Deciphering Culture

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Updating the archive: interview of Moroccan rock star Reda Allali (Hoba Hoba Spirit)for MTV IGGY

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Moroccan Rock Legend & Journalist

Reda Allali Wants to Save The Music

Moroccan Rock Legend & Journalist Reda Allali Wants to Save The Music

JOURNALIST AND HOBA HOBA SPIRIT GUITARIST, SINGER AND SONGWRITER TALKS THE BUSINESS OF MUSIC IN MOROCCO

By MTV Iggy
October 10, 2012

Words by Jeffrey Callen, Ph. D.

Hoba Hoba Spirit was there when an alternative music scene came together in Casablanca in the late 1990s. They were there on the front lines of the protests after 14 heavy-metal musicians and fans were arrested and accused of being satanists in 2003. Creating distinctively Moroccan rock ‘n’ roll (with lyrics in French, Darija and English, and music infused with healthy doses of Gnawa music, reggae & Moroccan rhythms), many critics and supporters considered them too hip to ever be popular outside of Casablanca. Playing wherever they could get a gig, they introduced the live experience of rock ‘n roll to audiences in small cities and villages throughout Morocco and, by 2007, they had become one of the most popular Moroccan musical acts of any genre. More than any other alternative band, Hoba Hoba Spirit has advocated an opening of the Moroccan cultural landscape—through music and through the writing of bandleader and journalist Reda Allali in the magazine Telquel. In a far-ranging interview, Allali talks with ethnomusicologist Jeffrey Callen about the Hoba way, their unexpected road to success, the alternative music movement and the obstacles to making a living as a musician in Morocco.

(to read the rest, click here)

Updating the archive: article on Moroccan Alternative Music for MTV IGGY

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In Search of Alternative Music in Morocco

In Search of Alternative Music in Morocco

A DEEP DIVE INTO THE STATE OF MOROCCAN MUSIC OVER THE YEARS.

By MTV Iggy
September 27, 2012

Words by Jeffrey Callen, Ph. D.

In the late 1990s, an alternative music community came together in Casablanca that would dramatically change Moroccan popular music. Cultural outsiders, brought together by shared aesthetics and the support of a local community organization, hip-hop, rock, electronica, and “fusion” musicians joined together to make common cause to expand the boundaries of Moroccan music. Although it was their joining together in the late 1990s that would dramatically change the country’s musical landscape, each of these genres has its own separate history in Morocco.

The Prehistory— Genres on the Margins

Rock ‘n’ roll. The history of rock ‘n roll in Morocco goes back to the 1960s when young musicians formed hundreds of rock bands in cities throughout the country. By the 1970s, the first Moroccan rock explosion was over, eclipsed by a folk–revival that began in Casablanca and soon swept through North Africa, (to read the rest, click here)

 

Updating the archive: article on Gnawa music for MTV IGGY

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Healing via Rock’n’Roll? Morocco’s Gnawa Music Leads the Way

Healing via Rock’n'Roll? Morocco’s Gnawa Music Leads the Way

By MTV Iggy
September 27, 2012

Words by Jeffrey Callen, Ph. D. Photo by Nusrat Durrani.

The driving rhythm of the qraqebs (large metal hand cymbals) quickly envelop the listener, creating a sonic wall that simultaneously supports and obscures the bass pattern provided by the hajhouj (bass lute). In a healing context — and this is healing music — the afflicted individual must find his way to a particular melody provided by the hajhouj in order to enter into a dialogue with the spirit that is perplexing him or her. Sung invocations, particular colors and incense hasten the summoning of the spirit and the falling of the afflicted individual into the trance state where the healing takes place. A lila(all-night healing ceremony) is a multi-sensual event but it is the music that drives it, orchestrates its highs and lows, and signals the entry of the different spirits. This is the music of the Gnawa of Morocco and you can hear — and feel — the kinship with musical/healing practices, such as Santeria(Cuba) and Candomble (Brazil), that while born in the Americas, have clear West African roots. You can also feel the kinship with other tributaries of the West African musical river—rock, blues, jazz, reggae and numerous other pop musics—that were born in the Americas but have since spread throughout the world.

(to read the rest, click here)

Short Takes: Tracking Musical Taste — Trendsetting Cities

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Earlier this year, I prepared a literature review on changes in musical taste for a study commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony so the ephemeral subject of how musical tastes develop, shift, morph (choose a verb) is a little higher on my radar than usual. Discover Magazine recently published a quick summary of a research paper that maps the geographic flow of music on the social-networking music site Last.fm. There’s more to it than this but the researchers found that among American Last.fm users, Atlanta is the trendsetting city. There are some quibbles I have with how grand a conclusion you can make based on info. gathered from a single social media site but it’s interesting and they created some cool info graphics so I’d recommend checking it out: Which City Is the Musical Tastemaker for the US? Hint: Not NY or LA.

Written by Jeffrey Callen

May 6, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Artistic practice, relaxation and a bit of whimsy help develop your creativity

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Photograph of Brian Eno at a 2006 Long Now Fou...

Image via Wikipedia

Brian Eno has been a creative force for decades now, producing a wide range of entertaining and challenging music with an admirable collection of collaborators. Thanks to 99% (Developing Your Creative Practice: Tips from Brian Eno by Scott McDowell) for pointing me to a new e-book by Eric Tamm, BRIAN ENO, HIS MUSIC AND THE VERTICAL COLOR OF SOUND, that “delves deeply into Eno’s creative process.” What Eno himself calls (from Tamm’s book):

…a practice of some kind … It quite frequently happens that you’re just treading water for quite a long time. Nothing really dramatic seems to be happening. … And then suddenly everything seems to lock together in a different way. It’s like a crystallization point where you can’t detect any single element having changed. There’s a proverb that says that the fruit takes a long time to ripen, but it falls suddenly … And that seems to be the process.

