September-October 2009

Does OSHA know about this?
Playing music can be deadly!

October is a big month for music here in Scotland, starting with the Royal National Mod. The Mod is a week-long celebration of the Gaelic language, with competitions in solo, small group and choir singing, instrumental playing, songwriting and arranging, and literature. Just as good as the Mod itself are the "fringe" events. This year's Mod is being held in the West Coast town of Oban, where there will be music and dancing in just about every available venue each night.

After the Mod, there's a week's respite for those who need it-plenty of smaller events for those who don't-and then it's time for Dougie McLean's Perthshie Amber festival in Pitlochry. This festival keeps getting bigger, but it doesn't seem to lose its "down home" sort of flavor. Between events, folks still hang around at the theatre playing music or chatting in the makeshift pub, knitting squares for the Big Knit, a blanket that's auctioned off every year in aid of charity, or listening to the open mic sessions.

If you want to know more about these festivals, visit www.acgmod.org for the Mod, or www.perthshireamber.com for Perthshire Amber.

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Just a tiny droplet: A new addition to the folk and trad family has arrived. Aoife Armantha Laffan was born on May 30, 2009 at 9:47 in the morning. Aoife's mom is Rhiannon Gibbons, of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. The Drops have been taking some time off during the summer while Rhiannon and Aoife get to know each other, but they'll be back on the road by the time you read this. Aoife will be going on tour with Rhiannon, so look for her at concerts.

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Here's a factoid to ponder: Top-selling albums used to reach sales of 20 million copies before the advent of online piracy - by 2009 it had dropped to about 5 million.

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Scottish folk legend Jim Reid has passed away. Jim started to sing and play folk music as a hobby while working for a soft-drink bottling company in Dundee. He later moved to Arbroath, where he continued working in that industry and also became a regular participant in sessions held at the Foundry Bar. He played in The Taysiders early in his musical career, but came to fame as a member of the legendary Foundry Bar Band.

His was one of those voices that you recognize as soon as you hear the first few notes Ian Green of Greentrax Records has described it as "a natural, couthie voice." By the 80s, Jim had moved on to a successful solo career and had begun to write many of his own songs. The best known of these is surely the haunting The Wild Geese, also called Norland Wind. At his memorial service, it was sung by Christine Kydd, with the entire congregation joining in. What a legacy.

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Did you know that a grand piano can be played faster than an upright or a spinet? A grand piano can be played faster than an upright piano because it has a repetition lever that allows the pianist to repeat the note when it is only half way up. An upright piano requires letting the key all the way up to reset the hammer action.

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Does OSHA know about this? Playing music can be deadly! In 1972 Leslie Harvey of Stone the Crows died after being electrocuted onstage in England. In 1976 Keith Relf, who used to play for The Yardbirds, was electrocuted by his guitar while playing in his basement. During a mid-performance in 1994 Ramon Barrero, a Mexican musician famous for playing the world's smallest harmonica, inhaled the harmonica and choked to death.

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It's called Kuduro, and it's the most popular music in Angola today. It has already made its way out of Africa, most notably to Portugal where it's been popular for over 15 years, but also in France and Europe, and more recently in North America with the 2009 tour of Portuguese group Buraka Som Sistema. Akwaaba Music has now released the very first Angolan Kuduro compilation, Akwaaba Sem Transporte. iTunes exclusive pre-release started August 4, then all other major digital music stores will follow September 8, 2009.

It's not just the music that makes Kuduro so fascinating, it's the dances that go with it.  There are lots of examples of Kuduro on the internet... here's one that has good examples of the dancing: www.youtube.com Fast forward to see different dancers and styles. At first, it seems like L.A. hip hop street dancing, but there's more to the music and the footwork.

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You think you've got problems! Tchaikovsky suffered from many mental breakdowns and neuroses. He believed that his head would fall off, so when conducting an orchestra he would hold his chin with his left hand.

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 www.lindadewar.com.

  

All Columns by Linda Dewar