Gambia for the People
March 6, 2002 9:54 PM   Subscribe

Gambia for the People Two guys I know, using affordable (and easily transported) technology, have gone from our island in Maine to Gambia, West Africa the last two winters to play, promote, and help preserve traditional music. Rock stars have sold out, local radio is a joke, and big-label/commercial music is doomed, but these two are doing good things. Any inspiring independent music projects in your part of the globe?
posted by LeLiLo (4 comments total)
Rock stars have sold out, local radio is a joke, and big-label/commercial music is doomed
The search for "authenticity" in music is what is doomed. What is "traditional" music? Even the worst, most traditional commercial top-40 hits partake of traditions and musical conventions that go back centuries -- probably much further than the "raw" music from Gambia these guys are pushing. Most of what passes for American "roots" music (sorry about all these quotation marks) such as is celebrated in the "O Brother" soundtrack, only goes back to about the turn of the 20th century, with a few songs or lyrics harkening back a century or two earlier. Compare that to the average Celine Dion or Barry Manilow song, which very likely contains principles of harmony, arrangement and counterpoint that harken back to Bach, if not earlier.
Independent, traditional, and other illusionarily more "authentic" musics can be just a dull, boring and unimaginative as so-called "corporate" music. In fact, since traditional societies and small groups usually crush individuality for group interests, the mainstream music from a society like ours is probably more likely to be "independent" and individualistic than folk-type music. I mean, whatever you say about Celine Dion (I can't stand her music myself), she's a unique individual, and her stuff is all her own. If you want to here something "raw" and powerful and deeply uncommercial, tune in to Beethoven. The late string quartets, say.
posted by Faze at 7:16 AM on March 7, 2002

ry cooder and paul simon do that too :)
posted by kliuless at 7:19 AM on March 7, 2002

That's true, and Paul Simon did a particularly good job with his first try, but they're huge international superstars. These two guys are working with very little money, no organizational backing, and limited audio equipment (plus I think a video camera on their second visit), and getting good results.

Faze: Thanks for your musical exegesis. I'm fascinated by -- and really liked -- your putting Celine Dion and Bach together in the same sentence. (I don't like her either, but him -- I'd give him a 96. You can dance to it.)
posted by LeLiLo at 8:49 PM on March 7, 2002

lelilo: Thanks for the great link. Musicologists, both amateur and academic, have been trying to get an incredible world of music down in some recorded form since the beginnings of notation. Now, more than ever, is the time when an average Joe can get into the field and make a huge difference in the breadth and depth of knowledge about music from different cultures. More than ever, this is important. Here's why: It is a universal experience, for all peoples, worldwide, to dismiss the music of the next village as "all the same". Villagers only 10 miles from each other will often describe their neighbors as listening to music "without melody". Even people living in major cities will say that the locally disparaged ethinic or social group listens to music that sounds atonal to them. Truth is, that the music you listen to teaches you to listen to the music that you listen to. And the music you listen to defines and identifies your culture. What better way to share and meld the cultures of the world than through the work of the amateur musicologist?
posted by gnz2001 at 9:12 PM on March 7, 2002

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