McDowell presents a list of  tools Eno has relied upon to assist the creative process when he gets stuck — No 5, the Oblique Strategies deck of cards is the bit of whimsy, something all creative workers needs to get the juices flowing again.

1. Freeform capture. Grab from a range of sources without editorializing. According to Tamm, one of Eno’s tactics “involves keeping a microcassette tape recorder on hand at all times and recording any stray ideas that hit him out of the blue – a melody, a rhythm, a verbal phrase.” He’ll then go through and look for links or connections, something that can form the foundation for a new piece of music.

2. Blank state. Start with new tools, from nothing, and toy around. For example, Eno approaches this by entering the recording studio with no preconceived ideas, only a set of instruments or a few musicians and “just dabble with sounds until something starts to happen that suggests a texture.” When the sound texture evokes a memory or emotion that impression then takes over in guiding the process.

3. Deliberate limitations. Before a project begins, develop specific limitations. Eno’s example: “this piece is going to be three minutes and nineteen seconds long and it’s going to have changes here, here and here, and there’s going to be a convolution of events here, and there’s going to be a very fast rhythm here with a very slow moving part over the top of it.”

4. Opposing forces. Sometimes it’s best to generate a forced collision of ideas. Eno would “gather together a group of musicians who wouldn’t normally work together.” Dissimilar background and approaches can often evoke fresh thinking.

[oblique strategy 5.9.10]: "Abandon Desir...

Image by courtneyBolton via Flickr

5. Creative prompts. In the ‘70s Eno developed his Oblique Strategies cards, a series of prompts modeled after the I Ching to disrupt the process and encourage a new way of encountering a creative problem. On the cards are statements and questions like: “Would anybody want it?” “Try faking it!” “Only a part, not the whole.” “Work at a different speed.” “Disconnect from desire.” “Turn it upside down.” “Use an old idea.” These prompts are a method of generating specifics, which most creatives respond favorably to.

Written by Jeffrey Callen

June 1, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Feel It Again: Cuba’s Los Muñequitos de Matanzas Return to S.F. (@ SF Weekly)

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I must admit that I am not a big fan of folkloric performances. Straddling the gap between “traditional” and “popular” entertainment is difficult and the more context you strip away, the more difficult it becomes. Of courses the very effort to do so creates the gap. This dilemma came up for me last week when I sat down to write a preview of the upcoming appearance of the legendary Cuban folkloric troupe Los Muñequitos de Matanzas at Mission High School in San Francisco on April 4, 2011.be. With only a cd and some less than satisfying videos to work with, it was hard to get a real feel for their live performance. What I came up with began as a riff on the multi-sensual nature of the musical experience:

Feel It Again: Cuba’s Los Muñequitos de Matanzas Return to S.F.

By Jeffrey Callen Wednesday, Mar 30 2011

Music is a multisensual experience. Putting aside synesthesia — a rare condition in which what a person experiences in one sensory realm (like seeing) activates a second sensory realm (like hearing) — musical performances are most fully experienced when they are heard, seen, felt, and moved to in a communal space. Recorded music is great — how else could you listen to metal or a symphony while driving your car? — but you shouldn’t forget that the multisensual experience of live music is something special. For some styles of music, it is essential. This digression is by way of encouraging you to see the legendary Cuban ensemble Los Muñequitos de Matanzas when they perform this week at Mission High School.

Previewing Los Muñequitos de Matanzas’ 2007Grammy-nominated album Tambor de Fuego during a car trip last week, I realized the necessity of hearing this music live. Deprived of the visual elements and unable to move freely, I was struck by the seeming sameness of the tracks. An archetypal rumba pattern on claves (a pair of wooden sticks) sets the beat. A male vocalist then establishes the primary melody of the piece, supported by the pattern of interlocking rhythms set by the drummers on the quinto (a high-pitched conga — the lead drum), and two or more tumbadores (low-pitched congas). (to read the rest…)

Written by Jeffrey Callen

March 30, 2011 at 10:17 am

New book: Peter Gabriel, From Genesis to Growing Up

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Self promotion aside (although my chapter, “‘I need contact’ – rock ‘n’ roll ritual: Peter Gabriel’s Security tour, 1982–83″ is quite good), this is an excellent collection on an influential figure in popular music. Out on Ashgate on December 23, 2010. From the publisher’s press release:

Ever since Peter Gabriel fronted progressive rock band Genesis, from the late 1960s until the mid 1970s, journalists and academics alike have noted the importance of Gabriel’s contribution to popular music. His influence became especially significant when he embarked on a solo career in the late 1970s. Gabriel secured his place in the annals of popular music history through his poignant recordings, innovative music videos, groundbreaking live performances, the establishment of WOMAD (the World of Music and Dance) and the Real World record label (as a forum for musicians from around the world to be heard, recorded and promoted) and for his political agenda (including links to a variety of political initiatives including the Artists Against Apartheid Project, Amnesty International and the Human Rights Now tour). In addition, Gabriel is known as a sensitive, articulate and critical performer whose music reflects an innate curiosity and deep intellectual commitment. This collection documents and critically explores the most central themes found in Gabriel’s work. These are divided into three important conceptual areas arising from Gabriel’s activity as a songwriter and recording artist, performer and activist: ‘Identity and Representation’, ‘Politics and Power’ and ‘Production and Performance’….

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