'Folk' apparently has become an unfashionable word.
To quote from the recent AFO newsletter, an association made up largely of Folk Festival organisers: "those members connected to the folk scene may have noticed a distinct reluctance to use the word FOLK, amongst those people claiming to be the market leaders in the folk world". Folk Roots, for reasons explained by Ian Anderson, has dropped the word "folk" from the title and is now known as FRoots, with a tagline of 'local music from out there'. Will others now drop the term 'folk' thinking that it is a liability? Shall we all become Celtic? Is this all a plot by people who want to jump on a bandwagon yet aspire to play in a different band?
Writers for The Living Tradition don't appear to have much of a problem with the words "folk", "folk scene", "folk song" or "traditional music" although at times they have to add some explanation. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that they actually like folk music.
We may complain about having to pigeon-hole music but sometimes that is exactly what is needed. If you go to a Jazz club at least you know what to expect. People who go to a Folk Festival expect there to be at least some folk music. The name helps them make their choices. 'Folk music' or 'the folk scene' may be fairly blurred definitions but 'local music from out there' is even harder to understand.
Is the root of this fear of the word 'folk' something to do with that other buzzword 'crossover'. Crossover apparently is a good word to quote these days. In a musical sense it presumably implies that you are crossing FROM somewhere and going TO somewhere else. One reason why 'cross over' is seen as being a good thing is that it implies some form of development. In reality in most cases it reflects either a lack of genuine interest in the root music or is simply a case of "the grass may be greener on the other side of the fence".
Few people have ever found this greener grass. Try to think of a folk/jazz fusion that has genuinely worked in the long term. Neither does it appear to be any great leap in development. The 'innovators' usually settle into a set list that seems very familiar each time you listen.
Modern jazz musicians don't appear to have much of a problem acknowledging their roots in traditional jazz. Why are we so afraid of the word folk?
Folk Clubs have always come and gone, some have lasted for 30 plus years, others have been like chameleons, adapting to circumstance but sticking around in some form or other.
From various independent sources there is concern that the next couple of years or so will see significant club closures. It would be great if the clubs were no longer needed and the music was thriving naturally in all kinds of venues, but this is wishful thinking. Good clubs are closing and the network is in decline. Does it really matter and can anything be done about it?
We think that it does matter and think that the clubs have a valuable role to play. Whether anything can be done about it is a harder question but to quote again from the AFO newsletter, "If you really want to do something, you'll find a way. If you don't you'll find an excuse." Don't say we didn't warn you!