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Whapweasel (English Dance??)

06 May 04 - 05:26 PM (#1179740)
Subject: Whapweasel (English Dance??)
From: Richard Bridge

Well I got shouted at on another thread for expressing a view that one track of Whapweasel's I heard on the radio did not sound like English dance to me.

I listened to them a bit at Sweeps fest, and I still have to say that their sound to me sounds a bit more not exactly "Euro celtique", but sort of "New member states of the EU-Celtique".

I reserve comment on whether I like it or not, or whether it is good or not. It's clearly very well done, and quite vibrant.


06 May 04 - 05:41 PM (#1179748)
Subject: RE: Whapweasel (English Dance??)
From: Malcolm Douglas

I got sent a promo copy of their cd and didn't listen to it for some time, thinking it would be a bit naff. As it turned out I thoroughly enjoyed it (didn't find out till later that a friend of mine had designed the sleeve). I'd characterise the sound as sort of "frenglish" (didn't really detect much of the modern "neo-celtic" style); but since Blowzabella a lot of the younger players of English dance music actually seem to think that that's an English style anyway. I should think they would be excellent to dance to.

06 May 04 - 07:00 PM (#1179812)
Subject: RE: Whapweasel (English Dance??)
From: GUEST,Peter from Essex

Haven't heard the CD but from hearing them live I would partly agree with Malcolm. First time I saw them they were total crap as a dance band as they were playing silly buggers across the phrasing. Last time they seemed to have just about got the idea of keeping the rifs within the phrasing but still hard work to dance to.

06 May 04 - 07:16 PM (#1179822)
Subject: RE: Whapweasel (English Dance??)
From: The Borchester Echo

Whapweasel 'quite vibrant? Don't strain yourself, Richard. All this damning with faint praise must be oh-so-wearing. As Malcolm says, they are excellent to dance to and so do what they say they do on the tin. What more do you want?

The point of the Whapweasel track you heard on the radio (The Final Last Banana) was to promote the Topic compilation CD Stepping Out which chronicles the resurgence of English roots dance music. And as Ian Anderson says in the highly informative notes, if there ever was something called English Country Music it was always multi-cultural.

Whapweasel, he says, are pushing onward from where Oysterband and Tigermoth left off, writing their own tunes, adding a touch of jazz, ska, African music and beyond. They are where English dance music is today as you'd discover if you ventured into an e-ceilidh where they and many of the other bands featured on his CD play in one fom or another.

I've played it non-stop over the past couple of weeks - when in - though its main purpose, in which I'm sure it will succeed, must be to get more and more people involved in the making of and dancing to this wonderful music.

06 May 04 - 07:23 PM (#1179827)
Subject: RE: Whapweasel (English Dance??)
From: Malcolm Douglas

I should perhaps just add that I am completely crap at dancing, so can only guess at what is good to dance to; I have to rely on imagination there.

07 May 04 - 07:24 AM (#1180176)
Subject: RE: Whapweasel (English Dance??)
From: GUEST,Charley

I guess we could ask what is a more important feature when defining an English Ceilidh band - a band playing trad English tunes in a 'traditional' style or one that plays music which is great to dance English ceilidh dances to? The tradition needs to evolve to stay alive, and as countess richard says they are part of today's scene. How far back into the past do we go to draw the line between trad and not trad? Although Whapweasel's material can't really be described as traditional English music, they play tunes that fit English dances well, and in my opinion they are one of the most danceable e-ceilidh bands around. The only problem with dancing to them (at festivals, at least) is that their ceilidhs are often so packed that there is not enough room to comfortably dance....

07 May 04 - 07:59 AM (#1180197)
Subject: RE: Whapweasel (English Dance??)
From: MikeofNorthumbria

Whapweasel is a band. The people who play in it are English. They play music which other people (many of them English) enjoy dancing to to. Therefore they are an English dance band. End of story?


07 May 04 - 11:46 AM (#1180380)
Subject: RE: Whapweasel (English Dance??)
From: Richard Bridge

Er- Mike, that includes Hot Chocolate and the Darkness, too.

07 May 04 - 11:58 AM (#1180395)
Subject: RE: Whapweasel (English Dance??)
From: Geoff the Duck

Don't actually know the band, but the BEER is excellent.
Geoff the Duck.

07 May 04 - 12:41 PM (#1180446)
Subject: RE: Whapweasel (English Dance??)
From: MikeofNorthumbria

Richard: the question at issue was, whether they were an English dance band, not whether they were an English "folk" dance band.

How you feel about the second question will depend upon your definition of "folk". Mine is broad enough to include Whapweasel. Is yours?


