Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Humans and dancers
Not sure what he means here - obviously I think it is a false dichotomy, dancing is part of what makes us human, moving to music as social beings.
Does Flowers mean that the state of being a dancer is less than fully human? There is a dubious notion of humanity, or rather masculinity, as being tied up with individual self-possession and separateness from which perspective dancers who 'lose' themselves are surrendering to music like puppets at the expense of their subjectivity.
On the other hand, perhaps Flowers means that the state of being a dancer is more than human, a step beyond to a higher state of grace. Knowing that Flowers is a Mormon I wonder if there are clues in the theology of the Church of the Latter Day Saints? Actually unlike some sects, Mormons seem to have historically been pro-dancing - indeed one article refers to them as the Dancingest Denomination, pointing out that founder Joseph Smith wrote approvingly that 'Dancing has a tendency to invigorate the spirit and promote health'. A more detailed consideration of Mormonism and music shows that the attitudes of some early Mormons was more ambivalent, but dancing has always been popular among many believers.
Anyway, perhaps none of this is relevant and The Killers were just looking for a line to rhyme with 'on my knees, looking for the answer'.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Dance Participation Regulations, Utah
Dirty dancing high school students, consider yourselves warned. Get that "freak on" during a Bountiful High School dance and administrators won't bother asking you to turn it off. Instead, they will escort you from the building - assuming that you and your parents have signed the school's new "Dance Participation Regulations," that is.
The regulations prohibit not just "vulgar, seductive, or inappropriate movements" known as "freaking" or "grinding," but also any attire that might lead to that kind of behavior. That means no clothes deemed too tight, short, low-cut or anything stationed lower than the shoulder blades. Straps on dresses for formal dances must be at least two inches wide - spaghetti straps are banned - and sheer fabric is off-limits.
Off-limits for guys is any clothing deemed "slovenly" or worn "for protest, defiance, dissent, or displays obscene, illegal substances, or suggestive words or pictures," according to the regulations... Some students said the regulations set a double standard. "They make exceptions all the time for cheerleaders who walk around in tank tops and short skirts, but others who wear short skirts or shorts have to go home and change," said Beth Forsythe, also a 15-year-old sophomore.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Schlurfs: Vienna Jazz fans under the Nazis
I've posted here before on jazz subcultures under the Nazis, including the Zazous in France and Hamburg anti-fascists. There’s an interesting overview of this subject in Jazz Youth Sub Cultures in Nazi-Europe by Anton Tantner (first published in International Students of History Association Journal, 2/1994).
Tantner mentions some scenes I hadn’t heard of before, including the Vienna ‘Schlurfs’ (a name ‘which means people who are going very slowly and who are lazy’) and the Prague ‘potapki’ (meaning ‘divers’). The former were apparently predominately working class; the boys, with longish oiled hair, tended to wear ‘shirts or coloured pullovers and coats with the belts always open... wide trousers and white scarfs’ (see picture). The girls, sometimes known as ‘Schlurf-cats’ girls wore 'coloured dresses, kneelong skirts and upswept hair’. They improvised parties wherever the opportunity arose: ‘Schlurfs went to merry-go-rounds, where the owners sometimes played the swing records they had brought along’.
In Vienna ‘fights between members of the Hitler Youth and Schlurfs took place rather often... On one occasion about 50 Schlurfs came together and attacked a home of the Hitler Youth’. The Austrian Schlurfs ‘stayed outsiders even after the liberation from fascism. In the new democratic newspapers they were regarded as "weed" endangering the "Austrian tree of life"'.
There is more information in an article by Alexander Mejstrik, which quotes a 1942 Nazi publication describing the Schlurfs as ‘immature youngsters of deficient nature who strive for superficial leisure, dance, jazz music and female company, and who show no interest in politics... the Schlurf-youth has to be fought because of their negative attitude towards the sate, their softness, and their detrimental mindset'. In the same year a Viennese newspaper claimed that the Schlurf ‘smokes like a Jewish coffeehouse poet’, ‘drinks like a British colonial soldier’ and strives for ‘the Anglo-Saxon gangster ideal’. Hitler Youth raids and patrols were deployed against the Schlurfs, with a set of particular measures set out in a document called ‘Bekampfung des Schlurfunwesens’ (‘fighting the Schlurf nuisance’). Schlurfs could have their long hair forcibly cut.
At a bar-restaurant called the Second Cafe in the Prater area of Vienna ‘the youngsters could dance to live music, drink alcohol and smoke even though at the time all this was forbidden’. They sang a song which declared ‘Hitler Youth, watch out for your lives, because the Schlurf of the Second Cafe in the night woke up, They will brandish their knives, and St Louis Blue will sing his songs again. Police, fuzz, stop cutting bald heads’.
(Source: Alexander Mejstrik, 'Urban Youth, National-Socialist Education and Specialized Fun: the making of the Vienna Schlurfs, 1941-44' in 'European Cities, Youth and the Public Sphere in the Twentieth Century' by Axel Schildt and Detlef Siegfried (Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2005).
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Songs about dancing (4): Everybody Dance - Chic
Everybody dance it says on the tin, and on the many occasions when I have heard this song in clubs, parties, weddings that's generally what everybody does. If the lyrics urge 'Everybody dance, do-do-do, Clap your hands, clap your hands' they are hardly necessary - the bass alone is surely enough to generate the required response. The dancefloor as the place where the indignities and humiliations of daily life can be put aside: 'Music never lets you down / Puts a smile on your face / Any time, anyplace / Dancing helps relieve the pain / Soothes your mind, makes you happy again / Listen to those dancing feet / Close your eyes and let go'.
