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Spontaneous folk composition

GUEST,Phil 03 Aug 14 - 07:07 PM
Nigel Parsons 03 Aug 14 - 07:26 PM
Jack Campin 03 Aug 14 - 08:28 PM
GUEST,# 03 Aug 14 - 10:34 PM
Phil Edwards 04 Aug 14 - 05:12 AM
Vic Smith 04 Aug 14 - 07:18 AM
The Sandman 04 Aug 14 - 09:38 AM
The Sandman 04 Aug 14 - 09:41 AM
GUEST,leeneia 04 Aug 14 - 09:56 AM
Richard from Liverpool 04 Aug 14 - 10:11 AM
meself 04 Aug 14 - 11:12 AM
Jack Blandiver 04 Aug 14 - 11:56 AM
Jim Carroll 04 Aug 14 - 01:25 PM
GUEST,highlandman at work 04 Aug 14 - 02:16 PM
Jim Carroll 04 Aug 14 - 03:04 PM
Phil Edwards 04 Aug 14 - 03:46 PM
Vic Smith 04 Aug 14 - 06:24 PM
Steve Gardham 04 Aug 14 - 07:11 PM
meself 04 Aug 14 - 08:59 PM
Musket 05 Aug 14 - 03:23 AM
Phil Edwards 05 Aug 14 - 03:55 AM
GUEST 05 Aug 14 - 04:06 AM
GUEST,raymond greenoaken 05 Aug 14 - 07:17 AM
Steve Gardham 05 Aug 14 - 01:51 PM
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Subject: Spontaneous folk composition
From: GUEST,Phil
Date: 03 Aug 14 - 07:07 PM

Sitting outside the local Wetherspoons this evening, I was greatly annoyed by a group of lads at the next table who were talking loudly, and one youth in particular who was... singing loudly. And continuously. And spontaneously, improvising verses as he went along. He was even using a nonsense refrain between lines. I can't tell you any of what he was singing - it was all obscene & mostly quite offensive - but in formal terms this was the real thing. I had heard a singalong breaking out a couple of times at that pub - that's Spoons for you - but never anything like that. I wondered what the singer's friends were making of it; they didn't look shocked or even surprised.

Extraordinary, really. I put up with it for five minutes and then went inside.


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Subject: RE: Spontaneous folk composition
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 03 Aug 14 - 07:26 PM

Without checking with the 'singer', how can you be sure it was spontaneous?
It may be something (like a stream of consciousness)that he sings whenever he wants to 'piss off' the locals & get some peace & quiet!


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Subject: RE: Spontaneous folk composition
From: Jack Campin
Date: 03 Aug 14 - 08:28 PM

Freestyle rap is an established genre using that. It also occurs in calypso, dreg songs and a few insult-contest song genres from around the world.

It's impressive to watch whatever the style.


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Subject: RE: Spontaneous folk composition
From: GUEST,#
Date: 03 Aug 14 - 10:34 PM

You're not having a good day I guess ?;., huh?


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Subject: RE: Spontaneous folk composition
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 04 Aug 14 - 05:12 AM

What really struck me about the whole scene was how normal it seemed - my initial reaction wasn't "good heavens, somebody's putting a series of taunts and boasts into musical form with a nonsense refrain right before my eyes", it was "I wish that kid would stop that bloody singing"... The singer's mates didn't seem at all surprised that he was singing rather than talking, even when he was putting in the "fal-a-diddle"s between the lines. Mind you, I think they were all fairly drunk. I should have gone over and started Brian O'Linn.


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Subject: RE: Spontaneous folk composition
From: Vic Smith
Date: 04 Aug 14 - 07:18 AM

Praise songs sung by Manding jalis in West Africa are part formulaic in their tunes and lyrics but mostly their words are the spontaneous compositions of the singers.


