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Aug 14, 2020 - 8:10:55 PM
545 posts since 8/10/2017

I received this email yesterday:

Your weekly, southern-style fiddling summer sessions is an outstanding
example of white privilege. Astonishingly, your self-proclaimed entitlement
and self-importance is hardly warranted since your genre has extremely
limited appeal. Perhaps, it helps white supremacist reminisce about making
America great again.

No other group of people do what you do. I know. Having worked and lived
adjacent to Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden for over 15-years and an
additional 11-years in the immediate area, I can attest to the squeaky,
irritatingly noisiness of your fiddling ‘jam’ sessions. You can’t avoid
it. The high pitched noise commandeers the entire area and surrounding
neighborhood for more than three hours. Some nights it goes well past the 1/2
hour permitted after sundown.

Your continuing public sessions display an insensitivity to the current
historical changes due to the BLM movement, the protests over the murder of
George Floyd, and the symbols of the confederacy being removed or banned. Our
civic transformation is coupled with concerns over the pandemic requiring
people not to congregate in public. Your group is the only one playing in
Alice Keck, which sends a terrible and selfish message. Even wearing masks
doesn’t hide your self-righteous arrogance.

In my humble opinion, you should seriously consider moving your jam sessions
to a private location.
 

This seems a little bit ignorant to me given the music is a fusion of music from African American (free and enslaved) and Scots-Irish immigrants and forms the roots of American popular music. Is there anyone here who is a person of color who has an opinion on this?

I've considered my participation in the jam to be extremely positive for my own sense of belonging and being involved in the larger community doing something positive for other people. This lady seems pretty isolated to be fuming away for over 15 years and going out of her way to figure out how to anonymously send us an email rant.

I'm certainly not going to stop because of her. She was a coward who left this message with a bogus email address that bounced. Still, do you think playing old-time music perpetuates racism?

Aug 14, 2020 - 8:29:19 PM
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1797 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by sbhikes2

I received this email yesterday:

Your weekly, southern-style fiddling summer sessions is an outstanding
example of white privilege. Astonishingly, your self-proclaimed entitlement
and self-importance is hardly warranted since your genre has extremely
limited appeal. Perhaps, it helps white supremacist reminisce about making
America great again.
 


Pretty outrageous and ignorant, with hugely inflated self-importance. If you can just ignore it I would do that. There are a lot of people discovering their own sense of importance through the internet these days, and no need to encourage them. This person seems to be dealing with a very personal issue and wouldn't seem to represent squat. Strange times.

Aug 14, 2020 - 8:42:56 PM
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4847 posts since 9/26/2008

There is an undercurrent of this floating around on FB and BHO. Not sure what I think of it either. I read a fella's statement that if he hears Turkey in the Straw, he will tell them not to play it because it has racist roots... I'm just not feeling this current outrage-about-everything phase the kids are going through.

Aug 14, 2020 - 9:47:19 PM
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1797 posts since 8/27/2008

There’re generally two aspects to this social trend from what I see. Social shaming from people blown up with self-importance, and virtue signaling from people demonstrating piety. God save us from it all.

Aug 14, 2020 - 10:18:46 PM
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Tyler94

USA

81 posts since 7/21/2019

The most offensive part was that they called it squeaky. Call me a bastard if you want, but I work endlessly on my tone! Hmph

Aug 15, 2020 - 12:48:33 AM
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10 posts since 5/17/2013

For 15 years this person with no spine has listened, becoming more and more upset yet never wished to talk about their problem with any of your group?
This sounds like one of the bot groups stirring any kind of trouble that they can, particularly to cause racial and political division.
Try playing russian music or just waiting until after November. This does not sound like a real person.
How do you hope to get past all that screeching noise if you don't keep jamming?
(Sorry but I can't find the smiley icons.)

Aug 15, 2020 - 5:03:19 AM
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11262 posts since 9/23/2009
Online Now

I would seriously like a civil discussion with anyone who feels the way the author of this letter does. I accept white privilege, although in my own case, I have been underemployed and underpayed (moved up here to get 5.36 an hour for a job I had to work almost 80 hours a week for to get only my 40 hour pay, plus insurance for the first time for our family, etc., then found out the local teenagers made more seving fast food than I, hired supposedly because of my education and previous experience, etc...I mean...yeah, I'm white and I acknowledge the long-standing racial issues in our country's history...how reconstruction just never worked, there was no follow through, etc. I do acknowledge all of that and think it's flatout immoral and wrong. But when they hired me, they hired a desperate and impoverished sucker...lol...although things are good as a result, because otherwise we would never have seen the possibility of retirement)...all of my life...never made it to 10 dollars an hour until 2008...so I'm not whining, but saying my own case might be unusal for white people, yet I know of plenty who we are still trying to reach out and help because of abject poverty and hardship. Yet, as a race, whites are privileged and don't have police being suspicious of them all the time and all the other difficulties. I'm all for BLM. I think it should have happened during Civil War Reconstruction...we are overdue.

