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Singing Affectation?

GUEST,Tom Bliss 22 Mar 08 - 03:16 PM
Don Firth 22 Mar 08 - 03:05 PM
Big Al Whittle 22 Mar 08 - 02:27 PM
GUEST,Blind Willie O'Shea 22 Mar 08 - 02:05 PM
Big Al Whittle 22 Mar 08 - 01:49 PM
GUEST,The Mole Catcher's unplugged Apprentice 22 Mar 08 - 01:02 PM
Marje 22 Mar 08 - 12:49 PM
the lemonade lady 22 Mar 08 - 12:19 PM
Brian Peters 22 Mar 08 - 07:21 AM
Janie 21 Mar 08 - 11:41 PM
ShayVeno 21 Mar 08 - 10:19 PM
Big Al Whittle 21 Mar 08 - 08:46 PM
Don Firth 21 Mar 08 - 08:40 PM
Don Firth 21 Mar 08 - 08:36 PM
the lemonade lady 21 Mar 08 - 07:41 PM
the lemonade lady 21 Mar 08 - 07:40 PM
GUEST,Steve Gardham 21 Mar 08 - 06:47 PM
SINSULL 21 Mar 08 - 04:53 PM
JedMarum 21 Mar 08 - 03:30 PM
Don Firth 21 Mar 08 - 03:08 PM
BB 21 Mar 08 - 02:55 PM
Brian Peters 21 Mar 08 - 01:25 PM
GUEST,Nigel Spencer 21 Mar 08 - 01:18 PM
Don Firth 21 Mar 08 - 01:15 PM
wayfarer 21 Mar 08 - 01:01 PM
meself 21 Mar 08 - 12:56 PM
GUEST,Tom Bliss 21 Mar 08 - 12:34 PM
Big Mick 21 Mar 08 - 12:17 PM
Bert 21 Mar 08 - 12:08 PM
matt milton 21 Mar 08 - 11:54 AM
mattkeen 21 Mar 08 - 09:55 AM
GUEST,Blind Willie O'Shea 21 Mar 08 - 09:14 AM
Big Mick 21 Mar 08 - 09:01 AM
GUEST,MacColl fan 21 Mar 08 - 06:55 AM
Richard Bridge 21 Mar 08 - 04:43 AM
Big Al Whittle 21 Mar 08 - 04:27 AM
Richard Bridge 20 Mar 08 - 11:35 PM
GUEST,mankishotey 20 Mar 08 - 11:19 PM
Don Firth 20 Mar 08 - 11:13 PM
Grab 20 Mar 08 - 10:04 PM
Big Al Whittle 20 Mar 08 - 09:10 PM
Gene Burton 20 Mar 08 - 08:26 PM
Deckman 20 Mar 08 - 08:19 PM
the button 20 Mar 08 - 08:08 PM
Don Firth 20 Mar 08 - 07:25 PM
Don Firth 20 Mar 08 - 07:24 PM
John MacKenzie 20 Mar 08 - 06:57 PM
Don Firth 20 Mar 08 - 06:52 PM
Richard Bridge 20 Mar 08 - 06:46 PM
M.Ted 20 Mar 08 - 06:27 PM
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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 22 Mar 08 - 03:16 PM

There is supposed to be a 'parallax' phenomenon when it comes to accents. If you take your own pronunciation in a direct line towards someone's accent, they don't tend to notice the deceit, while someone from another region will. So the theory goes that if I attempt a 'Bratfud' accent in Heckmondwike the local lad will notice I'm a cummerin but not that I'm faking, while the Cornishman who overhears will pee himself laughing. This may be rubbish, but I have noted occasions where it's held good - specially working with actors. So perhaps singing in a fake accent is risky when you don't know where the audients hail from.

Tom

(yes - impossible to do Rocky Road in anything other than Irish, which is why I don't sing it)!


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: Don Firth
Date: 22 Mar 08 - 03:05 PM

Very good point, Marje.

I can do accents fairly well, but I'm pretty sure I don't do them perfectly, and a "native speaker" could undoubtedly poke holes in my efforts. Other than the aforementioned few days singing Scottish songs for an expatriate Scotsman (he kept asking for more), I probably don't run into that many people who can call me on it when I sing in dialect.

If I were singing in a British folk club, I would quite probably stick to singing American songs, or at least Anglo-American songs, say, collected in the Southern Appalachians. Were I singing in a folk club in Scotland, I would most certainly think twice—probably three or four times—before attempting to sing a song with a Scots accent.