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Subject: RE: Spontaneous folk composition
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Aug 14 - 09:38 AM

But wash this singer a MANDING JALI?,


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Subject: RE: Spontaneous folk composition
From: The Sandman
Date: 04 Aug 14 - 09:41 AM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=baqExmkl23k&list=PLECFC37B2D857E341&index=1


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Subject: RE: Spontaneous folk composition
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 04 Aug 14 - 09:56 AM

It sounds to me like the whole point of the thing was to irritate anybody in the vicinity. How pathetic.   

Phil, the kid probably got the verses off an old shanty album. Either that, or he prepared them ahead in the shower, on the bus or while cleaning up the kitchen. No wonder his friends weren't impressed.


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Subject: RE: Spontaneous folk composition
From: Richard from Liverpool
Date: 04 Aug 14 - 10:11 AM

I find it amusing that on a forum purportedly about folk music, someone actually singing at a pub is treated as a pathology or a form of anti-social behaviour!


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Subject: RE: Spontaneous folk composition
From: meself
Date: 04 Aug 14 - 11:12 AM

Maybe it's because I'm on the other side of the Atlantic, but I'm unclear what Phil's point is. I'm not being sarcastic, but maybe a little slow - Phil, can you state directly what you want us to get out of your anecdote? (Maybe if I knew what "starting Brian O'Linn" means, I'd get it ...).


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Subject: RE: Spontaneous folk composition
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 04 Aug 14 - 11:56 AM

We used to have a Brian O'Linn game - freestyle some verses for maximum tastelessness. I remember one:

Brian O'Linn met the devil one day,
Who showed him a girl lying dead in the hay,
And with her he did sport 'til the light it grew dim,
'There's no chance of child,' said Brian O'Linn


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Subject: RE: Spontaneous folk composition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 04 Aug 14 - 01:25 PM

One of the great stories of spontaneous composition is told of Alan Lomax, when he went to the Hebrides to record waulking songs (which were improvised on the spot ,for 'fulling' or stretching newly-spun tweed)
He began to record the women singing in Scots Gaelic as they worked, not knowing their song was about "the handsome young American with the fine head of hair, a handsome face, a broad pair of shoulders, a manly chest, a slim waist"..... down his body as far as your imagination will take you; not having a word of Gaelic, he hadn't a clue of what was happening
The recordings were said to have been sent back to the studio and broadcast on the radio, only to be greeted by a barrage of complaints from the listeners complaining about the obscene contents of the song.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Spontaneous folk composition
From: GUEST,highlandman at work
Date: 04 Aug 14 - 02:16 PM

Interesting thread, but not as interesting as what my bifocals thought it was: Spontaneous Folk Combustion.
Rgh
-G


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Subject: RE: Spontaneous folk composition
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 04 Aug 14 - 03:04 PM

"Spontaneous Folk Combustion."
Funny you should say that - it raised pictures of folkies bursting into flame in my mind too
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Spontaneous folk composition
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 04 Aug 14 - 03:46 PM

As to what the point of my OP was, firstly, I do think it was spontaneous & that the guy (a skinny white student type, as it goes) was making it up as he went along; I'm really pleased to have happened on somebody freestyling in a folk-like idiom, even though it wasn't a sound I much wanted to listen to at the time. Secondly, I was pleasantly surprised - even at the time - when I realised how natural and un-outlandish it sounded to hear somebody extemporising a song; it took me a while to realise how unusual, statistically speaking, what I was hearing was. (Makes me wonder what I could get away myself with under other circumstances.) Thirdly, I wanted to make exactly the point Richard did - I just thought it was a bit amusing (at my own expense) that my immediate reaction was "God, I wish that kid would stop singing!".


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Subject: RE: Spontaneous folk composition
From: Vic Smith
Date: 04 Aug 14 - 06:24 PM

Dick,
You have lighted on a very fine singer in the example you link to above - Sory Kandia Kouyaté is on good form in that recording,
Sadly, however, you have not chosen well because the song that he sings Kedo is a Jaliya and tells the story of a war between the Mandings and the Fulas at the time when the Fulas were the ethnic group that were trying to introduce Islam into West Africa. In singing this item the story is settled rather like a ballad would be over here. Of course, again like ballads, some versions are longer than others. (Some have the Fulas using monkeys as spies listening to the conversations and plans of the Manding warriors!)

