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singer/songwriters from BAME backgrounds

GUEST 17 Jun 13 - 06:08 PM
dick greenhaus 17 Jun 13 - 08:03 PM
GUEST 18 Jun 13 - 07:28 AM
Acorn4 18 Jun 13 - 08:06 AM
Snuffy 18 Jun 13 - 08:50 AM
GUEST,Peter 18 Jun 13 - 09:17 AM
GUEST,Chris B (Born Again Scouser) 18 Jun 13 - 09:18 AM
Richard Bridge 18 Jun 13 - 12:59 PM
GUEST 18 Jun 13 - 03:01 PM
Leadfingers 18 Jun 13 - 07:07 PM
Richard Bridge 18 Jun 13 - 07:22 PM
greg stephens 19 Jun 13 - 09:08 AM
dick greenhaus 19 Jun 13 - 04:49 PM
GUEST 20 Jun 13 - 04:24 AM
GUEST,Howard Jones 20 Jun 13 - 06:48 AM
Richard Bridge 20 Jun 13 - 07:02 AM
GUEST 20 Jun 13 - 07:26 AM
Scabby Douglas 20 Jun 13 - 07:50 AM
GUEST,Howard Jones 20 Jun 13 - 08:31 AM
GUEST,meself 20 Jun 13 - 11:26 AM
dick greenhaus 20 Jun 13 - 06:21 PM
GUEST,meself 20 Jun 13 - 06:35 PM
GUEST 24 Jun 13 - 12:42 PM
GUEST,Allan Conn 25 Jun 13 - 02:50 AM
GUEST,Allan Conn 25 Jun 13 - 02:59 AM
Will Fly 25 Jun 13 - 03:42 AM
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Subject: singer/songwriters from BAME backgrounds
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Jun 13 - 06:08 PM

The folk world has always been a bit ambivalent towards singer/songwriters, some people ignore them, others embrace them as modern folk music. Whatever you think of them they are a part of the acoustic tradition and we can't ignore them.

So ---- there have to be some young black singer/songwriters out there who are writing songs about life in Britain today. Where are they? and why don't we ever see them at folk clubs?


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Subject: RE: singer/songwriters from BAME backgrounds
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 17 Jun 13 - 08:03 PM

Whether or not you can ignore them is up to you.


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Subject: RE: singer/songwriters from BAME backgrounds
From: GUEST
Date: 18 Jun 13 - 07:28 AM

Not really. You may not like them, but they are everywhere - including lots of folk clubs.


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Subject: RE: singer/songwriters from BAME backgrounds
From: Acorn4
Date: 18 Jun 13 - 08:06 AM

Rap and open mike sessions I would guess.


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Subject: RE: singer/songwriters from BAME backgrounds
From: Snuffy
Date: 18 Jun 13 - 08:50 AM

BAME?


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Subject: RE: singer/songwriters from BAME backgrounds
From: GUEST,Peter
Date: 18 Jun 13 - 09:17 AM

"Black Asian and Minority Ethnic"

I can't think of any Black or Asian singer songwriters on the English folk scene but plenty from other minority groups.


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Subject: RE: singer/songwriters from BAME backgrounds
From: GUEST,Chris B (Born Again Scouser)
Date: 18 Jun 13 - 09:18 AM

Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic.

Covers a fair bit of ground, really.


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Subject: RE: singer/songwriters from BAME backgrounds
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 18 Jun 13 - 12:59 PM

Oh, does that include Irish, Scottish, Romany, and Traveller? What about a chap (young to me, I imagine about 30) I know from Brittany who has lived in London for several years and is (after a LOT of prodding promising to bring us some traditional Breton folk songs at next year's Sweeps' fest? And why do they have to be young? Or indeed snigger snogwriters? Might they not be folksong singers? And why is the background more important than the ancestry? My girlfriend's father is from the Republic of Congo but she was brought up in England by her mother who is English/Irish/Traveller/Cockney/might be a bit of Hungarian in there too. What is her "background"? - I'd opt for English and she even has a tattoo saying "Made in England", although people always ask her "Where are you from" and look very puzzled when the reply is "Crayford".   

This enquiry all seems rather a construct.


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Subject: RE: singer/songwriters from BAME backgrounds
From: GUEST
Date: 18 Jun 13 - 03:01 PM

A good set of questions.
I agree that there are lots of people performing in folk clubs from non-English backgrounds/ancestry but guess what - they are all white!

So to put this issue in the open, I think that the folk world is institutionally racist.

I almost never see a black singer or musician or audience member in a folk club, (not since the 60s anyway) but I know the singers are out there at Open Mic nights, and I think we need to do something to encourage them.


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Subject: RE: singer/songwriters from BAME backgrounds
From: Leadfingers
Date: 18 Jun 13 - 07:07 PM

Morticia _ Where is Idris when we need him ???


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Subject: RE: singer/songwriters from BAME backgrounds
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 18 Jun 13 - 07:22 PM

I don't think that what unnamed guest says is true. My girlfriend is universally welcomed as far as I can see. Another folk camp I go to sees a gentleman of I think Indian (maybe Iranian - I've never found it necessary to ask) extraction who performs his own songs and is welcome, and the adopted "BAME" daughter of another attendee who sings mostly gospel and religious songs and is also welcome. There are several young performers at a professional level who are not WASP.

