As I’ve already written four sort of serious posts, I think the time has come for a couple of lighter ones about my personal life and experiences. The first one is about my hobby: listening to music, not just any music but REAL music.
Free music for free!
I remember that a long time ago, when I was about 9 or 10, I bought my first CD. It was AC/DC’s “Ballbreaker”, their latest release around those years. One of my little friends had told me that his dad had said that AC/DC was “real Rock”. This struck me very much as I hadn’t liked music because it all seemed fake. He played it for me and I was awe struck. I didn’t bang my head or anything like that because I had no idea what that was, I just listened to it and looked at the speaker diaphragms vibrating as if they were windows to heaven. I still do that at some loud music concerts. I begged my parents to get it for me. I listened to that about ten times a day for many months and, even though I haven’t heard it in a long while, I can still remember the lyrics to that record. (http://bit.ly/xzXb2y) The funny thing is that now I understand all the sexual innuendo that this band puts in their words, which has certainly turned me off of them for some time. Since then I started collecting CDs. I haven’t counted them but I have about 7 x 3 feet of one of my bedroom walls back in Lima covered with them and they are scrupulously organized.
I’ve had my phases, the first big one was 60’s hippie rock, the Beatles, Hendrix, The Doors, music my parents also liked. After that I noticed that not everything was happiness and flowers, I was looking for something else. One sleepless school night I was flipping through the channels and saw a skinny redhead screaming at a microphone: Cinemax was showing “The Filth and the fury”, a documentary about the Sex Pistols (http://bit.ly/i5pQWx). So, punk rock was the second phase, and I think I haven’t gotten over that one yet, the aesthetics are just incredibly amazing to let go of them. Interested as I was in Rock history I then made the relation between British punk and Jamaican reggae, more particularly dub, which was free of lyrics and all the preachiness that used to come with those. It was less violent, which gave me a breath, and was much more danceable. So, this was my first step into “world music”, remember I’m not talking about Bob Marley, I’m talking about King Tubby, Sly & Robbie, The Aggrovators, real stuff out of real studios (http://bit.ly/12S9Qqt).
So, I spent all the length of my college education listening to new kinds of music, I had come to like the surprise of finding something I’d never heard before. Most people in the school of Economics, whom I went to classes with, were more into the latin pop dancy stuff that was played in Lima’s clubs, so I tended to hang out with journalism and design students most of the time. This clearly carried a stigma for an Econ major but these people listened to good music! The progressive rock they were into soon introduced me to Irish folk music like Planxty (http://bit.ly/dkuYrn) or the Bothy Band, and their love for jazz soon made turn from the African inspiration of Herbie Hancock to the real African rythms of Fela Kuti and Prince Nico Mbarga. At this point I made my big discovery: popular music that most people have heard is a little path, music from around the world, the music that you have to make a big effort to find, is a limitless road of discovery.
All this also made me curious about Peru’s own “World Music”. I am now glad to say that I’ve discovered my country’s own traditional styles of music like Angel Damazo, Los Mirlos, Los Shapis and many others (http://bit.ly/17sIlTY, http://bit.ly/16QF3aY, http://bit.ly/1b1y3Qo), which I ignored for being programmed as a typical Limeño. Alexander Von Humboldt, in the 19th century said “Lima is closer to London that it is from Peru”, a true statement.
Now I’m here in Washington DC, listening to this music almost every day, remembering my country. The most depressing or beautiful images evoked by it sometimes make my eyes water. There is a great benefit of living in this city though: music from everywhere is everywhere. It started with my new great friends from Africa showing me their rhythms and telling me African music was not only Nigeria and Fela. I got my first CD for free in the African Wellness Fete in June, a nice danceable mix by DJ Kweks, whom I got to listen to live in another party in the 4th of July. In late June I also got to go to a free concert in the French embassy, where Cheick Hamala Diambate was playing. I had the notion that Mali had excellent guitar players but I’d never heard of him before. I just knew it was going to be great when I saw him walk on stage with a banjo, he then proceeded to destroy the stereotype I had of the banjo being a bluegrass instrument. I stood in the first row and danced in a trance for the hour and a half he played for. After he finished I ran to the back of the room to buy his music, after handing my 20 bucks to the lady I looked up and there he was. He was really happy to have seen me enjoying his music so much and proceeded to sign my new CD. My most recent experience was the Fanfare Ciocarlia concert in the Kennedy Center, where I discovered the fun of seeing what some people back home call “Kusturica music” played live. Joy and awe. The best thing of it all is that these international music concerts are free and I can spend the 20 dollars those CDs are priced for with no regrets.
After almost three months of being in the DC area, I sometimes feel I’m in the music capital of the world. I sure hope a Peruvian band will show up sometime.