Friday, April 29, 2005

Music you should hear

I've played this song for a couple of people and they've both quite liked it. I think it's got a little bit of a Magnetic Fields thang goin' on, and I'm partial to not only the lyrics, but the performer as well-after all, it is my dear runty brother. Comments are more than encouraged-they are demanded. They guy's gotta have some encouragement to play more outside of his bedroom.
There's more where this came from-if I can only figure out a better way to link mp3s to this page. At this point, you need to cut and paste the url-blogger won't allow for "deep linking". I don't even know what that means. Got suggestions? This computer illiterate is interested.
Third Look - Grant MacLeod

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Yay Arcade Fire

Doesn't Sarah look pretty? Photo by Kathryn

See, I like stuff that isn't just reggae...

This was an interview published in the L Magazine (Vol. 1, #19, October 13-26, 2004), a cute, little pocket-sized magazine that's available for free in a place they call Brooklyn, New York. I wouldn't know, I've never been there. Anyhow, given that the Arcade Fire are playing tonight, tomorrow, and Monday, and that they're sorta popular now (Time magazine anyone?), I thought it might be as good a time as any to post it here.

When Ataris Catch Fire (Oh, Jon, why this as the headline?)
The Arcade Fire with Erin MacLeod

Folks love the Arcade Fire. They really, really love them. Their debut album, Funeral, has been out for a month and critics seem to melt into puddles of maudlin blather after listening to the first track. “Anthemic momentum,” “acoustic majesty,” reads the Pitchfork review. “It takes a band like Arcade Fire to remind you that we are all custodians of our innocence and that we let it die at our peril,” writes some guy in the Globe and Mail. This is all a little much for a not-so-little band from Montreal. Win Butler, Win's little brother Will, Régine Chassagne, Richard Parry, Tim Kingsbury, and any number of other musicians make the music everyone’s fawning over. It’s getting overwhelming for sweet Régine, who took a deep breath and then spoke to me over coffee.

EM: Your Montreal CD launch was pretty nuts—a thousand indie rock fans packed into a church. How can other venues compare?
RC: It’s just about the people. The place can influence the overall feeling, but it’s just about being in front of people and singing your songs.

EM: Do you see it as more of a performance? There’s definitely a titch of theatricality.
RC: There’s two ways of seeing the word ‘theatrical’. The Broadway style that is put on; you invent something, you make it up. But this is not what we are trying to do, which is a little more scary. Because you’re not really pretending and so it can become really intense and weird.

EM: Most of your songs are pretty intense and don’t really build—they kinda start at a climax.
RC: I guess when we write songs it’s what comes out of me. And it definitely has something to do with what I’m living, my society.

EM: Have you read any of the reviews? Because they’re a little more than positive. How do you feel about the fact that people are writing about being moved spiritually by the Arcade Fire?
RC: (laughs) Depends on the day. I think to myself, ‘What? What are you talking about?’ But it’s all out of our control. I don’t do anything different from last month. And I don’t understand. Now it’s just a weird thing of something really personal being really public. When we write those songs we don’t think about all this.

EM: What do you think about the comparisons made between you an Broken Social Scene, Polyphonic Spree, Talking Heads, Debussy, Echo and the Bunnymen, New Order, I could go on...
RC: A lot of people say we’re like Broken Social Scene. I understand that people think that one of our songs sounds like [them]. It does sound like the beginning of one of their songs. Win wrote that song in 1998, 1997, when he was in high school. It’s like this game of trying to find, which is kind of annoying. I don’t want it. If you don’t like it, it’s fine, if you do like it, come hear it, that’s great.

EM: Some have said that you’re part of some new Canadian or Montreal scene...
RC: It’s a weird human thing to try to make sense of what you see by putting it in categories. It’s like a human reaction. But it’s not like we planned. We’re not like ‘Hey guys, hey Unicorns, hey Wolf Parade, we’re gonna start this thing.’ It’s more, ‘what are you talking about?’

EM: Do you see yourselves as a Canadian band?
RC: It doesn’t matter. I mean people look at me and try to categorize—oh she’s a woman, she has Haitian roots. But it’s really not important. It’s not about being Canadian or Quebeckers.

EM: You’ve got Texans, Vancouverites, Montrealers...Are you planning on keeping the line up the same, because it’s changed so many times.
RC: Oh yes. It’s just how life goes, sometime it changes things happen. It’s like do you wish to have eight boyfriends be fore you find the one you want? Eight breakups? No. But things happen.

EM: Last year you played CMJ and opened for the Wrens, this year you’re headlining the Merge records showcase. This must be a big change for you guys.