I would, however, take the opportunity to listen carefully to the way people speak and sing in order to perfect my own attempts.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 22 Mar 08 - 02:27 PM

Blind Willy - I hadn't foreseen that one......


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: GUEST,Blind Willie O'Shea
Date: 22 Mar 08 - 02:05 PM

Are you taking the piss weelittledrummer?
This is a very serious discussion and besides, your criteria doesn't cater for those with less than six inches. Perhaps they should mime to a recording of someone from their region.


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 22 Mar 08 - 01:49 PM

Well call me old fashioned, but I think it should be decided by how long a willy you've got.

If you've only got say six inches (fully erect) you have to sing in your own voice.

However if you can boast nine inches or more - you can sing in what ever voice you like.

With women singers you could take a more liberal sort of line and decide on the colour and indeed amount of hair in the pubic regions.

brown - just one voice
black - two accents
red - you could be Rory Bremner


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: GUEST,The Mole Catcher's unplugged Apprentice
Date: 22 Mar 08 - 01:02 PM

"Even if some people hold this view (and most don't)"

you have proof the most don't?

Charlotte (the view from Ma and Pa's piano stool)


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: Marje
Date: 22 Mar 08 - 12:49 PM

I've never ever encountered the attitude, in English folk clubs, that you should only sing in your own accent or songs from your own background. Even if some people hold this view (and most don't), I can't see it being publicised or discussed as club policy.

I do think it's wise (note: I'm not saying it should be forbidden) not to put on an accent or dialect in front of native speakers of that accent. There's a huge diversity of accents in the UK, and most people can't put on an accent well enough to convince others who are local to that area. I remember seeing an American singer, who should have known better, tell a Scottish dialect joke as part of her routine - it might have convinced an American audience, but in the UK it sounded fake, silly and pointless (and this was in England, not even Scotland). On the other hand, she could have included dialect jokes and songs in any American accent she cared to affect, and most of us over here would have accepted that as near enough genuine. It helps to be sensitive to your audience's background and expectations.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: the lemonade lady
Date: 22 Mar 08 - 12:19 PM

Gosh Don, Thanks Very Much, that's very kind.

8)

' By the way, Sal, I listened to some of your songs on MySpace. Very nice indeed! '

Sal


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 22 Mar 08 - 07:21 AM

"If you stand up in front of an audience you're acting no matter what accent/dialect you're singing in. MacColl was foremost an actor and he stuck to his trade when he became a singer."

All of that is quite true. In MacColl's defence I would also say that he was operating at a time when there was no real blueprint for a 'revival' singer, so a certain amount of experimentation was forgivable. But the fact that a truly inspiring singer like him could verge on risibility in his more 'actorly' performances might be a point in favour of the 'be yourself' argument.


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: Janie
Date: 21 Mar 08 - 11:41 PM

Jeez!

From a 56 year old rank amateur with a southern hillbilly accent and 6 formative years with good choir directors in junior high and high school that pretty much squashed the authentic 'old-timey' quality of that voice forever without taking the hillbilly south out of it -sing what you love, sing it with heart, use a little judgement about what you can pull off and what you can't, and to hell with the rest of it.

Or, in more succinct terms....what Peace and WLD said.


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: ShayVeno
Date: 21 Mar 08 - 10:19 PM

It's highly stylistic. I'm more peeved when a person comes off stage and continues to try the affectation, as if it's a Ren Faire.

When you learn a language, the accent is part of the language. Songs are no different. One is communicating not only the lyrics, but the culture that generated the sentiment. Truly, I can understand how it can grate. On the other-hand, I agree that some songs just sound goofy without it. "Rocky Road to Dublin", with an American accent = Train Wreck just waiting to happen.

I wonder: Was the OP irritated by The Commitment's "Mustang Sally"??
It seems there's a tired double standard: If a Yank affects his vocals, they're being a poseur. If an Irish or English perform does it to sound American; it's quaint.


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 21 Mar 08 - 08:46 PM

I always found ewan and peggy to be civilised and intelligent. You couldn't say that for all their followers.

I think some people need rules and they need to be the guy with the rule book. they just want to belong, to be a made man in the grandad shirt/fisherman's smock wearing mafia.

when they get to run folk festivvals and become folk djs they become consiglieri. very important to the family. they can do hits on the careers of singers who use accents the family don't approve of.


