31 December 2010

For the better next one

Sunset and me.
This photo was taken this year although it feels like lifetime ago.

One of the songs that most played on my mp3 player and computer this year starts with lyrics ”f*** for this year, let's soldier it out.” I have felt a bit like that – varying degrees depending on days – but today, finally, there's very little soldiering left.

A new year is of course mainly symbolic landmark. I am still me; the same person with the same mind and body, but somehow any change, even only symbolic is a start of something new, which feels like it it might have infinite opportunities. Not necessarily, but potentially. Not every day holds that sense as strongly as the new years eve.

I am very happy with most of the achievements of 2010. I wrote an e-book and finished another one. I produced an audio documentary mini-series which I am immensely proud of. I attempted to combine music industry talk, with human interest story with the style of fictional literature while sticking to facts and wrote an article that came out well in my opinion. I moved a country – actually a continent – with the family and of course did a few other things professionally. Producing news, small documentaries, lectured for university students and finished my masters degree and yet I have this feeling that nowhere near enough things happened. That I underperformed. Well, year is a long time and human mind is potentially the best and worst thing about a person, but the year is done.

Lastly it must be said that my goal for the year was to write more on this blog than what I have in some past years. This is the post number 87 which makes it one more than in 2006 and therefore makes it the most productive – at least quantitatively – here as well.

Have a good 2011 – a year for which I make no resolutions, but only a plan to have less stress and more joy. To be a bit better father and husband, a person and professional. Sounds naive, I know, but what else is there.

26 December 2010

Give me hope



I have been quite ready to let go of the 2010. It was a year that was long awaited - in South Africa where I lived until June it was of course the year of football. Now that the new one is about to start - whatever its signifigance is - I feel good about music. Something new again. Two out of my three favourite UK artists, considering how I really enjoy the UK sounds, colloaborated and here's Blood, Sweat and Tears by Lowkey and Klashnekoff. They go hard.

2010 in songs


Rattex is definitely on this year's playlist. In this photo he is recording the track Let's Move.

I don't want to make a list of the best songs of the year – what is best is always very relative anyway, but here is a small Spotify playlist of the songs I really was influenced by in 2010. Forgive me for having such a difficulty to remember what I listened to earlier this year – the emphasis is on the end half of the year, but there are many songs from earlier as well. Of course, also another minor problem is that not all the songs are on Spotify. So let's just say this is an indication. Now let's have the 2011 already.

Vusi Mahalasela – When you come back
R;Zatz – No Words - Feat. Ben Sharpa
Curtis Mayfield – The Other Side Of Town
Akala – Find No Enemy
Oliver Mtukudzi – Todii
Lowkey – Something Wonderful
Promoe, Timbuktu, Supreme & Andreas Grega – Mammas gata
Klashnekoff – Paper Up
Wiley – Treddin’ On Thin Ice
Rattex – Ewe Nje
Fela Kuti – Shuffering & Shmiling (Part 2)
Klashnekoff – Back To Da Sagas - Intro
Hugh Masekela – Grazing In The Grass
Rattex – Let's Move
Klashnekoff – Soon Come
Brenda Fassie – Vuli Ndlela - (Original Album Version)
Soprano – Halla Halla
Wiley – Take That
Pure Solid – Riding This
Akala – Yours And My Children
Mistachuck – Tear Down That Wall
Timbuktu – Stirra Ner

25 December 2010

A few memories

Cape Town

Train to town

This year has been pretty productive year regardless of what anyone says. The results aren't always so clear cut and many times they aren't really the only objective to do anything anyway. I have certainly been writing and reading more this year than ever before. I consider this year to have been a good one for my blog as well. I am very proud of how it has become – it has been five and half years in the making and think what you want, but five years ago there were nowhere near as many blogs as there are these days.

Perhaps 2010 wasn't the year I peaked with my photographs. Not that I am not happy with a handful of them – I very much am – but it wasn't the photos of this year that ended up on our wall this week when we framed several new ones. These two black and white images did and they are there to remind us of the life we had Cape Town. The one that came to its end earlier this year.  

On being a person and a parent in Christmas time

HAND IN SNOW

I have often half-jokingly considered myself as the youngest grumpy old man out there. While I have no evidence that there aren’t anyone younger than me – and I am sure there is – I am of the opinion that my assessment doesn’t quite capture me as a person either way. So I thought, why not, to use some of my precious Christmas time to elaborate why do I so dislike the Christmas time (even the word processing software insists on starting the bleeding thing with capital letter as if to further validate its significance – no need, people and markets do pretty good job at highlighting it already).

Christmas is like annual wedding which has to go right and therefore never really will. So much pressure has been attached to it and we are all regardless of our beliefs expected to participate in the effortful fun which follows the seasonal etiquette that smells a bit more than a hint of as if it was designed by the people who are trying to sell us something. It’s sponsored by Coca Cola much like Football World Cup and apartheid was and much like weddings where your love is measured by the menu on the day, size of the church in which teachings you may or may not subscribe to and which role in history you have chosen to either ignore or view very selectively and of course – the ring. Oh how I dislike the idea of wedding ring. My sentiments to my wife cannot be expressed through any mineral stolen from the African land – I don’t think she would like the idea either – just like my feelings towards my son cannot be measured by the size of a tree in the corner of our living room. Still, while there aren't any rings and my wife wore a beautiful red dress instead of white, there is a small tree at ours this year.

It's not really a question of purposefully going against anything. It's not a protest, but rather I feel that it'd be somewhat unlikely that how person feels and is, is exactly like something else out there already existing. It is not a criticism towards anyone who likes Christmases and weddings – it is about not necessarily having to if that is how one feels.

