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the world of music 46, 2004-1

Contemporary British Music Traditions

Guest Editor:
Britta Sweers

ISSN 0043-8774
ISBN 3-86135-739-9




Britta Sweers

Ian Russel
Sacred and Secular: Identity, Style, and Performance in Two Singing Traditions from the Pennies

Jonathan P. J. Stock
Ordering Performance, Leading People: Structuring an English Folk Music Session

Katy Radford
Red, White, Blue, and Orange: An Exploration of Historically Bound Allegiances through Loyalist Song

Tina K. Ramnarine
Imperial Legacies and the Politics of Musical Creativity

Laura Leante
Shaping Diasporic Sounds: Identity as Meaning in Bhangra


Book Reviews (Tina K. Ramnarine, ed.)

Sean Williams
Michael Tenzer, Gamelan Gong Kebyar: The Art of Twentieth-Century Balinese Music

Vic Gammon
Kay Kaufman Shelemay, Soundscapes: Exploring Music in a Changing World

Keith Howard
Mark C. van Tongeren, Overtone Singing: Physics and Metaphysics of Harmonics in East and West

Britta Sweers
Meirion Hughes, The English Musical Renaissance and the Press 1850-1914: Watchmen of Music


Recording Reviews (Gregory F. Barz, ed.)

Banning Eyre
Starry Nights in Western Sahara

Hiromi Lorraine Sakata
Anthology of World Music: Afghanistan

Anne Morrison Spinney
The Distant Native Voice: America's Other Musical Heritage – Jackson Berkey. Native American Ambiences

Sanubar Baghirova
Anthology of World Music: The Music of Azerbaijan

Jonathan Ritter
Music and Ritual of the Peruvian Andes

Karen A. Peters
Bulgaria: Songs from Nedelino: Tradition of the Rhodopes

Susan Hurley-Glowa
The Alan Lomax Collection Sampler

Yanni Afendoulis
Arménie: Benik Abovian & Zaven Azibekian

Jonathan Shannon
Sufi Chanting from Syria: Dhikr Qadiri Khalwati of the Zawiya Hilaliya, Aleppo – Syria, Muhammad Qadri Dalal: Unwonted maqâmat

Jeffrey W. Sheehan
Wade in the Water: African American Sacred Music Traditions, vols.1-4

Gregory Barz
Uganda and other African Nations—Feasts of the Savanna: A Musical Journey Though East and West Africa

About the Contributors
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Preface: Contemporary British Music Traditions
Britta Sweers

“England—Last undiscovered exotic outpost of World Music”—this headline, together with the colourful costumes of the Bacup Britannia Coconut Dancers from Lancashire decorated the title page of the British folk/world music magazine Folk Roots in April 1997. In his article, “This is England,” music journalist Colin Irwin went to explore the still living traditions, such as the celebration of May Day in the streets of Padstow (Cornwall) and dance performances of old-established teams like the Bampton Morris Dancers, the Abbots Bromley Horn Dancers in Staffordshire, and the above-mentioned Britannia Coconut Dancers. The latter—with their blackened faces, white skirts with red hoops, and white, feather-decorated hats—are the only, yet carefully cultivated, remnants of a tradition performed on Easter Day in the small Lancashire town of Bacup. As Irwin explained, almost apologetically, the London-based magazine has been covering music traditions from all over the world, with the exception of his native region, England, despite its apparent richness of local music traditions.
Folk Roots’s sensational headline might be exaggerated, but Irwin’s plain observation can nevertheless be transferred to the academic world of ethnomusicology as well. This volume thus investigates into a much neglected area of contemporary British music traditions (essentially all those that might be described as “non-Celtic”). 1 At the same time, the articles also highlight a few of the many facets of the expression of identity in British music. The topics range from vernacular traditions in England and the articulation of British (political) identity in Northern Ireland to the music of Caribbean immigrant cultures and the general interaction of eastern (here Punjabi) traditions and western popular music in Britain.

Sacred and Secular: Identity, Style, and Performance in Two Singing Traditions from the Pennines
Ian Russell

Although English folksong scholarship led the field in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and helped to shape the modern conception of folk music, its voice in international research has largely disappeared. Arguably the narrow time-locked definition of folk song expounded by Cecil Sharp and largely adopted by his contemporaries, which was subsequently reiterated with ideological fervour by his followers, contributed to this decline. I would suggest that the mindset engendered by his key position statements precluded a dynamic inclusive understanding of vernacular English musical traditions and their subsequent development.
In this paper I aim to compare two singing traditions which Sharp chose to exclude from his rubric; these traditions have not merely continued but flourished throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. Through the discussion, which focuses on their contemporary practice, the tensions of their differing world views will be explored as a contribution towards an understanding of the complexity of English musical identity.

Ordering Performance, Leading People: Structuring an English Folk Music Session
Jonathan P. J. Stock

English musicians speak of sessions as events of an essentially egalitarian character. While expertise is celebrated within the English tradition, sessions are viewed ideally as meeting places for the like-minded, not sites for musical domination or personal display. This case study of instrumental music making at the Wednesday night sessions of the Red House public house, Sheffield, draws perspectives from the ethnomusicological literature on leadership in performance. After introducing the repertory and performance style of sessions, the article gives an ethnographic account of the interplay of musical authority on several levels: deference is made to particular individuals; shared experience (among regular players) of the session’s customary framework provides further order; and players’ musical decisions direct yet further interactions. A well ordered performance is finally a multi-level experience that turns as much on matters of musical prestige, authority and expertise as the publicly stated notions of fellowship and equality.

Red, White, Blue and Orange: An Exploration of Historically Bound Allegiances through Loyalist Song
Katy Radford

In this article, I consider the historical processes behind an aspect of music making by staunch loyalists in Northern Ireland. The intention is to demonstrate how the Protestant sacrifice and contribution to battles and skirmishes, from the Williamite Wars to the Somme, is reflected in a canon of Orange songs. A continued exposure to this material determines and restricts what members of loyalist communities regard as their principal musical heritage. I suggest that by engaging predominantly with this mode of music making, Ulster/Northern Ireland Protestants/unionists define and capture an essential aspect of the loyalist experience, which is an allegiance to a United Kongdom embodied and personified by her Sovereign and steeped in historically based coalitions of patronage.

Imperial Legacies and the Politics of Musical Creativity
Tina K. Ramnarine

Musical performances and discourses on music have provided some of the most prominent public forums for debates centred on the politics of empire, race and nation. Caribbean communities in a postcolonial Britain have contributed to pushing against the borders of the “national” through their musical practices. Of particular interest is the way in which calypsonians have begun to describe their practice as “British folk music.” This description raises a series of questions concerning the borders of Britishness/Englishness, which will be explored in this article. While “British folk music” emphasises location, are its new performance spaces, like the Royal Opera House and the Victoria and Albert Museum, signs that Caribbean musics have found a place in the national imagination.

Shaping Diasporic Sounds: Identity as Meaning in Bhangra
Laura Leante

Bhangra originated in India as a male folk dance performed in the villages of Punjab during the harvest festivities. Following the migrations of Punjabis to Britain, a new form of bhangra, characterised by the encounter between the traditional dance and mainstream Anglo-American popular music, spread through the communities of the Indian diaspora, coming to constitute one of the means for immigrants both to identify themselves as “Punjabis in England” and to reaffirm their tradition and social values. This paper investigates the musical processes through which British bhangra is shaped, the grounds on which the appropriation of mainstream pop takes place and how bhangra contributes to the construction of diasporic identity.



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