Developing a concept

The addition of ‘escape the jungle’ to my blog’s main menu is taking shape. I plan to add a few sub menus to cater for all the things in life that help me to escape the jungle – to be less chimp and more rational being. Less anxious and more free.

So far I have art, design, productivity and psychology.

Within these categories I will post my favorite stuff. There will be subcategories too I guess…sport goes somewhere. This is the stuff I love and enjoy. The stuff that makes my life better.

Happy Sunday chimps.

Covering songs – Struggling vs Story-telling

Good singing is about story-telling. It’s pretty easy to hear when a singer is struggling with a tune. The voice doesn’t quite convince the listener. Perhaps the timing is slightly off. Most importantly, it doesn’t sound authentic. There is no sense of a story being told.

There’s this thing that happens once you know a song really well. Once you have played and played and played the song, the technical stuff moves out the way and you can focus on telling the story – imbuing the song with emotional labour and making a connection with the listener. This applies to much more than music, of course.

The thing that is interesting is that this authenticity (or lack of it) doesn’t really reflect technique, ability or skill. Even great technical singers can make a song sound empty. Instead, it’s about how well you know the song from every different angle. How convinced you are as the singer that the story needs to be told. By classical opera standards, Bob Dylan has a technically terrible voice but he is utterly compelling.

Rambling post – but I am convinced that the old adage that ‘practice makes perfect’ means that practice opens up a singer to perfectly tell a story the way they want to in order to connect to the audience.

Happy Thursday chimps.

Split

It helps a lot if you are confident about the desired outcome. If you know what you want. I’m not sure what the stats are, but I bet that the odds of something happening go way up if you have the end goal clearly emblazoned is your mind.

All of the most important things related to a project – values, culture, status, leadership – they depend on the parameters that are set.

Maybe an example will help me express myself. If you write a novel, and it starts as a tragedy, then slips into a sci-fi, then to a slapstick comedy, and finally reaches a crescendo as a religious historical piece – well that sounds like a confused mess.

Genre and its audience is perhaps where you want to start. It helps to define the values, the culture and the modus operandi.

With that in mind, I have realized my writing on this blog tends to split into different interests. I might write about creativity, African trade, productivity, music, or sci-fi all in the space of a week.

This needs to become a little clearer, and step one in the splitting out of interests is to redesign the site a little. I think this new template is clearer and the menu at the top will help to clarify things.

It’s a work in progress.

For anyone who has reached this far in the post, happy Monday chimps. 😀

Remote drumming

Today was a first. I laid down a drum track using the iPad, and sent it overseas to my dad in Kenya for him to overlay guitar and vocals.

I know musicians have been doing this for ages, but Covid19 is forcing us to use the tools at our disposal and pushing us out of our comfort zones. For me that means sticking to a blogging commitment and producing music with family overseas.

I just love the internet.

Happy Sunday chimps.

National anthem of Kenya

When I was a boy, perhaps even now, the cinemas in Kenya would play the national anthem before the movie started. Everyone would stand up in the cinema while a scratchy video of the Kenyan flag fluttering in the breeze would play along with a marching band rendition of the anthem. Quaint military style and post-colonial nationalism, followed by Star Wars.

The words are as follows (English translation is below the Swahili version):


Ee Mungu nguvu yetu 
Ilete baraka kwetu. 
Haki iwe ngao na mlinzi 
Natukae na undugu 
Amani na uhuru 
Raha tupate na ustawi

2
Amkeni ndugu zetu 
Tufanye sote bidii 
Nasi tujitoe kwa nguvu 
Nchi yetu ya Kenya, 
Tunayoipenda 
Tuwe tayari kuilinda.

3
Natujenge taifa letu 
Ee, ndio wajibu wetu 
Kenya istahili heshima 
Tuungane mikono 
Pamoja kazini 
Kila siku tuwe na shukrani.

1
O God of all creation
Bless this our land and nation.
Justice be our shield and defender
May we dwell in unity
Peace and liberty
Plenty be found within our borders.

2
Let one and all arise
With hearts both strong and true.
Service be our earnest endeavour,
And our Homeland of Kenya
Heritage of splendour,
Firm may we stand to defend.

3
Let all with one accord
In common bond united,
Build this our nation together
And the glory of Kenya
The fruit of our labour
Fill every heart with thanksgiving

In the cinema and throughout childhood, we would only ever sing the first verse. It’s a fairly good tune compared to some anthems out there, and I really hope the cinema tradition still stands, but somehow i doubt it.

Right now Kenya faces the prospect of biblical scale locust plagues and a pandemic. Spare a thought for the beautiful place.

Keep well and be safe. Happy Easter Sunday chimps.

New Pearl Jam!

Not many bands make me stop everything and listen to a new release from start to finish. But Pearl Jam just released ‘Gigaton’ and so I am on a first play through. Check the link below.

In depth review coming soon 😁

Who’s number 1? Plus an infographic

I just spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out who is the number 1 streaming artist on Spotify. (FYI it’s Justin Bieber). Spotify doesn’t make it very easy to find this out – I ended up getting the figure from Wikipedia. This search led me to the below chart showing how the music industry is making money again through streaming. (link)

What these figures point to is a very complex formula for ever declaring an album as “Number 1”. Gone are the straightforward days of measuring LPs sold. It is a weighted calculation, subject to bias and change over time.

Spotify itself is not making much money. For now the Company is beholden to the record companies (link) for their back catalogues (and to a lesser extent, their A&R and recording infrastructure). But one day perhaps it will break free from this like Netflix has from Hollywood.

Waste, tension, and music

The garden waste piles up each week in the corner of the property. Each time the gardener cuts the grass, sweeps up the leaves, or cuts down a branch he puts the waste into bags, and these bags pile up until a truck is organized to cart it off for composting. As the owner of the property this system can stress me out. Watching the relentless growing piles of waste sometimes feels like one of those awkward “white lie” situations – you know the one – you’ve told a little lie or made a transgression which is never confessed. The lie gets bigger and bigger, worse and worse until there is inevitably a release. Either you and your lie are found out, or you tell the truth. The pickup truck taking the waste away feels like eventually telling the truth.

Great music is just like my home’s waste management system. When a song is well written, a tension builds for the listener. The verse builds up to the chorus. The verse places bags of musical notes and dead ends in the corner of the listener’s head. Repeated phrases and hooks. A story in need of some resolution. Eventually the tension is too great and a switch to the chorus is like a clearing out of all the accumulated rubbish. The verse is the lie and the chorus is the truth.

This is most obvious for me in blues music. Think of Muddy Waters’ “Hoochie Coochie Man”. The verse is simple and repetitive to the point of ridicule. The harmonica’s five notes over and over moaning and groaning that Something huge is coming. Trust me he’s coming. Gypsy woman told my momma. Muddy is coming. Just now……Wait for it. It’s almost unbearable until Muddy grants us sweet relief with “But you know I’m here!” The chorus plays and all the rubbish in our mind is cleared away. Then the cycle starts again with verse 2. What a song.