23 March 2006

What we lose because Music Industry is Industry and not a Culture

For a while I have found the urban section of a mainstream record shop to be mainly insultingly poor with its options. Surely there are many CDs and they are mostly different records from different artist but alarmingly they are by the same few producers and most of all by the same record companies. That by itself is one of the least surprising things as the big four companies, Universal, Sony BMG, Warner Music and EMI control around ninety per cent of all the music that is being commercially consumed globally. That means that less and less people control what is being released, promoted, played in radio internationally and in effect what is being bought globally. And trust me the motivation is not spreading any cultural values but to make money. Every single commercial sector in the world tries to make money so why not music industry? I just wish that they would never ever mention the word culture because that has got nothing to do with what they are up to.

I am awfully intrigued by the Hip Hop as a global movement. I find it interesting to see a musical concept taken into the different cultures and then produced through all the local influences. I do my radio show with this idea in mind and I wish that the big radio corporations would understand the power of it. It would be awfully ignorant to think that American rap is being played in urban radio in Nairobi or in Stockholm because it was any better than the local one.

In the record shop I realised that besides very few British artist there were only American rap on the urban shelves. I continued to the “world music” department. I find the whole idea funny as it is all the rest of the music that we cannot pigeonhole with any other term, because it is not from our part of the world. So I can find a record of African club house and Peruvian pan-flute right next to each others. From this section I find the only international Hip Hop album in this shop that has thousands of CDs in three different floors. It is the Ceasefire by Emmanuel Jal and Abdel Gadir Salim. I already have that record and I must say it is one of the best in a long time. These two men are from Sudan and the music is very organic. It actually is organic enough to be on the world music department which is definitely its benefit because if it was not, it definitely would not be on the urban section either.

This leads me to a conclusion that if one wants to promote international music it is easier to do through the concept of world music. As I said, the term itself does not really mean anything concrete but it does appeal to the group of red wine-rebels and students of philosophy in the "western" world. Unfortunately very few Hip Hop fans will ever find Emmanuel Jal.
It gives me a feeling that actually in the global sense, this music can only have a novelty value at its best. Music is always a value judgement but how can we know if we like something if we do not get to hear it. It is only a loss in our cultural diversity and understanding. Surely the industry is not losing anything in this one. They just like to talk about losing everything. For their convenience they often work under the same corporations, as the ones who decide what is being talked about in the media.

1 comment:

Mikko Kapanen said...

After all this being said I want to clarify that I do understand that if music was not business there would not be that record shop that i was talking about. Or any records. So I am not talking about that type of utopia where only cultural matters were existing.. I do not think I am quite naive enough for that, but I am talking about balance.. maybe a theoretically but still balance should be the keyword. I was reading this text again and that was not communicated too well.

Mikko