22 June 2006

Cape Town winter days.

Cape Town looks good, although rather grey, after the first few days of this trip. I am so happy to be here again, seeing friends and working at Bush Radio. Many things have changed since I left in mid-January earlier this year and lot of new people have replaced the old ones. That, I suppose is a standard in such a station where staff is quite young and many are coming or going into the different schools and universities.

My research has started well. I am following a current affairs programme called Morning Cruise hosted by Adrian and Leandra. The difference between this show and most others is that they are both visually impaired. Listener cannot hear that but in the production process many things change because of it. It’s a fascinating show and a great idea if I am being asked. Actually, I never was but I took it as my task to look into it by myself.

I was thinking the other day that there must be some differences here to back home as in our programme, the Tip of the Day was how to behave when being mugged, targeted by a murderer or being kidnapped in a car trunk. Quite mad really. By the way, if someone jams you in the trunk of their car you must kick one of back lights of the car out and wave to the other people who may then call a police. Never thought of that – or being kidnapped in general for that matter.

I also visited the home studio of Jackal Pack, a Capetonian rap squad helped out by my friend Shaqir. It’s a cool collective with rapping in English, Afrikaans and Xhosa. Also one of the lads is from the Democratic Republic of Congo but he uses English in his raps. Studio was in the bedroom of Jimmy, who is one of the guys. As the walls were padded with mattresses the sound quality was nice and it came up that one great way of creating even better mic booth is setting up a shower curtain rail on the wall and put a blanket on it so it surrounds the recording area and creates a “booth”. While talking about this it occurred to me that probably more than half of the music that I feature in my radio show has been recorded in someone’s bedroom. That is the beauty of Hip Hop. It is the real DIY of our generation.

The show, Welfare State of Mind, will be back and live in the studio on this Saturday. It is great to do that again, although the experiment of the overseas recordings has been really nice and in my view, rather successful. The show is also back to being two hours long starting from 2pm South African time (GMT + 1 and EST + 6).

Jackal Pack will be live in the studio on 1st of July and if everything goes well on this Saturday 24th of June I will have a visit from Endzi, whom I have seen performing live before and she should have finished recording of her own new record just this week so we will feature her music fresh out of studio – which by the way may have been in someone’s bedroom but I am not sure. I must ask about it.

No photos at this point but surely I will get some more of them when I have time. So far it has been non-stop and I have not even sent any emails to anyone. Stay tuned to Welfare State of Mind in radio and right here in the big big web.

16 June 2006

Youth Day

Today thirty years ago the air must have been filled with excitement in Soweto, the most famous township in Johannesburg, South Africa. 16th of June 1976 young students of local schools started a march against the Afrikaans language being used in education. Not only was the language, the one of oppressor but it was also not commonly spoken by the students, so learning was very difficult. South African apartheid police had different view on this, as on many other things as well, and they wanted to stop the children getting into the Orlando Stadium where a rally was supposed to be held. The day took an ugly turn when police started shooting at kids and this started a long period of even stronger resistance and unrest spreading all over South Africa.

Thirty years on, there is a democratic equality in the country. The most oppressive legislation in the history of at least modern world has been officially buried over a decade ago but the country is still striving towards the social and economical equality.

I have great respect for all the freedom fighters, young and old, and I take my hat off in front of the people who did what I doubt that I could do. I am a lucky man because I never had to.

Happy Youth Day, 16th of June 2006 and remember not to forget so that it will never happen again.

13 June 2006

Preparation week

Time seems to be standing still for now. I am getting ready to leave to Cape Town again on this Saturday but this week is taking its time. It is okay though. Summer in Finland is not always nice but for now there are no complaints. Sun has been shining and it has been good to just be. But I am also ready to go. I am getting amped by the challenge of my dissertation research which I am doing there and a whole lot of stuff.

I shall see how the few coming days go, but this may be my last post from this side. And this is just about the anticipation. I just cannot wait but after few more days, I do not have to.

