Commentaries

Where in the world is Jai Paul?

With the long-anticipated release of a new Frank Ocean album finally coming to fruition, another equally elusive artist came to mind: Jai Paul.

Jai Paul is an artist who came into the scene having already formed a unique and personal sound, a sound that you can recognise as his own from hearing a few seconds of most of the songs he’s made. And trust, I’ve looked for similar styled artists, artists who try similar things in their experimental production, but it always feels as if they’re either not as good as Jai Paul or that they’re copying him rather blatantly.

 

Paul being elusive however is not to say he’s unknown – having only one demo underneath his belt, XL Recordings signed to him to a deal in 2010, releasing an edit of the track a year later in 2011. ‘BTSTU’ is a stunning track, especially considering it was Jai Paul’s first full-fledged effort. Juxtaposition is used to full effect, with half the track being led by a surprisingly powerful falsetto which is backed by a harmonic vocal melody, and the other introducing itself with wave after wave of distorted synth along with Paul’s regular singing voice. The whole track is chocked full of effects, and introduced us to one of Jai Paul’s personal favourites, the sidechain, providing moments of subdued almost-silence, a palpitation-like impact. Although the parts individually seem to be rather upbeat, ‘BTSTU’ at its heart is rather angry, the opening lines becoming comic once you understand what they actually are (something which can be quite difficult with Paul’s music):

“Don’t fuck with me, don’t fuck with me

Since you shipped my ass off to sea”

The demo provided Paul with a copious amount of media coverage, being played by DJs such as Zane Lowe and Annie Mac, as well as being sampled by heavyweights such as Drake  (‘Dreams Money Can Buy’) and Beyonce (‘The End of Time’).

A year later came his next track, ‘Jasmine’ which again received similar critical acclaim, once again being lauded by Lowe and Mac. Guitar features more prominently in the track, an electric guitar laying down the main chord progression whilst what seems to be a bass guitar with an auto-wah effect providing some funk-era vibes. ‘Jasmine’ also marks the formal appearance of Jai Paul’s brother, A.K. Paul, who is credited not only with bass design but also c0-writing props as well (A.K. Paul has since worked with artists such as Sam SmithEmeli Sande, and Miguel, but has also remained rather elusive). The tone of the song was less aggressive, more romanticised, presenting a desire for a something or a someone, rather than a push away from it.

 

Work with artists such as Big Boi on the track ‘Higher Res’ (upon which he left a definite mark) followed, until 2013, where an artist’s (especially an artist like Jai Paul) worst nightmare was realised – a Bandcamp album was released supposedly under the guise of it being Paul’s debut effort, with the internet being set ablaze before Paul himself said it was a leak. This didn’t stop the hype surrounding it though, Jai Paul being listed in various ‘Best Albums of the Year’ lists. In reality, it was obvious that the album was not ready to be released, the mixing on many of the tracks was extremely unbalanced (and not in an edgy, “ooh it’s Jai Paul so it’s fine” kind of way), and many of the recordings were almost too distorted. Perhaps most noticeably was the far inferior version of ‘Jasmine’ that featured on the album.

 

That being said, the leaked album is by far one of the most exciting and explosive listenings I’ve had the joy to experience. Explosive and far reaching synths, arcade-sounds, Harry Potter samples, Bollywood samples, extreme sidechaining, layered guitar, and more all combine to give an incredibly genre-bending and unique album. And yet despite this, we haven’t heard anything from Jai Paul since. No one knows if these tracks were the finished product, whether or not we should be listening to them, or whether or not Paul has simply thrown these tracks away (a testament to the skill and musicality of the artist). The last posts on Paul’s Twitter and Facebook have both been from 2013 stating that the album was indeed a leak – nothing else has appeared on either social media format:

Alas we have heard virtually nothing from Jai Paul since. This year he started The Paul Institute with his brother, though the only track that has surfaced from there has been A.K. Paul’s ‘Landcruisin”.

