Writing about World Music

Davidson College, Fall 2015

Month: November 2015 (page 1 of 3)

Review: The Incredible True Story by Logic

Earlier this month, up and coming rapper, Logic, dropped his sophomore album: “The Incredible True Story.” The album situates the listener in the year 2093 on a space craft bound for ‘Paradise,’ a potential planet home for the near extinct human race. The LP starts with the two pilots of the space craft deciding to listen to the “album that changed it all.” To no one’s surprise, that album was non-other than the “The Incredible True Story.” Don’t worry, the tracks are mostly music with a few skits and conversation between the two pilots that simply reveals more background on what exactly happened, is happening and Logic as a person.

The album showcases the Maryland rappers talent in both writing and rapping. His lyrics carry a certain wit that I haven’t heard since Andre 3000, and his delivery is quick, clear and in a way convoluted similar to Eminem. Though I have nothing but praise for Logic, the songs on the album all tend to sound similar and on my second listen through, songs began to sound redundant. However, he manages to mix up the futuristic beats with a splash of 90’s kick and snare on the song “Young Jesus” featuring Big Lenbo. The last verse contains a trade between the two rappers that hooks the listener and further showcases Logic’s talent and his ability to jump in and take over.

I understand that the second album only presents more pressure that the first. The first one gets your name out there while the second cements it. Overall, Logic delivered. But the question remains whether he delivered to the public or not.  Rap albums like these are meant to be listened from the first track to the last, no skips. Something no one tends to have time for nowadays. The last mainstream rap album to attempt that was Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly,” and though I instantly fell in love with it, it receives polarized reviews from the public. Hopefully, Logic doesn’t face the same fate. But then again we’ll never really know if it was “The Incredible True Story” that changed it all until we get on a spaceship in the year 2093.

 

Soweto Gospel Choir Takes Choir Performance to Another Level

Last week I went to see the Soweto Gospel Choir performance in Duke performance hall. Performed by a a group of musicians in South Africa, the songs have a great combination of traditional African music and American popular music. Although the choir reflects the religious value in South Africa, I think it also reveals a lot of other important value through their unique way of performance. The choir have 21 people and on director who signals the group when to start and end. Besides that, the arrangement of the choir is really loose, everyone move casually with the rhythm while singing and sometimes the singer even giggles when other musicians do some funny dance move. Moreover, there is an amazing combination with dance and singing in the performance. To put it in another way, dancing is part of the performance. The traditional African dance moves help singers to synchronize better with their peers and have a more dramatic stage effect for the performance. The audience are deeply imbued by the performance and some of them even stand up and dance along with the singers.

 

As a member in Davidson singer, I can not help to compare the Davidson Choir with Soweto Gospel choir and find out that Davidson choir, or the traditional western choir, is more restricted and disciplined than that in South Africa. The choir requires divine and respect more than enthusiasm. However, the Soweto Gospel Choir amazingly combines the value of divine and enthusiasm together that even when musicians sings and dance casually along the song, the audience still feel the religious conception conveyed throughout every note in the song.

Adele saves Thanksgiving!

Adele shocked the world and broke NSYNC’s record for most CD (yes physical CDs) sales in one week with the release of her third album, 25. It is amazing. Adele has done it once again. The album’s first single, “Hello,” released Oct. 24, has since clogged the airways and become kind of an Internet sensation. It seems like everyone knows all of the lyrics, obsesses over Adele’s perfect contour and winged eyeliner in the video, and makes fun of her flip phone. SNL hopped on the bandwagon with this pretty hilarious video about using the power of music, specifically Adele’s, to unify family members. Pretty much everyone  has that one racist aunt or a grandpa who doesn’t have a filter and, according to SNL, we can all get together and use excessive hand motions while we sing along to this cultural phenomenon. More than just being funny, I think this skit speaks to the universality of music. Even though Adele’s album isn’t available on any kind of streaming service, supposedly out of reach for any of us millennials, we all know her songs regardless of age, gender, or political alignment.

