... in music

Infrastructural claims to fame

I think i bought my last CD (‘Original Pirate Material‘ by the Streets) in 2002 only to rip it to my computer and then to leave it in a train running along the river rhine from Cologne towards Karlsruhe (in the hope that someone else would find it and enjoy it). I have not bought a music CD ever since (with the exception of a couple of baile funk CDs in Rio de Janeiro in 2006, but these don’t count because they were burned on demand by the sellers).

As everybody who hasn’t spend the last couple of years under a rock or in Gunatanamo Bay will know, CDs are not exactly selling well anymore. This is not only evident from the sales figures from 2007 (another 20 percent drop in volume) but also from this little gem of a story (‘Robbie Williams CDs will be used to pave roads in china‘) from BLDGblog:

EMI has announced that “unsold copies” of Rudebox, by British pop star Robbie Williams, “will soon be used to resurface Chinese roads.” More than a million copies of the CD “will be crushed and sent to the country to be recycled,” we read, where they “will be used in street lighting and road surfacing projects.” […] In any case, does all this imply some strange new infrastructural claim to fame? “You know that CD they used to pave the King’s Road?” a man asks you, putting his coffee down as if to emphasize the point. He crosses his arms. “I played bass on that.”

Guess those CDs won’t make it very far beyond the year 2008…

(infidels) كافر

12 Dec 2007 | 345 words | music war iraq stupidity

So i have been nosing around in some of the more obscure corners of the interwebs in the last couple of days and have come across a disturbing number of places where people are proudly proclaiming to be infidels (as in كافر – kuffar). See for an extremely stupid proclamation here.

Now of course there is nothing wrong with being a k�fir (i do qualify as one myself) but it strikes me as rather stupid to aggressively advertise the fact, especially if you are an occupation soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan. Seems like some of them see this otherwise and run around sporting this patch:

[found via danger room’s superb ‘most awesomely bad military patches‘ series. (see my favorite patch here)].

The sorry state of mind of the wearers of this patch is probably best expressed by the lyrics of the song ‘Christmas in Fallujah‘. This masterpiece is performed by someone called ‘Cass Dillon’ but has been written and composed by Billy Joel (of ‘We did not start the fire‘ fame). Apparently Billy Joel got ‘inspired’ by letters he received from American soldiers stationed in the sandbox and this has resulted in some of the most crude lyrics ever:

It’s evening in the desert

I’m tired and I’m cold

But I am just a soldier

I do what I am told

We came with the crusaders

To save the holy land

It’s Christmas in Fallujah

And no one gives a damn


We came to bring these people freedom

We came to fight the infidel

There is no justice in the desert

Because there is no God in hell

Not sure what to say about this apart from the fact that this probably explains why the Americans still do not get what they are doing in Iraq and that you can’t really blame the Iraqis for blowing them up. Somebody better tell them that the crusaders are not exactly popular in much of the Middle East and that the most likely location of the ‘holy land’ is about 880 kilometers to the west for Fallujah.

The boom bikes of N.Y.C

30 Nov 2007 | 73 words | cycling popular culture new york urbanism music

The New York Times runs an article with fantastic photos about a bunch of teenagers in Queens that build ‘Bicycles That Carry Powerful Beats, and Even a Rider or Two. One of the is being quoted saying: “People say, it’s the next best thing to having a system in a car”. But it’s better because you don’t even have to roll down the windows. I could not agree more with that…

[via boingboing]

Hezbollah snoop doggy dog mashup

29 Sep 2007 | 167 words | lebanon music file sharing piracy copyright

Bech over at remakz shares a rather amuzing metadata conflict involving Hezbollah and Snoop Doggy Dog:

from the anecdote file where we find the joys of being a researcher on Hizbullah

Buy one of the many cds of Hizbullah ‘chants’ (anashid). For example, the volume 12 of Firkat el Asra’, Al Moqawama wal Tahrir. Open it, and rip the cd on Windows media player. The software checks for titles through its search engine. When you get back to your computer you find copied to your hard drive:

Artist: Snoop Doggy Dog

Album title: Doggy Style

Example of song name: Shitznit, for all my Niggaz & Bitchiz, etc.

