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Homegrown Plus: Iona Fyfe

In this photo of Iona Fyfe, Fyfe sits behind an electronic keyboard and a microphone. Photo is accompanied by the Homegrown 2020 logo, which includes the words "Library of Congress American Folklife Center Homegrown 2020 Concert Series, "Homegrown at Home."

Iona Fyfe. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Welcome to another post in our Homegrown Plus series, in which we present Homegrown concerts that also had accompanying oral history interviews, placing both videos together in an easy-to-find blog post. (Find the whole series here!) We’re continuing the series with  Iona Fyfe, who is a folksinger from Aberdeenshire in the North East of Scotland. Iona is recognized as one of Scotland’s finest young ballad singers, rooted deeply in the singing traditions of the North East. Winner of Scots Singer of the Year at the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards 2018, Iona has been described by Global Music Magazine as “one of the best Scotland has to offer.”  Iona has performed extensively in the UK, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France, Poland, Australia and Canada. Iona was a finalist in the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year and was nominated for Folk Band of the Year at the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards in 2019. In 2018, Iona performed at Interceltique Festival De Lorient where she was described by Rolling Stone France as “a Scottish folksinger, magical and charismatic.”

In her Homegrown concert, Iona sang a variety of traditional ballads associated with her part of Scotland. She also honored the American Folklife Center by taking what we call the “Archive Challenge”: learning a song from one of our archival recordings. In Iona’s case, the song was “The White Fisher,” as sung by Bell Duncan in the James Madison Carpenter collection.  You can find that collection online at the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at this link. You can find that particular recording of Bell Duncan at this link. Iona was also influenced by the singing of her teacher, Ian Russell, an old friend of the American Folklife Center, who likewise learned the song from Bell Duncan’s recording. Ian points out that while the Scottish collector Gavin Grieg had found a text, it was not until Carpenter recorded Bell Duncan that we got a tune for the ballad. It’s a haunting melody closely related to the one commonly used for “The House Carpenter” here in North America. You can find a video of Ian singing the song at this link.

I’ll bet by now, you just want to watch Iona Fyfe’s concert–and I don’t blame you!  See it in the player below!

In our conversation, Iona and I talked about a lot of topics, including the influence of great archival collections on Scottish folksinging; the importance of regional identity in Scottish music; the relationship of Scottish songs to the Scots language; the experience of getting a traditional music degree from a conservatory; the influence of teachers like Rod Paterson, Margaret Bennett, and Ian Russell; and Iona’s plans to draw further on AFC’s James Madison Carpenter collection in the future. Watch it in the player below!

We hope you’ve enjoyed both the concert and the conversation. You can find both of these videos with more bibliographic information on the Library of Congress website, with the concert here at this link and the oral history at this link.

Thanks for watching, listening, and reading! The American Folklife Center’s Homegrown Concert Series brings music, dance, and spoken arts from across the country, and some from further afield, to the Library of Congress. For information on current concerts, visit the Folklife Concerts page at Concerts from the Library of Congress. For past concerts, including links to webcasts and other information, visit the Homegrown Concerts Online Archive.

Homegrown Plus: Changüí Majadero

In the Homegrown Plus series, we present Homegrown concerts that also had accompanying oral history interviews, placing both videos together in an easy-to-find blog post. We’re happy to be continuing the series with the Cuban American band Changüí Majadero. Founded by tres guitarist and vocalist Gabriel García, Changüí Majadero was the result of García’s pivotal pilgrimage to the Guantanamo region of Cuba, where he learned the musical style called changüí from the living masters of the style. He says he was inspired to spread the spirit of Cuban folkloric music mixed with a dash of East Los Angeles grit. The band’s concert included songs they learned during research in the American Folklife Center archive, along with other songs from their repertoire. Our conversation with Gabriel provides an introduction to the band and to the unusual style known as changüí, including the instruments, rhythms, and history of this important musical tradition.

Homegrown Plus: Joe Jencks

In the “Homegrown Plus” series we present Homegrown concerts that also had accompanying oral history interviews, placing both videos together in an easy-to-find blog post. We’re continuing the series with our friend Joe Jencks, who is an accomplished singer-songwriter but also a lover of traditional songs, especially work and labor songs. For his Homegrown concert, he performed an entire set of songs from the AFC archive, making this concert also an example of an artist taking the Archive Challenge. We’re delighted that Joe took the challenge, and we think he did a fantastic job in his exemplary concert video. You can watch his concert, his interview video, and a bonus Archive Challenge song from Folk Alliance International, all in this blog post!

