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'What is folk?' and cultural differences

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GUEST,Jason 03 Dec 02 - 04:21 PM
MMario 03 Dec 02 - 04:23 PM
Don Firth 03 Dec 02 - 04:41 PM
GUEST 03 Dec 02 - 06:01 PM
Alice 03 Dec 02 - 08:36 PM
GUEST 04 Dec 02 - 10:09 AM
Jacob B 04 Dec 02 - 10:45 AM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 04 Dec 02 - 10:56 AM
GUEST 04 Dec 02 - 11:08 AM
Amos 04 Dec 02 - 11:19 AM
GUEST,Les B. 04 Dec 02 - 11:19 AM
greg stephens 04 Dec 02 - 11:47 AM
GUEST 04 Dec 02 - 11:48 AM
GUEST 04 Dec 02 - 11:50 AM
Bill D 04 Dec 02 - 12:00 PM
GUEST 04 Dec 02 - 12:06 PM
GUEST,Les B. 04 Dec 02 - 01:28 PM
GUEST 04 Dec 02 - 01:36 PM
greg stephens 04 Dec 02 - 01:45 PM
GUEST 04 Dec 02 - 01:54 PM
GUEST,Les B. 04 Dec 02 - 02:03 PM
GUEST 04 Dec 02 - 02:11 PM
greg stephens 04 Dec 02 - 02:13 PM
Boab 05 Dec 02 - 03:10 AM
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Subject: 'What is folk?' and cultural differences
From: GUEST,Jason
Date: 03 Dec 02 - 04:21 PM

I'm quite new to this site, but not so new to realise that 'What is folk?' is a dreaded question that can of course have no answer.

Reading some of the old threads, I get the impression that Americans have a much looser definition of the term, including modern acoustic singer songwrighters etc. as 'folk' and that the British have a much tighter definition, focusing on 'traditional' music.

Would that be a fair generalisation, or am I way out?

I'm sorry if this has been dealt with before.

Jason


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Subject: RE: 'What is folk?' and cultural differences
From: MMario
Date: 03 Dec 02 - 04:23 PM

I think that may be becuae commercially most of the protest songs (especially in the 50's and 60's) got classed as "folk"


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Subject: RE: 'What is folk?' and cultural differences
From: Don Firth
Date: 03 Dec 02 - 04:41 PM

One thing that led to endless confusion is that in the Sixties, "folk groups" such as the Kingston Trio, Peter Paul and Mary, The Limeliters, The New Christy Minstrels, et al recorded a lot of songs that were newly written--not traditional--or derived from non-traditional sources (e.g., They Call the Wind Mariah from a Broadway musical, Try to Remember from an Off-Broadway musical, and many others) and people assumed that because they were sung by "folk singers," they were (are) folk songs. That confusion is still rampant.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: 'What is folk?' and cultural differences
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Dec 02 - 06:01 PM

Guest Jason, I believe you hit it bang on. There are the cultural differences you mention. It gets even more complex when you throw in the word "traditional" both sides the pond. There is traditional bluegrass and newgrass. There is Irish traditional music and Irish folk (which is more singer-songwriter oriented, like American "folk" music is often considered to be).

And the hair splitting can go on ad nauseum.

Also, this list is pretty much dominated by British, Celtic, and American singer songwriter types, with a few blues, old time, bluegrass enthusiasts thrown in for good measure, and doesn't lean too heavily towards the traditional or "purist" end of the folk spectrum. And there don't seem to be many posters here who know much about the many ethnic folk musics of the world here (with wonderful exceptions, of course).


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Subject: RE: 'What is folk?' and cultural differences
From: Alice
Date: 03 Dec 02 - 08:36 PM

quote this list is pretty much dominated by British, Celtic, and American singer songwriter types, with a few blues, old time, bluegrass
enthusiasts thrown in for good measure, and doesn't lean too heavily towards the traditional or "purist" end of the folk spectrum.
end quote

.... who says?


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Subject: RE: 'What is folk?' and cultural differences
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Dec 02 - 10:09 AM

I did.


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Subject: RE: 'What is folk?' and cultural differences
From: Jacob B
Date: 04 Dec 02 - 10:45 AM

"Folk Music" is definitely used as a marketing term in the USA. People who are aware that the term used to mean something else occasionally try to come up with other terms that mean the same thing as the marketing term (such as "accoustic singer-songwriter"), but the term persists.


