Singing, singing singing: Music Mind Map for IPM, Liverpoool Uni.

My mate (Professor) the wonderful Sara Cohen asked me if i would like to do this for the webpage of IPM (Institute of Popuaar Music where i have been a fellow since the 1990s when David Horn was the first ever founder Director of such a place in Europe!)   – so i did yesterday – it’s a bit full on but there you go – so i thought i’d put it on my blog- i will try and see if i can get the mind map picture with it

Musical  Mind Map for Institute of Popular Music website, Liverpool University

Singing has been my life and at one point there was, I think, talk of me becoming a  a professional singer  but I did not have any formal training during my childhood. I can almost visually remember singing ‘Seven littler girls sitting in the backseat’, which I think was originally sung by the Beverley Sisters when I was 7 or 8, with my sister:  the picaresque nuances were lost on us and I can still sing it verbatim. I am like a juke box for songs I must know hundreds  of popular songs. I  remember my grandparents listening to a radio when grandpa was not glistening to the football results in Birkenhead = Tranmere Rovers 1 et … and it all stems from that.

I sang leads in lots of the Gilbert and Sullivan at School,  from  Yum Yum in the Mikado to Patience and Rose Maybud etc  in other shows. I sang for the Cheshire Youth Choir – it’s all here in the list!  An unsual highlight was when I was in Chile in 1971-3 teaching  and in Temuco I joined the local choir of the UTE the Universidad  Tecnica del Estado, when because I was directosinging from Europe I had to sing the solo Habba Nagila (an Israeli song…!).  In the 1980s my mates and i started out own acapella group Witches Tuesday ‘cos we met on Tuesdays abns our opening song was ‘Who are the Witches?’; and we did lots of performances for social workers and parties throughout Edinburgh for a few years with a big Sweet Honey in the Rock repertoire.  I later also  sang with Sedenka the acapella singing dancing group started by Scottish American ‘Mouth Music’  singer friend Talitha Mackenzie.

My mind map has turned into a list of things that are almost chronological on the right hand side.  Chile changed my life: being there in the Allende period 1971-3 when ‘new song’  showed that music and politics could be all about the ideals and struggle for one thing, which was building a ‘new’ socialist society for every person in Chile, until the USA and their lackeys staged a brutal military coup on 11 September 1973; with many were arrested, tortured, and ‘disappeared’ with singer songwriter/ theatre director Víctor Jara murdered. The key groups Inti Illimani (whom I knew) and Quilapayún were travelling in Europe as Popular Unity Ambassadors at the time. So my kind map just becomes a story real to things that happen to my in my life that changed who I was as person. I did my MPhil and  PhD on Chilean ‘new song; and the resistance  music of the group Karaxú

I first  got into world music in 1967 when I went to Ibiza hitching from Bolton with my Ellesmere Port mate Anne. We got to  Barcelonan where we got an overnight ship to Ibiza. I remember  people unfurled pink and green crepe toilet rolls sold at the dockside as the ship went outn making like a maypole of long tissues which then broke symbolically. We sat on the deck and chatted to people and when we got there we stayed in a local house where the number of beds increased in the bedroom, with the number of people who turned up. I got badly burnt lying on the rocks trying to get brown with oil on my skin! We heard South African anti-apartheid star Miriam Makeba singing Pata Pata in a club and that was IT! From then on I was into ‘other’ musician and later after turning myself into becoming an ethnomusiologist  somehow for my PhD, I got into radio and journalism (NUJ) all around world music and become a pioneer with a Radio Scotland world music  programme for 4 and a half years called Earthbea;t and I made lots of music radio features  for Radio 3 and Radio 4 and World Service and Radio Scotland, formally as a BBC freelance for about 13 years.

I met the Mambo Inn DJs at the Edinburgh Festival in the 1980s, and Sue Steward’s Latin DJing made me decide I had to become  a DJ, so I did and started turning the decks for Club Sandino as the music and politics bag was always then in  my life , and it was for Nicaragua. I DJd monthly at  Club Sandino for a long time (thank you babysitters)  above  Edinburgh Playhouse and then my mate musician Chick MEdley got me totally into Cuba Norte club as a one of the only few only!  female DJ Latin style for a few years.  And by then I had been to Cuba lots of times since 1978 and had amazing LP and Latin collection.  I Djd with my Mexican veterinary mate Enrique who DJd at Cellar Bar.  Gosh we had fun

Cos I am ill and not going to be here a lot  now – not much time left – and I find after spending over 20 years as a journalist,  music critic and music writer (Songlines , fRoots, The Guardian, The List, Scotland) that as I have written and reviewed weekly so many many world music discs right until this month, that now I crave all the  jazz I listened  to in the late 1960s. Then I was at Essex University and Tony Platt, the brother of my then boyfriend later  husband (later  divorced), who lived in  the USA,   used to send  us jazz jazz jazz and that was and education from Miles Davis to John Coltrane to John Handy  to Betty Carter to Herbie Hancock etc. I  have all these old LPS and I play them as I love vinyl and have always kept my decks viable.

