Music Notes – July 2012

Reflections on Les Manifs Casseroles

Last month People’s Voice published an excellent piece by Johan Boyden on the manifs casseroles protests that have electrified Quebec, as demonstrators beat pots and pans in solidarity with the struggle of the students and against Charest’s repressive  Bill 78. Readers curious about the roots of the casseroles will find some answers in an essay by McGill scholar Jonathan Sterne on the old francophone tradition of charivaris. Sterne describes how charivaris (protests with pots and pans) were a tactic employed by 17th century French peasants and artisans oppressed by royal tax collectors, as well as by masked patriotes during the 1837 uprising in Quebec, who banged pots and pans and shouted “Vive la liberté” in protest against English oppression. More recently Sterne notes the use of the term by popular hip-hop band Loco Locass, who called for charivaris against Charest in their 2005 hit song “Libérez-nous des libéraux.” Quebec’s casseroles: on participation, percussion and protest is published on the blog “Sounding Out!”  Visit http://soundstudiesblog.com/.

Occupy This Album

A vast treasury of contemporary U.S. protest music in support of the Occupy movement is now available. “Occupy This Album” can be purchased as a four-disc 76-track boxed set or in a 99-song downloadable format. Both are affordably priced at $9.99 with proceeds going to the movement. In the words of producer and OWS activist Jason Samuel the compilation seeks to “invigorate and reinvent protest music.” The genre has come a long way from the days when it was almost exclusively associated with guitar-playing folksingers. While “Occupy This Album” does present accoustic singer-songwriters, it also contains a wide array of bands working in styles such as indie rock, hip-hop, electronica, punk and reggae. With such a menu to choose from listeners may not like everything they hear, just as they might not agree with all of the opinions heard in a radically decentralized movement like Occupy, but there is plenty for everyone and much to discover. While there are many contributions by celebrity musicians, there are even more by relative unknowns. Check it out at http://musicforoccupy.org

CBC cuts target regional music

CBC management, faced with three-year funding cuts of more than $200 million,

has opted to decommission recording studios in St. John’s, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Regina, Calgary & Edmonton, reduce mobile recording facilities by 50% and cut up to two-thirds of live concert services. CBC recording centres will henceforth exist only in Halifax, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Early attention by CBC regional radio has helped to propel the careers of countless artists, particularly those who are following their own muse rather than aiming for the Top 40 market. Musicians are not the only cultural workers hit by Harper’s budget. The Conservatives have targeted the CBC, the NFB and Telefilm, three of the most powerful platforms for Canadian culture. One group that’s resisting this onslaught is the Friends of Canadian Broadasting. Check it out at http://www.friends.ca.

16th Cubadisco International Festival

The Cubadisco International Festival is an opportunity for lovers of Cuban music to catch up on the socialist island’s vibrant music scene. This year’s festival in Havana paid tribute to reknowned classical guitarist, composer and educator Leo Brouwer. The 12-day event was dedicated to the guitar, so it was appropriate that Brouwer presided over the proceedings as honorary president. However, the winners of the two biggest prizes were pianists. Jazz pianist and composer Ernán López Nussa, founder of the group Afrocuba, won the Grand Prize for his “Veinte pianos” album, a work that combines tracks from different stages of his career with interpretations of his work by a host of pianists. The Extraordinary Award went to pianist Chucho Valdes and his band The Afro-Cuban Messengers for their album “Chucho’s Steps.” Popular Puerto Rican band Calle 13 received the International award for their album “Entren Los Que Quieran.” 

Doc Watson: 1923-2012

Tradtional guitarist and singer Arthel “Doc’ Watson died May 29th near his home in Deep Gap, North Carolina. Watson’s nimble guitar picking was a transformative influence on the folk revival in the sixties and beyond, as thousands of aspiring guitar players listened to his recordings and studied transcriptions of his style. Blind since infancy, Doc Watson was born on a farm in North Carolina and grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, an Appalachian region steeped in traditional music from the British Isles as well as African-American blues and gospel. After a stint in the fifties playing with country & western bands Doc joined neighbour Clarence Ashley, an elderly old-time banjo player, on a series of Folkways recordings that showcased his brilliant flatpicking guitar technique. Before Doc Watson the guitar was mostly a backup instrument in American folk music. He demonstrated its capacity and remained an outstanding musician and beloved figure in American music for the rest of his life. For more info visit www.smithsonian.com

 

 

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