Ask folks what comes to mind when you say Cape Breton and many will say fiddling. Over the past 40 years Cape Breton’s driving Scottish fiddle style has become a global phenomenon. Ask Cape Breton folk what comes to mind when they think fiddling – they will say Buddy MacMaster. He is to that music what Bill Monroe was to bluegrass, Michael Coleman was to Irish music, and Muddy Watters was to Chicago blues – both it’s defining virtuoso and guiding spirit.
Such masters are deified with monikers as giant and legend, but in Cape Breton they say, “Buddy is just Buddy” .. which means pretty much the same thing.
Fiddling is a way of life for us. It’s part of how we live. It’s part of our joys. It’s part of what we seek and desire.
Buddy’s willingness to play for anybody, anywhere; his indifference to his own stardom mingled with his profound respect for the music and the people who love it says something elemental about music itself – something we could be in danger of forgetting … that music at its deepest root is not a business, not a product, not even an art. It is a language – an emotional vocabulary we all speak and understand and that we all own equally – as much as we own the words we speak. Everything about how Buddy MacMaster played his music and treated his fans tells us that while he may play Cape Breton music better than it has ever been played – he does not think he owns that music … he thinks we do. The beauty that comes from his bow is not his, that beauty is ours – all of ours.
It will be as long as we choose to keep it, treasure it, and love it the way Buddy McMaster has taught us to do.
Hearty thanks to Doug Hollenbeck for sharing this great collection of artist profiles from CBC Brave New Waves archives from the 80s and 90s. I’ll put these among the others in my Radio Program Archives.
The aesthetics of radio just happens to luckily match the aesthetics of the internet … you have this feeling of conversational tone and accessibility and when radio is working it has that feeling of, “this person on the radio is just talking to me.”