Gotta let everyone know about sahelsounds.com , a great source of info. and music from the Sahel region of West Africa. Lots of cool stuff and intelligent observations but the post on cellphone music was what caught my interest most of all:
This little cassette of music collected from cellphones has been in internet circulation lately (update — and the Guardian UK). Pitchfork did a nice write-up on the phenomena of “musical scarcity”, Rupture at Mudd Up! has given it some blog/radio play, and Portland’s ownGulls put together this remix of one of the tracks:
Niger Autotune (Emsitka) — Gulls Edit
(for the rest…)
It took a little while to post (and it will move to Afropop.org’s front page later this week) but here is my review of Watcha Clan at the finale of the 2010 Jewish Music Festival in San Francisco. And be sure to check out the links to Charming Hostess, the opening band that was truly astounding.
Never judge a band by a single performance. The first time I saw the Marseilles-based Watcha Clan was in July 2009 at a small club in San Francisco and the performance fell flat. The songs lacked the moments of unpredictability that worked so well onDiaspora Hi-Fi, the arrangements felt hackneyed and stale. I left feeling Watcha Clan was just another electronic band that created interesting studio work but was out of its element live (check out my interview with Lado Clem of Watcha Clan on Afropop.org in 2009). I’m here to report that this is one of those times when I’m happy to be wrong. I saw Watcha Clan again on Sunday July 18, 2010 in a very different setting and they killed.
Watcha Clan, headlining the finale of the 25th edition of the Jewish Music Festival in San Francisco, turned in an exciting musical performance where, surprisingly, everything clicked. The staid, buttoned-down performance space of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) is not an ideal setting for a “world & bass” band. YBCA books some interesting and innovative musical acts (just take a look at a fascinating installation by Oakland’s musical iconoclasts Charming Hostess) but it feels like what it is: a room tacked onto a museum. The lines of folding chairs set up in the room (for the rest…)
Working on a couple of posts but still too busy to put much time into it. In the meantime, here’s a repost of a Jon Pareles piece (N.Y. Times) on how Bassekou Kouyati has revolutionized the use of the ngnoi but first here’s a YouTube video of Kouyati with another “revolutionary” who has taken the banjo into new territory (in this case, you could call it a post-modern encounter with an ancestor).
By JON PARELES
Published: July 26, 2010
Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times: Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba Mr. Kouyate with the ngoni, a traditional lute from Mali that dates back hundreds of years, performed with his band at SummerStage in Central Park on Sunday.
There were no Western instruments onstage when the Malian griot Bassekou Kouyate and his band, Ngoni Ba
, performed at SummerStage in Central Park on Sunday afternoon. Ngoni Ba is a string band — four sizes of ngoni, a four-stringed African lute that’s an ancestor of the banjo — with Mr. Kouyate’s wife, Amy Sacko, as lead singer, along with two percussionists playing calabashes and tama, a West African pressure drum. The band wore African clothes, and the songs were in Bambara, Mali’s main language. One, a meditative 17th-century praise song that Ms. Sacko sang in expanding arabesques, delved into 2,000-year-old Malian history.
But this was no traditional African concert. Through technique, technology and open ears, Mr. Kouyate hurls the ngoni into the 21st century. After performing in groups with notable Malian musicians like Ali Farka Touré and Toumani Diabaté, Mr. Kouyate has taken an instrument traditionally used to accompany a singer, pushed it into the foreground and multiplied it into an ensemble.
