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!

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!

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.

Affirmations

This week I have had two very conflicting experiences on the net. One was a Twitter exchange which devolved rapidly into aggressive one-upmanship. That wasn’t fun and so I am off Twitter (again!) – I just don’t have the time to get good at Twitter.

Another was an invitation by a reader of my blog to answer some questions on music and audio. It was really enjoyable and I see it as a privilege to be asked to write about something I love so much. Rafael’s blog can be found here. I presume my questions and answers will show up soon enough.

On a more personal level, it is really satisfying to get an ad hoc request for writing about audio. That is exactly the sort of thing I want to do more of. So, two affirmations – one with regards to my poor Twitter skills. One encouraging my writing and my love of audio.

On reflection, this has been an excellent and productive week so far 🙂

Tomorrow’s podcast

Tomorrow I’ll be publishing the first of my series of 4 weekly podcasts!

I’m excited and I want to introduce the guest properly today so that you’re all ready with ears wide open tomorrow.

Carlos Amato (https://www.carlosamato.work/) is a cartoonist, illustrator and writer here in South Africa. Based in Johannesburg, Carlos is one of the foremost commentators on South African sport, politics and the zeitgeist for our times. He also chased his passion in cartoons from a very young age and recently landed a dream job at the Mail & Guardian, taking over from a local legend Jonathan Shapiro as the political cartoonist at the paper.

We talk about a lot, but you’ll get a feel for how he has managed to be true to himself and succeed in a challenging art form and an industry under strain.

I hope you enjoy it.

Guests

In my early adventures in podcasting, I’ve learned something important: Guests need to be considered.

Guests are very important (obviously), but they don’t automatically know what you want from them. Already I have had guests who thought there would be videos of the chat posted on the internet (only audio btw), and who felt very uncomfortable with the whole idea of being recorded, right up to the point that I bullied them into a room to sit in front of a mic. I was oblivious to this. I thought they all wanted what I wanted and intrinsically knew my intentions – but why would they?

If you are going to interview people, you also need to work hard to line up a roster of interesting people. I have decided to start with a series of 4 interviews – one a week for a month. As a little teaser, let’s play have you ever.

Have you ever:

  • Devoted your life to art and wildlife?
  • Moved from Africa to Scandinavia?
  • Built a cabin in the wilderness?
  • Drawn cartoons for a living?

4 guests, 4 stories. Coming up on chimpwithcans.com

Specifications

Specs can dominate your life if you let them. What chip is in your smartphone? What resolution is the song you are listening to? How big is your car’s engine? Newer, smarter, better. It’s a game that can drag you down a rabbit hole.

The biggest problems of chasing the specs as I see it:

  1. There is always a newer gadget coming up around the corner. This means your claims and feelings of superiority are always going to leave you empty when the new gadget is released.
  2. The FUNCTION of the gadget often gets totally lost in the spec wars. I was describing the problem of being an audiophile to a grounded friend of mine. I told him how the marketing leads us to believe that the newer amplifiers and DACs and speakers can reflect a truer sound than the old. He dismissed the whole thing in one simple question: “What is the point of listening to music? It’s to enjoy the music, right? You don’t sound like you’re enjoying the music much when you talk about the specs”. Music players are there to serve us music, not to make us feel like we are lacking something.
  3. Specs are corrupting in the most real sense. If two different specs matter, but they are contradictory – it can corrupt the human spirit. Take VW emissions standards as an example (link). The tension between on the one hand, environmental responsibility and the customers’ perception of the company doing the right thing, and on the other hand, customers need a high performance vehicle that is zippy and meeting speed and power specs – this dichotomy led to false information being manufactured and published. Possibly 20 years in jail??! Hectic punishment all to meet a specs expectation.

As someone prone to chasing specs, I am learning that making do with something that is GOOD ENOUGH for the job it is intended – this is the secret to a lot of contentment and productivity.

Embedding a track

Continuing with the podcast preparations, I am going to try and embed a Soundcloud track on this blog post.

This blog will be the primary place to go to hear my podcast. Therefore I want to be able to embed tracks so that they are playable without having to leave this site. This involves getting HTML code and pasting it into WordPress. I’ve never done this before, so here it goes with an old track I digitised from an LP a while ago:

Cute song. Radical embedding of audio!

One step closer to my podcast.

Types of podcast

Free form conversations. Structured research pieces. Reviews of products. Scientific discussions. Interviews. Creative stories. I want to create a podcast, but what sort of podcast should it be? I thought about this yesterday – I came up with a quick list of desirable characteristics:

  • I want it to be a long form conversation rather than a formal interview
  • I want it to be a weekly show if possible
  • I want to discuss in depth some ideas and stories that guests can bring with them
  • Topics of interest are as follows:
    • Philosophy
    • Psychology
    • Stories and narratives that affect our lives

After thinking about it for another day – I would stick with what i said, and I would focus on the stories as much as possible. Everyone has a story to tell, and humans relate to each other primarily through stories. Narratives. Archetypes.

I am going pretty well in lining up some guests. There are a few stories to tell already so we’re looking good. It’s an interesting exercise trying to find people to join you in a creative project like this. It forces you to look at your network of people around you, and to think of who might be interesting to listen to. It is the work that you have to go through to produce a series of podcasts. It is more intensive than i thought it would be.

I am already buzzing with my creative pursuit. It is happening alongside my office job career which is going just fine too. But the creativity is food for the soul.

Gimme fuel, gimme fire, gimme that which I desire.