RC: Last year, it’s like how are you supposed to go and see a band you’ve never heard before? It wasn’t a big surprise that there weren’t too many people. Now it seems like people have heard of it so there probably will be people, but it’s not really different from last year.

EM: You are headlining though. That must be somewhat exciting, no?
RC: I am excited. I just hope we can live with out all the superfluousity of being in a band because there’s a lot of crap that surrounds the whole thing. I hate the word “industry’, it’s awful.

EM: What would be the ideal situation for you a year from now?
RC: After we tour, me and Win, we want to go work and do something that’s unrelated to music. Like in some town, some community centre, somewhere in the world. I don’t know what. I don’t really wanna get caught it the crazy, crazy lifestyle of rock bands.

EM: Aren’t you looking at being away from home for quite sometime right now?
RC: Yeah. No wonder some artists get all fucked up. We haven’t experienced anything. We’re just starting. Things are coming at us and we need to deal with all of this. Sometimes it’s just like ‘Oh my god, what is this? This is weird this is strange.’ A lot of people ask ‘How do you feel about all this?’ And I’m like, because our name, the band is out there, it doesn’t mean that I’m out there. I’m still here, I’m just going home, going to bed. And it’s weird to think that people are talking about you, it’s kind of freaky.

EM: But are you having fun when you are playing?
RC: Oh, yeah.

EM: Because in all your pictures you are so serious.
RC: (Big sigh) I know, but of course I’m having fun.

Friday, April 22, 2005

My house is a mess, but there are certain silly things I'll spend hours doing

For some insane reason, I thought it would be a good idea to archive all of my reviews. I figure it'll make a nice keepsake for the kids.
Reviews Galore

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Dem Come Fi Mash Up

For all who check this space and might not live in lovely Montreal, you still might be interested in my piece this week on soundsystems in Montreal. I've checked the message board a couple times today because I am convinced that I must have written something controversial (in someone's mind). Anyhow, I was fairly happy with the piece-though I wish it could've been longer so I would've had space for additional interviews. If you have any thoughts, I'd be thankful for any constructive criticism. And big thanks to Don Ignorance, Fatta, Mawga K , and Carolyn Cooper for their help. Also thanks to Jah Mikes, as always, for suggestions. Okay, before it sounds like I'm accepting an award (instead of introducing a silly article), enjoy.
Ring the Alarm
Oh, and for the British folks in the house, you might wanna check out the cover story on grime-ity grime grime.
Grime Time

Monday, April 18, 2005

The Empire Strikes Back

A year or so ago, someone sent me a link to the Empire Isis website. Based on the photos, my first reaction was to think of this as the Simple Life, Rastafari style. The description on their website referred to themselves as Miriam "911 aka the emergency line" and Madeleine "the M.A.D. madam". The two dreaded blondies had relocated to Brooklyn from Montreal and Morocco, though they'd supposedly travelled through 25 countries "investigating the untold stories of the underground scenes from Argentina to Canada". Oh, and they insisted in the Montreal Mirror that they "represent Africa, Jamaica, and Bedstuy". Pardon me, but give me strength.

The duo have apperently split; Madeleine, the non-joint-puffing girl above (a particularly lovely photo by Rachel Granofsky) seems to be, well, out of the picture at this point. Perhaps she came to her senses. Suffice it to say, on the website, M.A.D. madam has been photoshopped out of the cover of Hot24Seven magazine and there's a video that showcases concert and interview footage, carefully edited so as to avoid any glimpse of the girl. Last year they claimed to "speak and cypher" in five languages: Spanish, English, French, Portuguese and Patois, but I suppose the split required Miriam to double up on language duty as this list has expanded to include Arabic and Swahili.

Now, I shouldn't make so much fun, but it's hard to hold back a chuckle when you read stuff like "Isis dedicate this to all those ina yard/ though we know you sufferin’ and times is hard /keep your family tight it could never break apart / build a righteous government and get a fresh start” especially when it's coming from girls who, although cute, are more like Paris and Nicole than Sizzla. Sure, their (now her) album, which is set to be released this spring, features appearances by Half Pint, Bushman, and Dean Fraser, but in an industry in which anyone can get a dubplate cut if they simply cough up enough cash, it's tough for me to see this as proof of the street cred Empire Isis so desperately wants.

