On Concept Albums

 

AND here we have an artist with a vision. The vision is plastered on his web page, blaring through his music–a pianist who is setting a new standard. On his site, you can salvage nostalgia for lyrics, but not lyrics that are verbalized, rather fantasized while listening to a mostly instrumental album “Heroes + Misfits”

This album in all of its audio/visual manifestations (YouTube, photography, etc) speaks to me in a fitting black and white theme. It says to me that for the first time in many years, an artist decided to use poetry to further emulate the message in the music. This experience is rare, not because most contemporary jazz visionaries don’t use lyrics, but that Bowers’ website treats his ideas like gold. It almost feels as though you enter an exhibition gallery with visually stimulating themes, layouts, user interface, and down to the very last detail, you are invited to his world.

Once you become familiarized with the concept, you can appreciate the work. For this, I must state that there is nothing like a concept album. A 360 work of art in the flesh. Maybe the question to ask is why there are not more concept albums, serving society with words from poets, photographers images and the like. Maybe the answer is because it’s difficult to write music for the naked truth that:

“I wake to poverty suffocating my dreams
On corners where death sings and mothers scream
Hopelessness has everyone forgetting to believe” -Harris (one of the poems from Bowers’ latest album)

So that may be why the poems were written after the music. That may be why this new album’s significance is beyond what record labels due in trying to find singer/songwriters, beyond what A&R do when listening to thousands of new artists a day, it may be why an artist with a vision is not hung up on streaming rights and breaking even on live gigs. It may be why some music doesn’t get old. The music that may be getting old is probably distorted clones of what is easiest to produce (no pun intended)–pop.

 

Any other concept albums that lured you into the beauty and beastiality of reality that is today?

Advertisements

“Everybody Loves The Sunshine”

 

ORIGINALLY a tune written by Roy Ayers, “Everybody Loves The Sunshine” has come back to life in the form of 21st century New York jazz and neo-soul singer, Jose James & Japanese jazz trumpetist Takuya Kurado on the new album Rising Son. The album was released on February 18th,  produced by James and featuring all of Kurado’s original compositions, except for two interpretations of Ayers’ ageless music. Naturally, I was curious as to how one would go about negotiating the fee for any samples of  Mr. Ayers’ originals released by Universal or other master-owners of the said recording, were used in Rising Son. Did Kurado re-record his interpretation of Ayers’ original or lift the samples? If it was a sample, how much did the label charge? Is Mr. Ayers even aware of this recording? For so often, this particular kind of information is buried in the books. Even ASCAP (to which Ayers is a member to), does not list Kurado and James as performers. When and where will this information be published? I am on the lookout. Are you? What if it was your music? What if there was a system to easily trace the answers to some of these questions? Am I blind? This all goes to say I am in an inquisitive way, trying to say that I’m certain Kurado created Rising Son ethically, I just want to know-how.

the meat market

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons’ user phototram

IT only takes  a slip of the tongue to understand someone’s true feelings and thoughts towards something. What is known as the Freudian slip is actually not accidental and can lend to dynamically repressed sentiment that is otherwise hidden. So, to hear a music industry professional make an analogy of the recorded music industry to a grocery store, one cannot help but question the hidden train of thought. It is even more interesting once such an individual becomes conscious of the disheartening comparison and proceeds to explain his revelation and apologizes for the slip.

However, I am not surprised. Once you take on the role of being  in a major record label, I cannot imagine looking at music in any other way than a meat market. Developing, manufacturing, marketing, packaging, sponsoring meat–but I doubt this rings true for all labels including independents at large. Weekly tastings (A&R) occur and the recipe or formula for introducing something appetizing to the industry must be a bountiful duty–but I doubt all A&R approach art as a product.

In short, I am finding more truth about the industry by entertaining the idea that the Freudian slip is an accurate assessment of one’s deconstructed and subdued reality. Listen to your own or others’ slips more carefully next time and you’ll see what I mean. It’s one thing to look and another to see. You might have heard correctly, but did you listen?

“we call it riding the gravy train”

After round two of MIDEM, a couple questions came to mind, like: 

Are you in the music industry or music world? 

Do you exist for another company or for yourself? 

I found myself magnetically distant from the talks on branding and more keen on developing relations with musicians and creators from parts of the world that I had yet to learn about. After all, how much more of the once soaking wet towel of the West can we squeeze until it runs dry? 

