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Stunted By Reality Just another know-it-all talking about life, business, technology, sports and music.

16Apr/140

No instructions necessary

Listening to Bob Marley's song 'Stir it up' the other day I was reminded of how the art of making good music and combining it with equally good lyrics with depth and meaning seems to have largely passed this generation by.

'Stir it up' is a beautiful love-song tinged with overt sexual connotations implied by the well-written but simply structured lyrics. The suggestiveness is easy to miss given that the song has a touching melody accompanied by the catchy 'stir it up...., little darling,....stir it up....' refrain. However it's so well put together that unlike a Sean Paul classic, you could imagine it being played to the Queen if she happened to be touring a 'successful' multi-cultural community centre and nobody would bat an eye-lid. Well apart from Prince Philip, who like me has an inflated view of his wit.

In fact it would never have been a surprise if someone asked me what Marley's song meant, which I believe is testament to singer-songwriters of old that had the ability to use deeper language than the music I come across today. The use of similes, idioms and metaphors in music seems to be a lost art. It's possible I'm listening to the wrong music and there are some literary geniuses out there putting out good music but one thing is for sure there aren't many in pop music. (Not withstanding the unfair comparisons of ordinary musicians to Bob Marley, but hey please bare with me, I'm trying to make a point!)

It can be pointed out that the creative vision of artists from the past has been known to be over-exaggerated as George Town University did by starting a degree in Philosophy with Star Trek. However this could be as a result of the current creative dearth in art in general. I only need to refer to the infinite number of cover-songs and movie remakes to conclude that maybe I should test my own theory, that I can accurately guess the ending of 50% of all song lyrics, if you only tell me the first two words.

It's hard to think of too many songs currently on the airwaves which we will in all seriousness ask ourselves what the meaning was in a year or two. Ten years ago the British band Kean had a song about their disappointment with authority following the Iraq war. However the catchy melody of the song would have been equally at home in a Bridget Jones movie just as she once again raised her hopes in yet another Mr Right! I believe that is saying something about the skill of writing a song with a strong message using subtle enough lyrics that the record can be interpreted in various ways. Not pretentiously abstract, but just enough to be able to convey other emotions.

Indeed, if there wasn't video of Bob Marley singing 'Stir it up' you could imagine some expert in 100 years claiming that Marley could not possibly have written his music because it was just too good to be him. Just like those Shakespearean naysayers with PHDs. Hmmm mmm....

For current musicians, it seems that the only time we're likely to question song content is when we're wondering who some veiled or not so veiled reference to another famous person is. Although Beyoncé does have a famously second-guessed song about her ego, but even that does not display any amount of depth when it comes to word-play (apart from the possessive being applied to the ego when it is in fact apparent that she is talking about her male interest's ego as belonging to her). Beyoncé talks about the 'ego' being too big, too strong and not fitting (lord knows where?); pretty much in those words. I'm guessing here, but I'm sure I'm right that at the age of three Beyoncé was capable of writing the exact same lyrics to describe her four year old grubby-handed playground-crush's tantrums. It's a shame, but that seems to be the depth of language in current popular music. No one will be asking Rihanna what she meant on Rude boy; "Come here rude boy, boy, can you get it up?" or Taylor Swift on 'We are never ever getting back together'. No one.

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2May/130

Irony

I've just bought three different tools to help me fix a rattle in my car. After fiddling around for 10 minutes it was clear that none of the new tools was going to get the job done. So I reached out for an old wrench I had and used it to just wangle the pesky sheet of metal out without any mind to the screws meant to be holding it down.

It then occurred to me that this was an example of what the grammatically challenged Alanis Morissette called irony. A mildly unfortunate incident. It's a good thing I'm not a musician otherwise this might have made it onto an album of some sort. But as this is the information age it will merely be an inane rambling that allows me to maintain my online existence. Ironic or not, content is king dear readers. If one has an album or a blog to fill, the bottom of the barrel will occasionally be scraped.

23Nov/11Off

Copyright infringement is not stealing

Anti-Theft

Maybe that ought to be a picture of a hammer cracking a nut.

Some time ago Fred Wilson on AVC.com posted an article about how annoying he finds it when people describe copyright infringement as stealing. He has a point. Infringing a copyright is not stealing. It is just that an infringement. Both are wrong and in most countries illegal, but they are not the same.

I also find it very annoying when people use words that should apply in an effort to get me on their side. It's a bit like that scenario where someone tries to turn you against another person by telling you something bad they are meant to have done. Except in this case the the squealer doubts that they have sufficient ammo to get you worked up and have to dress it up. A lot.

