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Salut salutes fROOTS: a winner by any name


Long, long ago, when we were even more reactionary than now, we insisted on calling fROOTS by its perfectly good previous name Folk Roots at every opportunity.

The change had seemed at the time an unnecessary sop to the extremes of political correctness (not all that is described as politically correct is, in fact, other than correct). Folk, it was feared, equalled uncool, middle class, twee.

Those of us who had attended and even organised folk clubs in, for example, North-eastern England took this for the twaddle that it was. It has seemed an even more absurd assertion in more recent years, when folk has sometimes risen above its own little parapet to enjoy periods of fashionable acclaim, albeit with grotesque prefixes and suffixes (grunge, techno-, -adelia and so on) added to folk by fretting marketers and impossibly hip music journalists.

But fROOTS it became, and we stopped worrying about it a while back, not least since it remained an absolutely first-class publication, ably and enthusiastically run by Ian Anderson and packed each month (or nearly each month, because there are deliberate gaps) with outstanding features, interviews and reviews.

And this month's edition brings news of an honour, fROOTS's first in 31 years of publication (unless you count being featured by yours truly in The Daily Telegraph when it clocked up 20 years). The magazine is to collect a Womex Award for Professional Excellence.

People who fork out £6.20 for the magazine - it is a double issue, covering August and September, and includes a 15-track CD compilation of the some of more appealing folk and, yes, roots, music around just now - will find their investment rewarded. There are great features on Natalie Merchant, Dervish and Andy Cutting; a powerful look at Zimbabwean music; the story of the Turkish arms manufacturer who invented a folk instrument; a retrospective on Bob and Carole Pegg, and so much more that the paragraph could go on forever. There's even a look at the 2010 Womad that took place on my own former stamping ground, Abu Dhabi.

The fROOTS award is all the more welcome because it is announced in an edition that also includes a worrying open letter from Anderson on the tough times in which the magazine is living.

If you have somehow stumbled across this site without knowing already of fROOTS, or even if you are fully aware of the magazine but have stopped buying it, try out the Aug/Sept edition. I hope anyone who does so will agree with me that the award could hardly go to more deserving recipients.

And if you still wonder what one earth was wrong with sticking with Folk Roots, it may help to try the exercise Ian Anderson taught us decades ago: pronounce the title complete with Eff for the first letter. Eff Roots, then. Not so bad after all.

As a postscript to this piece, Ian has this to say:

... Oi! "fRoots" wasn't for political correctness, it just seemed like a very groovy idea just after the iMac had come out as well as a way of getting shot of all those buggers who thought that the f-word stood for American singer songwriters and little else.

What I could never figure out was why people never struggled to pronounce iMac as "eye-Mac" and iPhone as "eye-phone" but have so much trouble with eff-roots. Ho hum!

Colin Randall


Private Beach

How many Ian Andersons are there in the music world? There is the Jethro Tull one, then there is master of the (Thames) delta blues Ian A. Anderson (the A. being presumably to distinguish him from that one, though even Amazon can't seem to tell the difference), and now you mention another one! Or is this one Ian A. in another role?


Private Beach: This is the excellent bluesman Ian (formerly Ian A for the specific purposes of distinguishing himself from the J Tull singer), who has continued to play since turning to music journalism (Southern Rag, which became Folk Roots and then fROOTS). He dropped the A for public use some years ago, perhaps feeling it was time for the Tull man to find a way of demonstrating to the world that he wasn't that magazine editor.


I just came across this blog-again. This time I'm bookmarking it.

With regard to the magazine's name change from Folk Roots to fROOTS and its pronunciation, I thought it was pronounced "fruits".

Ironically,the first two hits that showed when I googled that word was for a food company-"FROOTS "Eat Delicious and Smile" Fresh Smoothies, Salads & Wraps."

The folk roots magazine is listed third :o)

I noticed there is a digital subscription option, and there are free examples of its articles online. One article that particularly interested me was about the great ngoni player from Mali, West Africa, Bassekou Kouyate.

Colin, thanks for reminding me about this magazine. I'm glad I found your blog again!
-an African American sista

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