In the age of the internet where everything is at our fingerprints, Jai Paul has managed to stay out of the spotlight – do not think this is a show of disinterest, or a lack of desire to produce more music, rather it is a sign of perfectionism and knowledge of timing, that when he feels his music is ready to be revealed bare he will do so. And I, for one, will be eagerly awaiting the day.

This article was written by Mo Hafeez

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Bebop: Charlie Parker, Jack Kerouac, and the ‘Beat Generation’

Bebop is a style of jazz music that preceded the swing era of America and is the foundation of modern jazz music as it’s known today. Known as ‘bop’, it became the successor of swing music, becoming most prominent in the late 1940s. Played in much smaller groups, often with only 2 or 3 front soloists and a rhythm section, there was much more flexibility within the bands as well as the music itself, more so than heard before.

The pioneer of this music was saxophonist Charlie Parker, who carried the nickname ‘Bird’.  Parker was born in Kansas City, in 1920. During the 1920s and ‘30s Kansas City was a hub for jazz musicians, with swing music being the centre of attention. Parker would have been heavily influenced by the music scene there, which would set a precedent for his future music. At the age of 11 his mother bought him his first saxophone, but he was no natural. He suffered setbacks in his earlier years; he was kicked out of his school band at the age of 14, as well as being embarrassed at a jam session aged 15, when the drummer of Count Bassy’s orchestra, Jo Jones, threw a cymbal at him for playing in the wrong key. It was shortly after this period that Parker realized the complexities of jazz, resulting in his practice becoming constructive and disciplined, playing up to 15 hours a day for 4 years. Yet the early exposure Parker had to such great musicians gave him an aspiration, letting him develop a subsequent motivation to match.

Parker moved to New York with little money and few plans but with hopes to develop his music further.  Parker’s main influence in New York was Dizzy Gillespie, a trumpet player, who was well versed in jazz and the harmonic completions that went with it.  They would be huge influences on each other’s playing, and in the first few years after they met, they played together constantly.

The Musicians’ Union recording ban between 1942 and 1944 meant that the duo could not record their music. Hence, a lot of early bebop developments were missed, but when the ban was lifted, bebop music exploded into the mainstream. Bebop records sold in copious quantities, with one of the most influential recordings of the time done by Parker, called Ko-Ko. It was based on Cherokee, a standard written by Ray Noble, and it is regarded as being typical of the bebop style.

Ko-Ko was released in 1945, and featured Parker on alto saxophone, Miles Davis on Trumpet, Charlie Russell on double bass and Max Roach on the drums. Dizzy Gillespie took the place of Bud Powell on piano. The tempo was blistering, the piece relentless throughout. Though the chords used were simply and were based off classic swing music progressions, the solos within were highly complex and chromatic. The rhythms contain other hints of swing music, but it’s clear in the recordings that the rhythms and timing were in fact much more unpredictable – in the recording it can be heard that Parker’s rhythmic stresses, and even the rhythm itself, is very unpredictable, with Parker fragmenting each phrase he plays almost to allow the listener to absorb the virtuosic lines produced.

Ko-Ko is very good example of bebop in its rawest form. Though very technical and exciting, sometimes its musicality was questioned. It had many critics, some of them being very prominent musicians, notably Louis Armstrong. It was said bebop was too self-indulgent with no real tune, resulting in the listeners not being able to latch onto any themes from the music. Ko-Ko is a prime example of this – although based on Noble’s Cherokee, it’s very hard to hear the main theme, often as the lines are so explosive and diverse that when it does come around, it’s hard to recognize it as a re-worked tune, sounding more like a continuation of an endless solo than the actual theme of the song. Even so, Ko-Ko was a huge success and put Parker on the map as a national star.

