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Archives for March 2011


Jarvis Jarvis | 17:27 UK time, Sunday, 27 March 2011

The next step for our astrological survey is the realms of Aries.


The Sunday Service survey aims to get a snap shot of the 6 Music listeners by asking the same 5 questions to the 12 star signs.


So now to Aries - born between March 20th and April 20th - we'd like you to answer some simple questions.


Leave comments below with your answers and we’ll collate the information.


What is your favourite colour?

What is your favourite band?

What is your favourite vegetable?

What is your favourite mode of transport?

What is your favourite Double act – musical or comedy?


This feature will run throughout the year so every one of you can get involved!


Jarvis Cocker Blog BBC 6 Music


Tom Assistant Producer | 15:43 UK time, Tuesday, 1 March 2011


 Errr... Indian restaurant. Travelogue. George Harrison's patio in 1967. Actually it's some of the oldest, richest, deepest and most satisfying music in existence, but there you go.


As pop music's development continues to slow, there's still a certain Anglocentricism choking possibility. All too often, even now, you sense a blithe assumption of what pop is, and must be, forever – English speaking, burger eating, live at Shea Stadium. This great transatlantic stitch-up does no one any favours.


In almost every area where technology has increased choice, people seem dazzled and keener than ever to stick to what they know. It's not, you'd hope, that they're actively hostile to music which comes from further afield – perhaps for some, it's that too much cultural carbohydrate has left them unsure of how to listen to it. Still, the result is exactly the same: a massive and menacing contraction.


Most attempts to assimilate foreign styles into the basic thump of Anglo-American pop music have been ham-fisted or, at best, a bit silly.


To begin with, there was only novelty: songs like “Mecca” by Gene Pitney, which is brilliant but essentially a kind of joke.


But that was the sum total of outside influence on Western pop for many years - a vaguely comical bolting-on of unfamiliar scales and inflections. At best you had Rolf Harris, dipping into Aboriginal music and pulling out “Sun Arise” or “War Canoe”, which clearly did something for Adam And The Ants:


Can you tell what it is yet?


Beyond that, there was Exotica, a beguiling but consciously hokey kind of easy listening music, the whole point of which was to exploit that picture-postcard perception of tropical and Eastern styles. There's something fascinating about this kind of breezy, gleeful forgery, but for all its charms it's a branch line that ends in the middle of nowhere.


There was something of a breakthrough in the late 1960s, when Indian music suddenly got hip - but this mostly involved the sitar, one of the most complex instruments in the world, reduced to something that went “weeoooowwww” behind the guitars, to make four-chord rock songs sound exotic. More than 40 years on, we still haven't come a whole lot further.


When unfamiliar styles are taken seriously, it's often in a po-faced anthropological way which only emphasises place, and as a consequence, distance. Or else, and this is worse, it's with an earnest hipsterism left over from the 80s World Music boom or the sudden, forgotten trendiness of the Buena Vista Social Club. A lot of the attention foreign-sounding music does receive is shot through with the smugness of a broadsheet travel section.


It seems so wasteful and vaguely unsavoury to examine this music under glass, or to use it as spray-on sunshine or a chucklesome break from the serious business of doing the same thing over and over. Better to unlearn bad habits picked up from living in a culture which turns  uncommon modes of expression into a sideshow. The manipulation of context is the key to musical discovery, here as elsewhere, and it doesn't take much to hear this fascinating noise as something nearby, and relevant, and revelatory.

Perhaps, as people, we need a better understanding of where these sounds come from, and why - but as listeners, the first thing we need to do is ditch all our associations, all our reference points. Better to hear what's actually there, as though this were the first music we'd ever heard.


This is “Lover Of Smiling Girls” by the Burmese Mandalay Sein (note to self: SANE) Mottah: it's unmistakably a pop song, and does what too few pop songs manage – it's instantly captivating and yet so explosive and intriguing, melodically, rhythmically, sonically, it creates a space of its own.


Empire, even the ghost of empire, degrades the senses as well as the soul. One of the deepest cultural wounds of Britain's colonial history – at this end, anyway - is an inability to approach the music of other lands with genuine humility and unconditionally open ears. Globalisation, a one-way process, only reinforces this - the English-speaking world still has a tendency to view faraway goings-on purely in terms of how they relate to “our” interests, real or perceived. This is as true in music as in geopolitics, and one result is a certain resistance to unknown and extraordinary sound whose origin is clear and possible to patronise.


But pop is essentially amoral, and doesn't need worthy lectures about being a citizen of Planet Earth. This is about new methods of movement - towards and between extraordinary and imaginary places.


There's a lot to learn from the countless attempts by foreign musicians to shift or dissolve these make-believe borders - like the one coming up, “Hop Hop Gelsin” by Erkin Koray, Turkey's top rock star of the 60s and 70s. This came out of Istanbul, the exact spot where East meets West, and that's precisely what it sounds like. Nothing about this music is unapproachable or difficult, and the way it so effortlessly straddles the Bosphorus makes a lot of British pop sound miserably parochial.


Tom Assistant Producer | 10:33 UK time, Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Michael Horovitz and Allen Ginsberg 

Photograph courtesy of Peter Whitehead


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This week on the Sunday Service Michael Horovitz. Michael is a poet, singer-songwriter, jazz & blues anglo-saxophonist, impresario, visual artist, translator, arts journalist, editor-publisher, and neo-Beat trouble-shooter. He was characterised by Allen Ginsberg as a "Popular, experienced, experimental, New Jerusalem, Jazz Generation, Sensitive Bard". He founded New Departures publications and Live New Departures bandwagons (which first introduced the Beat writers to the UK) in 1959, Jazz Poetry SuperJams in 1963, and the Poetry Olympics festivals in 1980. Among his productions on stage and page which have featured the Beats are the POM! (Poetry Olympics Marathon) and POT! (Poetry Olympics Twenty05) Anthologies, and also his own Wordsounds & Sightlines and A New Waste Land.

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