And so it is that the digital protection agencies and creative unions are uncomfortable about factual copyright debate and it seems that 'By-Any-Means-Necessary' is their new strategy. Unfortunately Fred didn't eloquently put his point across and his article soon generated into another 'How do I make money from my digital product?' debate.

Here on Stunted By Reality we don't like minced words and I tip my hat off to the commenter who noted the real difference between copyright infringement and theft.

Theft would be stealing a sculpture, or... picture.

Copyright infringement would be taking a picture of the sculpture and posting it online, or producing a replica of the sculpture.

Either act deprives the author the right to enjoy the benefits of his/her work, but they are totally different concepts.

I'll add that theft will definitely deprive an artist of the ability to sell his sculpture, however infringement does not do so. I am not saying that infringement is OK; I'm just saying lets not use hyperbole in trying to paint the picture.

If a serial groper terrorised women on public transport, by all means we should throw the book at him and even throw away the key, however it still wouldn't mean that he committed rape. That would be sexual assault no matter how depraved his groping technique was.

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26Oct/11Off

Music I’m feeling; The Black Keys – Lonely Boy

The Black Keys - Lonely Boy by ListenBeforeYouBuy

I've often said that black people ought to do Rock n Roll more often. That's not to say it's not being done right, because it is, just that we've produced pretty good rock musicians since the genre started and all of a sudden nothing. Lil' Wayne single handedly tried to undo that rich heritage but that's by-the-by.

Anyway amongst those bands putting out great records regardless of whether or not black people strum a guitar are The Black Keys.  Their new album El Camino will shortly be dropping, but this first taster is amazing. Heavy guitar work, thumping drums and a few progressive riffs. Brilliant and classic.

To top off this brilliant song, it turns out black people should dance to rock much more often. The dude dancing in the video has a pretty classy take on it. Clearly inspired by Carlton Banks from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air but totally on another level! Enjoy!

 

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30Sep/11Off

Davina Green: bringing something to the party Everytime

I was sent a link on Twitter to a new Zimbabwean artist called Davina Green by @Eski_Mo. I'm glad I clicked on the link, because the song is great!


ComScore

The record is called Everytime and it's a no-frills RnB song, with a  great beat and great lyrics and the two are well matched throughout to make an up-tempo love song. Ms Green has what I would call a 'thin' voice even by most women's standards however she's well in control of it and even manages to do some vocal gymnastics with it. I loved the song and would have bought it had she not had it available as a free download. Honestly!

Regular visitors would know that I occasionally blog about music, however on listening to the song, it got me thinking about a topic that has regularly been discussed in Zimbabwean circles. In fact I've ranted about this on Facebook before and I can't resist another rant now that I'm blogging about it!

Basically, a lot of new Zimbabwean artists are singing RnB, Hip-hop and Dancehall tunes in Shona (one of our local languages) and mostly these songs are labelled as a new genre called 'Urban Grooves'. I don't buy into Urban Grooves. I think it's a way of peddling sub-standard music that wouldn't make it as RnB, Hip-hop or Dancehall by just singing it in a different language. From that we constantly hear calls of 'supporting your own' and 'play local artists more'. To be honest the whole debate is ridiculous in my eyes.

Most of the Urban Grooves songs have no real differentiation from their Western counterparts apart from the fact that they are sang in Shona. A lot of the beats are stuck in the '80s and they seem to be caricatures of whatever genre they are meant to derive from. Think of it this way; in Urban Grooves I've heard beats that share more with Chaka Demus and Pliers or Keith Sweat than with the music of today.  That's not to say that those two artists were bad, just that they are now being badly copied by young Zimbabwean artists. Artists bring no real variation within their songs and never mind the albums. I like what the youngsters in South Africa and Ghana did in coming up with Kwaito and Hiplife. Their music is clearly influenced by Hip-hop and dance music but the musical structure is totally different. I believe that they can make the rules now and say what's good and what isn't, because it's different enough to be called  'their' music.

Basically I think our Zimbabwean kids have not brought anything to RnB, Hip-hop or Dancehall to warrant any of it being called a new genre. In saying that, I wouldn't stop anyone putting out music if they feel like it, however what I will do is judge them by the standards of the genre they took from. By those standards most of 'Urban Grooves' is rubbish. There are some Zim guys putting out good RnB or Hip-hop songs in Shona and you have to say even by Western standards, the beats are tight, the flow is good and the lyrics are on point. Way back when, A Peace of Ebony and Zimbabwe Legit were two groups that had lyrics in the vernacular, but even at that time their records could stand up against their American peers. I think members of those two groups would probably agree that they were original in their own way, but not original enough to call their music a new genre. It was still Hip-hop.