This was originally released in 1977 - it is impossible to overestimate the significance of Chic in this period. Just think for instance how many times Good Times was sampled in early hip hop (e.g. Rappers Delight by the Sugarhill Gang or The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel).
See also Disco was the only time we were equal
Monday, September 22, 2008
Thirteen people have been detained in connection with a nightclub fire on Saturday that killed 43 people and injured 65. Wang Jing, owner of the club who could not be traced after the fire, surrendered to police Sunday afternoon. The general manager, deputy general manager, safety officer, technician and performers had been detained earlier.
Hundreds of people, most of them youths, had packed into the Wu Wang Club, popular as "King of the Dancers Club", in the city's Longgang district when the fire broke out around 11 pm. "We were watching a show and one of the performers lighted a firework, which rose to the ceiling that caught fire it spread rapidly across the hall," and turned into the worst fire tragedy in the southern city, a survivor surnamed Zheng said.
"Power supply to the hall was cut immediately, leaving the room in darkness, except for the light from the blaze I heard people shouting and crying everybody dashed for the only exit. I don't know how I managed to get out I felt like i was running on people's body but I couldn't see," the youth said. The nightclub, about 35 km from downtown, had a hall and 10 rooms that could hold 380 people. It was on the third floor of a second-hand goods' market, and could be accessed from the staircase only through a narrow passageway, about 10 m long (China Daily, 22 September 2008).
Sadly this is not unique, as a current trial in Argentina shows:
One of the biggest and most controversial trials in Argentine history has started in the capital, Buenos Aires. Fifteen people are accused of responsibility for a nightclub fire in December 2004 that killed 194 people, many of them youngsters... The 30th of December 2004 is a date etched firmly on Argentina's national consciousness. On that night, someone set off flares inside the Cromagnon nightclub, starting the huge fatal blaze, in which 1,500 people were also injured.
The images of the burnt bodies and choking survivors being dragged from the embers of the nightclub are as strong today as they were then.
In court, accused of responsibility for the tragedy, are the club's owner, members of the band the Callejeros who were playing that night, and policemen and local officials accused of taking bribes to overlook safety measures. The controversy surrounding the fire brought down the then Buenos Aires city government and led to tight security measures being imposed at venues across Argentina (BBC 19 August 2008)
At the time there were big demonstrations in Argentina:
Thousands have taken to the streets of the Argentine capital calling for the city's mayor to resign after a nightclub blaze... Some 5,000 people took part, many of them relatives and friends of the young people who died in the blaze. As night fell, they gathered outside the Cromagnon nightclub, destroyed when fire engulfed the building a week ago. The protesters demanded those who they believe are responsible, including the club's owner, be held to account...The club was reported to have been filled beyond its capacity and some of its emergency exits were said to have been locked (BBC, 7 January 2005).
I am reminded too of the December 2000 fire in in Luoyang, China in which 311 people died, and of the Stardust disco fire in Dublin in February 1981, in which 48 people died, prevented from fleeing the fire by locked fire exits and barred windows. Christy Moore wrote a song about this, They Never Came Home, which was banned in Ireland for libel. Moore's line 'Hundreds of children are injured and maimed, And all just because the fire exits were chained' is a reminder that while accidental fires will happen, it is security systems designed to maximise profit by restricting entry and exit that stop people escaping them.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Sleepless in Seattle
Along these lines, I was interested in this brief summary of the history of dancing in 20th century Seattle, with links to articles on dance marathons, jazz at the he Savoy Ballroom and 1960s rock'n'roll at Parkers Ballrooom. It ends up with the absurdities of the 1985 Teen Dance Ordinance, whose stipulations drastically restricted young people's leisure in the city until it was repealed in 2002.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Remembering Katy Watson
'In the late 1980s Katy Watson, who has died of Hodgkin's lymphoma aged 42, was a key member of the collective producing Shocking Pink, a feminist magazine by and for young women, which tried to take on teenage magazines on their home ground, with photostrips and cartoons. She was also involved in two other feminist magazines, Outwrite, and, in 1992, Bad Attitude. Katy was inspired by the 1990s Riot Grrrl and Queercore punk bands, some of whom she interviewed for Bad Attitude. She took up DJing and played at lesbian and gay punk clubs, including Up to the Elbow and Sick of It All - the latter which she started with friends...
...Her life was transformed by the birth of her children Orla in 2002 and Joe in 2007. Her happy parenting experiences informed her involvement with the lesbian mothers' group, Out for Our Children. Her first book for young children, Spacegirl Pukes, appeared last year - she was proud that a book could be published in which a child had two mothers without the fact needing any explanation - and her second book, Dangerous Deborah Puts Her Foot Down, will appear soon. Her novel, High on Life, a fictionalised account of heroin addiction, was published in 2002. She is survived by her children, her parents and her sister Anna".
I first met Katy in the early 1990s in Brixton where we were both living and both hanging out at the 121 Centre, an anarchist squat centre in Railton Road (home of Dead by Dawn club, which I've written about before). Katy was involved with Bad Attitude, a feminist paper, I was involved with Contraflow, a radical newsheet. Bad Attitude had an office at the top of the building and used to let us use their computer.