07 May 04 - 01:07 PM (#1180476)
Subject: RE: Whapweasel (English Dance??)
From: Desert Dancer

I really want to get my hands on that Topic "Stepping Up" compilation. It think it's an interesting topic. Here in the U.S. contra dance scene the music has evolved as well. The first time I heard Wild Asparagus, at a dance camp, I got really grumpy and thought, "I didn't come here to dance to rock music, I came to contra dance!" (Granted, grumpy came easily, since I was exhausted from being one of the weekend's organizers, and it was our first time!)

I recently listed to the EFDSS's "Keep Dancing" cd, and while I didn't get as grumpy, I found that it wasn't what I wanted to listen to or use in my classes - I'd rather use Mark Bazely and Jason Rice (who have a retro-traditional sound, I understand). I think I'd rather ceilidh without the "e-", but my exposure has been extremely limited, and in context, like at an actual dance (with a few beers!) my reaction might be different.

Over here, modern contra dance music style, and the dancing, too, has gotten very smooth and slinky and makes your backbone bend laterally (that is, your hips move!) in ways they never used to. Here, it's jazz that has informed the change quite a bit. I hear more rock in the English music, and find it interesting that other European sounds come in, too. The Seattle contra band, KGB, takes in eastern European sounds; others have absorbed Scandinavian or South American styles. To put it in perspective, in the video on the career of Bob McQuillen, a piano player who's been in the New England contra scene since the 40's, he says it was a big adventure when people started exploring Irish tunes in the 70's.

Some musicians will find one thing and stick to it, others will always be sampling and exploring and adapting new sounds. For me, I enjoy the range of possibilities, although my personal favorites are on the more trad. and mid-range of the scale.

But, the bottom line for me: if people are making the music and people are dancing to it (that is, doing contra or ceilidh, as opposed to independently writhing and gyrating ;-) , then it's a great thing to have around.

~ Becky in Tucson, Arizona

07 May 04 - 01:25 PM (#1180497)
Subject: RE: Whapweasel (English Dance??)
From: Desert Dancer

After re-reading the thread I was going to correct myself, but I find I was right and the Countess was wrong :-) -- the Topic cd is called "Stepping Up. There's a good review here.

Quoting Ed Rennie:
And then we get to Whapweasel. A phenomenon. More off beat than the North London Nutty Boys, these geezers are making dancers go bonkers up and down the land, which is nice. Improvisational and tantric would best describe them, but English Country Dance? Hmmm …

There's another interesting survey of the history of English country (dance) music here.

Further food for thought in these reviews:
The Bismarcks
Mark Bazely and Jason Rice's Moor Music

~ Becky in Tucson

07 May 04 - 01:32 PM (#1180503)
Subject: RE: Whapweasel (English Dance??)
From: The Borchester Echo

Sorry, Desert Dancer. It's me eyes, you see. That or far too much excitement at the music to bother to read the CD cover properly :-)

07 May 04 - 06:47 PM (#1180689)
Subject: RE: Whapweasel (English Dance??)
From: Beardy

Whapweasel were the hit of festivals last yewar. Saw them at about 6 festivals and greatly enjoyed by the dancers and listeners both. Also great to see they have a good following of youngsters (16-25) wearing their T shirts and going to their dances.

07 May 04 - 08:42 PM (#1180778)
Subject: RE: Whapweasel (English Dance??)
From: Richard Bridge


The issue was "English Dance": or, something else? Sillies excluded.

"Evolutionary Folk dance musicians" : no contest. Not what I asked.

07 May 04 - 09:13 PM (#1180799)
Subject: RE: Whapweasel (English Dance??)
From: Desert Dancer

What are your criteria? They're English, they intend their music for English dance, maybe they even write original tunes intended for English dance, maybe they adapt "durn furrin" tunes to fit English dances, people do English dance to their music... sounds like English dance music to me.

That's my opinion with the facts I have available. But I speak from no personal experience whatsoever, just a theoretical interest. Sorry to intrude!

~ Becky in Tucson

08 May 04 - 05:52 PM (#1181346)
Subject: RE: Whapweasel (English Dance??)
From: Richard Bridge

I know a Morris side that uses "Battle of New Orleans". It doesn't make that a Morris tune.

09 May 04 - 03:04 AM (#1181588)
Subject: RE: Whapweasel (English Dance??)
From: Desert Dancer

I understand it's pretty traditional in some Morris traditions to use popular songs. The tune doesn't start as a Morris tune, but what you do with it (and consequently how you play it) makes it into a Morris tune for that function.

Besides, are you talking individual tunes, or the band's overall approach?

~ B in T

28 Oct 04 - 09:17 AM (#1309503)
Subject: RE: Whapweasel (English Dance??)
From: Pete_Standing

I play in a UK dance band (based in Oxford) that plays for callers who specialise in "English Country Dance". We play tunes from all over the UK and a few from Europe, the USA and the Middle East and also a few original tunes. The band has an accordionist/harpist who is half Welsh, a multi instrumentalist who is half Swiss, a fiddle player from Essex and myself who has a bit of Scottish blood, but mainly Essex! What does that make us?

And to return to the thread, I seldom get to hear other dance bands, because I'm out playing, but the few times I have heard Whapweasel, the remind me strongly of a band from the "Two Tone" era, but with a melodeon player. I ploughed through the sound samples of quite a few bands listed on the Webfeet web site and the Whap's sound no longer seems unique in English country dance music. One thing that does slightly concern me in modern English Country Dance bands, is the trend to overlook the wealth of traditional material that is available; likewise, there are some callers who feel the need to keep inventing new dances. Is the baby following the bath water?

29 Oct 04 - 06:00 AM (#1310356)
Subject: RE: Whapweasel (English Dance??)
From: Liz the Squeak

Well, they are a professional dance band, and I guess whatever draws the crowds is what they play. We're going to get into the 'what is folk' argument here, but I shall damn the devil and say it anyway.....

Folk is not a stagnant pond where things suffocate. It's a flowing river. It picks up stuff and discards it along the way, but it's still a living river.

You said it yourself Peter Standing, they are a MODERN band....


29 Oct 04 - 06:05 AM (#1310360)
Subject: RE: Whapweasel (English Dance??)
From: Ralphie

Just about to produce/mix the new Bismarcks CD..
Is it English? Is it Dance? Is it Folk? No answer...!!(and, actually, does it matter)
Will it be wonderful?....Oh, I think so!
As for the Whaps, Mark and Jason, Old Swan, al...
Whatever floats your boat. (I quite like the A2 band meself!!)
Lets just lighten up guys...It's only music after all.

No offence to anyone meant.
Have a nice day Y'All!
Cheers Ralphie

29 Oct 04 - 06:39 AM (#1310377)
Subject: RE: Whapweasel (English Dance??)
From: GUEST,Crystal

I like their music, but they are damm difficult to dance to.
However if you want somthing to play at 1 billion decibels in your car with the windows open in the middle of a town then their music is perfect.
It's also a great soundtrack for "mad moods"

29 Oct 04 - 08:30 AM (#1310454)
Subject: RE: Whapweasel (English Dance??)
From: Jess A

are we still talking about Whapweasel here?? Difficult to dance to???! I am amazed - I _love_ dancing to them cos I find them so EASY to dance to!! hey ho, different strokes for different folks I guess...

29 Oct 04 - 09:22 AM (#1310496)
Subject: RE: Whapweasel (English Dance??)
From: Snuffy

With 1 billion decibels of bass at Bromyard, people in the ceildh the shanty session and the concert got a chance to dance to them all at the same time

29 Oct 04 - 09:28 AM (#1310499)
Subject: RE: Whapweasel (English Dance??)
From: Pete_Standing

Professional or accomplished?

If Suggs had turned his hand to calling, Madness might have been the godfathers of modern English Country dancing – or should I use the term e-ceilidh? I reckon that as a band whose songs contained social commentary in a popular idiom, they were as much a folk band as "Two Tone".

29 Oct 04 - 10:39 AM (#1310539)
Subject: RE: Whapweasel (English Dance??)
From: GUEST,Crystal

>are we still talking about Whapweasel here?? Difficult to dance to???! I am amazed - I _love_ dancing to them cos I find them so EASY to dance to!! hey ho, different strokes for different folks I guess<

They are easier if you are an experienced dancer I admit, I don't usually have too much of a problem but I know people who got totally confused last time I saw them.
They are going to be at IVFDF next year which should be good!

29 Oct 04 - 01:37 PM (#1310718)
Subject: RE: Whapweasel (English Dance??)
From: Les in Chorlton

This thread put me on to them. I have never heard them but am now needing to hear them. Picked up a couple of samples on a website. They sound great - a bit Albion with extra umph.

30 Oct 04 - 04:50 AM (#1311262)
Subject: RE: Whapweasel (English Dance??)
From: fogie

Dubh Madness??
You can dance to them if you want
I had a conversation about their brass section in Sidmouth with a friend, who thought they were fantastic- I let him hear Bottine and he understood my reservations, I also enjoyed the Brass section workshop from the Welsh-music band Twm Tup whatever- a lot better- but thats only my opinion I have Whaps latest CD but I dont play it as much as the otheres here mentioned

30 Oct 04 - 07:04 PM (#1311759)
Subject: RE: Whapweasel (English Dance??)
From: shepherdlass

Speaking as an only occasional drunken ceilidh dancer, anyone who's ever jigged about to ska can enjoy dancing to Whapweasel - they're a great hybrid of all kinds of roots music. La Bottine are absolutely wonderful of course - don't see that there necessarily has to be a contest between folk/roots/dance bands with brass sections. Still ain't seen no horses playing it, if you catch my drift.