My son is agnostic. He is just under four so I can’t really imagine him having any meaningful personal thoughts on religions or spirituality. Just like he doesn’t have a membership card to a communist party, rifle association or any organisation me and my wife don’t belong to. Or, to any of the ones that we do belong to (although I don’t think we belong to any organised group). He doesn’t have a favourite football team either. He just likes to watch it from telly sometimes. So he is very much undecided as far as most things go. Not everything though. He is very particular about his favourite children’s programmes and games he likes to play. Since he is nearly four that is the kind of stuff he is into. So when it comes to religion he is aware of it a bit – he went to Moslem school for a while although never participated to the religious classes and many of his relatives are Christians. I tell him sometimes when there is talk of Jesus or something like that, that some people believe in this kind of thing and when it comes to monsters I just tell him that they don’t exist – no need to be afraid. But with Father Christmas it’s a whole another thing. The story, as outrageously as it has been put together, is seemingly very elaborate and specific. I keep on getting all these additional questions about it which I can’t really answer and I wonder if I am expected to lie. Just come up with something. Isn’t that a bit confusing? I know it’s the convention, but I am talking about confusing. Or is it? Surely the child is more important than fizzy-drink sponsored globetrotter?

When our son was very young my wife and I thought that the difference between Santa and Jesus is that any sensible parent expects their child to snap out of Santa belief at some age and I guess unlike with Jesus one gets rather worried if your twenty-something still expects some coke-red well-eaten beardy fellow to travel the world once a year towards the end of it. So we thought that let’s let that fable live – after all, that is what it is. But now I am finding myself wondering that isn’t it enough for my child to have a nice time with a family and a some presents and things like that. You know – as a part of culture or just for no particular reason. Wouldn’t it be okay? Of course it would. I don’t think it would compromise his childhood or innocence. Or even if the story of Father Christmas would be told just as a story like any other and not like “and here he is now” kind of seasonal extravaganza. So yes, definitely it would be fine to just have a good old time in December listening to good music (music generally attached to this time rarely is that to me) and eating nice food that we like (I and my wife are vegetarians – not our son who doesn’t have an opinion on such thing yet). It’s all just fine, but I must admit that the pressure of the dominant culture in its uncompromising pseudo-harmony is overwhelming even to a self-proclaimed individual human being this time of year. It goes to show that man’s got a long way to go.

19 December 2010

Winter

Winter 2010

There certainly is a lot of snow here this year. Nearly a new record I hear and on top of it all Helsinki where we live has the most snow in the whole country. It being a city on the south coast that is rare if not unheard of. Will that suffice as the weather talk? Just wanted to post a photo really.

18 December 2010

Cape Town Stand Up!

I am a few days late when it comes to this video, but I have been a few days on and offline. But it's here now - Driemanskap featuring Macho, who is ex-Ill-Skills and Kanyi: S'phum'eGugs from the all around brilliant Igqabhukil' Inyongo.

13 December 2010

Experimenting with experiences

experimenting with experience

What this is not, is a new year’s resolution. Let me make that very clear. It is, however something that I intend to try out in 2011; a year for which I am more than ready.

I want to start experiencing great albums again. These days it’s mainly about playlists, Spotify, a new video on Youtube, download a mixtape and so on. Some new albums I listen to as albums and not just as a bunch of songs one after another, but it happens less and less, I find.

So in 2011 I will revisit some classic albums – classic meaning, the ones that mean something to me – and attempt to enjoy them from the beginning to the end and all songs in order they were intended. I don’t know how many times, how often and how long I will be doing this, but I guess I’ll do it as much as feels right. I haven’t yet started, but have a good few ideas for some early records I wish to revisit. It’s been ages since I took time to listen to some music that I find so meaningful in my life.

11 December 2010

Theorising the practice of theory: the ‘at least three layered system’

London

If there is one thing that upsets me, it’s when people pretend that the theory is the practice. When people, for instance, assume that the practice of a radio station is as it is described in their licence (in countries where the system is based on them). Or if we refuse to acknowledge that country’s immigration policies in practice are not exactly as they are drawn out to be in the law books. Or when the red wine sipping alternative thinkers philosophise about saving the world from their corner table, but then, in the real world, are just babbling on semi-insightful and at best borderline meaningful phrases that sound good only if you have said them yourself, and which have no apparent action connected to them. These are just a few examples, of course, and I must say that I quite like red wine and I am no stranger to pseudo-intellectualism – this blog post is fast turning into exhibit A – but I try not to claim action where action isn’t.

Publishing one old paper this week here on the blog I started thinking about how I have always been interested in how things actually work. Not in theory unless the theory is an extension of the practice. As it should be and I am no authority when it comes to the terminology and definitions of these words, but I have noticed a great confusion around these concepts. That’s why, if only for the purposes of my own world view, I put together my ‘At Least Three Layered Way Of Understanding’ (ALTLWOU if you will). I say at least as because in actual fact it is a description of one cycle of the process of understanding and that cycle will probably repeat itself a good few times, before the best practices are understood only to be replaced with new and improved ideas soon after. That’s the way that it works, and if it doesn’t work like that, I suspect there is a great danger of stagnation and an unhelpful delusion of understanding with nothing to back it up in the real world; a futile argument of confusion. This is not all encompassing system; perhaps ignoring most things, but fits the bill to most things I ever ponder and here’s how it works.

