What Would Alan Lomax Say...
Well,... I have been witnessing the slow death of folk music, in many places, been on islands where old people played music from the 17th century and older, while old people danced equally ancient steps ... and now those islands young people play lounge lizard music, American pop, while old people do Texas line dancing. So what?
If you ask so what, you weren't there ... in places with long memories.
A pub in New York, called Puck Fair.
One of the finest novelists of today wrote a wonderful book, with great sense of the inside outlook of Romany people. He had a big party thrown at Puck Fair. The Gypsy Kings where playing, and he asked me to go home and get my guitar, to come back and play a song I had written, within the tradition of my singing ... so, at the break he asked me to go on stage and play. I did. A friend of mine, Antonio was playing with two members of the Gypsy Kings. I embraced them and greeted them in Vlax Romaness, and they embraced me in Gitano. I sat down, and a number of people in the pub, who had heard me before clapped. I tuned, arraigned the mics and motioned to the bar tender to turn off the CD ... loud rock and roll.
The owner came up and said that this was not an open session. I explained that Colum, the writer for whom the party was being thrown asked me to sing. He told me that the Gypsy Kings would walk out if he allowed me to sing. I told him that Gypsy people were not like that. He said, they were big stars, signed with a big label and I was a nobody, and it was rude of me not to have asked him first, if I might play.
What has become of our music? In my oh, too many years, I have played for many parties in pubs, I have opened for many big folk stars with big contracts with big labels. In past days, in folk music, it was understood that the Gypsy Kings are only the ones noticed by the pop culture, but that the folk tradition is the nobodies like myself, whose songs are often recorded by bigger bands, as mine have been ... we are the ones who are caught for free in field recordings and archived, as I have been ... we once were the people.
But, as Alan Lomax said of modern mass communication, it is a one-way conversation. Those with the money enough to own the media talk to the those who can afford the small price of the receiver. Such is not about communication, it is about silence, silence of the folk, most of us ... the voices of the people, most of whom are nobodies like myself.
I perform less and less, and see, very soon a day, when it is just too sad to get out on a stage.
And they have the nerve to call the pub, "Puck Fair," well, who could have been to the real Puck Fair and act like that? Damned if I know.