I have so many memories of Katy, but as this a music site I will concentrate on that side of our friendship. Music was a central part of Katy's life - in fact in my last conversation with her, in the hospice just a few days before she died, she asked me if I'd heard any good new bands recently. Although she did not want to think too much about the possibility of dying, it is notable that she did go to the trouble of choosing the songs she wanted played at her funeral. So when a big crowd of us gathered at the Epping Forest Woodland Burial Park, we all came in to 'Denis' by Blondie and followed the coffin out to Magazine's 'Shot by Both Sides'.
Katy's first love was punk, so the 1990s Riot Grrrl and queercore scenes were right up her street. She interviewed Bikini Kill for Bad Attitude, and indeed Kathleen Hanna from the band once slept on her sofa in Brixton. She took up DJing and I remember going to see her play out at places like The Bell in Kings Cross (famous London gay pub known for indie/punk nights - some great footage of the place here) and at Freedom in Soho, when Mouthfull played there downstairs. We were always swapping tapes and CDs, I have a boxful of obsolete (?) cassettes Katy made me - Sister George 'Drag King', 'Spend the Night with the Trashwomen'...
In the mid-1990s Katy was part of my clubbing/party posse. Saturday nights were often spent in the Duke of Edinburgh pub in Brixton, waiting for news from the United Systems party line about where the free party was happening - followed by a trip out to Hackney, or Camden or wherever. As I kept a sporadic diary at the time, I know that on April 29th 1995 me and Katy went to a United Systems squat party in Market Road, off Clarendon Road (north London). There were police outside with bolt cutters, so we had to go round the back and climb over a wall and across a rooftop to get inside. Another time we went to a party in a squatted church in Kentish town, with the sun coming through the stained glass after dancing all night.
We also went to clubs - Megatripolis and Fruit Machine at Heaven, to Speed at the Mars Bar in '95 (LTJ Bukem's drum and bass club). Once in 1996 we got really glammed up and headed to Pique, a night promoted by Matthew Glamorr at Club Extreme in Ganton Street. It was cancelled , but someone gave us a flyer to a private party in Lily Place in Farringdon, a fantastic loft style party packed out with people dancing.
Katy started getting into Americana, she introduced me to The Handsome Family and Alabama 3, whose Twisted night we went to at Brady's in Brixton. We went to lots of gigs at The Windmill on Brixton Hill, from alt.country to Art Brut, and we went to Electrowerks in Islington to see ESG (in June 2000).
A lot of good nights, but no more, which is very sad. Still her five year old daughter has been jumping around since she could stand to The Ramones and, more recently CSS. Her son is just starting to stand and no doubt will be dancing himself soon. So the spirit lives on... I don't believe in the literal afterlife, but it's nice to imagine Katy wandering around in some punk rock Valhalla looking round for Joey Ramone and Johnny Thunders.
The F-word, HarpyMarx and AfterEllen have all picked up on Katy's death, which would have pleased her. Shocking Pink in particular had a big impact and it's nice to know that some of yesterday's readers are today's feminist bloggers. I will dig out some old S.Pink and Bad Attitude and other Katy stuff over the next few weeks.
The photo of Katy was taken on the infamous May Day 2000 Guerrilla Gardening action in London's Parliament Square. Katy was a keen gardener, as well as Guerrilla Gardening on May Day she was a member of the Royal Horticultural Society, and got us tickets to the Chelsea Flower Show!
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Nepal Disco Workers Protest
"More than 500 workers staged demonstration demanding they be allowed to operate bars and discos all night," Ramesh Thapa, a police officer at the scene, told AFP. "Due to the operation of night bars and restaurants, public security has worsened. We have begun to crackdown on such midnight activities to maintain law and order," Thapa said.
"Closing the business is not the solution. The government should make proper laws to regulate nighttime business rather than completely shutting it down," Basnet added. Sameer Gurung, president of the Night Entrepreneurs Association, said the forceful closure of dance bars, nightclubs and discos have left some 80,000 people jobless.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Pervis Jackson and Detroit
Unfortunately I couldn't find any footage of my favourite track by The Spinners, Ghetto Child, but you can listen to it here: 'when I was 17 I ran away from home, and from everything I had ever known, I was sick and tired, living in a town, filled with narrow minds and hate'. Also check out their 1970 version of Message from a Black Man ('No matter how hard you try you can't stop me now') with Pervis Jackson doing the spoken word sections.
But here they are from 1975 singing They Just Can't Stop It (Games People Play), with Pervis Jackson singing the middle '12.45' part:
The Detroit music explosion of the 1960s was underpinned by the migration of black people (like Pervis Jackson) from the Southern states of the US to Detroit, partly prompted by the demand for labour in the Detroit motor industries - and the desire of those moving for a better life. By 1943, when a racist backlash by white workers led to major riots in Detroit, 200,000 black people had come to live in Detroit, most of them to work in the motor trade and its wartime spin-offs of bomber engine and other military production. It was the children of this wave of migrants who gave us Motown, and some of their grandchildren who later gave us Detroit techno.
It's interesting how the motor city aesthetic filtered down through the black and white musical cultures that emerged from Detroit. Just look at the names - Motown, The Spinners (apparently named after Cadillac hubcaps), MC5 (originally Motor City 5). Think of Underground Resistance's early characterisation of their sound as “Hard Music from a Hard City”.
Interesting too, how Detroit has exercised a particular place in Europe’s imaginary America: Gramsci in his prison cell dreaming of the modernizing wonders of Fordism sweeping away the dead culture of old Europe; the 1960s dream of the Sound of Young America inspiring boys and girls in London and Liverpool; the continuing love affair with Detroit techno.