First layer of theory is how things are supposed to work. It is mostly informed by some common practices, but its purpose is to guide rather than understand. Like a law or any regulation. Company policies and varies written and unwritten moral codes. It’s a bit perfect world version of it all and important to understand because it’s part of the process, but on its own it’s a shallow victory – the world we live in is not perfect, see.

Then the second layer; the practice. What is it that we actually do. I have been looking into some radio practices and how they relate to the theory of the style of broadcasting they claim to directly relate to. The answer was, well, they do relate to these ideas loosely, or at least attempt to, but in actual fact there are other things – namely money – that will determine what really happens.

Then the third layer. It is the important one. The second layer of theory which allows us to understand the relationship between the first two layers; why and how do they relate to each others. What does that then leave us with and what next? We are left with a much more holistic idea of our subject.

Then this is repeated as many times as it takes to satisfy one’s thirst to grasp, knowing that even then, there aren’t any absolute truths, but rather, in the end, we just think of something else instead.

I would like to think that what I have written here is a result of this process. It’s not the last cycle if not quite the first either. Practically speaking, what I am trying to say is that when we talk about anything, we must never feel that what things are in theory is enough. One good example of this all is for instance the immigration law, like I noted earlier. Just because there are many types of assistance for the newcomers in theory, doesn’t mean that there are any in practice. At the very least probably not all of those things promised. They are there only in theory. That is why the whole debate that seems so heated in Europe is completely misguided. An ordinary citizen has no idea what people go through to get into country – they perhaps just think that it is what the politicians tell them. The ones in charge say how great the system is and the ones opposing claim it’s too easy to migrate. No one has taken the time to go and have a look at how it actually is. Incidentally one triggering experience for me to write these ideas was to spend some time at the waiting area of the employment office’s immigration department in Helsinki. We take it for granted that things are the way they are explained to us.

So this is also my gift to politicians – although I don’t think there are many of them reading my blog: think again. Unless you are realistic about things you are wasting your time.

8 December 2010

Contextualising music

“the most enlightened country or you say so
but how modern is it to be racial


Well it looks to me
like our history's
running on repeat
over and over again”

What makes an artist or a crew of artists what they are? A very general question, obviously requiring as many answers as there are artists and crews. Perhaps the real question with art and any aesthetic is that do I like it. If yes, then let’s have it, but otherwise let it be – what more really is necessary? Nothing. Such is art. No matter how on point it is supposed to be, if you think it’s rubbish then that’s that.

But just because it isn’t necessary doesn’t mean that I am not allowed to look into it. An interesting example is soon again album releasing European independent sonic giant Looptroop Rockers from Sweden. Recently they made a song and video available online to build momentum for the forthcoming album and at the time, I didn’t even have the frame of mind to link it here, but that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t moved by it.

I am moved by the song as on top of focusing on a national problem of right wing populist party getting into the Swedish Riksdagen – the parliament – it draws the comparisons and reflects on a European standard. It is a song by a group that generally does this. A European conscience. This is not very common occurrence to be honest with you. I am no absolute authority on the topic, far from it, but I haven’t really come across another group that would act as regional commentators realistically saying that this is Europe – a continent that instead of being an underdog has gone around creating underdog’s globally, and rap has traditionally, even if it wouldn’t look like that on the surface anymore, been an expression of the counter culture. It’s not very fashionable to make Euro rap – rather artists on the continent identify with their cities and neighbourhoods. But Looptroop makes its observations from the frontiers of the society, representing the counter-culture, but doing so realistically, not pretending to be something they aren't.

Without much evidence I’m saying that Looptroop speaks out because they are Swedish and speak without borders because they are not from a major city. It’s a guess, but not completely uneducated. It is a terrible generalisation and of course there are tons more reasons – more personal and individualistic by nature – I am sure, but none of this takes place in a vacuum; it is part of broader culture which has been encouraged.

A lot can be said about the Swedish post-war (which they officially didn’t particpate in, but obviosuly were influenced by) society and the birth of the Scandinavian welfare society. While for decades the state was ran by the Social Democratic Party with no apparent threat from the opposition, the culture that was introduced was the one of solidarity, relative openness and healthy public discourse. The most important individual of the century, at least arguably, Olof Palme who many criticised for pushing through his decisions even forcefully, was still always available for discussion and to give a speech. Palme, later assassinated and whose assassin wasn’t found after the shooting, and of which Looptroop ‘took the responsibility’ was not afraid to distance himself from both major players of the cold war, Soviet Union – he was dedicated anti-communist – and United States, who he criticised for the imperial wars in Vietnam and beyond. This wasn’t very convenient strategy, but what can you do when you have to stand up for what you believe in. Under his command the nation stood firm by the side of the African and Asian countries in their battle for decolonising their lands. It’s no accident. And it isn’t an accident either that for the first time in my life I heard someone who isn’t forced to do so, to take responsibility of the benefits of colonial and post-colonial relationships between Europe and Africa. We all gained financially regardless of the actions of our nations. It isn’t an accident that it should be a Swedish group that acts as our mirror to ourselves and have the decency and understanding to start from the premise that avoiding the responsibility focuses on the counter arguments instead of solutions. Of this, the best example is their brilliant album Fort Europa which really dwells on some really important issues and which was somewhat prophetic and ahead of its time as many questions raised there later became the key ones in attempting to understand the continent.

It is interesting how Looptroop is talking about the politics of the far right to be repeating themselves from the history books – and it seems to very much be the case on some level, but for Looptroop to make this point is another side of the history equally repeating itself. Perhaps there can’t be one without another, but needless to say, and for some reason I still say it, I much prefer the tradition of responsibility over the petty finger pointing.

