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Ian Anderson
 

The Editor's Box

Ian Anderson's comment column

Reader Chris Pierssené writes: “I’ve just read your Editor’s Box for April, and felt compelled to add an anecdote in support of your ideas concerning the absence of BAME artists at folk festivals.”

“Like many musicians I’m hugely interested in all sorts of music, and have been involved in all kinds of traditional and non-traditional scenes. I’m a Shanty and angry political folk singer, a player of Irish and English trad, but I’ve also been in progressive Klezmer & Romani bands, punky bands, funky bands and Bhangra bands, and bands mashing up these styles with varying levels of awkwardness, incoherence and delight. Musicians, as I’m certain you fully know, just want to play with the people who inspire them most, and are some of the least racist folk you’ll find on the planet.”

“Some years ago I was playing at a folk festival in an Irish band. After our gig our bandleader introduced me to the director of the festival we were playing at, and suggested that the Bhangra band we were both also playing with would be an excellent addition to the festival next time around. The festival director replied that they wouldn’t be booking anything like that ‘for another hundred years, at least’.”

“We were both a bit stunned, especially as the Singh family who form the core of the band are third and fourth generation English and Welsh. It struck me as very bizarre that we were deemed acceptable whilst we played one form of folk music, and completely unacceptable whilst playing another. The irony is that Bhangra is generally thought of as having been re-born in the UK, from its Punjabi roots, and then exported back to India, as a revitalised hybrid, being as much British as it is Asian.”

“Anyway, the next year a pub in the town booked the Bhangra band on the unofficial fringe, and we played to a room full of Morris and Clog dancers, who went absolutely crazy, before they headed off to the midnight dance. Afterwards I asked a clogging friend just how he had managed to keep going so enthusiastically for the whole set. ‘You kept giving us more steps to dance’, he replied. Sounds like a ceilidh to me.”

“To conclude I’d suggest that audiences at folk festivals are ready for BAME bands, and indeed welcome variety in the programme. Promoters aren’t necessarily anyway near as welcoming. You have to wonder at what point acceptance will come.”

Back in the mists of the last century, we had a fabulously active letters section in which the sort of flame wars that now wage on the interweb were carried out at monthly intervals over multiple pages, and at more than 140 characters per message. It got killed off by the instant reply gratification of first web message boards and then fully-fledged social media. Unlike some other magazines, we didn’t see any point in making letters up to prolong its declining years. So I was surprised and delighted to receive the email above and promptly posted it on our Facebook page where it drew good responses. We can do that, you know. Don’t let us stop you!

Ian Anderson


If you wish to comment, castigate or (heaven forbid) congratulate the Editor - or any other writer in fRoots for that matter - in print, post it on fRoots on Facebook

 

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