David Bowie is a pop star. David Bowie is a designer. David Bowie is an actor. David Bowie is a painter.
David Bowie is a lot of things, which is why it’s appropriate that his retrospective at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum is titled “David Bowie Is.”
The museum gained unprecedented access to the David Bowie archive to select five decades of mementos like this striped bodysuit designed for the 1973 Aladdin Sane tour. There are plenty more of Bowie’s crazy costumes on display, as well as photos, video, handwritten lyrics and original album art. Many of the pieces are by Bowie himself, showing off his range of artistic talents. More than 300 items make up the exhibition and it’s the largest of its kind ever shown in public.
The exhibition traces Bowie’s evolution as an artist and his collaborations on various projects. Video screens show some of his music videos and excerpts from films such as “The Man Who Fell to Earth.”
There is also a series of special events related to the exhibition, including lectures and a chance for kids to design their own album cover.
Welcome back to Gadling’s new series on music around the world, Round the World in 80 Sounds. Blues. Rock ‘n Roll. Two distinctly American styles of music, right? That’s only half true, actually. In fact, some might say you also need to head to the West African nation of Mali to find the answer. For many years, travelers had little reason to investigate this barren desert country, home to the ancient complex of Timbuktu. But these day’s Mali’s stock as one of the world’s most influential musical destinations is on the rise, thanks to the growing fame of its talented musicians and increasingly popular musical festivals.
Mali’s recent ascent to musical stardom isn’t by accident. The country’s borders have long been traversed by various African, European, Islamic and even Cuban (?!) cultural influences. It has created a country that moves to the rhythm of any number of different drummers. From traditional Malian Mande Music to the proto-blues of legendary Malian guitarist Ali Farka Toure, to the bouncy joyous pop of international stars Amadou & Mariam, Mali music has been earning new fans and gaining attention worldwide. Enough attention, in fact, that Mali hosts its own internationally renowned music festival each year in the tiny town of Essakane.
Wondering which Mali musicians are worth your time? Want to visit one of the world’s most remarkable African music festivals? Stick around as Round the World in 80 Sounds takes a closer look at the influential music of Mali. Keep reading below for our favorite Mali artists and festivals.The Festival of the Desert
The most obvious symbol of Mali’s thriving music culture is the country’s annual Festival au Desert, an international gathering of musicians from across Europe, Africa and beyond celebrating Mali’s unique sonic heritage. The event first got its start back in 1996 as a celebration of a new peace treaty between warring local tribes. Quite naturally, the local Tuareg community moved to commemorate the event with a traditional celebration of song, dance and games.
What began as a local event quickly blossomed into an internationally-recognized festival, with performers as diverse as Robert Plant, Gang Gang Dance, and Malian musicians like Oumou Sangare and the late Ali Farka Toure. Today, visitors are likely to hear the diverse sounds that have come to represent Mail’s unique musical heritage – everything from Tuareg-style music to Western Pop to homegrown Malian artists. Though the 2010 event was this past January, you can check out travel logistics on the Festival au Desert website. Music lovers who have visited confirm the journey is well worth it.
Ali Farka Toure
Often called the “John Lee Hooker of Africa,” the late Ali Farka Toure is among Mali’s most famous musicians. Born in 1939 in a small town in Northwest Mali, Toure took an early interest in the musical instruments of his native land, blossoming into one of the country’s foremost musical acts. His style, on display in the track Amandrai above is at once instantly familiar to blues fans, resonating with the familiar melancholy of a good blues riff, and yet strangely exotic, touched by the ghostly fingerprint of African folk and nomadic Tuareg musical traditions.
It’s clear that West African musicians like Toure have strongly influenced many American Bluesmen and vice versa. Influential director Martin Scorcese explored the relationship between West African musicians like Toure and America’s Blues culture in his series Feel Like Going Home. Though Toure passed away in 2006, his son Vieux Farka Toure carries on the family tradition. Check out Toure’s 2005 album Savane if you’re interested in hearing more.
Amadou & Mariam
This blind husband and wife duo from Mali have been making musical waves worldwide. Though the couple have been playing together since back in 1980, they have become one of the most familiar faces of Malian Music on the international music circuit. In 2003 they were approached by music star Manu Chao, who produced their breakout album Dimanche a Bamako. As is evident from the video clip above, Amadou & Mariam’s music is filled with jaunty melodies and diverse instruments from around the world. The pair are increasingly invited to play at concerts around the world, from Lollapalooza in Chicago to opening for Coldplay’s Viva la Vida Tour.
Like much of Mali’s musical culture, Amadou & Mariam are highly influential and continually evolving. Steeped in a rich tradition of local musical culture yet open to the sounds of the world. It’s time we recognized Mali for the miraculous contribution the country has made to our favorite music.