I like Swedish rap – I have since 1998 when I first was introduced to it – but as far as Stockholm goes, perhaps it is the identity of the biggish city that is too strong to allow the broader continental commentary with the same impact than the guys from smaller places. The city itself of course is also a home to many stories and material to write and rap about. Fair play, but together with the Nordic sensitivity that many insiders find difficult to express and outsiders impossible to understand Looptroop does something quite special with its art. I think it’s distinctly Swedish.

I may have presented a very idealised image of the country, its people and culture. That hasn’t been my aim; they have got bigots and shallow fools like anyone and on top of that they’ve also got king and queen. It also is clear that Looptroop isn’t really representing anything officially Swedish; they are not part of the elites at all. But the whole point is, that being Swedish is not about being perfect – far from it – nor is it to be innocent. To me it seems that what makes Swedish appear to be more mature than many of us rest is the exact ability to deal with imperfections.

We could all learn from that.

********

Here is the video and download the song free and completely legally here. Looptroop in Twitter @LooptroopDVSG

Copyright, Hip-Hop and Sampling - in theory and in practice.

Sampling

This is an old paper, but as I was going through the vault, I thought let’s have it out there. You know, in the real world. It focuses on the copyright laws and specifically how they apply to Hip-Hop in theory and in practice through sampling. It also explores the division between culture and industry of Hip-Hop attempting to create a realistic image of what actually takes place when the artform is practiced. I was very lucky to interview some cool people also so read on.

Sampling

A bit about me

Mahala

Here's a link to an article that is based on an interview I gave to Core Wreckah of the Nemesis Inc. or Ts’eliso Monaheng as he is known in the government database, and the writing I did about Rattex earlier this year. It's a nice write up so thanks very much.


I must say that I am pretty proud of my piece Labour of love and hard entertainment and think there's a few noteworthy points made there so why not embed it here again for good measure. 


To me it was a highlight of a very productive year (two e-books, audio documentary series and the the stuff I actually do) and I am very glad it has reached over thousand reads in Scribd. To be honest with you I don't know what constitutes a read in that service, but regardless it is pretty good going especially as it had a few hundred before I changed the file after fixing a few typos. 
RATTEX: Labour of love & hard entertainment

Wise words on rap, race and reality

Rap, race and reality - together with technology has been what Chuck D of Public Enemy has been lecturing about for years. I know he's been mentioned many times here on WSOM blog - it's no secret that he's my hero - but I'm not alone in that. He's a hero to these guys as well.

A lot of wisdom here, in this video clip, about politics, rap and life by some very clever people. They also happen to be great asrtists and this comes as no surprise to anyone who has ever read this blog. Akala and Lowkey talking in the British Library together with Saul Williams and M K Asante.

7 December 2010

On being a people person on paper

A few books

I have been doing extra lot of reading recently. Of course, surely many read much more  than me standardly, I say as a disclaimer not to sound pompously arrogant; of which I am obsessively afraid of for some reason. Perhaps because I am pompously arrogant by nature, but I digress. I have read a fair bit recently. People books.

I have read about broad selection of individuals of all sorts. A few of them wrote about themselves and many were written about. People like Kierkegaard, Russel Brand, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Olof Palme, Bill Hicks, Haile Selassie and so on. The list actually does continue. I am not listing all of the books and then saying and so on (I am doing the disclaimer thing again).

People of all kinds – their stories are addictive. Of course, it is important to remember that these are just case studies. I have always felt that when reading a book about David Beckham, which I haven’t by the way, it is important to keep in mind that while it may be somewhat realistic account, it tends to ignore the thousands of kids dropping out of school to play footie only to not achieve their proverbial goal, now delivering milk or so. But of course there would be no point in focusing on that when writing about someone to whom it doesn’t apply. Fair play.

But I have so little interest for Becks Spice that I leave him be. The people that I have read about are magnificent. Well, most of them really are. Not because they never made mistakes, but because they did and still were great. Probably a few reggae people would not appreciate my cynicism towards Ras Tafari, who I don't find particularly admirable, and a few others from the list also have  made so many mistakes that your Professor of Mathematics would lose count. But I have learned that no one worth my admiration has had it easy. Perhaps the statement isn’t all true – and here only for an effect – but it is indicative of how I feel. I may wish I was clever like Walter Sisulu, but I don’t want to have spent decades in prison; I may wish I was brave like Steve Biko, but I don’t wish I had already died at my age; I wish I was funny like Russel Brand, but I don’t wish I  had  a decade of addiction to booze, drugs such as heroin, and enough sexual over-appetite to  land me in rehabilitation. It is not necessarily that greatness comes with a price, but that struggle makes us strong. That of course only is if doesn’t destroy us. Life is like that. Keep reading.

Pay attention

Chuck

I don’t usually do this is what one usually says when one does things they usually do. Be it a question of overindulging with the old drink, convincing a relative stranger to undress or buying a gossip magazine. Things like that.

But I actually don’t usually do this

I don’t usually post things I didn’t scribble and photos I didn’t capture. But since this matter is very close to my heart I’d like to extensively quote Damian ‘Dplanet’ Stephens from Pioneer Unit paraphrasing Chuck D's message. Damian was one participant at the Public Enemy workshop yesterday in Cape Town. These workshops are part of the tour the crew is currently on. These are the new ten commandments - manifesto if you will – for the South African, and African, independent music scene. Or ‘10 Gems’ as he calls them.