Parker’s unpredictable, fast paced and intricate music was reflected in his lifestyle. It was often said Parker had three things that made up his life; his music, his family (he married 3 times in total, with 4 kids) and his drugs. All of these aspects developed including, most crucially, his drug abuse. Heroin addiction had become a full time engagement for Parker, resulting in him turning up late for gigs, if at all, as well as financial troubles. Drug abuse and heavy drinking were a common theme of the jazz world at the time, with other bebop innovators such as Thelonious Monk and Fats Navarro having similar issues.  The authorities cracked down on the problem, and in the early 1950’s Parker’s Cabaret Card was revoked, meaning he was unable to play in the clubs of New York. This resulted in less money for Parker, and he subsequently had to travel the continent on tour, putting strains on his family life and increasing his dependence on drugs.

The high profile cases of drug addiction in the Bebop world meant the music was starting to gain an image, the image of high energy, fast paced, talented personalities living a life which seemed free from all worries of the real world. This image became just as important as the music. Not only was the music giving the people of America a soundtrack to their lives, but it was also giving them a lifestyle to aspire to. Musicians such as Parker were seen as more than entertainers, they were seen as intellectuals and trendsetters, leading the way for other artists and academics of the time do the same thing. A prime example of this is a group of writers known as the ‘Beat Generation’. The name was given by writer and poet Jack Kerouac, a key figure in the group. Kerouac specifically states bebop, and Parker in particular, as the main influences on his life and works.

kerouac-mugshot-

Kerouac’s Navy mugshot – Public Domain (US Archives)

 Born in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1922, Kerouac grew up in a middle class family, writing from an early age. He gained a football scholarship to Columbia University where he studied literature and was first introduced to the other members of the movement, such as Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs. Being ‘beat’ meant you didn’t conform to conservative social convention, questioning the sexual, religious and political taboos of the day, using drugs frequently, especially LSD, which also influenced their actions. The group gained widespread acclaim after the release and subsequent success Allen Ginsberg’s poem ‘Howl’.

Their lifestyle ran parallel with Parker’s. They were based in New York in the ’50s when bebop and Parker were at their peak. Kerouac’s writing was affected by the music just as much as his lifestyle. His most famous and celebrated book ‘On the Road’ sums up and combines these very well. The book is a semi-autobiographical depiction of the adventures of Sal Paradise (based on Kerouac himself) and Dean Moriarty (based on his friend Neil Cassady) going coast to coast across America. The pair took part in constant drug abuse; drinking and womanizing; absorbing every sight and sound the country had to offer. Extracts like the one below summarize their lifestyle well:

“Sal, we gotta go and never stop going ’till we get there.’
‘Where we going, man?’
‘I don’t know but we gotta go.” 

Kerouac wrote the majority of his books in spontaneous prose, a refined and developed stream of consciousness. It lays down a trail of undisturbed thoughts, one leading on to the next, with little use of punctuation. Kerouac describes it as ‘the vigorous space dash separating rhetorical breathing (as jazz musician drawing breath between out blown phrases)’. Spontaneous prose was developed so that the words on the page were the writer’s purest thoughts; Kerouac never went back over his words, often writing his books in a number of weeks. The intense periods of writing meant that the technique had to be extensively practiced, so Kerouac kept multiple diaries and wrote notes constantly to try and improve. It becomes quite clear that the writing style has many similarities to an improvised Parker solo; spontaneous, relentless and full of poetic passages. Phrases were well thought out, allowing breathing space for the reader to take in the words on the page, with each passage being based around one key idea.

This style is most apparent in one of Kerouac’s earlier books, The Subterraneans. The book, again in spontaneous prose, describes a group of intellects – the Subterraneans – with the focus of the book on the relationship between Leo Percepied (based on Jack Kerouac) and Mardou Fox (based on Alene Lee). The book illuminates the goings on of the beat generation in their everyday lives, especially Kerouac, and explicitly describes the group’s indifferences to the formalities of society. The group is described on the first page of the book by Adam Moorad (Allen Ginsberg) as being:

‘Hip without being slick, they are intelligent without being corny, they are all intellectual as hell and know all about the pound, without being pretentious or talking too much about it, they are very quiet, very Christlike’.

