Study of Traditional music…

Study of Traditional music…

This came up on another thread, was told that it should be the basis for a new thread, not at all helpful to the OP. So, here it is:
(Yes, I know how to post a discussion)
I have the Ravi Shankar book, My Music, My Life, with an Introduction by Yehudi Menuhin.
Interesting excerpt:
"Many people have asked me if one must read, absorb, learn, and know about India’s religions, philosophies, and spiritual atmosphere, or even come to India to visit and travel in order to understand our music, let alone play it. To this I would say yes, all this is necessary since our music is so closely connected to the complete unfolding of India’s history and development. Should one want to become a performing artist of Indian music, this study is even more important. Without intense study of our traditions and culture, the music would appear false and synthetic." RS: MMML, p9.
Can one insert "Ireland" for "India;" does the idea transfer to ITM?

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I suspect one can insert any type of music - to play it convincingly requires a certain amount of immersion in the culture that produced it. That’s why pop music from continental Europe or Japan always sounds a bit rubbish if you’ve grown up listening to the UK or US versions.

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Can you really absorb a tradition by simply reading about, or even experiencing it? You may come to understand it better &, in terms of music, play it better - but can it really come from the soul, the essence of real tradition….an emotion. However, I believe that an innate tradition can be cross-cultural. An understanding of tradition can lead you a long way down the path of culture that is not your own. Take the young, Danish band Kasir; I have mentioned them before on this site. Although the Bodhran player is half Irish the whole band plays with a fire that can only from a feeling for tradition – even if it is not entirely their own.

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Absolutely. You have to go to where the music is. Unless of course, the music has come to you. Like if you live in Chicago for example, the idea that you will never be able to play Irish music unless you go to Ireland is preposterous.

Though as for learning Irish religions and philosophies? Ha ha ha.

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ah, llig, you make me smile. Thanks!

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I’ve often wondered why someone would want to learn a particular Traditional musical form if they weren’t of the culture, interested in studying the wider culture, (not just the music) or both.

I mean, more power to ya, but to go and study a music from a culture I have no connection to holds no appeal for me personally, which makes it hard for me to understand. The fact that I’m Irish-American and I have ancestors who played the music bonds and binds me to it in a very pleasing and satisfying way. For me it’s all tied together into the local cultural club, feeble attempts to learn the language, study of folklore, history, making sure my children understand and are aware of their heritage, and so on.

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I absolutely believe that you should at least be completely absorbed in Ireland’s one, true religion.

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Sure you can play the music, play it well, play it to the enjoyment of others whatever your heritage.
But there are very few bands out there who really grab my attention unless they are playing from their own cultural heritage – whatever country it is from. There just has to be a spark that brings that unexplainable depth of feeling – like I said before, it’s an emotion that transcends technique. If I studied Indian culture for the rest of my life I would only ever be a pupil – never the master.

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Ben, do you mean Guinness? 🙂

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Huh. SWFL Fiddler provides an interesting perspective. I guess I would consider myself an Irish American too, but my heritage is 6 generations back and somewhat diluted. My interest is mostly that I love the music and the history of it and Ireland.

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I’m sure ben means the sauce. 😉

Yeah whistler gan ainm, but why not Bulgarian traditional music? Why not Mexican trad? Because of who you are and what your ethnic background is, I’d wager. You’re not interested in the music and history of Bulgaria or Mexico because that’s not what your heritage is, for example.

Though as a species we’ve advanced long beyond ancestor worship those feelings are still with us. Connection to the past is very important for humans.

All animals have genetic memory. Birds are born knowing where to migrate to, etc. Why we think humans don’t also have it is a puzzle to me.

Actually, forget all that. It’s just some tunes. [/sarcasm]

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I think it’s a bit extreme to say that you can’t learn to play a form of traditional music well if you aren’t a part of the culture that it came from. I think that you can learn to play the music fairly well by studying the music itself: everything you need to know about playing the music is in the music.

Is it impossible to write sonnets correctly if you aren’t European? I mean, come on now.

Growing up in the tradition gives one an obvious advantage over everyone else just because you’ve been immersed in the music since the cradle. And visiting the source and learning the culture likewise gives an advantage because it helps you understand the music more deeply and gives you a better perspective of it.

