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A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads

MorwenEdhelwen1 20 Apr 11 - 03:13 AM
Splott Man 20 Apr 11 - 03:28 AM
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Lizzie Cornish 1 20 Apr 11 - 03:37 AM
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Lizzie Cornish 1 20 Apr 11 - 03:47 AM
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Subject: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 03:13 AM

I know that a thread on this has already been started- the "Adopting Alien Traditions" one, but I think this is a separate issue which deserves its own thread.
Do any Mudcatters, such as those who are of European-American descent, feel "guilty" or have nagging feelings that they shouldn't perform music from other traditions, especially non-white ones?

I'm asking this partly because I am not white or American. I am Chinese Australian. And as most of you who have seen my posts so far can guess, I'm interested in calypso music. Ever since I became interested, I've had a feeling that I would like to become a calypsonian myself if it is possible. I've been telling myself that it is a style of music like blues or jazz and that anyone can play a musical style, although blues and jazz have been appropriated by white Americans. However, I've also had these uneasy thoughts, like that "I don't have a right to (perform) this music" because I am not West Indian" and wondering whether my (hypothetical) participation in calypso tents would be seen as encroaching on Black West Indians' right to perform their traditional music.

So do any Mudcatters, especially blues or jazz players, experience feelings like these? What is your opinion on this issue?


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: Splott Man
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 03:28 AM

It didn't seem to bother Pete Seeger.

Play the music you enjoy. There won't be hordes of traditional calypsonians at your door complaining.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 03:34 AM

Splott Man, the point is that I actually want to become a traditional calypsonian although I am a foreigner and have nagging feelings about whether I should do it.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: Lizzie Cornish 1
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 03:37 AM

You're a person, playing music of other persons around the world. Forget the label you put upon yourself, and others...Just play the music you love to the best of your ability and be happy. That happiness, will, I'm sure, spread out to others.

Throw away the boxes, the political correctness, the guilt and simply live your life doing what you love and go where your natural talent and interests are destined to lead you...and good luck! :0)


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 03:38 AM

So you are saying, Lizzie_Cornish, that I can sing (and eventually play) calypso and become a calypsonian?


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: GUEST,SteveG
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 03:46 AM

It is a myth perpetuted by purists that you have to be born in a particular area to play that area's music. Nonsense!

Some of the best bluegrass I have heard recently came from a couple of young lasses from the English south coast. Some of the best Irish trad music I have heard has come from non-Irish players.

Talent and dedication make good music, not where you come from.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: Lizzie Cornish 1
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 03:47 AM

Yes, of course you can, if that's where your heart lies! Go for it!

Someone close to me was once told, in a very positive manner, that he was 'a black man trapped in a white man's body' because of his love and profound ability to sing Soul Music with such deep understanding. It was the greatest compliment he ever got and to this day it fills him with pride. Many of his friends are black, but he sees them simply as friends, not a colour, not a race...and he sees music as being there for everyone to sing, to play, to enjoy, no matter where you come from.
Trust me, the black people loved his singing as much as the white did and they felt complimented by it too.

Don't give up on something that so obviously burns deep inside you. Follow your heart, follow the music and to hell with anyone else who tells you that you are not 'allowed' to play calypso music. No-one 'owns' it. You are not a 'foreigner', you are a person of the world, and that enables you to play whatever kind of music you love the most.

Go for it, kid! :0)


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 03:53 AM

For the record, a White Australian named Fiona Graham became a geisha in Japan (as I'm sure you all know) and seems to have been pretty well accepted by the locals. Her situation is different to mine as she is White and an adult woman. But being a calypsonian and being a geisha are similar in that both calypsonians and geishas require intensive training. Perhaps my real worry is that in the future when I am attempting to train as a calypsonian, traditional singers will not want to train me in the tradition as I am a foreigner. Maybe it's because I'm thinking of how *I* might react to a White (French, for example) person who told me they wanted to sing and play traditional Chinese music, although I have no connection to Chinese musical culture despite being ethnically Chinese. It might also have a 'developed/developing country" aspect to it as well- afraid of the very real resentment of a foreigner from Australia, who doesn't really know about Trinidad, competing with those singers who have been surrounded by the tradition as a part of their national culture and use it partially as a way to make extra money, as I might plan to do.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: Lizzie Cornish 1
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 04:00 AM

Then learn all you can about Trinidad.

Become the best calypsonian on the planet.

I think your fears will be unfounded, because I'd imagine you will have traditional singers falling over themselves to help you, teach you, support you. If they know you are absolutely determined to follow your path, they'll stand beside you, with pride.

You have nothing to fear, but fear itself. And if you never try, then you will know.

Steve has summed it up perfectly, above. Take his words and fly with them, Morwen.


From Steve:
"Talent and dedication make good music, not where you come from."


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 04:01 AM

Thanks, Lizzie_Cornish!


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: Rob Naylor
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 04:06 AM

SteveG: Some of the best bluegrass I have heard recently came from a couple of young lasses from the English south coast.

That'd be the Carrivick sisters, then? I agree...they play bluegrass as if they were born to it, and I've never heard anyone say that just because they're from Devon they should stick to sea shanties and "ooo-aaaarrr" farming songs!


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: Will Fly
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 04:21 AM

Some of the best blues you'll ever hear came from the Irwell delta, near Manchester. There were Sleepy John Arkwright and Blind Lemon Clegg, tha knows. (Courtesy of Mike Harding in the old days).

I think the thread is unanimous in saying, play what's in your heart - and the devil take the hindmost!


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: SteveMansfield
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 05:17 AM

What everyone else has said really.

All I wanted to add is that if you approach any traditional music culture with genuine enthusiasm, willingness to learn, and above all the love of that culture as your driving force and primary motivation, then the majority of the people you meet within that grouping will come to accept you regardless of your background.

There will always be grumblers and worse who will try to exclude you on whatever grounds they can possibly find to exclude you, but let's face it there are eejits in every way of life. You may need to be thick-skinned in the early days, but demonstrate you're there as a participant and not as a tourist or a mickey-taker or an asset-stripper, and you should be fine.

And if you need a bit of reassurance and 'if others have done something like it, I can do it too', try and track down a copy of Banning Eyre's book 'In Griot Time', which tells of the author's time living and playing with the griots of Mali. There's also a great account somewhere on t'Internet of someone who spent a year working in Basle and joined one of the Fasnacht cliquen, which would probably come high on my personal Fantasy Folkmusic list of things to do!


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 05:22 AM

Thanks so much everyone!


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: Musket
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 05:25 AM

Ewan McColl used to say you should only sing what is indigenous to you. A bit rich coming from somebody with an invented past, but I digress.

As an ex miner, I leave the songs about mining for social workers and university lecturers to sing. I love finding songs from other cultures and playing with them to wrangle them into my "style" and give them an airing.

No, I have no issue with singing a blues song from The USA, a ballad from South Australia, an Italian love song. They are all indigenous to our global village.

Now... blacking up a la Black & White Minstrels. That is an altogether different kettle of fish.....


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: Jack Campin
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 06:01 AM

I don't think the answer to this one is anything like as universally a glib "go for it" as most responders have been suggesting.

There are some cultures where songs or tunes are not merely considered the property of the group, but of specific families or even specific individuals. In other cultures pieces of music have been considered to be the property of the person or institution they were composed for (Allegri's "Miserere" is an obvious example, and you still sometimes find commissioned works of art music contractually limited to the performer who commissioned them).

Religious music is quite often considered off-limits for secular use: a few years ago the Spanish monks who had a hit with a Gregorian chant compilation too someone to court for sampling it in a chill-out album. Southern Baptists are often offended by people using shape-note singing as secular entertainment. Most Muslims don't appreciate the call to prayer being re-used for secular purposes (as a Turkish pop singer did a few years back). Religions that ban all secular music, like some forms of Orthodox Christianity, are obviously not going to be enthused about their chants getting secular use.

What the situation with calypso is I have no idea. The Caribbean is a multi-ethnic society so people aren't likely be excluded on grounds of race, but songs are often associated with specific performers who might feel they're entitled to a say in who sings them and how.

The bottom line is, you have to ask. 'If others have done something like it, I can do it too' is nowhere near good enough - those others might have been thieving, exploitative thugs without a flicker of conscience.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: Mr Happy
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 06:02 AM

My partner is Japanese, plays fiddle, allsorts music, folk, orchestral, French, Klezma, w.h.y.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: SteveMansfield
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 06:15 AM

'If others have done something like it, I can do it too'

Possibly an unfortunately glib turn of phrase Jack, but I thought I'd addressed some of your concerns in the rest of my post (whilst admitting the issue of ownership).

Banning Eyre's book is, in fact, very strong on the very issues you raise. Admittedly we've only really got his side of the story - but it's pretty obvious from the book that the griots he was with didn't suffer fools gladly, and would have made it pretty obvious if he was considered to be trespassing or in any other way unwelcome ...


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 06:30 AM

Jack, I'm not attempting to cover anyone's songs- apparently not permitted in Trinidad- but to write my own songs in the calypso idiom, as calypso is satirical/protest music as well as humorous songs of daily life and singing duels- and compete in calypso competitions. I am not planning to sing anyone else's songs, but to become a calypsonian (a performer who writes and sings their own calypsos). I think that the base of my question is "At what point is a person being exploitative and appropriative and what can I do to make sure I never cross that line?"


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 06:48 AM

*and has songs associated with them.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: sciencegeek
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 07:09 AM

The very fact that you are concerned about not being exploitative is a sign to me that you won't be... but look at it this way... when you're heart isn't in it any longer, but you keep on doing it - that is when you should stop and move to something else.

be true to yourself and the spirit of the music and you'll be fine.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 07:26 AM

Thanks for your thoughts, sciencegeek. I don't mean to offend, but I'd just like to point something out: Did you mean "fact that you are concerned about being exploitative"? It seems like that's what you meant. But the problem is that some people believe that they are not exploiting others, although they are. What is the difference? How does a person know whether they are being exploitative or not? If I was a white American who wanted to become a blues singer, was clearly inspired by early blues performers but didn't credit my sources of inspiration for the songs i sang, would I be being exploitative? Or would I just be a clueless white American person who believes they are not racist because "Hey, my friends/distant relatives are Black and my great-grandmother was Lakota! And my family said it was alright because they didn't say who they got the songs from, so why should I? And the blues isn't African-American!" or something like that?


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: Max Johnson
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 07:47 AM

One of the first singers that I really enjoyed was The Mighty Sparrow. I sometimes considered singing and performing one or two of his songs, but I never did, the reason being that I was never very good at singing calypso (yes, folks, I know - it's incredible but true). The same with border ballads and similar. I love them and would like to sing them, but I've never had the necessary skills to put them across.
So if you can do it, then I beg you to do so, because then there'd be more of that wonderful music being performed well, for people who enjoy it. That's what it's for. Don't be too concerned about its manifesto.

And please sing one for me.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: GUEST,kendall
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 07:54 AM

I sing what I like, even women's songs. If some macho cement head doesn't like it I'll hit him with my purse.
Seriously, do what you love and more than likely those people whose music you have adopted will be honored.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: GUEST,Peter Laban
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 08:15 AM

"Talent and dedication make good music, not where you come from."

Very true, yet, there are always people who make it their business to complicate things. Only this week and several times it was pointed out that some people here with strong opinions   about irish music were 'not even irish'. Here on Mudcat.

In fairness though, I have never encountered this attitude from good musicians, who love music, no matter who plays it.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 08:41 AM

I'm with MacColl.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: Etan
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 09:10 AM

I think this issue goes further musically than the ethics and politics of performing in a style made popular by third-world performers.

I recently had some of the same misgivings about a country song I'd written. My diction and sentence song are those of an urban, educated, Jewish, New Yorker. The song was written for a voice with a Virginia accent: that of a friend.

The problem is those aren't my natural vowel sounds, cadences, or sentence song. I'm concerned that the words sound phony coming out of my mouth with different nuances of pronunciation and inflection. I don't want to sound 'wrong' the way that most Anglo/European Americans sound when they perform rap music. Most are just ridiculous.

Going back to Morwen's original post, the question for me is whether he can sound 'real' either by immersing himself in West Indian culture until he has that voice (try twenty years) or whether he can find a way to sing that music without pretending to be West Indian. The latter solution is a lot more practical and would probably result in something like ska -- a Chinese-Australian Calypso hybrid as authentic as he can be to himself.

Best wishes.

-- Etan Ben-Ami


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: GUEST,Steamin' Willie
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 09:37 AM

MacColl was a lad brought up in Salford Manchester called Jim, who told people to sing what is indigenous to them, and then told everybody he was called Ewan and sang songs about the Highlands (ok, within 100 miles of where his Dad used to live,) in a ludicrous Scottish accent, second only to Russ Abbot's.

He, I will let off, due to his wonderful song writing, his passion (even the bits he later regretted like praising Stalin and Castro) but M'learned friend being with him???

"Oh, I am a bearded conveyencer,
With weird and silly views,
With Volvo and with caravan,
I tour the campsite loos"

Cos I have to get my shit from somewhere...


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: ripov
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 10:11 AM

To take the extreme posotion, up till about fifty years ago accents varied so much from village to village that it was easy to pinpoint where somone was brought up. So if you're really worried about your accent, you should stick to (traditional style) music written a couple of miles from your birthplace.

It's a similar dilemma for those of us with a "classical" musical education. We will never sound like folk musicians, so should we play folk music. It certainly raises eyebrows among the "preciousists".

No, the music you play/sing isn't someone elses, if you love it, it becomes yours, an extension of your own personality. If others don't like it, thats their problem. Just don't (as someone else mentioned) stray into religious areas, unless your sure it's safe!

best wishes

Tony


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 11:03 AM

Thank you, Jack C.
***
There are so many reasons why it MIGHT be a problem. You don't know until you ask. I am by no means a flaming liberal, but that "Oh, I'm sure they'll love it" approach is a pile of colonial doo-doo.

Why are you asking here, M? Why not poll the actual people who make calypso?


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: GUEST,999
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 12:11 PM

I`m with Kendall (and many others) on this thread. If some wise guy doesn`t like it when I sing a so-called women`s song, I hit him with Kendall`s purse.

As to songs from other languages and cultures, sing them. Check the lyrics and diction with someone from that culture or language and sing on. If the audience doesn`t like it, you`ll know soon enough. Screwing up a song on stage isn`t the end-all of your life in music.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: Cool Beans
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 12:49 PM

Go for it, Morwen! Many people (though not all) are flattered when someone from outside their culture respects it so much as to want to absorb it. There may be some who'll resent you but you don't sound like the kind of person who'd let that stop you. Anyway, consider: John Hammond, a white son of privilege who became a blues master; Eminem who becme pre-eminent in the overwhlemingly black world of hip-hop; African-American country singers Charley Pride or Cowboy Troy; Latino country singer Freddy Fender (born Baldemar Huerta); David Grisman and other Jewish musicians from New York who embraced Southern bluegrass and were embraced in return. These are just American examples. Would it offend you if a black musician from Trinidad wanted to absorb the traditional music of China? Or Australia? I thought not.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: GUEST,Azizi
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 01:45 PM

MorwenEdhelwen1, given your interest in calypso music, and since you are Chinese, you may already be aware that there are now and have been before Trinidadians of Chinese ancestry who are Calypsonians. Also you may already be aware that the current President of Trinidad/Tobago is of Chinese ancestry.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_Trinidadian_and_Tobagonian

Prominent Chinese Trinidadian and Tobagonians

Politics and government [excerpt]
Professor George Maxwell Richards, current President of Trinidad and Tobago.[1]


Arts and entertainment [excerpt]


Patrick Jones, calypsonian known by the sobriquet Cromwell, the Lord Protector and mas' pioneer.[1]

Edwin Ayoung, calypsonian known by the sobriquet Crazy.

Richard Chen, calypsonian known by the sobriquet Rex West.[1]

Tony Chow Lin On, deejay and calypsonian known by the sobriquet Chinese Laundry.

Ellis Chow Lin On, music producer and manager.[1]

Aubrey Christopher, who pioneered the local recording of calypsos.[1]

Stephen and Elsie Lee Heung, Carnival bandleaders.[1]

Source" [1]
Johnson, Kim (2006). Descendants of the Dragon: The Chinese in Trinidad 1806—2006. Kingston, Miami: Ian Randle Publishers. ISBN 976-637-289-6.

-snip-

Of course, this doesn't mean that you or anyone else couldn't still be exploitive, or that you would known the vernacular language/pronunciation and culture that is necessary to be a Calypsonian-especially if you wanted to appeal to folks from Trinidad and Tobago.

Other than that-I agree with what Jack Campin said, and what you yourself said about crediting your sources, and not being clueless about the culture.

Fwiw, my maternal grandfather was born & raised in Trinidad, and my maternal grandmother was born & raised in Barbados. But that doesn't mean that I automatically know those cultures. It also doesn't mean that I would necessarily be accepted as a singer of traditional songs (newly composed songs based on those traditions), or that I couldn't be exploitive if I chose to be so [which I don't]. However, because of my socialization, unless I lived in Trinidad for years, I would be known as an African American who sings (or tried to sing if I didn't do it well) Trinidadian songs-and even if I lived there for years, I probably would still be known that way because that's a true description of who I would be.

So if you do actualize your goal of being a Calypsonian, you'll probably be known as an Australian Chinese woman who sings Calypso.
And there's nothing inherently wrong with that. It's not what you do but how you do it and why you do it.

Best wishes,

Azizi


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: Lizzie Cornish 1
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 03:02 PM

AZIZI!!!!!!!! ((((XXXXXX))))    So lovely to see you back again! I can't get hold of you on Myspace any longer, as Myspace sends my computer nuts!   I hope you're well...and Morwen, Azizi is an absolute ace at research!

