Documentary about Fela Kuti, Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer and human rights activist

In the 1970s and 1980s, Legendary musician Fela Kuti pioneered the sound of Afrobeat, an entrancing amalgam of West African highlife music, jazz, and American funk. Among his fans, he counts David Byrne, Brian Eno, and Thom Yorke. Fela was also a lifelong social activist and organizer who served time, a "prisoner of conscience" according to Amnesty International. One biographer famously described Fela as a "superstar, singer, musician, Panafricanist, polygamist, mystic, legend."

Above, Jean Jacques Flori and Stephen Tchal-Gadjieff's excellent concise documentary about Fela, shot in 1982. It's aptly titled "Music is the Weapon." From the film description:

Fela Kuti is to African music what Bob Marley is to reggae: its prophet. All contemporary forms of black music, from funk to electronic, owe something to the irresistible groove of the Afrobeat sound that he created. He recorded more than 60 albums and spent a lifetime fighting against political corruption in his homeland of Nigeria, where the people affectionately called him their "Black President."

Shot in Lagos at the peak of his career in 1982, this documentary contains interviews with Fela detailing his thoughts on politics, Pan-Africanism, music and religion, alongside unpublished versions of songs like ITT, Army Arrangement and Power Show.

And here's one of my favorite Fela tracks, "Fear Not for Man":

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Experience the Voyager Golden Record at San Francisco's Exploratorium, August 3

On August 3 in celebration of the 40th anniversary month of the Voyager interstellar mission, please join me at San Francisco's Exploratorium to experience the Voyager Golden Record with two of the brilliant minds behind it -- SETI pioneer Frank Drake and science writer Timothy Ferris.

In August and September 1977, NASA launched two spacecraft, Voyager 1 and 2, on a grand tour of the solar system and beyond, into the mysteries of interstellar space. Mounted to each spacecraft is a golden phonograph record, a message to introduce our civilization to extraterrestrials, perhaps billions of years from now. Ozma Records, the label I co-founded with my friend Timothy Daly, is releasing the Voyager Golden Record as a box set of vinyl LPs so those on Earth can hear it as it was meant to be played. The accompanying book contains all of the images encoded on the Voyager record, an original essay by Timothy Ferris, and a gallery of photos transmitted back from the probes. As our co-producer/designer Lawrence Azerrad has said, "It is the ultimate album package of the ultimate album package." (The limited edition super-deluxe Kickstarter edition will not be repressed but please keep an eye on our Twitter feed @ozmarecords for announcements from us in the next few weeks.)

At the Exploratorium's August 3 After Dark event, themed around "Our Place in Space," we'll play the Voyager Record on the museum's incredible Meyer Sound system while projecting the images encoded on the disc. Then, at 8pm, Frank Drake and Timothy Ferris will join me on stage to discuss this incredible artifact that was a gift from humanity to the cosmos, but also a gift to humanity. Read the rest

How badly do streaming services rip off musicians? A chart, updated

Information is Beautiful has updated their comparison of artist payments on streaming services, estimating that 2.4 million plays on YouTube will net a whopping $1,472 for an unsigned artist. That's $0.0006 per play!

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Here's the unusual creative process of Aphex Twin's anonymous visual artist, Weirdcore

As part of the Nicer Tuesdays series, Designer Weirdcore treats viewers to a rare historical overview of his concert visuals for Aphex Twin. Read the rest

Can you name all 26 bands whose fonts comprise this alphabet?

Design firm Dorothy created an alphabet made up entirely of letters from classic rock band logos. I did OK on this one, but the alternative rock one kicked my butt: Read the rest

Unheard Michael Jackson album up for auction

A CD containing nine unheard Michael Jackson songs that are reportedly master recording quality will be on the auction block next week. The winner won't have legal distribution rights though. From Rolling Stone:

The starting bid on the unreleased album is $50,000, though organizers tell Rolling Stone that they expect the final price to go as high as $1 million. Whoever takes home the CD will not own rights to the music, so the winning bidder cannot distribute the recording. According to the auction house, the album was obtained by "the personal friend and personal assistant to Michael whose family was very close to Michael for many years, traveling all over the world with him." When reached for comment, a rep for (auctioneers) Gotta Have Rock and Roll said Jackson's friend wished to remain anonymous.

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Legal advice to musicians, after "Blurred Lines": pretend you have no influences

It's been two years since Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke lost a lawsuit brought by Marvin Gaye's descendants, who argued that their song "Blurred Lines" infringed Gay's 1977 song "Got to Give It To You," not because it copied the music per se, but because it copied its "vibe." Read the rest

How Dr. Dre discovered Eminem

An intern slipped famed record producer Jimmy Iovine a mixtape of then-unknown Eminem. Dr. Dre got hold of it and the rest is history.

