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Folk Music: First Contact
Contributor: Mike de Sousa, Director, AbleStable®

An account of my first contact with folk music as a young boy

Shared Expression
One of the most important functions of music is to bind a society or culture through shared expression. No doubt this is one of the fundamental reasons music developed among our species in the first place. Folk music encapsulates this primal and significant human activity. It is also the reason folk music and its followers resist changes in musical style and instrumentation.

My First Experience of Folk
I experienced folk music for the first time when I attended my local summer fete in the church meadow as a young boy. The fete was a gathering of local people that took place on the Saturday closest to the longest day in the year. No doubt such a gathering began not long after a community established its presence over eight hundred years ago.

These were strangely wonderful events, and although they were distant from the excitement of everyday fashion and technology, they connected me to the place and its people in way that only festivals and celebrations are capable of.

The stalls were home-made affairs where aunties would sell home baked buns or items of little or no value which had long since passed their useful life. There were games that the older boys at first refused to participate in for fear of appearing foolish to their girlfriends, but which all in their heart secretly desired to join in with. And at the centre of these events was music and dancing.

The Main Attraction
The music and dancing, which was the highlight of the day, took place in a central area surrounded by a ring of people. A second group of people in unfamiliar costumes and instruments made there way into the middle of the ring and began their music making.

As a young boy I was transfixed by this ritualistic experience. These musicians and dancers performed unselfconsciously and were deeply committed to continuing a tradition they obviously viewed as important. These were ordinary people who lead the community in shared experience, and as a young boy, it was plain to see their enjoyment in achieving this.

I wasn't sure at the time what the songs or the dancing signified, but the warmth and sense of belonging these days engendered was undeniable.

After All is Sung and Danced
Even after the last post was pulled from the ground and the final sweet wrappers cleared from the field, something remains in that meadow. Perhaps it's the faint sound of music and merriment that lingers in my memory. Perhaps it is that a place is as much defined by it's past as it's physical present.
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