01. Don’t be an ‘Afrimerican’ – don’t copy the US. Be proudly African

02. SA needs an infrastructure that supports local hip hop (DJs / radio / media / blogs)

03. Don’t let corporations (like MTV or Metro FM) dictate your musical / cultural agenda

04. Be accountable for the music you make – words are powerful and have consequences

05. Africa can be a global hip hop powerhouse if it chooses to be. Believe!

06. Embrace indigenous languages – that’s what makes us unique in the world

07. Focus on your live performance – your live show must kick your video’s ass

08. Groups or movements are more powerful than a single person. Be a team. Up your game!

09. Build strong networks in SA, and throughout Africa. Connect the continent

10. Confront difficult issues of race and inequality in South Africa – these are stories people need to hear


Original post from the Pioneer Unit site


Dplanet
Damian interviewed during the recording of Rattex EP Steets, Raps and Us.

6 December 2010

Just a simple song








Occasionally I come across artists that I sort of instantly like. Well, yesterday I realised this to be the case with Tor Cesay. I had previously been aware of her, but not as much of her music. Not in a proper sense of the word. She sounds very cool though and if I may say this, has a similar energy to Klashnekoff - the most power played artist in my headphones - who incidentally is featured on that track above. It's all good material my friend so give it a listen.

30 November 2010

Unnecessary stress



Had a bit of a scare today when my MP3 player went missing. The scare wasn’t so much about the frustration of under which pile of papers it is, but rather in which pile of snow it is. I was playing with my son in the snow and consequently approximately twenty minutes later scanned through the snow in the darkness of the Finnish late November with the rather dim light from my mobile phone as my only aid. Just when my wife and son got back to help me I had saved a weird ball of snow with a familiar black corner sticking out of it and tried to melt it with my bare hands in the freezing cold. I think it works, but as an experience – although I am not sure if that is the healthy way to look at it – this is one of those that I estimate to shorten my life with five minutes or so.

Of writer's block.

What is the shortest blog post in the world about? It's about writer's block.

18 November 2010

Vol. 8

Another Spotcast. All I say is that I enjoy this one played loud. It's one of those.


1. Klashnekoff – Back To Da Sagas Intro (UK)
2. Driemanskap featuring Kanyi and Macho – S'phum'eGugs (South Africa)
3. Looptroop Rockers featuring Rakaa Iriscience – Trance Fat (Sweden & USA)
4. Baby J – Midlands Anthem (UK)
5. Nessbeal – Le Loup Dans La Bergerie (France)
6. True Tiger featuring P Money – Slang Like This (UK)
7. Ken Ring – Dödens gränsland 2009 (Sweden)
8. King Kapisi – Soundsystem (New Zealand)
9. Z'África Brasil – Z'africanos (Brazil)
10. Tumi Featuring Bricks & Tracey-Lee – Bambezela (South Africa)


31 October 2010

Linkage

Underneath the spaghetti Junction

There is much music in the world to move me. That’s what it does – it moves you. Well, at least it moves me. Some songs on the headphones give me the boost of the strongest coffee without the feeling of nausea and psych me like a personal trainer on my shoulder. Others make relaxing easy and then there’s uplifting, calming, thoughtful, hopeful and just, you know, general music that doesn’t move me on any other emotional level expect the appreciation of the aesthetic.

Here’s a few samples of these – the links for free, legal tracks are provided by the artists or labels.

I support independent South African street music, as much as I have means to, financially, politically, intellectually and emotionally. If that makes much sense. I have a soft spot for it, but just because occasionally it may appear that I am uncritical shouldn’t be confused with not being very critical; only that here in the blog I have a habit of sharing and recommending music I love and want to – bad tracks generally don’t get reviewed or even mentioned much. I especially like to give all my support to the Cape Town music as the Gauteng-centric media and entertainment industry (is there even any difference between the two) is blatantly ignoring it.

Having said that – whatever the situation would be I have liked many of these Cape Town artists for a good few years. One of them is a crew called Driemanskap. You should know them by now. And now that the Drie has become four members they’ve become all the more potent.

Here’s an old unreleased track, Sendibuyile, mainly by the long unavailable Redondo who has been back for some time now. Dplanet from the label mentioned that the audio quality is not top notch, but it’d have to be pretty bad for me not to like this and to be fair he continued, and I quote directly, “it's still a banger.”

Another recommendation for today is the new mixtape by Sway who has been doing very big things in the UK and worldwide for years now. Actually, any independent artist should learn from his experiences and figure what use they could be in any given context one might exist in. Download the The Delivery 2 (Lost in Transit) and while I can’t say much about the whole thing, I would lie if I said I am not moved by him paying respect to Tat’uMandela in this track that is part of the download – I’m still stuck in that.

One day international artists will reach out to some true SA talent to do this thing together. Wouldn’t a remix combining the talent linked here today be something else.

Another year, another book fair.

Read a book

I always liked the Cape Town Book Fair. Not because of what it was, but rather perhaps despite of what it was. As one of my favourite South African writers Ndumiso Ngcobo who we interviewed called it a ‘self-congratulatory exercise’. Pretty spot on. But even if it was exclusive and elitist, and even if in Cape Town the standard of this is so high anyway, I liked some aspects of it enough to go. It was always nice to talk to a few people there and attempt to ignore the rest of the shameful display of all degrees of denial. That of course is pretty standard Cape Town experience of everyday and not limited to any specific events.