But my discussion I would like to sit down and have with this author. The reasons are many. But music is just music...where it came from, where a lot of it came from, is atrocious. Yet, the music itself is so involved, on its own, simple and complex at the same time...folk music in that anyone can learn to play it, but great musicians can play it like no one else, adding all sorts of musical possibilities the music itself is open to. This has nothing to do with race, or suppression of anyone. I'd like to sit down and discuss this with a fiddle or banjo in my hand.

Some of the banjo and fiddle styles of playing were invented by slaves, carrying over some African traditions and blending it with European traditions...makes very good music.

I can understand some people can't stand certain types of music. I'm that way about most music...I really can't stand to hear most music...it seems so ugly and un-musical, even sort of more commercial-oriented and lyrics often pandering to some philosophy or another. The poetry of the lyrics plus the music can be very moving...whether some hate it or some love it.

In my own case...I often worry about the Ky state song...Stephen Foster's My Old KY Home. In my opinion, one of the most beautiful pieces of folk style music ever written. Fortunately, although the lyrics originally described a slave family in KY who knew that once hard times came to the farm where they were enslaved, they could then likely be sold down river, family broken apart, and where they would likely be worked to death before long, fortunately, early on people realized the lyrics would cause discomfort for many and they've been reworked several times. So the words sort of don't make a lot of sense out of context, but it's not slavery anybody should be listening for in that song...it's jsut the beauty of the song, and growing up mostly in KY, anyone who did, the memories of your family and friends and the beauty of your surroundings...the music and existing lyrics that can make sense express a love of your geographical and emotional space here in KY. Yet there is the controversy, and it could be removed at some point or other as unfit for a state song. I get that. But the music is so beautiful, and with poverty or whatever, I have loved my KY experiences and I don't think there would be any other place on this earth I could love as much.

Turkey in the Straw is just fun melody at this point in time. There might be crazy supremicist people who would like to engage in the old shows that were so demeaning and hurtful...but most fiddlers I've seen just like the energy and craziness of the music and what they can do with it with a fiddle in their hands.

Well, anyway...I'm just rambling...can't get my words together on this. But I would love an upfront discussion on this. I agree the confederate flag and heroes would be like forcing Jewish children to go to a school, park, or courthouse bearing the name of Hitler and flying a Nazi flag alongside the American flag...it's hurtful and there's no sense in continuing that sort of thing. But music doesn't stand for anything...words might...change the words and protect the tunes.

Aug 15, 2020 - 6:07:29 AM
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Baileyb

USA

35 posts since 1/24/2019

Sounds like an email from a CAVE ( Citizens Against Virtually Everything ) person.

How do you know its a female that authored the email?

Years ago (70's) my step brothers had a very popular rock/blues band and they would have a practice once a week at the local park in the early evenings. The occasion drew a lot of people to the park.

Unfortunatly for them the mayor of the village lived across the street that the park was located in and did not like rock/blues music. So he used the excuse that his son could not do his school home work when the band played and put a stop to their playing in the park.

I wouldn't pay this person any mind unless there was a threat made, then I would report the incident to the local authorities.

Aug 15, 2020 - 6:43:48 AM
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545 posts since 8/10/2017

I would appreciate a good-faith discussion of this.

I understand that much of the music has racist lyrics. But the melodies themselves, the I IV V chord progressions, the rhythms and everything are present in so many cultures throughout the world. The songs we sung from our Lutheran Hymnals were not dissimilar. It is like speech. You can often recognize a great uplifting oratory or an angry screed just by the cadence and quality of the speaking and the response of the listeners even when you can't understand the language. The lyrics are not integral to the music. In fact, I know very few of the lyrics.

I understand also that a lot of racists played this music historically and still today. But a lot of other people play and have played this music too. And racists also do a lot of other cultural things we all do, like watch the same TV shows and participate in sports.

The United States has operated with a racial caste structure its entire history. What perpetuates it? Fiddle tunes? White tears and sanctimony? Economic incentives to pay people poverty wages? Encouragement for impoverished people to fight each other over artificial scarcities of resources like education, healthcare and jobs?

We draw small crowds in the park. They enjoy the music. There are people who know we do it every week so they come and have a picnic. There are also passersby who are surprised and have never seen a group of people put on a free show of acoustic instruments, some of which they have never seen before, and played not in a professional manner where we face an audience and perform but in a manner where we are just doing it for the fun of it only. Some are even moved to dance. Sometimes we get tourists who snap photos of this authentic American culture like we're a human zoo.