The quote sums up the movement very eloquently, again emphasizing the lack of conformity to social standard. They perceived themselves to have superior intelligence over most people; yet they do not pursue a lavish life. Their own company seemed sufficient enough, sometime seeming isolated from the outside world as a result of their superior understanding. The relationship itself between Mardou and Leo is unconventional, with Mardou being African American and much younger then Leo. Her unstable mental state makes the reader question their relationship, as does Leo’s inability to fully commit. The group’s heavy drug taking and alcohol intake, along with their need for culture, whether it be bebop or literature, helps further separate the group from the society of the time.

Kerouac continued to be inspired by the jazz music and characteristics of the music. ‘Mexico City Blues’ is a set of 242 verses of poetry based on jazz rhythms, with the last 4 verses fittingly dedicated to Parker himself. Kerouac describes the moment when the two crossed paths, with Parker having a profound effect on Kerouac. It is described early on in The Subterraneans, when Mardou and Leo are in ‘Red Drum’, the local Jazz joint, where Charlie Parker is playing:

“Returning to the Red Drum for sets, to hear Bird, whom I saw distinctly digging Mardou several times also myself directly into my eyes looking to search if really I was that great writer I thought myself to be as if he knew my faults and ambitions or remembered me from the other night clubs and other coasts, other Chicagos”.

Kerouac and Parker both followed the same fate and both died before their time, age 47 and 34 respectively. Parker’s influence led the way for the fast paced life style, setting the bar for other artists of the day. It’s clear how much Parker’s music affected Kerouac, and Kerouac would not have been the only one who felt that way.  Both men represent a generation, icons in their own right, living complex, curious, non-stop lives whilst working harder than anyone else to push the boundaries of their respective fields in equally unconventional ways. It was the bebop beat of Parker’s horn which would lead the way, giving the next generation a freedom which would arguably never be matched.

This article was written by Henry Weekes

BADBADNOTGOOD: the continuing story of jazz and hip-hop

Even though hip-hop’s been dated roughly back to the late 70s with artists like Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and The Sugarhill Gang, some have traced the relationship with the two genres as far back as the early 20s, with artists like Louis Armstrong being proclaimed as pioneers. Everyone who knows that hip-hop and jazz go together like paint and a brush will also know that it’s kind of a one way street – you can take the hip-hop out of jazz, but you can’t take the jazz out of hip-hop, with seminal artists like A Tribe Called Quest and Eric B. and Rakim sampling prolifically from rare and well-known records alike, putting a brand new spin on them.

‘Life’ by Proof samples ’73 Touches’ by Miles Davis

In more recent times, Jazz has become a museum genre of such, a genre that wasn’t gradually changing but instead becoming more and more aged. In some respects, it’s not even because it’s becoming less and less popular, but it’s because artists are struggling to invent, shape, and formulate new strands of jazz – hence, we have fallen into a ‘jazz revival’ period where records have circumnavigated the whole genre, returning to artists like Jelly Roll Morton for inspiration and ideas alike. The only trouble is, despite having revitalized the genre, it hasn’t attracted a new audience.

This isn’t even a new occurrence – during the 1940s, artists had already begun the process, trying to recreate the work of Red Nichols, a bandmate of the Dorsey Brothers in the popular jazz group The California Ramblers. That kind of mentality, which though undoubtedly has produced some great music in the vein of greats like John Coltrane, has left me wondering whether the genre is stuck in its tracks, spending too long re-examining its own works rather than pushing forward and exploring new territory. The thought of revivalists, though well-meant, has kind of given the impression that jazz is now an art for the sake of art – this kind of image isn’t helped by the fact that often times prominent advocates of jazz are seen to be stuck-up and pretentious. The only ‘new’ music of the genre in these kinds of cycles is avant-garde compositions, which often times are unlistenable too and lose the feeling of jazz by making you feel overly uncomfortable (though, that might be what they’re aiming for).