Homegrown Plus: PIQSIQ Inuit-Style Throat Singing

It’s been a while since we posted a Homegrown Plus post! In this ongoing series, we present Homegrown concerts that also had accompanying oral history interviews, placing both videos together in an easy-to-find blog post. We’re continuing the series with PIQSIQ, an Inuit style throat singing duo who characterize their style as being “galvanized by darkness and haunting northern beauty.”

PIQSIQ is composed of sisters Tiffany Kuliktana Ayalik and Kayley Inuksuk Mackay. These talented performers come together to create a unique duo, performing ancient traditional songs along with new compositions. The two grew up in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, with roots in Nunavut, Canada’s northernmost territory. After years of hard work on their music, they have developed their own form, blending haunting melodies and otherworldly sounds. As PIQSIQ, they perform their songs with live improvisational looping, creating a dynamic audience experience that changes with every show. In this blog, you’ll find their November 2020 concert and their February 2021 oral history interview.

Homegrown Plus Four: The 2018 Archive Challenge Sampler Concert

  In the Homegrown Plus series, we present Homegrown concerts that also had accompanying oral history interviews, placing both together in an easy-to-find blog post. (Find the whole series here!) We’re continuing the series with one that fell through the cracks for a while: the 2018 Archive Challenge Sampler concert in the Coolidge Auditorium. Today is […]

Homegrown Plus: Emma Björling and Petrus Johansson

By now, experienced readers know the deal with these Homegrown Plus posts: we present Homegrown concerts that also had accompanying oral history interviews, placing both together in an easy-to-find blog post. We’re continuing the series with the duo of Emma Björling and Petrus Johansson, who perform beautiful arrangements of Swedish and other Scandinavian folksongs. Emma Björling (vocals) is one of the foremost singers of Swedish folksongs performing today. She is a member of the bands Lyy and Skye Consort with Emma Björling, as well as vocal groups Kongero and Baravox. She has also toured extensively with the well-known Swedish folk band Ranarim. Petrus Johansson (guitar) started playing guitar and bass, mostly jazz and rock, when he was quite young. During his University studies he met Emma, and together they started playing Swedish traditional music. This led to a greater interest in the guitar as a folk music instrument, using it to provide bass lines. He is a trained guitar and bass teacher and has worked at Ingesund College of Music and several music schools. He also works as a freelance musician and has played with Mats Berglund, Svante Turesson and others.

Homegrown Plus: Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas

We continue the Homegrown Plus series with the duo of Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas, who perform their own unusual arrangements of traditional and original Scottish and American folk music on fiddle and cello. Alasdair Fraser has a concert and recording career spanning over 30 years, with a long list of awards, accolades, radio and television credits, and feature performances on top movie soundtracks, including Last of the Mohicans and Titanic. In 2011, he was inducted into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame. Natalie Haas, a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music, is one of the most sought after cellists in traditional music today, and has performed and recorded with Mark O’Connor, Natalie MacMaster, Irish supergroups Solas and Altan, Liz Carroll, Dirk Powell, Brittany Haas, Darol Anger, Laura Cortese, and many more. Together, the duo of Fraser & Haas has helped reconstruct and revive a longstanding Scottish tradition of playing dance music on violin and cello. For their socially distanced concert, they performed some music solo and some using studio technology to join up separate performances, but most of it is never-before-released concert footage from their archive of pre-pandemic performances. In the interview, we discuss their separate musical histories as well as their 20-year career as a duo.

Homegrown Plus: Eva Salina and Peter Stan

Eva Salina and Peter Stan have played not one but two Homegrown concerts in the last few years…so this blog presents three videos: both concerts and an oral history interview. California-grown, Brooklyn-based Eva Salina is a groundbreaking interpreter of Balkan Romani songs. Raised in the US Balkan Diaspora, Eva’s mentors are some of the greatest living Balkan musicians. Eva’s duo partner, Peter “Perica” Stan, is a Serbian/Romanian Roma accordionist known for his playful innovation and soulful, intuitive improvisations. Together, they played exciting Serbian and Roma music, and told fascinating stories about their lives and musical experiences. Find it all in the blog!

Homegrown Plus: Steve Riley and the Riley Family Band

We’re starting a new season of Homegrown Plus with a concert and oral history from the Riley Family Band featuring Steve Riley. Steve is a widely acclaimed master of the Cajun accordion, and also sings and plays fiddle and guitar with his acclaimed band Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys. Steve has two very talented sons: Burke, who was 10 when the concert was recorded, and Dolsy, who was 7. In this concert father and sons perform together in their own backyard, billing themselves as The Riley Family Band. In the oral history interview, I asked Steve about his whole musical history. Find both videos right here on the blog!