Syncing to Apple music

I have now made my chimpwithcans playlist available on Apple music as well as Spotify.

See the following link: https://music.apple.com/za/playlist/chimpwithcans/pl.u-r2yBBvqC3Exe1

This will sync with the Spotify playlist when I update it each week. Something that’s not so easy to do…. But for you dear readers/listeners, anything…. Actually I did this four my mum who can’t get Spotify in Kenya, but that’s another story.

Happy Thursday chimps!

Limits on Spotify

There used to be a 10,000 song limit for liking songs on Spotify. As of May this year this is no longer the case.

This is good news for my chimpwithcans playlist project. It means I can influence the Spotify algorithm and like all the songs from this book: link

Then I can pick the favorite recommendations i receive in my discover weekly playlist.

The things I do for a good playlist. Oh, speaking of which, if you want to hear it, then follow this link.

Happy Wednesday chimps.

Songs on a Monday

Every week I add a few new songs to my playlist on Spotify (See the link to the playlist here: link).

Choosing the songs is the end of a rather convoluted process:

  • On Spotify, I ‘Like’ all songs and albums (I’m about half way through) included in the following book: link
  • I listen to the resulting recommendations from Spotify in my ‘Discover Weekly’ playlist.
  • I Pick a few standout songs and add them to my chimpwithcans playlist (link here).

The results are broad in their musical genre. It has turned into a pretty chilled playlist and I really enjoy pressing shuffle now. It has so many songs I never would have heard. Importantly I feel like I have had a say in training and filtering the Spotify algorithm to spit out something interesting.

This week, my Discover Weekly gave me the following standout tracks:

  • Fela Kuti – “Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am”. Below is a great review of the song:

Released as part of a quartet of albums from the most productive year of Fela’s career, “Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am” has all the hallmarks of a classic Fela single, a languid, self determined instrumental warm up that goes on for several minutes, putting the listener in the right frame of mind, and setting up a tonal theme for the rest of the performance, a choral style, call and response chorus in conjunction with Fela’s omnipresent band, and long winding verse that defy the laws of composition and march at a tempo that only Fela decides. But what really distinguishes this song from the rest of the master’s oeuvre, is the masterful storytelling that Fela employs. Fela had always understood that at the core of his sway over his fans was his ability to empathize with their terribly oppressed lives, and the skill with which he consumed their stories, ruminated on them and regurgitated them back, defiance milled into the broth.

“Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am” is brimming with defiance, delivered subtly as an exchange, reflected through a lens of righteous justice. Fela sings of the oppressed, and personifies the oppression of Nigerian people. He asks through a direct chorus and series of vignettes, that the suffering of oppressed be respected and that if it is not, then the oppressed is justified in their decision to revolt, to take arms against the persons who mock their suffering and remain unempathetic to their oppression. He substitutes the government for smaller, more relatable avatars of power, like the landlord who wields the power to deny shelter, or the policeman who can take away a man’s freedom, or even closer. Never to look away from intrigue when the opportunity presents itself, Fela subverts his own theme in the third vignette about a husband, citing that sometimes it is our own avarice and pride, not an external agitator that puts us in trouble.

https://thenativemag.com/music/shuffle-trouble-sleep-yanga-wake-fela-succinct/
  • Sidney Bechet – “Blue Horizon”. Holy moly please listen to this man play a clarinet! I remember when I was about 11years old my Mum tried to get me to play an instrument and I tried clarinet. I had zero idea it could sound like this. My efforts sounded more like a strangled ibis making an escape from the torture chamber…..But this man…..The control, the wary tension of the small group surrounding him. The sharp tone, a vigorous vibrato. This is an absolute master and I had NEVER heard of him until today. More fool me. Have a listen, just beautiful.

That’s it for this week. Happy Monday chimps!

Do I only like Songs in my voice?

I shared some songs with my sister on Spotify. There was a chilled Japanese pop song song and an Irish folk song. Her feedback was interesting. She said both these songs sounded like I was singing, if I was from Japan or Ireland.

This got me thinking – are we more likely to like a song if it is within our range, has similar tone to our own, or generally sounds like us?

I don’t think this is necessarily true, although I do think it makes us more likely or fun to sing along to a song if it is within our range.

Conceptualising myself as a Japanese pop star is fun. It feels like the premise for a computer game – you can transfer your voice from one human to the other, bouncing across the world into different situations, languages and accents. Sort of like you can take control of any avatar in Watchdog – Legions – but focused on the voice. Maybe you could transfer yourself into great speeches of the past, or great album recording sessions. It’s a ridiculous premise but an interesting one. 🙂

That’s day two of streaming to Twitch. Perhaps a habit is forming?

Happy Thursday, chimps.

Twitch – Streaming my writing

I am starting something new. Streaming on Twitch has traditionally been used for video games (as far as I am aware). I have learned today that there are many other users on Twitch – streaming all sorts of different activities.

Musicians, illustrators, artists, sculptors, all showing their practice to the world in real time. It’s a crazy thought. Why not join?

I have security concerns…how much can everyone see REALLY? But I am also interested and curious about the transparency and accountability something like this could bring.

This blog post will be my first stream. You can find me on Twitch with the username chimpwithcans. I hope there will be many more streams to come – to the point that I start a scheduled time slot to follow or write with me if you so wish. There is a lot to work out still! Maybe I will even talk to the camera some time, or play a video game 🙂

I want to get going again on the writing and this might help.

Happy Wednesday chimps.

Monday and Heroes

I was looking into video games last night and I read something on addiction to gaming. When asked why people get addicted, the therapist was saying that it is often because of the chance to play the Hero. If you are not feeling in control of your own life, then the game can become a convenient substitute.

I know that Heroes are often what keep me interested in life. We watch sports, follow politics, religions, form family bonds with the idea that a Hero will rise up and save the day, or show us the way.

Stories, novels and movies have all had heroes. Imagine a film with no hero? Video games are extremely engaging because you can actually become the Hero with your avatar for a while. There is also a set of well laid out rules in a video game, showing the way to glory.

Real life is far more messy of course. We have to be the heroes of our own stories. As trite as it may sound, I think it is true. Who else will do the hard stuff and show you the way when things get tricky? It’s up to each individual to be their own hero.

I once heard it put another way in relation to health – we are all the CEO of our own health. Nobody else is going to look after it on our behalf. We are the heroes.

This idea fascinates me and I think at my weakest moments I am forgetting my heroic self and relying too much on someone else (usually my incredible wife) to bear the load of my life.

Here’s to heroes and here’s to Monday’s. Have a good week, chimps!

Monster weekends

We have had a monster of a weekend. About the most monster weekend possible without drugs or alcohol.

Intentional monsters were created (Halloween) and non-intentional monsters too (ever seen a three year old still awake at 9pm after eating a bucket of sweets?).

We ran the full gamut, outdoors, indoors, public, private, home, away, work, play. Monster weekend.

I’m looking forward to Monday so that I can recover.

It’s a frickin’ beautiful life though, isn’t it?!

Happy Sunday, chimps.

Identity

I have a sort of long-running experiment with the internet. It plays out in real time. It is not clear to me, nor was it ever taught to me, what to publish on the net and why. And when I do post something on there (on here?), how much of it is really a part of my life? My work? My community? My identity? What exactly is the impact?

The calculation baffles me to be honest (I am an over-thinker!) but I can see people who have it under control. They harness the power of the net to their advantage. They are comfortable with the online self versus the offline self.

When I first created a Facebook account it was all a bit of a joke – in my eyes it wasn’t really me. But now i’m not so sure. The internet is a powerful sandbox, where we must draw our own lines. Limitations are our friends. Intention is our friend.

Some lines and decisions to consider for the internet:

  • Are you on Apple devices, or Android?
  • Do you read or write? Consume or create?
  • Is it free or are you paying?
  • Are you using a pseudonym or your real name?

That last point is topical for me. I tried to create something with the chimpwithcans.com domain but it never really took. I love and identify with the image of the chimp (ha!) but I couldn’t figure out what to do with the domain name. I felt pressurised to build something other than my own thoughts and identity. A business or a following perhaps – but I didn’t have anything clear in my head. That lack of authenticity and pandering to others is for the birds.

All of this is to say I have changed the name and address of this blog. No more hiding behind a chimpanzee.

http://www.randrews.blog is the new site and it is just me and my musings. My practice of writing as often as i can.

Happy Saturday, chimps/people.

SOSN Post 2 – How it started vs. how it’s going

While this meme has been flying around (see Ellie Goulding’s cool muso related effort at this link) – it has me thinking about the nature of popular music today. How exactly did we get here? How does the current state of pop compare to where we came from? A big topic no doubt. But let’s try to express this story succinctly shall we?

How it started

The music business was perfect for a long time. Radio was engineered to channel and market songs into the homes of teenagers, record chains were the outlets for owning your own copy of your favourite song at a massive premium – a copy which would no doubt need replacing soon enough (LPs scratch easily!). Rolling Stone magazine decided who would be the next big hit, and there was limited access to recording studios and marketing of content across the world. It all added up to a business that seemed perfect, one that could run for ever and ever.

How it’s going

The digital revolution destroyed this perfect business while enabling something extraordinary: easy access to the market by new musicians, and a quick and easy way to find every song ever recorded.

There is no returning to the perfect days of the LP (despite what the audiophiles and the small revivals would have us believe) – and in the last 20 years the artists have no doubt suffered as revenue streams dried up and touring became the most lucrative avenue. We have been force fed old music on tour for a long time. Just look at the highest grossing tours of the last 20 years.

So pop music is going much differently than before. But it is again (recently, finally) making money. Streaming of music is profitable and there is hope for future talent to feel as though they can get into the industry and have a future.

An imperfect industry then. But perhaps a more honest and fair industry allowing access to those who had none in days gone by.

Happy Wednesday, Chimps.

SOSN Post 1 – A remake

Something Old.

Cat Stevens’ ‘Tea for the Tillerman’ was the fourth studio album from the songwriter, released in November 1970. This was the album that gained Stevens a global audience and mega-hits. When I decided to write this piece, I listened through the old album (something old….see what I did there?) and I felt like I knew the songs well. This was a little disconcerting because I have never been a huge fan of Stevens’ music. Even when you factor in the radio play of the old hit singles (everyone knows ‘Father and Son’) I couldn’t figure out why I recognised all the songs, the tunes the lyrics – so well. And then it hit me.

When I was at university 13 years ago, I shared a house with a guy who did two things all day – he played tennis and listened to Cat Stevens. This album was seared into my unconscious memory thanks to Room-Mate-Rowan. This is for you Rowan – where ever you are I hope the racket strings are holding up well. And I hope your musical taste has diversified!…..but i digress.

Listening back on the album today, its simplicity of tune and depth of message is as clear as ever. With sensitivity and poignant songs on pressing issues of the time – diverse topics such as spirituality, family, gender – it is easy to see the linkages and the lineage of Stevens to more modern artists such as Coldplay, James Blunt, or Luka Bloom.

On the downside – Stevens had a less soothing vocal tone than someone like James Taylor. Listening through the album all the way is sometimes a little laboured and slow. The production on ‘Tea For the Tillerman’ is also a little flat and monotonous. Stevens was at his best when roused to stretch his voice and give us some volume – Some dynamism to his singing. See ‘Miles From Nowhere’ for example.

The hits remain truly great songs though. Fine structure, melody and a searching for spiritual clarity resulted in such radio friendly songs as ‘Father and Son’, ‘I Might Die Tonight’ and ‘On The Way To Find Out’.

Once he found his devotion to Islam, Stevens changed his name and quit the music business – the newly named Yusuf Islam stopped making music for a long time. Until now.

Something New.

Flash forward to September 2020 and Yusuf Islam is back making music. Yusuf has reimagined the album as ‘Tea For The Tillerman2‘.

The old songs are given new life through the singer’s more weary voice and the new production. The reimagined songs highlight a love of the blues and North African influences. Some of the bluesy modifications are simply inspired – for example see the lead guitar on ‘Hard Headed Woman’ and the slide on ‘Miles From Nowhere’. ‘Wild World’ swings delightfully and on ‘Father And Son’ Yusuf sings with his younger recorded self to dramatic effect.

This is a new take on a classic which is well worth visiting. Even if you didn’t have Room-Mate-Rowan as a Cat Stevens drill sergeant in your impressionable university years, you’ll likely relate to both of the album versions well. The original album was so solid that Yusuf is able to use it as a fine launching pad to express himself today. I’m a fan of the new version over the older one. Listening to the two in close succession is fascinating and well worth the effort, as is looking up the new eco-themed music videos (simply beautiful animation) and album cover modification.