Unwilling Accomplices

Famed
journalist Edward R. Murrow once said, “No one can terrorize a whole nation,
unless we are all his accomplices
.”  I began to wonder if the same couldn’t be
said of a single corporation.  Can a corporation terrorize a whole nation
without all of us being its accomplices?  Are the quiet complicity and the
indifferent ignorance of consumers the makings for a tyrannical corporation or
are they the plot details of the success story tales told by defenders of the
so-called “free market?”  And if this is the recipe for tyranny, do we really
care?The media behemoth currently ruling the American airwaves is Clear Channel
Radio. It dictates music playlists and politics to over 1200 radio stations in
the U.S. It boasts of over 110 million listeners and has captured a good 20% of
radio’s advertising dollars. Conservative talk radio hosts Rush Limbaugh and
Dr. Laura Schlessinger are just two of the numerous celebrities featured by
Clear Channel’s Premiere Radio Network productions, the likes of which are
syndicated to more than 7,800 stations across the country. In addition, Clear
Channel own 37 television stations, 700,000 billboards, 130 concert venues and
plans are in the works for Music Guide Live!, a magazine for the summer concert
season.

Right about now you might be asking yourself, ‘So, what’s wrong with that?
The problem lies in the business practices of Clear Channel.

After Natalie Mains of the Dixie Chicks expressed shame over President Bush’s
willingness towards war, Clear Channel stations across the country stopped
playing songs by the group. Clear Channel officials denied a company-wide
mandate had been issued, but they didn’t demand that the Dixie Chicks be placed
back on the playlist in an effort to prove that narrow kind of political culture
didn’t existed within the company.

Then, there’s homogenization of playlists. Clear Channel is reported to control
roughly 60% of rock music programming, so how hard do you think it might be for
a local band to get airplay on a Clear Channel station?

There are accusations of pulling popular syndicated programs from radio stations
in favor of Clear Channel competing stations, encouraging devoted listeners to
switch to Clear Channel stations. Local programming has fallen by the wayside
as Clear Channel sets up region-wide “cyber-jocking” to save the cash on local
DJ jobs.

Adding to their naughty reputation, Representative Anthony Weiner, a Democrat
from New York, asked the Department of Justice for an investigation of Clear
Channel Radio’s business practices. Competing stations have accused Clear
Channel of operating shell radio stations through front companies while Clear
Channel remains the key player when it comes to control.

Let’s face it, Clear Channel doesn’t get any brownie points for inspiring a
website called ClearChannelSucks.org,
dedicated to bringing to light the company’s dirty little habits. And finally,
when was the last time you heard anything here on World Music Central played on
a Clear Channel station?

I don’t know if a company like Clear Channel Radio is tyrannical or not. I do
know that listeners are getting short changed with the same playlists being
played over and over again. I also know local bands, concert tours, world music
musicians and fair business practices take a hit when this kind of corporate
rule comes to prominence.

But the question remains, are we Clear Channels’ accomplices? We might be.
Recently, someone sent me an email saying that Americans love complacency and I
wondered if it might be true. Finally, I decided that while we’re quick to jump
on the bandwagon, we’re equally quick to jump off. I don’t think we’re as
enamored with complacency as some people might think. The key is finding the
moral outrage – finding our inner rebel.

I’m a great believer in finding solutions to problems. For example, I
complained bitterly for weeks and months over a woman in the neighborhood who
used her obnoxious leaf blower on at all hours of the day and night. Solution:
Sneak over in the middle of the night with a bunch of leaves and a bottle of
industrial-strength glue and glue leaves to driveway. Now before you start
calling the police, I didn’t actually do it, but it was a comfort to have a real
solution.

But what is the solution in this case? Is it time we take Clear Channel to task
by calling or writing Clear Channel advertisers expressing our disgust? Is it
time to call up our congressmen to demand an in-depth investigation? Is it the
time to stand up to corporate bullies like Clear Channel Radio and say, ‘Pretty
is as pretty does and bring the paperwork to prove it?’ Of course, you could
just sit back and do nothing, but you don’t really want to be an accomplice, do
you?

Share

The Hidden Gate – Jewish Music Around the World

The Hidden Gate - Jewish Music Around the World
Boston, USA – The Hidden Gate – Jewish Music Around the World on Rounder Records was released this week.

From Biblical beginnings, Jewish culture and music are found in over 100 countries spanning six continents. While sharing a strong common history, each geographical region has developed its own distinct identity.

The Hidden Gate samples this vast musical heritage, featuring Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino and Judeo-Arabic songs from Israeli legends (Chava Alberstein, Ofra Haza) and captivating Sephardic singers (Savina Yannatou, Yasmin Levy) to the little heard music of African and Asian Jews, and the klezmer innovators of Eastern Europe and the New World (The Klezmatics, The Klezmer Conservatory Band).