Scarcity there may be - but mostly racism there is not (I think).

Mind you I remember without affection at an open mic I went to, a "BAME" attendee wanted to use backing tracks which took an age to set up and then murdered some Bob Marley songs.   OTOH he was not as bad as the white Englishman with dreadlocks who apparently seriously sang "Jolene", badly accompanied by himself on guitar!


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Subject: RE: singer/songwriters from BAME backgrounds
From: greg stephens
Date: 19 Jun 13 - 09:08 AM

There are a considerable number of BME singers who write their own songs. But they probably don't choose to perform them in folk clubs. Is there any reason why they should?


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Subject: RE: singer/songwriters from BAME backgrounds
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 19 Jun 13 - 04:49 PM

In the US, at least, blacks unilaterally distanced themselves from the folk music scene in 1968. Prior to that, blues were considered to be part of the general folk repetoire, and there were a number of black performers and folkies.


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Subject: RE: singer/songwriters from BAME backgrounds
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Jun 13 - 04:24 AM

i guess that my point is this. We live in a multicoloured, multicultural society. If we allow modern folk music to be written entirely by the white community we will miss out culturally - folk songs need to reflect the world we live in - not just a part of it.

I think Greg is right, the songs are out there just not in the folk clubs. When I say the folk world is institutionally racist I don't mean that clubs would reject a singer on the grounds of race. What i mean is that the institutions (EFDSS, AFO, Arts Council, PRS, Festivals etc.) all run projects, artist development schemes and so on - but nobody makes the effort to go and find these black artists and bring them into the fold.

So if you don't think you are a folk singer, we don't address you - that's how institutional racism works - it's a bit like the arguments over university entrance. "If you don't know how to play our game that's your loss". Well I don't agree - I think it's our loss.

Here's an example of what can be achieved. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-22925611


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Subject: RE: singer/songwriters from BAME backgrounds
From: GUEST,Howard Jones
Date: 20 Jun 13 - 06:48 AM

A folk club wouldn't reject a singer on grounds of race, but might on grounds of musical style, which is what mostly defines 'folk' (and any other genre) in this context. 'Folk' in England is derived from traditional English culture. BAME musicians have their own cultural references, both contemporary and traditional, and most appear to prefer to perform in a context which feels more relevant to them, just as white musicians do. I don't believe there's anything wrong in that

An important element of folk music is celebrating and preserving one's own cultural traditions. That seems to be encouraged when its minority traditions which are being talked about, but is somehow suspect when it's English traditions.

Of course, for some who were born and raised here then folk music may be part of their own cultural consciousness. Where BAME musicians perform in a style which is relevant to the folk scene then they'll be accepted. Dogan Mehmet is an obvious recent example, but the Spinners included a black singer in the 60s. Other examples are EII and Boka Halat.

Festivals have been booking non-white performers from the UK and overseas for decades. However I don't think its the role of EFDSS to promote say bhangra or rap just because it's being performed by English people (of any ethnicity. On the other hand, for years the Arts Council was criticised for promoting minority ethnic music whilst ignoring British folk.

Nevertheless, in one sense what you say is true, but the same accusation must then also be made about other genres. Why aren't rap venues booking white folk artists? By that measure they're 'institutionally racist' too. However this dilutes the term to the extent that it becomes meaningless.


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Subject: RE: singer/songwriters from BAME backgrounds
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 20 Jun 13 - 07:02 AM

No, "style" does not define "folk". Folk differs from other genres of music in this respect. If Folk was defined by style Steeleye Span would not have been folk, and Heartbreak Hotel would have become folk when Martin Carthy recorded it. Folk is vernacular music transmitted and modified by the oral tradition. These days "oral" needs to be read with laxity.

IMHO blues often fits into this analysis.


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Subject: RE: singer/songwriters from BAME backgrounds
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Jun 13 - 07:26 AM

There is a well known Chinese Scottish folk singer: www.andychung.co.uk/biography.html‎


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Subject: RE: singer/songwriters from BAME backgrounds
From: Scabby Douglas
Date: 20 Jun 13 - 07:50 AM

"but nobody makes the effort to go and find these black artists and bring them into the fold"

But does the "folk world" actively do that for other categories of artist? I'm not sure that it does.


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Subject: RE: singer/songwriters from BAME backgrounds
From: GUEST,Howard Jones
Date: 20 Jun 13 - 08:31 AM

It's going to be very difficult to discuss this without veering off into yet another "what is folk?" debate, which I for one would prefer to avoid. On the one hand I agree with what Richard Bridge says, and yet...there is an expectation on the part of an audience that music played in a folk club will sound a certain way - that is what I meant by 'style'. The parameters may be wider at concerts and festivals, and of course are often pushed, and quite rightly, by musicians trying to explore what can be done with traditional music. However in this context the term is used as a pigeonhole to try to place a particular category of music so that people know which events to go to, and which rack to visit in the record store. Like any genre, it is easier to recognise than describe.