Thanks, Morwen, for starting this thread, and for bringing Azizi back to us. :0) x

Oh...and PM Kendall to see where he got his purse from, then buy one! ;0) (chuckle)


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: gnu
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 03:15 PM

Kendall... you GO girl!


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: GUEST,999
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 03:23 PM

Hi, Azizi.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: GUEST,kendall
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 03:40 PM

Been wondering what happened to you, Azizi. Welcome back.
Guest999, so you will hit him with MY purse? better remove the Tampons and eye shadow first! LOL


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: fat B****rd
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 03:52 PM

Hello, Azizi. I hope you're well.
My apologies for thread drift to you, Morwen. You sing what the f*** you want. Do what you do do well !


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 03:56 PM

Azizi just said what I was going to say, that there are plenty of Trinidadians with Chinese ancestors.

People don't realise how multi-ethnic the West Indies are. I had a social work colleague from Jamaica, and when she turned up on the doorstep after talking to people on the phone, they were surprised to see a white lady.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: GUEST,Guest T
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 05:00 PM

"Stick to traditional music written a mile or two from your birthplace" Man, I'm in BIG trouble.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 05:06 PM

To Etan, I am a woman. A "she". Sorry to offend you. I think I would try the first approach (after all, many of the white women who became geishas, for example Fiona Graham, who I mentioned a few posts back, who originally travelled to Japan as an exchange student at the age of 15, and worked for long periods in the country have had long and sustained contact with Japanese culture) I would think it better if I have had long and sustained contact with the culture. I have a knack for picking up accents in a short time. I have a friend from the Southern US, who came to my school in Year 9 (not that long ago- 2008) and after a while, I would find myself talking in a similar way to her. So I expect if i went to Trinidad, I may find myself being asked what part of the country I am from after a long period there. Thank you very much, Azizi. Richard Bridge, since you seem to believe that "people should sing only what is indigenous to them" what would you say to a person like me, who wanted to stay in the area whose native culture it is for long periods of time, so that they could learn the music and traditions?

To me this is very different to singing songs from other cultures on your home ground and assuming that everyone will like it- even people from that culture!


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 05:18 PM

As to why I am asking here, Gibb Sahib, I don't know any calypsonians personally to ask them how they would feel.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: Lizzie Cornish 1
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 05:38 PM

I love Mudcat...here I am learning all about Calypso music now, back with Harry Belafonte..such a gorgeous voice he had..and now he uses that voice to fight for justice...Anyway, I digress...

Taken from here:

>>>"Calypso Music History
The history of calypso music
Let's take a look at the history of calypso music. Where did this genre of music orginate?

Calypso has strong African roots. Its rhythms can be traced back to West African Kaiso and the arrival of African slaves in the West Indies in the 1600's. These slaves, brought to toil on sugar plantations, were stripped of all connections to their homeland and family and not allowed to talk to each other. They used calypso to mock the slave masters and to communicate with each other.

Many early calypsos were sung in French Creole by an individual called a griot. As calypso developed, the role of the griot became known as a chantuelle and eventually, calypsonian.

The first recording of calypso music was an instrumental by a band called Lovey's Orchestra in 1912. The first vocal recording of a calypso was made in 1914 when the Duke of Iron teamed up with Jules Sims.

The 1920's saw the arrival of Calypso Tents. Originally Calypso tents were actually tents made with poles and covered with any material available that would provide shelter from the rain, usually palm tree branches. Today calypso tents are showcases for the new music of Carnival seasons and is held in community centres or auditoriums with comfortable seating. The first calypso tent in Trinidad was the Railway Douglas Tent which opened its doors for business in Port-of-Spain in 1921.

The history of calypso music

In the 1930s in particular, calypso was strongly impacted by American popular songs and jazz music. During this era, all calypso music was recorded in new York. The 1920s and 1930s were known for outstanding calypsonians like Attila the Hun, Lord Beginner, Lord Caresser, Lord Executor, Mighty Growler, Wilmoth Houdini, Lord Invader, Roaring Lion, King Radio, Growling Tiger, Duke of Iron, Macbeth the Great, Mighty Destroyer, Chieftain Douglas and Gorilla.

One of the greatest calypsonians ever, Lord Kitchener (Aldwyn Roberts) rose to prominence in the 1940s. He dominated calypso music until the late 1970s and continued to make memorable hits until his death in 2001. Lord Kitchener was known as the "Grandmaster" of calypso. By the time of his death, only the Mighty Sparrow and the Roaring Lion had reached a comparable level of respect.

In 1944, a cover version of Lord Invader's hit Rum and Coca Cola was done by an American trio, the Andrews Sisters. Since then the United States and the world has identified calypso music with the Caribbean.

In 1956, Harry Belafonte recorded a Calypso album featuring the famous Banana Boat Song ("Day-O"). Today, this is probably the most internationally well known calypso song. The album also became the first album ever to sell over one million copies. That same year the Mighty Sparrow burst onto the scene and took the calypso world by storm with his hit Jean and Dinah. This legendary hit, which celebrated the departure of US troops from Trinidad, ushered in a new era of political calypso.

While calypso music has been largely male-dominated, the 1960s saw the rise of Calypso Rose, rated as the "Queen of Calypso." One of her biggest releases is the 1996 hit Fire In Me Wire.

The history of calypso music

The 1970s saw a slow decline of calypso music. Calypso was said to be dying and reggae was the in thing. This prompted Trinidadian musician, Lord Shorty to experiment with calypso rhythms in an effort to create a different type of music. He combined Indian musical instruments like the dholak, tabla, and dhantal with traditional calypso music and it resulted in a new, energetic hybrid called Soca. While Calypso is the voice of social conscience, Soca is largely party music. Other forms include chutney-soca and rapso.

Although Soca music is more popular and more commercially viable than Calypso music in the Caribbean today, Calypso continues to play a major part in Carnival celebrations around the Caribbean. Every year competitions are held across the islands and Calypso monarchs are crowned. Despite a decline, the artform appears to be alive and well."<<<<


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 05:46 PM

To Max Johnson, I would love to do that- but how would I make it so that people here can hear me? Is there a special feature you have to access? (Sorry for the question- I'm still technically a newbie).


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: Lizzie Cornish 1
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 05:49 PM

This looks good, Morwen. Have you seen it yet? It was released in 2008.

An article on Calypso Dreams

'Calypso Dreams' - The Trailer


Why not send a letter to the Trinidad Guardian, or another paper over there, telling them what you'd love to do, and see what responses you get back. Ask them to publish it in their 'Letters' section, if they have one. Might be worth a try.

The Trinidad Guardian


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 05:54 PM

Thread drift but then back to the original question:

Fiona Graham: "Australian academic is a geisha down to a tea" http://www.smh.com.au/news/world/australian-academic-is-a-geisha-down-to-a-tea/2008/01/07/1199554571282.html


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: PoppaGator
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 05:56 PM

"Sing what's indigenous to you..."

If you hear enough of a certain style of music for long enough, and (especially) at an early enough age, that music will be "indigenous to you" whether anyone else believes it or not, whether or not you look like a person who belongs to a given tradition, whether your surname indicates the "right" ethnicity, etc.

As a young white boy, from the ages of 4 to 10, I lived next door to a very exuberantly musical African-American church in central New Jersey. The pastor made it a point to book all the preeminent gospel groups of the 1950s for Wednesday evenings, often between weekend appearances in New York and Philadelphia. I couldn't help but soak up plenty of "influence."

The only people who have ever questioned my "right to sing the blues" have been white folks. And the most serious encouragement and complements I've ever received have been from black singers and musicians.

Who's to say that Ewan McColl, or whatever his name is, didn't grow up experiencing real, authentic backcountry Scots music (or whatever) as sung and played by someone in his industrial North-of-England urban environment? Something made him adopt a particular style and culture ~ and since he's the man who gave us the quote, I'm sure it's fair to say that his chosen milieu was, indeed, indigenous to him.

So, Morwen: Absolutely go for it, BUT...you do have misgivings, and they may or may not be well-founded. You may very well have the knowledge and insight and feeling to be a real calypso artist, even in the heart of Trinidad, and since you feel the need, you should give yourself the chance to succeed. Just be respectful; it's best to "tread lightly" when trying to insert yourself into a culture where you are, at least at first glance, a stranger. Your initial post seems to indicate that you have enough modesty, maybe too much, so don't be too reticent. Be as bold as you're able at first ~ but if you meet some initial success, just don't get TOO cocky too soon...


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: Lizzie Cornish 1
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 05:57 PM

Here you go:

'Geisha Down To a Tea'


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 06:52 PM

And for that matter, how does a person get immersed in a culture? I don't think you can just fly over to a country, eat at a few restaurants and meet and get to know a few people and call yourself "immersed".


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 07:05 PM


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 07:06 PM

Sorry! Don't know how that blank post got there!


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 07:49 PM

Thanks for creating a "blue clicky" for me, Lizzie.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: Don Firth
Date: 20 Apr 11 - 08:47 PM

"Ewan McColl used to say you should only sing what is indigenous to you. A bit rich coming from somebody with an invented past, but I digress."

Now, I have a great deal of respect for Ewan MacColl as a singer of traditional songs and ballads—whether they are "indigenous" to him or not. But—

I was born in California, lived in the city, then moved to another city in the Pacific Northwest when I was nine years old. Other than an occasional pop song sung for self-amusement while doing the dishes or something like that, my parents didn't sing much. Most of the music I heard when I was growing up came out of the radio. If I were morally limited to singing only songs "indigenous" to me, I could sing nothing but covers of songs sung by Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Tony Bennet and those blokes. And, perhaps, and occasional operatic aria (Italian, French, or German).

Someone here on Mudcat once tried to tell me that, since I am an American, I should not sing English or Scottish songs (which I do a lot, especially liking traditional ballads). He told me that I should limit myself to what he conceived of as "songs from your American culture." I should beat a drum and chant Native American chants!

That is NOT my culture! Far from it! I am much further removed from that culture than I am from the Scottish highlands. Especially considering that my great-grandfather came from Scotland.

Jack Campin, above, touched on an important issue. The idea of my performing Native American chants could be offensive to Native Americans because, as one Native American (who, incidentally, had a degree in Anthropology) told me, many chants are essentially spiritual in nature, and Native Americans don't even want them recorded by anthropologists or ethnomusicologists for study purposes, because if they are chanted, or for that matter played on tape out of the context of the appropriate ceremony, it would amount to what we would regard as sacrilege.

But I don't see how the same prohibition should apply to an American singing Scottish ballads—or to a Chinese Australian singing Calypso.

"The Twentieth Century Minstrel," Richard Dyer-Bennet (born in England, partly raised in Canada, and educated in Germany and California), was once given a dose of grief for singing "John Henry," the American ballad about the legendary African-American "steel-drivin' man," because he, Dyer-Bennet, was not black. Dyer-Bennet's response to this criticism was that he was not pretending to be John Henry, nor was he pretending to be black. When he sang the ballad of John Henry, he was the narrator, telling the story of John Henry. He was NOT trying to appropriate someone else's culture.

It would be a sorry world indeed if we were not permitted to sing what the spirit moves us to sing. Sing what YOU want to sing. MAKE it your own.

Good luck, and ENJOY!

Don Firth

P. S. Well, actually, my father knew two verses of "Ole Dan Tucker."


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 12:38 AM

FOLK SINGER'S BLUES
(Shel Silverstein)

Well, I'd like to sing a song about the chain gang (Whap!)
And swingin' twelve pound hammers all the day, (Whap!)
And how a I'd like to kill my captain (Whap!)
And how a black man works his life away, but...
What do you do if you're young and white and Jewish?
And you've never swung a hammer against a spike?
And you've never called a water boy
Early in the morning
And your only chain is the chain that's on your bike? Yes,
Your only chain is the chain on your bike.

Now I'd like to be a-walkin up the highway
Feelin' cold and wet and hungry all night long,
Doin' some hard ramblin', hard gamblin', hard smamblin', hard blamblin'
But always takin' time to write a song. But...
What do you do if you're young and white and Jewish?
And you never heard an old freight whistle blow?
And you've never slept the night
In a cold and empty box car
And you take a subway everywhere you go? Oh, oh
You take the subway everywhere you go.

Now I'd like to sing a song about the coal mine
A-chippin' away in tunnel 22
And when I hear that timber crack, why I support it with my back
Until my comrades all crawl safely through, but...
What do you do if you're young and white and Jewish?
And you've got to be in class at half-past nine
And in spite of all your urgin', and your pleadin' and your cryin'
Your mother says it's too dirty down in a mine, That what she says,
Your mother says it's too dirty down in a mine.

Well now, I'd like to sing about the Mississippi,
Workin' on the levee all the day
And when them cotton bolls get rotten
You got a lotta rotten cotton
And on Saturday you go and spend your pay, but
What do you do if you're young and white and Jewish?
And you've never loaded cotton on the dock?
And you've never worked a day
Or drunk up all your pay
And the only levee you know is the Levy who lives on the block, Yes
The only levee you know is the Levy who lives on the block.

@folkmusic @music
filename[ YNGWHIT


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 12:41 AM

What are those lyrics meant to imply?


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 03:17 AM

They imply that we all bring what we can to the party. Silverstein brought wit, sophistication a passion to entertain and it worked. Hundreds of people recorded his songs.

Work that hard on your calypsos and you'll be doing allright.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 03:40 AM

Thanks! Now has anyone on Mudcat ever done something like this? Gone to another country and learnt another style of music? There must be someone on this site who has done that. If you did, how did you find someone willing to teach you?


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 04:19 AM

Look Morwhen - hers a brutal and uncomfortable truth for you. so uncomfortable a lot of people either never have the intelligence to stumble over it, or reject it cos it asks too much.

Folksinging, folkmusic is within you. You find it by doing it. Borrow and steal from wherever you can, it doesn't matter. You will still be you and your music emerges whether you borrow from guys living in igloos or aborigines chasing kangaroos.

I've never really travelled, but i always loved the way flamenco players played guitar scales to a rhythm. An English guitarist called Paul Downes just watching him practise one day - I picked up he idea that you can incorporate that swing that flamenco players get by using as many open strings as you can, and changing your strings quite often.

i don't think I ever played a Spanish song in my life - but i nicked something from their culture to write my own songs.

Thats how folkmusic works. You use what sounds good and useful to you. not what some classical rule book says.

i can't see much point in you learning about cocoa in Trinidad. Its okay for a primary school project, but its sod all to do with the creation of vibrant music.

take what you like from the Trindadians and then write a song telling a story about the girl you love, or something the boss did that pisses you off.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 04:31 AM

I'm not a man. I'm a woman. A schoolgirl. Now you've read it, don't condescend to me because you believe I'm too young or something. Just because I'm a teenager- 17 years old- and other posters are much older. But I would still love to learn by getting a calypsonian to teach me. It's just the way I want to learn. I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on this. There are people- who have learnt other musical styles by travelling to other countries and studying from people there. What's wrong with that? I don't want to do it this way because of a "classical rulebook" but because I want to learn it in the tradition. I'm not a purist- if i was I wouldn't have posted this in the first place. My username comes from a female character in the Tolkien novel "The Children of Hurin". I highly doubt a man would choose a female character as a username.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 04:40 AM

Alan Whittle, do you believe that learning from traditional performers in the countries which are the sources of traditional music genres is done because of a "classical rulebook?" I see it as wanting to learn from the tradition. What's wrong with wanting to learn in a traditional way?


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 05:02 AM

So, has anyone on Mudcat learned a traditional style of music from another culture in the country it comes from? If you did, how did you find someone willing to tech you?


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 05:42 AM

'Alan Whittle, do you believe that learning from traditional performers in the countries which are the sources of traditional music genres is done because of a "classical rulebook?"

I seem to have offended you - albeit unintentionally. I apologise for that.

No i suppose people embrace traditional fare because they love it. I can appreciate some of it, but theres a lot i think is substandard and frankly boring. wrought in a time when people didn't have much choice.

I wish you luck in your pursuit of finding the tradtion that you wish to comit to.

al


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 05:46 AM

Thanks for the apology, Alan. After all you didn't know. I have already found it.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: sciencegeek
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 05:56 AM

Morwen, as a 60 year white gal who fell in love with sea shanties 4 decades ago, I think I can say that you need to understand that there will always be those who will pass judgement on what is "politically correct"... and that judgement is based on their biases not on reality. You can not please everyone... so you need to understand yourself and what motivates you... and that takes time as you grow and mature.

My dad was an opera loving Italian and my maternal grandfather who worked on ships since the age of 7 thought that music started and ended with John Phillip Sousa... does that mean I had no right to
sing shanties? Heck No! I learned every shanty I could from records and books and have sung them ever since. Even performed them. And I wasn't the only gal who felt that way. There are now a fair number of women who perform sea music and are respected members of the folk community. As long as you are honest with yourself and your audience, then you should do fine. And it will be your talent and ability that will determine how well you succeed in achieving your dream.

You are not yet old enough to do some things, but once you are older you can travel to communities that support the music you love and follow your dream. Don't be so hard on yourself. Listen & learn from everything you can... music is so much more accessible now thanks to the web. The best authors and songwriters are those who have lived "interesting lives" and were able to put that into word or song.

As for exploitative.... as long as your goal isn't to be the Hannah Montana of Calypso, you should do fine. The thing is honesty... with yourself and the music... that is where you will be judged by the people who matter.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Musket
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 05:56 AM

Don, I too have respect for MacColl as a songwriter, singer, playwright overall as somebody who could and would put over his point with poetic elegance, whether that be about love, politics, work or play.

