Considering I’m not really a fan of traditional folk music, I’ve been pondering about what folk music is exactly, and therefore during my my own contribution performing free music for the people recently, I have to conclude I must be a bit of a folk singer/songwriter myself (minus the beard).
Ever contributing in some way to our community, I performed a midday set for an hour amidst the dappled sunshine on Goose Green during the Dulwich Festival fair. Lovely to sing my mellow summery ambient songs along with Argentinian guitarist friend, Raphael, sparsely twanging in a laid back style. Lots of passers by, and lots of familiar faces picnicking on the grass. I love singing outside – I am a folky nature girl at heart you see. I’m more at home with the fresh air on my face than a dark bar. Also I tend to sing about the sensual side of nature (“honey”) and the wonder of the patterns of the cosmos (“wonderweb”).
Later that day I had been invited to Don’s birthday party on Brick Lane. His party started with late afternoon Sunday lunch, and I’d offered to perform an ambient musical backdrop. However when I got there, I found a buzzing private party packed with a colourful and lively crowd of arty muso types, (even a bloke wearing a live baby python across his shoulders) the sound engineer told me there were a couple of other last minute acts before me, which pushed me way beyond the mellow afternoon slot into the friskier early evening programme of events.
And who should this musical intruder be – suddenly appearing on stage complete with didgeridoo and bendy board? Yes, the legend that is Rolf Harris. He completely wowed the surprised crowd with his unique brand of bush songs (Tie me kangaroo down, sport) and iconic classics (Two Little Boys). He even gave us a demonstration of circular breathing – how to play the didgeridoo. I was explaining to the same guitarist friend, (Argentina seemed to be the only Rolf-free zone) the Rolf phenomenon: being an Australian was a rare thing in itself (pre Olivia Newton John and Neighbours), his funny musical instruments, his amazing drawing skills and TV art programmes and the Stylophone advert. Everything I said seemed quite bonkers when I tried to explain why this trendy crowd were singing along and going crazy to this white haired beardy man!
I did my couple of songs of course. It provided a gentle stop-gap of a journey to a mellow musical place of calm before the evening kicked off again big time!
A week later and I’m in The Ritzy Bar. “Undercover Folk Club” – where musicians perform cover versions in a folk style. Galen, an artist, sketches live alongside the performance, interpretting the song and this is then projected behind the artist. The theme this week was “Bang Bang” and regular Chris who invited me along just days before, said “you can think quite laterally on that”. So expecting the obvious tracks to be nabbed, I thought along the lines of bangs and explosions and suddenly decided on “Reward” by Teardrop Explodes. I downloaded the lyrics and worked out the chords and sang the first two verses sweetly accompanied by my autoharp. Then comes the trumpet solo. Ah-ha, I thought I have just the thing – my stylophone!
Live drawing, stylophones and quirky interpretation of traditional songs? You know, Rolf Harris has in some way inspired us all and has a lot to answer for!
- Undercover Folk Club at Ritzy Café, Brixton Oval, Coldharbour Lane, SW2 1JG 0870 7550 062. Brixton’s Undercover Folk Club is run by finger-pickin’ folk ensemble Forestbrook, who explore different themes in this monthly open mic night.