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Subject: RE: 'What is folk?' and cultural differences
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 04 Dec 02 - 10:56 AM

Guest, I beg to differ. There are a number of us who reside at the Mudcat, and deal with the purist/traditional form of folk. Personally, I like both. I am not as well educated in them as Malcolm or Bruce O or some of the others but I do like them. I also like finding out about where they come from, to the best of our abilities.

We have started a series of different threads dealing with the histories of many of the songs.


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Subject: RE: 'What is folk?' and cultural differences
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Dec 02 - 11:08 AM

I'll stick to my guns. I didn't say "all" Mudcat posters weren't at the purist/traditionalist end of the spectrum. I said most aren't, and I stand by that. In my experience here over the years, the majority of people posting here aren't into the conservative end of specific ethnic music traditions, but are definitely at the center of British, Celtic, and American "folk" revival music.


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Subject: RE: 'What is folk?' and cultural differences
From: Amos
Date: 04 Dec 02 - 11:19 AM

You can find a rich array from BOTH ends of the spectrum in the Mudcat Sampler CDs from CAMSCO Music. No Mudcatter should be without, named or unnamed!


A


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Subject: RE: 'What is folk?' and cultural differences
From: GUEST,Les B.
Date: 04 Dec 02 - 11:19 AM

Guest, could you define "revival" music ? I am always puzzled by that term when applied to a music form that supposedly has withstood the test of time.


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Subject: RE: 'What is folk?' and cultural differences
From: greg stephens
Date: 04 Dec 02 - 11:47 AM

I like a million kinds of music, folk and non-folk but when it comes to defining folk I am very much at the purist end of the spectrum. By which I mean I include Mongolian yakherders chants, jigs and reels in bars, cajun, country blues, Copper family, Bahamian shanties, rugby songs, Morris tunes etc etc, but not "any song written by someone with an acoustic guitar and long hair".


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Subject: RE: 'What is folk?' and cultural differences
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Dec 02 - 11:48 AM

Amos--good on ya, there. You are doing a fine job of advertising!

LesB, based upon the wording of your request, I don't think it matters how I define revival, because you apparently don't consider it a legitimate definition of music that, in your words, "has withstood the test of time". So that means we would get ourselves into a circular argument that goes nowhere, which might be time you are willing to waste, but I'm not. Thanks anyway.


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Subject: RE: 'What is folk?' and cultural differences
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Dec 02 - 11:50 AM

Hmmm, gregstephens, why country blues but not urban blues? [ducks and scurries away]


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Subject: RE: 'What is folk?' and cultural differences
From: Bill D
Date: 04 Dec 02 - 12:00 PM

well, I am sure with greg on this. Lots of very nice music gets called 'folk' just because it is a convenient term. Folk NEEDS to be more narrowly defined, or it ceases to mean much of anything.

And I suspect greg will agree that country blues grew up in a very different way than urban blues, and thus has 'priority', for lack of a better term. It is not nearly as wide a difference as "Celtic Rock" from Celtic trad, but .....


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Subject: RE: 'What is folk?' and cultural differences
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Dec 02 - 12:06 PM

But maybe the word folk was a just plain stupid label to slap on ethnic music traditions to begin with? I agree.

However, I don't agree that what you guys are calling "country blues" is more authentic than ragtime or dixieland, or that delta blues is more authentic than Chicago blues. It all be da blues, hawney!


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Subject: RE: 'What is folk?' and cultural differences
From: GUEST,Les B.
Date: 04 Dec 02 - 01:28 PM

Guest - Honestly, I'm not trying to start an arguement, just wondering (sort of like the initial topic of this thread) how different people see "revival".


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Subject: RE: 'What is folk?' and cultural differences
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Dec 02 - 01:36 PM

I see it as being different in different places and times. The 60s American revival isn't the same revival as the English revival currently going on, for instance. And Ireland's revival of the 70s isn't the same as the US revival of the blues and bluegrass in largely white, middle class urban and suburban communities in the 80s.

So, my answer is, which revival do you want to talk about?