Share

Music Industry to Take File-Sharers to Court

Durham, NC, USA – Last Thursday the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) announced a change in tactics in its battle against Internet file trading by filing lawsuits against large-scale file-sharers. The RIAA, the association behind the five biggest labels, plans to ferret out Internet offenders they see as violating copyright laws, and file civil and/or criminal lawsuits. As early as August, file sharers could be facing $150,000 fines.

Long seen as one of the causes for sharply declining sales, Internet file-sharing in the past forced the music industry to mount legal actions against Napster and will now turn its attention to the pursuit of individual users of Kazaa, Grokster and iMesh, all popular software packages for file sharers. The RIAA recently won a court battle which will be used to force Verizon to identify the culprits. Reasoning that file-sharing damages all artists, the RIAA has stepped up measures against what it sees as common theft.

The threat seems to have worked in the short term. The announcement and a full-page ad in the New York Times, signed by various music industry trade groups and associations, coincided with a 16% drop in the number of users of Kazaa, the most popular file-sharing software. Of course this drop meant that only 3.8 million users instead of the usual 4.4 million users.

The battle hasn’t been won yet. Fears remain for the music industry as technology enthusiasts shift gears to invent newer software with the ability to cloak users’ identities. The RIAA has been warned by some that it will have to walk a fine line in order to boost industry-run file-sharing software and not further alienate music fans.

Share

Viking Ice And Epic Sagas

Steindór Andersen - Rimur - Icelandic chants
Steindór Andersen – Rimur – Icelandic chants
Steindór Andersen

Rimur – Icelandic chants (Naxos World, 76031-2, 2003)

Predating Christianity in the Nordic countries, the Vikings practiced a pantheistic religion and various myths and tales came from this period. Similar to the Greeks with their epic tales, The Odyssey and The Iliad, Norse legends also existed around this time and have survived through the ages, despite suppression from monotheistic religions.

The Icelandic chant or rima (plural rimur) which are epic songs can in part be traced back to Eddic and Skaldic poetry of the Viking Age. This epic poetry relies heavily on complex metaphors, rhyming meter and are often times constructed into cryptic crossword. The rimur that appear on Steindór Andersen’s collection mostly come from the 1700’s to the early 1900’s featuring exerts of epic poems by Jon Sigurosson (1853-1922), Jon S. Bergmann (1874-1927), Sigurour Breidfjord (1798-1846), The Reverend Hannes Bjarnason (1776-1838) and others.

The rimur were recorded in the Icelandic language and at varying settings including a church, the Salurinn Concert Hall and a small household using portable state of the art equipment. This allowed Steindor and Oscar-nominated Composer and Producer Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson to record the rimur in settings similar to the original settings in which rimur were performed. In the distant past, rimur were performed outside in fields and in sleeping lofts. And rimur proved to be a popular form of entertainment during the Middle Ages and contemporary times despite the Christian church’s ban on these epic tales. Yet, this didn’t stop Icelanders from leaving church service early to hear rimur nor did it stop Reverend Hannes Bjarnason from composing and performing these so-called work of the devil.

Today a resurgence of rimur has attracted Icelandic youth to discover their Viking roots. This is due in part to the society IDUNN which formed in Reykjavik in 1929 and has preserved the tradition to this day. However, Steindor’s recording marks the first non field recording and features a couple contemporary fixturings. A didgeridoo or another chanter accompany Steindor on tracks 13, 15 and 17 and an Irish harp appears on tracks 16 and 18. Normally, rimur are performed a capella because they represent stories being sung instead of narrated. Listeners unfamiliar with the Icelandic language will enjoy the chants’ aesthetics in the same vein as enjoying Tibetan or Gregorian chants, but will miss out on the rich nuances provided by metaphors and rhyming meter. As it is, brief synopses of the stories are included.

Buy Rimur – Icelandic chants

Share

020 Tangorock Band

Buenos Aires, Argentina – 020 (zero2zero) has released its debut album, End of Illusions, on Constitution Music Records. The band, based in Buenos Aires is formed by Maxx (vocals), Diego Velázquez (guitar), Hernan Padro (bass), Marcelo Ferrari (piano), Leadron Lijan (drums) and special guest Daniel Rugeiro (bandoneon). The new album is a blend of different musical cultures. For more information go to: www.zero2zero.net

Share

Yaya Diallo’s Upcoming Album "Live at Club Soda"

Yaya Diallo - Live at Club Soda
Yaya Diallo – Live at Club Soda
Canada – Yaya Diallo’s upcoming album Live at Club Soda with his band Kanza is reminiscent of 1950’s rock-n-roll and blues. It features saxophone, electric violin, bass and lead guitars, drum set, vocals and traditional African drums. Asked if he was influenced by the music of the 50s era, Yaya responded that the saxophone and electric violin players in his band grew up with rock-n-roll, blues and jazz.

A favorite track on the Live at Club Soda album, “Samba The Trucker,” is a song about a fellow with little or no education, crude manners and worse behavior, particularly when it comes to the ladies. The album contains an a capella child’s lullaby. When asked how this song fits on the album Yaya responded that music is for everyone, so it is fitting to have something for the children.

