Friday, 13 March 2015

Story Behind The Song International

FolkCasters International: we need your help!

Our musical history man, Babba - who every month on FolkCast tells us the Story Behind The Song - is seeking songs from all around the world that have an historical story to tell - songs that may be well known in their homeland but which haven't been widely heard by the rest of the world. 
The World, yesterday
So, if you know of such a song - either a traditional folk song or one by a known author - please get in touch by email

Remember: these should be songs about an historical event that do NOT originate from the United Kingdom. Thanks.

Here's more details from Babba:

Let’s be clear – I don’t want you to write a script, that’s my job. I’m looking for songs suitable for the slot from your country, and I want you to provide the story, together with a link or two to any documentation (preferably in English, although I can get by in French), and quite possibly an mp3 of the song. We’ll let you know if we need the mp3.
So, which song? Well, it either has to be fairly well-known in your country, or it should be about an important event in your country’s history. Or just a curious tale. Above all, though, it has to be true, and this where you may have to do some research.
I usually spend about a week or so researching a SBTS. Typically, I’ll start by Googling the subject (other search engines are available) and clicking on any likely-looking links. Invariably, one of these will be Wikipedia, and that’s no bad place to start. Just don’t use it as your only source, partly because it’s not always right, but mainly because you can often find links to original documents or contemporary accounts elsewhere and quoting from original sources adds authenticity to the tale. Our listeners like to hear “voices from the past”.
The most useful part of Wikipedia comes at the bottom of each article, in the “See Also”, “Notes” and “References” sections.
For example, this year is the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, and I plan to feature the battle in a SBTS when I get around to deciding which song to use. Now, I’ve just had a look at the Wikipedia article on the battle, and in the “Notes” section I find a link to a freely downloadable copy of “The Battle of Waterloo: Containing the Accounts Published by Authority, British and Foreign, and Other Relative Documents, with Circumstantial Details, Previous and After the Battle, from a Variety of Authentic and Original Sources : to which is Added an Alphabetical List of the Officers Killed and Wounded, from 15th to 26th June, 1815, and the Total Loss of Each Regiment” written by John Booth and published in Belgium in 1815, the very year of the battle! This contains accounts by people who were actually there, people who saw the action. If you’re interested, it’s here:
This will be one of my primary sources. There will be others, but this book will satisfy the “voices from history angle”, and who knows? I may come across a fact or two that isn’t generally known, which always adds interest. Little features that fire the imagination help, too. I sincerely hope that I’ll have time to mention the dentures that were sold in Britain in the years after 1815 that were advertised as “Waterloo teeth”, because they were made from real teeth extracted from the dead on the battlefield by scavengers.
Get the idea? If I were suggesting the Battle of Waterloo as a possible SBTS to Folky Phil (and yes, I have to pitch every story to him before I start working on it, he’s the boss and he pays the bills when the Begging Bowl is empty) I’d start by explaining that the battle was the one that finally saw off Napoleon Bonaparte, that it was something that the British people know about but don’t know many details about, that I’d got several versions of the song “The Plains of Waterloo” and that I’d got a contemporary set of accounts of the battle by folk who’d been there – “For example, did you know that….”
Remember that there has to be a tale to tell, too! I have a friend who frequently suggests I feature “Tom Dooley” purely because he likes the melody. All well and good, but there’s no real story to it, beyond “Man murders woman and is hanged”. 
Finally, think about the time available. The ideal SBTS is between ten and fifteen minutes, including the music. If you’re suggesting a long song, it cuts down on the available talking time. That’s fine, but it can’t be a very detailed story that needs a lot of explanation.
So that’s what I want from you. A reason why I should tell the tale, the name of the song that contains the tale and a link to some sources. I’ll take it from there.