Monday, November 22, 2010

Where Is The Love?

Cafféteria is where I go for my regular poison. It might be true that a few yards farther, both Gusto Italiano and Caffé Nero share more luxuriant decor and narrowly a better bean. But whereas its more auspicious competitors are proud to deliver a good product as standard operating procedure, Cafféteria's girls show me the love.

It means a lot to me.

A touch of Gemma in the morning

If you found yourself smiling, you're feelin' it too.

I'm finding that my relationship with salsa is moving the same way. With less and less time on hand, there's no choice but to be increasingly selective about where I dance and whose lessons I attend (yes I still do occassionally). With the former, it used to be about great music.

It's now about where the music comes from; the disc jockey's heart, if you will.

I can forgive a multitude of sins if I know that the person behind the decks cares for whom he or she is playing. The operative words here are: 'care' as in the well-being sense; and 'for' instead of 'to'. It stems from my consistently lukewarm experiences of the Biggest and Best events, and the intimate and unexpected delights from the least assuming of venues.

My contention is that an emotional need cannot be fulfilled by solely rational circumstances - a compelling performance cannot be assured through technique alone. A competent DJ who really cares manages to communicate this in the atmosphere he or she generates, and it makes a world of impact on the clientele the DJ attracts and retains, and in constructing the night's cultural timbre. An observer should take just three to five songs, reading the deck-spinner and the crowd, to understand where the DJ is coming from.

Let's put it another way.

Below is a quote taken in entirety from a semi-open forum. It was expressed by a leading DJ for the response of other salsa-folk:

What was THE salsa track that, many, many years ago was one that got you hooked? For everyone it will be something different.
But, I'll bet it wasn't Hacha Y Machete, or other such matured palette tracks.
Was it perhaps an Africando track? Was it a melodic Frankie Ruiz. Or even God forbid! Sonora Carruselles
We need to keep our minds open to the fact, that our over exposed tastes may be becoming prejudices. Seem exotic to the silent majority, in fact....
We all love salsa. If you want it to grow, it needs to be inclusive not exclusive.
All I've seen over the years is the salsa crowds, get smaller and smaller and the music become more and more exotic.
I can't help but think there is a directly proportional relationship.....
In truth if I had walked into a salsa club over a decade ago and heard the never ending hard core styles I hear today, I would have walked back out and never have bothered.
Cheese has it's place. It brings people in.
I'm not saying shit music should be played all the time. It just has it's place.
You can't grow quality Fruit and Veg, without a little manure.

The point regarding inclusivity and the arguments flowing from it are hard to ignore. The tenor bears no small element of condescension, imbuing the passage with a shade of arrogance. And yet the question is open, unguarded and disarmingly honest.

But for all its rationality, my question is, 'Where is the Love?'

What kind of participants does this DJ attract? What might be the timbre of the culture constructed?

And so I'm coming to redefine what I mean when I use the words 'good' or 'great'. People who work the decks do so because they draw from a complex pool of motivations, some being: a desire to share one's love of music; an economic need; external validation; political altruism; ideological conversion... To propose that there be just one reason would be a little bit naïve.

I'm looking for the mix that most suits me - Great coffee.

  1. An admittedly commercial product (I don't mind paying for the good stuff);
  2. Made up of good ingredients (it doesn't always have to be top-of-the-line, but right up there is nice);
  3. Blended with loving care; and
  4. Pitched with a good twist of humour.
Loo Yeo

P.S. My answer to the question is Proyecto Uno's "El Tiburón". It's a merengue, but I didn't know that at the time. And I still love it as much today as I did then.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"The Art Of The Solo Performer" by Steve Rapson

Illustration (left) ©Copyright 2007 Steve Rapson. All Rights Acknowledged.

This book is lavished with personal insight about the music performance business. From cover to cover, the witty, mischievous, and sometimes moving morsels of wisdom pose as answers to rhetorical questions, like:

Should I fire my manager?
What is a song plugger?
How come everybody doesn't recognize my greatness?

Mr.Rapson's style is easy to read, making light work of deceptively profound performance truths gleaned at the coal-face of Boston's acoustic musicians circuit. It is less of a field guide, and more of a field journal: the sort of book that rewards re-reading as you develop.

Steve makes little distinction between musical performance and public speaking, and understandably so: unless you're as great as the late Roy Orbison, most artists have to have a little patter between the numbers.

Although the ideas are arranged into the major categories of Philosophy, Business, Material, Performance, and Public Speaking, they are still quite modular in nature; so it's worthwhile making notes and arranging them in a way that suits your own mind.

Clever, honest, funny and perceptive. There's always something on its pages for you as a performer to think about; be you a fledgling to the stage or a seasoned hand. Having "The Art Of The Solo Performer" next to you is like having your own personal performance consultant, and therein lies the rub: consultants help you understand what should be done, but you still gotta do it yourself.

He makes mark of that in the Addendum.

Steve Rapson's book is a deserved classic.

Loo Yeo