Tuesday, August 06, 2019

That Honking You Hear is Not a Car Horn: Interview with Ken Field about the HONK! Festival

( Ken Field --right, Doug Holder at  Remnant Brewing)

 From the Honk! Festival Website:

Throughout the country and across the globe, a new type of street band movement is emerging — outrageous and inclusive, brass and brash, percussive and persuasive — reclaiming public space with a sound that is in your face and out of this world. Called everything from “avant-oompah!” to a “brassroots revolution,” these bands draw inspiration from sources as diverse as Klezmer, Balkan and Romani music, Brazilian Samba, Afrobeat and Highlife, Punk, Funk, and Hip Hop, as well as the New Orleans second line tradition, and deliver it with all the passion and spirit of Mardi Gras and Carnival.

Acoustic and mobile, these bands play at street level, usually for free, with no stages to elevate them above the crowd and no sound systems or speaker columns to separate performers from participants. These bands don’t just play for the people; they play among the people and invite them to join the fun. They are active, activist, and deeply engaged in their communities, at times alongside unions and grassroots groups in outright political protest, or in some form of community-building activity, routinely performing and conducting workshops for educational and social service organizations of all kinds.

Ken Field, a member of the core coordinating group for the Honk! Festival met me at  Remnant Brewing in the Bow Street Market in Union Square, Somerville. He has the low key-- cool demeanor of a jazz musician, but nonetheless shows a red hot passion for all things HONK! Field was sharing a cool drink and a spot of lunch with me while we talked about the festival. Field ( an pardon the pun) has played an instrumental role with HONK! since 2006.

Field was performing with his Revolutionary Snake Ensemble for a while, but wanted to expand its horizons, so he hooked up with HONK! and became a member of the coordinating committee in Somerville. Field likes music with a mission--and here bands from all over the nation and world engage the community.

Field told me his band is a  "Second line" brass band. Second Line is funeral music from the New Orleans Jazz tradition. The music can be somber but also very uplifting--a celebration of life.

The bands that perform at the festival have a political message as well. Whether it be environmental , about labor issues, or gender issues--the music can be a conduit for change. Field told me, " The bands for the most part pay for their own expenses. They are independent bands, with their own focus. We have bands from Austin, Texas to Rio in Brazil--it is that expansive."

 A young man at the bar overheard our conversation and came up to Field and talked to him about the "School of HONK."  He seemed to be very passionate about his experience there. Field sat back and dug the chatter. Not directly connected with the " Honk!" Festival is the school of "HONK!" Field teaches there. He and other faculty teach aspiring HONK! musicians how to engage and play in the tradition of  HONK!

Field who left the high tech world to live the life of a working artist told me, " I am basically making my living through my music." Field has an impressive resume. He has composed music for Sesame Street, independent films, music for animation and has performed widely in the Boston area and elsewhere. On Nov. 12 you can catch him with his group " Birdsongs of the Mesozoic" at the Lizard Lounge.

Field, like many artist I have interviewed, has a mission and follows through--here--in--the--Paris of New England.

*****  Sunday, October 13, 2013 - 8:00am - 10:00am  ( Honk! parade)

For more info about Ken Field go to: https://kenfield.org/

For more info  about the HONK! Festival  go to:  http://honkfest.org/2019-festival/

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