A folk song a day

English singer and musician Jon Boden began a new project last week to sing and release a folk song every day for a year through a new website. These traditional songs are available to listen to or can be subscribed to as a free download.

Since moving to Okinawa I have been surprised at how alive traditional Okinawan songs are in my local area, where all my neighbours seem able to play the sanshin and many of them need little excuse to get together to drink, sing and play music. (Whereas many of my fellow countrymen from England only get together to drink and moan about things). Admittedly, most of my neighbours are middle-aged or older and I haven’t met with such widespread enthusiasm among younger people yet. In England though, I’d say the situation hasn’t reached even that stage and, as I mentioned in a previous post (on The Imagined Village), there is still some suspicion about the value of their own songs and often amusement at the idea of those brave souls (my nephew is one) who actually do get out and do morris dancing. It does seem to be changing though, as English songs and music are rightly becoming more accepted as part of the ‘world music’ scene. It’s also good to know that younger people are becoming interested in their own musical heritage. Boden’s A Folk Song a Day website explains it like this:

“On 24th June 2010 – Midsummer’s Day – acclaimed singer, Jon Boden, will launch an ambitious new project – A Folk Song A Day. Every day for one year Jon will post a traditional song online to promote the art of ‘social’ (or communal) singing. Now largely confined to football grounds and places of worship, social singing was once the domain of public houses throughout the land. Ending with 12 digital albums, containing a total of 365 songs, Jon Boden will also be providing a unique, traditional folk song resource for those looking for inspiration ; social singing made possible by contemporary technology.”

He doesn't always dress like this. Jon Boden from the photo session for the Spiers & Boden album Vagabond

Boden himself is also a songwriter and has released two rather good solo albums, as well as two albums with the big band Bellowhead (a third is due for release in November this year). He also records with fellow Bellowheader, John Spiers, as part of the traditional duo, Spiers & Boden. He may be the only singer in the world who seems to be equally influenced by Tom Waits and by the late Norfolk traditional singer Peter Bellamy.

One of the advantages of releasing a song a day is that it provides a tasty morsel as an introduction to unaccompanied singing, which might be a bit daunting for some if listened to at great length. On the website, each song comes with a short explanation and there are links to further resources and song lyrics. But if it’s a really big sound you’re after, then Boden’s work as vocalist and fiddler in the eleven piece band Bellowhead is also well worth investigating. The Bellowhead website contains more information and several videos of the band in full flight.

A Folk Song A Day: www.afolksongaday.com

Bellowhead: www.bellowhead.co.uk

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