I changed the name of the songs so as to at least remember what I am listening to. But I cannot erase the “Doggy Style”. So I get: “Hamdan lil Lah atah al Zafar” with “Doggy Style”, right under it.

Please keep in mind that at the bottom of the cd back cover there is a mention of protected copyrights.

Kaafila (liquid Europe and solid sea revisited)

So over the last three weeks i have been watching ‘kaafila‘ which bills itself as a movie based on the ‘global issue of illegal migration’. It took me 3 weeks to watch because (a) it is a Bollywood movie (and thus runs for three plus hours) and (b) because it is so incredibly bad that i could not muster the courage to watch bits that were longer than 15 minutes. Matter of fact it is so bad that that the songs (those ridiculous dancing/singing scenes that are required to interrupt Bollywood productions every so often) were more bearable than the ‘story’ itself.

So why did i buy it in the first place then? Kaafila contains a scene that depicts what has become to be known as the ‘Malta boat tragedy‘: the sinking – off the coast of the Sicilian town of Portapalo on December 26th 1996 – of a ship carrying more than 300 south-east asian migrants bound for Italy. More than 280 migrants lost their lives in this disaster (the worst post WWII maritime accident in the Mediterranean) and i was curious how this would be portrayed in a feature film made in one of the countries where a large part of the victims was hailing from. Plus some of the reviews actually did sound quite intriguing:

… in their effort to forge ahead closer to their dream, the innocent dozen finds itself trapped sometimes by the Russian mafia involved in the plutonium smuggling racket and sometimes by the militancy on the Afghan borders. Here they meet an Afghani girl…

Now as i said the movie is exceptionally bad. The story is erratic at best, the characters depicted are extremely unrealistic (although the opening credits of the film actually try to make a somewhat realistic introduction into the migrants’ motives for seeking their luck elsewhere) and, on top of this, the trajectory of the journey defies any logic at all:

From India our group of migrants is first flown to Moscow where they are held captive by a Pakistani trafficker for 5 months. He finally takes them across the border to Ukraine (shooting one of them on the way) but decides to take them back to Russia after one of them lights a fire at night, which, according to the trafficker, will alert the border guards and guarantee the group’s arrest.

On the way back another of the migrants freezes to death under fake styrofoam snow while hiding from a helicopter. Back in Russia the group heads towards the Black sea coast where they board a ship that is supposed to take them to Malta. In real life this would mean crossing the Black sea, sailing through the Bosporus, crossing the Aegean sea, sailing around Apulia to continue to Malta (or to be more exact Sicily where the real ‘Malta boat tragedy’ took place). In Kaalifa our heroes board the boat and immediately burst into another dancing scene to the films theme song ‘Chala Kaafila’, a strange mix between eurotrash and hindi film music:

Chala Kaafila is a outcome of a confused state of mind. With music lingering somewhere between the genres of folk and club mix, Chala Kaafila boasts of a strong blend of North Indian music with unnecessary westernized musical goof ups. [from: RS Bollywood Online music reviews]

The song opens with the singer (the only female on board who somehow disappears before the ship goes down) shouting ‘i don’t want to wait no more let’s bring the house down’ over extremely annoying house beats. this is followed by mad dancing of the assembled 300 migrants on the deck of the doomed ship and once the song ends the ship’s passengers become aware of a giant wave (clearly inspired by the 2004 asian tsunami, which coincidentally also happened on a 26th of December) slowly approaching and jump ship in fear.

For some reason (supposedly because they cling to pieces of wood taken from the ship before jumping into the sea) our 10 remaining heroes are the only ones to survive and wash up on a beach (which turns out to be the Russian Black sea coast again). here our heroes meet the wife of an mad Indian nuclear engineer who is selling liquid plutonium to the Taliban (with the help of the Russian mafia). For rather unclear reasons the wife is shot dead by the Mafia and in this moment, out of nowhere, the above-mentioned Afghani girl appears, secures the liquid plutonium, a bag of giant diamonds and offers our heros a lift to Kazaksthan.