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: Don Firth
Date: 21 Mar 08 - 08:40 PM

By the way, Sal, I listened to some of your songs on MySpace. Very nice indeed!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: Don Firth
Date: 21 Mar 08 - 08:36 PM

Sal, that's pretty well covered in my post of 21 Mar 08 - 03:08 p.m. I was told this by a couple of friends who had been to England and had dropped in on some folk clubs. I had also read that Ewan MacColl had either initiated, or at least, favored this policy. But this was some years back, and what Peggy Seeger says on the link in Brian Peters' post at 21 Mar 08 - 01:25 p.m. clears the matter up a lot.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: the lemonade lady
Date: 21 Mar 08 - 07:41 PM

Dear me, are people STILL singing the Wild Rover?

Sal


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: the lemonade lady
Date: 21 Mar 08 - 07:40 PM

Don:


'I have heard that in many of the folk clubs in the British Isles, one is not allowed to sing—or at least one is severely frowned upon if one sings—songs that are not from his or her own background...'

I've not come across that, I wonder where it was you heard that? Maybe I just don't get around enough.

I must admit I don't like singing a song from Scotland because I don't have the accent and wouldn't be able to do it justice. I also don't like singing songs from the male point of view, cos I'm a woman! Just something i'm not comfortable with, that's all.

Sal (having been for a jog tonight)


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: GUEST,Steve Gardham
Date: 21 Mar 08 - 06:47 PM

Just read the whole thread. Very interesting.
Lots of fusion stuff going on at the moment!
Lots of people from different regions sing together in groups!
Should they all be singing different texts? Should the fusions not be fusing? Very confusing!

When I was a youngster I was part of the 'Folk Police'
Now I'm older and wiser (I hope)I think you sing what the hell you want. If the audience don't like it they'll soon let you know. If you stand up in front of an audience you're acting no matter what accent/dialect you're singing in. MacColl was foremost an actor and he stuck to his trade when he became a singer.


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: SINSULL
Date: 21 Mar 08 - 04:53 PM

I find this thread fascinating. I have never met cHARLIE BUT HE HIS WELL KNOWN ON THE sCOTTISH gAMES CIRCUIT THROUGHOUT THE EAST COAST. HE WAS UINVITED TO PERFORM WITH THE bLACK wATCH. tHEY DIDN'T SEEM TO BE PUT OFF BY HIS ACCENT.
Damn Capslock.
I am with Jed on this one.


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: JedMarum
Date: 21 Mar 08 - 03:30 PM

For me it's not about "being true to oneself", or "being who I am" sort of thing - it is not about me, the singer; it is about the song. If the music of the song's language (the lyric) includes accent or dialect, then I do my best to address that in the way I sing the dialect or accent.

Again, I think that dialect and sometimes the accent are the color of the lyric, or as I said above the music of the language. We can change the color but we may loose (or diminish) the beauty.

There is no reason for me to sing WILD ROVER in full-on accent, but GOODBYE MICK requires some (to make the rhymes and humor work).


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: Don Firth
Date: 21 Mar 08 - 03:08 PM

Thanks for posting that link, Brian. Most interesting. In fact, what I had heard was that MacColl was the one who instituted this policy, but what Peggy says clarifies what was going on at the time.

I can definitely see the reasoning behind the policy (as Peggy explains it), and I'd say that it does have a certain merit—as long as it doesn't become so rigid that it eventually calls for the formation of an "Inquisition" to burn heretics and transgressors at the stake (or smite them hip and thigh and cast them hence), which, all too often, policies of this sort can escalate into. Or become a sort of "ethic" which some singers can use to beat other singers over the head. I have found that among folk music aficionados, one does find a certain percentage who like to harbor a sort of "purer than thou" attitude. I guess you find folks like that in just about every field of endeavor (feelings of inadequacy and insecurity, I suspect). I think Jesus called them "Pharisees."

This, I think, is not a half-bad idea:    "Incidentally, along with this policy came the request from our newly-formed Audience Committee that we not sing the same traditional song more than once every three months… they were getting tired of hearing the same songs week after week. This forced us residents to learn new songs at an unholy rate. But it brought out lots of new songs and ballads and really got us thinking about how we sang what we were learning."

But I must confess that when I read words like "Audience Committee" and "Critics Group," I tend to wince more than just a little.

As for my own singing, I do a wide variety of songs: a fair amount of English, Scottish, Irish, and Welsh songs (never been to the British Isles, sad to say), but probably the bulk of my repertoire is made up of American and Anglo-American songs. I do logging songs (never been a logger), sea songs and chanteys (the only times I've been on a sailing ship was as a passenger), and—well, you get the picture.

