Listen for the drums

Before I learned how to drum, all I heard was guitar and voices. I wasn’t listening for the drums as an instrument in any music I heard.

Once you start listening for new things in music, it opens up a whole world. This is something I love. I have recently tried to listen out for any horns sections in songs – there’s a surprising amount of horns out there!

Back to drums – as a backing instrument it rarely gets the credit it deserves. Consider this an effort at shining the light on two examples.

Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy” has impeccable blues drumming. It kicks off the track and keeps it rock solid so that he can moan and growl on top. It’s so hard to drum slow and strong like this.

An easier one to hear: Ringo in the Beatles’ “Ticket to ride” adds syncopation and a lurching thump. This beat keeps an otherwise very average song up in the clouds.

Listen for the drums :).

Specifications

Specs can dominate your life if you let them. What chip is in your smartphone? What resolution is the song you are listening to? How big is your car’s engine? Newer, smarter, better. It’s a game that can drag you down a rabbit hole.

The biggest problems of chasing the specs as I see it:

  1. There is always a newer gadget coming up around the corner. This means your claims and feelings of superiority are always going to leave you empty when the new gadget is released.
  2. The FUNCTION of the gadget often gets totally lost in the spec wars. I was describing the problem of being an audiophile to a grounded friend of mine. I told him how the marketing leads us to believe that the newer amplifiers and DACs and speakers can reflect a truer sound than the old. He dismissed the whole thing in one simple question: “What is the point of listening to music? It’s to enjoy the music, right? You don’t sound like you’re enjoying the music much when you talk about the specs”. Music players are there to serve us music, not to make us feel like we are lacking something.
  3. Specs are corrupting in the most real sense. If two different specs matter, but they are contradictory – it can corrupt the human spirit. Take VW emissions standards as an example (link). The tension between on the one hand, environmental responsibility and the customers’ perception of the company doing the right thing, and on the other hand, customers need a high performance vehicle that is zippy and meeting speed and power specs – this dichotomy led to false information being manufactured and published. Possibly 20 years in jail??! Hectic punishment all to meet a specs expectation.

As someone prone to chasing specs, I am learning that making do with something that is GOOD ENOUGH for the job it is intended – this is the secret to a lot of contentment and productivity.

Embedding a track

Continuing with the podcast preparations, I am going to try and embed a Soundcloud track on this blog post.

This blog will be the primary place to go to hear my podcast. Therefore I want to be able to embed tracks so that they are playable without having to leave this site. This involves getting HTML code and pasting it into WordPress. I’ve never done this before, so here it goes with an old track I digitised from an LP a while ago:

Cute song. Radical embedding of audio!

One step closer to my podcast.

Insomnia, America, and Tunein Radio

I can’t sleep. Insomnia is hard to shake because the more you worry about not sleeping, the less likely you are to sleep. When this cycle happens I eventually make a call – It’s time to get up and drink coffee.

So here I am listening to my newfound, favourite TuneIn radio station “American Routes”.

This has me thinking about America and American culture. I am not American in any way – I come from Kenya and South Africa, but in many ways America is always on my mind. I grew up on American cartoons, toys, series and movies. Whether it is the brunt of our jokes, our jealousy or our ambitions, America is a place and an ideal that is all over Africa: “Stupid American tourists” “America is keeping us in debt”. “America is killing our traditions”. “America will save us”. “God bless America”.

At a personal level, this relationship between myself and America is at its most peaceful when American music is playing. For the last 20 years, hiphop has taken Africa by storm. But this is the tip of the iceberg. Blues, jazz, soul, folk, country, bluegrass and gospel traditions of America have enriched my life like little else. All merged together into the melting pot that is Rock n Roll, I would feel starved without American music in my life.