The MIDEM experience in Cannes for me consisted of three C’s this year that are prevalent as ever in today’s music world. (1) Community (2) Culturalism & (3) Crave. The first C, for community, represents the curtain that has been drawn off the stage between the on-stage world and behind the scenes world where MIDEM effectively unfurls that curtain as a red carpet for music lovers, creators and exploiters alike to enter the experience. The second C, for culturalism, stands for the unshakeable fact that globalization has brought together more countries than you’ve heard of to network, in one physical place. Yes, technology also allows for connectivity, but MIDEM makes it easier, more direct, and professional. The culture of MIDEM is one of a kind, open-minded and forward thinking. I am honored to say my ears were exposed to the music of Isfar Sarabski, one of the most ingenious musicians of our time, from Azerbaijan. Lastly, the third C, for crave. Today’s cravings are spoonfuls of streaming, branding and Brazilian music. Personally, I have no appetite for the former two this year, but I can always learn something new and appreciate the trend towards Brazil’s contributions toward the future of the music world. 

Whether you’re into entertainment or art, it is difficult to condense the MIDEM experience into one category as it is truly the most diverse platform to learn, engage, and walk away from feeling more determined about whichever path you’re on. Whether it’s the “gravy train” as Pink Floyd writes about the music industry, or not. 

 

 

 

“On Trademarks”

Courtesy of Creative Commons' user xkcd

 

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons’ user xkcd

MAKE sure you are thorough in performing your trademark search. It may seem like a never-ending task at first, but it is in your best interest not to presume that existing companies will never hear about your business. Better yet, if you have a team of people performing the search before you register your mark, take their word for it if they can prove that they have found existing marks that sound similar or are still alive–Trademarks can be alive or dead, as defined by the USPTO:

source: http://www.uspto.gov/main/glossary/

 

Spend some time in the glossary (link above) to get familiar with trademark terminology before you start playing their game,  it would be like playing chess with checker pieces if you don’t.

“Someone”

“SOMEONE”

I’ve had a dream that someone is coming.
I have dreamed of a red star,
My eyes lids twitched
and my shoes pared before me
May I go blind
if I’m lying.
Someone is coming,
someone is coming.

Someone who’s with us
In his heart, In his breath, In his voice
Someone who’s coming,
through the rain, the splashing rain,
The bright blue sky

I’ve had a dream that someone is coming.
His height is greater than the trees
I dreamed of that star when I wasn’t sleeping
I swept the stairs and washed the windows too
Someone is coming,
someone is coming.

I’ve had a dream that someone is coming.
I have dreamed of a red star,
My eyes lids twitched
and my shoes pared before me
May I go blind
if I’m lying.
Someone is coming,
someone is coming.

Spread out the tablecloth
Divide up the bread
Pass out the pepsi
Distribute the medicine
Give everybody hospital rooms
Give us all our share too

I have dreamed
I have dreamed
I have dreamed
Someone is coming

SAEED SHAHRAM

A noted composer with over 40 feature length movie soundtracks to his credit since 1983, he has been a part of the music industry in Iran for his whole life. His accomplishments include awards for “Two Sides of a Coin” and “Abadanies”, the latter winning the prize for Best Film at the 1994 International Film Festival in Locarno, Switzerland. He successfully fuses the East and the West in all aspects of his music, whether it’s in the 12 scales or Dastgahs of Iran or the Major and Minor scales of the West, the instrumentation, or even the lyrics, as we see on his album, Stand on the Earth. In this Persian jazz album recorded in 1999, the lyrics belong to Iran’s beloved female poet, Forough Farrokhzad, who was a pioneer in giving female artists a voice during times of repression and wrote for the people of egalitarian dreams and peace. Farrokhzad united people with her words and especially through her documentary “Khaaneh Sia Ast” (The House is Black) about a Leper colony in Tabriz, Iran.

POETRY

A new style of poem was born in Iran by Nima Yushij in the 1920’s, outdating almost 3 millennia of traditional, ancient Persian literature and poetry. The New Poetry Movement was especially pioneered by Forough Farrokhzad, who was the first woman to popularize writing in rhyme, using visual imagery, and voicing individual perspective in the persona. Farrokhzad spoke of her life with no boundaries, which became controversial because she spoke of intimate encounters, which would contradict the oppression against women speaking freely. As a result, she was banned at times and censored, though now she is studied and admired for her work, after tragically passing away in a car accident at age 32.