The actual relationship between place and sound is very complex. Ultimately it is patronising to assume that people’s cultural expressions are just a reflection of their surroundings. Music doesn’t spring spontaneously from the soul - it takes creativity, imagination and effort. But of course it is influenced by the music makers' experience, including where they live. So once again, put your hands up for Detroit, as well as for Pervis Jackson and The Spinners.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Somewhere over the Rainbow
'His [Baum's] purpose is to bring loners and outcasts together to depict just how capable they are. Implicit is the notion that common people do not need managers or middlemen to run their affairs, that the latent creative potential in each simple person need only be awakened and encouraged to develop. Baum's major characters in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz are non-competitive and non-exploitative. They desire neither money nor success. They have little regard for formal schooling or silly social conventions. They respect differences among all creatures and seek the opportunity to fill a gap in their lives... he wanted to educate readers to the fact that individualism could be achieved in other ways - through tenderness, good will, and cooperation. To be smart, compassionate, and courageous are qualities which could be put to use to overcome alienation, The colors and ambience of Oz are part of an atmosphere which allows for creativity and harmony along with a sense of social responsibility. Dorothy sees and feels this. She is 'wizened' by her trip through Oz, and Baum knows that she is stronger and can face the drabness of Kansas. This is why he closes the book in America: Dorothy has a utopian spark in her which should keep her alive in gray surroundings...
By the time Baum came to write The Emerald City of Oz in 1910, he had developed precise principles for his utopia, and he formulated them at the beginning of this book:
'Each man/woman, no matter what he or she produced for the good of the community, was supplied by the neighbors with goods and clothing and a house and furniture and ornaments and games. If by chance the supply ever ran short, more was taken from the great storehouses of the Ruler, which were afterward filled up again when there was more of any article than the people needed.
Everyone worked half the time and played half the time, and the people enjoyed the work as much as they did the play, because it is good to be occupied and have something to do.
There were no cruel overseers set to watch them, and no one to rebuke them or find fault with them. So each one was proud to do all he could for his friends and neighbors, and was glad when they would accept the things he produced.
Oz being a fairy country, the people were, of course, fairy people; but that does not mean that all of them were very unlike the people of our own world. There were all sorts of queer characters among them, but not a single one who was evil, or who possessed a selfish or violent nature.
They were peaceful, kind-hearted, loving and merry, and every inhabitant adored the beautiful girl who ruled them, and delighted to obey her every command'.
Baum's 'socialist' utopia is a strange one since it is governed by a princess named Ozma, but there is no real hierarchy or ruling class in Oz. Ozma the hermaphrodite is a symbol of matriarchy and guarantees the development of socialist humanism in Oz by regulating magic, especially by banning black magic'.
Source: Jack Zipes, Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion (Routledge: London
Judy Garland's original version of the song from 1939 film of The Wizard of Oz:
'it is significant that Maud Gage, whom Baum married in 1882, was the daughter of an active and well-known feminist, Matilda Joslyn Gage, a colleague of the leading US suffragists in drawing up the Woman's Bill of Rights, as well as a feminist historian... Dorothy in the book is definitely a modern heroine, if not a New Woman; she is the predecessor of many a plucky, stoic, staunch girl lead - neither a milksop nor a tomboy, but a little girl who embarks on her adventures in a spirit of curiosity, wonder and self-reliance...But Dorothy makes allies, and she is convincingly loyal and brave, loving and good. With her clear, straightforward help, the Wizard will be deposed and the ideal Land will be restored to its rightful female ruler; in Oz, women won't reign through lies and illusions, but with sincere kindness. Ozites do not wage war: the enemies who tunnel through to the Emerald City in later stories in order to sack it and kill everyone are tricked by Ozma to arrive very thirsty and drink from a fountain of forgetfulness. They then can't remember why they have bothered to make the journey.
Like many progressives in the late Victorian and early Edwardian periods, both in Europe and the US, Maud Gage Baum rejected organised religion and was attracted instead by new thinking about the supernatural - spiritualism, psychic research and theosophy. The Baums became theosophists in the 1890s, and their four boys, at their grandmother's insistence, were not baptised. They were sent to Chicago's ethical school instead, where religion was not taught. Traces of the movement's beliefs show in Oz's structure - its matriarchal tendencies, and its freedom from established churches of all kinds'.
Source: Marina Warner, Over the Rainbow, Guardian, 19 July 2008
Here's a version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow sung by the late Hawaiian singer and ukulele player Israel Kamakawiwo'ole (1959-1997 - the bit at the end of the video is of his ashes being scattered in the sea):
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Haredim move to eradicate 'foreign' pop
Musicians who use rock, rap, reggae and trance influences will not receive rabbinic approval for their CDs, nor will they be allowed to play in wedding halls under haredi kosher food supervision, according to a new, detailed list of guidelines drafted with rabbinical backing that differentiates between "kosher" and "treif" music. The guidelines, which are still being formulated, also ban "2-4 beats and other rock and disco beats;" the "improper" use of electric bass, guitars and saxophones; and singing words from holy sources in a disrespectful, frivolous manner.
"Michael Jackson-style music has no place in our community," says Mordechai Bloi, a senior member of the Guardians of Sanctity and Education, an organization based in Bnei Brak that enforces what it sees as normative haredi behavior. We might be able to adopt Bach or Beethoven, music with class, but not goyishe African music and beats. We haredim want to protect ourselves from what we see as negative foreign influences. We are trying to maintain our own authentic music styles. We admit that times are changing, but we are trying to stay loyal to our roots."
