Vive la difference

I recently met a woman who dislikes bagpipes. In fact she finds the sound so grating and unbearable that whenever she hears a bagpipe of any kind she just wants it to stop. Quite naturally I was flabbergasted. It's salutary to discover that others may be offended by the things one feels most passionate about.

Well, it's fair to say that she would probably detest the music I'm currently listening to. La Novia is a collective of experimental folk musicians from Central France, broadly speaking the Auvergne. That they are impeccable traditional players is clear, but they add a modern, psychedelic edge, playing tunes for a long time, detuning drones, adding electronics and so on. It's intense stuff.

My current favourite is the band Jéricho, whose extended sets and haunting vocals leave me breathless and uplifted.


Now I freely admit that even without the layers of experimentation, the Auvergne bagpipe, the cabrette, is an acquired taste.

But, as with one of those mould-encrusted French goat's cheeses that offends the nose, burns the tongue and scrapes the palate, once you have it your life will never be the same again. A whole world of experience awaits.

But there I go. I can't help myself. I'm remonstrating. I'm wedded to the idea that with enough persuasion I can get everyone to love the bagpipes as I do. Let it lie.

For the truth is that music evokes such strong passions and powerful tribal loyalties that there will always be polarised differences of taste. The trick is learning how to live with them.


  1. On first reading this I thought that surely this lady could be converted to liking at least one type of bagpipe, maybe a softer, quieter type, but then I wonder whether I would love the instrument quite as much if it was too widely appreciated.

    Part of the appeal for me is playing something that is a bit different. Just imagine waking up one day to find that we'd got the world playing and loving bagpipes, I'd certainly feel that something was missing.



Featured post

Shroom: ten years on

I find it hard to believe but it's exactly ten years since my book Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom was published. Thou...

Popular Posts

Twitter Updates