However, I am one of many who has had to sit there as a floor turn when he and Peggy were appearing at a local club and be lectured on the subject. Then to hear his rather contrived Scottish accent singing his haunting "Ballad of Jamie Foyer". Followed by a Norfolk drawl as he sang his wonderful "Shoals of Herring."

It seems he saw himself as a performer and therefore capable of reciting songs, attitudes and anthems of many different regions of UK life, but we amateur singers have to, in his mind, stick to what is local and cultural to our upbringing.

A great man, yet capable of that condescending bullshit.

His point though was an interesting one. If you see yourself as a performer, you are "acting" the part and all bets are off?   Many great British and American actors (and from other parts of the globe) enjoy being a Danish King from time to time and march a skull on the stage. is it any different if I sing a blues song from the deep south or even a song about a train driver from edinburgh for that matter?

If you see yourself as a performer providing entertainment, then this is not an "uncomfortable" thread. If however you feel you are using the attention you get to push a point, then the bets may well be back on again....


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Max Johnson
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 06:14 AM

Morwen.
You just need an MP3 file, somewhere to store it, and a link. A website is a good place, and there's lots of s/w out there with instructions that will enable you to build it. It's easier that it sounds. I'm sure we'd all love to hear you, and very likely, one day, we shall. I hope it's Sparrow's 'Three Coins In The Fountain' - I like that one.

One of my oldest friends, Maria, is half Chinese and half Trinidadian.

I'm a Yorkshireman, and songs from Sussex or from Norfolk sometimes seem to speak with a different voice, as it were. Quite interesting.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MikeofNorthumbria
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 06:16 AM

An apposite comment on this issue, posted for the benefit of those who aren't already familiar with it ...

When 'Omer Smote 'Is Bloomin' Lyre by Rudyard Kipling

When 'Omer smote 'is bloomin' lyre,
He'd 'eard men sing by land an' sea;
An' what he thought 'e might require,
'E went an' took -- the same as me!

The market-girls an' fishermen,
The shepherds an' the sailors, too,
They 'eard old songs turn up again,
But kep' it quiet -- same as you!

They knew 'e stole; 'e knew they knowed.
They didn't tell, nor make a fuss,
But winked at 'Omer down the road,
An' 'e winked back -- the same as us!


Wassail!


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 06:19 AM

I could do "Rum and Coca-Cola"- the original one, Invader's version, not the Andrews Sisters'. Is that okay?


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 06:24 AM

Does anyone know where there is a site that will help you upload MP3s? I'll do "Rum and Coca-Cola" first when I have the time- after I've finished studying. I'll try and learn "Three Coins In The Fountain" too.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 06:33 AM

And BTW, Sciencegeek, I hate Hannah Montana. Miley Cyrus is a living example of the fact that connections matter a lot in mainstream show business. She only became a singer because of her father and does not have an interesting voice. The point of being a calypsonian is to write and sing songs which make a point about social issues- a kind of protest singer- as well as entertain by the clever use of words. That's what I hopefully will do, much like the protest singers in the folk scene.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 06:43 AM

BTW, Max J, could you send me the lyrics to "Three Coins In The Fountain" so I can know what song you are referring to? Most of the searches for that title plus "song" refer to a 50s theme song from a movie with the same title.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: maeve
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 06:48 AM

Is this the "Three Coins in the Fountain" by Sparrow to which you referred, Max Johnson? "Three coins" - Sparrow


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: sciencegeek
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 06:53 AM

And BTW, Sciencegeek, I hate Hannah Montana. Miley Cyrus is a living example of the fact that connections matter a lot in mainstream show business. She only became a singer because of her father and does not have an interesting voice.
I wish I could say the same for my 13 year old niece... lol. Oh well... can only hope that she will outgrow this phase.
As for protest singers.... boy could we use some now! The conservative right wants to return us to the 1800's. Instead of a strong middle class, we'll all be wage slave/serfs.
listen to Phil Ochs or Shel Siverstein ( his song was posted above)just to see how they use irony or outrage in their music but still keep it singable.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Max Johnson
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 06:56 AM

WooHoo! Thanks Maeve!


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MikeofNorthumbria
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 07:04 AM

Further thoughts on the MacColl/Authenticity issue.

The foundation stone of English Literature is a poem called "Beowulf". Scholars estimate that it was composed in East Anglia sometime after 600 (that's 600 AD, or if you want to be PC, 600 CE), and first written down sometime after 700. The oldest surviving manuscript copy (probably) dates from around 1,000.

I like to imagine that when the original bard gave the first public performance of Beowulf, there was a proto-MacColl in the audience who bellowed:

"How dare you - a mere Anglo-Saxon, and probably a Mercian judging by your dialect – appropriate the story of a Swedish hero who dispatched a Danish serial killer three centuries ago?   This shows gross disrespect to all Swedes and Danes, as well as betraying a shameful lack of interest in your own indigenous folklore. Furthermore, the stringed instrument upon which you accompany your recitation is highly untraditional, and you play it (very badly) in a style which is totally inauthentic. Shame on you!"

Or soemthing like that. But fortunately, the bard ignored him.

Wassail!


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 07:05 AM

Is it wrong to say that I would like a written transcript of the lyrics of the Sparrow "Three Coins in the Fountain" or the "Smart Bajan" because he sings too fast? The song is about a con artist.. great.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 07:09 AM

Your niece is obsessed with Hannah Montana, Sciencegeek? What about Justin Bieber?"


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 07:24 AM

Ewan insisted we only sang our own, whilst Rolf Harris urged us to sing the other fellah's folk songs as a means to global understanding. I wonder if he applied this principle to ripping off Belafonte's Hold 'em Up Joe as the basis for Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport (working title Kangalypso)? Whatever the case, Rolf (in his autobiography) tells of how when he finally did get to meet Belafonte, he was snubbed on acount of him being white. One wonders, therefore, how Belafonte had the neck to cover Waltzing Matilda, though his version is a piece of surreal genius - complete with wonky harmonica, kids chorus and an Australian accent to die for.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9Fcr74FeiU


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 07:31 AM

BTW, Max, I understand why you like the Mighty Sparrow. He is great, but I think the YouTube clip is too fast- I, at least, can't understand him. I could do "Jean and Dinah" too, if you like.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 07:39 AM

Suibhne, from what I've read it was Belafonte's recording of "Banana Boat Song", not "Hold 'Em Joe (My Donkey Want Water)", which was the inspiration for Rolf Harris' song. Funny fact- I never noticed anything like obvious outside influences when I was learning "Tie Me Kangaroo Down" in year 6 music class.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 07:59 AM

In his autobiography Rolf says Hold 'im Joe (sic) was the inspiration, though he couldn't simply replace donkey with kangaroo without rewriting it entirely.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Jack Campin
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 08:14 AM

Calypso is a largely improvised form. That makes it a bit different from ballads or Irish dance tunes. I've learned both improvised traditions (Middle Eastern) and not-very-improvised ones (Scottish and Hungarian) from people who could be described as tradition bearers. The non-improvised stuff is possible to get from recordings, though talking to a human makes it MUCH quicker. I don't think you can learn improvisation except first hand - the point of improvisational art forms is that they come out of frameworks that aren't always perceptible at all. What is *not* played is also part of the tradition.

The person who comes to mind as having gone to a foreign culture and learned enough about its music to perform at the highest level is the Irishman Ross Daly, who does Greek/Turkish music. It took him a long time.

If you're in a big multicultural city like London or New York there should be a practicing calypso performer or two around. If you're somewhere small with no native Trinidadians about, you probably don't have much option but to travel.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 08:56 AM

Strangely enough, my first published song was in calypso form. Ewan MacColl published it in New City Songster.(about 1976) I'd just learned how to play calypso style rhythm guitar from Derek Brimstone, a folk festival in Skegby, Nottinghamshire.

I chose to write it in West indian patois, because i was writing a song about my afro caribbean pupils at school in the inner city of Birmingham getting in trouble with the law. At the time I despised Bob Marley's music with its injunctioon to the kids to smoke ganja which was getting them into trouble and making them an easy target for the cops, plus all the religious rastafari bullshit.

I wanted a west indian song form that wasn't reggae.

Water off a ducks back, when it came to English folkscene of course. To be a serious folksinger, you needed to whingeing about the first world war in the style of a 17th century farmhand. Either that or Jasper carrot. In fact the traddies thought you were Jasper Carrot.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 09:02 AM

Jack, do you believe that it is possible to develop an ability for improvisation?


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: michaelr
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 11:12 AM

Improvisation can only be done well (as opposed to making stuff up on the fly) if it's based on good technique and a solid understanding of musical conventions and tradition.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Jack Campin
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 01:23 PM

The improvisation involved in calypso is mainly verbal - the tunes pretty much follow the words. I imagine it involves continually spinning little fragments of poetry in your head, all the time, until they start to click together. I can't begin to do anything like that and I would go slightly insane trying to do it in isolation. Being surrounded by people who consider it okay and even admirable to do that would make a big difference.

The performance poetry scene might be a source of sympathetic ears, if it exists where you are.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Ebbie
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 02:10 PM

In the 60s an all-Chinese band toured the circuit in the western US. They played and sang only country music.

After the first startled look at them and the smiles it provoked, people settled in and enjoyed the show. They were good.

As a further thought, if 'alien' music were banned, then surely males could not sing songs from the female point of view and vice versa.

Go for it. Become the best calypsonian anyone ever heard! Or not. Not being bred to something that you choose doesn't mean that you have to be better than everyone else. Just enjoy it.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- performin
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 02:38 PM

I too am of the spirit that says sing what you like. You might not like your indeginous music..sure I spelled that wrong. You might like Summi music. I think you should be careful and sort of tiptoe at first because any culture has songs that are either sacred or very profound or insulting perhaps to other people (think IRA songs) or various other clauses. But in general, I think most songs are OK to sing, with deference to those who are the originators or keepers of those songs. Like I can sing Waka Waka with great vigor but I can't pretend I am a Camaroonian. I think some songs and dances are universal almost..that is one. So I think we can join in enthusiastically, and we can be scholars and some, like you, and not like me, will have very good ears for other languages..but we do have to respect their boundaries and realize we are of other cultures...mg


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,Eliza
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 02:46 PM

Some years ago when I lived in Scotland, The Mod was taking place (a bit like the Welsh Eisteddfod) and the children's solo singing section was won by a little Pakistani girl. Her parents were immigrants, and she'd been born in the Inner Hebrides, her Gaelic was perfect. Everyone was amazed, but no-one grudged her the Prize. I thought it was wonderful.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 02:56 PM

I remember these little Hmong children marching in the Sytende Mai parade in Seattle with the Norwegians. Some were dressed up in Norwegian clothing. Others wore Hmong dress. I asked why and some had been adopted but the community in general had been greatly helped by Norwegian families and they were there to show their appreciation.

There also are many blue-eyed blond Iranians (or is Iraqui? I believe Iranians). They took in many Polish children during WWII.Maybe of course they had blue eyed blondness anyway. mg


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 05:32 PM

And surely that means that someone (me) with a singing voice that has been described as "a combination of Joan Baez and Judith Durham" by one teacher at her school can go on to become a professional calypsonian, performing in tents?


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Stringsinger
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 05:36 PM

In some cases it might be advantageous to have an outside objective view of a culture. I think of probably one of the greatest interpreters of Italian classical songs, Jussi Boerling who was Swedish.

Pete never tried to adopt the musical characteristics that were specific to cultural styles, though. He did it his way.

Leadbelly sang songs his way and changed them (ie: Kisses Sweeter Than Wine taken from Dhrinnan the Cow, an Irish song.

I think that jazz is a product of musical acculturation.

Most folk music is the same. You can slavishly try to imitate another singer or in attempting to play so-called "alien" music, you might define your own style.

The most problem you will have with this approach is that there will always be stuffy academics who will say "that's not the way you do it." It's best to ignore them, folk snobs and pseudo musicologists.

The most important aspect in performing music from another culture is to
try to understand it in depth as best you can. Even in the traditional cultures,
the way some play the music in one village will differ than the way some do in another village. The idea of authenticity becomes vague; the attempt to approach it sincerely and study it gives the performance a validity of its own.

Take the blues for instance. In spite of the attempt, many white blues artists don't have quite the same phrasing or physical interpretations as black artists but so what? They study and what they do is valid in expressing the meaning of the music rather than an arbitrary "style".


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 05:42 PM

Judith Durham sang blues and gospel, despite the fact that she had classical vocal training.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 06:10 PM

Of course, calypso is mostly improvised, different from gospel, blues and jazz. I guess I'll have to do what Jack Campin suggested, or find a calypso performer who could teach me. But this will all to have to be done in the future, when I'm finished studying and have had singing lessons. I think a basic knowledge of singing techniques is important whatever a singer chooses to do.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 06:53 PM

Sort of an aside, but I've been bothered for years by performers and groups telling me something like "This next song is from the Balkans. It's the song the women sing when they go to harvest the apples." Do they REALLY know what they're singing? It IS, after all, from the Balkans, and I always have the sneaking suspicion that what they're really singing is the song the women sing when they go out to finish off the wounded and mutilate the dead.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 06:59 PM

Yeah, that's a problem. I'm sure that there are bad performances on YouTube or anywhere by singers who have no idea of what they are singing.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,Ref
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 07:46 PM

Sing what you like to sing, Morwen. Life is too short to worry about gaining the approval of jerks.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,Ref
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 08:44 PM

...And if you need any more inspiration, check out Johnny Clegg.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 08:59 PM

Thanks, GUEST,Ref.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 09:33 PM

Jack, I understand what you are saying about "If you are in a big multicultural city there should be a practicing calypso performer or two around." The problem is that I don't know of any calypso performers (by that I mean calypsonians) in the city where I live in Australia- Sydney, which is big and multicultural. There seem to be a few calypso bands around but from the descriptions (I searched on Google for "calypso singing scene Sydney"), they seem to specialise in providing party music. I guess I'll have to ask my singing or piano teacher.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 09:59 PM

Why not check out these calypso bands, they may contain musicians who view of calypso might appear commercially compromised - but they may have some techniques you can learn from. Also perhaps tricks of diction and communication that the record companies got the original artist you have heard, to abandon.

Unless you are a very big star, or you are recording for a folk label where they don't expect to sell many copies - the musician is not the boss when he goes into a recording studio. When a company is putting up big bucks to record and promote a record that they think has a good chance of making them money, they take over. They are taking the financial risk - and they call the shots.

learn from whoever you can.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 10:05 PM

They might not be native Trinidadians though. Call me a purist or whatever you like but I read on one blog (just one person's opinion, so you can disregard it if you want) that the best way of learning from another culture and avoiding cultural appropriation is to learn from someone from that culture. As I said, maybe I should ask my singing teacher.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other t
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 10:07 PM

Two perspectives/examples to compare:

Eek-A-Mouse (Jamaican singer) venting about foreign singers (and locals from privileged class) stealing the spotlight from the sufferas:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDnBJio67pA

I have to admit I have a similar feeling when someone says, "Hey, Gibb, have you heard this Hasidic Jewish guy (Matisyahu) who sings reggae? He's really good." What's so great about him that I need to hear it? So what if he does a passable version of reggae for the ears of outsiders? There are so many great Jamaican artists that one could never scrape the bottom if they only looked at Jamaica. So why would I necessarily look to this American guy just because he is being put on the TV because he is a novelty? If he were my friend, I would support him. Not being my friend, I have no reason to disrespect him. Nevertheless I would naturally look to the artists involved in and accepted by the native culture of reggae music, first -- who are masters of all the subtle aspects of the music that bring satisfaction.

Gotta respect Eek-a-Mouse for speaking his mind, advocating for the "people who grow with reggae music" and not taking the liberal "it's all good" approach.

(The transcription of the video was written by someone with poor English skills. Let me know if you need any clarification.)

Second example:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fR0oQwrlZD8

Not only is David Rodigan, a White man from England, very widely accepted/respected in his genre (reggae sound systems/clash), many Jamaicans consider him to be among the best. Part of this is because he has developed the relationships and gone through the experiences to earn that respect. He has not been exploitative (either actively or passively). And, luckily, in this particular genre, one's "skills" ultimately count for more than one's nationality/color/etc.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 10:14 PM

Gibb Sahib, do you believe that I should sing calypso? I said maybe I'll ask my singing teacher...


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 10:27 PM

You can't learn or grow as an artist in a vacuum.

The artists you may have available to learn from, may not be the best. Just like the friends you have, may not be the best people in the world. But folk music without real folks - rather like friendship without friends is not really possible. We must make do with what we have, and life is a miserable business without them.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 10:33 PM

And BTW, I agree with you when you say that to learn music from another culture, you need to respect it and become aware of its context as well as involved in the culture of the music as well as forming relationships that will gain you respect- and the best way to do it would be to be taught by someone from that culture who has extensive experience of the tradition. That's partly why I started this thread in the first place- if I didn't want to learn the tradition correctly, I wouldn't have asked, I'd just have assumed I could do whatever I want and people would love it. Now does anyone have any tips as to how I might go about learning the tradition accurately and respectfully in the future, as well as having fun, by finding tradition bearers in my home city?


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 10:58 PM

I would find a message board for calypso lovers and mention the generic area at least. mg


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 11:04 PM

Calypso counts as "roots music" doesn't it? I may try and find roots music forums and ask the posters. Thanks for the suggestion.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 11:20 PM

Sorry, I meant "world music".