Maybe I'm wrong. To me they sound like they are trying desperately hard to prove themselves hardcore and the so-called "documentary footage" included in the online video of various reggae artists as well as Sizzla's Judgement Yard and other images of Jamaica looks more like glorified tourist videos. Where non-Jamaican reggae is concerned, Ms. Isis is hardly Zema or Mighty Crown or Gentleman or even Snow. Don't get me started about her/their attempts at reggaeton either. Then again, Empire Isis (the solo artist) is up against Brick&Lace, Mr. Easy, Chuck Fender, and I Wayne for the Most Promising Entertainer Award at the 24th annual International Reggae and World Music Awards to be held this May. I say it is a travesty to put over-the-top attempts at patois against someone like I Wayne, who is one of the most exciting singers to come out of Jamaica in years, but Fader magazine thinks that Ms. Miriam-the "Empress Gangstress"-is hot enough to deserve coverage in the next issue-or so the internet chatter tells me.

I know I should show more support-the girl is from my city and she clearly does have some gumption, but there's a whole lot of identity issues going on here. And frankly, the music just doesn't cut it. Period.

Ms. Empire Isis, the solo artist (poor Madeleine was probably in the other half of the picture-can't say I'm not curious to know what happened!)

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Other Music I Like

I was asked this evening if there's any music I like apart from reggae-specifically dancehall. As an attempt to prove that I don't have a one track mind, I figure there's probably no better time like the present to give a little list (off the top of my head, clearly; it's a titch late) of tunes I like right now.
In the Morning - Omar
Hold it Down - 4Hero
Truth - Dwele
Come and Get Your Love - Redbone
Booty La La - Bugz in the Attic
Haiti - Arcade Fire
Postal Service - Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)
Feel Like Making Love - D' Angelo
Do You Dig You - Q-Tip
Can't Help It - Michael Jackson (Todd Terje Re-edit)
Kiss of Life - Sade
Freak Scene - Dinosaur Jr.
100,000 Fireflies - Magnetic Fields
Rosalinda's Eyes - Billy Joel
and oh yes...
Could I Be Your Girl - Jann Arden
This is, of course, not a complete or comprehensive list. It would probably be the CD I make right now, if that was in the cards.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Ahh, King Shango

Director's cut of interview published in Heads magazine, "Keeping the Fiya Hot!", Vol 5, no.3.

Capleton's powerful voice has made him one of the most popular deejays today. Rarely, if ever, at a loss for words-the man released about 50 singles within the first three months of 2005-and blessed with sharp reasoning skills, there’s a reason why Clifton Bailey III was dubbed Capleton, the name of a well known lawyer. Fiercely and controversially committed to his Rasta principles, the Prophet, as he's also known, has no plans on quenching or cooling his fire anytime soon. Capleton, or Uncle Shango (as I like to call him), was a whole lot calmer when I spoke to him after a recent show in Burlington, Vermont than when I saw him decked out in sparkly gold lame at Luciano's record launch party. His clever anti-Bush rants made me love him then, and though my personal thoughts on a few topics are probably miles away from his Bobo Ashanti views, he further endeared himself to me during this interview.

