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"I Like Listening to Awesome Tapes from Africa"

PostPosted: Wed Nov 19, 2008 10:27 pm
by Chris P
Intro below, to this interesting piece in Mute magazine :
http://www.metamute.org/en/content/i_like_listening_to_awesome_tapes_from_africa

The recent resurgence of interest in African music arguably breaks with existing stereotypes only to replace them with new ones. But who is benefiting from African music's soaring popularity?

How are the existing scenes of living musicians in African countries responding to this interest? Are the popularising efforts of Giles Peterson and Damon Albarn a new scramble for Africa or a case of world music 2.0? Can meaningful collaborations between musicians who share an anomalous or overtly hostile relation to the national and genre traditions they're supposed to ‘come from’ disrupt normalising anthropological tendencies? Mute invited Andy Moor of Dutch music group The Ex to initiate a discussion over some of these questions and more

PostPosted: Fri Nov 21, 2008 12:28 am
by Jonathan E.
Chris, thanks for posting the link to that fascinating and thought-provoking article! Well worth reading, although this early sentence,
Can meaningful collaborations between musicians who share an anomalous or overtly hostile relation to the national and genre traditions they're supposed to ‘come from’ disrupt normalising anthropological tendencies?
almost put me off the whole thing. I still don't really understand what it means even after reading the whole article. Perhaps I don't have normal "normalising anthropological tendencies"! Does anyone?

PostPosted: Fri Nov 21, 2008 6:04 am
by MurkeyChris
Yeah an interesting article, eloquently expressed. It gets much better in the second half when they stop tying themselves into knots over why they are much better than all those other dreadful cultural imperialists world music people. Okay so if I've got it right... signing African acts to a Western label and then possible dropping them at some point is worse than giving away African people's music for free without trying to find the the rightful owners to pay them royalties? I can understand the difficulties inherent in publishing old African recordings on a not-for-profit basis, but it still seems a bit rich to take a pop at the labels doing it legitimately!

And then apparently African 'performers are pressured to play only this [upbeat] stuff because they are told that that's what the ignorant white audience want and expect from them. In this way, due to our ignorance and expectations and the label's pressure, we have a damaging effect on the music and the culture [...] Western production values aren't only imposing themselves on African musicians. Western production values impose their awful taste on their own music'. However, they then defend asking Djibril Diabate not to use a delay pedal as an artistic decision as his acoustic playing 'is [the] aspect of Djibril's music he [DJ Rupture] is interested in putting out on his label'. I must admit to failing to see the difference there. It must be very difficult to constantly be on the moral high ground!

Chris

PostPosted: Fri Nov 21, 2008 10:09 am
by Adam Blake
"Awesome Tapes From Africa" is a wonderful resource. I wish I had the tapes themselves, though!

PostPosted: Fri Nov 21, 2008 12:52 pm
by matt
Its a brave new and exciting world for artists who need to step up and protect their works and income streams in new ways. Unless I'm mistaken records were originally produced to promote the live perfomances of artists...it looks like full circle now with cd sales dissappearing and free sharing of recorded works being an important promotional (rather than income-producing) vehicle. (It took 4 days for the new Amadou and Mariam CD to find its way onto Rapidshare despite the numerous ways the label took to keep it under wraps)

As for archivists providing free downloads of out of print material that can't sustain commercial re-issue I think it is about time to re-evaluate the fundamentalist position that they are doing something wrong.

PostPosted: Fri Nov 21, 2008 1:09 pm
by Adam Blake
I haven't read the article but as a musician who makes the bulk of his living from teaching I think that just because a tiny minority of musicians are ridiculously overpaid, it shouldn't blind anyone to the fact that it is almost impossible to make a decent living as a musician. If you make twenty grand a year out of it you are doing very, very well and that is barely hand-to-mouth if you live in a major city like London. Remuneration for artists on third world recordings made over 30 years ago is bleeding heart liberal wishful thinking at its finest. Even if the performers are still alive and could be found, they would have invariably accepted what we would call a "buy out" for the recordings - that is, a one-off fee for the day's session - and would no more expect any further payment than they would expect the West to stop selling arms to the fascist dictators who destroy their lives.

Haven't we been here before?

PostPosted: Fri Nov 21, 2008 1:48 pm
by Nigel w
I think someone like Miles Cleret at Soundway, who has put out so many great 60s/70s albums from Nigeria/Benin/Togo etc, has been pretty asiduous in tracking down the original musicians where possible and ensuring that they get paid. The Sir Victor Uwaifo album he put out this year is a very good example. I believe specialist labels such as VampiSoul and Analog Africa also attmept to locate and pay the original musicians where possible. The sums are small, I am sure. But alongside the numerous sharks, there are honourable smaller fish out there running record labels and trying to do the right thing.

I've got a three disc compilation of West African funk from the 60s/70s coming out next year and we have certainly paid a licensing fee for each track. How much of that fee in some of these cases finds its way back to the musicians is another question, of course.

PostPosted: Fri Nov 21, 2008 2:44 pm
by matt
Yes indeed hats off to Miles, Samy and the others for doing what they think they need to...

New licensing deals that Miles, Samy and other labels such as (now defunkt) Blood and Fire ensured that the artists themselves are compensated.

Unfortunately the costs of doing the right thing are sometimes preventing lost music being made available.