When learning a song, I don't particularly think of using dialect or accent, I just sing it pretty much as I heard it. As time goes by, I'm sure I make changes in the way I sing it, just like everyone does. But I rarely "study" an accent. It just seems to come naturally. If I run into an unfamiliar word in a Scottish song, say, I already know how it's pronounce because I've just heard it, but I make sure I find out what it means so I know what I'm singing about. I've never had anyone, even hard-charging purists, jump me about "using a phony accent." I have, however, heard people putting on an accent, generally one that is appropriate to the song, but not doing it very well.

But I am not a "folk singer." I am a singer whose repertoire consists mostly (but not exclusively) of folk songs.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: BB
Date: 21 Mar 08 - 02:55 PM

Bit of a thread drift here, but I think this should be acknowledged:

" "The moving on song" is very popular. But is it sung by travellers as a traveller song?"

Actually, Richard, the answer is yes. Sheila Stewart, daughter of Alex & Belle Stewart, sings it - with conviction!

Barbara


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: Brian Peters
Date: 21 Mar 08 - 01:25 PM

MacColl is a case in point. His Scots accent never sounded particularly convincing to me, and although it could be very effective when understated, it veered towards ludicrous when overdone. Compare his rivetting 'Lay the Bent to the Bonny Broom' with his horribly over-the-top 'Lord Randal'. And what about his 'Country Yokel' accent, affected for certain English songs?

But a lot depends on exactly how regional the song is. To whoever said in an earlier post: "Seven Drunken Nights".... would not sound right without the accent", I would reply, "Which accent?" The song was collected numerous times in England and North America, even though the best known version is the Dubliners' hit record. On the other hand, songs using - say - a lot of Scots language are going to sound daft if sung in an English accent, but clumsy and unpoetic if 'translated'. There's no one rule.

To Don Firth, who suggested: "I have heard that in many of the folk clubs in the British Isles, one is not allowed to sing.... songs that are not from his or her own background" I can offer the reassurance that this attitude has never been detectable even once in my thirty years experience of folk clubs, and is a misconception based on the reputation of the old 'Singers Club'. For interest, here's
what Peggy Seeger had to say on the subject.


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: GUEST,Nigel Spencer
Date: 21 Mar 08 - 01:18 PM

Personally, I think singers need to do what's right for them. If it's also right for me I might buy their record or attend their concert. If it's not I'll give it a miss. By and large, I personally prefer people to sound more-or-less like themselves, but if they're good at what they do when trying to sound like somone else, my doubts can be transcended. What I do know is that if I was a singer and some jumped up scrote tried to tell me what I could and couldn't do, my natural instinct would be to do the opposite of what they wanted. I also have no problem at all with - for example - skinny white English boys singing the blues. Wouldn't particularly want to listen to it even if you paid me, though!


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: Don Firth
Date: 21 Mar 08 - 01:15 PM

Well said, wayfarer!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: wayfarer
Date: 21 Mar 08 - 01:01 PM

I think songs are spiritual things and great old songs have a spiritual "essence" that enables them to survive and travel down through the years. The really powerful ones can last hundreds years and some go so far back into the misty realms of antiquity that no one can really sure where or whence they originated. Singers too have an essence and when singer meets song the two essences blend and something unique emerges and sometimes it works or maybe not. The best singers seem to be vehicles who try to channel the song and try not to overthink it as far as delivery goes. If a song speaks to you then just sing it and see what happens. Maybe it's essence will harmonize well with yours. The idea that one must be from a specific region to sing a particular song is just provincial, plodding, pedantic, school-marm thinking. The bloody Beatles all spoke with British accents and sang with American accents and it seemed to work out fine. All the greatest artists have always been iconclasts who loved to shake it up. Elvis Presley created rock and roll when he mixed white hillbilly music with black rythmn & blues. Johnny Winter, a great blues singer, is whiter than the driven snow. I just read a book about Robert Johnson that claims Johnson and all the other bluesmen played all sorts of stuff, tin pan alley, broadway showtunes, cowboy songs, scottish & welch ballads, irish sea chanties, etc, and it was the white record executives that forced them to focus on the "blues" tunes in their repetoire. Some of the best country singers in America are not from the south but from places far north like Canada. So in short I say if the shoe fits wear it.


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: meself
Date: 21 Mar 08 - 12:56 PM

At the end of the show you were surrounded by 'young Irish lasses' and you said 'Never again!' - you're a better man than I am!


