Category Archives: Music

Music

At the Carnival

It was also during this weekend that the Copenhagen Carnival took place. And as always, it took place in the Fælledpark just across from where I live. The sound of beating drums continuing well into the night. Some of the recent years, this has annoyed me thoroughly as I was preparing for my exams, but this year I had time to go out and dance.

Still, I find that though Samba music is very vigorous and pleasant, it also has some militaristic connotations. I know that a group of samba drummers are called a Bateria – this is probably from the french “battre” meaning to beat” – but it reminded me more of an Artillery Battery. At a distance they could certainly sound like one. Again, the whole parade mentality of the Carneval seems inherently militaristic – which is a startling contrast to the sensual, carnevalesque and joyous vibes that they seek to convey.

I suppose that it is this very contrast that activists use to good effect at demonstrations. Eagerly playing and shaking the people to a frenzy of carnevalesque good humour that may difficult to set apart from threatening aggression in the eyes of the police.

By the way, these aren’t my pictures. But rather some that I found on the Carnival website. Would you believe that of all the pictures they have on there, there is only two or three with drummers on them? These samba queens are hogging all the attention…

Fredericia Hardcore Festival

Having blog often leads to being in the awkward position that you realize that there are things that you want to blog about but you don’t quite manage to fit in. I’m in such a situation now, having looked through some of my old pictures, I’ve realized that I wanted to blog about my adventures at the Fredericia Hardcore Festival last year.

Now, that festival was in late July of 2005, so I’m basically out pretty late with this one, but little matter. I think the pictures are worth sharing all the same. I went to the FHF just to listen to one band, as I’m not really a big fan of hardcore punk. The band is Against Me which isn’t your average punk band. They manage to infuse their brand of punk with strands of folk and blues, maintaining the rebel nerve and energy of the punk with the melody, melancholy and charm of folk blues.

I first heard of them through the Golublog in some discussion on what songs to play at your funeral. I don’t recall how exactly, but Against Me’s “What we worked for” was mentioned, so I went to download that from their website. I liked it a lot, but didn’t manage to find out more about them, until I happened on the program for the FHF where Against Me were to play their only gig in Denmark. So, off I went.

The festival took place in a community youth centre in the Danish provincial town of Fredericia. The centre is an adapted train station:

A fair bit of graffiti had been done for the occasion:

It was a lovely evening…

And then there was the concert itself. It was good fun. Unfortunately, all of the pictures I took turned out kind of bad, as my camera couldn’t deal with the light and the movement on stage. This one is the best of a bad bunch:

I enjoyed the concert, though I didn’t know any of the songs. Afterwards I bought their latest album, “As The Eternal Cowboy” which I can only recommend.

Coming up for air

Have landed in Denmark, and after a hectic week of partying, hanging out and going to the Roskilde Festival, I’ve finally settled in my good old room in Copenhagen.

The Roskilde Festival is such an intense experience – there’s so much going on, that you really don’t to be tired at any time, because you feel that you’re missing things – as you inevitably are. With 160 bands playing, street theatre, spoken word happenings, lots of friendly people and a generally carnevalesque atmosphere, there is just so much to do and see.

Everything becomes blur, compressed experience, so much data to process. But it was brilliant. I love the festival feel of going about the festival, walking from scene to scene, shopping music and being surprised by the variety, the intensity, the sheer joy emanating from all these people. The sun was shining, as well.

Among my favourite concerts were:

Chic – the disco-funk band of the early 80’s revived, and led by the incredible guitarist Nile Rodgers, the only member of the original Chic in the new line-up. Wonderfully happy, electrically funky music that just makes you want to dance.

Devendra Banhart – he is such a strange young man, but his voice and attitude is so pure and direct. His quiet, folky guitar and contemplative lyrics are very soothing, and I think everybody at that concert felt a bit lighter afterwards.

Femi Kuti & the Positive Force – The new king of afrobeat played Friday night when I was hilariously drunk, the funky, warm music making me feel positively radiant.

Ska CubanoSka, but with a Cuban twist, opening the festival on Thursday night, it was such a party and lots of shouting, jumping and laughing.

Mew – also played Friday night, after Femi Kuti, a slow, symphonic and sweet way of coming down from the radiant dancing. Powerful and melancholic, tender and intense. “Comforting Sounds” is one of my favourite songs.