Live at Club Soda was recorded at Club Soda, Montreal, Canada, 1989. The song “Samba The Trucker” can now be listened to on New Music Canada.

Share

La Ruta de los Foramontanos by Balbarda

Balbarda - La Ruta de los Foramontanos
Balbarda – La Ruta de los Foramontanos
Balbarda

La Ruta de los Foramontanos (self produced, 2002)

Madrid has become a hot spot for world music and contemporary folk bands. Balbarda is yet another group to add to the list. The band plays mainly instrumental music. Balbarda is proof of what good things can happen when you combine several musical traditions in the Spanish capital’s melting pot. Most of the fascinating melodies are based on Castillian folk music, with contemporary arragements. But there are also thrilling Celtic influences, flamenco rhythms and jazz elements.Four musicians, including three multi-instrumentalists form the band: Xurxo Ordóñez plays various types of Spanish bagpipes and flutes. Jota Martínez is an outstanding hurdy-gurdy player who also plays sings and plays percussion. Javier Monteagudo plays guitars, ud, and percussion. Ana Alcaide plays fiddle.

Since this is a truly independent release, the best way to find out how to purchase a copy of the album is to contact the bandat their Web site: www.balbarda.com

Share

Vivid by Najma

Najma - Vivid
Najma – Vivid
Najma

Vivid (Mondo Melodia 1868500752, 2003)

It’s been a while since I heard anything by Najma and I have to say that it was worth the wait. Her new album, Vivid, is one of the finest I’ve heard recently in the South Asian hybrid genre. Najma continues in the direction of fusing music from the Indian subcontinent with Western music. In this case, her dreamlike voice is accompanied by Indian percussion and stringed instruments as well as electronica.

Najma’s vocal stylings are surrounded by ambient electronic sounds and trip-hop electronic beats. It’s a truly captivating hypnotic album where acoustic music and electronics are brilliantly combined. Najma has crossed boundaries and worked with artists that others only dream of. She has performed with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page and has recorded for their MTV Unplugged and No Quarter albums. She also contributed to Jah Wobble’s “Take Me To God” album (from which the song ‘Raga’ was featured in Robert Altman’s film “Pret a Porter”), and has collaborated with Andy Summers (The Police), Carol Grimes and Martin Allcock (Fairport Convention).

Najma is also in heavy demand as an actress and composer. In 2002, she wrote, composed and recorded 13 songs for a new full-length feature film entitled Bollywood Queen.

Share

The Parap of Sarawak

Parap is a folklore song sung mainly among the Kayan-Kenyah tribes of Sarawak (Malaysia). It is a song relating expressions of love, happiness, loneliness and anger. It also praises the beauty of nature and all living things.

In olden days, parap is normally sung as a means to praise, to apologize or as encouragement to a person in which the parap is dedicated to. That is why parap has a significant role in the Kayan Kenyah culture. However, nowadays it is mainly sung for merry-making and festivities, especially in weddings, where it is a means to advise the newlywed couple of life ahead. And, to add colors to the festivity mood, rice wine is served at the ending of the rituals.There are no instruments used in this social means of merry making. It is in the form of pantun or poems, which are mostly improvised and intended as a means of a message or a narration. The lead singer in a parap could be either man or woman whereas the backup singers could be a mixture of both.

The duration of a parap can vary from few minutes to few hours depending on the lead singer. In order for the parap to be more ‘colourful’ and prolong, the backup singers will have to cheer up the lead singer in between.

The beginning and the ending of a parap are always done with a ‘lalu’, which could give a ‘key’ or a ‘code’ for the lead singer.

The Kayan and the Kenyah live in the upper rivers of Sarawak. A group of them from Belaga, Belaga Asap Group, are among those in Sarawak who are still culturally strong in practicing the parap which is as traditional and authentic as it was during the time of their ancestors.

Share

Book on History of Rock Music in Cuba Soon at Local Book Stores

John Lennon in Havana with a little help from my friends
John Lennon in Havana with a little help from my friends
(Prensa Latina – Cumbancha) Havana, Cuba – The book John Lennon in Havana with a little help from my friends, by Cuban writer and music investigator Ernesto Juan Castellanos, deals with the history of rock on the Island. According to Radio Rebelde, the volume collects interviews with personalities of Cuban culture, among them singer and songwriter Silvio Rodríguez, writer Miguel Barnet, musicians Juan Formell and Leo Brouwer, as well as the Vicar General of Havana, Monsignor Carlos Manuel de Céspedes.

Castellanos, who studies the work of the famous quartet of Liverpool, has three other books: Los Beatles en Cuba (1998) [The Beatles in Cuba], El sargento Pimienta vino a Cuba en un submarino amarillo (2000) [Sergeant Pepper came to Cuba in his Yellow Submarine] and La guerra se acaba si tú quieres (2001) [The War Ends if You Wish].

Share

Your Connection to traditional and contemporary World Music including folk, roots and various types of global fusion