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Why The Term "Trad" Blues Is Offensive

I have regularly been called a "Trad" Blues or Vintage Blues dancer. This term originally came out of the 'Fusion' scene, but this terminology has, for some reason, been embraced by the Blues scene as well.

I think this is a mistake.

First off, I am quite happy dancing to contemporary Blues music as well as what one might call traditional or vintage Blues music. In fact, usually more happy, because of the higher sound quality of the recordings.

So where does this put me? Do we need a new category, maybe Contemporary Blues as well? So I'd be a 'Contemporary/Trad' Blues dancer?


You see, the "Trad" Blues moniker is a trick that is being played on us to be willing to accept some dishonest marketing propositions (whether intentional or not).

When I am playing music to dance Blues to, I'm not playing "Trad" Blues. I'm not playing "Contemporary" Blues.

I'm playing Blues. Period. Sometimes Chicago, sometimes Delta, sometimes electric, sometimes acoustic, etc.. etc.. I'm not limited under the "Blues" umbrella, and there isn't some type of Blues that I won't play (as long as it's good :).

Because I'm not a "Trad" Blues dancer.

I'm a Blues dancer.

But by redefining us as Trad Blues dancers, and redefining the music we dance to as Trad Blues, this directly implies the existence of a type of Blues that is not Trad Blues. Otherwise the adjective would be useless.

We wouldn't talk about buying a 'rolling car' - we would just buy a car.

But for some reason we have accepted this imagined limitation to the thing we love, we call ourselves "Trad" Blues dancers as if there is some other type of Blues.

And that's where the "Fusion Blues" or "Alt Blues" marketing term happily steps in to the space that it has made. The thing that we seem to have forgotten in all of this, is that there hasn't been some new invention of a type of Blues. The genre of Blues music is well defined and hasn't had any recent additions or upheavals that would require reclassifying all previous Blues as "Trad Blues". Don't take my word for it, ask Blues musicians. Ask a musicologist.

(And please note that a handful of artists doing remixes of Blues music to electronic music does not a genre make - nor is that what is generally played at a "Fusion/Alt" event, for one, there simply isn't enough of it available yet).

But now we are happy to hear people talk about dancing to "Fusion Blues" or "Alt Blues" as if it actually exists.

Let me be clear at this point: If you want to dance to Electronica, Hip Hop, Pop, Tango music or whatever it may be, and you want to either be inspired by Blues dancing or think that you are inspired by Blues dancing, then I don't really care - have fun. But that doesn't somehow magically transform the music you are dancing to.

And it definitely doesn't redefine the music I am dancing to.

But if we accept the moniker "Trad Blues" then we are happily accept the implication that some other Blues exists, and we are then giving that space to things that are not Blues.

People promoting the term "Alt Blues" often make the comparison to "Alt Rock" as a legitimizing example. But "Alt Rock" was a new type of musical genre that was based off of and grew out of the "Rock" genre. The "Alt Blues" music did not grow out of the Blues genre.

What's particularly amusing about being renamed a "Trad Blues" dancer by the Fusion/Alt scene is the hypocrisy of it.

There was much discussion with the Fusion/Alt scene by prominent members of the Blues scene about it's attempts to include the word "Blues" in it's name. When I would suggest that including "Blues" would be dishonest and confusion, I was told that I had no right to participate in naming a scene I wasn't a part of.

Amusing because I am a part of that Fusion/Alt scene, and have been around longer than most any of it's current members, amusing because the scene can't seem to pick a name itself after all these years, but also amusing because the scene was more than happy to turn around and rename my scene which was already happily named.

You see, I am a Blues Dancer.

I dance to Blues music.

It doesn't get any simpler than that.

tl;dr: In a nutshell, just because people misuse a word doesn't mean I have to modify my usage. If I had a neighbor who called his shovel a 'car' or an 'alt car' or whatever, then, whether I wanted to get into an argument with him or not, I sure as hell don't have to start referring to my car as a 'Trad car' and I don't really want others to either. :)

David Ljung Madison, July 2014

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