sun 09/08/2020

New Music Features

theartsdesk in Montréal: Les Francofolies de Montréal

Kieron Tyler

Montréal natives The Arcade Fire sing in English. Yet 65 percent of the Québec city’s population have French as their first language. Les FrancoFolies de Montréal is Francophone Canada’s annual celebration of non-Anglo Saxon music. This year, big draws include French visitors Jeanne Moreau and Etienne Daho performing Jean Genet’s Le condamné à mort with musical accompaniment.

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theartsdesk in Fes: The Festival and the Moroccan Spring

Peter Culshaw

Strange portents – the weather is always dry and baking hot this time of year in Fes. This time it was like winter, with lashing rain and thunder for the first few days of the Fes Festival. But then things are strange in general here; events are moving fast throughout the Maghreb. The first day I was there saw a demonstration of thousands in Rabat, and a smaller one in Fes. By the last day a new constitution had been posted online, with the King renouncing some of his powers.

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theartsdesk in Aarhus: SPOT Festival 2011

Kieron Tyler

On the Jutland coast, Aarhus is Denmark’s second largest city after capital Copenhagen. Its attractive continental atmosphere is amplified by the presence of this week’s temporary population, which includes visitors from Britain, Estonia, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the US and the other Nordic countries. They’re here for SPOT, Denmark’s annual festival showcasing homegrown music. It’s a good moment as electro-popper Oh Land is making significant waves in the States.

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Opinion: Who says music isn’t good any more?

Kieron Tyler

The former Bee Gee Robin Gibb unveiled a plaque at the London home of Dusty Springfield a couple of weeks ago. At the ceremony he commented, “There’s been no one to match her. This includes the United States as well – they can’t come close to her. Today they just pose as singers.” Last October, Sir Elton John was at it too: “Songwriters today are pretty awful, which is why everything sounds the same. Contemporary pop isn’t very inspiring." Come off it, you two, great new music is out there....

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Reinventing the Record: Strange New Formats of the Digital Age

joe Muggs

While rumours of the album's demise may well have been premature, the digital age certainly does present increasing challenges when it comes to getting punters to keep and treasure music. Of course, really it all went wrong with the CD: those irritating plastic cases with hinges and catches guaranteed to snap off and get hoovered up, the booklets you have to squint to read, the discs that slide under car seats or behind radiators.

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Opinion: Time to say goodbye to the label 'World Music'

howard Male

Although the phrase “world music” was first coined by American ethnomusicologist Robert Brown in the 1960s, it didn’t become a brand, as it were, until 1987, when a bunch of London-based DJs, musicians and record company folk (including the late Charlie Gillett) met in an Islington pub and landed on the idea of putting all this foreign music under one commercially viable umbrella.

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theartsdesk in Tallinn: Music Week in the European City of Culture

Kieron Tyler

It’s an important year for Estonia. The Baltic nation celebrates 20 years of independence from Russia. Capital city Tallinn is European Capital of Culture for 2011. It’s also 10 years since their Eurovision win. theartsdesk is here for Tallinn Music Week, the third annual celebration of the country’s music. Integral to the national fabric, music was fundamental to the independence movement: the move to split from Russia was dubbed “The Singing Revolution”.

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Opinion: RIP Sound Quality?

Kieron Tyler

We all know people who listen to their music from iTunes, aren’t fussed with CDs and use their computer as the sole source for their listening. They’re listening to MP3s, the file format developed for portable players. But MP3s are compressed files with less data than those on a CD. Why listen to this fast-food version of music at home? Do so and it’s a nail in the coffin of sound quality.

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theartsdesk in Kinshasa: The Making of Benda Bilili!

Andy Morgan

Benda Bilili! is in some ways very Hollywood – the story of a dream of stardom which comes true despite incredible odds. On the other hand, the subject matter of a group of homeless paraplegic musicians in a band called Staff Benda Bilili (which means something like “looking beyond appearances”) in one of the most dangerous cities in the world – Kinshasa – is hardly Tinsel Town.

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Interview: The Unthanks

Russ Coffey

Misery may be folk music’s stock-in-trade but no one does it quite like the British. Maybe it’s part of our heritage. We are a nation, after all, that has not only invented a drink called bitter but have a brand called Doom Bar. And within the UK, there’s one particular volume of folk music that is unparalleled in its bleakness. It’s called the Northumbrian Minstrelsy, and it’s the first place Rachel Unthank, of critically acclaimed folk group The Unthanks, goes to look for new songs to...

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