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This was inspired by a fascinating encounter. I have a couple of friends from Bulgaria, and was talking with one of them about the EU vote, about the tendency of British people, specifically English people, to revise our history, and imagine that there was some idyllic time in the past before immigration, globalisation and whatnot came along and ruined everything… It’s an a-historicaal perspective, one that ignores the brutal racism, misogyny and homophobia of the 40s and 50s, one that overlooks the kinds of medical and technological advances that we benefit from thanks to globalisation, and also one that ignores the simple fact that the power that we had at that time came about through the conquest and killing of the British Empire. We spent a few hundred years going round the planet, stealing resources, enslaving people, killing anyone who disagreed and propping up our own quality of life with the spoils of those incursions. After WWII, and the devastation it wrought on the UK economy and infrastructure, we were utterly reliant on immigration, on the generosity of those who came to work here and help rebuild the country. Often, the attraction of being here was amplified by the degree to which British intervention in their home nations had made life for the poor far far worse there… But with that immigration came culture, knowledge, cuisine, music, technology, and a scope for a much broader perspective on things if only we’d listen for a while.
So I was recounting some of these ideas to my Bulgarian friend who commented ‘I thought only foreigners knew that’ - the notion that the UK’s strength lies in its rapacious history is common knowledge outside of these ridiculous islands, and our inability to listen to anyone else’s perspective leaves us deaf to this much need perspective on our global responsibilities.
So for the music here, I looked into the scales used in Bulgarian music, and Roma music in particular, and found this rather evocative ‘hungarian minor scale’ - it’s like a natural minor scale but with the 4th and 7th intervals raised by a semitone. That gives a whole load of really interesting harmonic and melodic possibilities. For more on Bulgarian music, put ‘Bulgarian Wedding Music’ into YouTube. It’s pretty amazing stuff!
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