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other t
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 11:44 PM

"World music" means nothing.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 12:04 AM

It's what they categorise it as in CD shops, even, I believe, on Smithsonian Folkways. It's a catchall term, not a genre name. it's just a broad category for the uncategorisable genres that don't belong to the broader ones and for a kind of "exotic" category. I'm sorry if I sounded like I thought that it did mean something. Most shops which sell CDS slam anything that doesn't fit the broader genre categories into "world music" which means any music which originates in places whose music styles are obscure and not really "popular", such as traditional West African music, for example. I hope this doesn't come off as angry or rude. 


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 12:25 AM

So, to go back to the question I asked a few posts earlier, does anyone have an idea how I could find tradition bearers in my home city? Would it be beneficial to ask on a "world music" message board?


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 01:16 AM

if it is a big city as opposed to a small town, for your personal security reasons, I would just post it here. I am assuming that is not your real name. mg


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 01:24 AM

Does anyone have an idea how I could find tradition bearers in my home city? I don't
know how because most of the calypso performers in Sydney appear to provide party music. I have almost no knowledge of the folk music scene beyond what's posted on these boards?


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 02:29 AM

"World music" means nothing."
There's a story of a veteran Irish fiddle player who went into one of the big record shops in Dublin,
As there was no 'folk' or 'traditional' section, he beagn to riffle his way through the 'world music' racks, looking to see if there was a copy of his own album.
Not finding it, he rather disgruntledly went to the counter and asked, "got anything from anywhere else?"
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 02:42 AM

Morwen, you don't sound rude at all, and I hope I don't. Just being brief is all.
Clarification: "world music" means nothing that would be PRODUCTIVE to your purposes. Its very broadness makes it even less useful than "roots music" or "folk music" for use in *specific* study.

Go ask some Trinis!...and leave the folk biddies to their Anglophile warblings and bleatings :)

By the way, I learned music in a foreign culture over the span of 10 years. Had a formal, native teacher -- a hereditary professional, "born into" the tradition. Lived in the country 4 times (for spans of a years, months), also brought the teacher to my home 9USA) twice. Traveled all around and studied the playing of many performers. But I could only ever be considered an amateur, someone who "takes an interest." People would be flattered by my interest. However, I could never be a professional within that culture. No amount of skill/fluency would do it. My sense of ethics -- instilled by my teacher -- tells me that while I could appear as facsimile of a performer in other cultural spheres, that I *should* not. So I don't.

Moral of the story is that there is no blanket answer. Those that are saying, "It's no problem, go for it!" have not had occasion to consider all the situations. In my opinion they are speaking from a relatively narrow, even ethnocentric perspective.

It's culture-specific. Which is why you have to talk to people in calypso culture, not the strummers of dreadnaughts with hootenany straps -- mostly well-meaning, kind, welcoming liberals, but who have not had much experience living a life where your existence was so crappy that music was your only option for survival...and you don't take kindly to other with far more options taking over your music, imperfectly at that, as privileged choice. True, they may smile and praise you for learning their tradition -- but don't take advantage of their generous nature or code of hospitality. The resentment may not be obvious until, like with most colonized nations, there had to be an independence struggle.
Although people use the language of political correctness and inclusiveness, "colonizing" of a sort still goes on -- particularly in the global music industry.

It helps to think that some genres of music are in essence the people who have created them. They are not abstract forms available to anyone who would adopt their stylistic features. You might become one of the creators, and thus part of the music. Yet there's a profound difference between performing in a musical style and being one of its creators.

best wishes,
Gibb

P.S. I teach a university course right now called "World Music." :-)


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 03:18 AM

Thanks, Gibb! But the problem is I don't know any Trinidadians personally to ask. If I can ask you, when and how did you realise you would never be a professional in the style you were studying? What style was it?


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 03:23 AM

So, about the fact that I don't know any Trinidadian people to ask? What should I do about that? And how should I go about doing that?


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 04:03 AM

If you can afford it, a trip would be a great place to start, unless you have already. mg


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 04:13 AM

Yes, probably. But for how long? A one-week trip isn't going to tell you much. People in the tourist industry are trained, pretty much expected, to be hospitable to travellers visiting their country. Unless it was something like a gap year or longer than that.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 04:22 AM

Gibb, do you have suggestions on how I could ask Trinidadians how they feel about this? As I've written, I don't know any Trinidadians personally. GUEST mg suggested a trip, but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't tell me anything personally. I highly doubt the other situations I've thought about mightn't help much.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 04:24 AM

*might


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Jack Campin
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 05:43 AM

Does anyone have an idea how I could find tradition bearers in my home city?

Music shops have noticeboards for small ads.

Gumtree or whatever your local electronic small-ads board is. (You may have to repeat the ad every few weeks, as things tend to drop into invisibility quite fast).

Ask around any place that might have calypso music fans going to it - food shops or eateries with a Caribbean clientele, for example.

You sound determined enough that I can't imagine something along those lines not working.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 05:44 AM

Thanks, Jack. Definitely think of those suggestions.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Max Johnson
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 06:41 AM

he began to riffle his way through the 'world music' racks, looking to see if there was a copy of his own album.

He should worry. When one our albums went on sale at HMV on Oxford Street, we eventually found it under 'Easy Listening'. The bastards.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 06:47 AM

Gibb Sahib, lighten up. Of course Morwen should (eventually) seek out actual Trinidadian practitioners if she wants to refine her craft. She should not, however, be required to seek anyone's permission to pursue her passion. The only limiting advice I'd give her is to sing in her own voice without attempting to mimic anyone else.

Your stale, bigoted swipes at those of us "dreadnought-strumming liberals" are not appreciated. This young woman does not need advice from anyone who puts limits on her dreams. The advice she's mostly gotten here is the same as yours. Don't be miffed that she's getting it from people who don't teach world music classes.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 07:04 AM

Can't help thinking if an artist wanted to be regarded as an august personage within a a traditional artform unblemished by sordid commerciality, would you choose the name Eek a Mouse...!

As you say brother Guest, the man talketh enormous bollocks. And did not Jesus say unto us, you will know Satan and his envoys by the enormous bollocks they talketh unremittingly.

You know bloody well if Paul Simon was making an album Graceland Three (subtitled Paul and the pygmies of Mongolia) - all the 'world musicians' would be queue-ing up to sell our Paul a few crotchets. Dreadnought strumming liberal or not.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,Azizi
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 09:35 AM

Greetings to all those who earlier greeted me by name and greetings to those who didn't. I'm not writing this to elicit greetings but to express a concern I have.

I've been reading this thread with a great deal of interest (as opposed to skimming posts). And it occurs to me that taking on a persona and then asking for assistance from persons who post to an online community is one technique that a blogger could use to stimulate discussion and to inform readers about a particular subject or particular subjects. And I believe that MorwenEdhelwen1 may be using this technique.

Of course, there's no way of verifying this. And yes, I'm also aware that some people could (also) think that I put on a persona while blogging for a particular purpose or purposes. However, while I admit to an overarching reason for many of the posts I used to write on this forum (to increase the awareness of African American and other Black cultures), I did so and do so openly without the use of any persona.

However, it's possible that MorwenEdhelwen1 is actually a 17 year old Chinese girl from Australia who wants to be a Calypsonian. It's also possible that MorwenEdhelwen1 knows a lot about rather obsure (to most people) Calypsonians, and also (from this thread and, in particular other Mudcat threads) has exhibited a skill in doing online searches, but somehow didn't know that there were Chinese Calypsonians and also didn't know about Calypso message boards. It is also possible that rather than spend her time on Calypso and other Caribbean blogs, Morwen would prefer to spend her time and energy asking insistent questions about "obscure" (to most people) Calypso records and engaging in pointed conversation with persons on this folk music forum which-by now-she has realized has few if any posters who know much about Calypso music.

Again, all of this is possible. But I have my doubts.

And I don't like those persons who I consider my online friends to be fooled.

Yet I could be wrong. And, if so, my apologies to MorwenEdhelwen1.

Whatever the reason/s this thread was started, I am glad that this discussion elicited information about Calypso music as well as comments about the general subject of people performing music that isn't indigenous to them.

As the original poster wrote:

Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 21 Apr 11 - 10:33 PM

And BTW, I agree with you when you say that to learn music from another culture, you need to respect it and become aware of its context as well as involved in the culture of the music as well as forming relationships that will gain you respect- and the best way to do it would be to be taught by someone from that culture who has extensive experience of the tradition. That's partly why I started this thread in the first place...

-snip-

Best wishes,

Azizi


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other t
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 11:09 AM

anonymous GUEST (who sounds like a troll),

anyone who puts limits on her dreams. Oh, boo hoo, limits on her dreams! Why don't you strum me a song about it? Well, this is why she made the query -- to get the sense if there are situations out there where one would be limited. And there are, of which one needs to be aware. She didn't ask it so that people could boost her confidence.

"Lighten up"? Don't be silly. The whole reason I mentioned world music classes was humor and irony. A few posts up I had said that "world music" means nothing (in other words, it's a b.s. category, but we sometimes have to deal with it). Perhaps you haven't learned to read smiley faces, the universal Internet language of lightness broadcasted to warn sensitive people. Lightness is one thing -- in discussion-- but the issue is serious. People have had their livelihood and traditions messed up by assuming outsiders who decide they don't need permission to take on the music developed by others and use it for their own promotion.

She should not, however, be required to seek anyone's permission to pursue her passion.
Why not? Why make this blanket statement? Can you speak for everyone?
Why is it that in India you literally ask for "permission" ("Do I have permission?") from your teacher and audience before you play? If you totally disregarded all of these gestures of respect, you wouldn't be part of that world of music making at all. And then where would you be? If your dream is to strum a sitar in front of hippies n England, well then you've reached it. Use your spending power to buy an instrument, teach yourself through recordings, and screw those damn Indian musicians who are limiting your passion!

But "permission" doesn't accurately characterize the relationship you want. Your "permission" sounds like a legal right. You don't need permission to be a jerk to someone. But that doesn't mean you should do it.

Alan Whittle,

august personage within a a traditional artform unblemished by sordid commerciality, would you choose the name Eek a Mouse
This makes no sense. Who said anything about an "august personage"? A "traditional artform"? Who said commerciality blemishes? And if you are absolutely clueless about reggae culture (which can be gathered from your earlier posts), what makes you think you could judge the appropriateness of an artist's name?

Your Paul Simon analogy is disgusting, because it suggests that there is nothing to music besides the most money you can make from it. I'm starting to think you're a troll, too.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 01:50 PM

'I'm starting to think you're a troll, too.'

Lets just leave it that you're starting to think....don't overdo it.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,lively
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 04:37 PM

"However, it's possible that MorwenEdhelwen1 is actually a 17 year old Chinese girl from Australia who wants to be a Calypsonian. ... I have my doubts"

It seems to me that Morwen is doing a pretty fine job of faking being a seventeen year old enthusiast for Calypso in order to blog about the thoughts of middle-aged folk enthusiasts.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 05:27 PM

Does this mean you have to be a middle class baby boomer to perform prog rock?
As a musical voluptary and aural sensualist I'm of the sing what the hell you please school, just treat the stuff with respect. I recall a college tutor who was raised in Kingston, Jamaica who spoke with the broadest West Indian accent imaginable. Only in the UK did people think she was taking the micky because she was white.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 06:08 PM

You are wrong, Azizi. I would talk to a calypsonian if I knew one. Tell me why you have doubts. I don't have a blog and have no intention of starting one.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 06:11 PM

I don't know of any messageboards about calypso either. Can someone provide me with an example?


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 06:11 PM

If you do, I'll go post there.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 06:15 PM

And all your other assumptions about me, Azizi, are true. I didn't know much about Chinese calypsonians and I use the internet a lot.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 06:56 PM

All right, I have started to post on a blog.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other t
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 07:10 PM

All right, I have started to post on a blog.

LAWLZ


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other t
From: GUEST,Paul Slade
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 07:13 PM

For God's sake, just play the music you love and let the rest take care of itself. It's only when different traditions come together that anything new is born anyway, so who knows what amazing Chinese/Australian/calypso hybrid you might accidently invent?


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 07:14 PM

Is Guest lively being sarcastic? Post a *comment* on a blog.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 07:47 PM

I'm waiting for responses to my comment- will tell you what I get.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Janie
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 11:05 PM

No need to react defensively to Azizi's post. Take her at her word, which includes an apology if she is off base.

I have no opinion one way or the other, but find it very interesting to read the varying perspectives.   I haven't been posting because I have nothing to say or to add, but am learning a lot by reading.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 22 Apr 11 - 11:50 PM

Virtually everyone here is singing music from someone else's culture. The best solution for most is to listen to source recordings of the
people who created thge Music. Smithsonian Folkways has som magnificent early recordings of calypsonians.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,MowenEdhelwen1
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 12:21 AM

I accept your apology, Azizi. Yes, Dick Greenhaus, I could listen to the recordings, but they wouldn't give me the skills I would need to be a traditional calypsonian, such as the ability to improvise insults. You need an actual person steeped in the tradition to teach you how to improvise songs. That's my problem- I don't know where to look for a tradition bearer. Maybe I'll continue my normal singing lessons first.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 01:12 AM

You can not be a traditional calypsonian. You can learn their music, sing it, enjoy it, but like they say in Maine, a cat can have kittens in the oven but it don't mean they're biscuits. Like others have said, sing in your own voice, however it comes out, bow to the masters of the tradition as well as the unknown tradition keepers...keep up your studies, do songs that are age appropriate, and you are probably getting into a genre that can be risque, so don't sing anything that would embarrass your family, at least until you are of age...travel to the source as soon and as often as you can..perhaps if you are in college yet you can consider a semester at sea type of thing..or foreign exchange..you are too young to travel alone so go with a group..

There are lots of cruises to the Caribbean...if you are working or have a summer off maybe you could get a job on one...mg


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 01:16 AM

Here you go..a semester at sea

http://www.semesteratsea.org/enrichment-voyages/overview/december-2011-voyage.php


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 01:55 AM

Guest mg, I'm a little confused on what you mean. Do you mean "not traditional" in the sense that it would be different if I was actually Trinidadian? If I was immersed in the tradition and culture and learnt the skills extensively, wouldn't I be considered a calypsonian in some sense if I wrote my own pieces and competed in competitions? I understand that the difference between a calypsonian and a calypso singer is that "a calypso singer sings other people's songs while a calypsonian writes their own material". From Wikipedia. (That article was obviously written by someone knowledgeable- most people outside of Trinidad won't know the difference unless someone tells them).

Recently, (in 2006) an Australian woman, Fiona Graham, an anthropologist with an extensive knowledge of Japan, went through the rigourous training, got registered and became known as "Japan's first western geisha" (LIza Dalby, the other "first western geisha" never actually went through the training. She only lived in an okiya, took a geisha name and dressed up in a kimono) . Now obviously there is a difference between Japan and Trinidad and Tobago, but the two situations are basically the same. Liza Dalby is not a geisha, because she never went through the training. Fiona Graham (Sayuki), is because she was trained and registered as a geisha in Asakusa, the geisha district of Tokyo. Would you describe Sayuki as a "Traditional geisha?" She is certainly accepted as one by most of the locals, or as least it seems so from the news articles I've read about her (which admittedly, seem to be focusing on her, so they wouldn't show much of the problems she's faced- but I would trust her word because she's had the training). In the same way, if I didn't get the training, I would only be a calypso singer. But if I did, and then went on to perform in tents at Carnival, then I would be a calypsonian. I just wouldn't be a Trinidadian one. You just can't sing a few calypsos and then describe yourself as a calypsonian.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 02:03 AM

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calypsonian.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 02:11 AM

BTW I am still in high school in Australia.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,lively
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 02:52 AM

Morwen, yes I was being sarcastic. I personally found Azizzi's lengthy off-topic post essentially saying "I believe that Morwen is a lyer and a fraud" pretty inappropriate and verging personal attack - albeit phrased very eloquently. I don't care if you're blogging or if you're not, it's none of my business. Have a fun day talking about calypso all.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 03:34 AM

Azizi, I hope you don't take this as a personal attack, but if I was asking questions on here to start a blog - I don't have time to - there is my schoolwork and preparation for the HSC- Higher School Certificate, the equivalents of SATs- and I wouldn't want a blog anyway until my birthday in October when I would feel safer online- I would almost definitely be blogging to appeal to my school friends, so Mudcat wouldn't be on the radar, except as a casual mention of "what I've been doing with my time" and the thoughts of anyone on here would not be mentioned in detail. My friends follow the latest fashion, to be 'indie" in musical tastes, but I don't think folk music would appeal to them. But I understand your concern- no-one really knows everything about the person they are talking to online. If we did we would all be able to track down each other because we'd know everyone's address and phone number. Sorry if I'm offensive or something.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MikeL2
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 04:39 AM

hi

Don't think too much about it. Just play man play.

We had a calypso period here in the UK in the 50's/60's.

Hell we even had a Manchester United Calypso !!

"Manchester Manchester United.
a team of bouncing Busby Babes.
They deserve to be knighted"    !!!!!

Cheers

Mikel2


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Jack Campin
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 05:12 AM

It is sometimes possible to be age-inappropriate and get away with it. In Scotland, Siobhan Miller started out singing clearly "adult" songs like "Mickey's Warning" at around the age of 12. I thought this was a bit weird and creepy at the time but seem to have been proved wrong. It probably helped having her father in the background, but she's now one of the most prominent younger singers in the country.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 05:33 AM

Jack,in your opinion, if you learn an art from someone in the tradition, can you eventually become a part of that tradition?


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 06:11 AM

Mg, I Googled "Semester At Sea" programs but they seem to be based in America for American university students. As I am Australian, do you have any plausible suggestions for Australians?


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Jack Campin
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 07:53 AM

Jack,in your opinion, if you learn an art from someone in the tradition, can you eventually become a part of that tradition?

