Deciphering Culture

Posts Tagged ‘Popular music

Watcha Clan at the Jewish Music Festival

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I’m only posting this to add to my archive of published work (no matter how short). And, btw, it was a great show!

From East Bay Express:

Watcha Clan

Sun., July 18, 8 p.m. 2010

$23, $25

The final night of this year’s Jewish Music Festival features performances by two groups that stretch the usual definitions of diasporic music (Jewish or otherwise). French “world & bass” group Watcha Clan is dedicated to making music that advocates for nomadic peoples, for whom national boundaries are an inconvenient detail. It’s roots music where the roots intertwine with each other, creating a technologically enhanced vision of a world of unfettered movement. In that context, the idea of a “pure” music, or culture, is an anomaly. Sephardic and Ashkenazi music are integral parts of the mix, brought to the band by vocalist Sistah K (daughter of an Algerian Berber Jewish father and a Lithuanian Jewish mother). Opening the night is the San Francisco-based punk/funk/Balkan/Jewish band Charming Hostess, presenting their own take on diasporic music. Sunday, July 18 at YerbaBuenaCenter for the Arts (701 Mission St., San Francisco). YBCA.org

— Jeffrey Callen

Written by Jeffrey Callen

July 21, 2010 at 3:11 pm

Watcha Clan performs at the Jewish Music Festival

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From East Bay Express

Watcha Clan

Sun., July 18, 8 p.m.

$23, $25

The final night of this year’s Jewish Music Festival features performances by two groups that stretch the usual definitions of diasporic music (Jewish or otherwise). French “world & bass” group Watcha Clan is dedicated to making music that advocates for nomadic peoples, for whom national boundaries are an inconvenient detail. It’s roots music where the roots intertwine with each other, creating a technologically enhanced vision of a world of unfettered movement. In that context, the idea of a “pure” music, or culture, is an anomaly. Sephardic and Ashkenazi music are integral parts of the mix, brought to the band by vocalist Sistah K (daughter of an Algerian Berber Jewish father and a Lithuanian Jewish mother). Opening the night is the San Francisco-based punk/funk/Balkan/Jewish band Charming Hostess, presenting their own take on diasporic music. Sunday, July 18 at YerbaBuenaCenter for the Arts (701 Mission St., San Francisco). YBCA.org

— Jeffrey Callen

Written by Jeffrey Callen

July 13, 2010 at 10:49 pm

Living Outside the Box: An Interview with Tanya Tagaq (@PopMatters)

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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).

Written by Jeffrey Callen

April 18, 2010 at 9:39 am

Intimate Dialogue (@ East Bay Express)

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Indo-Pak Coalition melds Indian music and jazz for a stylistically ambiguous sound.

By Jeffrey Callen

Like most musicians who suddenly burst onto the scene, Rudresh Mahanthappa has been working on his craft for a long time. His reputation as an innovative jazz musician and composer took a major leap from the realms of the cognoscenti into popular culture with the enthusiastic reception of his 2008 album, Kinsmen. That album featured the Dakshina Ensemble, co-led by Mahanthappa and fellow alto saxophonist Kadri Gopalnath. Kinsmen, which melds jazz and South Indian Carnatic music, ended up on more than twenty top jazz CDs of 2008 lists, and the prestigious Downbeat International Critics Poll named Mahanthappa a rising jazz artist and alto saxophonist of 2009. He also became the subject of numerous features in The New York Times, the New Yorker, and Rolling Stone. That’s how the message used to come down from the cognoscenti to us hoi polloi and, sometimes, even in this age of viral marketing, it continues to do so — and sometimes, it still works. (to read more got to East Bay Express).

Written by Jeffrey Callen

March 11, 2010 at 3:21 pm

Gentrification and the loss of music venues

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Reposted from History is made at night: the politics of dancing and musicking

Monday, March 08, 2010

Freddy’s: a Brooklyn bar facing demolition

If one threat to music venues is over-regulation through increasingly onerous licensing laws, another is gentrification. As land and property values rise, spaces of conviviality (pubs, bars, clubs) are often swept away by developers to be replaced by upmarket residential and retail buidings. In London, the clearest example is The Foundry in Shoreditch, facing demolition to make way for a hotel.

