Monday, November 05, 2012

John Archer and NZ Folksong

For as many years as the Kiwifolk websites have been running (since the inception of the web itself), John Archer's NZ Folksong website has been growing and becoming increasingly sophisticated, making a huge contribution to our social and folksong histories. It is a resource of considerable depth with lyrics, histories, recording and clips of songs and waiata (importantly, the only online resource I know of that combines the two), with plenty of informed comment. John himself is known to be outspoken on issues of our social history in respect of our musical heritage, often garnering respect and opprobrium in equal measure on the nz-folk list. John writes:
"I’ve just been looking at the statistics of my NZ Folksong website for the past 12 months. For the songs I have heard sung at folk clubs, the most visited songs are:
  1.  Farewell to the Gold 1890
  2.  Taumarunui 1360
  3.  Minnie Dean 1270
  4.  Davy Lowston, She’ll Be Right, Spider in the Bath, Across the Line 850
  5.  The Close Shave 730
  6.  Gin and Raspberry 680
  7.  Russian Jack 640
  8.  Down the Hall 550
  9.  (my own) Arthur Allan Thomas song 510
  10.  Dugout in the True 480
  11.  Wellerman 450
  12.  Stable Lad 440
  13.  Beautiful Coast of New Zealand 410
  14.  Packing My Things to Go Home 340
  15.  Gone to Invercargill 300.
In the more plebian Pakeha folk culture, the most visited songs are
  1.  Ten Guitars 14,900
  2.  Blue Smoke 4400
  3.  Gumboot song 3600
  4.  Damn the Dam 2000
  5.  No Depression in New Zealand 1900
The most visited Maori-language songs get many, many more visitors...
  1.  Pokarekare Ana 47,500
  2.  Tutira Mai 30,000
  3.  Ka Mate 25,600
  4.  E Papa Waiari 20,000
  5.  Po Atarau/Now is the Hour 17,100
... but I deliberately put Pakeha and Maori songs on one website so that young people coming for one type can explore the other. And so I have mixed both Maori and trad folk songs in the same topics on the School Projects page. For example, “Hunting and fishing - In My Little Whare, The Eel Song, Black Matai, Karu Karu, She'll Be Right Mate, Te Manu Titi.” 
That School Projects page has had 1650 visits, presumably by school teachers, so I hope this is helping to get the next generation on New Zealanders familiar with the old trad NZ folksongs.
It is great to see that kids are visiting the site, using their school’s computers: an average of 400 every schoolday. Visitor numbers drop from about 1500 to 1100 on weekends and school holidays. 
But kids are now getting smartphones and tablets and using them to visit the site on the weekends. Mobile visits have increased from 50 a day to 250 in the past 12 months, and those mobile visits peak up on the weekends. Guitar chords and embedded Youtube videos are big drawcards for youngsters learning the songs.  
As well as visits from Kiwis (350,000) there has been a significant number of visits from overseas.
  • Australia 68,200
  • USA 44,500
  • UK 24,500
  • Germany  7,000
  • Canada  6,500
  • France  4,200
Altogether there have been 562,500 visits to the NZ Folksong website in the past 12 months."
I know from my own paltry efforts that the upkeep of such a huge resource is an undertaking only for those with singular dedication, time and ultimately, generosity of spirit. The best reward for such an endeavour is to mercilessly plunder the treasure within and spread it around.
Mike Moroney
Dedicated to John, with thanks.

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