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13 f Ranting & Reeling I

had a couple of ideas for columns this month. That’s a twofold increase on the amount of ideas I normally have at this stage in the writing pro- cess. One idea was about how stressful I found voting in this year’s fRoots Critics Poll. The albums I’ve enjoyed this year were mostly released in 2014 but I hadn’t got around to listening to them until now. And so it follows that I won’t really be able to judge 2015’s releases until this time next year. In the end I looked down the spines of the CDs I’ve yet to put on the shelf and voted for the ones I remem- bered enjoying. Only in doing so I missed some that I only owned in digital formats, making a mockery of the entire process. So for that reason I can’t be sure that the result of the fRoots Critics Poll really is the correct one. Democracy has failed us.

The other idea I had was to write about Sandi Thom. Sandi is a Scottish musician who scored a number one single with the song I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker (With Flowers in My Hair). She came to prominence after it was reported that Sandi had independently generated a colossal fanbase due to concerts she was webcasting from her basement. A claim

that was later debunked as hype. Still, it worked. But Sandi was back in the news this month after she posted a tearful out- burst at what she saw as Radio 2’s refusal to play her new single. She was upset because she claimed to have written a song that “fits their format”.

While the Internet sniggered, what was interesting to me was how many artists sympathised. They too felt exclud- ed from the Radio 2 playlist despite play- ing what they believed to be ‘the game’. But it’s not a musician’s right to be played on the radio (particularly a musician whose last album sold 435 copies). Given the hundreds of songs released every month, how would it even be possible? Would it be a better system if the nation’s most listened-to station simply played everything it’s sent on Monday and let the public vote for what they’d like to hear for the rest of the week? Oh hang on. That is a better system. Democracy has failed us.

And then the terrible events of November 13th took place and… what can I write now that’s of any value? I don’t know enough about Middle Eastern poli-

tics and I don’t understand the origins of the Daesh terrorist group. I do music and stupid jokes. I am trivial for a living.

But I just

read a quote from the satiri- cal chat show

host Stephen Colbert which said: “Any- thing that is an attempt at human connec- tion in the world is positive. Did you get up this morning and not try to kill some- one? Then you’re on the right side.”

So today I rejoice in the records good and bad, no matter when they came out. And I give thanks for the artists who made them, no matter how entitled they may appear. Because I live in a country where the freedom to be trivial without fear of persecution or death is considered so important it’s protected by law. Democracy hasn’t failed us.

Tim Chipping

greens, to keep the art box tidy and your writing neat. Gold stars are hard won. Though when I was little it wasn’t a gold star that was the glittering prize but a Blue Peter badge. How I longed for that recognition, that proof of my worth as a human being for my ability to perhaps make a heated kennel for the dog or a fully operational electricity sub-station from a couple of coat hangers, a cereal box and the inside of a loo roll. But hav- ing never worked out that ‘sticky-back- plastic’ was in fact code for ‘Sellotape’, I was destined to remain outside the warm circle of the pre-teen creative intelli- gentsia, a failure before the age of seven.

I did eventually get my much coveted award due to a chance appearance on Top Of The Pops when a kindly floor manager, learning of this crippling blight on my self- esteem and subsequent life went and fetched me a Blue Peter badge from some secret stash at the BBC. I wondered if I’d truly earned it and he sweetly said playing on Top Of The Pops definitely counted. So, slowly, I could start to rebuild my shattered sense of self-worth. It’s still a work in

The Elusive Ethnomusicologist G

old stars and badges mean a lot. Ask any five-year-old. It’s diffi- cult to keep silent in the queue for lunch and then eat your

progress, so don’t even start on your Legion d’Honneurs, Nobel or Pulitzer Prizes, Olympic gold medals or English Folk Dance & Song Society gold badges – though I’m happy to report I was at least asked to a recent award ceremony for the latter.

To get his EFDSS gold star pinned to his chest by (as Ben Mandelson put it so perfectly in his charming and funny cita- tion) the “Divine Shirley” (Collins, obvs!), Ian Anderson had to work for 36 years putting this magazine out without miss- ing a single publication, making distant cultures and our own seem less ‘other’ and facilitating cross-cultural under- standing. He had to transform his gangly teenage self from a Somerset guitar- twanging boy into a simulacrum of an old Mississippi blues man: run folk and blues clubs, create and play in various bands, organise tours and events, become a record producer, label boss and broad- caster – and hail from a family from whom Cecil Sharp and Ralph Vaughan Williams collected songs in the early 1900s (a fact his mum had failed to men- tion until quite late in life).

In a warm, intimate celebration in the bar at Cecil Sharp House, after a fine introduction to the proceedings from EFDSS Chairman Alan James and Ben’s

brilliant speech, Ian Anderson got down on one knee and the wonderful Shirley pinned the well-

deserved gold badge on his lapel. Then, accompanied by Ben and Ian Kearey, she

sang him her famous Death And The Lady in the style of Muddy Waters, or perhaps Mississippi Fred McDowell whom she helped bring to the world’s attention when she and Alan Lomax ‘discovered’ and recorded him in 1959.

For it was first hearing those two blues greats that tipped Mr Anderson’s Weston-super-Mare world on its head and himself out of a future in accountancy onto the winding path that led to that lovely ceremony in Cecil Sharp House on an unseasonably warm day this October, 2015. An EFDSS gold badge, even harder to win than one from Blue Peter. It was a privilege to be there.

Elizabeth Kinder

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