Category Archives: spain

NADIA BEN YOUSSEF | STRANDED IN THE STRAIT

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I was going to post some music from my upcoming CIAfrica mixtape, but it’s late, I’ve got headphones in, and life gravity pulls me towards this contemplative acoustic stuff right now, so that’s what we get. Hawzi/chaabi from one of Algeria’s finest non-rai vocalists, Nadia Ben Youssef (French bio). :

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Nadia Ben Youssef – Ya Baba L’Hnine

Hawzi functions like a bridge between classical Andalusian music and contemporary Algerian chaabi. A bridge. Between Africa and Europe there’s only a few miles of water — in instances like these a boat or residency permit is a bridge and a continent offers a life of movement, possibility. Or its opposite:

Here’s the trailer for friends’ documentary film on Punjabi immigrants suffering years of legal limbo in Ceuta (Spanish town inside Morocco), where they wait in the forest. Stranded in the Strait. Some of these men left their homes over four years ago. The independent filmmakers are looking for funding to complete the doc’s post-production this fall – you can help out here.

Stranded in the Strait- 6m Trailer.

EL VERDUGO

esopus

Esopus is an art magazine, in the sense of magazine-as-art. The current issue contains a CD. They asked a group of musicians to select a black & white film to serve as inspiration for a song. I chose Luis García Berlanga’s El Verdugo (1963). It’s worth seeing. Berlanga made several impressive movies, not an easy feat under Franco, and much can be said about this one, although not by me at 2am…

Esopus wrote:

7. ‘El Verdugo’ by DJ/RUPTURE. The business of death is the central framework of El Verdugo (1963), the pitch-black comedic tale of José Luis Rodríguez, in which a young undertaker (Nino Manfredi) agrees to take on the job of a retiring executioner in order to marry his daughter Carmen (Emma Penella). Through his characteristically brilliant use of samples (including the evocative creaking of a cemetary gate he recorded in Lodes, Spain), DJ/rupture holds a sonic mirror up to the dark, fractured world of this cult classic.”

ElVerdugoshot

[El Verdugo screenshot]

the Disquiet blog hosts a brief excerpt. Listening back to it makes me want to gather the noise/ambient/texture pieces I’ve done, make some new ones, and release them as an album. Tentative title: Soap Bleach Softener.

(In other non-news about albums which don’t yet exist: an offhand comment by Geoff at Postopolis has sparked a massive ‘preemptive soundtrack’ concept… recording starts in June, details soon. Think ‘resplendor’.)

Esopus is having an issue launch party at NYC’s Housing Works Bookstore Cafe (an oasis of sorts, great place) this Wednesday, May 13 7-9pm.

SPAIN

I´m sitting in F and P’s living room. They were just robbed. Person or persons unknown broke into their Madrid apartment, stealing, among other things, their engagement rings. Pieces of the door’s lock scatter on the floor.

At this time of year Madrid is crisp and clear, with blue skies and little wind. Piles of fetid trash choke the entrances and hallways of the subway system: today the metro cleaners’ strike continues into its second week.

madridmetro-sagasman.jpg[Madrid metro huelga de limpieza, from Sagasman's flickr.]

The city — at least its outskirts, where I am now — is plastered with pseudopolitical stickers. The usual Spanish fascist graffiti has been supplemented by a much cannier strategy. Bigotry repackaged as national pride and anti-illegal-immigrant political groups. “Don’t be an ostrich!” goes one poster, accompanied by a child-friendly photomontage of a businessman with a bird’s head, “Face the dangers of illegal immigration.” Of course, these people make no distinction between legal and illegal immigration. “Housing for all SPANISH” goes another. Huge stickers adorn doorways, and if their rhetoric is (almost) subtle, the racist caricatures (eastern european, moroccan, black african, chinese) appeal to a more basic sense of literacy.

I don’t remember any of these stickers the last time I was here. Now they bloom like poppies. The spectrum fills with colors. Either post-Franco extremists have learned to groom themselves or someone lies adjacent. And it is cunning, to make immigration look like the spout from which all sorts of social and economic ills pour, and tie that to a throwback notion of ‘Spanish’ identity from the fascist 1970s. Watching cities slide. Feeling the climate change. Seeing the wrong people sharpen their marketing game.