Peace, Mikko

11 June 2006

Trip to Åland

Trip to the coast, which I mentioned few days ago, was a great success. We woke up early enough by any standards, 5.20 was the alarm, and took a train to Turku (200km away from Helsinki) and then ferry left around 8 o’clock. People who generally take these trips are a bit older than myself, they like to drink more than myself and most of all, they listen to very strange music and like to dance to it, but that was just fine and definitely it wasn’t a shock. I didn’t take this trip to hang out with them but rather to enjoy the absolutely beautiful coastline and all the small islands between Turku and Marienhamn, the capital of Åland.

Åland is actually a bit closer to Sweden than Finland and everyone there speaks Swedish. It still is part of our country. It is also a tax-free shopping zone so for some reason the EU laws are ignored there. According to the second world war peace treaty the whole island is demilitarised zone, so its inhabitants are outside of our compulsory military service (lucky them) and the big corporations, such as McDonald’s and the likes are not allowed to open their business there. Åland’s biggest own product are crisps.

Every now and again someone raises the question of them getting their independence, which quite frankly would be fine for many people but it never goes beyond the discussion. We didn’t have much time to hang out there as the boat left back rather soon, so unfortunately we didn’t get to experience much of it this time but I’ve been there few times before and it’s like a miniature version of Stockholm. I quite like the laid-backness of the whole athmosphere.

Great trip altogether, although the day was long. We arrived back home in Helsinki around eleven o’clock.

See few more fotos from the day here.

7 June 2006

My first year of this.

Tomorrow I am going on a day trip to an island between Finland and Sweden called Ahvenanmaa (in Finnish) or Åland (in Swedish). I do hope the weather is fine as the coastline and all the small groups of islands should be stunningly beautiful. I do hope I have some photos at the end of the week to put up here.

The reason why I mention this already is that this experiment of weblog has its first anniversary tomorrow and I will not be able to write then.

One year is a long time although it has flown by. At the time I was sitting in a hospital Chemo drip in my hand when I was told by a nurse that they had finally fixed the broadband connection in our floor. I was only supposed to go and check my mails and read the Enemy Board but as I had more than enough time I started a blog, which was something that I had thought about for a while already.

Now reading back my views over the past year is quite funny. I have been in few different places and many great things have happened. Cape Town experience was great and I am actually going back there in one and half weeks on 17th of June, being in England was probably one of my best runs in that country ever and the general growth as a human being, regardless of how cheesy it sounds, has been amazing. I am quite glad that I have it all here.

I am confident that there will not be a lack of things to write about so I will keep on doing that. Thank you for everyone who has been stopping by and reading this stuff. Keep on coming back.

Is international Hip Hop an American sound coming back?

Besides the article I linked last time, Open Source has also done a radio broadcast on the globalisation of Hip Hop music and culture. The show, which can be downloaded from here, has some great minds analysing the culture of Hip Hop and merely why does it speak to people regardless of their geographical location. I have never studied any of these matters on an academic level nor have I any kind of special knowledge on the motivation which drives people from Americas to Australasia and Oceania and Southern region of African continent to back home to Scandinavia to, as KRS-One would say, live the Hip Hop. I am merely a appreciator of this culture and quite frankly it has taken a long time before I even acknowledged that as a global movement Finnish or Swedish Hip Hop is just as relevant as Brazilian or any other for that matter.

The presenter of the show, Christopher Lydon, raised an interesting question few times during the show. When he played songs from Japan, Brazil, France or South Africa, he asked “is this an American sound coming back?”. I am not completely sure what he meant by it but I still attempt to give my opinion on it.

Although African American culture surely has been an underdog in the American life for long and even now, when it is so popular and profitable, the political economics are not always benefiting the areas which would need help, it still is a part of an American life. When this culture, whether it was musically represented through Soul, Rhythm and Blues or Rap got its breakthrough to the mainstream America, it inevitably became a part of American cultural imperialism which has stretched its long arms to the furthest corners of our globe. This by no means is the fault of an African American culture nor an individual who represents it but the way I see things, it is just something that happens quite easily. It is obvious that there has been more elements to it than this, very simplifying logic mentions as for instance it is obvious that country music never had the same influence although being a core part of American music consumption. But that is not what I am talking about here. I am not talking about the might of African American music, which has had such an impact in my life, but I am rather talking about is an international Hip Hop, American sound coming back.