I believe that musicians must bring something to the party all the time, whether it's originality or talent. As a music fan I don't care whether you've worked your butt off for the last ten years if you're only going to be putting out wack stuff. I'll care even less if the only thing a musician brings is a different language. By all means a musician can sing in Shona or Klingon if it pleases them, but if it the result isn't good I won't hesitate to call BS.

On Everytime, Davina Green has not done something truly original but she has certainly brought something to the party, and that is her talent. Her song will stand comparison with anything out there. I played it on loop whilst writing this post and I'm still not sick of it. Ms Green has the tools to make a name for herself in the industry and I'll do my bit to spread the word. What's more I certainly won't be feeling linguistically blackmailed Everytime I listen to her song!

 

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29Jul/11Off

Songs to play when you’ve been dumped

I am no expert on being dumped, however I have been dumped a few times before and there was always one way I reacted. It’s your loss sucker! The fact that it was my Dumper’s loss is something that Er’ Indoors mostly agrees with today, except of course when she’s thinking about dumping me. Admittedly this attitude was always a psychological trick that my brain was playing on my body so that I could at least walk around with that ‘cool’ bounce single people always seem to have. More in the hopes of fooling the next Dumpee than as a sign of actual coolness. I guess that’s what they call swag nowadays.

I can’t remember the first time I was dumped but a few occasions are still ingrained in my mind almost as much as the first time I got a wedgie at school. One time in Zimbabwe I went to a school dance with my then girlfriend thinking that I was going to get dumped the minute she saw me, we hadn’t been communicating for a while and it was mostly my fault. Surprisingly we got talking and things were pleasant and all. Fast forward to the last dance that evening which just had to be a slow song; so as I was leaning in to get a better hold of my young love I heard a soft whisper above the 2,000 watts of R. Kelly, Keith Sweat, Jodeci or whatever mid 90’s crooner it was. And like that I was dumped. Just when I was thinking that the axe was not going to fall.

On an earlier occasion I had been asked by my Dumpee, “Don’t you think it’s time we broke up?” It was a question which I’d honestly not thought about latterly even though a few months earlier I’d unsuccessfully asked another girl out. A fact which had probably been discovered now.  Trying to preserve my cool and for the first time in my life adopting my ‘It’s your loss sucker’ attitude I said “I guess you’re right.” And that was that. She walked away. I couldn’t; because I had a lump in my throat and could not immediately summon that cool Bart Simpson strut. I can safely say, it was a good thing I didn’t try though otherwise I might only have moved my arms and shoulders but not my legs and probably fallen flat on my face. It was that period after school when everyone is rushing around trying to get to their sports or after school activities. It truly felt like the whole world had heard me being dumped.

I had to get over each of my lumpy throats by listening to the 20 boys in my dorm giving me advice on what I should now do. Today you’re in luck, you’ve got me to help you get over being dumped. My days being dumped are on hold for quite some time. However I have the perfect ‘It’s your loss sucker’ playlist for you. Even when you’re clearly at fault as I have mostly been when I’ve been dumped. Anything else will result in you immediately moping back to your ex and conceding every little bit of power. By all means go back with your tail between your legs, but only after a respectable I-can-live-without-you period. You may still have to claim you can’t live without them after you find out your ex has a new sucker, but that’s relationships for you.

Anyway enough about that, these are a few songs that you absolutely must play when you’ve just been dumped, regardless of what music you like;

Eagle-Eye cherry – Are you still having fun? (Download)

The title alone makes this two-hit wonder a hero of mine. Straight out of my ‘how dare you dump me’ book.  The answer to the song title may well be yes, but play this song and convince yourself that it all went down-hill for your ex the day they kicked you to the curb. "This was your mistake; and your masterplan; With all the drugs you take; you can hardly stand; After all is said and done; Are you still having fun?"

Artful Dodger  - Think about me (Download)

“There’s only one me and you can not replace me.” No doubt your ex will be hoping there’s only one you, so she doesn’t suffer the same shit twice, but why dwell on that. There’s only one you. Repeat til you believe it. I love that catchy piano riff and the soft garage bass. Ahh, those garage days!

Gregory Isaacs - Substitute (Download 1981 version)

The Cool Ruler was trying to hedge his bets in this song. Sticking pins into his ex’s voodoo doll whilst also realising that he could end up with her again. "I’d be around; so you won’t get drown; Your substitute is gonna put you down"

Arctic Monkeys - Fluorescent Adolescent (Download Fluorescent Adolescent)

Girl gets fun and exciting guy who loves her. Dumps him coz he’s too edgy, maybe flirty. Maybe he won’t commit yet. Maybe her parents didn’t like him. Now she’s settled but longs for her rascal. It least he was hers. "You used to get in your fishnets, now you only get in your night dress." Ring bells for you? Play this.

