2018 Folk Alliance International Conference (FAI)
“How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?”
Capturing our experiences at the FAI is almost impossible. I kept thinking about the quote above from the Sound of Music. The music was all around us like an uplifting light! Next year it is in Montreal!
Everywhere you looked musicians were carrying their instruments, sometimes three at a time. They gathered in circles talking, playing, or singing together. Like upright turtles with their guitars and bass instruments strapped to their backs they slowly muddled across the floor.
Tom and I attended no less than 18 concerts or public showcases in just three days. It was a musical overload when spliced together with 20 hours of volunteering as security at the Exhibition Hall. We would see the artists on stage and then talk to them at the door. What fun!
FAI took us on a world tour of vibrant and meaningful music. We sailed to many countries including Scotland and heard the thundering Talisk; the mysterious chanting of songs from southern Italy (Newpoli); to the heartfelt pleas of an Aborigine from Australia (Yirrmal); and the chided songs from a lesbian in New Zealand (Anika Moa). We missed Cubanisms and Rosie the Riveters!
Bagpipes called us to stand at a attention! We listened to the vibrant strings and Italian arias of Beppe Gambetta and were in awe of the all-Spanish Radio Free Honduras. Artists from 27 countries attended FAI last year.
During the times private showcases were offered, we visited the Alberta Room so we could hear one of our favorite groups, “The Wardens.” They were not part of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police but they do and did keep the peace in Canada’s National Parks of Alberta. They sang a song about how they are replenishing the Buffalo in the National Parks in Alberta, Sleeping Buffalo. In the Alaska room we caught up with a fabulous pianist Kat Moore. I could see her work sung on stage in a musical and contacted her about the idea.
Our favorite evening was spent in a session sponsored by the Blues Foundation from Memphis, Tennessee. Hands down Ruthie Foster held us spellbound with her compelling voice honoring her slave ancestry.
We danced in our seats to Chris Barnes‘ Hokum Blues set. Rita Chiarelli, a Canadian, brought us to a lonely cell in a prison where she has been working with inmates. “Four Walls” was a chilling reminder of the isolation of incarceration. Hans Theessink, an Austrian Blues player, set us straight about the appeal of the Blues all over the world. Guy Davis took us back to the early days of the Blues and channeled Sonny Terry. He was very funny!
The most spellbound and challenging concert for me was by Martha Redbone. Martha captured her African American, Cherokee-Choctaw, and Kentucky roots, by chanting the story of how the U.S. Calvary massacred 1,000 Native Americans. She even sang in the language of the Cherokee. I related to her tunes because I am one quarter Cherokee. My mother grew up in Kentucky not far from Martha’s roots and lived in abject poverty as a child. See, Life Everlasting and the Twelve Mile Blues.
Our own Kansas City group, Victor & Penny and the Loose Change Orchestra deserves a standing ovation. Like so many other groups we heard, they have resurrected tunes from the early 20th century and put a modern spin on them. They were fantastic and made Kansas City proud!
The conference itself is a feast not only for the ears but also for the mind and eyes. People were dressed in period costumes or not much at all. Hair was a myriad of colors. I envied the males who had long curly hair streaming down their backs. It seemed as if everyone wore a hat from cowboy types to dainty little diddies with a feather on top.
FAI is more than a music festival. It offers opportunities for participants to engage in issues related to their fields through discussion panels (70 of them) staffed by professionals. FAI also offers a health fair with hearing, vision, blood, etc. screenings. It helps to support musicians/artists with access to agents, advice on planning a career, and legal issues! There were even sessions that evaluated tunes developed by artists.
We were constantly reminded that music can change lives, reveal lives, and heal lives.
It can create underground movements and many of those tunes pointed out the devastation to people that the current administration has caused.
I kept wishing that someone would create a tune that we could all sing together that would force the politicians to do the “RIGHT” thing! It could happen!
We need to sing truth!
Tom has encouraged me to place a list of my recent publications at the bottom of my blogs. I hope this does not distract from the fun you might have reading our thoughts.
As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge
Below are only a few of the books I have published since retirement! I will add more to the next blog! Alaska. More Than An Adventure will be published soon!