Reducing the music all down to the worst aspect of its history loses a lot of what is really going on here in my opinion. What kind of music could we play that didn't have a tinge of privilege or racism attached? Religious music? What religion is without its own history of conquest? Jazz? Please, we have no talent for that. Rock music? Sorry not free of American racism. Rap? What do you expect from people mostly in their 50s - 80s? Shape notes? I'm sorry but I'm pretty sure that's a cult. (I'm kidding. Or am I??)

Anyway, I participate a little bit in SURJ, I support BLM, (I think the outpouring of white support for it is due in part not just to the shock of watching George Floyd gruesomely die on camera but to the realization that all of us are disposable to the ruling class who intends to survive climate change by hoarding resources and killing us all off through banal 'policy'), I loved all my college classes reading Sandra Cisneros, Maya Angelou, Angela Davis, bell hooks and all the rest. I am not afraid to be challenged on racism. I don't agree with the premise in the email but I am willing to listen if someone agrees with her.

Aug 15, 2020 - 6:45:18 AM
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545 posts since 8/10/2017

P.S. I believe the person is a female because they sent their name in the email. I omitted that here. And also not long ago a lady came to the park to yell at us with much the same story about how she's lived in the neighborhood a long time and can't stand the music. She demanded to know if we had a permit. We've called her the "permit lady" ever since.

Aug 15, 2020 - 7:21:55 AM
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bf

USA

8 posts since 12/25/2016

Thank you for starting this dialogue. I believe the article chickenman referenced is “Breaking Down the Legacy of Race in Traditional Music in America” found on NPR.
https://www.npr.org/2020/07/25/895112760/breaking-down-the-legacy-of-race-in-traditional-music-in-america

Another older article on NPR titled “Recall That Ice Cream Truck Song? We Have Unpleasant News For You“ goes into the appropriation of Turkey in the Straw by the minstrel tradition, and the popularization of Zip C**n.

https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2014/05/11/310708342/recall-that-ice-cream-truck-song-we-have-unpleasant-news-for-you

Knowing this aspect of Turkey in the Straw, and recognizing its role in solidifying it in the memory of public culture, one can certainly understand how the tune could bring thoughts and memories with a lot of baggage to the forefront of one’s mind as Jake describes in “ Breaking Down The Legacy Of Race In Traditional Music In America”.

I continue to identify, recognizing, and explore my thought and feelings on the matter. I know that for me, trying to set aside the history and context, removing it from the music doesn’t sit right with me. It is sad to see a loss of part of traditional cannon, but at this point I’m thinking it is important that inclusion of tunes with complex racial pasts at a minimum include discussion and recognition of those complexities. I also recognize that these types of tunes can be a trigger for many, that there are many tunes to be enjoyed that do not have baggage of this weight associated with them, and that one could enjoy many sessions without the need to include this repertoire.

I also feel there is a danger of in packing these things away, never to see fresh air again, that promotes a forgetfulness that is unhealthy. Understanding and dealing with history hopefully informs our choices of the future. Despite The Holocaust being a personally powerful and painful subject, I found both The Violins of Hope as well as The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to be extremely powerful and moving. There is an importance to be found in recognizing and confronting our past.

In the case of the OP’s letter, I would be careful in a casual dismissal based on inaccuracies or a lack of elegance in it’s presentation. Choosing to lean into the discomfort might lead to conversation and thought that allow us to grow as individuals and as a culture.

Clearly I am continuing to process my thoughts on these topics.

Edited by - bf on 08/15/2020 07:24:10

Aug 15, 2020 - 8:47:31 AM
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DougD

USA

9768 posts since 12/2/2007
Online Now

Oddly, after I read your post this morning I heard a piece on NPR about Good Humor replacing "Turkey in the Straw" on their ice cream trucks with a new tune composed by RZA of Wu-Tang clan, similar to this story: today.com/food/wu-tang-clan-s-...k-t189391
Not sure how effective this will be, since apparently they no longer own any ice cream trucks.
This topic deserves some serious discussion, which I don't have time for right now. I do have a recording of "Turkey in the Straw" on my music page here, which you'd better listen to now before I put it back in the archive!

Aug 15, 2020 - 9:17:05 AM

8716 posts since 3/19/2009
Online Now

Recently a guy was going to write down the name of a tune I'd just played because he had made a recording of it. "Hey, what's the name of that tune?"..I replied, "Indian ate the Woodchuck.".. He said .."Can't use that name.. it's offensive to Indians."..Great.. Now we gotta change the name of our State..Indiana........
In our town they are trying to change the name of "DIXIE" street.. because some people find it offensive...in that it eludes to the area where there was slavery...
Something is in the air........

Edited by - TuneWeaver on 08/15/2020 09:17:59

Aug 15, 2020 - 9:34:31 AM

4847 posts since 9/26/2008

Dixie is a girl's name laugh??????

 

FYI smileys are under the "rich text" tab. I think plain text is the default. 