City of Strangers notes a similar case from New York, where Freddy’s Bar in Brooklyn is facing demolition to make way for the huge Atlantic Yards Development. City of Strangers ‘started hanging out in the very late 90’s, when I still lived in Fort Greene. It was nice having a good bar in walking distance. In those pre-hipster days, there weren’t many bars in Brooklyn with found video loops broadcast on a TV over the bar, or that played the whole Velvet’s Banana album or the Ramones or 80’s British punk. The back room featured everything from hardcore to experimental jazz’.

If the developers get their way, 16 high rise buildings will soon replace not only Freddy’s but a whole neighbourhood, including many pesky low rise buildings with controlled rents. Freddy’s patrons – some pictured below –have threatened to chain themselves to the bar to block its eviction.
History is made at night: Freddy’s: a Brooklyn bar facing demoltion

Local Bands Get a Boost at Noise Pop

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Judgement Day and the Mumlers headline for the first time this year.

By Jeffrey Callen

From its humble beginnings in 1993 as a single club show of five bands, Noise Pop has grown into a week-long “celebration of indie music and culture.” It now includes a film festival, art shows, a music industry mini-conference, and a design fair and marketplace. However, music remains Noise Pop’s focus with more than thirty shows in large and small venues scattered around San Francisco and, for the first time this year, at the Fox Theater in Oakland.

While there are no designated headliners at Noise Pop, each year’s lineup includes internationally prominent performers. This year it’s the Yoko Ono Plastic Band and the Magnetic Fields. Star acts add excitement to the festival but Noise Pop’s national status is based on it being one of the premier showcases for that most loosely defined musical genre, indie rock. Noise Pop prides itself on bringing exposure to emerging bands, (to read more go to the East Bay Express).

Written by Jeffrey Callen

February 26, 2010 at 3:05 pm

NOTES FROM THE NOISE POP FESTIVAL (UPDATED AGAIN)

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The Noise Pop festival of indie rock in San Francisco (23 February to 1 March 2010) for its 18th year. I’m checking it out and pondering what exactly is “indie rock?”

  • NOTES FROM THE NOISE POP FESTIVAL (24 February)
    • Wondering what exactly “indie” rock is? Is it a genre or a sensibility?
    • Anton (violinist) of “string metal” band Judgement Day told me Noise Pop is not about genre but about showcasing innovative bands.
    • So this is where the ’80 new wave led: The Fresh & Onlys (REM meets The Cure meets Live) at the Rickshaw Stop.
    • Sean Lennon at The Independent — mostly neo-psychedelic singer-songwriter stuff (competent but not interesting or engaging) . Only time  he seemed to have his own voice was on the encore song ‘This World is Made for Men.” Then, with only a solo acoustic guitar and a harmony vocal, he made a statement — simple, unadorned, poetic
  • NOTES FROM THE NOISE POP FESTIVAL (25 February)
    • Art of Noise cocktail party — only thing more boring than the art was the party.
    • Tape Deck Mountain at Cafe du Nord: a great psychedelic trio with no stage presence but great songs with piercing, funny, sometimes touching lyrics. Play those pedals! Look at all those pedals! Ended the set with a straight-forward, funny, touching song: “I’ll Tell You Lies.”
    • Greg Ashley followed Tape Deck Mountain: interesting finger-picked psychedelia on a Les Paul. No lyrics — seemed like a collection of intros. Got bored and left during the third song.
    • Picture Atlantic: good hard pop rock band with good vocals but a little heavy on the hooks. How many pedals do you need to play pop rock? Tight song structure but ultimately nothing to set it apart from other competent, enjoyable bands. Three songs and I’m out.
    • Indie rock —  is it a continuation of ’80s new wave (also not well-defined) without the sense of style or the attitude but keeping the sense of humor (like new wave even when it’s morbid, it’s funny)

  • NOTES FROM THE NOISE POP FESTIVAL (26 February)
    • No club hopping tonight – spending the evening at Cafe Du Nord where the Mumlers close the show tonight.
      • Four band bill:
        • The Ferocious Few: guitar/drums duo that began busking the streets of San Francisco — great roadhouse vocals (singer with standard hipster — skinny jeans, scraggly beard,  little hat — I should open a little hat store with nothing but little hats)
        • Sonny and the Sunsets: bass/guitar/drums trio that plays catchy, quirky tunes a la Jonathan Richmond
        • The Growlers: five piece local band with a devoted following — good bar ban
        • The Mumlers: six piece ensemble out of San Jose — neo retro Memphis soul — absolutely great! Could be big with a little seasoning and a little luck

  • NOTES FROM THE NOISE POP FESTIVAL (27 February)
    • Industry Noise conference on the business of music
      • Highlight is keynote by Claudia Monson who handles the business side of Stephen Merritt and also plays with his Magnetic Fields ensemble.