Rdio

I recently received an email about a site and music app I use, Rdio, similar to Spotify with streaming music, playlists, and downloadable tracks. It is going out of service. More than I am upset about the site itself, I’ve found myself more disappointed in the playlists I’ve worked on that will be lost. I don’t think I’m alone in the time and effort I give my playlists. It takes months to really pick out songs from my library with the right feel and vibe I’m looking for, for that particular playlist. Even past those initial months, I add songs along the way and change and edit through the year to make sure its up to date.

Through this practice, I have songs I heard three years ago that I loved and can relive a time in my life when I was first introduced to it. My playlists are triggers for memories and losing them feels like loosing great friends. In this, I see the point Waxer makes in A City of Musical Memory, recorded music transcends through space and time and encase memories in unexpected ways, leading to me being upset over an recreate-able electronic collection. Music is definitely a lifelong friend to me.

Music in Movies

This past week, I had the opportunity of seeing a portion of the documentary, Half the Sky. The film was created for the purpose of raising awareness and giving a visual depiction of women-related issues such as sex-trafficking, non-profit empowerment, and maternal health. The message as well as the images within the composition carried a very very heavy presence as they portrayed information about real occurrences and individuals’ realities that are incredibly troubling.

Throughout the documentary, background music was used in different ways to highlight or emphasize certain aspects of the visual imagery or auditory commentary. For example, when the film showed footage from a red-light district in India and the narrator was describing the young ages in which girls are brought into the industry, the musical soundtrack turned from a light melody to a slower song, one that invoked a feeling of sadness in the listener. Contrastingly, when a woman in Kenya was being interviewed about the positive impact that her involvement in micro financing has had upon her family, the lack of music slowly transitioned into an upbeat, happy melody as she continued with her uplifting remarks.

Overall, it is interesting to examine the way in which music can be used to highlight an experience while creating a mood within a certain context. In terms of the film, the music used would not have brought as much meaning if one listened to it unattached. However, by placing it next to a certain type of content within the video, both pieces of media were able to compliment each other.

Ethnomusicology in Brazil

In this article it looks at the music of Brazil from the cultural myth of Macunaíma, who was a hero without character, as a means to understand the interconnected depth between tradition and music. I think this rhetorical method of using something integral to the culture one is studying to then analyze that culture and their music is a complex way to focus on the objectivity of one’s argument. This technique could be very useful in our research papers. By focusing on a theme unique to one’s music group one can better understand that group dynamic.

Convergence

In high school, I used to debate with my friend who was very into classic rock. I would argue that there isn’t nearly as much good music made any more. He would argue the opposite. By good music I mean music that isn’t completely digitized with tampering of voices and electric beats that is so commonly heard on popular radio stations. He “good” music is still being made, you just need to look deeper then popular radio stations. Now, I see that he was right, but still, I don’t have the time to look up my own music. What I listen to tends to be what is on popular radio stations and this is not exactly the music I like. I feel like music, or at least popular music in the U.S. has converged to be almost exclusively modified, pop songs. While I do see that there is other music with authentic artists and bands being made, it annoys me that there is not more of this on mainstream stations. What do you think the cause of this is? Is it really that people prefer this pop or is it that this is what radio stations “think” people enjoy?

