Forbidden Folk Music is Protest Music!
I have been pondering all week about how to capture the zest and creativity that Tom and I experienced at the 2017 Folk Alliance International Conference in Kansas City last week. I don’t think I can, but maybe I can give you a taste of the music and its peoples.
The world came to Kansas City last weekend. Never would I have believed that there could have been so much talent at Crown Center. Over 1500 singers and musicians from all over the world crowded the halls and rooms of the Westin. They brought their instruments, beliefs, stories, and sounds to perhaps 3,000 concerts and showcases. We rocked, stomped, clapped, cried, and marveled at the talent. Some say that music is a drug, if so, I think we were “high” all week!
Tom and I volunteered with 350 others for the event and took a few classes at the Music Camp. Our wonderful boss was Mike Warren. We were stationed at the entrance to the exhibit hall and monitored who could go into the booths. During the day and night we would listen and experience the music, and later we met the artists going into the exhibit hall. These talented souls were so appreciative of our thoughts that it was almost shocking. They handed us CD’s and invited us to come back! By the end of the four days of volunteering we had amassed over 20 CD’s.
But we found more than talent on those stages. We found like-minded people who were troubled about what is happening to our country. I don’t think that the planners of this event could ever have imagined the hate, xenophobia, and paranoia we are now experiencing in the United States when they chose the theme of “Forbidden Folk.”
Many musicians chose to highlight the insanity that is happening all around us. Billy Bragg from the UK headlined the Sunday performances and brought us back to reality with a re-worked tune of Bob Dylan’s, “The Times They are Changing.” Billy added “back” to the end of the refrain. Here is a link to the tune that captures the regression that we are all experiencing. His performance was masterful but this clip is not strong. Listen to the words. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0K7gyTQuuls
Grant Peeples from Florida made us all sit up when he sang,
Pitchforks and Torches
Pitchforks and torches, razors and rocks
Barbwire fences ‘round empty parking lots
Sirens are screaming in a dark starless night
People loading guns and sharpening knives
Pitchforks and torches, a vulture on a wire
River’s dried up and the lake is on fire
Preachers trump teachers in information wars
Just kicking up dust and settling scores
Pitchforks and torches, a traitor’s flag waves
In a Hallelujah Nation that’s handling snakes
Friends are now foes and foes are now friends
Edging up to a ledge where the ending begins
Take um on down, take um on down
Take um on down; let the righteous reign
Take um on down, take um on down, now
Take um down; let the righteous reign
Others sang of land in Canada stolen by huge mining companies and pipelines that destroyed property for the sake of a few dollars. Maria Dunn sang about Malala the young girl who was shot on her way to school who recently received the Nobel Peace Prize.
The artists sang about love bringing people together, changing the world, and dreaming. They sang about their mothers, and washed out roads, and fence rows, the poor, farmers, the earth, tree lines, arrowheads, cotton fields, and how we have to find our own humanity somehow.
The artists kept singing that we should come together but I have never been able to come together with the righteous who think they have a right to rule the earth. I want to love and share the earth and I don’t want to rule anyone or anything!
One of the tunes that touched me the most was about swimming across the river and thinking you are going to drown. Suddenly you look around and there are a lot of other people swimming with you.
I learned this past week that music CAN bring people together. I was not prepared to experience all the wisdom about life in the tunes we heard. They gave us hope and told us that we are not alone! We are so happy to welcome folk music into our lives again!
As one bumper sticker shouts! “Sing Truth!” (Whatever that means?)
As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge