Justin Hall's personal site growing & breaking down since 1994

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links.net : muzzik : 1995 - (I underestimated the American public's taste for recycling and emergent styles)

the era of international music

In my life, I have seen the entire span of American rock and roll excavated as popular culture.

In the early eighties, films Grease and Back to the Future popularized the wonder bread decade in music and style. At camp, when I was too young to know better, fifties was the only dance music they felt safe playing for us. Fifites theme nights were a big deal, we boys faught over the vaseline trying to figure out if our hair was really supposed to end up that gross.

we boys faught over the vaseline

When I was a tender pre-teen, waging war on my middle school, the sixties and seventies flower and power rock were my anthems. Somewhere between Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin was the proscribed course for a young man. The hippies had it right, bucking society, and Led Zeppelin gave the message a severe pounding that I appreciated before my voice changed.

High school drug experimentation extended the sixties. My friends discovered Jimi and Jim and Jerry and Janis, we tried reliving someone else's revolution until we could find our own.

When I was at Swarthmore in early 1995, the students were in the midst of the nationwide seventies revival. DJs spun the funk, artists like James Brown and George Clinton were in everyone's CD caddys, disco parties brought out droves of students in their polyester finest.

we are dipping into a dangerous decade, so recent it still smarts

Hip folks are still up on the down stroke, but the frontliners of the culture are digging out their parachute pants, cuz the eighties are on their way in. Having fully rehashed the rest of our popular music, we are dipping into a dangerous decade, so recent it still smarts. Those of us who remember the eighties will smirk when the trend dies a deservedly premature death.

Music of the ninties will come back into vogue before the turning of the millenium. Lost without a decade to remember, we will begin listening to our streets, the music of the barrios, the music our cab drivers swerve to, the music we hear when we go out for offbeat food.

Ushering in the era of International Music. Every decade of Popular American Youth Music from this last half-century explored, the only brain candy left will be the American influenced and internationally improved music of the world.

My friend Howard has his finger on the five year pulse. He has been playing Dissidenten, Ali Farka Toure, Nousreh Fateh Ali Kahn, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, Zap MaMa, Ho'aikane for me. While they play in their native toungues, most of these groups have been severely influenced by American popular music of the last fourty years. The resulting sound is not completely alien to us, fresh while largely untouched by music industry cynicism and deafening postmodern feedback.

Dissidenten, on their Jungle Book album, are a perfect example of modern music mishmash. They record out of India. The resulting strains are Indian jazz funk rock pop. Midway through some middle eastern madness, a bengali wisper "a love supreme, a love supreme" - John Coltrane.
The stock and trade of the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra is mismixing American pop genres. The album cover shows ten lads in front of a matte painted suburban scene, each one arrayed as a different type character of the fifties. The music is a literal rehashing of American favourites of that era, with a ska tweaking that leaves one both reminiscent and intrigued.

Young Americans began making music for other youth in the fifties, since then those records have been played and replayed until they are now part of the soundtrack of the nation -

didn't we all leave college to the tune of the Big Chill?

Record stores and digital music distribution make any genre accessable for rehash or study.

That power of recording and reselling popular music has now extended beyond our borders. Digital distribution offers the potential for quick and painless world wide exposure. Having heard and reheard and reheard the best America has to offer, our borderless communication technology will send us sweet unsung strains from the backwaters of Bali and the halls of Havana.

Some say America is too patriotic to embrace music from beyond its borders. Our music is already an utter mishmash of styles the world over. As our nostalgia catches up with us, and the millenium approaches, the world's artists will enjoy greater visibility in this country.

Music is the international language. In the next few years, we'll dance to crazy cross-breeds, strains untold and untoward, as familiar with the Dhol Blasters as we are with Madonna. The musical thrones will be rightfully shared by a multitude of modern musicians mixing decades, genres and ethnoaural emissions.

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