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Buddy MacMaster Biography Research Paper

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Updated: Apr 2nd, 2020

The traditional fiddle music is a common folklore performance in Cape Breton. This type of music performance was introduced by Scottish immigrants in North America. The Scottish people who migrated into North America entered the region during the Highland Clearances. The Cape Breton Island has superficially preserved this category of music for a long time. The summer tourists who throng Canada are also attracted by the céilidhs in a great way.

Specifically, there is a lot of music concentration in the Inverness County. For instance, the Judique and Mabou communities usually host several music performances from popular fiddle players. Some of the artists who have been recognized beyond the island include Barra MacNeils, Lee Cremo and Buddy MacMaster. This paper offers an incisive look at the fiddle music player called Buddy MacMaster. He is among the oldest fiddle players in the island and well known for his astute performance since the 1980s (Beisswenger, 2011).

A host of folk styles of music is found in Canada just as it is the case with the United States of America. There are a number of Quebec’s rich French music, deep folklore performances, western cowboy tunes and native dance songs in Canada. The Maritime Provinces are also well endowed with the ancient traditional music. Each of the regions has a music icon who can be reckoned beyond the Canadian borders. Although there were several impressive maritime players in Canada, some of them stood out among the rest.

A case in point is Buddy MacMaster. He was brought up in Cape Breton Island and he is still a renowned fiddle player. Buddy was the stage name of Hugh Allan MacMaster. His date of birth was the 18th day of October, 1924.

He was born in Ontario, Canada. His parents were Gaelic speakers and hence he acquired the same dialect while growing up. It is interesting to mention that his father was a seasoned fiddle player and he must have learned this art of music from him. However, the historical records indicate that his mother taught him how to match the tunes with words while playing the fiddle (Beisswenger, 2011).

His family went back to Cape Breton when Buddy attained the age of four years. Before the end of the 1920s, Cape Breton Island began to record the first ever fiddle music. This type of music could be heard through various radio stations in the island. At this point, the automobiles were replacing horses and wagons. In other words, innovation in transport and communication was taking place rapidly.

The 1930s witnessed gradual decline in indigenous styles of performing music. Various aspects of the native languages were also transformed. Accent was the main parameter that was used to identify Gaelic speakers located in various regional blocks within the island of Cape Breton. On the same note, the fiddlers and pipers were also identified through their accents.

In terms of music, Buddy had the privilege of being exposed to experienced fiddlers who were well known in the Cape Breton Island. Some of the old-time fiddlers included Angus MacMaster, Johnny Batherson and Johnny Batherson. The strong music impression that was witnessed in Buddy was mainly fuelled by some of these fiddlers who would visit their home on a regular basis.

Buddy was heavily influenced by the early fiddlers to an extent that he had a relatively easy time when he eventually opted to be a fiddler. Although Buddy could have chosen to be a lilter or piper, the strong desire and admiration he had for the experienced fiddlers compelled him to stick to this type of music. He gained rapid reputation as a fiddler shortly after he entrenched himself fully to play the music. He was known and recognized beyond the borders of Cape Breton Island.

Although playing the fiddle was marked with several old-time values, he was significantly recognised by the older players. Most of the old and experienced fiddle players described him as a generous musician who was never mean with words and tunes from the fiddle (Beisswenger, 2011).

Buddy’s music career began with simple tunes from the pipes and the fiddle. However, he later graduated into complete Scottish fiddle music after he was taught how to read music without being assisted. The two key personalities behind the learning lesson were pianist Mildred Leadbeater and Dan Hughie MacEachern.

He became a popular fiddle player who traversed the world for almost three centuries. In spite of his popularity as a Scottish fiddle player, Buddy never abandoned his close link with the railway. He retired from railways services in 1988 and moved along with music.

While at work, Buddy would secure some time to practice how to play the fiddle. Most of the CNR stations provided ample settings for Buddy to play his music. He also managed to build a very strong reputation as a dancer. He later developed a circuit of concerts and music performances. Dance halls for performing the fiddle were also constructed to serve west Mabou, Southwest, Margaree, Strathlorne and Scotsville communities. Buddy was free to perform in these dance halls during any month of the year (Beisswenger, 2011).

Buddy is a well known concert fiddler who made a name since the 1980s especially before he retired from the Canadian railways services. The culture of community fiddling has been taken a generation further through this type of music. Buddy always performs in benefit concerts, parish concerts and community concerts on a regular basis.

In 1995, St. Francis Xavier University awarded the musician with an honorary doctorate degree following his vast and experienced performance as a fiddler. After five years, Buddy received yet another accolade known as the Order of Canada. The latter state honour was incepted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1967 to recognise individual citizens who had positively contributed towards the country’s culture (MacDonald, 2000). Outstanding achievements are recognised through the Order of Canada.

In the case of Buddy, he was indeed dedicated to serve the whole of Canadian culture as a singer and dancer of fiddle music. People from all state sectors in Canada are recognised by this Order. Although the individual contributions of achievers may vary, the Order of Canada is awarded to accomplished persons who have added value to the lives of Canadians in one way or another (Beisswenger, 2011).

