned above, I can think of literally only one black professional performer of English trad material.

If I wanted to put on a traditional folk festival and wanted it to be diverse I would definitely have to move outside English, Irish, Scots and Welsh traditions. Nothing wrong with doing that of course, I like loads of different types of music.


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Subject: RE: ALexander Suarez Mendez, Cuban Uilleann Piper
From: GUEST,Peter Laban
Date: 18 Jul 20 - 08:41 AM

Are there any black Irish pipers, or indeed any black Irish traditional musicians in Ireland?

There are young players of various ethnicities, born in Ireland or arrived very young, who are going through the school system and just like everybody else learning music. I have seen young black pipers, Asian concertina players, black whistle players and brush dancers. Like the other local kids, it's a wait and see who will stick with it in the longer run (beyond the mid to late teens, which seems to be a critical age) but they are there and playing at a young age, and playing well too.


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Subject: RE: ALexander Suarez Mendez, Cuban Uilleann Piper
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 20 Jul 20 - 03:41 AM

These videos, which was shared with me yesterday, are very germane to this discussion.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0CeaiaQ1TY
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgSbDS1TusQ


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Subject: RE: ALexander Suarez Mendez, Cuban Uilleann Piper
From: GUEST,Peter Laban
Date: 20 Jul 20 - 04:20 AM

RTE's Nationwide did an item on the young woman from Philadelphia:

Nationwide 22 June

link may only be available for two more days


TG4 has been running competitions where people dance, Irish style, to all sorts of pop , rock and other music. If it has rhythm, you can dance to it.


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Subject: RE: ALexander Suarez Mendez, Cuban Uilleann Piper
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 20 Jul 20 - 05:49 AM

Morgan Bullock is rightly being championed for her dancing skills.
I think she would probably not have 'gone viral' in quite such a same way were it not for the fact that she is African American in a tradition predominantly practiced by white dancers. To say so is certainly not a complaint, nor any disparaging comment on her abilities.

On the contrary, right now that's exactly what race relations need. We'll know that racism no longer exists by the fact that such things cease to be worthy of comment by anyone.

However, white people are correct in being self-aware over how the words they use. The guy on the phone from Riverdance heard in one of the videos above edges over into being a little condescending.


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