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Competing with Ballads (And Whisky?): The Construction, Celebration, and Commercialization of North-East Scottish Identity

Ian Russell
Folk Music Journal
Vol. 9, No. 2 (2007), pp. 170-191
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4522806
Page Count: 22
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Abstract

This article looks at the ways in which songs, alcohol, and local identity are firmly wedded in the bothy ballad tradition of North-East Scotland. Although composed mainly between 1840 and 1890, the songs have continued to be sung long after the system of agriculture in which they were created ceased to exist. As a part of this transposition into a modern environment, new social occasions have evolved that celebrate and dramatize the singing of such songs; for instance, 'bothy nichts' and 'meal an ales' became popular after the Second World War. More recently, competitions have become an important forum for their performance. The annual Champions Bothy Ballad Competition, held in Elgin, is the blue riband event. Here, with major sponsorship from distillers the Macallan, the singing is performed against a backdrop of whisky consumption. The interrelationship between the contemporary performance of such songs and the competition context is examined, with particular reference to relevance, significance, and regional identity.

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