E: How do you find the concerts in the US different than concerts in Jamaica?
C: Jamaica is home, it’s where it started. So of course, in foreign it’s going to be totally different. But outside Jamaica you have white people, Chinese people, different kind of people, relating to the music. They don’t speak the language but they still sing the songs word for word. It’s good. It’s wonderful. There’s a good vibe, you know, there’s no limit to the music.
E: Given that dancehall has been getting more popular in the US, would you ever think about doing any more hip hop collaborations like you’ve done with Q-Tip and Method Man?
C: Nothing is wrong with a one or two crossover. But you still cannot stray from the roots, from the culture, from the tradition, you know what I’m saying? You cannot get to commercialized because it is a tradition. Me know. I’ve been there because I’ve been to BET, I’ve been to MTV, I was on DefJam. It’s not like a new thing. Capleton has been there and done that. But there is no limit to the music. The music is so expansive, we’re going to always have new experiments, so nothing is wrong with one or two crossover. Basically, music is a message. So whether it is soul, calypso, hip hop, whatever, as long as the message is good, it’s music.
E: What artists do you think are good now? Do you think it is a new day for conscious, cultural music in Jamaica?
C: Fanton Mojah, Bascom X, a whole heap of upcoming artists right now. I wouldn’t say a new day, nothing’s changed. There is no limit to the music and we always have upcoming artists. I know say most of the music spread through Capleton, from in the early days, even from when Buju Banton, Bounty Killer, Beenie Man, Ninjaman, it was Capleton until now. So it’s not new. Artists have new experiments, new vibes.
E:And the women?
C:Yeah, yeah. Macka Diamond. I’m grateful for her right now. She’s doing well. We have Lady G, one of the best cultural woman artists. Give thanks because this is not a man’s world and this is not a woman’s world. This is a man and a woman’s world, that’s how it’s supposed to be. We come into the earth through our mother and father. It’s 50/50 between man and woman, the king and the queen. The woman bring good vibes.
E: You’re from St. Mary, and every year you host a concert, “St. Mary Mi Come From”. Through that you’ve been able to raise money to give back to the community.
C: For real. Like hospitals and schools, cause you know that health and education is really the ultimate. You know what I mean? It is very important to give back because the youth they emulate and want to look up to you. The youth relate to us more than the government, you understand? So it is very important both to me and other artists. The attitude is also very uplifting for upcoming artists as well so they will give back to the community as well.
E: In your tune “Invasion”, you stalk about how “Babylon coral my place it look like dem wan overthrow me.” Sizzla’s Judgement Yard studio has reportedly also been targeted. Why do you think this is happening?
C: Invasion is a reality song. The police dem raid my place and jump over di gate and ting...But they will have attitude towards certain artists, certain artists who are involved in certain things. Every man have his own idea, his own opinion, sometimes people get involved in things that they’re not supposed to do and the system will have an eye on dem. On the next level again, you done know a Rastafari always have been terrorized by police. It’s a problem for the system. When you’re uplifting righteousness, and when you’re uplifting heritage and culture, and Selassie I, picking out in the system in terms of the injustice and the inequality, manipulation and exploitation. So therefore, when I and I chant the message and burn the fire, Babylon will terrorize us.
E: For a lot of people in North America there is little understanding of what Kingston or areas that artists talk about such as Hope Tavern or Papine or August Town are actually like.
C: Papine is a real ghetto. A real garrison area. There’s political violence. There’s where we fit in. We kind of protect the youth dem, help the youth dem. For I and I and certain other artists it’s real important to be amongst the youth dem. To keep them circumspect and keep them focused and keep them in awareness of Rastafari and righteousness.
E: You are a Bobo Ashanti rasta. What does this mean to you?
C: I wear a turban because the turban represents royalty. Bobo’s all about salvation, redemption, black international repatriation. But Rastafari is really one. So whether Bobo or Twelve Tribes or Nyabhingi, Rasta is all one, because everyone is saying death to black and white, equal rights and justice for all. Salvation, redemption, repatriation, restoration, Ethiopia, Africa, all should be honoured.
E: In terms of repatriation, do you have any plans to go to Ethiopia?
C: Most definitely. We go wherever Jah leads. Whatever the most high says should happen, we have to discover it and then carry out the works. Restoration and repatriation don’t literally mean, it’s not just on a physical term, you have to mentally repatriate before you make a physical choice. If you are not ready for it, then there is no benefit to go. But definitely I need to go sometime.
E: Marijuana is a sacrament for rastas. Do you have any thoughts on legalization?
C: All we need to do all over the world is tell the system that marijuana should be decriminalized. We know it is the healing of the nation. Have people smoke marijuana instead of coke and other hard drugs and the world would be a better place. That’s why they fight the weed because them know how spiritual the weed let the people get. They’ll stay away from crime and violence, be humble and maintain their humility and be tolerant instead of hurting themselves and the people. Them know the rastaman, his sacrement is weed, from which comes inspiration and belief. It’s an offering. It is a natural thing. If we decriminalize the weed, we have a better society, a better economy.
E: Recent controversy over your music has led to a lot of discussion about the violence in your lyrics.
C: When we burn a certain fire, it is not all about what they are saying. It is all about message. This is political. They know that the music aint promoting no violence or advocating no violence because Bob Marley said “I shot the sheriff” and he didn’t use a literal gun or a bullet, he used words, it’s metaphorical. So why is Capleton literal and not metaphorical? Babylon set up dem ting, and designed a method to fight the music. Bob Marley said “I feel like bombing a church.” It wasn’t a literal bomb, he is telling that the preacher is lying and when the church get bombed, it’s with words, power and song.
E: Many people separate your music from earlier reggae. Do you see a difference?
C: There is no difference. The fire never change. Burning Spear burn the fire, Bunny Wailer burn the fire, Bob Marley burn the fire, Toots burn the fire, name them. Dennis Brown, every man burn the fire, it’s the same thing. Bob Marley said death to Babylon, chant down Babylon, burn down Babylon; Bob Marley said kill, cramp and paralyze the wicked. Him never tell a man to literally go out there and kill a man. It’s with the words and the message and the music and the livity.