This is the first time that specific, detailed criteria, including comments on playing styles, will be used to add transparency to the delineation between acceptable or "kosher" Jewish music and forbidden or "treif" music. The man responsible for drafting the list is Rabbi Efraim Luft of Bnei Brak, who heads an organization called the Committee for Jewish Music. Luft works in conjunction with Bloi's organization and with the Jerusalem-based Council for the Purity of the Camp headed by Rabbi Yitzhak Meir Safronovitch. These are the two most important and influential "modesty patrols" in the haredi community.
Bloi and Safronovitch have managed over the years to consolidate their power by successfully courting the backing of the major halachic authorities. A large portion of the haredi community, which numbers between 500,000 and 700,000, is loyal to its rabbis. Calls by rabbis to boycott a business, to take to the streets to demonstrate or to vote for a particular candidate are taken seriously... Similarly, enforcers of haredi norms are monitoring, supervising and censoring the haredi pop music scene, with Luft spearheading the campaign. Luft has already issued a list of "kosher" and "non-kosher" bands and musicians. He said that dozens of yeshiva heads have agreed to refuse to come to the wedding of a student who hires a non-kosher band. Halls with haredi kashrut supervision who host non-kosher bands run the risk of losing their supervision, and hence their clientele. Companies that help promote haredi concerts expose themselves to the danger of a consumer boycott.
Luft said that music is just part of a much larger problem in haredi society. "We see that the same people who are involved in the treif pop scene are also the ones in the unapproved news media, in the so-called religious radio stations, in film and in advertising," said Luft. "All of these things come together to demoralize haredi society and to lower the spiritual level of our youth. This is an issue that people over 30 understand very well what I am talking about and those under 30 have more difficulty understanding," Luft continued. "This music is pushing into our community a generation gap similar to one created by the rock music of the '50s in the US. The whole idea is that there are types of music that have no place with respectable people. Respectable people listen to decent music and immoral people list to indecent music, and it does not make sense that a community that has high moral standards should be listening to this type of music. The influence of music has a very profound effect on people in general. It has been proven that rock music has a very negative effect on people and on animals and plants, while classical music has a very positive effect."
Over the past several years haredi activists have enlisted almost all the major rabbinical authorities to stifle a burgeoning haredi pop music scene. Last year, a letter forbidding all public music concerts, even when men and women in the audience are separated, was signed by a who's-who of Israeli rabbinical authorities...
This summer, haredi activists banned a concert in Netanya that featured popular haredi singer Avraham Fried, who appeared together with secular performers. Despite the ban, there was a large turnout... However, performers who do not appeal to a wider, non-haredi audience have been hurt by the rabbinic ban. For instance, Yaakov Shwekey's concert this summer in Kiryat Motzkin, near Haifa, was a failure. Instead of attracting a few thousand, Shwekey managed to draw an audience of just a few hundred.
Avrahim Fried - banned in Netanya:
Menahem Toker, a popular haredi DJ who was reportedly fired from Radio Kol Chai under pressure from haredi activists because he promoted "treif" shows, said that the blanket prohibition against all shows is doing more harm than good. "Maybe a lot of people will listen to the rabbis and stop going to shows altogether," said Toker. "But there will be tens of thousands of people who, deprived of a kosher option, will end up going to mixed shows. And not just to frum, wholesome performers like Fried and Elbaz, but to secular performers also. So maybe in a way the anti-pop music activists have won a victory. But they also lost because they have not offered a kosher alternative."
Sources in the haredi music scene who spoke off the record for fear they would hurt their relationship with the rabbinic representatives said they doubted the rabbinic establishment would succeed in their newest crusade against CDs. "What are they going to do listen to every single disc that is released? What about the thousands of discs that are already in the market?"
Luft admitted that listening to all the discs on the market would be a formidable challenge. "The main aim is to focus on new songs before they get to the recording studio. So far there have only been two cases in which discs have been banned by rabbis", said Luft. "One by controversial haredi vocalist Lipa Schmeltzer called Bli Ayan Hara (Without the evil eye) and a Yiddish rap CD by David Kalish. There are certain types of music, such as rap and reggae, that are disgusting and have no place in our community."
(source and full article: Jerusalem Post, 9 September 2008)
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Morality Police in Yemen
For many Yemenis, and for women in particular, this was another alarming sign of the growth of Salafi extremism — an unwelcome import from neighbouring Saudi Arabia where the "mutaween" religious police are part of the scenery. "These people scare the hell out of me," complained Nadia al-Sakkaf, the editor of the Yemen Times. "Yemeni youth are frustrated and depressed. There's nothing for them to do. And since when did we need to act against pop singers?"
The first signs appeared a few months ago in the Red Sea port of Hodeida, where young men and women began to be accosted by bearded vigilantes demanding proof that couples were related. A hotel disco and bar were closed down and several Arab women dancers deported. Daoud al-Jeni, a self-styled "virtue activist', described his mission as being to curb "obscenity and prostitution". Anti-vice teams, some armed with sticks, have also been operating in Aden, the former British colony in the south.
In mid-July the Authority for Promoting Virtue and Combating Vice — exactly the same name as used in Saudi Arabia for 80 years — was launched in Sana'a and quickly moved to pressure the authorities to raid and close down two Chinese restaurants that were allegedly being used for "immoral" purposes, including selling alcohol....