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: GUEST,Tom Bliss
Date: 21 Mar 08 - 12:34 PM

Can I just endorse what Matt Milton said?

There's no doubt that adopting the accent most commonly heard in whatever genre you're attempting will be easiest, and if done reasonably convincingly will also be the most commercially viable, but I personally don't like it, and it can work against you in the long term. I thin you should be true to yourself, and I love it when people make whatever they're doing work in their own accent. Have you heard Maggie Boyle singing Billie Holiday with Sketch for example? Utterly stunning.

I cut my teeth in the punk era, when singing in your own voice was the done thing - and being on the same bill as some hard core bands like the Specials - essential! My voice happened to be RP via minor public school - not ideal for Joy Stick and the Cockpits (!), but I soldiered on because it made sense. And I've gone on using that voice even though I now sing trad - and there are a lot of clubs who won't book me because of it (they think I'm some kind of fake).

But that's life. And I know I'm right because of this:

About 10 years ago I was booked with two chums to do what we thought was some instrumental busking at a UK university on St Pats Day. But when we got there we found we'd been misled by the agent. We were on the main stage in the student union with a 2k rig and full light show. What's more we were booked as an Irish Show band! In a moment of weakness I decided to sing in an Irish accent (I can do accents, I used to be a director). The gig went really well, but when we came off I was surrounded by young Irish lasses demanding to know which village in Wicklow I was from! I had to pretend to be terribly shy off stage and let the other two do all the talking.

Never again!

Tom


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: Big Mick
Date: 21 Mar 08 - 12:17 PM

Now.... you are going to have to make up your mind. when you were the Maccoll fan you said...MacColl was probably right if he encouraged singers to stick to songs that are peculiar to their own country and indeed their own region .

Mick


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: Bert
Date: 21 Mar 08 - 12:08 PM

Whisht! Lads, haad yor gobs,


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: matt milton
Date: 21 Mar 08 - 11:54 AM

"A white man can no more sing the blues than a yank can sound like an Irishman/woman."

This to me encapsulates a really big misunderstanding about this whole debate – conflating genre with nationality. Blues is a style of music. No reason why it can't be sung in any accent or language you like. Have you heard the band The Fuji, for instance? A blues band with a Japanese singer singing his own songs in Japanese. They're much better and, paradoxically, more authentic sounding than the majority of contemporary blues acts around - whether American, British, black or white...

It took British rappers a long time to start rapping in their own accents. The London Posse, a bunch of cockney rappers, used to basically have the piss taken out of them for rapping in cockney accents back in the mid-80s. Today the tables have turned and British rappers who used US accents are (rightly) scorned. They sound stupid.

In pop and rock, it's pretty much only Syd Barrett and some prog singers before punk. Then a big gap until the current wave (Libertines, Arctic Monkeys et al).

Someone referred to the band UB40. Again, another misunderstanding – nobody's suggesting people shouldn't sing songs from traditions other than their "own". Music doesn't belong to anybody - there are good white rappers, there are good Australian flamenco guitarists etc etc. But I don't think UB40 are a good example at all. One patchy debut album (which has its moments) and then decades of very middle of the road reggae-lite. I'd proffer the Specials as a much better example of a mixed-race band from a similar era playing similar music. Once difference is that their lead singer, Terry Hall, sang in his own voice and accent (even, entertainingly, when their songs used Jamaican patois).


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: mattkeen
Date: 21 Mar 08 - 09:55 AM

Of course they can sing the blues - they should just sing it their own accent.


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: GUEST,Blind Willie O'Shea
Date: 21 Mar 08 - 09:14 AM

The British Bluesmen are generally noted for their guitar wizardry, not their singing. A white man can no more sing the blues than a yank can sound like an Irishman/woman.


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: Big Mick
Date: 21 Mar 08 - 09:01 AM

So I assume both of you wizards don't approve of John Mayall, or Eric Clapton, or any of the other British Bluesmen? How about the jazz that is done in France? Those loons have no business doing this uniquely American music, right? Or is that different?

Mick


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: GUEST,MacColl fan
Date: 21 Mar 08 - 06:55 AM

MacColl was probably right if he encouraged singers to stick to songs that are peculiar to their own country and indeed their own region as far as traditional songs are concerned. The eejits who try to do otherwise rarely succeed in conveying the song as it was intended and the more seriously they try the more foolish they sound.