The bass and tenor-register ngonis in Ngoni Ba, founded in 2005, were invented by Mr. Kouyate, and they bring extra layers of counterpoint to what was already intricate, quick-fingered music. Traditional musicians play the ngoni in their laps while seated; (to read more…)
Another thoughtful, insightful article by Hypebot Associate Editor Kyle Bylin on whether an overload of musical choice has actually diminished the agency (and real choice) of music consumers. This time posted on Music Think Tank (now managed by Hypebot). Read and ponder:
By Kyle Bylin
At first glance, it appears as though the benefits of a culture abundant with music outweigh the drawbacks tenfold—a rich culture has the potential to whet a fan’s appetite for even more, and may further encourage them to become, themselves, creators of culture. More choice is always a good thing, even if in the end, it adds to the frustration and confusion faced by individual fans. But is that true? So far, we have only investigated choice overload in culture through the narrow lens of a record store and have yet to explore the digital sphere. While there are many reasons to believe that the web has created a “paradise of music” for fans, as we’ll soon see, that may not necessarily be the case. It is worth noting that many of the paradoxes of choice overload that I elaborated on in my previous essay were found to be most prevalent in the material domain. And, while psychologist Barry Schwartz suspected that the paradoxes we experience in culture are quite different, he asserted that the end result might be the same. That, much like in the material domain, a culture plentiful with music has the potential to lessen the amount of satisfaction that fans get from their choices and increasingly causes them to opt out of the process all together. In a paper titled Can There Ever Be Too Many Flowers Blooming, Swartz outlines three of the paradoxical effects of choice overload in the cultural domain.
First, when fans are overloaded with cultural alternatives, Schwartz says they will, “Opt for the same old thing as a way to avoid facing unlimited options.” Similar to the reaction that a consumer has to abundance in the material domain, fans will opt for the same old music for a number of reasons. For starters, many fans, out of comfort, may not deviate too far from their favorites. That way, they are free from the disappointment they might experience in listening to music that is dissimilar from their established taste. So too, fans tend to have a deep memory of being burned. When purchasing music, they are more prone to remember all the times that the music did not work out as opposed to the times that it did. Also, fans will stick with what they know because there is instant gratification in that music; it never ceases to fit their mood or remind them of when they were growing up. Lastly, fans opt for the familiar because they are genre loyal and often have rigid tastes. In music, this paradox can be readily observed every day. Most passive fans are not interested in the new music, unless it is propped up by (to read more, click here….)
“If I could get some bubbles, I’d be forever indebted,” singer Craig Lyons tells the packed house at his Monday night gig. The crowd promptly complies, filling the room with bubbles while Lyons plays his tune “Under Water.”
Two nights earlier, the audience made it snow as he strummed the chords to his song “Winter.” Strangely enough, the Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter has come to expect this type of supernatural behavior at his shows, which take place several times a week in Second Life, the virtual online world that allows users to interact with one another as avatars.
Despite declining media coverage after a few years of overexposure, Second Life lives on, and within its virtual borders a music scene has been thriving, with independent artists such as Lyons leading the charge. These artists are earning livings, promoting their music and supporting causes they believe in by performing in this virtual space, which has approximately 1 million users each month.
A fascinating article from Laura Ferreiro in the L.A. Times – Second Life’s thriving music scene — brought my attention to something I knew existed, Second Life (a virtual community where you can create a second life as an avatar) but had dismissed as trivial and as pitiful a way to spend your time as Dungeons and Dragons and other role-playing games that I thought had run their course and disappeared. They haven’t and Second Life seems like role-playing with balls (and all the other virtual viscera an avatar needs).
What I had no idea about was the music scene in Second Life. A few major acts have performed there, including Ben Folds and Suzanne Vega, but what is more astounding is that artists, such as singer-songwriter Craig Lyons have begun a career there that has taken them into non-avatar-driven virtual spaces and even non-virtual space. Fascinating!
In a thoughtful and thought-provoking follow-up to his article “The Barriers Of Music Consumption” Hypebot Associate Editor Kyle Bylin discusses whether the plethora of choices that have occurred with the shift in the music industry from the top-down major label model to the bottom-up “participatory culture of the Internet. Has an overload of choices caused an overload that actually diminishes the agency of music consumers. Read and ponder:
I. New Choices
Often times, in discussions about how our culture has become abundant with music and the potential that it has to cause choice overload in the minds of fans, it does not take long for someone to recall the amazing lecture that psychologist Barry Schwartz gave at TED back in 2005, where he explores the central thesis to his book The Paradox of Choice. Let us use his talk as a starting point for this conversation and try to figure out if the effects of the culture of abundance that he outlines in it also relate with the perils that we suspect fans experience in the digital age. In doing so, we will get a better idea if fans may fare worse and be robbed of satisfaction in a culture abundant with music. (to read the rest click here)
And for more stimulating reading on a related subject, check out the guest post on Hypebot by Robbert van Ooijen on how music collecting has been affected by the advent of the age of streaming music.