Sunset Rubdown - Idiot Heart (Download)

“I hope that you die; in a decent pair of shoes; You got a lot more walking to do; where you are going to.” The title says it all, but that line! Brilliant. This song is for when you just can’t avoid feeling mad at being dumped.

So that’s five songs for you to play next time you get dumped or right now if you’re lucky enough to be newly single. If you have anything else on loop that’s been getting you through I’d love to know what it is. No soapy or please take me back songs. Spare us.

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28May/11Off

Chiddy Bang mixtape; Peanut Butter and Swelly free download

Swelly no doubt! Chiddy Bang are working hard. Good thing they're putting out good music instead of polluting the airwaves with meaningless tat.

It's a similar kind of sound to their previous stuff, however the beats (by Xaphoon) have moved on a bit. Showing a little more pop-synth-electro influence and some video game sounds; all used to good effect . Chiddy's lyrics are still tight and tinged with a bit more swearing than he's managed on all their material to date. I'm not sure why, but maybe he's just been inducted into the Ghostface Killah school of Wordsmiths. It doesn't detract from the songs, however this is one record my 5 year old son probably won't be listening to. He loves it when I play their old stuff.

Guiness flow is my early favorite, a sort of club banger that sounds like it was produced by The Neptunes at the height of their powers. The Whistle song is another good song and it's produced in the old-school way. Overall this is a really good mixtape, perfect for the car, the barbecue and just in time for the summer. Enjoy!

Click on the link to download the album; http://www.mediafire.com/?lsp8sjno420wost

Click on the link to listen or download sample tracks:

02 The Whistle Song

06 Guinness Flow

 

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20May/11Off

When slackness was respectable and even sexy

I heard one of my favourite soca songs being played on BBC Radio 4 this morning it suddenly dawned on me how much slackness was in the song. It was the calypso singer Lord Kitchener's Sugar Bum Bum from 1978 being played on Desert Island Discs. I know that any street cred I have is fast disappearing but in my defence, my alarm clock had stayed on way past the end of The Today programme which I like to wake up to instead of endless loops of screeching pop music and 'news' about the plastic singers who churn it out.

Here's a sample of some the song's lyrics;

Sugar bum, sugar bum-bum (repeat 3x)

Audrey, everytime you wiggle
Darling, you put me in trouble
You torture me, the way you wine
I love to see your fat behind

With Reggae Dancehall having descended into something like audio porn it's easy to forget that, those compaining about Dancehall, pretty much expressed similar feelings in their music. Albeit they had much subtler ways of saying the things they wanted to say. Subtle enough to make onto Radio 4 at 9AM in the morning; or did the above verse make it past the editor because of the Carribean accent?

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29Jan/11Off

Little Comets – Joanna [Remix by Kuda]

Late last month I stumbled onto a band called Little Comets on Hype Machine. They are an indie four piece  band from around Newcastle, in England.

The song I fell for is one called Joanna, which I thought was a certainty to be released as a single because of it's catchy vocals, radio friendly guitar riffs and a slightly groovy progression.

I found that the band had released an acapella of the song and quickly forwarded it to my little brother Kuda who's a producer making his name in the industry. Fast forward a few weeks and he's come up with a mix that is a reinterpretation of the original love theme.

Playing on the line 'Joanna take me home' in the original, Kuda has re-imagined the Joanna character as a spaceship's AI computer and given the song an electro feel to complete his futuristic take on the excellent vocals. If you're wondering where the spaceship theme came from it turns out Kuda had been overdosing on Star Trek as a relief from his uni assignments at the time! Nonetheless I like the result and I hope you do too.

Little Comets - Joanna [Remix by Kuda] by KudaMusic

12Mar/10Off

Pink Floyd’s 43 minute song

Most people who have listened to Pink Floyd’s album The Dark Side of The Moon would realise it was a concept album. There is a flow and recognisable pattern to the whole album. Trouble is not many people have listened to the whole album over time, never mind listening to it as one!

And so the band sued EMI, their record company, to stop them selling singles off of the album as per an agreement dating back to the album’s release.  EMI have long exploited a loophole by selling the album’s tracks as singles in digital format. Back in 1973 when the album was released not even ‘Tomorrow’s World’ or Star Trek had seen the internet coming so digital rights didn’t exist back then.

However, it still makes me wonder that if they were so strung up about the album being listened to as one, why didn’t they just release it as one long 43 minute song? I’m a fan of some of Pink Floyd’s “singles”, but if you’re going to be offering me free tickets to their shows, I won’t be accepting them. Who knows, maybe next thing you hear they’ll be locking fans in until the end of the gig to protect the ‘artistic integrity!’ No drinks refill, no toilet break. Just one long 43 minute song.