Music: December 2008 Archives
A winner from the traveling Colombian national exhibition of short films, "Cien Miradas, Uno Pais," Cinco Pa' las Doce speaks of the loneliness faced by many during the holidays, especially so many mothers and grandmothers of those who have gone north.
"Para que piensen en aquellos que se quedan solos."So that people will remember those who remain alone.
"Es 31 de Diciembre. Julieta espera en su casa la llegada de su familia para la celebracion del año nuevo. Faltan cinco pa las doce y su familia aun no llega."It's December 31. Julieta awaits in her house the arrival of her family for the New Year's celebration. At 5 minutes to midnight, her family still has not arrived.
Today's musical feature is the Symphony No. 9 "From the New World" by Antonín Dvořák, composed in 1893 during his three year visit to the United States (shown here is the 4th movement). Apparently,
Dvořák was interested in the native American music and African-American spirituals he heard in America. Upon his arrival in America, he stated:
"I am convinced that the future music of this country must be founded on what are called Negro melodies. These can be the foundation of a serious and original school of composition, to be developed in the United States. These beautiful and varied themes are the product of the soil. They are the folk songs of America and your composers must turn to them."
But new experiences are usually filtered through one's existing frame of reference, and Dvořák was no exception.
I remember how the three young men sounded singing this song. We were on our way to go bowling, something they had never done and that I thought they should try. The CD was one they had brought along for the ride, and when this song came on, we turned it up, and they sang while I drove.
Because I was still learning Spanish, I didn't understand all the words at the time. Now, years later, I sing along when I hear it, when I'm alone, it's impossible not to. But I don't when I'm with them. It's not my song, it's not my right, and I don't know the pain behind it. Each of those three boys left an aging father behind in Guatemala - one working the milpa alone, one making wooden furniture out behind his house with no son to learn his craft, one tending cattle without his youngest son by his side. Fathers missing their sons, and sons missing their fathers.
I could have posted the popular version of this song by Grupo Montez de Durango, but this home made video is more poignant. The comments that follow this video on YouTube are worth reading as well.
This week's entry for Music on Monday is Thievery Corporation's new album Radio Retaliation.
It's in-your-face majority world political trip-hop/dub, featuring artists like Seu Jorge and Femi Kuti. Don't let the message distract you from the music, though--both are great. From the group's website:
"Radio Retaliation is definitely a more overt political statement," says Rob Garza of Thievery Corporation. "There's no excuse for not speaking out at this point, with the suspension of habeas corpus, outsourced torture, illegal wars of aggression, fuel, food, and economic crises. It's hard to close your eyes and sleep while the world is burning around you. If you are an artist, this is the most essential time to speak up." So that's exactly what they do with their new album.
Recording in their Washington DC based studio, Rob Garza and Eric Hilton, better known as the international DJ and production duo Thievery Corporation, have managed to blossom in the heart of a city they often refer to as "Babylon;" a poignant reference to the traditional Rastafarian distaste and distrust of a corrupt and unjust modern system. Although the city is best known as the seat of an aggressive American Empire, paradoxically Washington DC has long been the home of a music subculture legendary for fierce independence, a staunch do-it-yourself work ethic, and conscientious social activism exemplified by genre-defining pioneers like godfather of go-go Chuck Brown and indie punk rockers Bad Brains, Minor Threat and Fugazi.
Likewise, although some may lazily pin Thievery Corporation as the soundtrack to their cocktail infused late night soiree, the duo have always drawn deep from the well of independent and confrontational music subculture their home town is known for, to produce an ever expanding globally conscious catalogue of music that is difficult to classify.