I just returned home from a wonderful week where I was mentoring at an event called ‘On The Road’ – hosted by the BC Touring Council followed by an industry event called Pacific Contact.
I hosted a discussion there with my old friend Peter North, Artistic Director of the Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival and someone I have called friend for 35 years. The festival Peter books is similar to Vancouver Island MusicFest (the Festival I book) and I often think of the two as sister festivals, because we both have campgrounds and are in smaller communities. Plus, we both are run by non-profit organizations and in the tradition of Western Canadian Folk Festivals each features multiple stages with numerous collaborations between musicians and multiple styles and cultures represented.
Peter trained me way back when I started doing a radio show on CJSR (University of Alberta) Radio in Edmonton. We have remained friends over the years as both of us have had wide and varied careers in the Canadian Roots Music World so it was interesting to host this discussion with him to see where we stood.
I think it remains fair to say, we mostly agreed.
The topic was the current state of Folk Music and Folk Festivals.
I wrote down a couple of discussion points which I thought I’d share here in hope that you might be interested or want to join in the discussion. I am fascinated by this subject and believe we are at a major crossroads at this moment in history; not only in the business but (more importantly) with regards to the actual music.
Below are a couple of thoughts – I’d love to know if you agree or disagree with me and why.
- The original job of the troubadour/folk singer was to ‘spread the news’ from community to community as they travelled from place to place. They taught us about far away cultures through the sharing and teaching of folk songs. This was done both at home and on the road. Currently, (can you say Publishing?) most current ‘folk’ singers are encouraged to play their own music without much thought towards past songs. Plus, the job of spreading news and ideas may not be as relevant now that we have the internet. Do you think it is?
- Almost every style of folk or roots music I can think of developed in an isolated culture with specific regional influences. I’m not so sure isolated cultures even exist at this point due largely to our modern communications (internet) and travel abilities. Chances are, we won’t discover any more ‘new’ styles of music that come from an specific culture. Chances are, we won’t discover any more isolated cultures. Perhaps, the future of folk and roots music will simply be the exciting cross-genre and cross cultural fusions that are happening. I’m ok with that but it does put a different slant on things for sure.
These are both simple ideas but I believe they are significant driving forces in the change that is happening in modern culture and in ‘folk’ . What do you think?