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.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Hollywood Babel On: Diaspora Blues

Days like today are what you live for if you’re a fan of world music and/or a reluctant Angeleno, hoping to justify your existence, or at least the higher rents of LA, vis a vis the Golden Triangle (that’s northern Thailand I’m talking about, not the greater Beaumont area).  How often, on some random Thursday, do you get your choice of the Sierra Leone Refugee All-Stars, Bombino, or the Garifuna Collective?  And this isn’t even the weekend ferchrissakes!  And they’re all for free, unless you count parking fees.  That may apply most seriously to the Sierra Leone guys, who’re playing out at the Skirball, difficult of access by public trans.  Only problem there is the security check, reminiscent of the El Al counter in Munich.  Better eat those brownies first, just to be safe.  If you don’t know, they’re war refugees from Sierra Leone—Britain’s equivalent of Liberia—who chose to make the best of a bad situation, and who, over the last decade, have produced some of the world’s best music.

Friday, August 02, 2013

HOLLY WOOD BABEL: Peruano, Africano, Colombiano, Angeleno… Novalima, guey

Did you know that Peru had Africans?  If you’ve heard (of) Susana Baca, then you did; or should, anyway.  They’ve been there since the early days of Spanish colonialism, though never in huge numbers, apparently.  Still it doesn’t exactly fit the image of an Andean nation with an Amerindian culture defined by its high degree of advancement and largely unassimilated entrance into the modern age.  That’s the point, that the races in Peru never really mixed, natives confined to the Cordillera, and whites content to stay along the coasts where they—and their African slaves—landed.

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