This will sync with the Spotify playlist when I update it each week. Something that’s not so easy to do…. But for you dear readers/listeners, anything…. Actually I did this four my mum who can’t get Spotify in Kenya, but that’s another story.
Every week I add a few new songs to my playlist on Spotify (See the link to the playlist here: link).
Choosing the songs is the end of a rather convoluted process:
On Spotify, I ‘Like’ all songs and albums (I’m about half way through) included in the following book: link
I listen to the resulting recommendations from Spotify in my ‘Discover Weekly’ playlist.
I Pick a few standout songs and add them to my chimpwithcans playlist (link here).
The results are broad in their musical genre. It has turned into a pretty chilled playlist and I really enjoy pressing shuffle now. It has so many songs I never would have heard. Importantly I feel like I have had a say in training and filtering the Spotify algorithm to spit out something interesting.
This week, my Discover Weekly gave me the following standout tracks:
Fela Kuti – “Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am”. Below is a great review of the song:
Released as part of a quartet of albums from the most productive year of Fela’s career, “Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am” has all the hallmarks of a classic Fela single, a languid, self determined instrumental warm up that goes on for several minutes, putting the listener in the right frame of mind, and setting up a tonal theme for the rest of the performance, a choral style, call and response chorus in conjunction with Fela’s omnipresent band, and long winding verse that defy the laws of composition and march at a tempo that only Fela decides. But what really distinguishes this song from the rest of the master’s oeuvre, is the masterful storytelling that Fela employs. Fela had always understood that at the core of his sway over his fans was his ability to empathize with their terribly oppressed lives, and the skill with which he consumed their stories, ruminated on them and regurgitated them back, defiance milled into the broth.
“Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am” is brimming with defiance, delivered subtly as an exchange, reflected through a lens of righteous justice. Fela sings of the oppressed, and personifies the oppression of Nigerian people. He asks through a direct chorus and series of vignettes, that the suffering of oppressed be respected and that if it is not, then the oppressed is justified in their decision to revolt, to take arms against the persons who mock their suffering and remain unempathetic to their oppression. He substitutes the government for smaller, more relatable avatars of power, like the landlord who wields the power to deny shelter, or the policeman who can take away a man’s freedom, or even closer. Never to look away from intrigue when the opportunity presents itself, Fela subverts his own theme in the third vignette about a husband, citing that sometimes it is our own avarice and pride, not an external agitator that puts us in trouble.
Sidney Bechet – “Blue Horizon”. Holy moly please listen to this man play a clarinet! I remember when I was about 11years old my Mum tried to get me to play an instrument and I tried clarinet. I had zero idea it could sound like this. My efforts sounded more like a strangled ibis making an escape from the torture chamber…..But this man…..The control, the wary tension of the small group surrounding him. The sharp tone, a vigorous vibrato. This is an absolute master and I had NEVER heard of him until today. More fool me. Have a listen, just beautiful.
My friend has improved at playing the guitar. Particularly during lockdown this year he has spent time learning, recording and sharing songs online. His repertoire has grown. An investment in his own musical skills which will pay off many times over.
His efforts got me thinking about investment in music. The result is a scattering of options in the form of a blog post. Here are a few random thoughts and discoveries from looking at investment options in music.
There’s a company called Hipgnosis which recently listed on the London Stock Exchange. It buys up music catalogues from artists or other owners with the view that the IP will retain its value and pay back the investment over time as the songs continue to sell. You can buy their shares on the LSE today.
In March 2008, Anchorage Capital Partners announced The Guitar Fund, a $100M fund investing in the rare and vintage guitar market, citing an average annual return of over 31%, according the ’42 Guitars’ tracking index. I would find these sorts of guitars impossible to let go of, and very stressful to keep with toddlers running around my house wielding weapons and generally destroying everything in their wake.
Music Memorabilia can also be a source of alternative investment income or growth if you have the time and the inclination. There is a market for almost anything touched by a rock star. Proof of the rock n roll connection is often the hard part. I have some signed pics of Clapton, Beach Boys, BB King and Aerosmith. Hopefully the signatures are all real. How would I ever find out?
As a teenager I used to think I would listen to my walkman for the rest of my life. It was so essential to me – the cassette tapes I had painstakingly curated, the stock of fresh AA-size batteries, the headphones I found in an airport in England. The ritual of plugging it all in and pushing play. It just didn’t get any better.
One day in my early 20s I found my dad’s LP collection and an old hifi setup. I heard classics like Otis Redding and Springsteen in such clarity and power. Besides the fidelity, there was the long beautiful process of choosing the record, cleaning it, playing one side through and flipping it over, reading the liner notes, poring over the album covers, adjusting the needle and the audio settings. A new ritual was born. My life changed.
Now in my 30s I have my iPhone and an Apple watch. New tech, new ritual. I can call up any song I want no matter where I am. The digital liner notes are getting better every day and the sheer convenience of Bluetooth and music on the go is changing my life again. Don’t even get me started on Spotify’s daily mix and discover weekly playlists. That revolution in curation is a topic for another post.