Red Nichols and his Five Pennies

Of course, the aforementioned is a sweeping claim to make, and not all hope is lost to those who crave jazz with a twist – whether artists like The Jazzual Suspects are producing music in an attempt to try and engage younger listeners, or whether they’re doing it just for the love of music is beyond my knowledge, but the music such bands produce is not to be ignored.

More recently, I was reminded by a good friend of the band BADBADNOTGOOD (BBNG). BBNG are a Toronto-based ‘post-jazz’ band who are known for their raucous gigs around America. Moshing wasn’t a regular occurrence at jazz-based gigs, but these guys are making it happen with renditions of various hip-hop tracks, old and new alike. The band consists of Matthew Tavares, Alexander Sowinski, and Chester Hansen, and their fame started after they uploaded an 8-minute YouTube tribute to Odd Future, an artist they mutually enjoyed.

The Odd Future Sessions – Part 1

They actually performed a similar piece as a college assignment, but their tutors apparently disregarded the piece and said it lacked “musical merit”. I’m not sure whether it was this that caused them to drop out of school and pursue music or if it was something else, but I’m glad that they decided to build their own studio in a rented garage.

They caught the attention of Tyler, the Creator though, who proclaimed “I Love Jazz, This Is Fucking Sick! Dave Brubrek Trio Swag” in a tweet. This lead to a collaboration between the band and the California rapper, and served as a launch-pad to work with other artists like Frank Ocean, who they backed during a tour, and Ghostface Killah of Wu-Tang fame.

Between the use of trap beats, strange samples, ethereal synthesisers, and the occasional bottle blowing improv-solo, it really is an interesting listen. I honestly don’t feel uncomfortable in grouping them together with people like ?uestlove, Q-tip, J-Dilla, and Nujabes – I get that they’re not quite at the stature of such artists, but there’s little doubt in my mind that if they continue doing what they’re doing, they’ll be there – it’s always a good sign when you enjoy a band’s original music rather than their faithfully re-imagined and beautifully crafted covers of Kanye West, MF DOOM, and even My Bloody Valentine.

BADBADNOTGOOD and Ghostface Killah in ‘Gunshowers’

This article was written by Mo Hafeez

The Rise of the Bedroom Producer

As music changes, so do the musicians –  Music these days can be found in any form, and this has allowed for a new type of musician to step forward.

2013 was an interesting year for connoisseurs of electronic music. The resurgence of vinyl (buying and releasing in the form) continued, as the 90s New York and Detroit vibes made their strongest comeback yet in an underground, full of tech threat to burst into the open. In house music, a more commercial push was made, with strong performances from Disclosure and Duke Dumont seeing house music become arguably the most popular genre of all.

In the case of Disclosure in particular, an argument could certainly be made that the young age of the brothers has contributed largely to their popularity. Guy Lawrence is 22, while Howard is 19. In June 2013, they released their universally acclaimed album “Settle”, but, in reality, their popularity came from the culmination of knowledge in music production amassed over four or five years. When they first started releasing music in 2010, Guy was 18, and Howard was just 15. When asked by Trap Magazine if the duo thought their age had anything to do with the hype surrounding them, older brother Guy replied that “most people are really quite impressed” by their age, and this is indicative of the fact that more and more people appreciate the vibrant dance music culture associated with the youth of today. More importantly, Howard makes another point in the same interview  – “It’s easy to produce these days, just on your laptop, so it shouldn’t be so much of a big deal really”.

Perhaps he was being humble, but it inspires the question: How did such a young duo of producers rise to fame so quickly?

