CROWDFUNDING RADAR: Finding Healing Through Ancestral Songs
The Chivalrous Crickets
Healing. It’s a word that has been used increasingly as the nation faces its most divided period since the Vietnam War. One of the most indelible musical memories of the Vietnam era is Bob Dylan, the poster child for the protest generation, and Johnny Cash, the working man’s hero to country fans everywhere, joining to sing Dylan’s “Girl From the North Country,” arguably Dylan’s most direct link to his British folk influences. It’s beyond hyperbolic to call that moment “healing,” but it was special, a snapshot of two people from very different worlds united in the common music of their ancestors. More and more often, “healing” is a word I see in crowdfunding campaigns, often connected to an artist who is exploring the musical traditions of his or her ancestors. So this week, I’m diving back into the “world music” pool for campaigns featuring American acts reaching into their past to revive music that helped form their identity. Like the Dylan/Cash duet, it might not be healing, but it fills up a hole, and sometimes that’s enough.
The Chivalrous Crickets – No Pence to Spend (click here to view campaign)
The link between British and Irish music and Appalachian old-time and bluegrass is as straight a one as there comes, to the point that many American “traditionals” are reworks of even older tunes from the Motherland. While it may seem odd that all of those European and American traditions would be alive and well in Manhattan (queue that old commercial exclamation of “New York City?!”), those roots are found anywhere immigrants or the descendants of immigrants live, which is everywhere. But The Chivalrous Crickets, named because of a description of a cricket in a medieval bestiary as a creature “that loves to sing, forgetting all else,” meld not only Celtic and old-time, but also early classical music to try and find new ways to present these ancient songs. This Kickstarter campaign to fund their debut album, No Pence to Spend, has a limited number of rewards, but backers can get a signed copy of the album (there is no digital or vinyl option), a hand-designed poster from band member Genevieve Gillespie, or a chance to be in their first music video, shooting in summer 2020.
Pharos Ensemble – Untitled Debut Album (click here to view campaign)
While formed at Berklee College of Music, the members of Pharos Ensemble are all from Greece and Cyprus, so they have first-generation connections to the traditional music of their homes. While Greek immigrants and Greek musical traditions may not be as common in America as Celtic or British ones, that only helps make the music a greater draw for many. There is an exotic, but oddly familiar, sound to the band’s traditional ballads. Despite being played on instruments not commonly found in American roots music, strings are still strings and percussion is still percussion and well-sung vocals are universal. There are a wide range of backer rewards for this Kickstarter campaign, including the album in digital and CD formats, a one-hour lesson on the instrument of your choice, a meet and greet in person or via Skype, a chance to sit in on a rehearsal, and a variety of house/civic concert options.
Makaysha Rain – Untitled Kirtan-Fusion Album
Practically every musical heritage has some sort of call-and-response element. Possibly a holdover from when music was ritual, possibly just a sure way for a musician to ensure an audience is “into” the show. In the case of Louisville’s Makaysha Rain, that call-and-response tradition is kirtan, a Hindu musical style that Rain intersperses with English lyrics to bring it to new audiences. This campaign, of the three I featured, is the most overt in connecting music to healing. Rain is devoting serious space in her Indiegogo campaign description to themes of suicide prevention and reduction of anxiety and stress, all things that draw her to kirtan music. Backer rewards include the album in digital or CD formats, a massage from Rain (who is a trained massage therapist, it should be noted, to keep this reward from being weird), CBD products from Rain’s company, and lessons on ukulele, guitar, harmonium, or kirtan chant.