Traditional Irish Music
Lately here in the south, USA, Irish music is hitting the inevitable wall of depreciating skill acquisition due to old guys, and gals, learning the Fiddle at the same time as learning Irish Traditional Music.
Its not so much that the crowds have too much of it, as that they are tired of being tired out by really bad Fiddle scratching, and so are gone off to other genres where young skilled American musicians are busy reviving their own Traditional thing.
I know, I know, a lot of nice people's feelings may be hurt here, but Jayzus what about my Irish feelings being murdered by fecked up Irtrad?
Even so, and assuming there is one or two folks at these events, there usually isn't any these days, that has a clue and a Flute or a TW , or even a Box, that knows how to play it, the night may be saved from utter waste by a couple of nice tunes.
But there are always thumpers with frame drums, Bodhrans to those who prefer that label, eager to impress on the walls of the unfortunate empty room just how great they are at imagining how tunes should have been played. But who's counting? not me. However when it comes to common time or triple time beating these folks aren't up to much. More like a rapper with a tapper!
Next at these events we have the ever present shlather of Guitar players, sometimes there will be three or four for every Fiddler scratcher. And these have the tendency to break out in song, no matter how good or bad their voice, or their memory - some cannot keep the words even close to the original never mind rhyming the lines- forcing the unfortunate audience to listen to the bawling, or crowing of some omadahn.
It had to happen, sooner or later, that some of these geniuses would realize that one way to correct bad timing of their wannabe Fiddle playing can be achieved by learning the tunes on another instrument.
Now it may appear to you the reader, and certainly to them, that listening to professional Irtrad bands, which means native Irish 99% of the time, employing the Banjo provides a neat solution to the problem of scratchy old men and women murdering Irish traditional music.
To wit, all that they need do is change instrument, and buy a Banjo. It should be as easy as the Fiddle, after all, have they not been Fiddlers for decades? And so I find in some of the few dying sessions over here these days the arrival of people with Banjos instead of Fiddles.
However, and this is the thesis of my outpouring here this evening, these brave strummers sound no better on a Banjo than on a Fiddle.
Eventhough I have many a time been thoroughly entertained by American Banjo playing this is another kind of thing altogether. We are talking 4 string Tenor Banjos strummed by folks who are, in their own minds, Barney McKenna (RIP).
The fact that they just don't know the music at all makes this all the more annoying, for their attempts to 'read'/play the music gives it a sort of hesitancy like the hand of a drunk attempting to catch a falling beer bottle. It is nearly funny but not quite, a sort of sad shadow on the wall of reality that cannot quite get through to its audience.
So my question is this, when the Banjo is so employed by so many doing the same thing with it, does it follow the fate of the Lagerphone and NoseTrumpet into the category of un-musical instruments?
There are many accomplished banjo players in the Irish Music scene both at home in Ireland and here in the US, many that I am happy to call friends.
I take it by your comments that you yourself are an accomplished musician and critic of others ability to play, or not.
Open Sessions in pubs are not concert halls where you are paying $20,$30 or $50 a ticket to hear fabulous entertainers. These are for the average Joe to sit in and be a part of the music and the culture.
They should be welcomed and not discouraged by high brow "accomplished " musicians, who should probably be on the road going from venue to venue delighting the masses rather having to put up with the riff raff in a pub session.
Dennis Gallery said:
"There are.....in a pub session. "
Not talking about people who already play the Banjo, but about the sort that suddenly add it to their tool kit when, eventually, they realize that their fiddling is never going to be anything other than empty, dead, soulless, drivel.
You mention Irish immigrant players, I am not taking about those either. In fact I know only too well how skilled these are having myself played for 2 years in a folk band which has two Irish tenor banjo players.
The hearsay, theysay world of Irish music camps and retreats is emboldening a new trend in self important experts on Irtrad. Even the odd one that learns at local sessions, such as they are, tend to be somewhat amazed at their own expertise.
If the scratchy old guys and gals don't kill it off, then these feckers will.
I see one Canadian wit reports about CCE here in the Americas, ' Cultass is not saving Irish Traditional Folk Music, it is smothering it in crap' . It seems the disease is now global.
In the meantime while we the rest of the community recover from nights of ear shredding rubbish, it is now far wiser to follow the new modus vivandi of Irish Folk Music, as Gandalf in LOTR puts it,
"is it secret, is it safe"
IOW we are not sharing anymore in order to keep something unsullied and pure for our offspring.