But just because it helps to study the wider culture does not really mean that it’s absolutely essential. The catch, of course, is that if you come at the music from the music alone you have to spend many years carefully listening to the music, and even then you’ll still probably never be as good at it as someone brought up in the tradition.

As for cultural roots, my grandfather was Irish and most of the rest of my ancestry is Scots-Irish, but I don’t consider myself to be "Irish" in any way…I’m a typical American Southerner.

I don’t think that having Irish blood means squat in this context, it’s all about the culture you are in. Having Irish ancestors hasn’t helped me play trad one bit, because I didn’t grow up in that culture. Someone with no Irish blood at all who grows up in Ireland, however, has all the benefits of Irish culture and all the advantages in playing the music.

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Oh, and I didn’t get into Irish trad to get closer to my "roots" or anything like that. I came to Irish trad because it is the best music to play.

I listened to many different types of fiddle music when I decided to take up fiddle, and Ireland just happens to have the best fiddle tradition in the world 🙂

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Ah, the life unexamined.

…and Mr. Screetch, why is it that you suppose you think that way about Irish fiddling, "the best fiddle tradition in the world" in your words? Your Latvian-American ethnic background, perhaps? 😉

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Well, the way it sounds? The fact that it is one of the most highly developed and well-preserved fiddle traditions in the world?

If I were truly concerned about playing the music of my ethnic/cultural background, I’d be playing Appalachian music. But I don’t like that stuff as well as I like Irish trad.

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I find one thing leads to another—-I liked the music, then started studying the history, the literature, the politics—-but I’m the curious type, that’s how my mind works. I even tried learning Scots Gaelic for a time, but didn’t have any opportunities to speak it, so that wasn’t so successful. Now, the language would have been *most* helpful with the music—-with slow airs, obviously, but even just in the speech rhythms. I see all the cultural elements as part of a whole.

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Is studying Donal Lunny’s hair enough?

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That’s my point. You like it better because it sounds better, but why does it sound better to you? Your feelings are just unexamined, which is fine, not everyone needs to, however I like to examine mine and understand why. Philosophy isn’t for everyone. [shrug]

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Sorry, last post to Mr. Screetch there.

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You studied Donal Lunny’s hair?

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SWFL, I know a bit about philosophy. It was my minor in college. I don’t see the relevance here, though.

Are you trying to say that musical preferences are genetic? If so, what do you have to back that up with?

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Yeah, bring it on … Black people make better drummers don’t they?

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Is this going to be another one of those dumb threads that turns into a flame war?

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no no no not again, let’s get back to Donal Lunny’s hair

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What’s this fascination you have with Donal Lunny’s hair, Michael?

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The point is that there are as many reasons to play this music as there are people playing. Some people are interested in the reasons, some aren’t. Some need to justify, some don’t.

Me? It was Donal Lunny’s hair

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ahem, NOT a dumb thread.
; P

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Not yet, wyogal, and I’m hoping it stays that way!

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LOL! …and away we go!

You’re right. Musical preference has to be completely random. There’s just no way that people have an affinity for certain music based on their ethnic background. It makes no sense whatsoever. [/sarcasm]

Jayzus. Every animal on the planet has genetic memory, but not the hairless apes, eh? Hokay.

There’s no flipping racism involved. We’re trying to answer the question "Why?" Why does an individual like one particular traditional music over another when faced with a myriad of choices? I mean, something deeper than "It sounds good" and "I like it".

Sorry for trying to think. We now return you to your regularly scheduled p*ss contest. Commence with the slagometrics!

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SWFL, how do you explain the popularity of Irish sessions in Japan, then?

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Without taking it too far I’d argue the principle is fair and it’s what is wrong with those (fiddlers seem particularly guilty) who play a little bit of this tradition and a little bit of that tradition without any regard for the context it came from.

I’d kind of argue that if it’s dance music you should know something of how the dance goes, the social context in which it is danced, and maybe what they’ll be eating and drinking afterwards! If you don’t want to do that, fair enough, but then it’s cultural tourism.

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I am not Irish. I am of Scandinavian heritage. Yep, pillaging the Irish music, I guess… Especially if you were to hear me play it! Ha! Seriously, though, I was able to play a relative’s hardanger as a child, find that particular style of music appealing, would love to get back to that. I am drawn to Irish music and history, admittedly only scratching the very surface. and I mean scratching

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Well I think it helps a great deal to be of this country, partic. the rural Irish landscape and people. For me at any rate, there is a certain indefinable link between the fields and ditches, the steams and cliffs, the neighbours and friends and that thing that is called Irish Traditional music. The music is the part and parcel of all the above plus many other facets of Irish society including religion.
I see that it also survives in urban environments but in Irish urban areas at any rate, most of the people are only a generation from the bog.
I suspect that it is a music that comes from a background of a life assoc. with a certain amount of physical labour, hardship, toil and a lack of money and material goods. I’m not sure about the kids being driven around now in their family SUV’s with Yummy Mummies at the wheel - don’t hold out much hope for them as trad musicians if you know what I mean.

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"SWFL, how do you explain the popularity of Irish sessions in Japan, then?"

I don’t know! It boggles my mind! I ask the same question of them I do of myself, I ask it of everyone: "Why?" I have no desire to play Japanese Traditional music. [shrug]

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Actually, every time I play a jig I visualise the Holy Trinity. Slip jigs are even better.

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And hang on a minute, I’ve never been to Japan, but I’ll bet my bottom dollar they’ve got fields and ditches

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Kind of pokes a hole in your theory, then, doesn’t it?

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My theory deals with me, and then Mr. Screetch when he wanted to discuss it and revealed his ethnic background. I used first hand evidence of myself to develop it over the years. That’s all I can report on, that and information from others who have discussed this with me over the years and their contributions to this shared theory about the Diaspora.

Examine yourself so we can all have a deeper understanding. Or, don’t. What do I care? I can explain my theory because it deals with me first and foremost. I’d be eager to read some in-depth thought from a Japanese practitioner of Irish Traditional music.

Would they discuss how it connects them to their history and their ancestors, and provides a spiritual connection to something greater than themselves, allows them to integrate sans ego into a meaningful tradition shared by others of the same ethnic background?

Well, I doubt it, and I don’t know what their motivations are, again, I can speak for myself based on what I’ve found, and it holds some water for others like me if they wish to discuss it and think about it, or they may think that it doesn’t upon further reflection. If others don’t want to think about it, that’s fine too. Knock yerselves out.

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"Jayzus. Every animal on the planet has genetic memory, but not the hairless apes, eh? Hokay."

Evidence needed for this assertion. Are you talking about instinct? Why do you assume this is propagated up through music? I don’t think many would suggest that animals have music in the way we do.

You know, most people that would be borderline snotty about an "examined life" would catch this. I’m quite puzzled.

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Oh, and since you’re a psychology/philosophy person, SWFL Fiddler, did you happen to catch the problems with Piaget’s methodology in your studies? It’s going to be an example in every undergrad course in a variety of social science majors. The problem is when you study yourself, or your family, there is an inherent bias. Perhaps you’re suffering from this?

When I’m thinking of Irish music performers of Japanese descent, I think primarily of Junji Shirota. He’s fantastic.

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LOL RichardB please not again 🙂

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Didn’t mean to put you on the defensive, SWFL, sorry for that. But the Japanese example did come immediately to mind when you mentioned the idea of inborn preferences.

As to the original question, I think it is pretty important to have some understanding of the culture of a place or a group to understand its music well, especially to know what’s appropriate in terms of where/when/how it’s played. Someone else mentioned the connection with dance that Irish music has, for example—-you don’t see too many dancers at sessions these days, but if you get too far away from the dance rhythms the music originally had, it starts to become a different thing altogether. So that’s one thing—-I can think of lots of other examples.

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Sorry for coming off poorly. I didn’t mean to get all snobtastic.

Really, these are simply Jung’s theories re: racial memory.

I think anyone can play the music. If you’ll reread my initial post I’m wondering, not saying that it can’t be done, in fact quite the opposite, I’m just wondering why anyone would want to on a deeper level than simply "it sounds good".

https://thesession.org/discussions/18041#comment375441

If people don’t think about it that much that’s fine, I was just curious and I thought it related to wyogal’s original post.

Also, the question was mainly rhetorical, I wasn’t expecting any answers. I was just speaking of myself, really. That’s all any of us can do, is speak from our own frame of reference.

Now I’ll stop being so reasonable. Yer all a buncha flippin’ so and sos! Ack gargle flappa rak!

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Very Interesting read folks - SWFL, I feel you my brutha - you and I have similar paths to this music. I am a bit surprised however, that SWFL’s asking as to "why" was so quickly turned on it’s ear as a legitimate question.
I’ll just put forth the logical notion that this music will give you as much or as little as you yourself invest in it. For those that immerse themselves in this music and all it’s related tangents the results can be incredibly rewarding. But that is not to be-little those that are quite content to simply make this a nice hobby as well.
All I know is this music does have a contagious hook to it that transcends cultures. I also know that if it were not for English musicians in the 60’s introducing us to their interpretations of black - American music, most of us in the colonies would never have heard blues music created in our own back yard. Why on God’s green earth would a kid from London want to play like Muddy Waters or Lighting Hopkins? Some sort of mystical human connection that transcends culture I guess. Same thing with Irish music.

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Ah Jusa Nutter, that’s how it is indeed. You got the off switch for my over-curious mind? I suppose we’ll just have to be happy knowing it has such magical appeal, as opposed to knowing the finer points of the appeal.

Yours in always looking for ‘why’,

Ian

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JNE - very, very nicely put. Since I first got a hint of it (probably from movie soundtracks), besides doing the other stuff, I’ve had the temptation to get me a clarinet and try to learn to play Jewish/Klezmer music. I don’t know where it came from. It must have been all the Al Jolson recordings I heard as a kid…it just grabs you somehow…

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SWFL - never turn off that switch! Somebody has to ask questions from time to time. I suspect you and I have a similar connection to this music. My grandparents tried desperately to get me to embrace this stuff but by the time I was ready to play an instrument, the only Irish musician I wanted to copy was Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy. Now years later playing these tunes my grannies loved, I actually feel like I am saying "thank you" to them and all the other terrified souls that climbed aboard leaking ships and sailed into NYC harbor. (Yes, I can hear the groans of the cynics on this board, but hey, it is what it is) No - I’m not Irish or of Irish culture. But I and SWFL are of Irish American culture and for all the good and bad stereotypes that go with it - this music is an essential connection for us.

tomw - see if you can get yourself a copy of the New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars - it may be out of print, but it’s swirling high energy Klezmer melodies over New Orleans shuffle back beat grooves. Absolutely killer stuff.

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ITM is part of a way of life, and if one truly wants to understand it, Menhuin’s comments hold truth. I’m sorry, but living in Chicago or other world centres of music is not the same as being in Ireland. As for thsoe laughed at the idea of learning the religion and philosophies of the country, how can you expect to get inside the heads of the greatest practitioners unless you understand what their beliefs were?

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just a note, those were Ravi Shankar’s words. Here’s a quote from Menhuin:
"In him (RS) they see the mastery and dedication of a discipline born of infinite experience and concentrated effort that are manifestations of not only the artist’s own being but of the generations preceding him." p.7

Make of it what you will…

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So, what would make a Liverpool kid like George Harrison travel across the world and immerse himself in the music and culture of a guy like Ravi Shankar? Hmmmm.

Nice thread Wyogal! - lots to think about when it comes to why music chooses us and vice versa.

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Actually, it was Ravi who went to London, then George went to India. RS explains it in his book, at the very end. They met at a friend’s house in London. Ravi invited George to study with him in India.

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I met a couple of South American dancers in Ireland last summer who’d seen Riverdance on television and were inspired to take up stepdancing. One teaches Irish dance in Chile. Also anyone catch this movie about the American blues guitarist who heard Tuvan throat singing in a record store and decided he had to learn how to do it?
http://youtube.com/watch?v=QMiFKUJ7VzE

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True enough Wyogal - but George could have easily stayed in Liverpool playing Skiffle music along the Mersey rather than seek another culture’s music. Didn’t he also seek spiritual guidance from a Yogi? The religious person not the bear - um, point is George is a perfect example of some one who choose to study not only the music of another culture but also it’s faith systems and even to some extent, fashion trappings.

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OK, that’s it, from now on, I play Irish American Traditional Music, IATM. I’ll have to call the Reverend, I need a custom T.

I’ll second your thank you, Jusa. Thank you Granda for singing and thank you Great Grandma for playing the concertina. Thanks to everybody’s old ones.

Ah, now there’s a Japanese-Irish connection for you: veneration of ancestors. 😉

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Michael, if you visualise the Trinity with a jig, you would have to visualise four and a half gods with a slip jig. Turn to slides and you’re becoming positively Roman. ITM follows fairly standard Western patterns of structure, rhythm, melody, instrumentation (OK, not pipes then) and intonation. There are differences but they are subtle. I don’t know much about Indian music but I know that the above does not, in large part, apply. Therefore, if you’re steeped in Western music, wherever you come from, you stand a good chance of playing ITM quite well as long as you’re a sensitive, intelligent, receptive and listening soul. To cross to Indian would not be so easy. But nothing is impossible. So going to India would be a great idea.

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When I first heard someone playing this music, something in it appealed to me and resonated(?) and/or connected to something inside my brain. There was a "rightness" to it that felt satisfying.
Since I am so far removed from my Irish and Scottish roots, I don’t know whether or not there is a genetic connection. Some of my ancestors came here from Ireland and Scotland while the United States was still a British colony. Since then, they intermarried with people whose ancestors came from various other European countries (which probably kills the idea of a genetic connection).
I still enjoy playing this music and, within reasonable limits, I hope I am playing it correctly.

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Ever seen "The Commitments?" Brilliant film dealing with some of the issues discussed here.

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And for those who haven’t seen it, it’s about a group of working class kids from Dublin’s North Side who put together a Blues band.

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"I’m black, and I’m proud"

It’s a classic, I love it

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Did I just read "racial memory" or is the medication getting to me…please tell me it’s the medication….

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Actually, Steve, in medieval times, 9/8 was seen as the ‘perfect’ time signature precisely because it did symbolise the trinity, being a trinity of trinities. Michael is dead right on this one.

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TaoCat, I think this is all about the homeopathic theory of what attracts some people to ITM. 😉
Who knows? Even the music might have a memory!

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Oh. And your maths is wrong anyway Steve. You’re assuming that the trinity is 3 gods. It isn’t. It’s one.

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3 gods in one…pretty good value.

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Can we stop derailing the topic and get back to Donal Lunny’s har?

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hair…

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‘Soul band’ Silver Spear.

Did you not remember the wrap on the knuckles Joey the lips gave to the young one for saying it was a blues band?

I lived in Japan for 2 years. Without doubt, Japanese television is the worst/ wierdest/ pointless, etc etc I have ever seen. The Commitments came on TV on one of my days off. I could write a book on how good I felt after seeing that.

Followed by The Snapper.

That was the Clincher..

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I saw "The Commitments" several years ago and enjoyed it.

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Too bad that’s all you read, TaoCat, I think there were a few more words sandwiched around them.. 😉

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Yes, TaoCat, your medication is getting to you. I suggest you either take a double dose of your legal drugs or stop taking it.

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I’ve just watched that classic Fr Ted, the one when he gets mistaken for a racist. There really is an absolute cracker of a scene where he’s walking into the pub and you hear all the craic and the diddley music etc, and as soon as he gets through the door it’s stunned silence. Everyone in the bar is chinese, including all the musicians.

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"I’m a priest, not a fascist. Fascists wear all black and go around telling people what to do, whereas priests…uh…MORE DRINK!"

What an ending to that one, too. Thanks airport. 😉

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I just got home p*ssed from a music session, saw this and thought ‘what the?’
Ain’t it enough to just play the music if that is what you want to do? I don’t consider it relevant to consider my ‘ethnic’ background, fine for Ravi Shankar but I’ll just play on and the ethnomusicologists, pure drop,etc. go their own way.
Donal Lunny wears his hair the way he likes it, I’ll play music for the same reason. Anyone else thinks I needs a reason for this needs to get a life or take a good look at what they think they are doing.
My apologies wyogal, I reckon the statement at the OP is high falutin’ and so far up it’s own a***. Even genius can be egregious at times.

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No problem.
As far as Irish trad goes, at times I feel as though I am trespassing on another’s culture.
And as far as the OP on the other thread goes, I thought it was interesting that someone was requesting sheet music for a style of music that is extremely hard to nail down with the dots… and wanting others to find it for him, to boot! and on an IRISH music website.
I’ve enjoyed the remarks, though, especially when they stray off topic and get comedic… ha! love the youtubes
Talk to y’all next week, I’m going camping/sailing for a few days. Well, actually, I don’t sail, I ride in the boat. : )

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: ) (that’s better)

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Yes, Hugo, it was soul music. Haven’t seen the movie for a few years.

Anyway,

Fr. Ted: It’s not as if everyone’s going to go off and join some mad religious cult just because we go off for a picnic for a couple of hours.
Fr Dougal: God, Ted, I heard about those cults. Everyone dressing in black and saying our Lord’s gonna come back and judge us all!
Fr Ted: No… No, Dougal, that’s us. That’s Catholicism.

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Interesting thread for a lot of reasons.
The Japanese example seems to me to be the best illustration of why.
“I lived in Japan for 2 years. Without doubt, Japanese television is the worst/ wierdest/ pointless, etc etc I have ever seen. The Commitments came on TV on one of my days off. I could write a book on how good I felt after seeing that.” (posted by Hugo Chavez).
That’s pretty amazing to me, but I think I know why.

Without being essayistic about this (could easily be though, after all, Hugo says he could write a book about it), a few random thoughts might illustrate:
The analogy’s been drawn before that Japan is to Asia a bit like what England is to Europe. (and Korea is to the region what Ireland is in its).

Japan is the only country which has had atomic bombs dropped on it in war. It has had its social systems completed gutted within living memory. Its aristocracy was completed and utterly defeated in war and totally lost credibility, and its culture has become westernized and consumerised to a point where there must be a very severe if not total disconnect with its past across much of the society. The country has been totally and utterly reinvented, but not obviously without problems.

Imagine if England had been defeated in ww2 and had two atomic bombs dropped on it, and the royal family made to bow in defeat to the victors, and collaborate with them. Imagine if then, that England then underwent a cultural *re-education* to the point where most young people looked for meaning in other cultures and were almost required to do so, to the point where not to do so would be regarded as somehow uncool. Imagine however, that the culture retained a sense of appreciation of precision in art or music and for the discipline of study, and wanting to retain some sense of community at the same time. Japanese appreciation of ITM doesn’t seem to me anyway, to be so strange a phenomenon in that context.

Maybe Japanese television entertainment is a reaction to the rigidity of life in that country but also a reaction or reflection of community perspectives on a whole country and culture turned upside down within a couple of generations, and which continues. I really admire the Japanese people for their relative composure in the face of this sort of change. It must say a whole lot about their culture.

Another random thought – what do you think the Japanese make of television entertainment like Blackadder or even Fr Ted? For me, both of them, but particularly Blackadder I find almost totally irrelevant, even bland, and almost totally predictable. Maybe you need to be more immersed or at least connected to the relevant cultures to find them more than quaintly curious, but passable entertainment.

It must have been a very long 2 years in Japan for Hugo Chavez if at the end of that time he can only say that Japanese television is the weirdest and pointless he has ever seen.
Hugo, maybe try living there for forty years, learning Japanese, understanding the culture and history and what has happened to the country – and then watch Blackadder or Fr Ted.
It will seem very very strange to you. Eccentric, even very weird and pointless. You are more comfortable where you are though, that’s fine, but Japanese television and cultural meaning actually is very meaningful to the Japanese, and no doubt others.

I would guess the Japanese would have greatly appreciated the Commitments. It was a great characterization and a reaction to a social situation that the Japanese, I could imagine, would well connect with. It’s just that I think they might think it is a fairly tame reaction to their situation. The point I think is that the story of the Commitments could really happen anywhere. It isn’t just an Irish story. So no need to be embarrassed about that, Hugo, if that is how you felt. A great story about a group of people thinking they might be doing something very eccentric and find that they are actually really good at it. And of course the Commitments was a great showcase for Andrew Strong. Really a very good talent. Also reminded me of Joe Cocker. http://www.andrewstrong.com/ose/root2/index.asp?pid=235&gid=3319

I really appreciate ITM and the excellent players of the genre, but some of the perspectives posted, while they are valid for those posting, reminds me that I am glad I grew up in a culture with other perspectives as well. It helps me understand the world a little easier, I think.

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yeah, that’s it, 3.07 in. Priceless. From now on, every time anyone brings up the topic of not being Irish, they are gonna get this posted

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The Fr Ted clip is brilliant - and the pub scene! (Note the banjo-mandolin)