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Folk and World Music Stage

The Sage, Gateshead

22 July 2007

I still find "world music" a most confusing and inappropriate label and after this concert I was none the wiser — the styles of music on offer were so diverse that I can't understand how any single label for them can be meaningful.

But, oh well, here's what I heard... you can make your own mind up...

Dulcamara: five young women from Spain, singing (unaccompanied) traditional Spanish dance songs (mostly Andalusian, I think). There's something about the pitch of Spanish songs that doesn't sound quite right to my English ears but the melodies and rhythms are all very pleasant and interesting. A good start to the concert.

Katie Doherty: a young graduate of the Newcastle University Folk and Traditional Music Degree. She sang some traditional songs from this region and some of her own compositions, either as an unaccompanied voice or accompanying herself on piano.

Her own songs were very interesting in that they fitted seamlessly with the traditional tunes. If she hadn't introduced them, I don't think I could have picked out new from old. This was helped by the fact that she sang everything in her native (i.e. Geordie) accent which made it all sound "folky".

Koshka: stole the show, for me. Three Russian guys (from Glasgow!), guitar and two violins, who played a mixture of Russian Gypsy music, Klezmer, and what they called "hot club" music. I have never heard of "hot club" music before but to me it sounded like something Grapelli and Reinhardt might have written. If this is World Music, I'll have more of it!

The House Sisters: three even younger women who are currently students on the Newcastle University Folk and Traditional Music Degree. They played a variety of traditional music from the Borders, on piano and two violins. Very enjoyable.

Curran Carthy Rose: the first performer of the day that I knew anything about, Eliza Carthy, accompanied by Curran and Rose on accordion and guitar, apparently working together for the very first time.

To be honest, it was a bit of an anti-climax after the excellent acts so far. They played a mix of old and new tunes, one a traditional jig, one sounding more like American folk (think of Dylan), some Scottish-sounding pieces... it was enjoyable but nothing really stood out as, er, outstanding. Still, the instruments made a nice sound and Carthy is a good performer to watch... I just felt that they needed to work out what their "style" actually was.

The Braykes: I think there were nine or ten of them in the band, with a really eclectic mix of instruments playing a kind of folk-funk crossover. I didn't quite know what to make of them, but settled for not really liking the idea. A tune would start off beautifully on uillian pipes and violin, one of the best intrumental combinations there is... and then the funky electric bass and the horn section would come in and ruin it. I tried to be open minded but it just didn't do anything for me.

Alumino Roots: the annoucer gave them a big build up... apparently we're incredibly privileged to have the biggest name in Brazilian "roots" music here... and as I didn't have a clue what "roots" music was I was quite looking forward to finding out... and they came on and played... loud reggae music.

I'm sorry to say I left before their set finished. They were too loud (yes, I've listened to the (official) loudest rock band in the world, but there is a time and a place...) and completely ruined the mood of the afternoon. And while I'm sure they were very accomplished, they were still basically playing reggae. How on earth does that belong on a "Folk and World Music Stage"? If reggae from Brazil is world music then so is heavy metal from Los Angeles... I mean, it's ridiculous...

So, a mixed bag... and I still don't understand what world music is. But five sevenths of the concert was absolutely wonderful and has left me with a list of names to explore further. Not too bad for a free event, and well worth braving the intermittent rain for.