One way in which such a rise is possible for producers is through social media. When wanting to release their debut EP in 2011, the duo found that they did not have enough money to clear certain vocal samples, and so they turned to their Facebook fan page; one could download the EP if they ‘liked’ the page – Guy calls this a “huge blessing in disguise”, because the social media avalanche effect led to 10,000 people subsequently liking the page. Support from bass heavyweights live Skream quickly followed on the same site; through Facebook, and also Soundcloud, more and more people were exposed to the duo’s music. Granted, the music they made was good, but good technology is more than readily available in this day and age.

In reality, all one needs is a laptop, an internet connection and some reasonably good headphones to get started. Perhaps not even a laptop; the rise of music production apps for the iPad is well documented, with software companies seeing a huge market for such products after the inspiration provided by acts such as Disclosure. Software such as Ableton, Reason and Fruity Loops is all available to download; the illegal pirating of this software is perhaps not something that producers want to discuss, but is often a vital factor contributing to the beginning of their rises. The accessibility of ready-made loops and sounds from more experienced producers online means that it is much easier to replicate and warp sounds than ever before. But this leads to problems; there is a large feeling within the realm of electronic music that there is simply not enough originality going round, and young producers such as Martin Garrix (who released the hit “Animals” in 2013) and Cedric Gervais have had great success from replicating sounds remarkably similar to others, and this is now part of the culture in electronic music.

sound desk

Photo taken by Wall of Sound Magazine

James Blake, nominated for “Best new Artist” at the Grammy Awards in 2014, confesses to making all of his music out of his one-bedroom flat, while Skrillex – who won three Grammys in 2013, talks of “making records on laptops and blown speakers” with some pride, and this summarises the notion that people can produce music of exceptionally high quality, through taking a minimalistic, modern approach.

This article is not a complete appraisal of such bedroom producers, and it is hard to envisage such producers as Aphex Twin or Daft Punk being able to appreciate a style of production that, simply put, requires less talent and effort than ever before. Their frequent use of live instruments and recording, bearing more in common with most other styles of music, is a world away from the examples of Martin Garrix and Skrillex. The examples of the latter two are often cited negatively when people complain about the lack of originality in music today; however, the resurgence in older music and the talents of such producers as Disclosure, James Blake, and the increasingly popular Jon Hopkins ensures there is enough originality to go round. Perhaps we should be happy at the accessibility of production material and the ability to easily use it; it provides a productive hobby for some, a viable career route for others, and – for those who hold a certain love of music – the potential to be able to chase a dream.

This article was written by Henry Weekes

Uprising: Music and revolutions

During the last few weeks, Britain has been devastated by the heavy flooding which has affected, in one way or another, the whole country. Yet whilst the country has been in uproar about how this problem has not been fixed, it is easy to forget the problems other people have elsewhere around the world.

The crisis in the Middle East seems to have slipped people’s minds a bit, and the ongoing  uprisings, wars and revolutions which are continuously going on make it a no go area.

Yet, for a few band mates and thrill seekers from London, they thought it was worth the visit.

irokblog

The Intergalactic Republic of Kongo (I.R.O.K.) decided they wanted to have a look themselves. The “violent psychotropic afro-punk” group, as they described themselves, decided to see what it would be like to perform on the front line of a revolution. I.R.O.K.  teamed up with the documenters of Vice and headed off to Egypt. The band is known for playing outside traditional places, and they wanted to see how music was affecting this critical part of Egypt’s history.

Speaking to Vice, Mike Title, a member of the band, gave them the low down:

We went out to Egypt for two reasons, I guess. We thought that our screaming over rowdy percussion and distorted keyboards would go down well, as we  had already gone down a storm in Morocco, and I didn’t fancy Luton again. But mostly it was an exciting time in Egyptian history.”

When they got to Egypt, the people they found were at the forefront of the revolutions. Everything was changing and nowhere was safe. At the front of this change were young people – people who wanted the best for their country and were willing to do anything for it – they needed a voice and they found that through music.

