09 March 2008

Gothic Bellydancing

First of all, I'd like to make a protest. As a person who studies Goths as in the tribe that was in the middle of Europe before it split into the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, I have long been burdened by getting hits on sites for people who wear deathlike makeup and gloomy clothes when I search for "Goths" and on sites about gloomy cathedrals and gloomy novels when I search for "Gothic". Having the term "Gothic" taken up by yet another non-Goth-the-tribe group is not going to help. (And what is up with all the gloom anyway? The tribal Goths were as cheerful as anyone.)

The confusion did let me stumble across Gothic bellydancing. There appear to be technical definitions of this art form. (See GothicBellydance.com, for example.) My short description is that it is Goth-the-modern-movement women wearing Theda Bara bellydancer costumes dancing to Goth-type music.

I have to confess. I am not a Goth. I don't think there is anything wrong with the movement or the styles--they are just so not for me. I did, however, expect the Gothic bellydancing to be silly or pretentious. It's not. It's actually pretty interesting for me. (I am not qualified to say if it is sexy or not.)

I was doing web searches on "Gothing Bellydancing" trying to come up with more to say than "it exists" and "it doesn't suck". I got engrossed in trying to figure out the difference between tribal fusion gothic bellydancing and industrial, so I decided I better surface and give a preliminary report.

Youtube has plenty of examples, but here are two I like as illustrations. Here is Sashi with a tribal fusion gothic bellydance:

And here is BellyCraft with industrial bellydance:

04 March 2008

Generic Music from Generic Bands

A couple of weeks ago, I was letting iTunes run through couple of new albums I had bought. I didn't realize until afterward that I had gotten "shuffle" set. The songs from the two bands were indistinguishable. Then I thought about it and realized that I could take a track from either of these bands and drop it into the middle of a number of other albums I have--and no one coming to the music cold would notice. These bands make generic music.

What am I calling "generic music"? It's the musical eqivalent of water in world of soup. It's music that has no distinguishing features, no particular voice or style or viewpoint or anything. It's just there. It observes all the conventions of it genre, hits all the standard marks ... and nothing else.

I can understand how manufactured bands (like the run of hair metal bands or the run of boy groups) could end up being generic. I'd rather have something more interesting, with a viewpoint and a voice, have the rack space, but I can see where they come from and what they are about. They have minders who work hard to rub out all their distinguishing features so they can control the product (and the group members) better. I see the market niche of these bands. I get how they are good business. They are like Dennys or McDonalds: safe, predictable, easy to market. Product.

But the two bands that started me thinking about this were independent bands who (apparently) invented themselves. Could anyone be so vacant, so blank? But how could anyone set out be a musician and say "OK, great, I'm going to record music that no one will remember for a minute after it finishes. I'm going to be a can of peas on a shelf of peas."? Can they imagine that, as a small producer, they can afford to be invisible against the background? And don't they have anything they want to say?

I can't help thinking about two albums with meat and vegetables that I didn't buy because my money went to bottles of tap water with pretty labels. (And I am on to the people who recommended these to me. Hah. They won't fool me again.)

I will continue to do what I can to get people to listen to more and better music, music that has something to say and some distinctive way of saying it. It's spitting into the wind, but I'm stubborn that way. I would appreciate it, however, if so many musicians weren't working so hard to sell water.

03 March 2008

I’m back. Sort of. PLUS: Buddy Miles

Oy. I was sick. Then I was trying to catch up on what didn't get done while I was sick. I promised myself that I wouldn't waste any time on this blog until I caught up. And then I said when I was almost caught up. And then I said the last week of February, even if I still wasn't caught up. Then we were overtaken by a series of family crises that kept me too busy and stressed to write.

So, now what? Well, I'm back! I am organizing my thoughts and will get back to regular business tomorrow.

In the meantime, I will leave you with this video of a live performance of the Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Fillmore East (way back before it was a franchise--they are going to open A Fillmore down the block from me. What is that about? A Fillmore? But I digress...) These guys are so completely locked in, I doubt another live performance has ever been better. So here, in memory of Buddy Miles, enjoy: