Bugger me! I'm a folkie

I've had a chance to look back over some of the stuff I've written in this blog over the past months recently, and it struck me that a lot of the material has a common theme. From this very early post to this rather recent one, I've fairly consistently argued for community, community, community in music, prefferably working only with and for itself. Boima commented on the last post: "Is this what you mean by no outside influence?! ;) Your perfect genre?" and I think he might be totally right.

I do like musical isolates too much. It's dawned on me that I might have become some sort of folkie. And thinking about it, this modern age might well have brought out a bit of the folkie in all of us.

Well, let's not get too hasty. Obviously there's loads of aspects of the folk revival I don't sympathise much with (to the extent of having hated plenty on folkies in my time) and that seemingly are slowly dissapearing as important musical values. "Rootsiness", the virtue of traditionalism for traditionalism's sake, might have been a big thing as late as a decade ago but you have to feel it's on the wane and relegated to the blues rock of old men. The Nu Whirl crowd aren't buying the roots argument, nor the opposition to mechanical reproduction (what aura of originality?) or the dogged opposition to commercialism.

But we are buying the village. Sure, today the idealised village of "merrie england" is a favela somewhere, but the same basic principles still apply: we want to be outsiders, we want to observe a homogenous, tightly-knit group from outside, we want to be the ones in charge of the story. We're all folkies, trying to escape from information overload and globalisation by embracing the easily identifiable and readily categorisable, and possibly the real.

I can already hear the disagreement, but consider how despised "inauthentic" acts like Bonde De Role are, however close their music is to the one produced "in the village". Also consider the fact that working-class groups that attach themselves to the wrong large world-wide trends aren't nearly as loved. I think whatever we say it cannot be denied that we're very fond of "scenes", today's new villages.

Maybe it's time I admitted this connection openly. I generally think music is produced better in communities, feeding off each other and creating music for each other with no second thought. I also think traditional "world music", that strange outcrop of the folk revival that has cast away its most central aspect and makes ethnic music without an ethnos, is generally a really bad idea with loads of problems attached.

It is said, often by self-help specialists, that what we most despise is what we're denying and supressing in ourselves. So maybe, despite how much crap I've heaped on the folk revival myself over the years, I'm a folkie myself at heart.


Anonymous said...

Good post. And the observation that "we want to observe a homogenous, tightly-knit group from outside" is very true in hiphop.

I'm not talking about people who want to live gangsta life from the comforts of home (that's another story), but the importance of the "local scene". It's still important for a new rapper to be a part of a local scene, be it Queens, Westcoast, Atlanta, Philly, Chicago, Houston or whatever.

When a new artist "fails" in this respect, when he or she might be talented but isn't perceived as connected to a specific region or city, he/she is often dismissed purely because of that. That is the lasting "folk" element of modern rap, I believe.

"You want to feel that the rapper is part of something", someone wrote somewhere, and it seems to be true even now, in the age of global internets and all.

D.D. said...

On another note, what's the deal about commenting when there's no-one there?

I hate myself though, and am also stupid, so I don't demand muchly.

Birdseed said...

What was that last thing? Sorry, I didn't catch your drift. Drunkpost at 5:30 in the morning?

As for your first comment, you've summed up in a well-written post pretty much what I was trying to say in more general terms. (In my defense I was at work, stressed, and really tired when I wrote that.) Good on yer!