From here on the ‘innocent dozen’ comes under the protection of a dubious Pakistani I.S.I agent who teams up with the Afghani girl to fend off waves of waves of Russian mafia killers and Taliban fighters attempting to kill our heros while they cross Tadzhikistan and Afghanistan heading towards Pakistan (along the way various attempts to put them on a plane to Europe fail). En route 4 more of them are being killed despite the incredible marksmanship of the Pakistani agent and the Afghani girl, who kill dozens after dozens of the attackers.

Finally, in Pakistan the I.S.I agent somehow reconciles with his superiors (in one scene he seems to be talking to Pervez Musharraf himself) who had been pissed off with him for another unclear reason (there are hints that he was suspected to be involved in some Abdul Qadeer Khan style nuclear smuggling operation) and arranges for our heroes’ safe passage across the border to India. in the final scene the 6 remaining migrants plus the Afghani girl can be seen walking to back towards an imagined India, now being completely cured of their initial desire to leave mother India and find their luck in England…

Even if i was willing to accept that Malta is an island located in the Black sea, that the Taliban ‘look like Indians wearing fake beards‘ who can’t shoot straight and that liquid plutonium can be handled safely in open containers, this still is the worst movie i have ever seen (with the mask being a close second). Here are some screen shots of the malta boat tragedy dance:

‘i don’t want to wait no more let’s bring the house down’

mad dancing on the doomed ship

mad dancing on the doomed ship

mad dancing on the doomed

the ‘tsunami’ wave that will sink the ship


26 Oct 2006 | 82 words | brazil elections democracy music

Love this picture which i found when i was going through reports from the submidalogia#2 conference this morning:

Picture by Cris Cabello

From what i can make up from his tags the picture was taken in Olinda in Brazil and shows a mobile sound system used to campaign in the presidential elections (see the ‘Lula e Eduardo’ sticker on the car door).Ii particularly like the mixing panel build into the ceiling of the drivers cabin and the serious expression of the driver.

Shrinking cities

I am in Rio right now, which is anything else than a shrinking city. I have no figures ready but i guess there is a table which shows Rio’s growth in the last decades somewhere in Mike Davis’ excellent ‘Planet of Slums‘ which i finished reading just before coming here.

Now the lonely planet for Rio mentions that in Rio gas stations are one of the favorite places for party-goers to hang out as they sell beer all-through the night. This particular bit of travelers advice reminded me of one of the posters for the shrinking cities exhibition in Berlin a while back which showed an gas station that apparently served as the hang-out place for youngsters, supposedly because gas stations are the most exciting places to hang out in shrinking cities or something like this (I can’t find a single copy of the poster/image on the entire internets, but my sister has one hanging in her kitchen so go there if you do not know what i am talking about…).

Anyway, being in Rio we were of course looking for nocturnal excitement ourselves and the most exciting thing in town these days when it comes to going out are funk balls. The guardian has a fascinating article about the whole baile funk thing online (o.k. – if it has been in Guardian it is probably not the most exciting thing anymore for the locals but the whole thing still sounds quite exciting for visiting white boys). The only problem is that these funk balls take place in the Favelas and it does not seem like a good idea to venture out there in the middle of the night when you are drunk. However at some point we found some brazilians who had the same urge and took off to a ball in two cabs.

Of course being all slightly tipsy we did not really notice that it was 3A.M. and when we finally arrived at the venue the party was over and we did not get to dance at all (it was sunday night hence the early end). Instead we got some more drugs and gave some money to the 12 year old begging kid in an Osama bin Laden t-shirt (pictures of more OBL t-shirts here, here and here) and then descended from the hill to hang out at the gas station in shrinking city style:

p.s: Good thing to know that the USAF is giving $450K for ‘Automated Ontologically-Based Link Analysis of International Web Logs for the Timely Discovery of Relevant and Credible Information‘ – i wish them good luck making sense out of this post…

Illegal copies legal everywhere except in Suriname?

