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Ian Anderson

The Editor's Box

Ian Anderson's comment column

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a bit exhausted with living in “interesting times”! 2016 will surely go down in history as a difficult year, what with all the political shocks and the endless exits of notable people. Like many, I just hope it isn’t the beginning of something far worse, an Archduke moment.

fRoots may be just a music magazine but we can’t isolate ourselves from current events. Our country may have voted by a slim majority to disassociate itself from Europe politically and economically, but that’s not something we’re prepared to do musically and culturally. We’re seeing a frightening rise of racism and xenophobia in the general media and on the streets in this country, and the best way to deal with that is to be inclusive, enthusiastic and welcoming, emphasising all we have in common and benefit from sharing with our fellow citizens and neighbours.

I was struck by a throwaway line from comedian Shappi Khorsandi when I saw her recently, saying how she grew up in the era of Rock Against Racism gigs and always noticed how the well-intentioned audiences were almost entirely white in spite of the cause they espoused. Any movement now, especially in the folk world, should be ‘for’ something, because being ‘against’ plays the same game as haters. Folk festivals and events in the UK (and exported elsewhere) really need to look at the make-up of their bills and who they aim to attract as audiences – if they give any thought to that at all – and see what positive changes they can help with.

The fact that the so-called “leader of the western world” is about to change from being an intelligent, thoughtful, inspiring role model to a racist, misogynist, loud-mouthed braggart demagogue is the stuff of nightmares. After Bush Minor took up office, I wrote a widely-quoted Editorial in fR215, May 2001 (it’s on my personal web site if you feel the need to look back at it) which concluded by saying that we would henceforth operate a partial cultural boycott in fRoots where American music other than the local, regional and traditional was concerned. The biggest support came from Americans. Anyway, people have been in touch to ask if we’re going to renew that in the light of the Tr*mp monster.

Well, no. There’s no need. Bush may have been the final straw at the time (of course, one should never forget Bruce Cockburn’s maxim that “the trouble with ‘normal’ is it always gets worse”) but the main reason for adopting that policy was that American mainstream culture had been obliterating all before it, worldwide. That doesn’t seem to be so much the case in our areas of music now. If you look at the albums that our huge international panel voted for in the 2016 Critics Poll this issue, American records are given very low priority and UK artists playing fake American music are notable for their total absence. I very much doubt if Tr*mp is going to make his country’s culture any more endearing in the near future. And our friends in American traditional musics are probably going to need all the help they can get. Refugees welcome!

Best wishes to everybody for 2017. This is a double issue so look for the next one in February.

Ian Anderson

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