Older forms of technology can all still be used of course. And often they retain their original power even though the convenience factor is low. Vinyl has made a come back. Audiophiles also tout the benefits of CDs and cassettes. For me this means I now have an arsenal of ways to access the Music drug. The music is the constant, Platonic form while the tech revolves and morphs around it in a clumsy, circular dance.
Perhaps one day the headphones will be nothing more than chips in our brains. A neuralink device Elon Musk sells for a fee. What might a music listening ritual look like for this scenario?
I get comfort from the fact that the music never changes. Taste and quality may vary, but a song is a song no matter what. The catalogue keeps on growing, but the essential form and function of a song is set. It is information in the form of a sound wave being received by the brain. Only the tech for delivery varies.
Today was a sunny winter day. We spent most of the day outdoors with our children. Hiking, playing tennis, playgrounds, trampolines.
Days like these are special because of all the obvious family bonding. However, in this moment, during lockdown and the digital revolution, today was especially rare because there was no logging on, no email. No zoom, no WhatsApp. At all.
It’s a small thing but it feels like it’s getting rarer every day.
I went the whole of this weekend without my cell phone, but not on purpose. I lost my phone on Friday and only found it again on Sunday night.
What was interesting for me in this break was the two things that I did miss – Whatsapp and my banking app. Whatsapp groups have become the backbone of my COVID 19 ‘social’ life. Whatsapp is so pervasive that plans are hard to keep up with away from the phone – Zoom meetings came and went. A poker game got away from me. This is all exacerbated by the very busy life I have at the moment – three kids and a pregnant wife keep me busy with or without the phone.
I also needed to pay people on Friday and I couldn’t without the phone.
Philosophers Andy Clark and David Chalmers argued in ‘The Extended Mind’ (1998) that technology is actually part of us. I have heard many times that losing a phone feels like losing a limb. I didn’t feel much loss except when I realised poker had come and gone on Saturday night!
In fact there was far less distraction and my family life probably benefited from my losing the phone. It makes me think I should put it away on purpose sometimes.
Hyperion has become a sleeping aid for me. That sounds like a poor review of a book sending me to sleep, but that is not what I mean.
For various reasons I have had to get up a lot at night recently. This is fine, but lately my mind has begun to race around, skipping from one thought to another which keeps me awake. Hyperion is what calms me down and focuses my mind on just one thing. The stories are so great and eventually I nod off to fantastic images of talking dolphins and portals across time and space. It’s kind of trippy to have so many nights with those stories running through my head.
Usually I am able to turn of audible before I fall asleep. Otherwise the story just keeps playing in my head and the next night I am hours behind and completely lost! I can mostly figure out what has happened, but after twenty hours of narration and a few nights leaving the story running on my headphones whilst I snore away, I definitely have some gaps.
Last night I finished the sixth and final chapter and I just have the prologue to go tonight.
Actually, there is no mourning – the newsletter didn’t last long enough for me to become attached in any way, shape or form. 3 episodes was more than enough.
So what has happened? Well, in my quest to build a meaningful website I have realised that I do not need to have a newsletter, and that worse still – I do not really have meaningful news to share!
Instead, I ought to work on what I get excited about. I love making podcasts, and I love the idea of ‘escaping the jungle’. This idea was a feature of my newsletters but I have instead brought it into the website under its own page. It’s likely to feature a broad range of things I find helpful. A record of life hacks and interests which help.
As painful as this might be to follow, I am slowly figuring out what I want. It is all in realtime as I develop this blog of mine. “Escaping the jungle” could just as well be called ‘coping with life’. Life is hard, so let’s figure out how to cope with it best. Let’s keep record of what helps.
It’s a little narcissistic to keep on rearranging something to suit you and your readers. It’s also a trait of mine – for example I will often feel a compulsion to rearrange my house. Things could always be better, but there’s a limit. I am going to leave the site like it is for a while, drop the newsletter, and see where it takes me.
2. Onkyo TX8270 Stereo amp / network receiver. This is what powers our TV setup. It is a bit of an overkill at the moment considering the majority of our TV watching these days consists of “Pippa Pig”, “Puffin Rock” and “Llama Llama”. But I digress – this thing will give you any music you can think of, from Spotify Connect to Tidal to TuneIn radio, it will stream from the net. Then there is the DSD option, Bluetooth…basically anything you can think of. And it’s powerful enough for most speakers. Onkyo | TX-8270
3. Denon DM41 mini Hifi. This is a beauty for bookshelf or desktop in a small room. CDs and other inputs and Bluetooth make it very flexible – it sounds amazing too. Highly recommended. Denon D-M41DAB review | What Hi-Fi?
4. HRT MicroStreamer. This thing is a portable Amp and DAC to improve the sound from your laptop or cellphone. It certainly sounds good hooked up to the Asgard, but I am not sure if it is any better than the laptop’s internal system. Either way. Hifi marketing works on me. HRT microStreamer review | What Hi-Fi?
5. Musical Fidelity A1 stereo Amp – this one I got second hand from a wheeler dealer who sold me on the sound by hooking it up to an insane set of speakers. I couldn’t afford the speakers but the old map was doable. It’s (supposedly) a Class A amp which means a better build and sound. I need to get some speakers to really test it. Musical Fidelity A1 › Introduction