If you wanted to illustrate Sory Kandia Kouyaté singing a praise song where the singer uses the spontaneous folk composition that is the title of this thread, you would have done much better to have chosen Kémé Bouréma

Kedo has become enormously popular with Manding jalis of the current generation, but it was not always so. For example, it is a great favourite of Jali Sherrifo Konteh who learned it from his father Alhaji Bai Konte. However, Sherrifo told me that Bai said that he told his sons that they should not perform it in public for fear of offending and Fulas that were in his audience.


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Subject: RE: Spontaneous folk composition
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 04 Aug 14 - 07:11 PM

'freestyling in a folk-like idiom'.

Phil, I'm fascinated by your account. Is it likely that this young man was acquainted with folk music? Was he somehow pastiching folk music? was his audience folkscene related in any way? In what ways was it like a folk idiom?

I used to run late-night bawdy sessions at Whitby Folk Festival. One year Johnny Handle came along and stood at the bar drinking without passing comment or contributing any songs throughout the whole session. We were just about to go at the end of the session when Johnny staggered into the middle of the room and proceeded to make up a song on the spot which included a different verse about everyone in the room, most not very flattering, but we took it in good part. Amazing performance!


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Subject: RE: Spontaneous folk composition
From: meself
Date: 04 Aug 14 - 08:59 PM

Thanks, Phil; I get it now. In fact, I've encountered similar phenomena, and had similarly conflicted reaction ....


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Subject: RE: Spontaneous folk composition
From: Musket
Date: 05 Aug 14 - 03:23 AM

When I read spontaneous folk composition I thought of my unfortunate knack of forgetting words and ad libbing a bit.

I assume this is how songs tend to alter over the years. I have been singing a Harvey Andrews song for years and even when getting it right, I recently noticed Harvey has the odd different word. I think I I sang it as it was written back in the '80s but repeating the same ad lib line means it slowly becomes your norm.

I suppose that's definition 637 of what makes it a folk song...


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Subject: RE: Spontaneous folk composition
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 05 Aug 14 - 03:55 AM

Steve - it was line/refrain/line/(pause for reaction), with a nonsense refrain that sounded... well, folky. I can't for the life of me remember what syllables he was actually using - I think it was something fairly simple, though, like 'hi-diddle, hi-diddle, hi-diddle-ol-day'. And don't ask me to guess at the tune - he wasn't a great singer.

All in all it went something like this:

Boastful comment about his penis
Hi-diddle, hi-diddle, hi-diddle-ol-day!
Disparaging comment about his friend's penis (in rhyme)
(pause for audience reaction)

And repeat, with (slight) variation of subject matter.

He looked about 20, as did his friends. We do get people of that age group at the local Folk Club, but it's a "folk began with Dylan" kind of club, so the chances of him being exposed to songs with nonsense refrains that way are pretty slim. Also, it's rare to hear anything seriously bawdy these days, at the FCs & singarounds I go to at least - probably because they're not men-only environments. All quite odd.


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Subject: RE: Spontaneous folk composition
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Aug 14 - 04:06 AM

>Johnny staggered into the middle of the room and proceeded to make up a song on the spot which included a different verse about everyone in the room<

Steve, he's been doing this for decades (I myself was a victim in the early 80s, and very chuffed I was too). I heard him extemporise a few verses at Ryedale Fest in 2011, so old habits clearly die hard.


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Subject: RE: Spontaneous folk composition
From: GUEST,raymond greenoaken
Date: 05 Aug 14 - 07:17 AM

GUEST above was moi. So long since I last posted I forgot the drill...


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Subject: RE: Spontaneous folk composition
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 05 Aug 14 - 01:51 PM

Hi Raymond,
Once again thanks for you wonderful ballad session at Sheffield. Confirmed what I already knew about the quality of folklife in Sheffield.

Phil,
The likely inspiration then would probably have been rugby songs. Still, good to think that this branch of oral tradition continues and that David Buchan wasn't 100% wrong.


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