My musical memories

Waxer’s book focuses a lot on memory, so I thought I’d share some of my memories about music. My first “crush” was actually Elvis Presley. I remember in Pre-K we had to make these like glitter collages and I did mine on Elvis. I thought he looked like my dad, which looking back on it was definitely kinda weird. The first music I remember owning was actually not on a CD or cassette tape but on hit clips, those weird key chain things that played like minute long sections of songs, and I’m pretty sure it was either “Come Clean” by Hillary Duff or “Complicated” by Avril Lavigne. My first concert was Aaron Carter when I was in like 2nd or 3rd grade. It was after he was popular so he was touring all these weird venues. This one was at the children’s stage at a festival in upstate New York, but the best live performances I’ve ever seen are Fun., Childish Gambino, and Coldplay (I’m not a huge fan but their production value is off the charts). In 2nd grade my sister and I danced to “Sisters” from the movie White Christmas, then later that summer we started a band with our cousin. We performed hits such as the Full House and Scooby-Doo theme songs. In middle school I went through a really embarrassing hipster phase, where I stopped listening to pop music and only listened to really obscure bands. Every night I’d fall asleep listening to my local college radio station (^: I’ve been in two musicals, Rent and Urinetown. Right now, my favorite things to listen to are Adele, Nicki Minaj, and Mariah Carey’s christmas album (I’m definitely NOT listening to One Direction right now……)

I’ve definitely embarrassed myself enough for now. Comment some of your ~musical memories~

International or pop? – Discourse on music style in Melodemics

Recently, as I am observing Melodemics, an international music band on campus, I found that there is particularly one song that every member is enthusiastic to rehearse. Usually, the band will pull out a list of songs that represent the international notion: Indian song, Chinese song or Greek song, etc. However, not everyone seems to be passionate with every song they rehearse. For example, when we rehearse the Japanese song “Howl’s moving castle”, I can feel that not everyone connects to the song: some of the members who have no part involved in the song will leave the room temporarily when other people are still rehearsing the song. However, when they are rehearsing the song Fishes, originally created by an Australian band called The Cat Empire, everyone seems to involve into it passionately. I wonder why musicians in Melodemics react to a song from different nationalities differently. I think one of the reason is the language. For instance, the Indian or Greek song are both sung in their original language, which means that if musicians don’t understand the language, it will be much harder for them to establish the connection with the song. The other reason is that even though the band is trying to promote the international style of music, they have to admit that there are certain international styles of music are relatively more popular that others. For example, the song fishes combine Jazz, Ska and funk together with a heavy Latin influence. It makes the song both has potential popular elements to attract people–Jazz and funk which usually has a catching melody and rhythm–and has Latin style which contributes to the exotic feeling of the song. So although the song is technically an international style song, it has many potential popular elements lie in it so that musicians are easier to make connection with the music. For other songs they rehearse, they are either in a different language or have a distinct music pattern that musicians who are not familiar with the music styles will have a hard time relating themselves to the song. That’s why the song “Fishes” is so popular in the group. After listening to the song, what do you think about the song? Do you think it is an international style song or a popular song or both?

 

Diaspora: New Orleans Second Line Dancing

Earlier this week, I read a post discussing the nature of New Orleans jazz.  Immediately, I couldn’t help but read it because of how connected I am to the city and its culture.  My mother is a New Orleans native and when spending time with her family, I can’t help but to be awed by the city’s mystical air.  I’ve visited very few times but every time is a new experience.  One in particular occurred this summer.

After freshly graduating high school, my family took me to New Orleans, Louisiana to sight-see and to eat (truly).  I was amazed at the city’s antique architecture and flowery design.  The food was spectacular but the people were truly the spectacle. On every avenue, music can be heard (especially jazz music or some form of it).  But one day, we decided to take a trip down Bourbon street and that’s where I saw it.  I heard the loud, obnoxious New Orleans brass band and immediately captivated.  They give a certain soul to any song that cannot be compared to almost anything I’ve ever heard.  But that wasn’t even the most intriguing part.  The dance that went with it truly amazed me.

Called second-lining, people traditionally form lines and dance in a circular pattern to the tune of the brass band.  It is a true example of diaspora (which we’ve discussed in class) because the style of music and dance is thought to have come directly from African styles brought to America by the slave trade.  It looks simple enough, yet, I consider myself a pretty good dancer and it frustrates me to say that it took me a while to master second-lining.  It is a dance that truly cannot be explained, only witnessed.  So here it is.

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