However that is a distraction from my real point. Even for people of what we might call 'English heritage', only a small minority are exposed to 'folk music' of any kind and even fewer relate to it and become actively interested. Only a tiny minority of white English musicians choose to express themselves through folk music, however you want to define it. It seems to me that people of other ethnic backgrounds, even those established in this country for several generations, are even less likely to have either come across it or feel any connection with it. To my mind, it is entirely understandable that they mainly choose other genres.

It is also the case that, despite Mumford and Sons, folk is usually seen as terminally uncool. Why would someone choose to define themselves as a 'folk singer' if they have the opportunity to be labelled as something which might actually bring them fame and fortune?

I don't believe it is the role of the folk scene or its institutions to seek out performers of other styles of music, and especially not on the grounds of their ethnic background, which strikes me as patronising at best. Folk music, like any other genre, needs to serve its audience, and its audience wants folk music - if they want to listen to something else, there is no shortage of other venues.

Nobody is denying BAME musicians their voice, but for most of them the folk scene is not where they want to make it heard. For the very small number that do, it would be naive to imagine that there is no racism even on the folk scene but neither do I believe there are any barriers.


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Subject: RE: singer/songwriters from BAME backgrounds
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 20 Jun 13 - 11:26 AM

(Thread drift alert!)

Dick: "In the US, at least, blacks unilaterally distanced themselves from the folk music scene in 1968."

What happened in 1968 to prompt this unilateral distancing?


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Subject: RE: singer/songwriters from BAME backgrounds
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 20 Jun 13 - 06:21 PM

Watts, other riots, the "black power" movement, ....there were many factors, but the fact of folk separatism is inarguable (except, maybe at Mudcat, where inarguable is a contradiction in terms)


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Subject: RE: singer/songwriters from BAME backgrounds
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 20 Jun 13 - 06:35 PM

Thanks. I was wondering if you had one specific pronouncement or incident in mind, or an accumulation, such as you suggest ....


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Subject: RE: singer/songwriters from BAME backgrounds
From: GUEST
Date: 24 Jun 13 - 12:42 PM

Actually I went to see a young girl called Raevennan Husbandes. She's a singer/songwriter, and not particularly my cup of tea, but was at least as good as lots of other singer/songwriters - certainly no worse; and yet while lots of them do get folk club gigs it doesn't look as if she does. Now it may be that she hasn't tried; or it may be that club organisers have seen her and don't want to book her. But it did get me thinking how many more were out there.


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Subject: RE: singer/songwriters from BAME backgrounds
From: GUEST,Allan Conn
Date: 25 Jun 13 - 02:50 AM

"I agree that there are lots of people performing in folk clubs from non-English backgrounds/ancestry but guess what - they are all white!"

We have non-white people playing regularly in our club. One Moroccan and one from Guinea originally. Both excellent percussionists right enough rather than singer songwriters but they've been welcomed with open arms anyway! We are only one wee folk club, in one wee town, in an almost exclusively white community! I can't imagine we are that unique so it is a bit of a sweeping statement to say all performers are white. Even if they are all white in a club it doesn't prove that the said club would be somehow racist.


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Subject: RE: singer/songwriters from BAME backgrounds
From: GUEST,Allan Conn
Date: 25 Jun 13 - 02:59 AM

One point going back to kind of what Howard says above is the factor of choice. Because we are a small community if you want to go and play music or join in a session on a Friday night you go to the Folk Club. There is usually nowhere else to go to do that. So maybe we get people coming (ie African percussionists, or more commonly just local teenagers with their guitars etc) who would have different choices if they were in a larger place. I'd suspect young singer-songriters, whether they are white or not, would normally prefer to go to open mics etc where there are other younger people. Demographically non-whites tend to be more congregated in less rural parts of the country where there is more going on than just the local folk club. Got to be at least part of the reason one would think.


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Subject: RE: singer/songwriters from BAME backgrounds
From: Will Fly
Date: 25 Jun 13 - 03:42 AM

Slight thread drift here, but it makes a point by comparison.

If you want to see real racism at work, then seek out comedians performing in working men's clubs, British Legions and similar venues. I played in hundreds of these places over many years - often in a 'cabaret' style night with several acts on the bill - and most of the comedians were in the Jim Davidson/Bernard Manning league, except not as clever. Dull, predictable comics with unoriginal routines, making weak jokes about black people for cheap laughs from predominantly white audiences.

We (a rock'n roll trio) had a bellyful of this over the years, culminating at one club where we got so pissed off with the comic's racist jokes that we started heckling him severely - so severely that he abandoned his act to a chorus of boos from the audience. We never played there again. In another incident, I was playing with a Jewish bass player and a Jamaican drummer at a works social club in East Sussex. The club secretary came up to us as we were waiting to go on and said, "Hmmm... quite the League of Nations here tonight...". We told him quite pointedly what we thought of his remark - in no uncertain terms - played, demanded our money and cleared off.

Now, compared with that scene, the folk club world as I've seen it over a similar period of time, has always been unfailingly welcoming, tolerant and decent. Institutionally racist? Compared with other music scenes - absolutely not.

Just my experience.


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