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 21 Mar 08 - 04:43 AM

Some of MacColl's own songs will probably stand the test of time.   "The moving on song" is very popular. But is it sung by travellers as a traveller song? His work discovering and preserving the Scottish tradition was worthwhile. But compare, say, his "Gairdner Child" with those of artists who actually are Scottish. Or some of the recordings of Scottish traditional songs he did with Peggy Seeger. Nuff said?

Derek may have been being polite: are you familiar with the question the French ask of (typically) almost competent English speakers of French? "Vous n'etes pas de cette region" (accents omitted by reason of laziness). It means "You're a damned foreigner aren't you, but at least you are trying to speak a proper language so I out of reciprocated politeness will pretend you can do it well"


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 21 Mar 08 - 04:27 AM

Richard, we've all heard the weird concoctions you speak of. Thirty years back(God help me!)I was so enamoured of Derek Brimstone's style of presentation that Derek himself asked me where in London I'd come from, at one point. Its funny, I can laugh at it now. But I was doing a full time job at the the time, taking care of disabled wife, and folkmusic (okay what I thought was folkmusic) just obsessed all my waking hours. It sustained me, and I was deadly serious as an artist. And I wrote my most memorable songs in that period.

Its like this thing about the tradition - you SHOULDN'T discount somebody's life's work because of an idea or set of ideas you have, Its too important - what a man has to say as an artist. We owe our fellow men that much.

These people who come on Mudcat and and diss Ewan MacColl cos apparently his accent isn't kosher, echt Deutsch or it doesn't pass the Scottish Wool Shop Test or the 1954 Definition of Haggis Making - as far as I'm concerned, they're bloody bonkers. Ewan had SO much to say as an artist - and you're going to be a poorer man if you won't listen to any of it for reasons of predjudice. Or for something like ideas, some poxy product of cerebration. Every arsehole's got ideas. Ideas are nothing, comapred to what a capable artist produces.

Its like my Dad saying abstract art is bollocks. Dad had his ideas, but am I going to be so in awe of Father that I say Picasso and Kandinsky life's work was rubbish. To honour Dad's ideas. Course I'm bloody not.

Granted however, there is some real shit around. Just don't assume its shit, cos your criteria aren't met.


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 20 Mar 08 - 11:35 PM

Well, WLD, even the best white blues singers (an example I have in mind is Kris Dollimore, who is a great musician) don't sound quite right when you compare them to (say) Taj Mahal, Keb Mo or Guy Davis. I was really into blues for several years when I was young and foolish, until the Damascine moment came and I realised the only things that would ever sound right in my mouth were "White Middle Class Blues" or "Can Blue Men sing the Whites?". Remember Atomic Rooster's fine pisstake "Yorkshire Blues"?

I am frankly gobsmacked at the idea of white reggae, ska, or rock steady bands. Led Zep were amongst the very best musicians of their day and "D'yer make 'er" is just a total cringe. Also when I was young I did some earning for a couple of years as a reggae jock. By and large you could hear and feel whether stuff had been recorded in Jamaica or England.

Try to do west country English material "in dialect" if it is not your own and you just finish sounding like a bad copy of Adge Cutler and the Wurzels. And RP speakers trying to do "the Lampton Worm" just sound silly. How many times have you heard those from the southern counties wreck "Wor Geordie's lost his penka" or "the Hartlepool Monkey" because they can't do the accent?

Who are you? That is the nub of it. Or, I suppose, to pick up on other crits of the English around here "Oo joo fink you are?"


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: GUEST,mankishotey
Date: 20 Mar 08 - 11:19 PM

Whatabout citizens of the worlds?


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: Don Firth
Date: 20 Mar 08 - 11:13 PM

Right indeed, Graham. Like all aspects of singing, especially if one is expecting to do it professionally—charge people money for it—one has an obligation to pay close attention to detail and do your damnedest to get it right in all aspects.

From what I have said here, some may conclude that I sing with a "phony" accent all the time. Not so. For almost all the songs I sing, I use the same colloquial English that most people sing them in, and usually I start, at least, singing it pretty much the way my source sings it—with or without dialect of accent. If I learn a song from a Ewan MacColl record, I tend to sing it pretty much the way he does, accent and all. Same with Jean Redpath. Or the Corries. Or the Clancy Brothers. Or a song from Cisco Houston's "900 Miles and other Railroad Songs" record. Or whoever I happen to learn it from.

