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Santa English Folk Music- A suspect medium? (56* d) RE: English Folk Music- A suspect medium? 18 Jan 09


I met folk music in primary school, but not in secondary. I got involved in clubs etc through the influence of protest songs, as heard on mainstream radio. Clubs rose in response to mass interest in this music. As the Vietnam War ended, there seemed rather less point to protest songs, so they died out. Then followed the mainstream success of folkrock, but as far as mainstream was concerned it was a fashion that flared (pun intentional) and died. With the dying of the Cold War, political songs became even more unfashionable. The clubs declined but went on, and as we can see today the audience reduced to a hard core of the older generation that is what remained from more popular days.

Was English folk music, in the traditional form, ever more than a thin stream in this more eclectic mix? Other strands came and went, so that at times a more generic "pop/folk music" was more common and popular, at times it was back to the ghetto. The leftwing involvement in "folk" was more prominent in the 50/60/70s, and no doubt lead to some disfavour from the establishment: but this must be seen alongside a general growth in anti-establishment feeling in the media and population. Folk music did not fade in popularity because it was seen as anti-establishment. It boomed and faded as various of the its strands came into and went out of fashion. One of which has to be its simple, acoustic roots in an amplified, sophisticated age. Perhaps the new singer-songwriters will successfully bring in the electronic age, or perhaps a new "punk folk" will emerge as society looks to a simpler approach to life. Wait and see, or get out and help, according to taste.

The more traditional songs are never going to be more than a minority interest, because the traditions are dead, or at least moribund, kept alive by enthusiasts as an amusement rather than by community involvement. Was this ever different? Did the Elizabethan English sing Chaucerian songs? Or the peasantry of Plantagenet times sing how times were so much better under Anglo-Saxon rule? Is the archetypal English folk song "When this old hat was new?" Ah, things were so much better when Ewan ran things....

Or not.

Which has drifted a bit, but "the establishment" is not going to approve of anti-establishment actions, be they only songs, and it is hardly intelligent to assume it ever will. Unless of course they are profitable....... As long as folk music is associated with political activism, there will be a cloud hanging over it in many minds - not just those within "the establishment" and their cronies. I think there is much more to English folk music than the political activism, but it is never going to be popular and accepted (whatever that exactly means) until it deals with popular issues in a popular manner. At the moment, this does not include leftwing diatribes, morris dancing, or bewailing your sad lovelife behind an acoustic guitar. English folk music has gone from a curiosity to a popular movement to an object of public ridicule.

Those of us who do appreciate it will just have to carry on enjoying ourselves, to those performers prepared to dedicate their lives to such.


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