Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Status: Involuntary hiatus

Well, I didn't expect to still be computerless at this point in the week, but alas, I am and probably will remain so for the next few days. Nevertheless, I will try to get the second part of "The Portuguese Had a Word For It" up by tomorrow (had hoped to do it today but I couldn't squeeze in the time at work).

What really sucks is that I wanted to add some music and photos to the post but all that stuff is stuck on my hard drive (I mean, I hope it's still stuck on my hard drive! hahahaha whimper)... Thankfully I managed to upload some stuff before the crash and I have enough posts in the vault to last a few days.

In the meantime, though, I'd recommend that you check out something much cooler: John Beadle's new African music blog, Likembe.

I can remember a time not too long ago--I'm talking about maybe the mid-to-late 1990s--when there were hardly any authoritative resources or even reasonably trustworthy reference materials on African popular music. And what little there was usually was oriented mostly towards music of the "grioty" variety that was pretty big amongst the world music set back then. I can understand why, mind you... That stuff does present a rather attractive image of African music: Heroically tasteful, sufficiently exotic and un-westernized, part of a tradition stretching back several centuries, exuding an aura of dignity and regal austerity.

Next to such noble notions, my knowledge of loudly, proudly tawdry Nigerian pop music from the 1960s, 70s and 80s seemed pretty inconsequential, if not even slightly embarrassing. Frankly, I didn't even really think of it as "knowledge" per se... It was more like nostalgic trivia: hazy childhood memories of songs that very few people seemed to remember and certainly nobody I knew remotely cared about. So yeah, I didn't talk about it that much.

All that changed when I discovered the African Music Homepage.

The African pop discographies that Mr. Beadle and Prof. Endo assembled completely floored me, and at the same time validated me in a weird way. Before then, I don't recall ever having seen African popular music--and Nigerian pop in particular--documented with such painstaking attention to detail. It was a revelation to see these seemingly insignificant records that even people back home viewed as gaudy trash catalogued with the rigor and esteem one observes only amongst moldy figs and the curators Northern Soul.

All of a sudden, I felt that I was in my own way a keeper of a tradition, and that I should do what I could to preserve this legacy before it disappeared completely.

I reckoned that maybe I should write a book. Then I reckoned that maybe John should write a book, as he knows much, much more than I do.

While no plans for such a volume have been announced as yet, I'm really excited to see that he's doing the next best thing in the form of a blog. He's already been quite an encouraging presence in the African music blogosphere, chipping in at Benn Loxo and Matsuli Music, not to mention helping out round hereabouts when I've been too lazy busy to digitize records to share with you, my dear friends. So I'm pretty excited to see what he does over in his own storefront.

So run on over to Likembe and get yourself schooled. I know that's what I'm about to do (before my allotted hour on this library computer runs out!).

*John Collins' West African Pop Roots and Music Makers of West Africa are notable exceptions (hey, does anybody know what's up with his new Highlife Time, by the way? I need to get a copy of that!) and Ronnie Graham's The Da Capo Guide to Contemporary African Music was a very noble effort, as well.


John B. said...

Yeah, John Collins' books are the real deal, aren't they? But I remember wondering when I first read them (oh, fifteen, twenty years ago) why he spent so much time on cornball, "derivative" music like afro-rock, afro-disco and the like. Who cared about artists like BLO, Kris Okotie and Cristy Essien, anyway? Turns out, quite a few people cared about them! I got knocked of my "world music" high horse real good thanks to people like John, and people like you are continuing my education.

So, thanks for the plug. I'm really looking forward to hearing from people, and I'm sure I'll continue to learn from them.

jon said...

"That stuff does present a rather attractive image of African music: Heroically tasteful, sufficiently exotic and un-westernized, part of a tradition stretching back several centuries, exuding an aura of dignity and regal austerity. "
Ha ha! Got me! That was me, say fiteen years ago, naively digging the National Geographic romantic fantasy of Africa etc. and all that patronising stuff that is deeply rooted in the Northern European psyche for some reason ;-) But that way lies snobbery and bitching about 'authenticity' like those Blues and folk fascists did in the sixties. I know better now I hope, and can dig the trashy, the ephemeral and the wild stuff that happens when cultures mingle and cross refer etc. That said, I appreciate it from a safe distance of at least twenty years! Oh dear. . .