Now We All Know Who

The Who turned British rock — loudly! — on its ear.
This week so far we’ve focused on British folk music, noting its transformation toward rock. Embodied by the band The Who as early as the mid-‘1960s, there could be no question that ROCK in England was real, and all timid folk best get out of the way. Watch this instrument-smashing video of the band performing “My Generation” live in 1967. Somehow in this clip Keith Moon is the last man standing.

Ten years, later, when they didn’t destroy their instruments, as we see in this video, they were still pretty darned great:

Ooh-ooh Child

If you know British folk music, you certainly know the Child Ballads.

Until the end of the 19th century “folk music” was less a celebrated musical form in England than it was a means of actual communication between British people. Like “folk” around the world, British “folk” sang while working, while celebrating, while sad. In the late 1800s American ethnomusicologist Francis Child begin to document the ballads of the British Isles; his “Child Ballads” are an essential document of English and Scottish folk. For centuries musicians have performed variations of the Child Ballads, leaping forth from the originals to build new songs based upon their melodies and lyrical themes. For example, Child Ballad 81, “Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard” — a “Child ballad” that’s a tale of intrigue and injury not appropriate for children — inspired myriad variants over the years. One of the most popular is “Matty Groves.” Watch British folk legends Fairport Convention — the 2012 version of the band — perform their version, using the melody of the American folk song “Shady Grove.” (Listen to them singing it with a much earlier lineup, in 1969.)


April is in my Mistress’ face

Let British madrigals answer the essential question — which month is your mistress’ face?
In the earliest days of England, musicians learned from and taught bards and troubadours from other nations. In the 16th century though, the Protestant Reformation separated English Protestants from continental Catholic Church, leading to less musical interchange between the British Islands and the rest of Europe. In this era, which coincided with the Renaissance (roughly from the 14th to the 17th centuries), British composers were developed their own music…like MADRIGALS! Do you like madrigals? Of course you do. And if you do, you’ll love “April is My Mistress’ Face.”

Making Very Merry in England

All Around This World map of Western Europe featuring England

We start our Western European exploration in earnest with a musical journey to England. There are very few countries in the world, if any, that have served as the point of origin of more world-changing music than England. We can take a step back and ask ourselves why English-language music and culture dominates the global culture as it has, why songs written with English lyrics and “Western” rhythms have a disproportionate sway over, let’s say, music from China or even the Middle East where billions of people have lived and made music for thousands of years, but those questions are probably beyond our current scope. Instead, let’s stay oblivious, putting that kind of broad questioning aside to marvel at the sheer volume of musical genres that have originated in, and/or developed in, England…wow.

That’s How it Goes

The Adelaide Village Band does “oom-pah” right….

Oom-pah is a form of brass band music popular in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and around Eastern Europe, though it is most widely identified with the folk music of Bavaria, a state located in southeastern Germany that borders Austria and Switzerland and encompasses many picturesque Alps. The term “oom-pah” simulates the prevailing sound of “oom-pah” songs–a tuba plays the “oom,” and instruments with a higher pitch, like clarinets, accordions or trombones, play the “pah.” Enjoy some inspired “oom-pah” in this video of “Oom Pah Chaos” performed by Australia’s Adelaide Village Band. The Government of South Australia Department of the Premier and Cabinet Arts and Culture page has described them as: “The only Latvian brass band in the world outside Latvia and the most genuine Oom-Pah band in Australia.”

Take me to the River

We’re so excited to sing songs and do dances from Western Europe this season, so LET’S DIVE IN with RIVERDANCE!
The Irish dancing phenomenon Riverdance is a phenomenon because, well, watch this video — it really is phenomenal. “Irish dancing” is a broad term that covers a variety of dances from all over the “Emerald Isle,” many of which developed as a mix of French quadrille and English country dances. Riverdance rivets us with Irish step dancing, which thrills us with a combination of precision and exuberance. Oh yes, we start here.

From Spain to Sweden, Greenland to Greece

All Around This World Western Europe "Everywhere Map"

Welcome! This the first day of the first week of the next amazing season of All Around This World’s online class. Today we start our journey Western Europe and the Nordic Countries, a region of the world that has the distinction of being home to the most popular music-makers of all time, from the almost super-human classical composers Beethoven, Bach and Mozart to the (arguably?) equally brilliant Lennon and McCartney. From Spain to Sweden, Greenland to Greece — yes, we’ll talk about why Greece counts for us as “West” —  we will clap our hands, stomp our feet and have one heckuva good time. Let’s go!


La Rana Mariana certinaly doesn’t sound froggy….

Let’s end our week of enjoying music from Spain with a lovely song about words. “Palabras” is the work of La Rana Mariana, an ensemble from Valencia. Their music crosses genre boundaries, from Catalan rumba to merengue to son and beyond. Whatever is the genre of “Palabras,” All Around This World adores this song. Adios Spain!

The Spanish Irishman

Is Carlos Nuñez really a “Spanish Irishman?”

The music of Spain varies from region to region, from community to community, probably even from neighborhood to neighborhood. In Galicia, in Spain’s far northeast, where the Celts ruled for centuries until the Romans supplanted them in 19 B.C. Galician music still retains a Celtic character and features the gaita, which is similar to Scottish bagpipes, the tamboril, which is a Celtic snare drum, and a Celtic flute known as the requinta Galega. Galica is home to the top-notch gaita player Carlos Nuñez, who you’ll see in this video celebrating his Galician-Celtic heritage and who is known, according to the biography on his website, as “The Seventh Chieftain” or, as this video describes him, “The Spanish Irishman.”