Ironically, the virtue committee idea appears to be taking off in Yemen just as the Saudis, angered by some high-profile excesses, try to loosen the stranglehold of their own mutaween, who police the ban on women drivers, on women travelling without a chaperone and whose latest activity is to enforce a prohibition on selling dogs and cats for domestic pets.
Yemen is a highly traditional Muslim country where most men wear tribal robes and carry curved jambiya daggers in their belts. But it has never been comfortable with the brand of dour Salafi/Wahabi fundamentalism promoted by the Saudi religious establishment. "If these vigilantes start approaching couples and asking them for their marriage certificates in Sana'a you will soon see jambiyas flying," warned a middle-class resident of the capital.
Arwa Othman, an author and folklorist who is defiantly bareheaded in a land where most women wear the hijab, is horrified by the virtue campaign and the zealots behind it. "This idea will kill this country," she says. "They've been talking about it for a long time in schools and mosques and in the army. Now they're in alliance with the government. These people appear when there is poverty and hunger and dictatorship. These are the right circumstances for extremists."
From article by Ian Black in The Guardian, 3 September 2008. Read full article here.
Here's a bit of what they object to - Ehab Tawfik's song Allah Allaik Ya Seedi:
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Jersey nightclub backs down on body fascism
Police were called to the club on Saturday night to prevent public disorder after Martin Sayers, the club’s manager, and his door staff started turning away larger women. Georgina Mason, 23, one of the women refused entry, told the Jersey Evening Post: “About five or six or us got to Havana at about 11.30pm and the bouncers said we were not allowed in because we were too big.” Miss Mason, a bank worker, said: “I told them not to be ridiculous and asked to speak to the manager. When the manager came out he would not look at me directly but said that they had received many complaints about fat people and he told me, ‘Go and lose some weight before you can come in — fat people are bad for business’.”
Jemma Warner, who saw larger women being turned away, said: “The man himself was far, far away from what we might call male perfection, making the situation somewhat ironic. Boycott the Havana club because this kind of discrimination is way more ugly then any kind of body shape.” Kierra Myles, who was also at the club, said: “Does this mean larger people can’t go out and have a good time? Should they hide away because they might be overweight? As if there is not enough pressure on young girls to be thin and have the — in my opinion, disgusting — size-zero look. Then you have narrow-minded people like that stopping people that are perfectly happy within themselves from going out and having a good time...
...Mr Sayers, who has run the club, which has a capacity of 380, since 1992, defended his actions initially, saying: “We got a lot of people that I’d classify as morbidly obese and we were getting complaints. I am deeply apologetic but business is not good at the minute and I was trying to protect my business.” Last night, however, he said that the ban had been dropped and he appealed for those who had been offended to come back. Mr Sayers, who admitted being overweight himself and on a diet, said: “There was an error of judgment and I would like to apologise wholeheartedly to these people and say they are welcome back to the club. The vast majority of our customers are overweight. There should not be discrimination against people for any reason and if this incident highlights that then I guess something useful has come out of it.” He denied that fat women were less attractive, adding: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”'
Source: Times, 30 July 2008. A successful campaign on the back of a bit of facebook networking. They seem to have taken down their protest facebook group now, to be replaced by a couple of misogynist sites supporting the original ban with statements like 'No One Likes Fat Chicks! So Don't Let Them In'. The kind of thing that makes it easy to believe that Jersey really is full of the spawn of child abusers and nazi collaborators (gross generalisation obviously!).
Monday, September 08, 2008
Milton Keynes Sanctuary Flash Mob
"It started as a normal day of retail therapy at one of Ikea's flagship British stores - that was until hundreds of clubbers went wild in the aisles as part of a Facebook flash rave. Shoppers in the furniture store in Milton Keynes watched with amazement as the ravers partied in tribute to a now defunct nightclub. The Sanctuary Reunion was held to remember a club bulldozed in 2004 to make way for the store and was organised through a group on social networking website Facebook. Ageing clubbers, including a pregnant woman and families with their children, danced for around five minutes in the textiles department on Saturday afternoon at 3.30pm... jumping up and down, some wearing fluorescent vests and others blowing whistles" (Source: Metro, 2 September 2008)
"2008 Saturday 30th of August...We arrived at the store a little after 2pm. The area was over run with Mk Don supporters so it was hard to tell if people were turning up. There was definatly a police presence that you wouldn't expect so the mood got a bit paranoid. Ikea had put some barriers up at the front so they could separate the in coming and out going customers. We had got in surprisingly quickly so we had an hour to kill in store. The staff presence was massive and to be honest me and my friends were feeling really edgy. Once we had hung around in textiles for 10 mins or so, loads more people started arriving. You could see couples giggling as they pretended to look at rugs and groups of lads coming through shouting "Yeah heres textiles!". By 3.20pm it was blatantly obvious what was going to happen and the police and Ikea staff were all in good spirits. The area was great and as soon as we started grouping together more knew where to go. Just before time, Ikea staff stopped more from coming through... when the horn blew the place went crazy, whistles and ravers galore. It was a shame that more people were taking pictures than dancing but everyone (and their kids) were having a wicked time. 2 minutes seemed to take forever after a few minutes, some hip hip horays and applause the group broke and went to buy their bits and go for a drink. It was a wicked day had by all!" (Source: Facebook Sanctuary Reunion Group)
Friday, September 05, 2008
Women and subcultures
"Youth rebellion is the domain of young men, who tend to become progressively less radical as they age and assume the comforts of patriarchy (the power-structure isn’t so bad after all!). Women, on the other hand, lose sexual viability as they age and for those brave enough to confront the fact that the joke was on them, become rebels. This is where we get the stereotype of the “crazy old lady”—a revolutionary if ever there was one.
Let me suggest a basic foundation for counterculture:
Counterculture: Elective marginalization
Women and other disenfranchised groups, on the other hand, constitute a counterpublic:
Counterpublic: Forced marginalization'.
For those who don't know, the drum & bass DJ (real name Raymond Bingham) was arrested in Dubai in November 2007 after being caught with 2.16 grams of cannabis at the airport. He was jailed for four years.
Decoder: The Sound of Muzak
As far as the Concise Oxford Dictionary is concerned it doesn't exist. As far as the majority of people are concerned it doesn't exist. As far as the Muzak Corporation is concerned that's just fine. Muzak Corp is the only company in the world that doesn't advertise it's product to the public. In fact they don't even want it widely known that Muzak is a product. They're quite happy for it to be known as harmless background music.
That's not to say that the people who create and use Muzak don't think highly of it; 'Muzak is more than music. It's an environment,' is the catchphrase used in the Muzak manual. And that's not boastful hard-sell either, that's factual information. 'Muzak is scientifically-engineered sound,' continues the manual, 'The sound of Muzak is subtle and musical. But it is not music which is meant to entertain. Because music is art. But Muzak is science. So it does not require a conscious listening effort. Yet it has an enormous effect on those who hear it ... Muzak is programmed to motivate office and industrial workers, relax restaurant patrons and medical patients, make shopping more pleasant and less hurried ... The entire process is known as Muzak Stimulus Progression ... It provides an overall feeling of forward movement, can mitigate stress and produce beneficial psychological changes.'
However, not everyone is in a state of stimulated, blissful ignorance of Muzak's supposedly beneficial psychological effects. Beneficial to whom and who decides what is beneficial, you may well ask. Hamburg journalist/director, Klaus Maeck did so, at great length. Eventually turning his obsession with Muzak and the harm it does into the new German underground movie, 'Decoder’.
Klaus used to run Hamburg's 'Rip-Off' Records and as a journalist covered the likes of Einsturzende Neubauten, Abwarts, Xmal Deutschland, Malaria and Psychic TV. He had previously documented the likes of the aforementioned on Super-8 and gained some recognition as a Punk film maker, because in his words, "Nobody else was doing it in Hamburg." After the collapse of 'Rip-Off' and disillusionment with journalism, Klaus began to concentrate on his idea of making a film about Muzak. Over a couple of years he researched the phenomena and compiled the 'Decoder Handbook'; to support the film with information about Muzak and related subjects; like Cut-ups, Infra-sound, Dream machines, cassette-piracy and frogs. (Still don't see how that last one fits in.)
His research entailed visiting Muzak control offices - In every main city in Germany - Hamburg, Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, Munich - there is one office for this purpose - And he got to interview one of the directors, but found himself responding in a peculiar way; "I sat there talking with him and I really felt something. When I arrived there I wanted to ask him some quite provocative questions. After one hour I was really calm and talking with him very gently. He explained to me, really he told me and I really believed him, that Muzak is good in hospitals. Instead of having valium, you hear some Muzak and you're really calm before an operation.
"I think that's the good thing about Muzak." Klaus concedes, "To be used in that way instead of chemicals, pills and so on. But that's the only good thing about it. You can manipulate the brain with it. Mainly it’s negative, but it could have some good effects. I still can't believe, this director told me they use the same Muzak in hospitals, supermarkets, fastfood chains, offices, factories. I cannot believe that, because in supermarkets its purpose is to make you comfortable to buy more. In offices it's to make the working atmosphere more relaxed to increase efficiency. But he told me it's the same. And there is only one tape reel running in this office, going by telephone cable to all the different places. You don't get anything on tape or record. It's just through cable.
"It's built up on the human bio-rhythm, on the normal daily rhythm people have; like you start work at 8, so around 11 they make the Muzak more exciting because you're thinking about lunchbreak. Then in the afternoon it’s calm because you've just had a break. Then at 3 they make the Muzak more exciting again. The tape runs and runs all day, endless. You can't decide for yourself which Muzak you want to hear. They decide in the office. Even if you turn it off you're still in that rhythm. I think it's pretty dangerous. You never know when Muzak is on the radio - many major groups arrange their music using Muzak techniques. You never can be sure."
And so using the basic theme of Muzak; the damage it can cause, how to deal with it and ultimately decode it, scriptwriting began for 'Decoder’. At this stage Klaus brought in Muscha, a young film maker from Düsseldorf, who had the experience necessary to direct the proposed one and a half hour film. And together with Volker Schaefer and Trini Trimpop, they set about building a plot around three central characters: The main protagonist, a young noise-freak, played by Mufti of Neubauten/Abwarts fame, sets out to decode the hidden information of Muzak. But Mufti's quest doesn't interest his girlfriend, who works in a sleazy sex show on Hamburg's Reeperbahn. She's played by another familiar figure from the German underground, Christiane F, who in the film is obsessed with frogs. In real life of course it’s something else.
As Mufti and Christiane's relationship breaks down, a sub plot develops around Jager, the Muzak Corporation hitman, who's being blackmailed back to work to bring an end to Mufti’s decoding. During Jager's frequent social jaunts down the Reeperbahn, he begins to show more interest in Christiane than Mufti does. But he doesn't discover the connection until the end, when he decides, too late, to finish the job in his own interest.