If you're learning it from them in person, yes. But it does need two-way interaction. You're part of it when they say you are, not when you think you are.

The Scottish fiddler Angus Grant Jr used to formalize this by giving a tassel to players who met his standards - they'd fasten it to the heads of their fiddles. I still see "Angus tassels" occasionally. Here's one:

Eilidh Shaw's Angus tassel

I see him around Edinburgh occasionally and have played with him, but I think he only gives them to fiddlers and as a multi-wind-player I'd need about 20 of them.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 11:49 AM

I am not a folklorist and know nothing about calypso music...but your question is could you become a traditional calypsonian through lessons, study etc. To me, it would mean that you had grown up in the tradition, someone around you, parents, community, etc. played it or you heard it constantly..it was absorbed from a young age. I think you could become a very good calypsonian through studies, a lesser route, and other types of immersion, but the question is, could you be a traditional one. I would say no, but folklorists here would ahve to say yes or no according to standard definitions. I would say you should follow your heart when it comes to music, go into as much depth as you can, sing it, share it, perform it, and you will probably become quite expert and you obviously have the heart for it...but will you be traditional? Probably no more than I could be a traditional flamenco dancer. It is just not my tradition, nor was I born into an area where I absorbed other people's traditions..which is interesting..there is ethnic heritage and there is also something I think called..I am making this up right now, but probably someone already has..geographical heritage. My ethnic heritage is Irish and other British Isles, Welsh, Cornish and some mixed..my geographical heritage is clearly Scandinavian-American. So could I be considered a traditional hardangar fiddle player? A traditional rosemaler? I don't know...? I mean if I had any skills whatsoever. I love rosemaling..or the concept of it..I would rosemal everything I owned. mg


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 12:18 PM

I'm sure that if you could trace your ancestry far enough back,mg, you would find some Scandinavians.

Consider the geology of it. In the last Ice Age, the British Isles were covered by hundreds of feet of ice. About 14,000 years ago, it was gone. Humans had to repopulate the islands from mainland Europe. Scandinavia was no doubt a stopover on the way.

So enjoy your rosemaling and hardanger fiddle. Wonderful things, both of them.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 12:27 PM

I think there might be something like a psychic heritage, where people are just really drawn to, and probably feel a profound connection with another culture. I remember a story about a little girl adopted from China and her mother wanted to expose her to her Chinese heritage and she just was not that interested. Then she saw some Irish stepdancers and asked for lessons. Mother said no, but then girl kept practicing in the bathroom and trying to do it on her own so mother relented. I think that really does take place, where you really feel at home with either an entire culture or parts of it. There are some universal things going on that we can't understand. mg


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 12:34 PM

Could you make a tradtional bread and butter pudding? Yes

Could you become a traditional bread and butter pudding maker. Not really - you'd always be an arriviste - a revivalist of the traditional bread and butter pudding making techniques.

so would you live your life in the shadows, a failure by your own standards because you were merely a wannabe - your aspirations dashed by a cruel twist of fate - an accident of birth and cultural background? For some people , that is the case. i don't suppose all those people who joined the Hitler youth - set out wanting to be categorised as the scumbags of history.

we all have to acquit ourselves as best we can, and hope for the best. that's life. that's the deal we all have.

Even poor old Gibb Sahib is on his way to learning something (albeit in a rather juvenile judgemental way)

if you feel you have a contribution to make as a calypso singer - just go for it. learn as much as as you can in the process. you may not end up with exactly what you aim for, but if you commit all your creative effort and are generous with the energy you expend - you'll end up with something worthwhile and interesting. At very least, you will learn a lot about yourself, about music, and a lot about YOUR community - which is the environs you will be working in as an artist. And your community (you will find) will be the determinant of your art - not some tradtional faraway one you can only read about or at best, live alongside.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 12:38 PM

http://www.semesteratsea.org/academic-life/academic-community/international-universities.php

I think semester at sea is accredited through some Australian and other international universities.

You might consider, as you pick a college, or you probably already have, whether they have programs that allow some international experience as part of the curriculum. Do you know what your major will be? mg


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 05:13 PM

Yes (warning- thread drift alert) but what about Fiona Graham, the Australian woman I mentioned above? She is a clearly "traditional geisha", isn't she, even if she isn't Japanese? As I said before, she may not be doing things in completely the traditional way, but she went to Japan as an exchange student and was able to speak Japanese well enough so that the geisha community of Tokyo would accept her and she started out as a maiko (apprentice- a long apprenticeship, according to some websites with this information, although in Tokyo apparently, it can take only up to about a year), although the oldest geisha community is in Kyoto. Anyway the point is, to me (and I realise this is quite different to everyone else's definitions), a traditional artist of any artform is one that goes directly to the source of their art, learns extensively and directly from practitioners with an extensive knowledge of the tradition, often immersing themselves in the culture (if it isn't their birth one) for long periods of time, and is accepted in the tradition by the practitioners and people around them, as well as going through whatever training is needed to be accepted. Preferably they would grow up in that tradition, but as I said above, for me, they only need to be well accepted by a community and by traditional artists as being part of the tradition to be traditional.
Mg, can you give me a link to the Chinese flamenco dancer story? I assume it is a news or magazine article?


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 05:33 PM

http://www.youthradio.org/oldsite/society/kpfa040320_irish.shtml">Adopted Girl Irish Step Dancing - could this be the girl you were talking about mg?


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 05:48 PM

Let me try that again:http://www.youthradio.org/oldsite/society/kpfa040320_irish.shtml">Adopted Girl Irish Step Dancing<. It's not a blicky- why isn't this link working? The "Scarlet Ribbons" one worked.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 07:17 PM

Never mind. I found the article in a PDF.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 08:12 PM

I think we are operating under different definitions of traditional. I would call what you are talking about more "in the traditional style" or something similar, rather than traditional per se, but I am sure folklorists have a definition that they tend to apply to this question, as it undoubtedly comes up off. mg


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 08:45 PM

Okay, so I want to do what I want to do "in the traditional style" as opposed to a revivalist style.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 08:52 PM

According to you, mg, at least. I think it's a good term for people who have different definitions of "traditional" to use. If you are performing or watching music being performed in the traditional style, I think it's a very different experience from performing, or watching music performed in a "revival style", which is more modern.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 23 Apr 11 - 10:28 PM

too long a thread to read & respond to..

I don't care,I'll just absorb and refine whatever stimulates me..

I'm too proud to put on a pretend accent or fake a persona that's not me


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 24 Apr 11 - 12:08 AM

that was not what I had read but a similar story...I think it is basically good to cross-pollinate music, art etc.. basically, usually etc. mg


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 24 Apr 11 - 01:45 AM

Would this be it? Certainly it seems like the same girl as in the commentary on the Youth Radio site that I linked to. It certainly fits your description of what you read. On page 6 of the PDF: "Dancing To Her Music".
http://www.fccne.org/news/ccapril2003.pdf. It is a reprint of an article originally published in a magazine in 2002. I like your description of a "psychic heritage"- I suppose that means a kind of strong "mental link" where a person feels a strong cultural connection to another culture.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 24 Apr 11 - 03:59 AM

Psychic heritage sounds like it could be useful. Does anyone born after WW2 have their own traditions? Very doubtful, they're almost all adopted. Don't fret over it.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 24 Apr 11 - 04:13 AM

So basically

1) You're from Australia

2) You want to sing calypso in a funny accent, having a 'mental link' with the folk musicians of trinidad

3) You want to be accorded the status of an authentic primary source folk artist like sam larner, john reilly, leadbelly.

4) however you wil settle for the status of an 'in the traditional style' type revivalist like martin carthy, nic jones, etc.

Best of luck!


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 24 Apr 11 - 05:09 AM

This might be contentious, but I did say a few things some posts up about being able to pick up accents after being around people from a different country for a while. So I imagine that after being in Trinidad for a number of years (and if I was lucky, being surrounded by only Trinidadians for that period) my accent would be so different that when I returned to Australia, people would say "You have a Caribbean accent'. So my accent would be different to Australians, and I would be totally unconscious of it unless it was pointed out to me. So if you're saying my Australian accent would be funny in calypso, it would depend on how long I'd been there and how much I was actually talking with Trinidadians. "Mental link", "psychic heritage"- possibly not the best choices of words, but I was trying to describe the situation of being drawn to another culture that you are not connected to by ethnicity or in my case, nationality. And having "the status of an "in the traditional style type revivalist" is the closest I'd get to the tradition- if I was a "traditional style type revivalist", trained by Trinidad calypsonians, wouldn't you say that's a good thing? After all, I'd be learning in the tradition, be accepted in the tradition.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 24 Apr 11 - 05:28 AM

To be a revivalist like carthy would be a very worthy ambition. Better get practising! When he was your age, he had a residency at The Troubadour in London.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 24 Apr 11 - 06:01 AM

But then again, culture is very much down to the individual - even an individual like Martin Carthy - but all culture & tradition is the sum total of individial action, continuity and innovation. As an English Person my personal culture reflects all sorts of international idioms & inspirations that determine my individuality, but let's not rock the banana boat here...

Tell me, how does Calypso fare in the 21st Century? Is it alive and kicking ass (like Hip-Hop and Reggae and their diverse & innumerable offspring) - or is it stuck in an MOR easy-listening limbo of post-modern precious-purist revivalism (like much of Folk appears to be)?


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Jack Campin
Date: 24 Apr 11 - 06:54 AM

I think we are operating under different definitions of traditional. I would call what you are talking about more "in the traditional style" or something similar

mg has a point - Irish dancing is not really comparable. It's highly formalized, and has an organizational structure designed to promote it (as codified by the relevant bodies) on an international scale. If you do it according to the rulebook, you're in. Whether your network of social contacts includes anybody with a personal link to Irish dancers from Ireland doesn't come into it.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 24 Apr 11 - 05:55 PM

There are certainly calypsonians still singing and composing. The Mighty Sparrow, for example, is certainly still performing. That's the point- can you be a revivalist if the tradition you want to perform in is still "alive and kicking?" I'd say no, you are a traditional artist if you are trained directly and accepted by traditional artists in a living tradition. Jack, your point about "having a network of personal contacts" certainly makes this more comparable to becoming a geisha. Traditionally, geishas had a personal link to an okiya (geisha house). Like Fiona Graham, the Australian geisha, I may have to go on foreign exchange (she went there first when she was 15) to find a calypsonian who may agree to train me.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 24 Apr 11 - 06:15 PM

Unless there is an easier way to get in contact with a tradition bearer.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Ebbie
Date: 24 Apr 11 - 08:46 PM

Somehow the original question keeps reminding me of proposing to join a family you admire, doing everything they do, developing the same family tales, recounting the same memories, learning the same accents and idioms- and then asking if you do that long enough will you be a bona fide member of the family.

The answer, of course, would be "no". You may be accepted by them and by the world but the differences will always be there.

Not that I think that is a bad thing.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 24 Apr 11 - 10:31 PM

Well, Ebbie, that's true, except the family analogy doesn't really work. With a family, if you married one of the members, you would become a member. By marriage, but still a member. Or if you got adopted into the family as a child, you would be a member by adoption. That doesn't make you any less a "real" family member.
With being a calypsonian, you can't marry into the tradition and become a calypsonian. You may decide to keep the tradition alive in your family, but if your child doesn't want to be a calypsonian, they're not. But in a family, your child is still a member of your family whether they want to be or not. You're a member of a family without choosing.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 25 Apr 11 - 02:02 AM

And anyway, the differences between her and other geishas didn't matter to Fiona Graham, nor to the people who trained her, when she started her training. So yeah, they'd still be there. But they didn't matter in the way she was trained. She was trained and treated in the same way as a Japanese woman who wanted to be a geisha. There are some differences in things like how she and a Kyoto-trained geisha tie an obi (kimono sash) and how long the period until her debut was. But those are differences in tradition- she's still a geisha.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Jack Campin
Date: 25 Apr 11 - 02:21 PM

You get more options with calypso's descendant, rap. There so many variants of it now that no sort of central tradition exists any more. People rap in just about every language on earth. It's probably the most rapidly globalized musical idiom there has ever been.   I just checked on YouTube with a bunch of small nations and minority cultures:

Burushaski Rap
Ossetian Rap
Abkhaz Rap
Korean rap video dubbed into Hmong (I think)
Fijian Indian rap (English/Punjabi?)

At what point would an attempt to do calypso in geographic and cultural isolation simply become a reinvention of rap?


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 25 Apr 11 - 06:27 PM

Imagine you're in a folk club in Edinburgh, and you hear two floor singers in succession. The first, you happen to know, has lived in the area all his life, as did his parents and grandparents before him; his speaking accent is identical to the accent he uses to mumble his way through "Flower of Scotland". The second has only recently moved to Scotland, where nobody knows him apart from his partner; he sings a heart-rending version of "Young Waters" in an accent that's textbook-perfect but utterly false.

Which of these is going to get the better reception?

The answer is, of course, that it will depend on the club, and on who's in that night. Similarly, in your case, you can't hope to call yourself a calypsonian without being accepted by calypso audiences and fellow calypso artists - and we can't possibly know whether they'll accept you or not. Sometimes the answer is "if you have to ask you'll never know" - in this case it's "if you have to ask, you have to ask".


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 25 Apr 11 - 06:52 PM

"If you have to ask, you'll never know" means "Just jump in and do it" while "If you have to ask, you have to ask" means "Make sure you ask people and are accepted by them" which is also for reasons of cultural respect. I think that's one of the best pieces of advice I got on this thread. Thanks, Pip Radish.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 26 Apr 11 - 03:08 AM

If you're from outside the tradition ME1, you stand a greater chance of being a song carrier into places it would never normally reach. Purists might rant that song has no business outside that tradition but they're wrong of course.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,Marle
Date: 28 Apr 11 - 08:08 PM

Please stop thinking and start acting. You are doing what I used to do, putting barricades in your mind that prevent you from living your dream. You can not offend anybody by trying when you are young and talented. I am Dutch and from age 21 I knew I wanted to sing (and I did write one) calypso. I never did it, stupid me. Look at "Orquesta de la Luz" a Japanese salsa band, they became famous all over the world. And there are some Japanese steelbands who are starting to get fame too. Girl if you have the guts, do it! Live is too short to overthink everything.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 28 Apr 11 - 09:26 PM

Thanks, GUEST Marle.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: wysiwyg
Date: 29 Apr 11 - 07:07 AM

I collect, preserve, and create new spirituals. (I'm quite white.) I've written here before about how I sing 'em.... just do what you can, as you can, and learn from people around you what is OK or off for them. Find the place inside you where you can sing authentically, no matter the cultural source, and go there. It's all good.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: wysiwyg
Date: 29 Apr 11 - 07:09 AM

Oh and PS, black friends have claimed me as friend from my singing (Spirituals workshops, etc.), and sung along with me. Not because I did it "right" (yes I asked), but because I seemed "fearless." THAT was a surprise!

~Susan


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 25 Jun 11 - 08:18 AM

I don't think you should have any such qualms. As An Irish trad singer playing in the UK my music has long now been acceoted as a part of the Folk scene, and the British Folk scene in particular has evolved from being somewhat insular to widely accepting and welcoming all kinds of Ethnic cultural music. So the more the merrier I say


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 25 Jun 11 - 08:37 AM

Thanks, Desi C, for sharing that (late, but still appreciated) opinion! Could someone get rid of prchecker's post, please?


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Musket
Date: 25 Jun 11 - 09:22 AM

Just had a scan down a few posts since my last one and I reckon this is a thread with no definitive consensus. In fact when I see somebody stating that if you disagree with them you must be a troll, (still haven't worked out what that means...) I get very bored very quickly.

However, it is an interesting thread title and I have been thinking about it, hence this observation.

We may be discussing "other" musical traditions, but we are still being very parochial. I am me, and "me" has a few guitars (+ banjos etc but I digress.) When I was a teenager, I would be playing in a punk band in pubs and clubs Saturday and Sunday night, then playing "folk" in a folk club on a Sunday, Monday etc. It is still me, it is still my songs about my experiences. In the punk band, we did rock up a few jigs & reels and I have always slowed down a few rock classics when doing a folk turn.

I play in a local folk club regularly alongside a banjo player from South Yorkshire who comes originally from Wales and plays American banjo and fiddle songs, usually with Chicken in the title. Is anybody here seriously saying Banjo Ray has no place in the folk scene? I might be expendable but talent such as his is to be celebrated...


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Big Ballad Singer
Date: 25 Jun 11 - 04:35 PM

Just want to echo what some others have said here.

OWN what you sing. If it moves you, sing it.

A friend of mine used to get requests for "Blood and Fire", a song from the Indigo Girls, all the time. He is neither Indigo nor a girl, and admits himself to not be the best singer in the world, but he loves the song and sings it powerfully.

Do what you love... the great achievers in life, no matter what their skill or trade, did (and do) what they love, and it shows through.

Best of luck to you!


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 30 Jun 11 - 11:58 PM

This is the blog post I mentioned in my 21 April 11 post.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 01 Jul 11 - 12:00 AM

Chop-Tensils "On Cultural Appropriation" .


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 01 Jul 11 - 07:32 AM

" I have a knack for picking up accents in a short time. I have a friend from the Southern US, who came to my school in Year 9 (not that long ago- 2008) and after a while, I would find myself talking in a similar way to her. So I expect if i went to Trinidad, I may find myself being asked what part of the country I am from after a long period there"

see this is where I think you might come unstuck. do you intend to sing calypso in a Trinidadian accent? I seriously advise against this.

If I sing an Irish song, I don't put on an Irish accent. If I sing a Scottish song, I don't put on a Scots accent. Irrespective of how "well" I might be able to do it. It's just naff. I wouldn't consider it a badge of pride if a listener listened to it and assumed I was Irish or Scottish. I'd consider it a waste of time, and a bit weird.

