Friday, January 22, 2010

WorldBeat's Makeda Dread: Fasting for Peace

Makeda’s Message to the World and Her 13 Day Fast (Summer of 09)

Makeda “Dread” Cheatom, known as San Diego’s “most colorful flower child,” is an ambassador of art and activism. "She has worked tirelessly to promote peace, love, culture (and counterculture), art, music and humanity via the WorldBeat Cultural Center, Radio Fusion Reggae Makossa Show, Bob Marley Day, as well as her many other projects and causes. Since 1976, she has been on a mindful, multi-cultural mission to make the world a better place. From opening The Prophet, San Diego’s first non-smoking vegetarian restaurant (irking at least one visiting smoker in the process, ex-Beatle George Harrison), to befriending Bob Marley and Fidel Castro; from pioneering California’s longest running reggae radio show 91X, to spreading the WorldBeat word of positivity and unity, Ms. Dread has been an active altruist."

As an example of Ms. Dread’s dedication to mindfulness and the spreading of positive consciousness, she has begun a thirteen day fast, each day representing a different theme. Her life style and impacting statements parallel with WorldBeat Center's ideology of world unification. Makeda states that her fasts symbolize prayers in hopes to share her vision of world compassion and peace. The themes are all dedications to individuals, earth healing, and spiritual transitions.

Days five, nine, ten, and twelve of her fast goes out to people who have lost their homes, family members in the prison system complex, families struggling in the world, and to all the heroes and sheroes who did grand things on our planet earth. Makeda states, “We are all connected. Our community is hurting, it hurts us too.” She emphasizes that “At any rate, it hurts to be away from your family member...You have to realize this is all karmic and they have to go through experiences themselves.” Day eleven is dedicated to our non-profit, the WorldBeat Center and all members, as well as other grassroots organizations that thrive for social understanding, peace, and unification.

Days six and seven reach out to Mother Earth. Her fast is sent out in prayers to stop world wars and conflicts. She prophesizes, “War will never end until we look deep within. Peace will never come until we realize that we must rid ourselves of greed, hatred, jealousy, division, and selfishness.” – In dedication to our mother earth, the animals and plants. There are changes on Earth happening as we breathe. Our environment is weakening at an unbelievable rate, and many of our precious animals are becoming extinct. Day eight is livicated to Ras Jahluel and all Rastas who have made their transition to Zion. Day thirteen is for transformation and finding our way back home.

Each of Makeda’s fast goes out in hopes to reach out to humanity and for the sake of our planet earth. She lives by the motto “We are what we eat and we become what we eat.” As a raw foodist herself, she states that we must remain aware of what’s happening around us, as well as where our food is coming from, how it is made, and by whom; considering migrant farm workers, rising levels of hormone injected animals, and the conglomerate corporations profiting from it. Through email blasts and online blogs, Makeda’s message for her fast went out to thousands of individuals worldwide. Hundreds of individuals have responded in locations from Japan, Ghana, Brazil, Mexico, U.S. and other parts of the world showing her companionship and giving her thanks especially in difficult times all over the world. They are now jumping in the fasting bandwagon! Makeda Dread continues her mission of spreading love, positivity, health and the amalgamation and appreciation of all cultures.

Friday, January 15, 2010

NoisyPlanet's Chris Shaffer

Artist Review: Chris Shaffer

Having a background in the arts from his grandfather who played standup bass in the 40’s, attending school for the fine arts in oil painting and sculpting, and knowledgeable in a wide range of musical instruments, Christopher Shaffer has collectively gathered his artistic influences and abilities to create a fusion of genres. Noise for the absorption of a jazzy, electro trip hop, and drum-n-bass ear that breaks away from conventional musical trends is what audiences can enjoy. Most of his songs remain without lyrics offering pure moments from a melting pot of sounds.

As Christopher Shaffer refuses to sensationalize what is aired on the radio as favorably pleasing, he aims towards the highlighting of social and political injustices that convey today’s world. He believes that “art in a pristine form is a delicate thing that should be treated lightly.” He has not inquired to commercialize his music since he advocates that the music industry takes all the fun out of it, although if possible, he would love to make a living out of it, living for the art. To him, music is a form of self expression and social communication, as he recalls the art spur during the Age of Enlightenment’s ability to change the world.

