It's the same old song, but with a different beat since the world’s moved on... Apologies to Holland / Dozier / Holland for the misappropriation, misquote, and manipulation of one of thee great songs of the 60’s or indeed any decade, pure pop, in 3 ½ minutes. Driving drums, honking horns, Zinging strings, beat, melody, “a treat for your feet”.
Remember those words all too well, at the end of each and every, (Aids ravaged and eventually decimated
Bundhu Boys song, live in Kilburn, Brixton, Camden, or Hammersmith. Early 90’s, election, Mugabe’s election in Zimbabwe, a sense of Apartheid’s last grasping, gasping breath, first moves in an end game, despite Paul Simon’s controversial visit, recording, and playing in South Africa. I remember debates, split emotions. The recognition and commitment to Financial, Political, Sporting and Cultural boycotts, conflicted with a belief that his going there, and bringing beautiful music to a wider audience, Paul Simon would open ears, minds and wallets of western (USA and European audiences) to the musics of a whole continent.
Early on it worked, the efforts of Peter Gabriel’s WOMAD concept, and amazing record label, the emergence of World Circuit, and Earthworks, in scouring the continent DID open ears, and wallets, and there was an explosion of interest in the Continent’s music. Of course there had been early mix up, mash up, cross cut, inter pollinations, some of the most famous, Cream’s Ginger Baker, with Nigeria’s Fela Kuti, or the Burundi Drummers on Joni Mitchell Hissing of Summer Lawns. But these were Gossamer in the wind, spring’s first lonely swallow, that left the intrigued, curious, and eclectic ears struggling for more.
In some cities, African (Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Morocco, Zaire) communities’ food shops doubled as cassette sources, they lasted better in the sun and were probably easier to mass produce, or perhaps bootleg, (from what I’ve read. Artist respect, and management integrity in Reggae and African pop followed all too familiar and similar exploitative paths). Of course finding the tapes, and knowing what to buy, that was a real challenge, exploration was fun, exciting, trailblazing, winning bonus points, and a “hip, on the money rep” may be worth a few quid on a Cassette. In then turns out to be Jim Reeves’ songs sung in Yoruba, with a Hawaiian guitar twang, and a 50’s Zanzibar, palm wine feel, such was life before Sterns Music Store, now on-line, red framed windows Siren called me into the African sounds so vigorously promoted.
Soon all across the UK, tours wound around the community centres, festivals, premier venues exploded, Rain, lashed openers became headliners, collaborations were everywhere, some that come to mind, Ry Cooder and Ali Fahka Toure, Sting and Nada Como el sol, & Youssou N’dour, or Peter Gabriel and Geoffrey Oreyma cross pollinated influences, and ideas melodies and instruments; Michael Jackson’s sample of Manu Dibango’s ‘Soul Mokassa’, reportedly cost Jackson, Fr60,000, approx, at the time.
eah the tail of the 90s were great times for world music and there were amazing cross fertilisation of ideas, sounds, techniques, rhymes and melodies. 20 years on there’s a wind down, rock music slips back into its ghettos, and bunkers, Ameicana, Alt Country, R&B, Thrash, Slash, and Space, look on the record stalls and what few CD shops there are, and there’s the demarcation, division, boxed and separated, balkanised and tribal insular and introspective.
The internet, music download providers reinforce this bunker,
“I Like want I know, and Know what I like”
This sentiment seems to drive modern music’s consumptive experience, from the Amazon People who bought - - - also bought - - - - and it’s the same. I can see a point, if you’ve just discovered an artist, a genre, and want more of the same, here’s a time-reduced way to get it, (as opposed to discovering it ). Perhaps we’re all so much time poorer, or have some many more time demands. I suppose it’s much the same on streaming algorithms where we’re offered similar music, to our last listens, here in our 24:7, 7:52 world, research, and investigation takes times that all too few of us thing we have, and we are increasing unwilling to risk or face up to disappointment that used to be ‘blind choice’ buying, i have bought and enjoyed records because of the cover, haven’t a lot of us?
A legacy of this bunkerisation, isolation, ghetto grouping, the cross-pollination and sneaking in old, new, other world sounds, patterns, melodies, and time signature into American, New wave, post punk,, ( there I go isolating, barriers up, and open doors closed), is withering on the creative vines, essential to those magic moments that make rock such a delight to the ears.
I notice this most, ever present, in the music I’m sent to review, all too much of it sounds like the music they, the players grew up hearing, radios, friends’ homes, home tapes, mix tapes, download mix files. We provide the same to our friends sharing and mixing what we hope they, friends, cherish and embrace.
What does it all mean for me? All too much of the music up for reviews sounds like so much that has preceded it, and that’s all too understandable. In the download driven, paid fuck all for your efforts work,
I can understand composers, writers, artists wanting a return for effort, we all do for our work. The all pervasive algorithm makes it all too easy to get an insert into “the people who downloaded this, may want to download that “. In the “Rock and Roll, I gave you the best years of my life” experience, with all it hopes, shattered dreams, it’s failures, pleads not be found as a failure, it’s not surprising that a lot of music follows not a formula, but a consumption pattern, there’s all too little living to made, and all too few reasons to take chances, with new sounds in a world where, clicks, likes, shares, and streams take so little listener commitment, new sounds are closed out in a few seconds. “Esc” exit click and gone, artist, already forgotten.
Sad thing is there’s still out there, artists mixing up, trying to match Japanese traditional with Tango Nuevo, Arab classical with Appalachian jug band, you all get the idea. Music that’s new, fresh, inventive. Of course some are mere cut and paste, splice the sounds and see what occurs. But there have been, are, and will be moments of sheer profundity and delight, an instance when music reaches that perfect moment, that leaves you wanting more of the same, and simultaneously for your ears to walk the path these composers followed, what did they hear that inspired them?. It used to be the 2nd hand shops, the bars, halls in out of the way places, now there’s a magic that’s the app “RADIO GARDEN” a wireless on the world of music and sounds.
An hour in the Radio Garden, Folk on Radio 2, world music radio 3 world, and a monthly dollop of Songlines wets the appetite for the new, the adventurous, the unexplained, the (until now ) unimagined. All this lights my fire, and floats my boat. These notes, I hope, give a clue as to my approach to the occasional review All too often, short bursts, guitar clash, drum bash, primal yell, Casio keys tinkle but it’s it’s it’s like the last listen. It’s soft sounds, California Dreaming, open road, roof down cruising, sunset sitting, lost love crying, rebel yelling in a windy void. Yeah all too much I heard before, and yet there’s a world, it’s small, but that just means there’s more compact music with an ear’s easy listen, a brain’s interpretation, and with memory and imagination, the creation of new music to lift the heart and soul in these dark isolated days, I just don’t hear it in the voices, drums, and melodies of most bands playing, recording and streaming today, and that can make reviewing a chore, and this occasional reviewer, cynical, jaded, faded, and still looking for the songs with a different beat, especially when it’s the same old song.