Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Voice of the People

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to be invited up to Broadcasting House, in London, to take part in a forthcoming documentary on Radio 3, about folk-song collecting, past and present.

I was there to talk about how the early collectors, like Cecil Sharp, were labouring under the idea that rural folk cultures were, in some sense, pagan, or had preserved aspects of an ancient fertility religion in their seasonal calendar of folk customs. That idea has collapsed, but it remained so pervasive during the twentieth century that it inspired all manner of bands, revived folk customs, and other manifestations of popular culture (not least, The Wicker Man).

I had a lot of fun, especially getting to meet various folk musicians and collectors, and I loved watching a radio programme being made.

The programme, Voice of the People, is hosted by Verity Sharp, and will be broadcast on January 30th 2016 as part of a weekend devoted to folk music.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Telling the Bees: Steer by the Stars, fRoots and Tour

It's been a busy year for Telling the Bees. Our new album, Steer by the Stars, came out in May and has been garnering some great reviews. If you haven't heard it, you can check it out on our Bandcamp page.

Then, we're being featured on the front cover of the September issue of fRoots magazine.

And finally, we're going on a mini-tour in October and November. Do come and see us, and check out the website for more dates.

Friday, 26 June 2015


Piltoncholia: the feeling of misery that ensues when you're not at Glastonbury Festival (for those who may not know, Glastonbury Festival isn't in Glastonbury at all, but right next to the long-suffering village of Pilton. Which is why locals refer to it as the Pilton Village Fete. None of which is any comfort whatsoever).

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Solstice eve

Having a toddler has rather put paid to any all night summer solstice shenanigans. When uninterrupted sleep is the norm, the idea of willingly staying up all night rapidly loses its appeal. So we went for a solstice eve walk to find the newly discovered stone circle at Sittaford Tor on Dartmoor.

I say newly discovered for that's how the papers reported it, but in fact it's been known about for years. What's new is that it's been excavated and dated and proven to be the real, Bronze Age deal. And what's unusual about it is that Victorian antiquarians never got their hands on it, so it remains 'unrestored'. 

All the stones lie where they've fallen, looking like the marks of a sundial, set to measure millennia. 

In fact, many of the stones had succumbed to the weight of time and were sunken into the peat. They've only just been unburied. Protection from the elements or perhaps the acidity of the soil have given them a ghostly white appearance. They look like bleached bones.

One of the stones has been hoiked out of the circle and used in a wall. It's a handy marker for without it, the circle would be easy to miss. It's hidden by thick tussocks and fluffy tufts of cotton grass. 

When built it would have been one of the largest stone circles on the moor and I suppose regularly filled with people. Now, on a windy afternoon, with the mist rolling in – the traditional midsummer weather – it feels pretty bleak. 

On the way back we stopped at Fernworthy stone circle, set much lower down, and now surrounded by the trees of a modern plantation. It has a slightly spooky feel.

Minka was unfazed. At first she wanted to touch the stones and scramble upon them.

Then, unbidden, she went round every one, giving each a hug. I felt a surge of druidic pride.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Einar Selvik

Einar Selvik is a skald and the founder of the Norwegian band Wardruna. Anyone who's been enjoying The Vikings will have heard his music as it features heavily in the series. It's spine-tinglingly good.

Here's a talk given by Selvik at the Dutch Archaeon festival. I particularly like what he has to say about tradition and the need for music to have something greater behind it.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

The Will of the Way Things Are

As regular readers will know, I am a long term Gong fan. It's therefore with great sadness that I learned today that Daevid Allen, who has been fighting cancer, has been given six months to live. But, oh my, here's a sobering and exemplary attitude to death. His letter, breaking the news, is copied from the Planet Gong website:

Hello you Kookaburras, 

OK so I have had my PET-CAT scans (which is essentially a full body viewing gallery for cancer specialists) and so it is now confirmed that the invading cancer has returned to successfully establish dominant residency in my neck. The original surgery took much of it out, but the cancer has now recreated itself with renewed vigor while also spreading to my lung.

The cancer is now so well established that I have now been given approximately six months to live.

So My view has Changed: 
I am not interested in endless surgical operations and in fact it has come as a relief to know that the end is in sight.

I am a great believer in "The Will of the Way Things Are" and I also believe that the time has come to stop resisting and denying and to surrender to the way it is.

I can only hope that during this journey, I have somehow contributed to the happiness in the lives of a few other fellow humans.

I believe I have done my best to heal, dear friends and that you have been enormously helpful in supporting me through this time

So Thank you SO much for being there with me, for the Ocean of Love 
and Now, importantly, Thankyou for starting the process of letting go of me, of mourning then transforming and celebrating this death coming up - this is how you can contribute, this would be a great gift from those emotionally and spiritually involved with me. 

I love you and will be with you always - Daevid xxx -

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Raga Kapi

Here are some videos of South Indian, Carnatic music. They're taken from a concert in London and feature Jayanthi Kumaresh and Patri Satish Kumar, who I think have become instantly two of my favourite musicians.

Kumaresh plays the saraswati veena, an ancient and now endangered instrument, said to have been played by the Hindu goddess of the arts, Saraswati. Kumar plays mridangam, the double-headed drum, the sounds of which form a prayer, or mantra, to Shiva Nataraja. Support, on the tampura drone, comes from Mithila Sarma. The chemistry and sympathy between the musicians is extraordinary, and I'm struck by how rare it is in the West to see a woman playing an instrument with such artistry, composure and humility, without men somehow stealing the spotlight.

Raga Kapi is introduced with an alapana section in the first video, followed by the thillana in the second. This is played in adi tala, an eight-beat cycle – if you can, try keeping time with hand claps (clap-pinky-ring-middle, clap-wave-clap-wave) – it will make the climax even more breathtaking. The final video is a short but illuminating interview with Kumar.