Curious about the sounds of the world? Read previous Round the World in 80 Sounds posts HERE.
Beijing, China is a noisy place. China’s capital and largest city treats visitors’ ears to an endless stream of sputtering cars, clanking construction cranes and chattering pedestrians. But amidst all this growth, you could be forgiven for missing one particularly surprising sound – the strumming of an electric guitar. It’s the sound of an Asian rock scene on the rise – a new crop of Chinese bands that’s taking the music world by storm.
Along with the increasingly middle-class trappings of China’s economic boom like cars, clothes and consumer goods, an altogether different China has loudly been exporting an unexpected new product: the culture of its burgeoning rock scene. At creative concert venues in Beijing like D-22, a homegrown Chinese rock and experimental music scene is in full bloom, with a range of innovative, creative new bands leading the way. For a country better-known for its authoritarian cultural politics, the rebellious notes of this new rock counter-culture seems unlikely. Yet this new breed of Chinese music manages to straddle the line of the rebellious and the musical, shying away from the political while pushing towards new frontiers of creativity.
Expecting this new wave of Chinese music to include loopy new-age vibes and traditional Chinese instruments? Think again. These bands are more likely to channel rock gods like The Ramones, Radiohead and Sonic Youth. Want to see what rock music looks like in the 21st Century? It’s not just American and European any more. This week in Gadling’s new series, Round the World in 80 Sounds, we’ll investigate four Chinese bands you need to check out now. Keep reading below for our favorites.Carsick Cars First formed in 2005, Beijing’s Carsick Cars have risen to a status as one of Beijing’s biggest groups, becoming unofficial frontmen for Beijing’s buzzing rock movement. Fans have compared the Cars’ noisy, experimental punk sound to other innovative bands like Sonic Youth and New Zealand innovators The Clean. Their new album, released in June of 2009 is called You Can Listen, You Can Talk. In this clip, the team plays their hit song “Zong Nan Hai” during an appearance last year in New York City.
Another of the Chinese rock scene’s elder statesmen, P.K. 14 have been making music together since way back in 1997. Though they are associated with the Beijing scene, the band originally hails from Nanjing. Much like the Carsick Cars, P.K. 14’s music has been described as an artful blend of Post-Punk, tinged with a hint of Motown, and plenty of raw energy thrown in for good measure. The group’s infectious melodies led Time Magazine to name P.K. 14 one of Asia’s Best Bands. Forget Asia – these guys sound great anywhere. The clip below is a song called “Behind All Ruptures:”
Snapline Originally started as a side project of Carsick Cars members Li Qing and bass player Levi, Snapline has quickly evolved into a tight little band in its own right. Indebted to the dark, synthesizer-and-guitar-based sounds of bands like The Cure and Joy Division, Snapline’s live performances have been rumored to walk a line between brilliant and completely baffling. Here’s Snapline performing their track “Hey Jenny:”
Though P.K. 14 might have been formed earlier, Chinese band Joyside has earned its reputation as China’s most influential rock and roll band. Formed in 2001 in a bar on the outskirts of Beijing, Joyside has gone on to release five albums and get featured in a documentary on the Chinese music scene called “Wasted Orient.” Their punk-tinged sound references favorites like The Stooges, Sex Pistols and the New York Dolls. Here’s the band playing “Baby in Shadow:”
Noisy? Angry? Indie? Beijing’s growing rock scene is that and much more. With continued international attention at festivals like South by Southwest, these promising bands look ready to move beyond being just another trend in the Far East. The future looks increasingly bright for the rising stars of China’s rock underground.
Curious about the sounds of the world? Read previous Round the World in 80 Sounds posts HERE.
Had he lived, Elvis would be turning 75 years old on January 8. Superfans can celebrate with a week of parties hosted Graceland from January 7 to 10.
Events include a day tour of Tupelo, where Elvis grew up, book signings from authors of books on Elvis, fan club events, and panel presentations from close friends and associates of Elvis. There will be musical performances, including a gospel concert of Elvis songs and a performance of tunes from Elvis done by the Memphis Symphony Orchestra.
Several birthday and dance parties will also be offered. The Elvis 75th Birthday Bash on Beale is just $15 and includes a night of drink specials, live music, and partying at clubs up and down Beale Street on January 9.
Tickets for all events are available online until 5pm Central today. After that, you can purchase them at the door for each event (pending availability) or at the Graceland Guest Services office.
Summer. Music. Could any two words in the English language possibly go so well together? There’s just something about warm weather that makes you want to be outside, bare feet touching soft grass and dirt underfoot, hands in the cool night air, eardrums fluttering to the vibrations of a strumming guitar.
