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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
MorwenEdhelwen1 20 Apr 11 - 03:34 AM
Lizzie Cornish 1 20 Apr 11 - 03:37 AM
MorwenEdhelwen1 20 Apr 11 - 03:38 AM
GUEST,SteveG 20 Apr 11 - 03:46 AM
Lizzie Cornish 1 20 Apr 11 - 03:47 AM
MorwenEdhelwen1 20 Apr 11 - 03:53 AM
Lizzie Cornish 1 20 Apr 11 - 04:00 AM
MorwenEdhelwen1 20 Apr 11 - 04:01 AM
Rob Naylor 20 Apr 11 - 04:06 AM
Will Fly 20 Apr 11 - 04:21 AM
SteveMansfield 20 Apr 11 - 05:17 AM
MorwenEdhelwen1 20 Apr 11 - 05:22 AM
Musket 20 Apr 11 - 05:25 AM
Jack Campin 20 Apr 11 - 06:01 AM
Mr Happy 20 Apr 11 - 06:02 AM
SteveMansfield 20 Apr 11 - 06:15 AM
MorwenEdhelwen1 20 Apr 11 - 06:30 AM
MorwenEdhelwen1 20 Apr 11 - 06:48 AM
sciencegeek 20 Apr 11 - 07:09 AM
MorwenEdhelwen1 20 Apr 11 - 07:26 AM
Max Johnson 20 Apr 11 - 07:47 AM
GUEST,kendall 20 Apr 11 - 07:54 AM
GUEST,Peter Laban 20 Apr 11 - 08:15 AM
Richard Bridge 20 Apr 11 - 08:41 AM
Etan 20 Apr 11 - 09:10 AM
GUEST,Steamin' Willie 20 Apr 11 - 09:37 AM
ripov 20 Apr 11 - 10:11 AM
Gibb Sahib 20 Apr 11 - 11:03 AM
GUEST,999 20 Apr 11 - 12:11 PM
Cool Beans 20 Apr 11 - 12:49 PM
GUEST,Azizi 20 Apr 11 - 01:45 PM
Lizzie Cornish 1 20 Apr 11 - 03:02 PM
gnu 20 Apr 11 - 03:15 PM
GUEST,999 20 Apr 11 - 03:23 PM
GUEST,kendall 20 Apr 11 - 03:40 PM
fat B****rd 20 Apr 11 - 03:52 PM
McGrath of Harlow 20 Apr 11 - 03:56 PM
GUEST,Guest T 20 Apr 11 - 05:00 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 20 Apr 11 - 05:06 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 20 Apr 11 - 05:18 PM
Lizzie Cornish 1 20 Apr 11 - 05:38 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 20 Apr 11 - 05:46 PM
Lizzie Cornish 1 20 Apr 11 - 05:49 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 20 Apr 11 - 05:54 PM
PoppaGator 20 Apr 11 - 05:56 PM
Lizzie Cornish 1 20 Apr 11 - 05:57 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 20 Apr 11 - 06:52 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 20 Apr 11 - 07:05 PM
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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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