Traditional Irish Music
Is it necessary to point out what competitors are foreign? Isn't the name, club or CCE branch, or city listed at registration enough?
What do you believe is the true aim of declaring one as an foreign visitor, a traveler from America before calling them up to compete at the Fleadh Cheoil in Drogheda this year?
I will try to answer this question as best I can.
But to contextualize, I am not a US born person, and I have a thick accent, yet I am pretty good at Clawhammer Banjo.
So I know what this sort of thing is all about having been frowned at for my foreignness a few times. And realize that the modern world has created a global community of music artist 'voyeurs' who practice just one aspect of the culture of places far far removed from their homes. All of it due to Radio, TV, Movies, the Internet and so on. In fact if you want to learn how to play the Ural Nose Flute like a local, you can easily find somebody on YouTube, or Skype to teach it for a fee. Therefore I make no apology for my skill playing US Mountain Banjo. Lots of other folks from all over the globe do it too. It ain't no crime, as far as I know.
Today in Ireland people who used live in a social world where Irish Trad is a local thing, where nobody from any distance from them would have the foggiest idea how the locals play their version of Irish Trad, don't understand how folks from far far way can do it TO THEM.
Its a sort of personal identity thing, part of the Irish rural personality.
Now for a person like that to suddenly be exposed to some Chinese, or any other visitor, wiping the floor of the locals with expert performance of Irish trad on a traditional instrument is an enormous shock. And here are some possible reasons for that. The heart of the old music is in its strange off sounding notes and gentle almost obvious rhythm. The both of those reflect local sounds and goings on that are ever so central to the local life. Too the local slant on the music is informed with what is left of the Irish language, which is why in some places embellishments are so different, the accent if you like.
And here I am not talking about local musicians! But the regular everyday people that you would see in the local grocery store. Even if CCE has managed to level off many of those local bents of the music, nevertheless there persists a strong affection among the community for the outlawed oddities. It is almost as if it is a local sports team thing.
In short they don't like what you do because you are not one of them. And it would not matter if you were Dylan Foley or whomever. They will tolerate, to an extent, your presence, but there is a limit to their hospitality.
Elsewhere I have addressed some of the regrettable outbursts of a certain native Irish muso who published a stinging attack upon, as he put it, 'blowins' taking over Irish trad from the natives. It just so happens that this clown has several CDs published and sold all over the globe. My question to him is this, what did you expect? you sold these blowins your music and you got paid for it!
IOW If Irish Traditional Music is to be restricted to solely Irish natives then publishing and selling it all over the globe is a really bad way to go about it. Too, I must here add my little bit of local Irish trad spice. I am, Lord help me, a carrier of a local tradition, which contains a few odd versions of tunes and a few rare pieces. Since this current row started I got the impression that I should NOT share anymore what is unique among its keepers. The phrase that went about; 'is it safe, is it secret'?
So while there is a vast array of tunes published by CCE, among others, yet there is a body of music which is going, and gone, underground. It is a time when, like during the penal days, Irish culture is reacting to trivialization by returning to secrecy. And I have to add, I recall the tail end of it many years ago when a session was a grapevine thing that very few would be invited to, and when, if you broke the circle you'd never again be invited.
In a way, much like American Mountain Music, the locals are trying to save their unique tradition. I must finally relate that even within the USA there is an almost violent reaction to 'off' folks digging into what 'ain't none of their business'. A version of 'If You Wanna Get Your Eye Knocked Out, Then Go Up To Sugar Hill', played by a Yankee fiddler is scorned by the Southern Dixie crowd, not because it is badly played but because it is a Yankee playing it!
Can we blame them? I think not.
Thank you for the input.
The world of the Fleadh Cheoil is a law unto itself. It doesn't follow its own rules regarding performing in listed order. Competitors turn up when they feel like it mainly without a late slip so should not be allowed to play but they are. I watched many competitions over the years where the person listed to play 1st or 2nd has been down the corridor practising and came into competition room and played last and won. Not saying they didn't deserve to win but without a late slip they should not be allowed to compete in these circumstances. I complained to the Fleadh office and got a shrug of the shoulders and "what do you want us to do about it" attitude. What I want you to do is enforce your own rules - it's not rocket science. Most of these "foreigners" are immigrants and if there forebearers had not left Ireland it would be a severely overcrowded country and the money these "foreigners" sent back over to Ireland would not have happened.