And aside from Summer, what could go better with music than travel? Whatever your favorite genre, this season is prime time to catch some of the best live performances you’ll see all year. So what if nothing good is playing near your hometown? Jump in the car or book that cheap plane ticket. Music is just the excuse you’re looking for to get out on the road. From the smallest local city festivals, to the giant multi-headliner events now dotting the country (and the world), it’s time to start making some travel arrangements to catch your favorite band.
We won’t pretend to list out every music festival and event going on this summer – there’s way too many. But we’ve been to our fair share of good ones – and we know what’s worth the trip. Grab those earplugs and stop making those Free Bird requests, Gadling is bringing you our picks of this Summer’s best music events, both in your backyard and around the world. International Festivals There are some music events so incredibly epic, bringing together so many great bands, and unique performers in such unique settings, that they’re worth a trip halfway across the globe. That’s not to mention peculiar quirks of the local crowd. What better way to meet the locals than your shared love for Metallica? The international festivals below are definitely worth your money’s worth:
Sonar Festival – Barcelona, Spain (June 19-21) – the cutting edge Sonar Festival, hosted in one of Europe’s most dynamic cities, brings together multimedia art and music for three days of decidedly high-tech fun and dancing. This year’s festival features big names like M.I.A. and Justice. Did we mention the city is on a beach for when you get tired of the party?
Glastonbury – Glastonbury, England (June 27-29) – Glastonbury has long been known as one the one the premier festivals in England, if not the world, offering a huge lineup of some of pop music’s up-and-comers as well as established superstars. This year promises a similar showing, featuring hip-hop star Jay-Z, singer songwriter Leonard Cohen and bands like indie-rockers The National marquee acts such as Franz Ferdinand, Q Tip and Bruce Springsteen
Gnaoua Festival – Essaouira, Morocco (June 26-29) – if your musical tastes run towards the more esoteric and global, consider a trip to Morocco’s Gnaoua Festival, held each year in the lazy seaside village of Essaouira. Gnawa is type of music indigenous to Northern Africa, characterized by its soulful chanting and acrobatic dancing. As if a visit to the whitewashed town of Essaouira wasn’t reward enough, you’ll bear witness to some of the most amazing musicians from across sub-Saharan Africa.
Roskilde Festival – Roskilde, Denmark (July 3-6) – Denmark is not exactly a hot spot when you think of great musical events, but the annual Roskilde Festival is proof the Danes really know what they’re talking about. This year brings yet another killer lineup including uber-rockers Radiohead and Coldplay, Nine Inch Nails, Kanye West, Lucinda Williams, and many others.
U.S. Festivals Alright, so the Spanish music festival is out of your budget this year. That’s not a problem really – live music is practically a birthright of American citizens, guaranteeing that each summer you’ll find a heap of great musicians touring at a concert hall or ampitheater near you. To help you figure out what to check out, we’ve broken down some of our favorites based on geography: East Coast, West and Central. Take a look:
EAST COAST – All Points West, New York, NY (July 31- August 2) – brought to you by the same team that pulls together the annual Coachella Festival in Indio, CA, New York City’s All Points West Festival is now entering its second year. Much as you’d expect from a sister festival to the excellent Coachella, All Points West brings in top-notch talent like the Beastie Boys and MGMT to a gorgeous waterfront park facing the Statue of Liberty.
CENTRAL – Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, Manchester, TN (June 12-15) – many people wondered what was going on when a new festival was first announced in 2002 on a 700 acre farm in Tennessee. But the detractors have long since been silenced by Bonnaroo, now one of the country’s most famous music festivals. 2009 brings yet another eclectic and stellar lineup headlined by Bruce Springsteen, Snoop Dogg, Phish and Wilco.
CENTRAL – Lollapalooza, Chicago, IL (August 7-9) – consider Lollapalooza as the grandfather of national music festivals. It’s been around longer than just about every other major Summer festival around, originally created by Jane’s Addiction singer Perry Farrell way back in 1991. The fact Lollapalooza no longer tours the country each Summer also works to your advantage – the festival now permanently resides in wonderful Summer climes of Chicago. Headliners this year include Depeche Mode, Kings of Leon and The Killers.
WEST – Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Telluride, CO (June 18-21) – you know you have a good thing going when your festival has been ongoing for 36 years. That’s exactly the advantage of the long-running Telluride Bluegrass Festival, a celebration of a distinctly American musical style nestled in the scenic heights of the Rocky Mountains. This year’s lineup includes a diverse roster of performers including David Byrne, Elvis Costello as well as old favorites like Jerry Douglas.
Ready for an encore? We only had space to list a few of our favorite summer musical events here. What did we miss? Have a favorite festival you think we should know about? Leave us your thoughts in the comments and there very well may be a Summer music roundup “Part II” in the near future.