Endangered Music
May 26th, 2010 by robert

Not so long ago I was a columnist for a great magazine devoted to “world music,” called The Beat.  I put world music in quotes because it was a marketing phrase coined in the early 1980s to cope with the explosion of music being published from Africa to the Caribbean to Bulgaria. It’s a nearly useless label because it includes such diversity, but it is also a tad xenophobic because it lumps all music not from “America.” Absurd, when you think about it; but I digress.

My Beat column covered music from Africa, an immense source of diverse culture and, for me, the foundation for almost all of the world’s music. I usually wrote about the latest developments in African pop music, often highlighting important innovators who captured global interest and fame. Frequently, though, I would receive traditional or historic field recordings to review, and I would write about how important they were because they preserved music that was extinct or barely surviving the onslaught of globalized commercial culture.

Today I am writing about endangered music at a different scale. I believe ALL MUSIC IS ENDANGERED Read the rest of this entry »

Mexico’s Magnificent El Triunfo Reserve, Part 1
May 20th, 2010 by robert

El Triunfo. It’s a legendary place among birders because of two rare birds, horned guan and azure-rumped tanager, but it is so much more. Officially called La Reserva de La Biosfera El Triunfo, this biosphere reserve guards one of the few pristine wildernesses left in Mexico, including the largest contiguous cloud forest remaining in Mesoamerica.

Read the rest of this entry »

site evolution
May 5th, 2010 by robert

Reentry into “normal” life at home has been challenging. Spending seven weeks in a completely different environment, immersed in another language and amidst a fluidly changing group of new friends: I guess it should be no surprise that a return home could feel disorienting.

There are four more posts to come, covering the last couple of weeks of my stay in Mexico, including a fantastic trip to a biosphere reserve called El Triunfo. I created this blog as a writing tool, however, so I hope to continue posting regularly. I will be adding the archive of my music writing for The Beat magazine and other journals, and I also will review new music from the African diaspora. Yet the horizon is broad; the scope of this blog will evolve. Even the writing may vary, such as the experimental previous post.

Over time this site will offer more, particularly more in the way of sound. For example, below is a recording of howler monkeys greeting dawn in Palenque. I was unable to upload the recording while on the road, but now I have attached it to my earlier Palenque post, where it belongs. Enjoy!

Howler Monkey Dawn

tripping home
May 1st, 2010 by robert

I wake light rising house sparrows jabbering in the verdant shadows like mexican abuelitas comparing travesties of past husbands and walk seven blocks past sleepy store openings and snorting buses and past a flatbed truck unloading its gristly pile of half-cows already swarming with flies into the market I cross to a chocolate factory for first and last chocolate con leche walk back to eat breakfast alone before colectivo arrives to carry me away too early to airport check pack no charge and take binoculars wander outside expecting grackles but finding plenty plus a lifer pass security with shoes on and full water bottle mount plane via stairs with last breath of oaxaca air to enter sterile time capsule that disconnects people from one reality and dumps them into another having endured various levels of abuse this time into mexico mexico chaos after three point five hours of nonstop animated chatter about make-up and lovers and qualquiera cosa between the two señoras seated next to me sounding like magpies or grackles or self-same sparrows not knowing I hablo español grounded again I eat last tacos al pastor check pack to alaska gratis again pass security with shoes and water to gate where boarding every person is patted down including frail old lady dressed in lime chiffon and carry-ons scrutinized by stern tsa sorts until ensued delay had them rush last fifty passengers including me without even checking boarding passes for long boring flight to L A where the full national paranoia blossoms in obtuse procedures interminable lines and pointless demeaning ignomities a man drops his windoze laptop on my shoeless foot before the xray machine which hurts like hell but the man is relieved my toes broke the fall of his dell then they pat me down once through portal despite green light and again with pen and wallet now in hand he finds ipod headphones in cargo pocket insists I go back and put them in a tray through the xray still holding up the long long cueue my shoes and pack hanging abandoned and cleared they pat me down yet again even though they cannot see the zapatista tshirt I wear underneath fuming I don shoes amidst others humiliated wondering is this how life should be until without further incident we fly to seattle and are disgorged post midnight into a shuttered airport with zombies walking aimlessly or lying prone on seats or floor but it all is familiar now and after four hours of mock sleep I buy a bagel with cream cheese and lox like usual and a triple shot short cappuccino to greet the day and know I am almost home.

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