September-October 2008

By Linda Dewar

In America, there's OSHA - plus CAL-OSHA in California. Here in the UK, it's just called "Health and Safety," but the idea is the same - to protect workers from injury while on the job. So far, so good... Woody would have approved of the concept, I'm sure. But sometimes, things are taken a bit too far.

A few weeks ago, the British government (not to be confused with the Scottish government, please!) came to the startling conclusion that bagpipes are very loud. It has therefore been decided that pipers in a pipe band are in an officially designated "hazardous workplace" and effort needs to be made to remove them from the source of the potential injury. Huh???


First it was just a rumor, but now we know it's true... Pete Seeger will release his first new album of studio recordings in five years this month. The 32-track "At 89," a reference to Seeger's age, is due September 30 via Appleseed Recordings. According to a spokesperson, the material ranges from new takes on old favorites, vintage songs that have never appeared on an album and short banjo, guitar and recorder pieces.


Here are some more "real" names of well-known people:

The Big Bopper's real name was Jiles Perry Richardson, Jr.

Bobby Darin was born Walden Robert Cassotto

David Bowie was David Jones (guess he didn't want to be mistaken for the Monkee?)

Engelbert Humperdinck thought that name would be better than Arnold Dorsey

Eric Clapton started out as Eric Clapp (OK, that one I can understand!)

Meat Loaf was Marvin Lee Aday


The world of American folk music has lost one of its true legends. Artie Traum passed away at home on July 20th after a long battle with a rare type of ocular cancer. Those of us who have been lucky enough to get into the annual winter NAMM show will no doubt have great memories of Artie's sets at the Taylor Guitars hospitality room. He was the guru of DADGAD-if you ever play a guitar in that tuning, then chances are good that you learned it from one of Artie's articles or workshops. To read more about Artie Traum and his contributions to folk music, click here to visit the tribute to him on Taylor's web site.


"When people hear good music, it makes them homesick for something they never had, and never will have." Edgar Watson Howe


It's called Joik (pronounce the "J" as a "Y"), and it is the music of the Samis, the indigenous people in the Lapland area of Norway. A type of mouth-music, Joik was banned for many years because of its association with the pagan religion of the area. Mari Boine is one of Joik's best known tradition bearers, though she grew up during the time of the ban knowing little about her own Sami heritage. My Youtube pick for this issue is an interview with Mari Boine in which she talks about the ban and about her eventual rejection of what she had been taught about her people and their music. Click here to hear the interview and then try some of the suggest links to hear examples of Joik.


"Music is love in search of a word." Sidonie Gabrielle


In North Korea, it's illegal to sing any song that hasn't been approved by the government. And all of the approved songs are about the government and the wonderful quality of life enjoyed by all residents. The country's leader, Kim Jong-il is (falsely) credited as the writer of every song. Some of his biggest "hits" include We Shall Hold Bayonets More Firmly and the ever-popular The Joy of Bumper Harvest Overflows Amidst the Song of Mechanization.


Thinking about Christmas shopping already? Feeling generous and wanting to send some of your hard-earned pennies toward a good cause? Click here to visit the shopping page of the New Orleans Musicians' Relief Fund. It's been years since Hurricane Katrina struck, but there are still musicians who remain homeless, whose instruments were destroyed, and who were shuttled to other parts of the country where their talents aren't as in-demand as they would be in New Orleans.

An American now living in Scotland, Linda Dewar is a singer and a player of various instruments with strings and keys. She can be found performing Scottish and American folk music at gatherings on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as singing In the Aberfeldy and District Gaelic Choir. Visit her web site at


All Columns by Linda Dewar