There isn’t one Stephen Merritt style — I like this one:

  • NOTES FROM THE NOISE POP FESTIVAL (28 February)
    • Dizzy Balloon at Bottom of the Hill (all ages / afternoon show)
      • One of the best bands at Noise Pop and one of the youngest — good poppy, almost bubblegum songs with Green Day panache. I was skeptical when Kevin Arnold, festival creator, touted them as one of the bands that the festival might give a bounce but, lo and behold, they are that good. Live, they’re completely professional, musically tight and FUN!
      • They ended the show with a good and very fun cover of the Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back.”
      • The clip below is “Crazy Jane”

Written by Jeffrey Callen

February 26, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Addendum to: It’s only rock ‘n’ roll (Tinariwen)

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The exoticizing of the non-Western other in World Music is a continuing phenomenon — freely used in marketing and eagerly accepted by most fans. “Music of resistance” is one sub-category of that phenomenon. In a recent preview of a San Francisco concert by Tinariwen, I avoided emphasizing their music as born out of resistance (it’s only part of the back story) but the headline my editor wrote included “rebel music” as a descriptor (see: It’s only rock ‘n’ roll — also links to two other recent pieces on Tinariwen).

Today (February 20, 2010), the Touareg website Temoust posted an enlightening interview with sociologist Denis-Constant Martin of the Cité de la musique museum in Paris. Martin discusses the “musics of resistance” phenomenon. Must reading for World Music fans. 

Musique touaregue de résistance : La marchandisation des sons (reposted from the Cité de la musique website: )

“Un mythe, voire une mystique de la résistance s’instaure à partir de discours tenus sur la musique qui ne correspondent pas nécessairement à ce que l’analyse musicale pourrait elle-même déceler.”(“A myth or a mystique of resistance is established from discourses about music that does not necessarily correspond to what music analysis itself could detect.”)

Written by Jeffrey Callen

February 20, 2010 at 10:45 am

It’s only rock ‘n’ roll (@ East Bay Express)

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Desert Rock — Tinariwen brings rebel music out of the Southern Sahara

By Jeffrey Callen

A slow Hendrix blues riff, deep, rough and insistent, slashes through the aural space. Broken down and repeated, the opening riff is joined by the offbeat upstrokes of a second, trebly electric guitar establishing a shuffle counterpoint. A fast rap barely breaks through the sound of the guitars, becoming louder when it morphs into a sung chorus with backing vocals (three, maybe four words). About four minutes in, the guitars drop out and the song is stripped down: a fast rap over a loopy funk bass line, accompanied by handclaps and soft percussion. The offbeat guitar upstrokes return joined by an arpeggiated riff on a second guitar, then a lead guitar. The vocals become secondary as the guitars propel the song to its ending and the opening riff returns. While the description could fit a performance of an up-and-coming indie band at the Noise Pop festival later this month, (to read more click here for the East Bay Express article)

A couple of other recent pieces on Tinariwen in the New York Times and S.F. Bay Guardian

Written by Jeffrey Callen

February 19, 2010 at 5:33 pm

“Desert Rock”

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Desert Rock

Tinariwen brings rebel music out of the Southern Sahara.

By Jeffrey Callen

A slow Hendrix blues riff, deep, rough and insistent, slashes through the aural space. Broken down and repeated, the opening riff is joined by the offbeat upstrokes of a second, trebly electric guitar establishing a shuffle counterpoint. A fast rap barely breaks through the sound of the guitars, becoming louder when it morphs into a sung chorus with backing vocals (three, maybe four words). About four minutes in, the guitars drop out and the song is stripped down: a fast rap over a loopy funk bass line, accompanied by handclaps and soft percussion. The offbeat guitar upstrokes return joined by an arpeggiated riff on a second guitar, then a lead guitar. The vocals become secondary as the guitars propel the song to its ending and the opening riff returns. While the description could fit a performance of an up-and-coming indie band at the Noise Pop festival later this month, (to read more click here for the East Bay Express article)

Written by Jeffrey Callen

February 17, 2010 at 12:23 pm

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