Also among the good bands were Jamie Cullum, New Cool Collective Big Band, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, DAAU og Timbuktu & Damn! – but since I gotta go out tell George Bush how I feel about him, I’ll have to talk about that stuff later..

Summer sheeze..

I had Bob Marley’s “Caution” playing in my head as I wrote my final exam on Friday. After two hours of questions on Technological determinism and the Indian Green Revolution, that song might well have been have crossfaded into “Everything’s gonna be alright” – despite having a customary stress crisis after half an hour (realising that there’s no easy way to do cut and paste and revise your sentences when you writing with pen and paper, thinking that all that you’ve written so far is utter shite), everything did indeed seem to turn out for the better.

Thus, this weekend marked the beginning of three months of summer for me. Most of the other international students finish on Monday with their English exam (which I spared myself), but even so, I managed to lure a sizely bunch of them with the rumour of an illegal warehouse rave somewhere in Manchester on Saturday night.

By mere coincidence I had stumbled upon the website of MISSING, a bi-annual independent party with lots of underground music and funny, fluffy people. Manchester has bred quite a fair bit of the techno and clubbing culture in Europe, especially through the Hacienda – a notorious in-spot in the early 80’s, as portrayed in the film 24 hour party people. I thought that this would be my golden opportunity to experience that unique atmosphere and meet a lot of friendly people.

The whole invitation procedure was proper cloak and dagger stuff to keep the police off their tails, as they were trying to disguise it as a private party. Therefore everybody had to be invited (ie. join the mailing list), and they would then send out an email on the day, offering 3 phone numbers which the guests could then call in order to get directions to the warehouse where the party would take place.

Manchester has lots of old warehouses, and lots of old semi-derelict industrial neighbourhoods with few nieghbours to complain – all of which is required for this sort of all night partying. Therefore, the party could take place in any number of places, and we could only wait until they would tell us where to go.

So when the word came, we joined the throng and took the tram to Trafford Bar where the party supposedly was taking place. But by the time we got there, the police had arrived and were closing down the party before it even had begun. Some of the other tram travellers got really paranoid and went straight back into the tram fearing, as they said, “snif-dogs”!

As we were much too decent to be doing any drugs, we had a good laugh about that, though it didn’t really help us much. We didn’t know where to go, and despite the promise of “back up venues”, it soon turned out that the police had gotten the better of the party planners, and that no rave would be taking place that night. Several thousand disappointed youngsters spread across town, looking for some party or another.

We happened to come across a tiny club where most of the clientele were of Caribbean descent, playing loud dancehall and funk, and we had our chance to dance and have fun there.

But one of the other students told me that in the mid-nineties, the British government passed a law inspired directly by a wish to be able to break up raves more easily without having too much trouble with civil rights of private gatherings. Potentially illegalizing any parties “with 100 or more persons at which amplified music is played during the night. Music includes sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats.”

It seems to be just another glorious case of a government trying to legaslate their way out of something that they don’t understand. Thus attacking symptoms rather than causes. Did I mention the new case against hoodie sweatshirts?

Sheez.

Latin American overtures..

Yesterday, I saw Wim Wenders’ documentary about the Buena Vista Social Club, the record made by a rag tag collection of old Cuban musicians and singers under the gentle supervision of travelling musician and producer, Ry Cooder.

The film contains concert and studio footage, interviews with the musicians and atmospheric footage from the streets of Havana, all mixed together in a rather discordant whole. I actively disliked the cinematography with its constant panning, moving around in a way that almost make the viewer nauseous, and I found the footage unspectacular in general. The film works well in spite of this, due to an extremely worthwhile subject matter. All of the Cuban musicians are charming old men who really enjoy their music, and their life and it shows. And, of course, the music is brilliant.

What the film does convey with great success is a sort of magical Latin American ambience that is hard to explain. A lot of people familiar with the works of Gabriel García Márquez will recognize that light, almost otherworldly human touch.

I often, unsuccessfully recommend the Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano‘s book Memory of Fire to people interested in Latin America. Galeano’s book is a wonderfully poetic three volume work on the history of the New World, divided into hundreds of small stories chronologically ordered and intricately interconnected through the wonders of history itself.

I suppose the sheer size of the work is enough to scare most people away, which is a shame as it is a very light and enjoyable read. Galeano has also written a most wonderful book about football which any football fan (IMNSHO) ought to read.