Buddy has been described as a Canadian music ambassador. He is also a role model and mentor in several ways (Dicaire, 2010). He is the torch bearer of the Gaelic renaissance both locally and overseas. It is interesting to note that the musician has performed countless number of dances and fiddle playing in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, and Nova Scotia.

Buddy has also featured prominently at the Nova Scotia Highland Village Day, Cape Breton Fiddlers’ Festival and the Atlantic Fiddlers’ Festival. He hardly misses to perform in such festivals due to his popularity and nationwide recognition (MacDonald, 2000). The Celtic Sundance Festival and Nova Scotia international tattoo are also common concerts that Buddy has appeared severally.

Order of Nova Scotia has also been awarded to Buddy. He received the honour way back in 2003. The order was established in 2001 for the sake of awarding individuals with exceptional achievements within the province of Nova Scotia. In addition, the Cape Breton University awarded yet another honorary doctorate degree to the singer in October 2006 (MacInnes, 2007).

The “dean of the Cape Breton Fiddlers” is a common phrase that has been used to describe Buddy in several quarters (Dicaire, 2010). Needless to say, Buddy was not a popular figure even within the island of Cape Breton before he dedicated himself in music. He released two major albums after his UK and US concert tours.

In 1991, Buddy released the second album known as Glencoe Hall while the first album was released way back in 1988. These were major accomplishments bearing in mind that there were other polished musicians who were well known. Buddy eventually shared a common platform with the international audience through the several concerts mentioned above (Beisswenger, 2011).

Earlier in his life as a young teenage boy, he managed to stage the first dance when he was merely fourteen years. He became preoccupied with fiddle playing in the subsequent forty years.

Apart from being a reputable fiddle player, Buddy also sought to understand the roots of the Scottish music. As a result, he travelled severally to Scotland. The first ever Buddy’s recording debut was done by the British Broadcasting Corporation in 1991 when the musician travelled to Scotland to perform alongside Barbara Magone and Alistair Fraser. John Morris Rankin blended his first album with sweet piano tunes in 1991(Dicaire, 2010).

One of the largest traditional music organizations in North America has decided to reward Buddy for his exemplary career in fiddling. The lifetime achievement award was advanced to the musician by the Folk Alliance International. Buddy has now joined the ranks of renowned artists such as Stan Rogers, Woodie Bob and Dylan Guthrie. This is the most recent award for Buddy.

However, he is still lined up for other awards in 2014. For example, the musician is expected to take part in the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings awards and Dock Boggs. As much as fiddling music can be traced back some centuries ago, its popularity and recognition in the global arena tend to surprise many people.

Other fiddle artists such as Natalie MacMaster have described Buddy as a musician who is already defined in the art of fiddling. Therefore, he cannot be defined by the numerous awards he has received for some decades (MacDonald, 2000). The qualities of Buddy have been equated to that of MacNeil even though he is turning 90 years. Buddy appears humble yet he has received so many accolades in his music career.

The musician has released reputable pieces of fiddle music since the year 2000. For example, Judique on the Floor was the first album to be released way back in 1988 after the musician retired from railway services in Canada. Several other activities are carried out during concerts (Dicaire, 2010).

These include softball tournament, bbg dinner, children’s games, street parade and amazing race. The only personality that can be remembered during such festivals is Buddy. There are also several outdoor activities that accompany concerts which are carried out in this occasion.

The Judique Flyer was officially released in 2000. Buddy derived the name of this production from a passenger train that used to be driven using steam engine. Although this type of train was later replaced by better and faster trains, the image of the old locomotive did not depart easily from the mind of the musician.

It can be remembered that after the musician won the first dance competition, he travelled with The Judique Flyer. Hence, it was difficult for the singer to forget such memorable moments in his life. Other accolades won by Buddy include the Cape Breton Island that was released in 2005. However, Cape Breton Tradition was released before the start of 2004 (Beisswenger, 2011).

In recap, it can be concluded that Buddy is still a reputable fiddle player of this generation based on the number of times he has been recognised by both the state and the entertainment industry. The musician from Cape Breton Island is a real force to reckon with in the music industry.

In addition, it has been observed that Buddy’s parents played a major role in shaping his desire and ability to play fiddle music. From the discussion, the part played by both of his parents and close friends were of great significance in the career development of the singer. As a song writer, Buddy has also played the role of a mentor because he has moulded several young and upcoming fiddlers.


Beisswenger, D. (2011). North American Fiddle Music: A Research and Information Guide. New York: Routledge.

Dicaire, D. (2010). The Early Years of Folk Music: Fifty Founders of the Tradition. North Carolina: McFarland & Company Inc. Publishers.

MacDonald, P. (2000). Buddy MacMaster Biography. Web.

MacInnes, S. (2007). Buddy MacMaster: The Judique Fiddler. Nova Scotia: Pottersfield Press.

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