Is that all there is?

Editor’s Box from fRoots 268 (October 2005)
It has been a long, strange and rather depressing summer so I’m rather glad it’s finished. It wasn’t just that it rained at Womad and I missed the Sidmouths of old. Some of it was personal (and that’s how it stays) but there has been too much bad news out there in the real world. It seemed like there was trauma and death all over. Bombs in London or Iraq, planes falling out of the sky, devastating storms and floods or just the constant reporting of tiny individual tragedies — senseless murders, suicides of people pushed over the brink, deaths from diseases that we could probably cure if we didn’t spend all that money on the tools to kill other people with.

At my lowest point in August, worn down by all sorts of sad silly stuff, I found myself sitting on a bench staring at the Adriatic and distant Croatian islands. It should have been a relaxing day – I was at a loose end, waiting for the start of what turned out to be a wonderful Ethnoambient festival that evening — but I couldn’t concentrate on the book I’d brought to read, the autobiography of a famous jazz singer who’d also had her share of downers.

The question I couldn’t answer at the time was what on earth was I doing wasting my life on something as trivial and ephemeral as music? How could I justify spending my days putting together a magazine full of opinions on a bunch of people who – when it comes down to it — just twang things and hit things in pretty patterns and stand on stages largely spouting silly words? What, I wondered, was the point of it all? I had, I concluded, conspicuously done nothing of any value with my life whatsoever. I really wasn’t very good company for the next few days.

Coming back to London, it got more absurd. I did what I’d got into too much of a habit of doing — trawled through the internet message boards where people discuss this music. And what did I see? Endless trivia, pointless repetitive discussions, messengers being shot, opinions of taste being touted as ultimate truths, the dim doing battle with the dumb, all the while disconnected from the realities of life out there. I did the sensible thing I should have done ages ago and went cold turkey on most of them.

And then a few interesting things happened. A friend had entrusted me with a CD’s worth of her demo recordings and it had taken up residence in my car. Now I don’t deny I was in a melancholy state, and her music tends towards the sad — no banging, jolly tunes to add unwelcome variety. But it did me tremendous good: the music matched my mood, but instead of dragging me to further depths it had a fabulously therapeutic effect, almost as if the heartfelt singing was coming direct to me and problems were somehow being understood and shared.

Then at the end of August I decided that a day in a sunny field with a bunch of badly dressed English people unselfconsciously enjoying dancing and singing to their roots music was what the doctor may be ordering. It was. I arrived with a small grey cloud still circling above my soul, but a day being buoyed up by the ebullient sounds of English dance music and the sight of young persons throwing themselves around to it quite blew it all away.

So that’s alright then. Suddenly I could see some sense in all this game. Maybe this music that we treasure does have a real importance after all. It can work magic, it can heal and energise, maybe even in its own small way it can change the world. And what we’re doing with this magazine is trying our best to draw your attention to it, which might have some value after all. Especially if it improves your life too.

Ian Anderson


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