The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #119597   Message #2622552
Posted By: MikeofNorthumbria
01-May-09 - 09:20 AM
Thread Name: What is 'feral folk music'?
Subject: RE: What is 'feral folk music'?
According to one definition on this thread, doing "feral folk music" appears to mean taking material which most folk club regulars would recognise as "folk" out to venues other than folk clubs, and to people who would never normally go into folk clubs. There's nothing novel about doing this.   It was providing a livelihood for professionals like Alex Campbell, Miriam Makeba, Josh White and Pete Seeger long ago, when folk clubs as we know them hardly existed. Many amateurs have also kept on doing it through boom years and lean years alike - because we enjoy it, and because we believe it matters.

In Britain, folk club regulars used to call people who did this "entertainers" – sometimes approvingly, sometimes disparagingly, depending on their ideological stance. Meanwhile, show business professionals called people who did it "folk singers" – a label often resented by historians, musicologists and folk-club diehards, but well enough understood by the general public. Do we really need a new name for this activity now? Probably not - but democracy will eventually decide whether it becomes common currency.

As for the other definition of "feral folk music" on offer here – this also seems to promise us nothing new. Ever since the folk balloon of the 1960s began to deflate and descend, marketing people have been hyping new musical products with a "This is Folk – but not as we know it, Jim" spin. In Britain, the sub-text to this sales pitch has often been "This is the REAL folk music of TODAY! All those boring people stuck in the folk-club time warp will hate it – therefore YOU are going to love it!"

Over the years, that line of patter has become almost as boring a cliché as the Arran-sweatered, finger-in-ear folkie image which it sought to displace. (fRoots and SmoothOps, please note.) Will it hit the jackpot this time? Probably not - but if it puts a few more bums on seats, and keeps a few more musicians off the dole, then good luck to it.

Wassail!