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Thursday, 27 May 2010

What happens when a rolling stone looses momentum?

I've been meaning to write this post for a while now, so apologies if the details are a little sketchy. Hopefully Google will help me fill them in.

A few weeks ago, in an attempt to keep up with the election, I was reading the Guardian. I found an article about a Burmese musician who fuses traditional Burmese music with hip hop. He uses music as a way of protesting against the military government in Burma, to the extent that nine out of twelve songs on his most recent album were banned, including one where the only lyrics translate as 'Hey, how are you?'

I wish him the best of luck, but neither he nor the plight of the Burmese people are the main purpose of this post. The musician, Thxa Soe, came into contact with hip hop while studying in Britain. He chose hip hop because 'there's not much freedom in rock'. This statement surprised me. I had always thought of rock as one of the freesest forms of music. I mean, nothing says freedom like the opening riff of Hendrix's version of All Along the Watchtower, does it? Then I started to wonder, has rock music perhaps gone stale?

When rock started in the late sixties and early seventies it was an explosion of new sounds. As it started to get more pompous and 'prog', there was freedom for the artists to experiment, even if it was at the expense of listenable records. Meanwhile, less experimental rock bands started slip into their own cliches.

The rule book has been re-written a few times since, with movements like punk and britpop, but again once something works well it becomes a formula. A few years ago indie rock and pop looked like it was going to start a new revolution, but what we ended up with was a ream of Libertines and Franz Ferdinand soundalikes. And now, commercial pop looks set to reign supreme again, albeit with a newly indiefied aesthetic.

On the other hand, there are, and always have been a few stand out bands out there doing something different. In the 80s we had the Cure and the Smiths. Now try this, or this. In all honesty, I think all types of music have both great innovators and stale cliches. In hip hop, how many 'bitches and hoes' types are there to every thing like this?

Incidentally, I've been listening to a lot of American alternative stuff in the past few years. Which includes a good deal of folky stuff.

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