Are you going to sing all your "the"s as "de"s? Like Diana Coupland, the white English actress who dubbed Ursula Andress singing "Under de mango tree" in Dr No?

Listen to John faulkner's "turtle calypso" on the otherwise brilliant Bagpuss album. OK, it's a children's song, but it's painfully dated. You can bet the people that do the voices for 'Rastamouse' aren't white RADA actors.

When black Londoners first started rapping in the 1980s, most of them put on American accents. They sounded rubbish. London Posse took a lot of flak for rapping in their East End cockney accents. All the people into hip-hop laughed at them, thinking they sounded ridiculous. Ten years later, time has totally proved London Posse were right all along, as now rappers all rap in their own accents, whether they're from Cardiff or Peckham. Nobody raps in someone else's accent.

Sing your calypso songs in your own accent, or you'll always be a cabaret act.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 01 Jul 11 - 07:59 AM

also, I'm not really sure how much traditional calypso still exists in the West Indies (outside of the tourist/heritage/hotel circuit). Soca is huge of course, but that has about as much in common with old-school calypso (Mighty Sparrow et al) as present-day dancehall has to traditional reggae. It's digital, bass-heavy party music, not dissimilar to reggaeton.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 01 Jul 11 - 07:26 PM

Singing songs in a cabaret or somewhere similar is not exactly what I had in mind. I'm thinking of going to Trinidad (or Costa Rica) to learn calypso from people like The Mighty Sparrow and get a chance to perform in a tent.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 01 Jul 11 - 09:45 PM

200


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 01 Jul 11 - 10:41 PM

BTW, in response to Richard Bridge's 20 April 11 post, Lord Executor (Phillip Garcia), one of the greatest calypsonians in Trinidad who was famous for his English-language singing (and began his career in 1893, dying in 1950), was Venezuelan in ancestry.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 01 Jul 11 - 11:04 PM

Matt, why would you consider it weird? I get why you might think it is weird if the person adopting the accent spent only a short time in the area, but what if the person was so immersed in the culture and spent such a long time in another country or region that their accent changed?


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 01 Jul 11 - 11:55 PM

Matt ~~ What do you think of Gwyneth Paltrow (US) playing Jane Austen's Emma in film a few years ago, and Kate Winslet (British) currently playing James M Cain's Mildred Pierce on tv, both to much acclaim? Or, for that matter, British Vivien Leigh in Gone With The Wind and Streetcar Named Desire (in London & in film), & British Jessica Tandy [on Broadway] in that same T Williams play?

I once played the part of an American for a drama group; some of our members brought along some American guests, who, they told me later, said after the performance, "Weren't you lucky to get a real American to play that part?" (Sorry if this sounds vain, but it happens to be true & I think it happens to be relevant ~~ &, yes, I do sing Scots & Irish songs in appropriate accents ~~ try some on my Youtube site; and my old Glaswegian friends like it; & I don't feel 'weird'. But in other, non-specifically national songs, I try just to sound like me, &, as a much-valued review once said, avoid 'the folk voice'.)

If actors who can manage the accent can get contracts from exigent managements who wish to make a profit on their products by convincing and impressing their audiences, why should not singers who happen to be talented in accents do the same? What should make you feel 'weird' if you could pull it off? Should Ms Paltrow and Ms Winslet feel 'weird' IYO? Aren't you being a bit prescriptive?

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 02 Jul 11 - 09:48 AM

Refresh.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Irish sergeant
Date: 02 Jul 11 - 11:37 AM

Just to add my two cents, If traditional music was only played by people from those cultural traditions, music would not propigate. (I don't know if I'm making myself clear here) Short answer, if you like Calypso I see no reason why you shouldn't play it. Regards, Neil (AKA Irish Sergeant)


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 06:21 AM

"If actors who can manage the accent can get contracts from exigent managements who wish to make a profit on their products by convincing and impressing their audiences, why should not singers who happen to be talented in accents do the same? What should make you feel 'weird' if you could pull it off? Should Ms Paltrow and Ms Winslet feel 'weird' IYO? Aren't you being a bit prescriptive?"

No, I don't see music and acting as remotely alike, other than the obvious (standing up and doing something artistic in public). Acting is mimesis (99% of the time). Singing isn't. I consider singing in a different accent as weird as I would do speaking in a different accent in introducing those songs. In fact, if the goal is mimesis, and you consider singing and acting to be so alike, shouldn't you really be spending the entire gig speaking in that accent, and perhaps even dressing in clothes that enhance that illusion? I'm not even joking here.

For me, it comes down to whether you see singing as 'entertainment' (for want of a better word) or 'craft/art'. I say 'for want of a better word', because of course art and entertainment can be both.

But that's why I mentioned cabaret in a previous post: for me, singing an Irish song in an Irish accent when you're not Irish is moving into acting/comedy (as in a comedian singing songs in a specific persona, like Rich Hall does). As opposed to singing a song like a perceptive, mature adult getting to grips with the material.

Irish and Scottish singers have never bothered to sing English songs in English accents. They just made them their own. English (or American) accented singers could learn a lot from that.

When you move to a different place, as Morwen suggests, and your accent changes, well, there's not really anything to discuss there. That's just a situation changing. Not a whole lot unlike the way your voice changes when you got older. However, I'll note that Morwen does seem rather keen to accelerate her accent-change as speedily as possible...

Ulitmately, none of this is prescriptive though: people are always going to do what they want to do. We're only talking about singing songs here. But I do think a singer ought to be aware of what *some* members of the audience will be thinking.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 06:41 AM

Well, Matt, after I finish my Year 12 I *am* planning to study ethnomusicology in university (and I hope, calypso in Trinidad as part of that). I'm very interested in the folk music of other cultures. But- what about dialect, for instance, in songs such as "Dallas Gawn A Cuba" (a Jamaican song)? What's your opinion on that? What about some Scottish (possibly Irish as well?) songs with dialect in them, where the language is an important part of the song? What about some Gullah traditional songs, or songs in a completely different language, where if you sing a translated version into English or whatever your main spoken language is, it loses something?


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 06:53 AM

As a matter of fact, I may have given the wrong impression. I find it easy to sing in dialect but not to sustain an accent for a long time (any more than the occasional pronunciation of a word) when singing.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 07:09 AM

"But- what about dialect, for instance, in songs such as "Dallas Gawn A Cuba" (a Jamaican song)? What's your opinion on that? What about some Scottish (possibly Irish as well?) songs with dialect in them, where the language is an important part of the song?"

Well, what a lot of British and American singers have always done is change it to make it their own. Changing the localities, changing the words. I sing the Scottish song "Lauchie Wilson", changing the titular subject of the song from "Lauchie Wilson" to "Matthew Milton" (it was the happy coincidence of having a similar-sounding name with the right syllables that first attracted me to the song). I change the line in it that mentions "the deepest part of the Clyde" (a river) to "the deepest part of the Thames". In fact, that's what I call the song when I introduce it.

This might sound like doing violence to a song, but it's just a song, it's not a person. That's the folk process for you. It's no different to what happened to hundreds of songs when they went from Britain to the US and turned into old-time American classics. It's no different to various appropriations of the 'Black Velvet Band'.

But it's still a case-by-case basis. I sing an Irish song called 'Sheila nee Iyer'. That has a Gaelic word in it, in the line "Be off to your speirbhean", said Sheila Nee Iyer". Most of the time I replace "speirbhean" with "sweetheart", but sometimes I sing "speirbhean". I looked up how to pronounce it and pronounce it accordingly. I don't exaggerate it or hype up the accent, any more than I would, say, pronounce the word "spaghetti" with an Italian accent. For me, that's the most comfortable policy. Note how many times I've used "For me.." in the above posts! Prescriptive? Moi?

Then again, sometimes I replace the whole line with "you're a long way from the library, said Sheela Nee Iyer", which usually gets a laugh, and fits the song (Google the lyrics, they're great).


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 07:17 AM

Matt, would you sing a song in dialect?


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 07:23 AM

"What about some Gullah traditional songs, or songs in a completely different language, where if you sing a translated version into English or whatever your main spoken language is, it loses something?"

I think songs in a totally different language are less problematic. Because, er, it's a totally different language. So you sing them with the best accent you can muster.

But I can't think of any folk singers that deliberately chose to sing all/the majority of their repertoire in a foreign language. For the simple reason that it's a perverse amount of effort for not a lot of returns.

As far as translation goes, sure you do lose some nuances and of course the actual sound of the words changes, but I think of it as just being two different entities. Not necessarily worse. Just different. The meaning will inevitably change, but there's a reason why a particular person decides to translate a particular song (or poem or novel or whatever): usually it's because they feel some sympathy with the spirit of the original. A good translation sacrifices detail but maintains spirit.

I'm a big fan of Boris Vian, the late French surrealist, satirical singer and jazz trumpeter. Whenever I listen to his songs, I'm struck by how good the lyrics are and often think I might like to sing them. (I sing along in the privacy of my flat when I'm on my own.) I did French A-level, so I could probably make a reasonable fist of singing them in French. But ultimately, I reckon I'd be better off translating them and singing them in English. It'd feel more legitimate. His song 'Valse Jaune' (Yellow Waltz) is a prime candidate. Not that I'll ever get round to it.
(A Britfolk tribute to Boris Vian, anyone?)


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 07:32 AM

Songs may not be plays, Matt; but, esp those narrated in the first person, they may well be ·dramatic monologues·: in any event, their delivery is a performance: if you sing [e.g.] "Come all ye young fellow that follow a gun", that doesn't turn you into a man going out shooting; that is the persona you have adopted for the purposes of the narration; to follow your logic, you would appear to object to anyone who didn't shoot as disqualified from singing any such thing. If ∴ any locale or nationality is implied or stated in such narrative, then it is surely reasonable, if one is adept enough at such impersonations to make it reasonably convincing, to adopt an appropriate diction or accent. I can't see that Ewan MacColl singing "The Battle of Harlaw"["As I cam in frae Dunedeer and doon by Netherha'" in the accent of his ancestry rather than in his own native Salford was in any significant particular different from Kate Winslet adopting a well studied and practised US accent to perform the part of Mildred Pierce.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 07:32 AM

And also, I think it is possible to sing a song in dialect using your own accent. Your "accent" is different from dialect. Edric Connor, the actor and singer who sang the Jamaican folk song "Day-O/Day Dah Light" (better known in the Harry Belafonte/Irving Burgie version, which standardises the text) and other Jamaican folk songs on an album (LP originally, now CD), called "Songs from Jamaica" in Jamaican dialect, yet because of his accent, he sounds quite different to a Jamaican singing these songs.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 07:47 AM

"would you sing a song in dialect?"

Um, no, it just wouldn't feel right to me. Probably because you can't sing a dialect song without doing the accent. It would be like cutting off my nose to spite my face: I like folk for its adaptability, for its spin.

I don't mean to sound prescriptive: it's not a moral thing, it's an aesthetic thing.

Well, in the case of me, with regard to Caribbean songs, it would actually be slightly a moral thing: I'm a middle-class white English person, who is generationally close to things like the Black & White Minstrel show. My great-grandparents were contributing to and perpetuating the hardships bemoaned in a lot of those songs. Irrespective of what anybody else thought, I'd feel I was doing something a bit crass.

That's the key though, I think, it's simply what you yourself feel comfortable doing. I sing a couple of songs from that part of the world. "Lionheart" (which is in the 'Mango Time' book), "Rum & Coca Cola" and "Iron Bar".


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 08:00 AM

Well I have the "Mango Time" book. And no, Edric Connor uses his own accent (generally), as do I (Australian Chinese, with relatives in Southeast Asia- Malaysia and Singapore) while singing those songs. My voice still sounds generally Australian underneath, with Jamaican inflections.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 08:12 AM

"to follow your logic, you would appear to object to anyone who didn't shoot as disqualified from singing any such thing"

No, I don't think that follows at all. I'm not arguing against empathy, or passion, or conveying what's in the song.

I'm just saying I'd feel stupid singing a song in an accent not my own. None of my favourite folk singers ever did that: Paddy Tunney, Harry Cox, Walter Pardon, Horton Barker, Frank Proffitt ,to name a few.

I think Ewan MacColl is a bad example, anyway, as somebody else noted above. Despite the fact that both his parents were Scottish his Scots accent was really OTT. You listen to Archie Fisher or Norman Kennedy and then to Ewan MacColl: by comparison he's very 'Dornall wheres ye trooosers'. He sounds theatrical. He sounds a bit hammy. I don't really like 'actorly' singers.

He does a terrible American accent on a song on one of his early albums, in which he sounds like ET doing a Woody Guthrie impression while holding his nose.

that doesn't stop me enjoying and listening to Ewan MacColl, by the way. I have a love/hate relationship with the old stick-in-the-mud (partly because I have an affection for old stick-in-the-muds). The 'Broadside Ballads' are terrific albums, and I like plenty of other bits and pieces. But none of his songs have ever made me cry, and that's because he can never quite shake off the declamatory aspect of his performance. Hey, it clearly does things for some people though. I'd have loved to have seen him live.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 10:06 AM

---I'm not arguing against empathy, or passion, or conveying what's in the song.---
,,,
If, as it seems to me, you are denying singers performing a song the same privileges you would afford an actor performing a play, then surely that is precisely what you are doing? A singer performing adopts the persona of the person he is singing AS; just as does an actor playing a part. The fact that the singers you instance above didn't adopt accents where appropriate rather suggests to me that they couldn't rather than that they wouldn't. Two of the best folksingers, Theo Bikel & Ewan, were also professional actors. AND masters of accent ~~ listen to Bikel's 'One Sunday Morning', e.g. And denigrations of Ewan's Scots is rubbish: he had it direct from his parents & it was the lingua franca of his childhood home. & it's all v well to talk patronisingly of Donald's Trousers, but it is, within its own genre, actually a very good song very well performed; not a genre which will appeal to all on this forum, but that is no reason for you to be so superior & toffee-nosed about it: & I hope you are not going to tell us that Andy Stewart wasn't really a Scot and couldn't do the accent.

~M~


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 11:27 AM

We lived for thirty years a couple of miles from Eastwood - the birthplace of DH Lawrence. The accents in that area are every localised. My wife was from Heanor, Derbyshire - about four miles away and another set of spoken inflexions in the speaking voice.

We always used to laugh at RADA all purpose northern accents trying to negotiate the subleties of Lawrence's dialogue - often completely misunderstanding the nuances.

And of course Derbyshire folksong is a set of linguistic beartraps for the unwary. And who knows in ten years, maybe no one will pick up the nuances - certainly not in a hundred years.

Still, the actors got Oscars and some of the folksingers made livings and got great reviews for their albums - and thousands of people got enjoyment from those performances. So what the hell does any of it matter?

Most of the so called purists couldn't tell talk from mutter anyway.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: olddude
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 12:47 PM

As Spaw says, the best cowboy singer he has ever heard is Seamus Kennedy. Seamus is certainly not an American Cowboy .. I agree with him completely


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 01:14 PM

I'm not 'denying' anybody anything. People can sing however they like. People do sing however they like. People will continue to sing however they like. I'm just saying that, if you choose to sing songs in English in a different accent to your own, there will be people in the audience inwardly wincing.

Thankfully, out of all the folk music I've ever heard, I can only think of two or three singers who ever went the accent route. Almost all traditional music ever has been sung by singers who stuck to their own voice, irrespective of whether the songs were from.

As for Ewan MacColl's Scots accent - well if it sounds authentic to you, then it clearly did its job. But I'm by no means the only person who thought it sounded caricatured:
http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=95082

How do you rate MacColl's Irish accent on his "Whiskey In the Jar" album? It's hard to tell whether he's employing one or not, actually, it comes and goes. He oirishes up the words "darlin'" and "wah-ter", but that's about it. And have you ever heard MacColl's American accent? It is insane. Mercifully, he only ever tried it the once.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 08:44 PM

I went the accent route. i regard myself as working within the tradtion, but I think unimaginative people have turned 'tradition' into a dirty word. Dull conformity - when actually tradition is a repository of wonderful techniques and funny hats, that we are all entitled to try on.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 05 Jul 11 - 10:09 PM

To each her own. I would rather listen to fake Scottish accents than listen to songs where the locales have been changed..Way down upon the Volga River? Banks and braes of old Lake Michigan? it's a long way to Sacramento? Nah...mg


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 06 Jul 11 - 01:04 AM

I remember few people showing any signs of wincing when Sandy Paton sang.

~M~


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 06 Jul 11 - 05:13 AM

Way down on the Volga River!

Fess up! You've had a go at writing that Mike. Its too funny to just walk away from.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Alan Day
Date: 06 Jul 11 - 05:43 AM

I remember from way back a guy used to do a calypso on "That was the week that was" or was it the Frost Programme every day. English comedian or actor from memory. Just sat there with a guitar and knocked them out.
Al


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 06 Jul 11 - 05:50 AM

Lance pERCIVAL.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 06 Jul 11 - 06:25 AM

"To each her own. I would rather listen to fake Scottish accents than listen to songs where the locales have been changed..Way down upon the Volga River? Banks and braes of old Lake Michigan? it's a long way to Sacramento? Nah...mg"

If you listen to folk music, you ALREADY listen to hundreds of songs in which the locales have been changed. The only difference is, you never knew the originals, because they have been altered and tweaked thousands of times over the centuries in their migrations from places like Ireland, England, Scotland, Germany, Italy and from Jewish traditions. And then again as they traversed the USA.