Quite frankly, musically, it probably is, but to me that is completely irrelevant. Firstly, often enough it is made for local people and although there are exceptions to this rule, at least the artist that I listen to are not even trying to go and conquer United States and secondly, when something is part of this massive cultural imperialist movement of American culture, which I for instance started digesting at very early age through music, films and most of all Cosby Show, it does reach such an audience globally that it will attract many people in being part of it. Like myself for instance. I never made any music, because I know what I can and what I cannot do, but if something is thought by millions of people around the world, it will get better and even more attractive than something that is done in, say Albania, and nobody has heard off.

What I mean is that there could have been millions of different sounds that could have been that sound of resistance. I know Hip Hop in a radio does not really sound like it represents resistance, except to gender equality, but globally, that is what it is supposed to do.

I do not mean to take anything away from Hip Hop as a part of American culture. Yes, it started there by African Americans and then spread throughout the world. We all tried to be like Americans when we were young, well I did anyway for a short while, and that is because the music, the TV and the cinema that comes from there is almost impossible to resists especially on a younger age. Young kids around the world learn to speak English like 50 cent does, or in my youth as Bart Simpson. Yes, it does sound silly but what can we expect. This is not necessarily about media ownership as our news are more influenced by Britain than a America but it is about cultural imperialism. It is about the fact that Hollywood films are made to be more attractive than national cinema, not to even mention the one from the other countries in the region, radio plays awfully lot of American music and TV is full of Friends, Baywatch, CSI – you name the place, Lost and all these other shows.

So in my humble opinion it is irrelevant whether it is American, or rather African American sound that took over the world. That happened for different reasons and that is just fine. Hip Hop definitely is attractive culture but most of all it is something that you must think globally – and then act locally.

2 June 2006

Radio Open Source

There is a short article about me in Radio Open Source website. You can go and read it here and if you found my blog from that site, then welcome. I hope you find your way back another time as well.

1 June 2006

Concentration of media ownership in Finland.

Yesterday the new radio licences were announced in Finland and it raised some questions. I must take a closer look at this when I get there next week but now looking at it online, the first thing that seems obvious is that who is broadcasting in radio does not seem to be very important. I say this because I cannot find too much information and speculation about any of this online.

The biggest newspaper corporation Sanoma WSOY got two national licences which to me seem a lot. One was more or less sure shot for them but two was quite unexpected to me. The company is the last big media owner in, or should I say from, Finland. They own the biggest newspaper and one terrestrial TV channel. I am usually the first to talk for keeping some media ownership in country because in recent years we have lost almost all of it but this concentration of Finnish media ownership to a one company and at the end of it all to a one tycoon, Aatos Erkko, the richest man in the country with a fortune of €192 million, is not healthy.

The fact, that there seems to be very little interest in this is probably because radio generally is not seen as the most interesting thing by many people, regardless of how much they would listen to it, but also because of who decides the news. It all comes down to media gate keeping. I was really looking forward to hearing the new station that we were predicting to them and quite frankly I am not going to say much as one day I may apply a job with them, but two stations just make it look like the political end bent in front of the big bucks. And if he sells the company one day, which he is free to do, we will not have any commercial media owned by Finns.

The same company had earlier bought a local radio station, Radio Helsinki, and the speculation was that was their way to apply new licences as an old permit holder but now Radio Helsinki, the only real local station for the nation’s capital got a regional frequency and Metro FM, a rather nominal regional station was decreased into a local one.

Also Radio City, the oldest commercial station in country, lost their licence after twenty-odd years of broadcasting, together with Sävel Radio, which recently was bought by a big media corporation, which then was taken over by Bonnier, a Scandinavian media corporation, so I can imagine they are going to be upset. Rumours said that City, which I was lucky to get in my CV, would have lost their licence anyway as they have been broadcasting on another stations frequency (it’s a long story) but Sävel Radio was a surprise to me. Minister of Traffic and Communication Susanna Huovinen says that the audience that they served is better catered by local radio stations. To me that was another mad statement. Really – what local radio stations? At least in the capital area there is not really local radio to mention, especially for this music style, which is the one for more mature audiences, which covers most people in the country. There is another station that does, but it is not a local one and I feel that a competition would have been a good thing for these two.

It also is interesting that besides the lack of local stations in Helsinki, there is still not a single Urban station in a country. Maybe I join the race for the next round in six years.