In an earlier documentary about their fateful meeting, Dr. Dre describes what happened:

"Well, I first heard Eminem’s music at Jimmy Iovine’s house. He just happened to have gotten Eminem’s tape maybe a couple of days before. He actually got it from an intern that used to work at Interscope. He popped it in and then I heard it. And I thought it was incredible. At this time, I had no idea he was a white guy. I didn’t find that out until a few days later. And I was just like ‘What the fuck is this? I really need to meet this guy.’ The first thing that we did was ‘My Name Is.’ I had already prepared a sample that I thought he would sound great on. Immediately after I put it on he just went ‘Hi, my name is’... When I heard he was gonna start his own label, I thought it was an amazing idea. I was excited to see what they were going to be able to do with it.”

This is a clip from HBO's The Defiant Ones, a new biographical series documenting the "unlikely and wildly successful partnership of Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine."

Here's its trailer:

(reddit) Read the rest

Gangnam Style finally dethroned as most-played YouTube video

On YouTube, Gangnam Style's been the most-played video for five years—a little-known testament to the grim reality of popular culture these days. But no longer! It has finally been dethroned, by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth's See You Again. Moreover, Despacito, embedded above, seems likely to storm past it in due course.

Here's the top 10.

1) Wiz Khalifa, See You Again (ft Charlie Puth) - 2,895,373,709 2) Psy, Gangnam Style - 2,894,426,475 3) Justin Bieber, Sorry - 2,635,572,161 4) Mark Ronson, Uptown Funk (ft Bruno Mars) - 2,550,545,717 5) Luis Fonsi, Despacito (ft Daddy Yankee) - 2,482,502,747 6) Taylor Swift, Shake It Off - 2,248,761,095 7) Enrique Iglesias, Bailando - 2,232,756,228 8) Maroon 5, Sugar - 2,150,365,635 9) Katy Perry, Roar - 2,129,400,973 10) Taylor Swift, Blank Space - 2,101,607,657

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New comic book "The Beatles: Yellow Submarine" in the works

In celebration of next year's 50th anniversary of The Beatles: Yellow Submarine film, Titan Comics will publish an authorized comic adaptation of the movie. Bill Morrison, incoming editor for MAD Magazine, is writing and illustrating the comic.

(Hollywood Reporter)

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A song for Donald Trump

Elite European sophistication prevails once again over vulgar American exports. Read the rest

Proof the Thomas the Tank Engine theme works with all rap

Readers familiar with music theory, riddim, or any other aspect of music deeper than a four-chord pop song may already be itching to leap into the comments to explain of course it does, that any bouncy predictable track can back any lines hitherto laid over any other bouncy predictable track.

But just as there is a weird power in Thomas the Tank Engine, there is an uncanny magic to Mike O' Donnell and Junior Campbell's theme.

Previously: Biggie Smalls the Tank Engine. Read the rest

Trippy animated coral-like forms pulse to Japanese dance music

Sojiro Kamatani just released a an otherworldly CGI rendering for the new single titled Baku by Suiyōbi no Campanella (aka Wednesday Campanella). It's a dizzying, candy-colored confection reminiscent of a coral reef on LSD. Read the rest

Celebrate Independence Day with MC Frontalot's nerdcore rap about free software vs open source

Animator Chad Essley writes, "The new MC Frontalot (previously) nerdcore video is out for the 4th of July! Celebrate our nation’s hostility toward the British crown by listening to Front rap about internet arguments over Free Software!" Read the rest

After 28 years, Sony resumes vinyl record production

Sony last pressed a vinyl record in 1989. And it'll be pressing them again by March 2018, reports The BBC, proof of the mainstream return of the ancient format—once again a billion-dollar business.

Folks always argue about quality (will mainstream product mean mainstream mastering?) but the reasons for vinyl's resurgence are complex. It's a nice thing to own, it's a pleasing retail experience, it's nostalgic, it's a better gift, it's big enough to hang on a wall, you can fend off zombies with it, and so on.

There are seriously lame aspects to vinyl, though: quality deteriorates with use; easily damaged even when stored; no metadata; no controls; fiddly hardware. So whenever I read a "vinyl returns" article I dream of a new HD physical media format that's backward compatible with it. An LP-sized optical disk with the grooves on a clear laminate layer, perhaps. Or maybe a vinyl with a hidden flash storage layer within and exposed metal rings to read it with near the spindle. Or some kind of bad-ass sharpened metal disk played the old-fashioned way but at nyquist-busting RPM. Read the rest

Man imitates xylophone

"About five years ago, I was in my back yard entertaining a friend with my hands." Read the rest

Dave Rosser, Afghan Whigs guitarist, RIP

Dave Rosser, an incredibly talented musician, exemplary human being, and pillar of the New Orleans music community, died last night surrounded by love in New Orleans.

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