And now, yesterday, we went to the local book fair in Helsinki. It was cool – certainly it was massive combined with wine, food and music fairs, but to me it didn’t leave any particularly lasting impression. The experience was a bit like browsing trough hundreds of satellite channels with reruns of nothing to watch. That, of course, also was to a large extend due to the fact that the event was rather exclusively in Finnish and then a bit in Swedish, but English, which for us was something of an importance as my wife doesn’t speak Finnish was nowhere to be heard and not much to be read. Understandable – sure – but not very convenient for us, who admittedly were a small minority. Would’ve been nice to see a little bit more space for people to come together. Sometimes it seems that the integration in Finland starts when the integrated one has learned the language that by no standard is simple one. There’s a massive mistake made, but now I digress.

But how exciting! The e-books are the hot topic it seems!

All I am saying is that no wonder the people have been looking at me all weird when I have been trying to explain these things for the past couple of years.

But I’m not complaining. Well, of course I have been mainly complaining, but it was nice to see the event. In general it was okayish and in specific I have no idea as I didn’t have all that much chance to dwell on its specifics – talks and such. Glad that I went, glad that I’m not there now.

29 October 2010

Like Spotcast, but in Youtube



I have previously done a handful of Spotify playlists to be listened to as a type of an  on demand radio music specialist show. It really is such a nice idea regardless of how popular they actually might be (I don’t know if they are or aren’t), but the problem is that for now, Spotify is a somewhat limited service and most people who can even access internet can’t access it so I wanted to do a Youtube playlist in a similar way. I know that this is an investments to the ones with limited bandwidth who already pay ridiculous prices for the little they have, but nothing ever will be perfect. Let’s make peace with that. Some great tracks with cool videos. Have a listen – and look, of course.

1. MistaChuck (aka Chuck D) - Tear Down That Wall (USA)
2. Lowkey - Terrorist? (UK)
3. Driemanskap - Snakes and Fakes (SA)
4. Klashnekoff - My Life (UK)
5. Passi Featuring Akhenaton - Le Monde Est A Moi (France)
6. Akala - Yours and My Children (UK)
7. Ben Sharpa - Check The Evidence (SA)
8. Looptroop - Long Arm Of the Law (Sweden)
9. Hilltop Hoods - Fifty in Five (Australia)
10. Sway - Nelson Lives (UK – Ghana)

25 October 2010

Wedding photography

Wedding


Weddings - having seen one is having seen them all. Well, perhaps at least, but probably not much less than, say 95%. They're very similar for some reason, but the people, of course, make them very special. I was asked to take some photos at the wedding of my very good friends this weekend. They had a tram that took the guests from one venue to another. That in itself, already, might just be enough to put this one to that other 5%. I thought that was pretty cool - very Helsinki most of all. 

Wedding

A few more photos in Flickr.

12 October 2010

Don't 'Africa' Africa.

Africa
The shape of Africa is iconic - unlike the shape of her individual countries.

"I'd like to visit Africa one day," an acquaintance once said to me.
"Nice, where in Africa?" I asked.
"Anywhere."

Maybe that was true - maybe he really wanted to see anything in Africa - a pyramid or a white shark - but it didn't come across like he just hadn't had the time to choose from the multitude of options; rather that it made no difference, and the otherwise insignificant and harmless incident triggred a reaction in me and ever since I've been extremely irritated by these generalistaions. It perhaps is because the ignorance here, to some extent, normalises the colonial and apartheid discourse in the same way as Richrad Dawkins argues the moderate religious talk normalising the extremism.

Regardless of the fact that one of my favourite blogs is “Africa is a Country”, Africa, of course, isn’t a country, but a continent – a vast area with numerous languages, cultures and so on. Obviously. Well, obviously for the one’s to whom it is obvious – not for everyone. And it’s fine because there is always enough ignorance to go around, and we all are rather ignorant when it comes to many things anyway. But perhaps the ignorance that comes to Africa is a bit more designed than, say, people who know little or nothing – or completely misunderstand the off-side rule in football.

I saw this map today where many countries were fitted into the area of Africa. Its purpose, I suppose, was to demonstrate how big Africa really is as an area and fair play, even in the world map on my son’s wall the Greenland is of the same size so the way maps are generally made, makes this a useful exercise. But the mistake remains. Africa is big, but not a country unlike all that it is here compared to with one exception (small map in the side has planted the continent of Europe inside Africa). I am not saying that there is ill intention behind this map – it doesn’t instigate the misconception – it probably is its result. Even the term misconception might be misguiding. Perhaps it is more like  a deliberate overlooking supported by historical and political narratives as understood and of course created by the global north. 

It made me think of the book I have been wanting to read for long, but haven’t yet. It’s called “Don’t Africa Me,” and it might have just been brought up a few notches on my reading list. I am no expert (a minor disclaimer here), but even the African unity – as I understand it by Biko and Nkrumah – isn’t about being uniform, but united. Whether I have understood this broad concept correctly or not, isn't the point anyway, since I am not writing, and I never would, with any mandate from any group, but only as an individual to encourage other indivduals to consider and be circumspect. Maybe I am overtly sensitive, but I witness these things on  a daily basis. Perhaps it is all about the history or is it rather for us non-Africans to feel good about the current geo-politics - maybe it is sincerely our best attempt to understand - but even the most well meaning simplification isn’t helpful – only patronising.

10 October 2010

Autumn colours all over

Autumn 2010

Just wanted to post another photograph from our new quarters. The autumn has coloured the trees with a striking spectrum from bright yellow to burning red with hints of green leftovers of summer, and the lack of rain has kept it all pretty well in tact so the scenery is looking good – to me at least. This is how Nordic autumn feels like.

30 September 2010

New Neighbourhood

Neighbourhood

Spotcast: WSOM Vol. 7.