Finally, to give a small example of Galeano’s style, I’ve picked a piece from his latest book, Upside Down. I hope you’ll excuse the rather heavyhanded translation from the Danish..

“The human refuse: Street urchins, hobos, beggars, prostitutes, transvestites, homosexuals, pickpockets and other petty criminals, drug addicts, drunks, cigarette butt collectors. In 1993, the human refuse of Columbia suddenly appeared from their hiding places beneath the rocks and gathered in protest. The demonstration started at the revelation that the police groups of social purging were killing beggars and selling the corpses to students at the Universidad Libre in Barranquilla for dissection exercises. On that occasion, the storyteller Nicolás Buenaventura told the real story of creation.
Nicolás told the dreck of the system that when God created the world, he continually wound up with bits and pieces left over. While the sun and the moon, time, the land, the seas and the forests were born from the hands of God, he constantly brushed the remaining scraps into the abyss. But God, being fairly preoccupied, forgot to create man and woman, leaving the two no choice but to create themselves. Thus, in depths of the abyss, in the scrap heap of God, woman and man created themselves from the remains of God.
We humans are born from refuse, and that is why we all have a bit of the day, and a bit of the night, and we’re all time and earth and water and air.”

Roskildeee!

With all 115.000 tickets for this year’s Glastonbury festival already sold out (and in the space of just 3 hours, no less), I’ll be looking to the Roskilde Festival to be my musical mecca this year.

And luckily, the line-up looks very promising thus far. Among my favourites are Devendra Banhart, a young folk singer-songwriter with a very unique voice and take on life (think hippie-ish), Bikstok Røgsystem, the first purely Danish take on the Roots-Ragga-Dancehall genres of Jamaica, Chic, “the Beatles of Disco” – superbly dance music, though only Nile Rodgers of the original group is still touring, though mostly due to Bernard Edwards’ tragic death in 1996.

Also, I have great expectations to Femi Kuti and his band, Femi being the son of Nigerian afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti whose afroroots funkjazz is ever enjoyable and Femi taking up the mantle left by his father. Mew is a Danish band that I’ve looking forward to hearing live, their grand yet thoughtful rock music was once described to me as “symphonic post-rock”, whatever that means. Also, ever since I first heard the American hiphop ensemble the Roots’ LP, Do you want more?!!!??! back in the day, I’ve been looking for a chance to see Rahzel live. Known as the “Godfather of Noise”, Rahzel is the foremost exponent of that rarely heard hip hop art of human beat boxing.

On top of that, there’s Mikael Simpson, The Thievery Corporation, Mory Kanté, and all the others that I don’t even know yet. Listening and being surprised by new bands and new music is always the highlight of the Roskilde Festival.

Now all I have to do is buy the ticket..

All About Lily Chou-Chou

I haven’t actually seen this Japanese film about Japanese teenagers, their troubled life in high school and their fascinations with pop culture, but what I’ve heard of it so far makes it sound very interesting.

You are, quite likely familiar with the hype that surrounded and propelled the film “the Blair Witch Project” to fame and fortune in 1999. By deftly producing and inserting an urban legend of disappearing teenagers into the world wide web, the directors managed to generate the belief that the film was a genuine documentation of their disappearance. The three main actors were even listed as “missing, presumed dead” on various internet film sites.

In All About Lily Chou-Chou, Japanese film director Shunji Iwai, reversed the process and created a web page for a fictive pop idol – Lily – and included discussion boards that were suitably seeded with messages. He used the the resulting discussions to shape the film, and a lot of the dialog from the discussion boards apparently appears in the film.

Interestingly enough, as it often happens with fictional characters, they continue to lead a life of their own. Lily now has several albums to her name, and a guest appearance on the soundtrack to Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 1 (though it isn’t actually on the soundtrack CD..).

It is not even the first time that an entirely fictional character has topped the Japanese charts. Back in 1996, the Japanese media company Hori Pro introduced the computer animated cyber girl, Kyoko Date who went on to have a few hits with some typically nasty Nippo-pop.

Lily’s music, on the other hand, is reminiscent of Björk, and is to fair extent based on the piano music of Claude Debussy. There is, of course, a real person behind the voice of Lily, a Japanese chanteuse named Salyu.

I find this kind of fictionalising quite fascinating, it makes it possible to create stories on a meta-level that mixes fact and fiction, real and unreal in new ways. It reminds me of the playful messing-with-the-heads-of-the-readers that Jorge Luis Borges enjoyed.