The guest essay comes from Robbert van Ooijen, a graduating master student New Media & Digital Culture at the Dutch University of Utrecht. It’s based on a research paper he wrote at the wonderful Dutch start-up Twones and asks what remains of the intimate relationship between collector and collection in the age of streaming music. van Ooijen also blogs @ HaveYouHeard.It.
The world is about to embrace streaming music and and a lot has been written about the technical specifications of several streaming music services already. What is often still underexposed however, is the way this new era of consuming music is affecting the way we listen, organize and collect music. The music lover is standing on the threshold of a collection that consists only of links to streams. In the era of streaming music, what is left of the relationship between the collector and his collection? (to read the rest click here)
“The Barriers Of Music Consumption” by Hypebot Associate Editor Kyle Bylin raises some important questions about how the digital age has changed our relationship with music. A must read, Bylin puts forth a provocative examination of how changes in the modalities of music consumption have affected the nature of individuals’ experience of the music they choose to “own” and collect. With the shift from album-based collections of music to downloaded songs, often shared through social networks, individuals’
….emotional experience relates not to being in the presence of unique works of art, but solely of the moment of social connection and identification with the other person. This understated difference — in how works of art are experienced — relates to yet another shift in music culture that separates those who were born digital from those of previous generations.
Read the entire article @ Hypebot — here’s a taste of the section on how the I-Pod has fundamentally changed our relationships with our music collection (and with music):
With the barriers to the act of collecting music set so low, if not nonexistent, another subtle but significant shift occurred: the psychology behind the acquisition of music changed. For those of previous generations, they collected music with the notion of longevity in mind, as it best reflected their taste in music at that moment. In contrast, for those who engaged in the act of acquiring music through other means, like file-sharing, their taste encompassed past, present, and future interests. Their collections reflected not only their inherent taste and disposition towards certain types of music, but that of their peer group and those whom they surrounded themselves with. Thus, distinct differences between the music that they liked and the artists that they didn’t care for at all became increasingly blurred, and so did the contents of their music collections. In a sense, though, the collections of those who were born digital are not complete. They’re fractured, consisting of bits and pieces of everything, of songs divorced from their origins and physical packaging. These songs stand alone — void of everything but the artist’s name, the album’s title, and the digital cover art. Where the jewel case, booklet, and liner notes served to embody culture, to communicate its identity, and to mirror the taste of its owner — the iPod is merely a container for culture. Its contents reveal the personality of the owner, but say little about the soul of the music.
No learned process is more firmly embedded in our culture as an agent of information transfer than reading, yet its subtle pleasures and necessary disciplines seem overwhelmed by today’s sustained orgasm of visual media. Many modern readers participate enthusiastically in the democracy of publishing, but have little patience for extended excursions into long narrative texts. If current trends prevail, we will increasingly read as though our destination must always be within easy sight and instant comprehension. A challenging literary journey to a distant shore is not supported in an information economy driven by short attention and immediate reward. Will literacy based on brief exchanges spell the end of traditional reading? Should we be concerned if it does? What might replace reading?
All good questions that challenge the paradigms embedded in the ongoing competition for dominance between literate (logographic) and post-literate (techno-visual) forms of storytelling. Is logographic storytelling becoming a historical anomaly, replaced by mixed media presentations? Is there a third way forward that melds the strengths of both forms? Or will there be a co-existence of both forms (each dependent on different settings and contexts)? The Future of Reading conference at RIT from June 9-12 in Rochester, N.Y., will explore these questions and much more. And the conference has a strong on-line presence, including a blog well worth checking out.