Has anyone else been going crazy this week hearing "Pastorius" every time someone on the news reports something about Oscar Pistorius?
For Maddow fans not already in the circle of bass player nerdery who are haunted by reflexive hearing of the name Jaco Pastorius, his relatively famous rendition of America the Beautiful should have appeal. Elsewise, The Chicken is catchy and familiar:
Happy to credit if anyone knows the source on this.
Several thousand protesters rallied in Lisbon, Portugal this past weekend, objecting to severe austerity measures, with parallel protests taking place in Spain. Subsequently, I'm seeing photos like the one above (see also here and here) tweeted by activists, like here by @OccupyWallStNYC.
The hashtag for the Portugal action is #olixoaosbancos but the original, in Spanish is #TuBasuraAlBanco. Yes, let's all dust off those Spanish lesson synapses together, shall we?: Your garbage to the bank.
Poking around for an explanation I find the site of what the New York Times calls "a new activist group cum performance troupe known as Gila." Gila, named for the Spanish comedian Miguel Gila, explains that the tactic is rooted in a targeted protest action aligned with a November 2012 garbage worker strike in Madrid.
The message is clear enough: If there is money to bail out the banks but no money for garbage workers, let the banks deal with the garbage.
As other cities have dealt with garbage strikes and harsh austerity measures in general, #TuBasuraAlBanco has spread. Admittedly it might be hard to know the difference between a pile of garbage at a bank and any other pile of garbage given how quickly garbage strikes can get out of hand, but it's a poetic gesture nonetheless.
Bonus: Even though on first listen it sounds like the music for the video in the Gila entry was made for this protest, it turns out "Basura blanca, basura Banca" by Sindicato Del Crimen, a rap metal band from Madrid, pre-dates the action (but seems generally sympathetic with the politics?).
As ever, any further insights you can share are appreciated.
Ali Farka Touré
It can be hard, sometimes, to know what to say to Richard when you meet him casually. I work at a standing work station and one time he walked by and asked me what the deal was and why I was standing up. I began to explain to him about reports of ill effects of sitting all day long when I realized I was telling a guy who dodges bullets and bombs for a living about the perils of restricted bloodflow to my butt. Ug.
But thankfully the other day when we arrived at the same elevator at the same time I had something more relevant to share. I told him what I'd been reading about Mali and the musicians there.
Oh yeah, he said, the music in Mali is great. It's where American blues came from. You should check out Ali Farka Touré, they call him the African John Lee Hooker. He's very famous.
We parted ways in the building lobby and I pulled a scrap of paper out of my pocket and wrote "Ali Forkature." Luckily, Google knew who I was looking for.
Ali Farka Touré died in 2006, so if you were Googling the musicians who participated in that song a couple of weeks ago, you wouldn't have found his name. One name you would have found, though, is Khaira Arby (more).
Described as the grand dame of Malian music and nicknamed "the Nightingale of the North," Arby fled Timbuktu when she was threatened by the Islamic extremists who had been taking over the northern towns in Mali and are presently being pushed out by French and Malian forces.
"Arby's own music studio in Timbuktu was raided by the local religious police. "They destroyed my instruments — guitars, mixing equipment, the production studio," she says, costing the loss at nearly £100,000."
Yesterday we learned the horrible news that in addition to targeting Malian musical culture, the religious extremists burned down several buildings over the weekend, including a Timbuktu library, the Ahmad Babu Institute, full of ancient, irreplaceable texts (more on those here and here).
And yet even with this escalation to a global offense against human heritage, it is the music of Mali that stays at the center of the story:
Residents of northern Mali's largest city poured out of their homes to celebrate the expulsion of Islamist fighters who had held their town for months, playing the music that had been forbidden under the militants' harsh interpretation of Islamic rule and dancing in the streets.
The prohibition of music was particularly tough on Niafounké, Mr. Kané said, because it was the home of one of Mali's most celebrated blues musicians, Ali Farka Touré.
The album Baltimore's City Paper said illuminates the connection between Malian music and American blues through the playing of Ali Farka Touré is called Ali and Toumani. It's not in Grooveshark, but you can listen on Spotify for free if you've got that installed. As for Grooveshark's collection, the one I like the best so far (and on which the John Lee Hooker comparison is most evident) is Savane.
If you'd like to add Timbuktu and Niafounké to your mental map of Africa, you can see they're farther north than the towns we looked at last time:
In music theory we learn that what makes a minor scale different from a major scale is that the minor scale contains a flat 3rd and, depending on the type, sometimes a flat 6th and/or a flat 7th. So to make an 8-note major scale minor, you lower the pitch of the third, sixth and seventh notes by a half step. A half step translates to one fret on the guitar, or one key on the piano. Understanding the technical theory and the shapes to make with your hands to play the scales and chords on your instrument is one thing, and congratulations to you if you're at all proficient with that aspect, but the further (and maybe more valuable) challenge is to be able to hear and recognize the different intervals.
This may be a fool's errand, but let's see if I can talk about what the intervals sound like: The notes in a major scale are typically described as consonant or resolute. When a note deviates from this consonance, it is described as having dissonance or tension. It is from this tension that we interpret the feeling the music gives us. Minor scales and the chords derived from them are usually associated with a kind of sad or dark mood. You may have heard the phrase "blue note" that frequently characterizes blues and jazz music. The literal note that creates that feeling is very often the flat 3rd or flat 7th of a minor scale. I'm not sure how else to describe these sounds but as feelings. I don't know if people who are skilled (either naturally or by training) at differentiating intervals in music "feel" the notes or just recognize them like faces. (I know some people literally see them as colors.)
I tell you all of this by way of explaining why the songs on MajorScaled TV sound weird. According to its Facebook page, MajorScaled TV digitally modifies minor scale songs to major scale. You may not be trained or practiced at recognizing minor intervals in music, but boy is it glaring when they're taken away. Metallica's "Nothing else matters," above, for example, loses its gravity. The one drawing some viral attention lately is modified REM called "Recovering my religion," oddly drained of its melancholy. Music on anti-depressants.
Ok music geeks, the comments are yours. Do your worst.
[Not quite related: That choral version of Nothing Else Matters that we hear all the time in the Zero Dark Thirty commercial that airs during the Maddow show (but not in the actual movie?) is by Scala & Kolacny Brothers who do some other fun covers as well.]
"Fracking" sounds like a dirty word, which means it's really fun to talk about. Or as fun as anything can be when the byproducts include "highly corrosive salts, carcinogens such as benzene and radioactive elements such as radium."
Remember last week when Rachel talked about the potential power of fight songs to help Democrats F-I-G-H-T through to the finish and try to make their goal? (DE-FENSE!)
Elvis' music doesn't exactly capture the "Go get, 'em!" spirit of Ohio State's marching band, but Senator Mark Udall (D-Colorado) is willing to give him a try. Sen. Udall wants to motivate his fellow senators to work together and compromise -- through the power of music.
Senator Udall is putting together a playlist of songs for his colleagues, in the spirit of helping everyone get along. He is also accepting outside submissions via Twitter, at #Song4Congress.
Hey, it's better than subjecting everyone in the Dirksen Senate office building to nonstop holiday music!
(H/T The Caucus)