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Subject: RE: 'What is folk?' and cultural differences
From: greg stephens
Date: 04 Dec 02 - 01:45 PM

GUEST as you very well know, I put "country blues" "cajun" etc as samples of what i consider folk music so as the orginal requester could see where I was coming from. It was not an all inclusive list. The fact that I only mentioned Mongolian yak-herders does not mean I do not also include Kurdish sheep-herders. I might have been quite inclined to include "urban blues" or "blues from those funny areas round towns where they have Walmarts and drive-in ice-cream parlours" or "blues on the decks of boats while not actually in port" but the list would have got a bit unwieldy.
   I also see that the original message was querying whether Brits and Yanks have differing ideas of the "meaning of folk", so I'll just classify myself as Brit.
    A number of people on these topic seem to confuse the question of "whether you like something or not" with "whether you think it's folk or not". It's a reasonable bet that Mudcatters like what they think is folk, as that's what this forum is for. It's not a reasonable bet that if Mudcatters like it, they think it's folk.


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Subject: RE: 'What is folk?' and cultural differences
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Dec 02 - 01:54 PM

Thanks for clarifying there, gregstephens. I was going to jump all over you for leaving out the Kurdish sheep-herders, but decided to let it slide because you included the Morris tunes. How do you suppose Morris dancers would look in Kurdish sheep-herder outfits?

Yes, it is helpful to note that the original post was asking if they had correctly sussed out the tendency among Mudcat posters towards a world view/music opinion that British music traditions = traditional music = narrow definition of "what is folk" vs American music traditions = folk music = looser definition of "what is folk".

I agreed with Guest Jason that that indeed was the case here in Mudcat, generally speaking.


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Subject: RE: 'What is folk?' and cultural differences
From: GUEST,Les B.
Date: 04 Dec 02 - 02:03 PM

Guest - well, the 1960's American scene would be a good place to start. Why do they call it the Folk Scare ? I remember seeing about two Hootenanny shows on TV and then it was on to Rock n' Roll.

I guess I'm interested in who coined the term revival. I was in college in those years, and just learning to play guitar. I remember hearing the Kingston Trio, and the college boy groups, and then getting turned on to Doc Watson and more rootsy musicians. But from inside those times it's hard to take an objective step back and see it as history.


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Subject: RE: 'What is folk?' and cultural differences
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Dec 02 - 02:11 PM

I'm sure it is LesB. I dunno. In an historic sense, I saw those "folk scare" groups as boy bands of their day, and in that sense (and I don't mean this as an insult, but as a legitimate comparison) to the boy bands of today. Now don't get me wrong. The Four Tops and Little Anthony and the Imperials were boy bands too, and I loved the Motown bands. Maybe that is because I'm more partial to African American music traditions I grew up hearing (mostly gospel)than I am to Anglo American music traditions. But then again, the many traditional songs from the Anglo American ballad tradition I've learned about over the years I've grown to love, even though I had no exposure to them growing up. And don't even get me started on American Christmas carol traditions!

It is really pretty complex, once you start to look at all the different music traditions out there.


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Subject: RE: 'What is folk?' and cultural differences
From: greg stephens
Date: 04 Dec 02 - 02:13 PM

For those who take a parochial view, come to Stoke. i have had the pleasure of participating in sessions involving hardline raw folk-music from Kurdistan, Afghanistan and Zimbabwe so far this week. What is interesting is the unmistakable quality of folk-music. I don't mean they all sound the same, far from it. they sound wildly and incomprehensibly different. But they all have something powerful in common which is not be found in Bach, Cole Porter or the Spice Girls. And that something in common is I suppose what I mean by "folk". And others would perhaps use "traditional" or "ethnic".


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Subject: RE: 'What is folk?' and cultural differences
From: Boab
Date: 05 Dec 02 - 03:10 AM

I do thoroughly enjoy being in the "traditional" cage , and often, at that. However, I feel pity for those who permanently lock themselves in there. I once heard folk music described--perfectly--as "what folk sing!" Many are the gems of the music and song tradition; but in common with the antique trade in any commodity---dealers beware! Someone digs up a jam jar which is 150 years old---ah!--a genuine antique! But in common with many a dug-up, genuine traditional song, it would have been better left buried. I was a member [and m.c.] of a Northumbrian folk club for some years [and I've still to find a club to match it!]and besides the ever-welcome traditional input from floorsingers and nationally-acclaimed guests, we were privileged to enjoy the likes of Arizona Smoke Review, Frisco Fire Band [Faith Pretic], and many others . Many a song of the modern era has lasted well in the broad spectrum of the "folk " field. It deserves the folk label. If it is crap from the word "go", it will disappear smartly, as much of the inane and atrocious constantly does. The only danger is that like some "traditional folk", it just might be dug up some day!!


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