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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)

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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)

Kronos Quartet feature “Women’s Voices” / An Interview with Tanya Tagaq (@PopMatters)

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 This weekend (May 11 & 12, 2012), Kronos Quartet is presenting a program entitled Women’s Voices at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in Sn Francisco. One of the special guests is Inuit throat singer Tanya Taqaq. I’m taking this occasion to repost an interview of Taqaq  I did for PopMatters in 2010. One of my favorite interviews of the last few years, it’s also a good introduction to an innovative artist. If you happen to be in the Bay Area, seriously consider checking out this weekend’s show at YBCA.

Living Outside the Box: An Interview with Tanya Tagaq

By Jeffrey Callen 16 April 2010

My introduction to Inuit throat singing was a lecture by musicologist Jean-Jacques Nattiez on the semiology of katajjaq, the vocal game played by pairs of Inuit women standing close together, holding each other’s arms as they sing into each other’s mouths. I remember some striking video and audio clips, a lot of charts detailing Nattiez’s semiotic analysis and a feeling that something human and vital was being elided.

A decade later, when I first saw Tanya Tagaq on a podcast from the London International Festival of Exploratory Music, I didn’t think once of katajjaq or semiology. She isn’t that kind of Inuit throat singer and that kind of analysis would not get to the questions that I was interested in pursuing.

Born in the Nunavut Territory in the northernmost reaches of Canada, Tagaq taught herself Inuit throat singing during college in Halifax when she longed for the sounds of home. In the decade since, she has taken Inuit throat singing into previously unimagined musical arenas, working in hip-hop, hard rock and classical settings.

She has also worked with a diverse set of collaborators including Bjork, Mike Patton (of Faith No More) and the Kronos Quartet. In late January 2010, I interviewed Tanya Tagaq as she was about to begin a six-month tour of North America and Europe. During our conversation, Tagaq illuminated her approach to her craft, the sources of her inspiration, the relationship of her art to the Nunavut landscape/soundscape, and her ambitions.

On the last point—her ambitions—she eloquently stated what may be an underlying reason people are drawn to the experience of art: “…(to wake up to) the potential of what we’ve lost and what we can gain.” (To read more go to PopMatters).

“Pianist Omar Sosa is on a musical and spiritual mission” (@ SF Weekly)

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Cover of "Afreecanos"

Cover of Afreecanos

Omar Sosa’s exploration of the shared roots of the musics of the Black Atlantic is documented in an impressive body of work. A number of his albums are regularly featured in my own personal soundscape: Prietos (2001), Sentir (2002), Afreecanos (2008), and the brilliant, transformative Across the Divide: A Tale of Rhythm and Ancestry (2009). If you are not familiar with his work, I heartily recommend that you check it out. On Wednesday May 18, the Omar Sosa Afreecanos Quintet, featuring Bay Area Latin music icon John Santos, played Yoshi’s San Francisco. Below is the preview I wrote for SF Weekly.

Omar Sosa Mixes Jazz and Electronica into an Afro-Cuban Cocktail

By Jeffrey Callen Wednesday, May 18 2011

Pianist Omar Sosa is on a musical and spiritual mission. His music, steeped in Afro-Cuban and jazz influences, melds traditional and modern sounds (and aesthetics) to show the unseen threads that connect cultures throughout the African diaspora. His mission has taken him into myriad musical settings that have been documented on an impressive array of recordings. His rare stop in the Bay Area at Yoshi’s this week is a sort of musical homecoming.

The Cuban-born pianist spent three years in the Bay Area in the ’90s — a period that marked a turning point in his career. “It was the first time I did what I felt,” Sosa explains in a phone interview. He began exploring the roots of African music a decade earlier, but it was here that his sound took shape. Sosa particularly admired the vision and work of percussionistJohn Santos, who was already an established figure on the Bay Area Latin music scene. Santos became pivotal, offering moral support and hiring Sosa to tour with his Machete Ensemble. Wednesday’s show will see the two reunited, with Santos performing as a featured sideman in Sosa’s Afreecanos Quintet.