Long time since the last Spotcast, but then again, I never made a promise to keep these weekly. But not to get too much stuck with the schedule with which I compile these lists, here is another instalment. And it’s nice one. Fair bit of all different types of traditional influences and then just general brilliant music. Have a listen and if you live in a Spotify enabled country and don’t have an account, do get a free one.


1. Rattex – Ewe Nje (South Africa)
2. Akala & Sincere – London State Of Mind (UK)
3. Wawesh – Mjanja (Kenya)
4. Ben Sharpa – The Eye Seen (South Africa)
5. Loudmouth Melvin - Top Ten List (UK)
6. Promoe & Timbuktu– Ge oss Sverige tillbaka (Sweden)
7. Control Machete – De Perros Amores (Mexico)
8. Outlandish – Kom Igen (Denmark)
9. Paleface – Talonomistaja (Finland)
10. X Plastaz – Msimu Kwa Msimu (Tanzania)

23 September 2010

Minor Linkage

I haven’t had much time to write here. How incredibly predictable and atrociously boring starter for a blog post. But like said the last time, moving to a new place has taken a lot of time. When you leave a country and arrive to a new one the problem is that a moment after you’ve done away with most of your possessions like furniture and home electronics you find yourself looking for new ones. Unless you invest in shipping – but those fees were  pretty steep. So yeah, that’s my excuse for not having written too much here. But when I don’t have much to say, I let the music speak on my behalf. Other people’s music.

This Internet era is so great for a music fan like myself. I don’t only have access like I’ve never had before, but also I learn about artists and their art that previously I wouldn’t have. Also with the artists I already know I get to experience their art in many new ways. Last couple of days I’ve been following the recordings of  the future classic songs by Ben Sharpa and the Pioneer Unit peoples in Cape Town. They’ve been broadcasting the sessions live through their Ustream channel and I suppose they will still continue for a day or so. It made me think of a Public Enemy DVD London Invasion where there is a bit where Flavour Flav is trying to memorise some at the time brand new lyrics that now are part of the musical history known by so many people all over the world. It was a moment in history that was significant because while now we know, then at the time it wasn’t clear how important those hype raps were to become. That’s how I feel when watching the recordings of Ben Sharpa, but in a real time. And while I hope this music would play the part in history that Public Enemy has, that’s not what I’m suggesting here. The music these days for me is far more personal experience and it’s popularity has less significance one way or another. But following the recordings live is a cool thing to do. It certainly makes me feel like part of something and quite frankly that’s good enough on its own. Although the fact that the new songs sound great helps also a lot.

Another Southern African artists I’d like to mention today is Isosceles. He’s from Lesotho and with Nemesis Inc. he’s released a free EP and it is available on their Bandcamp site. There’s a youthful freshness of an underdog combined with seemingly infinite determination in the mix here – this type of stuff is my focus mode music, and normally that playlist is mainly full of Klashnekoff. The high production standard and the mixture of English and Sesotho raps create a very solid EP and I definitely recommend it. Try out the track Dream to Rap from the player. In that track instead of asteroids, metaphysics or imaginary Lexuses (is it Lexi?), Isosceles talks about parental response to his artistic ambitions. That's real life raps if anything and kind of two fingers to the appearance centric self-big-up that seems so common these days. It's my favourite song there together with Never Underestimate.

<a href="http://corporatenemesis.bandcamp.com/album/untitled-ep">Untitled EP by Corporate Nemesis</a>

Lastly, a new video out for Akala's Your's and My Children. Watch, listen and learn.

13 September 2010

New Season

Last sunflower of summer

Photo: The last sunflower of the summer.

A few quiet weeks on the blog front hardly means that it is the permanent reality. Not at all, I have been working with some content in Finnish which has been unusual, but fun because it’s so much easier – can you believe it – I actually have a language with which I’m not even considered to have a weird accent or anything of the sort.

On top of that I have also addressed the matters of accommodation and very soon it is time to move to our own place after a temporary arrangement we were lucky to have when we moved here. Our new home is a very nice flat in Helsinki and I am very excited to be moving there towards the end of the month.

A new season has brought welcome changes, but what a summer it was. A very hot one, and that was on top of the fact that I had already had a hot summer this year in South Africa. I guess this is the other side of the coin from the years 2006 to 2007 when I had three winters in a row. That was one of those never again experiences. But I like autumn. We think that spring is nice; the last month of it is, and the rest is just terrible, but to me, autumn is the kind of season that I can wear comfortable amount of clothes and feel comfortable in them. So I am feeling pretty good about that and in general.

12 September 2010

This day in history

Steve Biko

It's a sad day in history today. One of the brightest minds there has been was brutally murdered by the apartheid policemen thirty-three years ago. Shame. His philosophies are largely applicable beyond the primary target groups he was addressing, and anyone who believes in the transformation in South Africa should get to know him. Only people who actually need to read him more are the ones who don't believe in the need of transformation in South Africa. Rest in peace Steve Biko.

28 August 2010

Watching TV show unfold

Peep Show

To some people this is very obvious thing and others won’t know much what I’m on about, but here goes. If like me, you’re a fan of the great tradition of British comedy and a bit of a Peep Show geek – why by the way it’s considered geekish, I don’t know – you’ll be happy to hear that the good people of the production team have started filming Series 7. a few days ago. It’ll start, I hear, with the birth of Mark and Sophie’s baby, but the reason I am writing is that what you really don’t want to miss – I take a liberty to assume – is the real time Twitter updates, photos from the set and general commentary as things unfold by some of the people involved. I especially enjoy the sneak preview camera phone photos. It’s altogether a bit 2010 way of consuming media. 

