Friday, June 17, 2011

Globalizing Music

I just ran across the oddest thing:

Now it's not odd in the usual sense. From reading the comment on the video I see it is an international music collaboration with a non-profit foundation. It reminds me of something from twenty or more years ago, a festival in England called "Music Art Dance" or something--ah, thanks to Wikipedia I found it: World of Music, Arts and Dance, WOMAD, founded in 1982. None of that actually matters--I don't care much if they are donating everything to Africa or just buying a lot of really good wine. Doesn't matter. This is a music blog and I'm only interested in the music.
The WOMAD festival had musicians from many different places playing their own music. I remember being very impressed with a couple of young marimba players from somewhere in Africa. I can't help but compare that to this project. Forgive me, but aren't they assembling a lot of sophisticated technology to get a bunch of musicians, who are, I would guess, each very talented in their own area, getting them all to play backup on a Stones song? Isn't this just bizarre? What is the point of having a drummer from Senegal and a harp player from Mali plinking away in the background? It cannot be intended to change the basic feel of the song, or if that was the intention, it was unsuccessful. It sounds just like a Stones song should sound. So, in order to do this every single musician, from Senegal to Jamaica to Italy, had to be carefully trained to only do those things that will fit into this Stones song (or get faded out of the mix). Okay, ya lost me! What's the point? Musically? Actually letting us hear what that Mali harp really sounds like is just a shot away? A long one, I would guess. Sure, I know what the point really is: good visuals! But the effect is a bit diminished by the nervous glances by several musicians who are obviously wondering either "what am I doing here?" or "is that check good?"
I really hate the idea of steamrollering a lot of musicians into suppressing any trace of individual style in favor of a generic international Rolling Stones simulation. Unless they were well-paid, of course. Then it's perfectly ok.

Just in case you are interested, here is what a Mali harp sounds like when it isn't being shoehorned into a Stones arrangement:

No comments: