Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Globalquerque! Rockin' in the Free World...

Los Texmaniacs
Music festivals are one of my favorite things in the entire world, 'world' music especially, music originating outside the dominant Anglo-American English-language pop juggernaut that gets exported everywhere. It's nice when it even trickles down to the provinces, further proof that good things can happen outside large cities. Albuquerque, New Mexico, is good for that.

It's nice to hear what traditional cultures can do on their own, and its especially nice to not have to search so long and hard for it at the source. You already know how hard it is to go to Cuba. And these days you might find more Malian music outside the country than within. That's convenient, considering that the country itself is largely destroyed, victim of Muslim fundamentalism. Mali is one of world music's greatest success stories.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Pickamania in Silver City, NM: Bluegrass Music Grows Up

Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys
My first experience with a bluegrass festival was way back in 1974, together with my buddy Emmett Collier on our Grand Tour of the West, and my first true foray into the world of backpacking and independent travel, cutting off those ties with Mom and Dad and the girl I might've left behind, if I'd had one. I remember the dates distinctly because I left the day I turned twenty. I didn't return 'home' for over six months. Hey, I was hungry. And it was the holiday season. The rest is history.

Friday, August 30, 2013

SHARQ TARONALARI Music Fest in Samarkand: Great Music & People, Too Many Babies & Police

I guess I’m a sucker for spectacle.  I’ve been known to watch the Olympics opening ceremonies (just leave out the smoke machines, please), and I’ve traveled around the world more than once with music and cultural events in mind and on the itinerary, if not exactly the destination per se.  That includes WOMAD’s and Womexes, and multiple SXSW’s, and music and cultural festivals in cities as diverse as Livingstone-Zambia, Pyongyang-North Korea, and Zanzibar.  

Sharq Taronalari is not the kind of music festival where you top up on your favorite intoxicant, then boogie till the sun comes up with music from all over the world.  No, this is more like music carefully curated from state-sponsored entities in Uzbekistan in coordination with state-sponsored agencies in foreign countries to provide representative selections from representative groups to showcase the world’s ethnic diversity, sort of an Olympics of world music, without the competitive edginess.
No, this is not WOMAD.  But then again, it’s not North Korea’s Arirang Mass Games, either, a carefully orchestrated propaganda spectacle that would rival or surpass the opening to the Beijing Olympics in showmanship, but still a carefully-staged propaganda event.  Still, here you are expected to sit down.  That’s one of the only problems really, not that kids threaten to turn the venue into their own private playground, but that the Soviet-era authorities seem overly concerned to try and stop it, acting as truant officers to control the miscreants, to the point of limiting access to the festival’s entry.     

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The End is Near: Get it While the Getting’s Good…

It had to happen sooner or later, of course, that the summer would end, and that life would resume its typical humdrum course of ‘normalcy,’ as if summer were more of a carnival show than a respite, more of a vocation than a vacation, since huge sums are made and squandered in the business end of summer—traveling, resting, relaxing, recreating, and procreating, or working at it, anyway. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Hollywood Babel On: Summer Winding Down? No, It’s Just Getting Hotter…

It is the best of times; it is the worst of times.  It is Rome before the Fall.  It is the last cabaret in Berlin.  The Emperor sips tea while the opposition join forces at the gate.  Still the violins play on while the Titanic sinks.  Nothing stops the music.  Nothing silences the singing.  Nothing can suppress the art that decorates our lives and simultaneously gives it meaning.  That’s the key to our survival.  That’s our tiny window in the upper corner of a stifling prison cell, a little patch of blue and a little ray of hope in the darkest and direst of situations.  In other words—and I quote—“loosen your butt screws” and dance a little.  The Fall will come later.  For now it’s still summer.

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