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Dancing English

"We are striving to establish a standard of English music that's contemporary, relevant and multicultural. For a start we'd like to get people thinking that the western European way isn't the only way of doing things. With Boka Halat the first thing we do is set up the rhythm with sabars, dholak or whatever and I call the dances rhythmically so people feel the beat before we get anything melodic happening. It gets the idea over that the rest of the world dances to rhythms and not tunes. The tune helps shape the dance but the way you turn your body is determined by rhythms."

Simon Care
Photo: Ed Kingscote/
Simon Care
The early Edward II with Rod Stradling had a similar idea years ago when they merged western and Caribbean cultures in the manner of the quadrilles. "Caribbean quadrilles are the precedent for a lot of this," says Watson. "Slaves observed the country dances on the estates and thought, 'Nice moves, crap rhythm' and turned it into a natural fusion. It's something that hasn't been done much here, although Tiger Moth did with the late, great John Maxwell experimenting with African rhythms, even though he was English."

After some memorable nights at Sidmouth Late Night Extras ("I love it when kids drag their parents along to dance"), Watson certainly concurs that English dance music is revving up nicely. And it's likely to get a lot hotter before we are through, what with the reissue of not only all Oak's material, but Oysterband's 20 Golden Tie-Slackeners, Stepping Up (the update of the classic Tap Roots collection), Tickled Pink making their first album for a decade and, saints preserve us, the imminent re-emergence of Tiger Moth for one summer only, with a retrospective CD in tow.

It's all looking fine and dandy, but one person at least is hoping the ceilidh boom this time round will provoke some serious mischief. The son of a Moulton Morris Man, Simon Care and his melodeon have long made their own indelible mark on English music in various incarnations of the Albion Band, Edward II/ e2K and ceilidh band Tickled Pink. "When we played the Late Night Extra at Sidmouth last year there was mayhem, which is great! The serious dancers are being kicked aside like they were in the early '70s and now the students are joining in, getting pissed, falling over and thinking, 'This is great!' Which it is. It's becoming hip again. Tickled Pink played a sold-out dance at Haywards Heath and 32 students showed up in pink furry wings, having a ball.

This feature first appeared in fRoots 250, April 2004


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