03 Jun 2006 | 248 words | amsterdam business music file sharing piracy

Went back to the indian DVD and CD sellers at the end of the amsterdamse poort shopping complex in Amsterdam southeast today. Looks like as if they have scaled back their DVD selling operations a bit (their Bollywood DVD’s still sell for unbeatable €2.50 each though). The stall also sells CDs with hindi film songs and all kinds of Caribbean, Urban and African styles even though the CD selling business ‘is not what it used to be before everybody started downloading the tunes’ (according to the owner). Despite the rampant downloading of our times you can still get your CD’s the old fashioned way and some of them have really interesting copyright notices:

Copyright notice on a cd

in english this translates as: ‘The sale of illegal CD’s of Shifa Asgarali in Suriname is strongly prohibited. All rights of Asiactics Music & Movieworld also belong to Shifa Asgarali. Please don‘t download…. Our culture will be lost… ‘

Sounds to me as if the good Shifa Asgarali does not really care if his CD’s are pirated and sold outside of his native Suriname but the shopkeeper tells me that this is probably more an expression of naiveté . He thinks that Shifa Asgarali (who lives in NL) believes that people outside of Suriname still buy physical CDs which is obviously a bit of a outdated perception. According to the shopkeeper all CDs in suriname are unauthorized copies and as a result this note is a waste of cover space….

Making informed choices

16 Apr 2006 | 187 words | amsterdam music stupidity

Have been going out in Amsterdam for the first time in what seems to be ages. went to a night called ‘labyrinth’ or something like that in paradiso. In the small room there is a quite prominent LED display which displays (no not the BPM count, that would have been like 10 years ago) but the noise level in decibels:

Decibel display in Paradiso

Now how silly is that? Are people constantly checking this and leave the room when the level exceeds what their doctor recommends? Are thy going to the DJ and asking him to turn down the volume to a specific level do they can have chat with their mates? Seems like the this whole idea that consumers have to make informed choices all the time (like choosing an electricity provider, or choosing for a call by call long distance provider) is getting a bit out of control. If you go to a club you get loud music period. If do not what loud music, or if you are concerned about the little hairs in your ears, well then do not go to a club.

Another reason to never download DRM crippled music files

07 Mar 2006 | 493 words | copyright music business TPM netherlands

Ok it seems his has been around for a while (my pal bjorn blogged about it 4 days ago) but it seems that the british online music distributer OD2 (a.k.a loudeye.com) is canceling some of the licenses it has given out a while ago. initialreports suggested that the music bought (downloaded) under the 10-cents-per-song-for-unlimited-playback-on-one-computer-license option ‘possibly will no longer play’ after 1 jan 2007. the quote is taken from a translated letter to users of this licensing model, in which one of the resellers of the OD2 licenses even boasts that they have ‘succeed in allowing you to play the music until January 1st 2007’.

Today this story has been picked up by the Dutch daily het parool which claims that in the case of the 150.000 users of KPN music stream (another of the dutch resellers of OD2 and self-proclaimed market leader in online music distribution in the Netherlands) the licenses will be terminated on 3 april 2006, thereby rendering the DRM crippled files unplayable.

How sick is that? first they (and they is not some shady russian eBay operators, but a division of the biggest dutch telco) sell you a song for unlimited playback and then they disable it at whim. the article quotes the spokesperson of the biggest dutch consumer rights organization stating that at time of purchase it was not communicated to the users that this would be possible. KPN itself claims to be innocent (as they are only a reseller and OD2 apparently decided to terminate this license type at the pressure of the mayor record companies).

They do seem to understand that this situation might not be entirely welcomed by their customers and as a compensation they offer 10 euro vouchers (independent of the amount of songs downloaded under the old licenses) that can be used to buy songs from the OD2 catalogue with a license permits unlimited playback on one computer plus burning and playback on mobile devices (for 99 eurocent a song). Yeah right! Great deal thank you so much you responsible corporate entity! and when they cancel this type of license they will most likely offer you another €5 voucher that you can trade in in order to listen to your whole music library one last time before it autodestructs…

This is exactly why i have never downloaded a DRM crippled file and why i will NEVER do this in the future. This whole story actually makes me feel much better downloading music from the peer2peer corners of the internets (which is still perfectly legal in the Netherlands). The music industry has repeatedly equated downloading with theft which of course is bullshit. But maybe selling something to you for unlimited use and then taking it away from you should be considered theft? Sadly we are living in times where this kind of behavior is more likely to be called an ‘innovative business model’ instead. So i suggest going here for all your music needs.

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: