January-February 2013

Fare Thee Well 2012

By Linda Dewar

The other side of the censorship coin… In the last issue, I wrote about the heavy-handed control that’s currently being imposed on music and musicians by the Islamic government of Mali. What’s happening there is clearly an attempt to suppress a culture through the banning of its art. But what happens when a government bans certain forms of music in a self-described attempt to preserve its cultural and musical legacy? Does the intent justify the act?

Orlando Vistel Columbié, of the Cuban Music Institute, has announced a crackdown on reggaeton and other musical styles which he says pose a threat to the country’s musical heritage and culture. Punishments for performing or programming the banned styles will range from fines to being excluded from the official list of musicians who are approved for gigs.

"Measures that have been adopted range from professional disqualification of those who violate ethics in their work to the levying of severe sanctions against those who from official institutions encourage or permit these practices," said Vistel. "We are in the process of purging music catalogues with the aim of eradicating practices that, in their content, stray from the legitimacy of Cuban popular culture."

He went on to state, "We are talking about pseudo‑artistic work that has nothing to do with our cultural policies or the ethics of our society. From son and salsa, to jazz and rumba, and on to symphony and chamber music, we have many musicians, a good number of whom are internationally acclaimed," he said. "That is the truth about Cuban music and musicians."


Great myths of the music business:

* Don’t worry… we’ll fix it in the mix

* You’ll have plenty of time for a soundcheck

* We’ll supply someone for the door

* The band’s drinks are free

* Someone will be there to let you in early



The great sitar player Ravi Shankar has passed away at the age of 92 after undergoing heart surgery. He was the man who introduced the sounds of raga to the western world, and it can arguably be said that he altered the direction of western pop music through his work with George Harrison and Yehudi Menuhin. Most of you will have heard him playing with the former Beatle; go here to hear the lovely blend of his sitar with Menuhin’s violin.

The Scottish singer-songwriter and playwright Michael Marra – popularly known as the Bard of Dundee – has died aged 60 after suffering from cancer. Marra's songwriting was rooted in Scottish life, and his song Hermless was regarded as a potential Scottish national anthem. He was an icon of Scottish music, and a tribute concert has been added to the upcoming Celtic Connections festival.

And another sad loss…he may not have been a part of the World or Folk scene, but Dave Brubeck’s influence was felt in all genres. Those of us who are of a certain age will admit to having learned how to handle 5/4 time by listening to his classic Take Five. He was an innovator and a devotee of all things musical here is a clip of him performing one of my favorite tunes, It’s a Raggy Waltz.

Dave Brubeck - It's a Raggy Waltz


We all know that music can be a powerful tool for bringing about positive change. One of the best examples of this is a project called Wells for Zoe, a small, Irish, sustainable development organisation working with some of the world’s poorest people in Northern Malawi. Their main focus is on providing water for small rural villages, but this has led to involvement in irrigation and natural farming as well. Several years ago, they opened Lusangazi farm, which is primarily a research and teaching farm.

Wells for Zoe was founded in 2005 by John and Mary Coyne, who are the parents of Irish banjo player Eamonn Coyne (Treacherous Orchestra, Salsa Celtica and more). In 2009, Eamonn brought together some of Scotland, Ireland and North America’s finest musicians and produced a CD called Wells for Zoe, with 100% of the profits going directly to the charity. The artists include Karine Polwart, Salsa Celtica, Crooked Still, John Doyle, Paul Brady, Kris Drever, Dougie Maclean, among others, and it’s a great album even without the added bonus of helping a worthy cause. It’s available for purchase from the Wells for Zoe web site, and also from Compass Records.



The Scots Trad Music Awards celebrated its 10th year in early December with a glittering awards ceremony. Broadcast live on BBC ALBA for the first time, the saw stars of the Scottish music scene gather at the Nevis Centre, Fort William to celebrate and honour the best of traditional Scottish music in 2012.

Winners of the prestigious prizes include:

Mike Vass (Composer of the Year)

Julie Fowlis (Trad Music in the Media)

Duncan Chisholm (Instrumentalist of the Year)

Session A9 (Live Act of the Year)

Paul McKenna (Scots Singer of the Year)

Niteworks (Up and Coming Artist of the Year)

Ten artists were also inducted into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall Of Fame. They are:

Silly Wizard

Ian Hardie

Jim Halcrow

Roddy MacLeod MBE

Norman MacLean

Anne Lorne Gillies

Martyn Bennett

Donald Riddell CBE

Hamish Imlach.

An American now living in Scotland, Linda Dewar is a singer-songwriter and a player of various stringed and wind instruments. Besides being a solo performer, she is half of a duo with Scottish singer Douglas Craik, plays in an occasional ceilidh band, and is a founding member of the revue Simply Burns. Visit her website.


All Columns by Linda Dewar