Ahead of the Folk Nations gig at Southbank Centre’s Alchemy festival on 19 May, Scottish percussionist James Mackintosh joins the group from the Kolkata Residency to showcase a unique collaborative project.
A veteran of the global folk scene, James shares his thoughts on collaboration and the folk scene in the UK.
The resurgence of folk music
There has been a Renaissance in folk music in the UK over the last two decades at least. From a Scottish perspective this has had a lot to do with a handful of inspired and energetic individuals who realised that to keep our traditions alive there needed to be a better infrastructure for the teaching and sharing of folk music for the younger generation. The “Feis” movement gathered strength very quickly and led to a much greater enthusiasm and pride in our traditional culture. Folk music became “cool” once more as teenagers realised the enjoyment of playing various traditional instruments in sessions and at Ceilidh’s.
The similarities of Indian and British folk music
From my time spent in India, I saw more similarities than differences between British and Indian folk music. I noticed so many connections in the content, mood and emotion of various songs and tunes. Rhythm is hugely important to both cultures and in my own collaborations with Rajasthani musicians, we had much common ground in melodic and rhythmic approaches. The folk music that I heard in India was wonderful, passionate, fun, sophisticated and authentic .Folk music at its best is timeless and can exist in many forms.
Folk music is inherently collaborative
Collaborations in the British Folk scene have certainly produced some exciting combinations of musicians over the years. Folk music is collaborative by nature, so different combinations of voice and instrument are very natural, as are collaborations between musicians all around the world. I have found that language is no barrier to musical collaboration; I think this can be a great example towards cooperation and understanding between different cultures and nations.