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CFF (continued)

Right, we've established that I believe in a broad definition of folk music--as, apparently, do the festival organisers. They really embrace the concept of "not wrong, just different." Over a festival weekend, there will be groups of fiddlers playing traditional reels & jigs, ceilidh bands, solo singers (including singer songwriters, or what might be called troubadours), young bands, and bands that have been around since the beginning of time.

And though the festival attempts to reflect and promote the best of new music, it also does not lose sight of the "roots" of folk music. Witness this year, John McCusker & Phil Cunningham or John Spiers & Jon Boden, two variations of the combination of fiddle and accordion, playing tunes written both 200 years ago and this year. Or contrast The Pack, 12 teenagers playing energetic and ebullient tunes, to the powerful presence of Martin Simpson, an enduring and talented singer and guitarist delivering potent and thought-provoking songs.

As I was writing this, I thought of that line from The Blues Brothers, where the bar-owner is asked what sort of music they have there. "Oh, we have both kinds: Country and Western." CFF only has Folk, but in many forms, guises, and styles. Not everyone digs all the artists, but what brings people to the festival is the knowledge that, whatever country, culture, or ethnic group the music springs from, and whether it's traditional, modern, or enhanced by cross-pollination, it's all rooted in the people--the folk--and communicates at the level of human emotions.

But even with the diversity of the festival, I was a bit baffled at first with the choice of Julian Cope to appear this year. After a spell playing edgy pop with The Teardrop Explodes, he ambled off into the sunset to write strangely beautiful songs. Over the years, he's become regarded as a classic British eccentric (he wore a full-length egg costume at a Poll Tax demonstration), a committed eco-warrior, and an authority on ancient stone circles and matters Druidic (see his excellent book, The Modern Antiquarian).

So we get to Cambridge 2003. As I went into the press pit, I noticed the stage was empty, save for a keyboard. A few minutes later, Julian appeared dressed in black with shades, big hair and big beard, wearing a headset microphone.  continue

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