We learn to talk in the first place by listening and trying to imitate what we hear. And that's the best way to learn songs. And the more one sings a song, the more one tends to put one's own stamp on it.

Employed by the Hudson's Bay Company, my great-grandfather, Robert Firth rounded Cape Horn and landed in Fort Vancouver in 1851. From there he went to Fort Victoria, where Governor Sir James Douglas sent him to survey San Juan Island and see if it was suitable for sheep ranching. He settled on San Juan Island, replacing Charles Griffin at the Bel-Vue Ranch, which, when the San Juan Islands were awarded to the United States at the end of "The Pig War," he became owner. He returned to Scotland, married Jessie Grant, and brought her back to San Juan Island where they had nine children. My grandfather and my father both were born and raised on San Juan Island.

My father (also Robert Firth) said that he thought his grandfather had come from Glasgow, but other family members maintain that he came from Orkney. In any case, along with a number of other Hudson's Bay Company employees, he boarded the ship in Stromness on Orkney. In any case, I can legitimately lay claim to Scottish ancestry.

My mother's family came from Dalarna, Sweden, emigrated to (oddly enough) Scandia, Kansas, where my mother (the youngest of ten children) was born. A few years later, they moved to Payette, Idaho. Although I haven't met all of my aunts and uncles, I have heard some of the aunts speaking Swedish. My mother could speak a few words, but she wasn't fluent with it.

In 1976, I drove my mother to Portland, Oregon, where we stayed for several days with an old friend of hers whom she had known from nursing school before she married my father. The friend was married to a man named James Bell. Jim Bell was from Scotland. While there, I sang a number of the Scottish songs and ballads that I know. I did them in my usual manner, singing them as I first heard them, complete with accent. Whether or not my accent was good never came up in the conversation, but he said that although they made him feel homesick, hearing those songs was a real treat for him. If he'd had his way, I would have been singing for him all the time we were there.

One of the songs I sang was "Bonnie Dundee." He told me a lot about the historical background of the song and put me on the track of several other songs I might go hunting for.

My aunts thought the way I sang "The Frozen Logger," with a thick "Svenska" accent, was hilarious. And, I might add, James Stevens (a guest on "Ballads and Books," my 1959 television series), the man who wrote "The Frozen Logger," heard me do it on the show and said, "I hadn't thought of doing it with an accent, but that's great! Keep doing it that way!"

I do not see that using dialect or accent while singing "mocks" or shows disrespect to the people from whom the song comes. In fact, I believe trying to do justice to the song in all its aspects, including accents, pays homage to the source.

The people from whom I spring are Scottish and Swedish. Do I have a right to sing songs using Scottish or Swedish dialect—or any appropriate accent, depending on the song's background—provided that I can do it convincingly and that I do it out of respect for the integrity of the songs?

I'm not!??

By whose authority?

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: Grab
Date: 20 Mar 08 - 10:04 PM

Don, it's not something you're very likely to come across, unless it's an ultra-trad folk club (in which case the fact it's more recent than the Boer War will itself weight against you ;-). It's more whether you do it well or badly.

If you went into a pub in downtown Houston, did your intros in your regular accent, and then started into singing in an obviously fake Deliverance-imitation accent, it's probably safe to say your performance wouldn't be well received, am I right...?

Graham.


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 20 Mar 08 - 09:10 PM

In answer to your question Matt!

I don't draw a line and neither should you. Its dumb and uncreative. Only fools do it.

The first song Ewan MacColl published of mine was a calypso in Jamaican patois. I wrote a calypso because Bob Marley was writing reggae, and he was telling the kids I taught 'smoke de herb' - which was okay for a millionaire rockstar in Jamaica , but it left my kids vulnerable to the social workers in the West Mids police force.

I still have the letter from Peggy Seeger asking if I was black or brown. I am white.

I remember Ian Campbell coming round my place after he'd done my folk club - sometime in the 1970's. He told me that his kids were forming a reggae group.. I told him to dissuade them. I'd heard The Police and I thought, like all white kids, they were shit at reggae - compared to the kids I was teaching.

I was wrong then. You are wrong now.


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: Gene Burton
Date: 20 Mar 08 - 08:26 PM

I've come to this thread very late; but that's 'cos I've been back in full time work in the last few weeks (I'm not used to it!!) and not been checking in here much due to real life intruding...