Aug 15, 2020 - 3:43:36 PM

545 posts since 8/10/2017

Well fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, none of us can play Turkey in the Straw. What if we all learned this version? Does it, too, have a troubled past?

Aug 15, 2020 - 3:58:43 PM
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Tyler94

USA

81 posts since 7/21/2019

quote:
Originally posted by sbhikes2

Well fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, none of us can play Turkey in the Straw. What if we all learned this version? Does it, too, have a troubled past?


The usage of that minor musical slur (err chord) offends me quite deeply

Aug 15, 2020 - 4:08:57 PM
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545 posts since 8/10/2017

It's like the pensive, minor version of Turkey in the Straw.

Aug 15, 2020 - 5:13:07 PM
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DougD

USA

9768 posts since 12/2/2007
Online Now

What do you mean "Well fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, none of us can play Turkey in the Straw?" Do you mean you don't know it, or its too hard for you?
I can play it, and will, if I feel like it.

Aug 15, 2020 - 6:58:40 PM

11262 posts since 9/23/2009
Online Now

This could be a problem. I don't want people associating me with racism or hatred, but I love the old tunes. I don't care what the words are for...just a way to make music with my voice while I sing. Heck, someone could argue old ballads are anti-women, because the woman usually gets murdered...I mean, I don't care about that. I just love the music for the music. But I don't wanna be offensive or hurt someone else with my choice of music...I kinda figured this was coming, too.

Aug 15, 2020 - 6:59:32 PM

11262 posts since 9/23/2009
Online Now

Lee, you might end up living in Native-Amerianna.

Aug 15, 2020 - 7:08:33 PM

8716 posts since 3/19/2009
Online Now

Peggy, it gets worse.. Now I discover that Amerigo Vespucci, who AMERICA was named after ...had 5 household slaves.... That changes everything!!! What next.!!! Now we gotta change the name of America..

Aug 15, 2020 - 7:54:18 PM

gapbob

USA

709 posts since 4/20/2008
Online Now

Everything we do is contaminated by our pasts. If you go far enough back, we have all suffered at the hands of another.

Having friends play in the park isn't a political statement, though being cautious about racist lyrics is a good idea.

I would imagine this person has already complained to the parks department.

Aug 15, 2020 - 10:16:14 PM
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Old Scratch

Canada

613 posts since 6/22/2016

I would imagine the parks department has a special file for this person's complaints .......

Aug 16, 2020 - 4:06:44 AM
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169 posts since 4/15/2019

My great great Grandfather came here from Ireland and married a Shawnee Indian. At one time in history my people were not allowed to walk down the street with the rest of you'all. But that is just the way it was back then and a lot of good people died to change all that! Thank God! And I think America is a great country to live in. I just hope we get thru all this utter nonsense without totally destroying this country of ours!

Aug 16, 2020 - 6:07:43 AM
Players Union Member

carlb

USA

2253 posts since 2/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by bf

Thank you for starting this dialogue. I believe the article chickenman referenced is “Breaking Down the Legacy of Race in Traditional Music in America” found on NPR.
https://www.npr.org/2020/07/25/895112760/breaking-down-the-legacy-of-race-in-traditional-music-in-america

 

Excellent.

Aug 16, 2020 - 6:26:17 AM

135 posts since 11/24/2018

quote:
Originally posted by groundhogpeggy

This could be a problem. I don't want people associating me with racism or hatred, but I love the old tunes. I don't care what the words are for...just a way to make music with my voice while I sing. Heck, someone could argue old ballads are anti-women, because the woman usually gets murdered...I mean, I don't care about that. I just love the music for the music. But I don't wanna be offensive or hurt someone else with my choice of music...I kinda figured this was coming, too.


 I haven't really looked into the Turkey in the Straw controversy. I know that it has an ugly past in minstrelsy, but I was under the impression that the melody predates minstrelsy and the ugly lyrics were added afterwards. 

On the Hammons Family CD released by Rounder Records, one the Hammons' (don't recall which one) tells the story about how a mysterious figure appeared to him in the night and played Turkey in the Straw and the next morning he set out to learn it exactly as played by the supernatural being. He didn't pick up the tune for racist reasons, it was just a popular melody that he said a ghost taught him.

Other than old-time music, the musical genre I listen to most frequently is without a doubt hip-hop (still probably like a 90-10 ratio though lol). I love the creativity that goes behind making beats and the quickness of the rhymes and so on. That being said, most of the lyrics are steeped in misogyny and violence and a racist word comes up many times over the course of one tune - although the context is different. And yet, it is an extremely popular genre and the industry makes billions of dollars per year.

I guess that I kind of just assume that most people think that old-time music is old and backwards anyway, so I don't really try and overthink things.

Edited by - Hoodoo on 08/16/2020 06:26:55

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