Sosa’s group formed to record the albumsPromise (2007) and Afreecanos (2008); it has appeared in various configurations and included more than a dozen musicians from the Americas, Africa, and Europe. It has become “more a collective than a group,” Sosa says. In addition to Sosa and Santos, the version that will appear atYoshi‘s includes drum ‘n’ bass pioneer (and founding member of New York City’s Black Rock CoalitionMarque Gilmore, bassist Childo Tomas from Mozambique, and Berkeley nativePeter Apfelbaum on saxophone and flute. Apfelbaum was another of Sosa’s inspirations when he moved to the Bay Area. He remembers that the first concert that made him exclaim “That is the kind of music I want to make” was the final San Francisco show by Hieroglyphics Ensemble, a legendary jazz group Apfelbaum formed while still in high school. (Apfelbaum relocated to New York to play with jazz icon Don Cherrysoon after Sosa hit the Bay Area, but remains one of Sosa’s musical heroes.)

Since he departed the Bay Area in 1998, Sosa has stayed connected, regularly releasing albums on Oakland-based Otá Records that document his ongoing musical explorations. He draws upon a diverse array of traditions to create an eclectic body of work. Ritual sounds of Cuban Santería orMoroccan gnawa blend with straight-ahead Latin jazz, big band horn charts, and hard bop; contemplative moments on ngoni or piano are flavored with electronic samples.

Sosa’s recorded output is driven not by commercial calculations but by what he calls “spiritual messages.” When Sosa’s spirits call him to record an album, he says he has to do it right then, or “the message will kill me.” Last year, when he was in New York City with two days off, Sosa received the message that he “needed to heal himself.” So his manager found an available studio, and Omar played solo improvisations on piano, electric piano, and electronic percussion for two hours. When he finished, he had recorded the raw tracks for his latest release, Calma (2010).

Perhaps not surprisingly, Sosa’s best ensemble work features a thrilling drive and intensity along with the vibrant interplay of sounds — see Prietos (2001), Sentir (2002), Afreecanos (2008), and the brilliant, transformative Across the Divide: A Tale of Rhythm and Ancestry (2009). The introspective, laid-back Calma has a different kind of eloquence, contemplative and restrained without the drive and diversity of textures that characterize his ensemble work. Sosa says it’s the only one of his albums he currently listens to: “When you feel calm, you see life in front of you more clearly. … You have time to see things and choose in the moment.” Expect a variety of emotions, along with extraordinary performances, when Sosa’s Afreecanos Quintet takes the Yoshi’s stage.

Short takes: Music industry trends in “recommendation & discovery”

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I spent a good portion of Monday at the latest edition of the SF Music Tech Summit. My name tag this time said “SF Weekly” instead of “Deciphering Culture” (I asked for dual identification) so a lot of people buttonholed me to get coverage for a new service. Not surprisingly, most of them fell into the “recommendation and discovery” segment although none of the pitches left me convinced of the efficacy of any of the new spins on the work of the established players. Also,  not surprisingly my blog post for SF Weekly’s All Shook Down blog focused on a SRO panel that featured some of the heavy hitters in R & D. The relevant excerpt below.

Flickr/aquababe

S.F. MusicTech Summit: How Do Listeners Want to Discover New Music?
All Shook Down

  • by Jeffrey Callen on 5/10/11 @ 7:29 pm

….The standing-room-only “Recommendation & Discovery” panel offered one of the more interesting glimpses into the internal logic of the music industry machine. Chaired by Kevin Arnold of IODA (also creator of S.F.’s annual Noise Pop festival), the panel brought together some of the heavy hitters in the music search business, including MOGRovi CorporationThe Filter (a Peter Gabriel brainchild), and Slacker.

An interesting discussion on the nuts-and-bolts of music recommendation and discovery services offered some contradictory food for thought. Music consumers looking for recommendations “prefer a man-to-machine to a man-to-man relationship” (David Hyman of MOG), and if you focus on personalized user specs, you get information that is increasingly “granular” (David Roberts of The Filter). Yet R & D is a “human-centric task,” said Adam Powers of Rovi. Powers also asserted that when Rovi, a giant in the R&D world, was looking at other companies to acquire, it found 250 that thought they had R&D nailed. But from the number of R&D company reps in attendance at the SF Music Tech Summit, it seems that either that news hasn’t gotten out, or nobody’s actually nailed it.

—-

All Shook Down

  • by Jeffrey Callen on 5/10/11 @ 7:29 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

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