Folk process.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 06 Jul 11 - 06:38 AM

And anyway, it's absurd to suggest it's an either/or choice: the idea that if you're singing a song that mentions 'Dublin' you have to either sing it in an Irish accent or change it to 'London' is manifestly stupid, and I'm not suggesting that for a second.

As I type this, I'm listening to Roy Bailey singing 'The Road To Dundee'. It's a Scottish song, sung from the perspective of a young man (who may be poor) who accompanies a young lady (who may be aristocratic) along the road to Dundee.

Thankfully, Roy Bailey does not feel the need to venture a Scots accent to sing it and his art is all the stronger for it.

Words such as 'lassie' or geographical references to "the Howe of Strathmartin" sound entirely natural sung in his English accent. I think they would sound pantomime-like and false if he assayed a Scots accent, irrespective of how 'well' he could do it.

It's on his album 'Below The Radar', by the way, which is very good.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 06 Jul 11 - 01:24 PM

As you say, Matt: & it isn't an either/or choice that you are offering either. Some singers like Roy Bailey don't assume accents other than their own whatever the context; others, like the late great Sandy Paton I mentioned a few posts back, do. It's a matter of personal taste, of confidence ... If you assert that this shows Roy to be a better or more sincere or less inward-wince-inducing {or whatever else-er} singer than Sandy was - well, I don't think you will find many to agree with you.

Some like to do it one way, some another. Live with it.

~M~


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 06 Jul 11 - 05:21 PM

Oh I hope someone does not change the words to the Road to Dundee. That is a perfect song. It is about Dundee. Not about Minneapolis, or Warsaw or Capetown or Fairbanks. Dundee. People have the right to change the words to fit their locale but I would personally strongly rather they didn't and would probablhy not attend their concerts or buy their CDs, which is not a huge threat because I am not a great consumer. if they want to sing it in a Scottish accent, I would rather they sang it in their own accent, not translating the words, just doing an approximation as well as they could..but I wouldn't care that much one way or the other. But it would drive me up the wall to have to sit through several localized, folk-processed on purpose songs. Especially if they changed her to him and him to her and no one knows the standard words and oh yes there are standard words and I know them. mg


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 06 Jul 11 - 06:22 PM

This topic of accents seems to be something no-one can really agree on. After reading everyone's responses though, I think I'm somewhere in the middle. I'd use (a trace of) an accent for some songs and none for some other songs (the ones in standard English, such as "Jean and Dinah").


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 06 Jul 11 - 08:58 PM

I dunno, it could be The Road to Skegness.......that fits quite well.

As i was a-riding the bus out of Wainfleet
This woman on, got wear-ing a short dress
A flash of her knickers would get me excited
So i watched like a hawk, all the road to Skegness.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 09 Jul 11 - 07:16 AM

Hope I don't sound argumentative, but just wondering: could those posters here who believe that certain forms of music (calypso)can be authentically performed only by people from those cultures clarify what they think of some performers such as Philip Garcia, Lord Executor (a specific example and one only known to calypso enthusiasts and calypsonians), performers who perform in a style not of their own culture but who were and are highly respected in that tradition by performers of the dominant ethnic group in that genre? Do they believe that those performers are less credible due to their ethnic origins, even if they are respected and admired as an authentic performer within their tradition by those qualified to judge? (meaning other performers in that tradition?)


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Alan Day
Date: 09 Jul 11 - 08:08 AM

I remember only too well a certain Folk Festival organiser saying to me "Why should I book "Rosbif" to play French music when I can get the real thing"
Makes you wonder as well about only Classical Musicians not capable of playing Classical Music because they do not come from the composers country.
Al


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 09 Jul 11 - 10:19 AM

I'm not sure there are any posters here who do in fact "believe that certain forms of music (calypso)can be authentically performed only by people from those cultures".

I'm not. I think authenticity is a bit of a blind alley in music, because music is all about what something "sounds like". So, if something "sounds authentic", it IS authentic.

This might sound like I'm contradicting things I said earlier. I'm not. Take Frank Fairfield, for example. He is a 25 year old guy from Los Angeles, who plays some of the most authentic-sound old-time American fiddle music I've ever heard. If you didn't know better, you'd assume you were listening to an Alan Lomax recording of a septuagenerian in the 1950s.

Or rather, you would do, if his voice didn't sound weirdly like Grandpa Simpson. In his case, it's not so much his accent that's the problem (it sounds authentically Appalachian), it's the fact that he chooses to sing like someone 50 years older than he is.

Lord Executor's a good example though. I haven't listened to much calypso, but I've got a few compilations. Where was he from then?


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Azizi
Date: 09 Jul 11 - 11:13 AM

Some persons here may be interested in the Pittsburgh, Pennslyvania African American enka singer who is a hit in Japan.

"Jerome Charles White, Jr.[1] (born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on September 4, 1981), better known by his stage name Jero (ƒWƒFƒ쳌?), is an enka singer[2] of African-American and Japanese descent. He is the first black enka singer in Japanese music history."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jero

Here are links to part 1 & part 2 of a 3 part CNN Asia interview (2008) with Jero. Unfortunately, part 3 is no longer available on YouTube. This is a shame because part 2 ends with the Japanese interviewer asking Jero did he feel he was a gimmick).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfeZ7kBY03s

and

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nED_sphdi0&feature=related


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Azizi
Date: 09 Jul 11 - 11:47 AM

Enka music is usually associated with Japanese music from the 1940s.

Here's an excerpt from the Wikipedia page about Enka music:

Enka (Ñݸè?) is a popular Japanese music genre considered to resemble traditional Japanese music stylistically. Modern enka, however, is a relatively recent musical form which arose in the context of such postwar expressions of modern Japanese nonmaterial nationalism as nihonjinron, while adopting a more traditional musical style in its vocalism than ry¨±k¨­ka music, popular during the prewar years.[1]

Modern enka, as developed in the postwar era, is a form of sentimental ballad music"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enka

-snip-

Here are selected comments from an interview about the African American (with Japanese ancestry) Enka singer Jero:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0HK28muI-o&feature=related


"I like Jero. The record company at first wanted him to bring back Enka. Many people thought of him as a gimmick. But he's made a name for himself and he's got talent. He's kind of got a New Age Enka thing going on. I wish him luck.

Also, not to beat a dead horse, but Crystal Kay, Thelma Aoyama(?) and such are singing mainstream pop & RNB. Since Enka is very traditional and stylized Jero has been the first to succeed there. I'm pretty sure Crystal would have a hard time pulling it off.
-sumoni; 2011

-snip-

Note: Information about Crystal [Crystal Kay] and Thelma Aoyama is found below.

-snip-

"I love Jero very much and what he represents - if you work hard enough, you will succeed wherever you are and whoever you are. Jero is 1/4 Japanese and has been exposed to the Japanese language from a very young age because his grandmother and his mother spoke in Japanese at home. He was a gifted child and therefore has exceptional language abilities."
-jafaru; 2010

-snip-

"Enka is basically overtly emotional in its vocalization style.  Its also very story oriented with very picturesque lyrics, culturally specific, and full of pathos. In order to "get" enka, one has to have a very high command of the Japanese language with all its subtle nuances. Its a level that many Japanese frankly don't think foriegners can reach. Jero has broken that barrier and proven that yes, a gaijin (foriegner) can grasp core Japanese feelings."
-lessdone; 2010

-snip-

"Hi. I am a Japanese fan who likes Jero. My 2-year-old daughter LOVES Jero!

Jero, in my opinion, opened up the door to new style Enka to younger generation. However, Jero's songs are not designed as Hip-Hop/R&B like because the composer of Umiyuki did not want him to fade out after this one song. This might be why he is so focused to sing traditional Enka."
-JannatSiddique; 2010

-snip-

"Jero incorporated the Hip-hop in his style because that's who he is and how he dresses. It was a risk, but his style appealed to the younger generation and helped broaden the Enka fanbase. Alot of younger people in Japan are listening to Enka now because of Jero. I mean, we know what the haters would say if he came out in a Kimono. "sellout". So I'm glad he kept it real with his style."
-xBlasian86x; 2009

-snip-

"Kystal Kay sang R&B, a form of music that didn't originate in Japan. Not suprising to see a brotha or sista singing R&B. (Note: I'm black/japanese). But Jero sings a form of music that is Japan's own which is a genre that hasn't been adopted by any other culture like say "rock". It's mainly only listened to by Japanese. So I wouldn't say Krystal Kay opened the door for Jero. I'd say they came in two different entrances. Both great artists.
-xBlasian86x; 2009

-snip-

"Very interesting conversations. What made you think you wanted to talk about him? Too bad you can't pronounce "Umiyuki" right! Almost! I believe Jero is the biggest black singer in Japan. Crystal Kay is famous, but she didn't surrprise people when she dubuted. Jero completely did blow us out! If you see him, you expect him to sing hip hop or R&B, but nobody expected him to start singing enka. I was totally shocked! And he's good."
-samjones1976; 2009

-snip-

Crystal Kay is an African American/Korean who sings in Japanese.
According to her Wikipedia page, the genres that Cyrstal Kay writes and sings are Pop, R&B, rock, urban, dance.

Here's an excerpt from that Wikipedia page:

"Crystal Kay Williams (born February 26, 1986), known by her stage name Crystal Kay, is a singer and songwriter from Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan. She debuted aged 13 and is considered an original pioneer for interracial artists in Japan...

Kay is currently signed to Epic Records, a sub-label of Sony Music Japan.[5]

As of July 2009, Kay has released ten albums. Her seventh studio album, All Yours (2007) became Kay's first number-one release in her career when it debuted on top of the Oricon chart in June 2007.[6] Kay has sold over two million records in Japan as of 2009."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crystal_Kay


**

Thelma Aoyama (Çàɽ ¥Æ¥ë¥Þ Aoyama Teruma?), born October 27, 1987, is a Japanese pop and R&B singer. She is part Afro-Trinidadian and Japanese."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thelma_Aoyama


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Azizi
Date: 09 Jul 11 - 12:00 PM

Here's a link to a YouTube video of Jero that I reposted to my website of YouTube video gems, mostly from African American and other Black cultures around the world

http://www.jambalayah.com/node/1097

Jero - Uwasano Onna쳌@‰\‚Ì쳌— (Japan)

-snip-

That video is reposted with selected viewer comments from its video's viewer comment thread.

Here's one of those comments:

"Not only has he made history for being a black singer in Japan, but he is amazing of infusing new life & interest in enka. I am always searching to learn more about Japan & combined with Jero's amazing voice I am learning a lot from him! I also like how humble & honest he appears while doing all of these things. I wish him all the best for him & I hope he will have a long career.
-ILoveTeaDogs ; 2009


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 09 Jul 11 - 06:16 PM

Matt, Lord Executor's parents were originally from Venezuela, he was born in Trinidad. So he was ethnically Venezuelan. And not to say anything against him, but Richard Bridge *seems* to believe that if you are an outsider to a culture (which includes ethnicity) you can't sing their songs authentically/traditionally/with respect to the culture. I could be reading some of his comments on other posts, on similar threads wrong, reading something that isn't there, but that is what I read it as. Maybe he thinks of it in terms of the superficial, like (say) what would happen if someone from a rich Western country went to Jamaica for four months, studied with a few mento artists, and claimed to be a totally authentic mento performer. That would be total nonsense. I agree with him on that if *that's* what he's saying. If I've read his posts wrongly, I apologise.

But to me, whether someone sounds authentic as a performer in another tradition has almost nothing to do with their background. True, it will take them longer to learn it than people who were born/raised around that tradition, but it can be done by immersing yourself into the culture and taking care to learn from and respect the culture so that you will gain acceptance. And that *is* what I'm going to do.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 14 Jul 11 - 11:34 PM

Refresh.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 21 Jul 11 - 10:45 PM

Another response I thought of to Alan Whittle's post, and this quote: "Borrow and steal from what you can, it doesn't matter." Well it DOES matter if you are not interested in singing and performing a commercialised version of the form. Why else was Harry Belafonte being called the "King of Calypso" so objectionable to singers such as the Mighty Sparrow and Lord Melody? Because he was performing in a different context and had no right to use that title. Being a king or queen of calypso is an honour that can only be achieved by performing in calypso tents and winning prizes at jump-ups during Carnival. Similarly, performing songs written in a calypso style is closer to what Belafonte and Irving Burgie (wrote "Jamaica Farewell") do - singing commercialised calypso- than what real, traditional tent calypsonians do.
And I don't want to be a Belafonte clone, the totally inauthentic "Queen of Calypso". Not that Belafonte songs don't have their place, but they're not what I want to sing.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 21 Jul 11 - 11:18 PM

Whatever you do. You attract jealousy and criticism. Its one of the problems about being alive. Theres an old saying - no one ever bothered kicking a dead dog.

No doubt if you make a success of your music, other musicians will be jealous. Now are you going to let these people decide what you do? Just get on with it and make the best job you can - if it involves theft, murder, fraud, neglecting home - family and all the rest - most real artists make that deal at the crossroads.

Everybody - Mozart, Woody guthrie, Van Gogh, James Joyce - that's the deal - your work may achieve some form of immortality. But you'll be just as dead as everyone else in the graveyard and you'll probably have let a lot of people down.

Now if that's what you want - get practising. Stop worrying - you have enough work to do. Sufficient unto the day.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 01:02 AM

Alan, sorry to offend you, and thanks for the advice. But that's not whatmy post was about. I already have enough advice. I'm studying for some upcoming exams right now, so I can't write much, but my post was about Harry Belafonte, the commercialisation of calypso, and calypso tradition. I only wrote it in response to your post as a guest on page 2 of this thread, made on 21 April, where you wrote, "Borrow or steal from who you can, it doesn't matter." I'm saying that it does matter. Are you saying that as long as you want to do something good, "it doesn't matter" if you commercialise and water down an already commercialised and watered-down tradition and allow people to represent you as something that you are not?

Because if you're not, it certainly seems like you are saying that "it doesn't matter" what tent calypsonians in Trinidad or musicians in other countries think of what outsiders who don't know enough about their traditions are doing to those traditions by performing them when they don't realise the traditions' complexity. You seem to think it's OK to exploit performers like this by "just doing what you want" with no thought to how those performers will think of you disrespecting their cultures. Can you explain if this is what you meant in that post?


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 05:27 AM

Paul Simon has been putting up with accusations like this all his life. First from English tradtionalists that as a young man - he 'stole' Martin Carthy's version of the English folksong Scarborough Fair. Then for using South African musicians for his Gracelands album - when there was an embargo in place to show international disapproval of apartheid - the racist system of government in South Africa.

However Paul in the process gave Scarborough Fair to the greater world, and made international stars of South African musicians and speeded up immeasurably the fashion for 'world music'.

probably one of the reasons you have access to so much calypso (when I went searching specialist record shops like Collets in London for it in the 1970's - it wasn't there) is down to popularisers like belafonte and paul Simon.

Record companies don't release material at all if they are not feeding public interest. You will find that out when you are satisfied with the music you have produced and go looking for a record deal.

You will find out that in fact - you have very little control over what sort of artist you are. Because art is made of the sinew and nerve of yourself - it is reflection of you - and the kind of person - YOU are. the art is just an extension of you. You do it as well as you can. You use anything to hand.

As for the material you use to spin your creation Whatever they say -it feels good to be used. Every songwriter loves having other people sing their songs. being ripped off - well that's the business we are engaged in - we all accept that. we all sign crap contracts - its better to be doing it than not doing it. there is no virtue in being useless.

Always remember that. One day a boyfriend (mother, father, sister,brother, best friend) will hit you with that one YOU ARE USING ME.

There is never anything to be said for being useless.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 05:49 AM

Yes, it *does* have something to do with that. But my opinion of what exploitation means is *very* different to yours. Before Harry Belafonte became popular, the Lord Invader, Macbeth the Great, the Roaring Lion, and Lord Kitchener (later than the first three) were recording in New York City for Folkways and Decca. Belafonte got "Don't Stop the Carnival" from recordings of Invader. I think (and lots of people agree with me) that if those calypsonians were never acknowledged by Belafonte as influences, they deserve to be acknowledged. And I said Belafonte has his place- if I'd never heard him I wouldn't be talking about this, for one thing.I don't want to do this only for commercial reasons- I am also looking into it as I am very interested in the tradition. I believe calypso has been commercialised enough and does not need to be again. Chalkdust, a calypso historian and calypsonian, uses the analogy of "water in de brandy" to describe commercialised calypso. I want to become a tent calypsonian, not a calypso singer. A tent calypsonian is traditional - there is no "revival" in calypso - a calypso singer isn't. Besides, extempo and picong (insult improvising) sound like fun. More fun, in my opinion, than being just a calypso singer- not to say that isn't good!


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 05:55 AM

Also, the calypsonians (and other singers recording for folk labels) signed the contracts because they had no idea of what they were really getting into. Just because you *can* do something, it doesn't mean that you necessarily *should*.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 06:00 AM

And whatever Paul Simon did for the West African musicians in reputation and fame during his recording of the "Graceland" album does not mean that he was right to not acknowledge the musicians (as I've heard he didn't).


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 06:08 AM

EDIT: That should be "South African".


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 22 Jul 11 - 06:40 PM

And you seem to believe that I don't or shouldn't want to learn or be part of the calypso tradition of improvised lyrics and tent performances and competitions. You seem to think that tradition shouldn't *matter*. Have you actually read my posts? As for the exploitation angle, (I read that you're a songwriter from your posts) imagine this:

You've written some songs. One day, a representative from a big American recording label calls you and tells you that they've heard your performance, or heard about it from someone associated with the label. They like those songs, and they would like to record them, so they ask you if you'd be interested in coming over to a studio for a recording session as those songs are good enough to be put on a CD.