Every day now I listen to  an crazy Italian disc from Napoli from the  1950s called  Renato Carosone which I bought at the street market  in Carrara in Italy while on my Italian-Chilean mates 30th wedding anniversary there a few years back.  It covers Italian and lots of  songs from the 1950s.

My musical mind map is full people I have met and talked to and made music with. I listen to Ry Cooder and V.M Bhatt A Meeting By the River a lot these days as it’s meditative and quietens the soul. I listen to Leyenda, my Chilean oldest  mates Inti illiamni disc with John Williams and and Paco Peňa a lot – I was at their first gigs together. I have written about flamenco for over twenty years having written key chapters in the world music bible The Rough Guide to World Music and followed flamenco like a hawk since the 1980s  and have done a number of  compilations for different indie companies and I just  did a thrilling  3CD one for Nascente which has got a lot of air time and reviews and I am very happy with it, selling in the supermarkets and shops still. A lovely swan song. I have loved over the years doing discs and disc  notes  for TUMI – Yusa, David Alvarez and others (thank you M0 Fini) and for Rough Guides (Flamenco)  and Estrella Morente and Creole Choir of Cyuba for Real World (even if they forgot to say i had actually written the CCC notes…!)

And I sing still now, every Sunday with my friends Italian Giovanna and her  partner Carlos the Chilean singer songwriter, and Chilean   mate  Ruby,  and her brother brilliant guitarist Galo, and my British  friend  Sue (Witches Tuesday and gold award winning barber shop chorus Forth Valley Chorus); and we just sing, sing, sing, folk, traditional, Spanish Civil War, Chilean, Latin,  lots of sentimental songs. Harriet Tubman is oft my solo, the a song about helping black slaves escape to freedom in the US, a  Civil Rights song.

Missed out my teenage years lying in bed on Sunday night listening  to Radio Caroline – Roy Orbison was  huge fave then and I can still sang every note of In Dreams and It’s Over with him. I might mention I lurked around Merseyside Wirral in the mid 1960s and  saw The Beatles in a hotel on a Sunday night before they were famous somewhere over Rock Ferry or Neston way. I met The Who at Essex, as mate Geoff Posner, was Entertainments man. Pink Floyd came and did a lights show there in the Lecture theatre.

I have always had a parallel classical existence working for a decade or more so as a music critic for The Scotsman for classical and world.  The  last few years I have been to every one of the MET Operas beamed into cinemas throughout the UK in the winter into Spring – a joy. Thank you my close friends and companions Judy, Dave and Clive (who always queued got the tickets for me!)

Music has been my life – will always be – and dancing too – my extended Grandfathe’rs Fairley family are Scottish from  Edinburgh and they owned a  dance hall called Fairley’s Ballroom notorious for the popularity with sailor’s into the Port of Leith; and for fights too,  although they had a award wining ballroom dancing team! We have all been generations of dancers in my family – my Grandad’s generation numbered award winning champions: I dance tango and  salsa and ballroom and  so it goes on.

So this  is a huge mind map of a mind full of music and dance and song:  I hope to make it as a member of one of  the bands in the sky as a soloist, as well as a backing singer with percussion on the side I reckon! Viva la música!

Jan Fairley, 12 May 2012Fellow IPM


About Jan Fairley

I am an experienced and passionate ethnomusicologist working as an arts and music journalist and broadcaster, writer and editor as well as researcher, lecturer, radio presenter and producer. I have a breadth of organising experience at home and abroad. I am a fluent Spanish speaker. I love travelling and have worked abroad (notably Chile 1971-3 and again in 1994) and researched in Cuba, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Finland.
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1 Response to Singing, singing singing: Music Mind Map for IPM, Liverpoool Uni.

  1. Kate Tucker says:

    Hi Jan,

    Anne told me about your blog when she got back from her visit – I am enjoying it enormously! Listening out for the waves of your singing down here in Hackney and thinking good things about you. Love Kate.

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