By Neda Shahram

“Miraat Al-Hijarah”

“MIRAAT AL-HIJARAH” (PALESTINE)

Mirror of the Stone

“There isn’t anyone who hasn’t heard their noise:
Bugles blowing in the enclosure, crying and disrupted wailing
And horses’ neighing
Wandering in the street

Generations descend, generations ascend in every sunrise and sunset
And witnesses in circles move towards the gods of the dead with offerings
Of the living
So go and ask this sleeper on the bottom of the high mountain:
What are you doing here in Satan’s capital?

What kind of maps do you possess in this flood, and what road
Do you take, for there is no
Return after that

For all your bridges on top of the sea are folded by fire, and your marks
In the valley
Are erased by the wind?

Tell the dweller in his cave, left to loneliness and forgetfulness:
Rise up to see your face in the stone’s blind mirror
Rise from your sleep and let out your stifled scream
Your bitter scream into the deaf ear!”

KAMILYA JUBRAN
Born to Palestinian parents from Al-Jaleel, a village in the North, Kamilya Jubran has been exalted into music, with a father who was a musician, teacher, and craftsman of instruments. This is was the environment that honed her abilities of learning folk music, playing the oud and qanoon, amongst other talents. Since 1982, Jubran has been musically serving the needs of her country, of her native Palestine. She was involved in a traditional Arabic band named Sabreen from the early 80’s until 2002 and from then, she has transgressed into a solo career artist prodigy. Her works have been received by the international community as a voice of resistance as all the lyrics in her song pertain to the daily life struggles of any oppressed persons, and especially for Palestinians. Recounting the reflections of contemporary poets such as Azzawi, Arnaout, Darwaza, and Analis through music and in person are just one of her many inspirations and collaborators to her works today, especially with her project from March 2010 releasing the album, “Wanabni.”

WATER
It would be a fallacy to engage in a discourse on the problem of water in Palestine, in all its complexity dating back to the early 20th century, and not direct the dialogue toward all the history, articles, politics, technicalities, literature, and scholarly articles that are for, against, in front of the issue and behind the cause. However, it would be an even greater fallacy to look at the facts and not see how the culprits are caught red-handed, caught sucking underground aquifers dry and leaving the scraps for the oppressed–a theft, especially when the once Palestinian rivers are now also under Israeli control and depletion. Just near 80-20 is how the water is distributed unevenly and though the occupiers of Palestinian land receive the greater share, it is a pyrrhic victory.

By Neda Shahram

“La Bomba In Testa”


“LA BOMBA IN TESTA” (ITALY)

“And I was counting the edges around the stamp,
I was saying Thank You God, Merry Christmas,
I was feeling normal,
And yet the years in my life at age 30,
Were longer than theirs,
But it doesn’t matter now, I resume working.

They were imagining penance,
To the ungrateful who supported French welfare,
And not one had the thought,
To publicly ostracize them,
One May, to Italy.

And my old face worn with wisdom,
Repeated “Do not do harm to anyone”
And I feel unusual,
And I am surprised,
To compare myself with them,
and now it is late, now I go back to work.

They risked their life because of one man,
They had a purpose,
Ready to endure the pain,
And the purpose was not martyrdom,
But to revolt.

Who knows what controls,
The desire in your own temptations,
What averts intrusion,
Of our hearts,
Gradually turning away from everyone,
And before complete solitude,
With the fear of being unemployed.

Risk my life for freedom on the streets,
Forget the path leading home,
I shall, as my duty,
To be in solidarity,
Without pretending to be innocent.

I try to repeat myself to them,
And when they began to understand,
I began to be left behind,
Because their cause was more accurate,
I don’t know the game’s rules,
I don’t trust myself so fearlessly.

Now there is no time for comrades,
Because the fuse only needs one person,
To light the flame,
Which represents,
Stagnant results, stagnant inaccuracy.

And the explosive breaks, cuts, rummage
Through the hosts of a masquerade ball,
That I invited myself to,
To dust for finger prints of who is to blame,
Behind each eloquent masque,
And to be merciless for the first time, with no shame.”

FABRIZIO DE ANDRE
The radical songwriter-poet has roots in Liguria, a narrow slice of land in Northern Italy, east of France, where he was born into a family of middle-class status and raised with anti-fascist sentiment in 1940. Growing up without a sugarcoated view of life, de Andre was inspired by the words of Bob Dylan, American folk singer, and George Brassens, the famous French singer/songwriter, who also wrote lyrics that were controversial to few, but realistic to most, including Fabrizio de Andre. By the 1960’s, he released one blasphemous album followed by another concept album based on Edmar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology exposing hypocrisy in all facets of society. In 1979, de Andre resided in the island of Sardinia, to the west of Italy, and was kidnapped and taken for a ransom that was never paid upon his release of detachment of society from the Supramonte mountains. In fact, at the trial of those who held him hostage, it was noted that he said, “They were the real prisoners, not I.” This experience led him to compose his Sardinian inspired album in 1981, and three years later, one of his most acclaimed albums in his native tongue, Genoese. This dialect is derived from the central region of Liguria, Genoa, where he was born. He was a master of linking people together worldwide and his music is the proof, whether it was the revolutionary atmosphere in the ’60’s or keeping indigenous languages alive.He was diagnosed with cancer and died in 1999.


NURAGIC CIVILIZATION
Dating back to the Bronze Age, the island of Sardinia can trace its history to ancient civilization which highly influenced Sardinian culture. The juniper coated island has preserved most of its pure history and signs of the Nuraghe villages are vitalized. There are cuiles or huts that resemble heaps, made by wood or stone that housed the generations of indigenous people. Interestingly enough, the Sardinian word for heap is nurra, which has been connected to the named civilization, iconically known for the cuiles. Even the Sardinian language dates back to ancient Latin and can be found to be very similar, though the Romans provided the native tongue around 240B.C. By the 1700’s, Italian became the primarily spoken language and Sardinian was demeaned, but today there are still over one million speakers of the historic language. Nuragic villages were also known for their water collection systems during 1500B.C. where in the city of Tiscali, cave walls were strained for the moisture. The Supramonte mountains also lie in this enchantment of an island and it is no wonder that the poet of Sardinia, Sebastiano Satta, constantly wrote of the Monte Corrasi, the highest peak in the range at 1463m. Satta was a 19th century poet inspired by Italy’s Giosue Alessandro Michele Carducci. He was the first Italian to be awared a Nobel Prize in Literature as the country’s radical anti-clerical poet from the 1800’s.’

By Neda Shahram

“General Suleiman”

“GENERAL SULEIMAN” – Zeid & The Wings (LEBANON)

“Gene Gene General
General Suleiman
Gene Gene General
General Suleiman
Salam Salam Salam Aleik
General Suleiman

U re a Miracle Man
For peace in our nation
General Suleiman
U re a miracle man
General Suleiman
U re a miracle man

Put your weapons down
Put your weapons down
Now it s time
To leave your warlords behind
Everything is fine , and they ll be no more crime
Let the country shine with general Suleiman

General Suleiman
U re a miracle man
General Suleiman
U re a miracle man
Gene Gene General
General Suleiman
Gene Gene General
General Suleiman
Salam Salam Salam Aleik
General Suleiman

U re a Miracle Man
For peace in our nation

All the militia man GO HOME
Corrupted politician GO HOME
To Weapon dealer say GO HOME
To trouble maker say GO HOME
Foreign intelligence GO HOME
Neighbour influence GO HOME
All the militia man GO HOME
Corrupted politician GO HOME
To Weapon dealer say GO HOME
To trouble maker say GO HOME
Foreign intelligence GO HOME
Neighbour influence GO HOME

Gene Gene General
General Suleiman
Gene Gene General
General Suleiman
Salam Salam Salam Aleik
General Suleiman

U re a Miracle Man
For peace in our nation
General Suleiman
U re a miracle man
General Suleiman
U re a miracle man
Gene gene general , GO HOME !”

ZEID & THE WINGS

Seven years after the Lebanese Civil War, there was an underground music scene bubbling in Beirut. Of the many indie fusion bands was SoapKills-a duo started by poignant producer Zeid Hamdan-beginning the alternative genre generation with boldness, youth, and diversity. Twenty years after the Civil War, the first band was dissolved and Hamdan’s new group, Zeid & The Wings took off–notoriously recognized for the song that had the leader of their band imprisoned in 2011 for slandering the former President and army officer of Lebanon, Michel Suleiman. Several months before Hamdan’s arrest, Zeid & The Wings went on a concept tour, the “Beirut Love Attack” in Italy to focus on spreading the art of their land to Milan, Rome and Turin during times of political turmoil in both countries. Suffice it to say Italian government was going through the pornography scandal with Berlusconi and coincidentally, the Lebanese government fell the first day of their tour. One year later, the group is continuing to disrupt society’s mainstream from the current beneath. Hamdan’s latest initiative will be performing at the “I AM FREE” event against censorship in Hamra, Lebanon with many of the country’s directors, musicians, actors, journalists, lawyers, and other industry professionals.