So you go over to the recording studio in the US and record those songs to be placed on a CD. Your songs are on a CD several days later, and there are even downloads of your album on iTunes. The CD sells well to a few people who listen to popular contemporary music, but mostly to English people living in America and American folk revivalists and people who are into revival folk. A short while afterwards, the recording label representative (same guy as the first time) calls you again and tells you that they've realised your album has some potential and so they want to give you a recording contract with their label. You agree to meet them at the studio again to discuss the contract.

The contract basically says that you will get paid some money for recording for the label for about (let's say) five years. But the bad side is the fine print makes the recording label offering the contract the copyright holder for any songs you record for them. That means that if you play a concert, you pay your own recording label for permission to sing your own songs. Since you want some money out of your songs, you sign the contract, spending five years living in the U.S. recording songs for this label.

Now a few years later, there's a young male singer who's very attractive, a great singer with a fantastic voice, and already popular as an actor. He's sung in clubs before, and he's into English folk, although he sings songs in other traditions as well and he buys your album with other English folk albums and some blues and jazz. He likes your songs and the songs of other similar folk artists, and he wants to record them, so he shows what he'd like to record to another record label, a more popular one. They're interested in the prospect of making a CD of him singing these songs, so he goes to another recording studio and records the songs with new verses and the lyrics rewritten and sanitised to be acceptable to be played on radio. He registers himself with a performance-rights association and puts his pseudonyms down as the author of his versions of the songs on his first album. This includes your songs.

The point of this scenario is that what I've just written is basically what was happening with Belafonte and the Trinidadian calypsonians from which he got a large percentage of his songs (although I don't know whether he wanted to put his own name down or whether someone convinced him to do it). A number of these songs- "Jump In The Line (Shake Senora)" and "Matilda" are listed at ASCAP under the pseudonyms "Raymond Bell" and "Harry Thomas" respectively. Some of the older songs "Man Piabba", "Cordelia Brown", "The Banana Boat Song (Day-O)" are listed as "Irving Burgie/Harry Belafonte/William Attaway", or simply "Irving Burgie" (a collaborator of Belafonte's, composer of the ballad "Jamaica Farewell"). William Attaway was a playwright, poet and novelist who also was one of Belafonte's friends. Only one of them, according to the "All-Time Greatest Hits" album that I have on iTunes, was credited to its original composer. This is wrong. But still, Belafonte DOES have a place. I would never say that he didn't. That's not what I said in my post at 1.02 AM.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 23 Jul 11 - 01:24 AM

BTW, the true composers and origins of some of the songs covered by Belafonte are:

"Jump In The Line"- Lord Kitchener, aka "Kitch", Real name Aldwyn Roberts.

"Matilda"- King Radio, Real name Norman Span.

"Man Piabba (The West Indian Weed Woman)" -traditional. Was performed in a vaudeville show.

"Cordelia Brown" aka Cudelia Brown- traditional Jamaican. Performed by Louise Bennett and Edric Connor.

"Reincarnation"- Lord Invader.

"Banana Boat Song" -traditional Jamaican. And another thing, lots of people change the words of traditional songs and copyright them.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Will Fly
Date: 23 Jul 11 - 04:17 AM

MorwenE - if you want to get really pissed off, you should inhabit the body and bones of Jelly Roll Morton, who wrote some of the greatest jazz tunes of the 1920s. He was a Creole from New Orleans and got those tunes published by the (white) Melrose brothers in Chicago.

However, the catch was that, in return for publishing the music, the Melrose brothers got their names on the top as joint composers with Jelly - when, in fact, they had nothing to do with the creation of the music. So they got a percentage of the royalties. In later years, they even claimed that Morton couldn't read or write music. Morton's scores, in his own handwriting, are very much in evidence. (I had the privilege of transcribing an unpublished one very recently).

It happened all the time - all the way through the history of the music business. Not just if you were black, but certainly more so if you were. There are a thousand stories in the naked city, and this is just one...

But you have to get over it and accept that crap happens. Make your music as best and as sincerely as you can. You seem intent on keeping this thread going into infinity, but you've probably by now had all the advice you wanted and all the arguments pro and con this and that. What more can be said that hasn't been said?


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,Don Wise
Date: 23 Jul 11 - 09:27 AM

As the jazz song from the late fifties/early sixties puts it:

"It ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it........and that's what gets results"


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 23 Jul 11 - 06:58 PM

"Matt, Lord Executor's parents were originally from Venezuela, he was born in Trinidad. So he was ethnically Venezuelan. And not to say anything against him, but Richard Bridge *seems* to believe that if you are an outsider to a culture (which includes ethnicity) you can't sing their songs authentically/traditionally/with respect to the culture."

If you're born in Trinidad and grow up in Trinidad, you're Trinidadian.

One's ethnicity doesn't make you an outsider to a culture - you are de facto part of that culture if you are born into it and grow up in it.

Ethnicity only starts to play a part if that culture is racially stratified: if a substantial part of that culture (eg lyrics of loads of the songs) are concerned with racial politics, and you are not of that oppressed race, then your position is going to be a little contentious. You say Philip Garcia's parents were Venezualan: was he black, as a matter of interest?

Not so much of a 'problem' if you're singing calypso in general, though, which isn't quite so slavery/plantation-rooted as American blues music. Lots of lyrics about sex and alcohol and local politics, going on the vintage calypso I've heard.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 23 Jul 11 - 07:22 PM

No, he was fair-skinned/white, and considered "Spanish" from what I've heard and read. But he *could* have had some African ancestry. A rival of his, (I'm pretty sure it was Tiger (Neville Marcano) but I don't really know), sang a war verse against him with these words: "When I say these words Executor smile, but tell me if he don't resemble a sailor child." (a reference to white sailors producing white-skinned children). "The emergence of the Lord Executor, in the form of a white-skinned store clerk of Venezuelan parentage, was all the more a rarity."


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 23 Jul 11 - 07:29 PM

Yes, he was Trinidadian, but Venezuelan in the way that I'm an Australian with Chinese-Malaysian parents.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 24 Jul 11 - 06:12 PM

BTW, Matt, one the ethnicity thing, I was referring to Richard B's post on the "Singing in Dialect" thread, not stating *my* beliefs. I probably should have worded it better.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,livelylass
Date: 24 Jul 11 - 06:19 PM

Morwen, I've seen quite a lot of discussion around you doing calypso, and as I may have missed it, I'm wondering where you sing?

At home alone? In clubs in your area? Do you have an online presence for your music on YouTube or MySpace?


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 24 Jul 11 - 10:50 PM

I take some singing lessons (stopped now, I've got trial exams for HSC- Higher School Certificate coming up. I'm only in high school) but I sing a bit at home. I was talking about this because I was thinking about what I might do in the future after I've left school, possibly something to do with music, like ethnomusicology and training to be a calypsonian as a part of that, and I just wanted to know whether there are any problems related to cultural appropriation.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 04 Aug 11 - 02:24 AM

Reading back through this thread, I noticed that a lot of posters answer the question (which I think I should have worded better)in different ways, depending on what they think I was asking by talking about singing songs/performing music in general, whether playing or singing, from other cultures. And I think that some of these answers(mentions of Pete Seeger, Paul Simon)are related to the fact that most of the performers here are revivalists who might perform one or two songs from other cultures, but not much more than that.

Or they might perform original pieces which use other cultures' traditions as influences, in much the same way as the performers mentioned. I think this is related to the fact that people look at questions like this from their own perspectives, such as using the word "revivalist" where it wouldn't fit. I'm not saying that it's wrong to be a revivalist, or that anyone who wants to shouldn't write songs in a hybrid style., I'm just saying that my original question wasn't about "Should a person sing or play *a few* songs from another culture?" or "Should a person sing *any* songs from other cultures?" or even "Should someone use other cultures' musical styles as influences for original work, when that work isn't claimed to be part of that culture's tradition?" It was "Are there any problems, such as exploitation,with a person learning to perform music from another culture in the country it comes from when the other country is a "Third World" or less weälthy country and the person wanting to learn is from a wealthy Western country?"


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: mg
Date: 04 Aug 11 - 02:39 AM

you will study this question in depth if you major in ethnomusicology..they will tell you all the legal stuff and financial stuff and cultural sensitivity stuff. Of course there are problems..avoid them as much as you can. mg


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 04 Aug 11 - 03:31 AM

mg, did you read my second last post? I better get back to my schoolwork. Need to study for an exam.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 04 Aug 11 - 03:32 AM

*post above the one from 2.24 AM.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 05 Aug 11 - 02:28 AM

I mean the post from 2.24 AM yesterday.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 05 Aug 11 - 03:23 PM

Yes..and I think you will soon have very knowledgeable professors who can answer these questions in the most professional way. Just keep learning and enjoying the music. mkg


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,James Fryer
Date: 11 Aug 11 - 08:11 AM

Hi again Morwen, just caught up with this thread.

I see no reason you shouldn't become a calypsonian. It will be tough, as calypsonians attack each other as a matter of course. But if you do it well you will earn respect.

On the other hand as I said elsewhere calypso now is quite different in style. It's very bound up with the politics of T&T. This may or may not be a problem.

There are calypso scenes outside the Caribbean, e.g. in London and Toronto, and the more traditional extempo competitions still take place in Trinidad.

There is a mailing list Limers which you may find interesting:

http://launch.dir.groups.yahoo.com/group/limers/

As far as how to become a calypsonian I really don't know. I would travel to Trinidad for several months, around Carnival time, attend the tents, investigate and try to break in. Plan to do the same thing the following year. If you have no luck in Trinidad try another island with a calypso scene, e.g. Grenada, Dominica. I have no idea if this strategy would work but it's bound to lead to something.

I don't think being Chinese will be much of an issue as there is a large Chinese population in Trinidad. You will need to make it part of your identity though. People will attack you for it if you do extempo so be prepared for that.

Please set up a blog or something so we can follow your progress.

Re. later messages, the middle years of the 20th C were a huge landgrab where public domain works were approprated as intellectual property. There is a lot of work to be done on this. Consider e.g. "Stone Cold Dead in the Market". There are many many others.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,james Fryer
Date: 11 Aug 11 - 08:31 AM

Here's another idea. Akima Paul is an excellent calypsonian from Grenada now living in London:

http://www.kimaspeak.com/

she won the 2009 London competition with her "Passport Love".

I don't know her in any way apart from seeing her perform. But it may be worth contacting her via her website and asking for advice.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 11 Aug 11 - 08:38 AM

I'll try getting to Trinidad as soon as I've finished piano lessons need instrument training if I'm going to compose my own songs on a more traditional instrument) school stuff, etc. Thanks for the suggestion!


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 13 Aug 11 - 07:59 PM

James, thanks for the information on Akima Paul. will definitely try to contact her (she has a contact form on her website) but it may be best to wait for a while before doing that until I've developed my musical skills to the point where they're really good.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: James Fryer
Date: 18 Aug 11 - 04:38 AM

It's your life, but I'd say why wait? You could use that "wait until I'm good enough" reasoning for the rest of your life.

Here's a couple of other pointers I thought of while Mudcat was down.

Michael Low Chew Tung is a musician from Trinidad who has written a book "Kaiso Koncepts" which should be useful to you. He's also written a book "You can play Calypso Guitar" which I'd recommend to any guitarist who wants to play in a jazz style. His site is here:

http://elan-parle.tripod.com/kaiso_koncepts.htm

He's also posted a number of tutorial videos, here's a couple:

http://www.youtube.com/user/elanparle#p/u/45/RLgBhDgee7o
http://www.youtube.com/user/elanparle#p/u/51/wV7TOB36JC4

Secondly, there is a 10-CD collection "Calypso West Indian Rhythm" Bear Family BCD 16623 JM which collects every calypso recording from 1938-40. This is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in old-time calypso. It comes with a book containing all the lyrics plus many articles that put the songs into context, information about the calypsonians, the origins of the music, the musicians, etc. It's on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Calypso-Indian-Rhythm-VARIOUS-ARTISTS/dp/B000GQML8M/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1313656323&sr=8-1

or from the publishers:

http://www.bear-family.de/repertoire/various-bearfamily-1/folkworld/calypso-1938-1940-10-cd-box-316-page-book.html?lang=1

This really is invaluable. It's expensive but I hear you have a birthday coming up!


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 18 Aug 11 - 06:22 AM

Well, I'm just thinking it's a little presumptuous to contact someone when you have other stuff on your plate.. I have the HSC coming up.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 12 Sep 12 - 10:00 PM

Update: i just emailed her. Will wait to see what she says.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 06 Sep 15 - 06:12 AM

can't help but wonder what happened to al that intensity from the girl who wanted to be a calypso singer....

as Eugene Delacroix said, to be a poet at twenty, is to
be twenty. to be a poet at forty is to be a poet.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Noreen
Date: 06 Sep 15 - 09:30 AM

Yes, likewise Al.

Just read a lot of it through again, and near the end it appears that she'd never actually sung/played in public at all.

Very much "in the head" stuff- she needs to get out and join in, perform and find out by doing it- as most of the other contributors here do.

As she was finishing school in 2011, she will probably have got her degree in ethnomusicology by now and be living in Trinidad... Hope so! :)


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 31 Oct 16 - 07:41 PM

I've heard of thread drift, but......


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: meself
Date: 31 Oct 16 - 10:11 PM

You must be one of those people who don't know how to handle online twists when it comes to searching your purpose .....


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 01 Nov 16 - 02:35 AM

On the whole, I'd rather be in Philadelphia.

Dave H


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,Some bloke
Date: 01 Nov 16 - 03:26 AM

Just don't black up to sing it though, if you want a quiet life.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Mrrzy
Date: 01 Nov 16 - 09:44 AM

I think it depends tremendously on the audience. Pete Seeger sang black's songs to white audiences, who loved it. Not sure if today's Black Lives Matter folks would love it as much.

I am reminded of Shel Silverstein trying to sing the blues: "But what do you do if you're young and white and Jewish, and you never swung a hammer in your life..."


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: meself
Date: 01 Nov 16 - 11:17 AM

Oh no - there was a spam post on here that a couple of us made hilarious responses to - now the spam has been removed, but our hilarious responses remain, seeming nonsensical. Future generations will be robbed of the knowledge of just how clever we were back in 2016.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 01 Nov 16 - 11:42 AM

Mrrzy said:

"Pete Seeger sang black's songs to white audiences, who loved it. Not sure if today's Black Lives Matter folks would love it as much."

The truth is that. today, lots of black people wouldn't like/relate to those songs even if they were sung by a black singer.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Mrrzy
Date: 01 Nov 16 - 02:16 PM

Ya think? They seem to relate a lot to memories of harsh treatment... but I speak from ignorance, of a group to which I do not belong, at least American blacks.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 02 Nov 16 - 12:30 AM

Any songwriter would be honoured to have a musician of Seeger's virtuosity singing their songs. he was phenomenal and gave his talent freely and open heartedly.

if anyone's predjudices prevents them from appreciating Pete Seeger - i can only feel pity for them.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,Some bloke
Date: 02 Nov 16 - 09:30 AM

I used to work down the pit but of course, I always leave mining songs to retired teachers and social workers. They seem far more authentic. I'll stick to reed cutting songs from Norfolk or Scottish haggis hunting ballads I suppose.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Nov 16 - 03:47 PM

I did not read all the responses, but I have heard Russian Bluegrass.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 03 Nov 16 - 02:58 AM

I'd even feel uncomfortable singing my own tradition...

I used to have a genuine authentic indigenous west country accent until grammar school educated it out of me 40 odd years ago...

... and I'm so shite at mimicking accents, I can't even do the one I was born into... 🙄

So Adge Cutler songs are firmly off limits, then ......


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: Will Fly
Date: 03 Nov 16 - 09:40 AM

I used to work down the pit but of course, I always leave mining songs to retired teachers and social workers. They seem far more authentic. I'll stick to reed cutting songs from Norfolk or Scottish haggis hunting ballads I suppose.

Chartered accountants do great versions of sea shanties, I believe - not sure whether sailors make much of a fist of accountancy songs...


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 03 Nov 16 - 11:32 AM

Well for myself and most performers I know v ariety is great, I do mostly Irish Trad and old time Country but always happy to try another genre


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,jim bainbridge
Date: 04 Nov 16 - 09:48 AM

CEILI HOUSE is a long-established traditional music programme on Irish state radio RTE1 on Saturday (tomorrow) nights at 9.15.
This week it will feature ceili bands from all over the world, including one from Japan....


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: meself
Date: 04 Nov 16 - 10:22 AM

The last post from MorwenE... was 4 years ago; wonder what's happened to her. Probably came to her senses and took up accountancy, speaking of accountants .... Or maybe she's in Trinidad, calypsoing her head off.


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Subject: RE: A very uncomfortable question- perform other trads
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 14 Jul 17 - 08:42 PM

I keep bumping into this thread searching Mudcat's calypsos so, what the hey… my two pennies worth:

MorwenEdhelwen1 & Ebbie's exchange about 'family-v-calypso' (above) is the closest to the truth though I'm pretty sure neither intended it that way. Marriage to a Trinidadian is/was her only option.

Any 'officially' recognized calypsonian has, in theory at least, the potential to be crowned "Calypso Monarch."

As such, one will remain the physical embodiment of the national Trinidad & Tobago calypsonian spirit until the following year's winner is announced.

Gibb: Why not poll the actual people who make calypso?

Close too but no polls. Read the Trinidad & Tobago United Calypsonian Organization Adjudication Handbook section on age and citizenship requirements.

After ruling the roost for the last twenty years they (TUCO) have recently been made subordinate to the larger National Carnival Commission (NCC) but culture and good old Yankee dollah tourism both depend that rule being there so I'm pretty sure it still is.


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