But I was talking about robbery. About thieves. About a broken-hearted couple at the police commissioner’s. The news media is talking about a strange new thievery surrounding the assumption of robbery. It´s called the canon digital. This refers to a blanket fine levied upon all media and gadgets involved in possible music or film piracy. Starting on January 1st, the government will place a surcharge on everything from blank CD-rs to mobile phones, scanners, and hard drives. DSL internet lines may be next. The new Spanish intellectual property law assumes we all use all these items to make personal copies of copywritten media. A big assumption to say the least… Funds generated are meant to compensate for the cost of bootlegging. The money raised will go to the (already wealthy) SGAE, Spain´s national performance rights organization, who trickle out payment to labels and artists after recouping their considerable operating costs.

No, it doesn’t matter if you use USB drives for personal data, or purchase MP3s legally via iTunes, or if you run a copyleft netlabel… everyone must pay. The canon digital is built into the price, then taxed, upping the costs of digital storage media and playback devices even more. The canon adds about 38 cents per blank CD, roughly a 41% increase in total cost to consumer! Price list here. Nosoypirata (I’m not a pirate) blogs about these issues intelligently.

But I was talking about real thieves, the ones who enter your home, smash your sense of security, take the jewelry, make you wait for hours in the police commissioner’s to report a crime the cops will not solve.

I spent a year or so living beside the sea. The Mediterranean was literally a 2-minute walk from the flat (Barceloneta). On the corner stood another police commissioners’. In the summer months a line of people would stretch out onto the sidewalk — people in bathing suits and towels, who’d fallen asleep and gotten robbed of all they had with them at the beach.

Down the street from me (even closer to the sea!) was one of the saddest apartment’s I’ve ever been visited. Inhabited by a real live ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT, a black musician from Ghana who liked Steve Reich tape pieces *and* Deep Forest. My friend was sick and his place was dark, so dark, almost unbelievably dark, especially considering he rarely left and the sky outside glared bright and overwhelming, all horizon and space and tourists walking and swimming and eating as if a vacation is a narcotic or a dream. He’d microwave me tea.

Barcelona´s leaders are doing their utmost to ensure that the city won’t survive a sharp drop in tourism. (Paradox being that no city can survive a sustained spike in tourism, survival in the spiritual sense). And Spain itself can’t survive without its immigrants (legal or illegal) — economic survival as well as actual, demographic survival.

On F and P’s TV (too big for the thieves to carry) I’m watching a travel show about a blonde Spanish woman trying local cocktails around the world. That´s all she does. She jokes with the bartenders or resort staffers (they don’t always understand her, looking awkwardly at the camera) and drinks and drinks. Angkor Wat, St. Thomas, Rio de Janeiro. She bubbles through a shrinking world, looking truly drunk.

I switch channels. Jose Luis Moreno appears in a wheelchair. A few days ago real thieves entered his home. They beat him brutally. Like in 24, these thieves used torture to extract quality information in a hurry. If you have spent time in Spain yet don’t know Moreno, perhaps you’ve seen his TV program, Noche de Fiesta. It aired on Saturday evenings. Each episode lasted hours. I’ve watched it (briefly) several times: a variety show featuring models in bikinis, muscle boys, a lingerie catwalk, treacly pianists, Moreno giving away gifts, and all the old people in the audience clapping, clapping, clapping. A very successful show.

Survival of a species. Survival of the fittest. National survival. Survival of stuff like TV, befriending young and old and outlasting us all. For individuals never survive. The arrival of a new year means one less day. Which house to rob? Which love to defend?

ENTIERRO DE LA SARDINA

A funeral where everything is fake and exaggerated.

It consists of pallbearers who carry the coffin where the sardine (supposedly) rests, before a group of women dressed in black. These are “the Sardine’s widows”, who cry and scream loudly, confessing their sins to a false priest. Some of the women may not be women. A group of police – also false – precede the convey, and the whole group is surrounded by a high-volume orchestra and people who slowly join the procession.

The streets lie in darkness and one can only see thanks to candlelight throwing shadows and glow across narrow streets. In seaside cities the sardine is taken to the shore and thrown in; in other cities a special burial ground is designated for it.

el entierro de la sardina

[Goya painting]