So if you have understood what I’ve written here, which, I suppose means that you know the programme do follow some of these people

@RealDMitchell – David Mitchell / Mark Corrigan
@RealRobertWebb – Robert Webb / Jeremy Osbourne
@SamBainTV – Sam Bain / Writer
@JesseArmstrong1 – Jesse Armstrong / Writer
@MattKingTown – Matt King / Super Hans
@IsySuttie – Isy Suttie / Dobster
@CamillaMarie1 – Camilla Marie / Jeremy’s love interest for the series 7.

If none of this made sense – learn and pretend you always knew.

23 August 2010

Vol 6. of the WSOM Spotcasts

Here’s a spotcast for you. Great tracks from all over. Recently I have been finding that Promoe song Kråksången speaking to me quite a bit, but all songs are worth a recommendation. Starting with Lost Generation from Birmingham, and how I used to walk the streets of that particular city with them on my headphones, all the way to Zuluboy’s sort of mellow track from few years ago which he performs together with late Bheki Luthuli. It was always a summer evening track so it’s a decent way to finish this playlist off.


1. Lost Generation – Intro (UK)
2. El Matador – A armes égales (France)
3. Akala – Doin Nuffin (UK)
4. Promoe – Kråksången (Sweden)
5. Articolo 31 – Come Una Pietra Scalciata (Italy)
6. Little Dee feat Big Rem + Black The Ripper – Dear Prime Minister (UK)
7. Intik – Révolution (Algeria)
8. KONFAB & Oracle Flo – Dplanet Beats (South Africa)
9. Fattaru – Hörde Jag Skål (Sweden)
10. Asa – Täydellinen tasuri (Finland)
11. Zuluboy & Bhekumuzi Luthuli – Ntombenhle (South Africa)

If you live in one of the countries where you can access Spotify from, you you don't, you can visit www.spotify.com to fix the situation.

17 August 2010

Simply the least bad based on limited factors considered.

Summer day

Anything that claims something to be the best should be subjected to vigorous scrutiny, if not ridicule. Perhaps it is our need for the narratives of triumph, heroism and victory that makes us, as people, to even want put the nation states into an x-factoresque race against each other, and come up with a discourse like what might be the best country in the world.

But wait, my gosh, forget the 1995 Ice Hockey World Championships – which I am sure you have if you ever knew about it – or 2006 Eurovision victory; Finland is the best country in the world!

These are not my words; a panel of experts has calculated this for the Newsweek Magazine. After the teasers that were the number one in the Press Freedom Index and the yearly victorious survey ranking our education system to be the best in the world – finally it is official – it has been agreed that we win.

Don’t let my cynicism and sarcastic tone to fool you, it’s great really. I rather have these survey results than anything else, but I also think that it is things like these that lull us into thinking that there is hardly room for improvement regardless of the recent and suspicious donations made to some of the top politicians during the previous elections. In any other country we would call it governmental corruption and probably look down on them, but with us, the situation is too complicated to be reduced into one, where the people in power would be called by the C-word… as in corrupt.

I admit, many things are well, and it’s great that it’s acknowledged, but these kinds of news are more useful in the international politics than in the domestic arena. It remains the job of civil society to keep the leadership in check at all times and while we can give credit where credit is due, we must remember that there is still need for improvements with regards to the transparency of our current political climate. This is not time to get big headed.

But – the best – that really means very little realistically. As proud as I am about the things that have gone well and all the successes, and as privileged as I feel to have had my initial education here, if you want to say that we have topped the list, let’s agree in saying that we were the least bad this time based on limited amount of variables. The best is a pop song by Tina Turner, a personal value judgement or part of playground discourse.

13 August 2010

May I recommend.

<a href="http://pioneerunit.bandcamp.com/track/ewe-nje">Ewe Nje by Pioneer Unit Records</a>


This is not an advert - this is a recommendation. The new Rattex EP Streets, Raps & Us is out very soon as a CD, but if like me, you're not in Cape Town or even in South Africa, getting it isn't necessarily going to be easy. As a CD. On digital format it's pretty straight forward as it already is uploaded to Pioneer Unit Bandcamp site. Have a look, listen and purchase if that's the way it sounds. 

For me the tracks I like the most are Ewe Nje, which is an anthem, no doubt, Let's Move (both original and the Filewile Remix) and Kuse Khaltsa La with Brazuka. Of course the free download from some time ago, Ndiselapha, still sounds big with its bashment fog horns and all of that. For some time it was my whole family's driving anthem. All around good package, nice design etc - the usual PU service really. If you haven't yet, go and read my article, interview and experience with Rattex himself. It covers amongst other things the recording of this EP.

12 August 2010

E-book is online.

Thinking and Doing: content based audio

I’ve been working very hard. I always say this but it’s not always true. Now it is though. Earlier I wrapped my audio documentary mini series There is a Human Being by the Side of the Road and now it’s my e-book on content based audio. It’s aimed at university students specialising on radio. The same lot I’ve been teaching in Cape Town.

It is very specifically inspired by one class who I was teaching this type of things to. When I gave some feedback on their packages – a few minute long audio features – they were very sincerely interested to improve and I thought I might write a blog post about this stuff. Well, I kind of did. It’s this blog post where I post the e-book that was result of this all.

The process has been longish; I’ve gone through many things while at it, occasionally hitting the dry spell, but nonetheless, the thing is done and it’s here now. Thinking and Doing: content based audio by Mikko Kapanen – it’s me, innit.

Thinking and Doing: content based audio - Mikko Kapanen 

Download from Google Documents