Anyway, having read through the thread (& very interesting reading it made too), I had a listen to the Charlie Zahm track and I don't really see where the purported "affectation" lies. He seems to be singing pretty much in standard, BBC English, which I'd've thought is pretty much a common lingua franca for anybody born in an English speaking country regardless of nationality, ethnicity etc. Maybe the vibrato isn't to everybody's taste, but that's something that occurs naturally in many singing voices (mine included) and is a matter of phisiogomy, not affectation. I liked it a lot.

Of the singers I hear in a live context regularly, I know many who sing in a different accent to their own, many who seem to adopt a kind of hybrid between their own accent and mid-atlantic, and a fair few who sing pretty much 100% in their own accent. I like some of each, and my judgment tends to be formulated on the basis of what I think of their technical abilities as singers rather than which of the three categories they fall into. Personally, I sing in my own accent 'cos that's what seems to be most effective with my particular set of vocal chords; although admittedly my speaking voice is a lot deeper and more nasal (I'm happy with my singing voice but I do cringe whenever my speaking voice is played back to me...but that's by the by).

What works best tends to be whatever approach the singer feels comfortable with, in my experience...and if they're technically decent, you can be sure that for every listener who turns their nose up, there'll be at least one more who's appreciative.


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: Deckman
Date: 20 Mar 08 - 08:19 PM

This thread has caused me to do some thinking ... I HATE THAT! My father's native language was Finnish. While he didn't sing much, or often, there has always been one song that I grew up with. It wasn't until I was 13 that he allowed himself to teach me any Finnish. When he was 8 he attended his first school where english was the norm. He and his brother and his sister were very cruelly taunted because they couldn't speak english. He never got over that.

For years I've tried to sing that one song "right", and I mostly fail. It's because there is a certain "lilt", or softness, in Father's dialect that is impossible for me to catch. I know several Finnish speakers in my home area, and we discuss this often.

I know when I sing them that song, they smile and nod pleasently, but I know I'm not getting it right, and I probably never will. I still will sing it often, but just to myself. As this thread mentions ... I don't want to be insulting to native speakers. CHEERS, Bob(deckman)Nelson


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: the button
Date: 20 Mar 08 - 08:08 PM

Thing is, we all sing with an accent -- whether it's our own, or someone else's. I thought I didn't have much of one, until I made my first radio show and listened to myself back. I was actually quite shocked.

I come from a bit of East Yorkshire where the accent is quite hard to place. I've even been accused of coming from Hartlepool for God's sake. Heh.

On a completely unrelated point, one of the things I notice about the recordings of "proper" folk singers (Harry Cox, Walter Pardon & Fred Jordan in particular) is that their singing voices are a lot different to their speaking voices, in that all three of the ones I mentioned have accents which are far less marked when they sing than when they speak.


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: Don Firth
Date: 20 Mar 08 - 07:25 PM

100?

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: Don Firth
Date: 20 Mar 08 - 07:24 PM

"A folksong singer singing someone else's folk song is just a cuckoo in the nest."

It took a few moments for that to sink in.

I guess that means that you shouldn't sing any folk song unless you learned it from your grandmother.

No, that won't work either. That's your grandmother's folk song!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 20 Mar 08 - 06:57 PM

Ewan was born in Salford, but claimed to be a Scot, and sang many songs using a Scots accent. Like Jed said earlier, he was of Scots descent, and may even have learned some of the songs in Scots dialect.
G


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: Don Firth
Date: 20 Mar 08 - 06:52 PM

So, Richard, I guess what I was told about British folk clubs is true.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 20 Mar 08 - 06:46 PM

Hmm, big post of mine gone. The post eater is out again.

If you speak a dialect, sing in it. If you don't, don't. Otherwise you are at best an impersonator. It's one of the things Ewan MacColl got right (at least for others although he exempted himself and Peggy Seeger for some reason). Fake is fake.

A folksong singer singing someone else's folk song is just a cuckoo in the nest.


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Subject: RE: Singing Affectation?
From: M.Ted
Date: 20 Mar 08 - 06:27 PM

Cary Grant always sounded like Cary Grant, which was never anything less than perfect for whatever part he played. Kenneth Branaugh's "American" accent was highly distracting--

I am a good mimic, which has been a problem for me, because it made it easy to do impressions rather than to find my own voice. I used to do a lot of Balkan stuff, but singing songs in languages that I could not speak ended up being more like doing parlor tricks than like really singing.

Though I it isn't strictly accurate to call it a "Chicago Accent", the point that certain singers tend heavily toward doing a "blues impression" is valid. In some cases, the affection is so transparent that it is embarrassing--a lot of people do make it work, though--


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