Shaffer currently works for a visual communications agency, performs with a few friends once in a while, and spends most of his musical time in his studio playing and recording. He states that as more and more people listen and comment on his music, he has set a goal as to collect himself more together in song. He also strives to do music in a way that is accessible to listeners because sometimes it may be “a little too out there.” Shaffer is not currently performing live, but would like to. He poses to stay true to himself inviting audiences to make up their own interpretations of his music.

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Come Together Right Now Over Me

"And our friends are all aboard, Many more of them live next door, And the band begins to play. We all live in yellow submarine, yellow submarine, yellow submarine. We all live in yellow submarine, yellow submarine, yellow submarine."
The Beatles, “Yellow Submarine” (1966)

During the ongoing student protests of the sixties, Berkeley had one of the most enduring ones with the Free Speech Movement. It was a pivotal moment for the civil liberty movements of the sixties. A particular day after six days of student demonstrations in 1966, students and other protesters broke into song with The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine.” It shocked the press and others, especially that the demonstrators did not sing obvious protests songs like “We Shall Overcome.” Julie Stephen cites Todd Gitlin:

"At a mass meeting about a campus strike, someone started singing the old union standby, ‘Solidarity Forever’. Voices stumbled, few knew the words. Then someone started ‘Yellow Submarine,’ and the entire roomful rollicked into it…The Beatles’ song could be taken as the communion of hippies and activists, students and non-students, all who at long last felt they could express their beloved single-hearted community."

Though, Stephen argues that the choice of song was rather interesting. She could not make up whether it was a ‘naïve’ move or ‘lack of enthusiasm’ coming from the students and not choosing something politically more appropriate, however commercial. Of course, this result of choice of song would not have been possible without the works of mass media and its huge success: ‘Beatlemania.’ Besides Katz explanations of the “manifestations of sound recording’s influences” (7): the ‘Phonographic Effect,’ and the music industry’s role the media, (its mass commercialization, mass distribution of records, band merchandise for mass consumption, articles and publications on all major papers and magazines, and the song’s repetitive chorus), it is not too surprising that this song was sung, despite the political contexts. Above all, during the time of these songs, The Beatles, and other popular rock stars, inspired this counterculture of ‘peace and love.’ It was a technological determinism of music inspiring the hippie movement. It was a defining moment in history of coming together and bonding with a fellow person of similar tastes in music, and singing together.

In countless examples, media’s role and its pull and push notions of excessively mass distributing its music, and other content, through channels of distribution, people have come together to sing, dance, socialize, celebrate, etc., whether its in protests, festivities, cultural settings (e.g. weddings, Colombia’s picó ), rituals, concert halls, and more. The DJ culture also became a technological phenomenon, hunting for the vinyl, “digging in the crates,” (11) and performing in front of a live audience and making them dance. This not only brought other music lovers together to collect records and creatively syncopate them, but established an identity for this community. “Record collecting represents a relationship with music that helps us, in some part small or large, to articulate and, indeed, shape who we are” (Katz 11). Even in the recoding studio, musicians were able to interact with each other in different ways than just rehearsing alone. Because of such settings, musicians and other recording studio assistants were able to bond, or maybe even dispute, regardless of this they were led to collaborate socially.

Today, “the world’s largest music stores sell digital files” (Sterne 292), therefore the MP3 and the digitization of music is an important area when discussing technology and media’s role in constituting modalities of social bonding. Sterne states, “Sharing [music] online can lead to new, more humane modes of economic exchange and social collaboration” (316). Even though the MP3 phenomenon has brought up new issues like enforcements of copyrights laws because the music is not being paid for, it has reached vast audiences otherwise impossible without its digitization. Stern continues that “The MP3 was simply swept up in a technological revolution: Piracy made MP3 the breakthrough format on the internet,” (315) and “Piracy was also the central catalyst in the MP3’s rise to preeminence” (316). Because of the astonishment rates of new forms of music distribution, peer-to-peer file sharing for one, Sterne concludes that “Whatever the fate of the existing recording industries, we need not to worry about the future of music as a vital component of human cultures around the world” (321). Through media and technology, music brought us in unity, created social bonding, and social collaboration.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Money (That's What I Want): The Commodification of Music

"Music trapped in the commodity is no longer ritualistic. Its code and original usage have been destroyed; with money, another code emerges, a simulacrum of the first and a foundation for new powers."
Jacques Attali, Noise, 24.

As touched upon with the NCCh example, when the government owns commercial music, it standardizes it and ideologically influences the people to favor those in control. When music is turned into labor and aims for money, it no longer is created to celebrate life’s love and beauty. Attali declares, “Today, wherever there is music, there is money…Music, an immaterial pleasure turned commodity” (1). This also contributed to the definition of boundaries between the artists and the audience. Karl Marx, in “The Values of Commodities,” explains a characteristic of the commodity as “An object outside us, a thing that by its properties satisfies human wants of some sort or another” (51). Subsequently, Marx states, “The value of a commodity represents human labor in the abstract, the expenditure of human labor in general” (56). When music became something ‘outside us’ and started generating human want, musicians began to work creating music as a product to be sold. Musicians therefore labor to entertain the public. Sound Theorist, Jonathan Sterne, during an NYU presentation describes “music as a thing.” He explains that the “Relations that once existed between musicians and audiences are transformed into relations among cash and records” (2009: 296).

As the demand for music was calling, concert halls then emerged in the eighteenth century. Performers began working in concert venues and/or other performing sites playing for money, and concert promoters/owners sold tickets. Sinnreich explains, “Today, vast bulk of venues increased this by incorporating amplification and transmission technology—such as microphones, sound systems, video cameras, and screens—into the concert experience” (Ch. 2, pp. 28). Technology then became a major catalyst for changing the way we perceive sound. Before such ‘fetishism of commodities,’ Mark Katz in Capturing Sound analyses the first devices to record music, like the phonograph and its effects. Its initial intents were to “simulate a live performance, to approach reality as closely as possible” (26). Today, many musicians during their concerts must live up to their recordings.

Since the emergence of recording devices, record players, headphone sets and other technology, the way we listen to sounds, noise, and music changed and became commoditized. Sterne notes, “We are so deep into this system of objects and objectification that we have forgotten how to think about music as a vital force in life” (297). Consequently, Sterne explains, “The commodity form of music has undergone a massive transformation. Twenty to twenty-five years ago, it was dominated by recordings on physical media: compact discs, tapes, and LP records…Today, the world’s largest music store sells digital files” (292). The trajectory of portable music devices, software programs, file-sharing, and other advances in technology have not only changed the way we listen to music, but how we experience it. Sinnreich describes, “Recent advances in communication technology, such as the personal computer, internet connectivity, accessible media editing software (e.g., GarageBand), peer-to-peer file-sharing software, time-shifting devices (e.g., TiVo), portable media devices (e.g., iPods), portable communication devices, and writable high-capacity media (e.g., DVD-RWs), have enabled a paradigmatic shift in the way people and organizations communicate. Such advances were only possible with the digitization of music and the MP3” (Ch. 3, pp. 2). Because of such shifts within technology intertwined with music, he goes on to explain the emergence of the remix and configurability culture; only possible with digitization.

Even though today’s world largest retailers all sell digital files, something very interesting occurred in the music industry: vast numbers of audiences stopped paying for music. Sterne notes, “The MP3 is thus a case that breaks some of the conceptual machinery of both classical and Marxist explanations of capitalist markets. To use the language of the former, music has become de-monetized. To use the language of the latter, recorded music has lost its exchange value while retaining its use value” (316). Music, however, still functions as a commodity in the respect that it is still being used, possibly more now than ever before since it is more accessible and obtained immediately. However, the revenue has decreased tremendously. Because music had become a mega market, laws against piracy began to be enforced. It is because of piracy that the MP3 raised to high latitudes. “In MP3 form music behaves just like a commodity even though its buying and selling represents only a minority of the transactions in which it is involved” ( Sterne 319). Continuing, Stern states that “Digitization does not, however, automatically mean that recordings have been dematerialized” (299). Because of music’s tangibility, and its ‘thingness,’ Sterne points out that even though pirating increased with such music formats therefore unpaid for, music continued being a commodity because of the way it was being consumed. Importantly, “The MP3 story is thus an important turning point in the history of music as a thing. Although less tangible than recordings on LP or CD, MP3s continued to act like commodities even when they weren’t exchanged like them” (Sterne 320).