The Jager role is played by the only pro-actor in 'Decoder', Bill Rice, the star of another nocturnal delight 'Subway Riders', and a well known face on the New York theatre scene. In fact his desperately appealing, sad face was why he got the part. "He's not famous but he had such a good face we just had to have him," enthuses Klaus.
Finally the Austrian-American director of photography, Johanna Heer was recruited to the team, and shooting began in sterile computer centres, even more sterile hamburger joints and, as a contrast, glaringly Iit peep-shows and underground sound-labs. At times I found it a bit hard to follow the sub-titles and I was watching it in the morning, the wrong time of day to watch it according to Klaus, but I thought the story did well to unravel itself from the various ongoing sub-plots and themes. And the use of colour and tone carries the film through; each central character is Iit in different fluorescent shades between neon and argon, which often explode into 'architectures of fire’.
However the soundtrack (available on 'Some Bizarre') is probably its most endearing feature. Regular Zig-Zag readers may already be familiar with 'Decoder' because of Dave Ball's work on it, which he said something about in the March issue. Various Psychic Tellys, Collapsing New Buildings and Some Bizarros did their bit to add to the general ambience. And I even found myself liking Marc Almond's 'Sleazy City' in the peep-show sequences. Their soundtrack is cut with FM news broadcasts and the scientifically programmed art-product of industrial psychologists, musicologists and marketing engineers. There's a war on, as Klaus outlines;
"I think Muzak or music in general can be used to manipulate the brain, in any way· for relaxing, or getting you excited. And they work with it. They do it. And I think you, we, whoever can do it also in a different way, like Mufti does in the film; he does the opposite. He develops Anti-Muzak for his own purposes, to provoke in the end street riots; first to make people puke instead of feeling relaxed in the burger place. I'm still convinced, even if it sounds funny, that you really can do it. If you have 3 or 4 people with tape recorders on the streets you can provoke something like that. You get manipulated all the time by the media. So why shouldn't we use the same techniques for our purpose, to try to break that down. I think that's okay, necessary even."
There's a war on. An information war: 'Decoder' credits its two major influences in this field with cameo roles of their own design: Genesis P.Orridge appears as an anti-pope sort of figure, leading an underground resistance movement - I think all the people in 'Decoder' parody themselves to a certain extent, but Gen's parody is the funniest. In one scene Mufti stumbles into his bunker, where he becomes a not entirely willing participant in a nihilistic noise ritual. Gen's main line to Mufti before he's sent packing is; "Information is like a bank, and we have to rob this bank."
Rob a Bank. Storm the Reality Studio and Retake the Universe: Ironically the development of functional music and subliminal techniques owes a great deal to Brion Gysin and William Burroughs. Advertisers and god knows who else have been using their Cut-up technique to manipulate people ever since Burroughs first applied it to his literary works. He used it to seemingly rearrange a text at random to create new words and watch the future flood out. But it can of course be used for more down to earth motives, such as profit and greed.
Burroughs also wrote a book called 'The Revised Boy Scout Manual', which gave instructions on how to use his techniques on the streets. It was planned for this to be incorporated into 'Decoder', with tape-terrorists/pirates using cut-up tapes to provoke a riot in the final scene. But when the 'Decoder' crew arrived in Berlin to shoot footage of the anti-Reagan riots, they were astounded to find the cassette-pirates already there. Ghetto blasters had been set up in open windows and helicopter and gunfire noises were being played in the streets. Hundreds of tape recorders were confiscated as a result.
As an acknowledgement of the debt the film owes him, Burroughs himself crops up in Mufti's dream sequences; first leading Christiane across a field in Jarmanesque ambience. The second time handing Mufti a broken tape recorder on Mufti's TV - this was shot when Burroughs was staying in Tottenham Court Road for 'The Final Academy' in 1982 – Ain’t nothing here now but the recordings. So hit it! Pause it! Record it and play! C-30! C-60! C-90! GO!
Here's a section from the film Decoder (1984), featuring Genesis P.Orridge. His speech seems quite prophetic now of the internet age, just on the horizon at the time of the film: "Information is like a bank. Some of us are rich, some of us are poor with information. All of us can be rich. Our job, your job is to rob the bank"
See also: Sonic Attack
Thursday, September 04, 2008
End of The End
Clubs open and close all the time, still many are worrying that more seem to be closing than opening in London at the moment, and there certainly aren't many with the kind of serious sound system and broad electronica policy offered at The End. When the club opened in 1995, dance music was a license to print money and a mixture of gangsters, dealers and music biz entrepreneurs were opening up spaces all over the place. Few of these have survived, and with dance music returning to a niche love affair fewer are opening. The End was driven by music enthusiasts with founders including Mr C (DJ and sometime member of The Shamen), Layo Paskin (of Layo and Bushwacka DJ fame).
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Ken Campbell: 'I'm not mad I've just read different books'
In 1979 Campbell and Neil Oram co-wrote The Warp, a 22 hour epic that starts off with a 15th century Bavarian war resister and ends up in the 1970s with UFO conferences and New Age Travellers. It was revived in a production directed by his daughter Daisy Campbell in 1999, performed continuously in the 'Millennium Drome' beneath the arches of London Bridge station alongside a Megatripolis rave.
I saw Campbell at Battersea Arts Centre a few years ago doing one of his legendary monologues History of Comedy: Part One - Ventriloquism, a performance of rambling genius. As he once said, 'I'm not mad I've just read different books'.