“Electro Chaabi” music is a big thing in Egypt. It’s a cross-over type of music, with the mix of the traditional Chaabi music and the electro music which had become a hit with the youth of the 21st century, and it is this music that is fuelling the fire for the revolution. Musicians now have an outlet to speak what people dare not say, to observe and comment on the change which is happening all around them. MC Sadat and DJ Figo, unknown to the UK, but big names in Egypt, are producing and writing songs like ‘People and the Government’, which don’t criticise the government directly but merely talk about observations they make. All of this is underground, however, just ripples under the surface, passed around by word of mouth. Gigs are done frequently in neighbourhoods which the police dare to patrol, in the middle of the streets, done to spread joy in a place where there is seemingly very little.

Mike explains:

“In Egypt we explored a place where the police were afraid to go for fear of death. But we were protected by people that loved what we were trying to do, and respected our connections to North African Chaabi music. We basically all wanted to party and we found a crowd that cut so loose that it redefined the concept of gigs for me forever.”

Music being a major part of a revolution isn’t new though. In fact, in recent weeks, it’s been at the forefront of our minds, with the release of the controversial band Pussy Riot from prison and the death of the political activist and American folk singer Pete Seeger. Yet even with these two high profile cases, people have to question if music has the same significance as it did a few years ago.

In the case of Pete Seeger , who represents 20th century America, where racial segregation was still an issue, times seem to have changed. He was a man who was able to catch the attention of a whole nation, not only through his simple yet catchy folk songs, but also by the fact that he was a big household name; getting number one hits, appearing on T.V , and later on in his life getting numerous Grammy awards. It was his anthem ‘We shall overcome’ that gave people the belief in racial equality. He stood up for causes that he believed were worth fighting for, and he stood up for what he believed in. Often referred to as the ‘conscious of America’, Pete Seeger worked all his life to bring equality and free will the citizens of his country.  He tragically died on the 27th of January this year, and seemed to represent a time long ago. He was a big star in America  and across the world, and it was a lot easier for him to get his message across. Music was a big part of the change in America half a century ago, but this was mainly due to one man not the majority.

Yet Seeger may have inspired these Egyptians to do the same thing. Young men and women with a message they want to get across – and in a strange way, they’re doing it in the same way.  By using traditional songs of their area, they’re trying to get the messages across in a way that everyone can relate too, whilst using the new age electro style to bring it up to date – it’s protest music for the modern era. Even though Seeger’s folk and the Electro Chaabi music of inner Cairo sound worlds apart, they may be closer then they seem.

These underground music makers in Egypt aren’t the only ones fighting for change though. Groups like Pussy Riot are also fighting for equality in a corrupt and harsh political environment. Unlike the people in the Middle East, though, they have been able to get the worldwide publicity that every political activist is looking for. Their spontaneous and guerrilla style performances in unusual locations capture the attention of the Russia’s media, and in fact the world’s media. They have done anything they can to get out there. The band members argue only vivid and illegal actions can get you noticed. This is not the way forward though for the people of Egypt. Pussy Riot are the result of a constrictive regime which has already been established. The Egyptians have a chance to shape what regime they will be part of, so though bold acts help, getting across the idea of the majority in a constructive way is the most important thing.

Revolutions in these countries are coming, and music is fast-forwarding it. The activism and courage of people like Pete Seeger showed in the mid 20th century can still be seen today, inspiring the youth of today and showing that the people really can make a change. Seeger though, as previously mentioned, had the advantage – he was a big star, had number one records, and performed in world famous venues such like Carnegie Hall – he had a stage on which he could show the world what needed to change. He had a spine, to stand up for what he thought was right, and so do these Egyptians. All they need is a stage. Sites like YouTube give them a chance, but it’s not enough.

With a few tweaks the folk music is brought into the 21st century, capturing the imagination of the young people in the midst of countries in transition.  Music has always been a way to make yourself heard and to make people listen, and in these revolutions it’s playing an important part. Even though the sounds are different, the ideology is the same, all with political change in mind.

Maybe we’ll hear some songs about floods, who knows?

This article was written by Henry Weekes