ASSASSINATING MR. HARIRI 

In 2005, Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafiq al-Hariri was assassinated. To this day, over 200 investigators from over 20 countries are inhaling and exhaling the case at the Monteverde hotel in Beirut. His death is said to have left a hole in Lebanese politics as well as physically creating a 30 foot crater and injuring hundred of innocent civilians from a bomb that weighed over 2,000 pounds and was carried in a stolen truck from Japan. Similar to Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,” the situation can be equated to the book written by Nicholas Blanford, “Killing Mr. Lebanon,” the son of a poor orange farmer. Mr. Hariri was also a symbol of the stability in postwar Lebanon. A lot of the issues surrounding his murder appeal to the destruction of a stable country, for example, the detonation also caused the temporary closing of the InterContinental Phoenicia Hotel- which was built after the civil war and stood strong until the day the prime minister died, the music survived, and the suspects of the case have still, to this day, not been revived.

By Neda Shahram

“Culpa Mia”

“CULPA MÍA” – Buika (SPAIN)

“There is no sun
Illuminating the sky
Only stars
In the heaven above
While it is night
And the day comes
Nothing illuminates
This pain of mine

This pain of mine
A crazy flower
That kills my soul
Bittersweetly, little by little
And my dreams
I’ve never hurt so much
This suffering is killing me

It was raining
That afternoon you left
Even the thought of you
Makes me sad

You’re gone forever
And always remember
I think that it was all my fault
When you talked
I did not answer you
I was to blame for all the silence

I am to blame for not answering your calls
I am to blame for allowing you to leave
I am to blame for giving you my soul without thinking
I am to blame for going through pain

It was raining
That afternoon you left
Even the thought of you
Makes me sad

The first moon
From the first night
We danced non-stop because of me
A smile
Almost all the songs
And the evening by the sea was my fault

I am to blame for the memories we made
I am to blame for making you wait
I am to blame for giving you my soul without thinking
I am to blame for going through pain

I am to blame for not answering your calls
I am to blame for allowing you to leave
I am to blame for giving you my soul without thinking
I am to blame for going through pain

It was raining
That afternoon you left
Oh, I am still thinking of you all the time”

CONCHA BUIKA

Award-winning, humble, stern, ahead of her time, all to describe the woman that is Buika. Raised in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, after her family fled Guinea to live in exile because of her father’s involvement in pro-democracy movements, Buika was not born with a silver spoon in her mouth. Instead, she absorbed the life around her and translated her experiences into a universal language that soon mesmerized anyone who listened to her unique voice. She blends her African roots into what can be compared with flamenco and copla, involving very expressive styles of singing. This genre of new flamenco was brought to life by her dry vocals over such rich melodies to quench her thirst, such as the saturating drumming of Horacio Hernandez, also known as “El Negro” or one of Buika’s lovers amongst few other men and women from her past. Her songs are partially written by the notorious Javier Limon, an Andalusian composer who is best known for his compositions for Bebo Valdés and Paco de Lucia.

FLAMENCO & FRANCO

Dating back to the late 1700’s, music was necessary to uproot the voice of grieving Gypsies who were facing discrimination and persecution then and for hundreds of years to come. Thus, gitano, or gypsy, music was created and served to account for collective solidarity amongst the tortured, harassed, and murdered Romani people in Spain until the end of Francisco Franco’s regime. Censorship was even favored when the Andalusians, and others fascinated, wanted to share with the world the Gypsy-influenced art of flamenco, which consists of expressive soulful singing, usually of mourning, musical accompaniment including clapping, also known as palmas, all while a dancer illustrates the emotion throughout their body. During Franco’s propaganda operations in the beginning of his rule that was to last over three decades, Flamenco documentaries such as, “Duende,” and “A Través del Flamenco” were subject to his bigotry. In those tampered videos, voice-overs, insertion of promotional propaganda to foreground the state under his control can be found and distressed.

By Neda Shahram