Last Friday, I went to a Nordic Cool 2013 concert at the Kennedy Center. The guy who sits next to me at work suggested it–or, rather, he smirked as he pointed to a picture of the evening’s band on his computer.
There was a monkey in the picture, you guys. A monkey.
No one was quite sure what to expect. I’m not used to that. My fellow interns are uber-cultured musicians and ethnomusicology students (dammit, spell check, ethnomusicology is a word) who seem to know every nuance of every genre.
…though really, all I can confirm is that they know a whole lot more than me. Which means I’m always learning.
Much like my own field (history), with music there is always-always-always more to discover. And the more you listen, the more you realize how much you have yet to listen to.
Like this band from Denmark with a monkey, for example.
And so we went. We took the metro. We filed into the packed Grand Foyer. We stood at the back, since all the seats were taken–clearly, word had gotten around that the Danish monkey-band was coming to town. Inside our programs was this short description of what we were about to see:
Oh, “of course.”
AFRObeat? C’est quoi ca? Can someone point me in the direction of their favourite soul/jazz inspired acid-power-beat song, please? And “almost-punk” just sounds like how I feel when I jaywalk or accidentally sleep through church. [Insert rebel yell here.]
In true millennial fashion, I googled the band before going. Specifically, I watched this mezmerizingly weird music video of a song entitled “Blue Balls.” The album is called “Absinthe.” And the music is rad.
(At least, it’s rad enough for me to try to bring back the term “rad.”)
Yeah. That. Don’t do drugs?
The show was fantastic. It isn’t that I didn’t expect it to be fantastic….just that I didn’t know what to expect at all. The music (whatever it was, exactly) was an awesome, awesome discovery.
I make lots of awesome discoveries these days.
Finnish tango. Hardcore conjunto. Underground folk revival. Central Asian pipa. Autoharp country. Banjo masters. Those French Canadian songs that people assume I know (and I never do).
It’s almost overwhelming. Reading through the “Events in Washington DC,” trying to figure out what I can make it to…or what I should make it to…or what I can connect to, even just a little bit. Finding that balance between learning new things and maintaining/expanding on what I’ve already got. Searching through the Folkways catalogue, working out what to listen to next.
You would think that the daunting excitement of “where do I start?!” would be second nature to me by now. History student stuff. Curator problems. And yes, I have spent long days awkwardly navigating books, journals, and microfilm. Having all this new music at my fingertips is no different, really. But for the first time, culture is my every day–my work, my play, my social life, my background, my foreground.
And I still don’t feel a sense of “competence.” Not in even a sliver of it.
How can I, when I have bands like Ibrahim Electric to keep me on my toes?
Oh, I don’t always do “new things.” I still can’t seem to stay away from Ottawa. I even showed up to a Canada-US Relations event last week…and ended up being live-broadcasted on CPAC, asking a question about the Keystone Pipeline. Yeah.
“New things” can find you, though. They can creep up. It’s called “opportunity,” and it’s always hanging around–especially in a place like DC, especially if you make the first move. One “new thing” can breed familiarity with another. And another. And another.
Case in point: A friend and I showed up to the Kennedy Center to check out Finnish tango music (because, why not?) and some dude gave us his extra tickets to this:
We didn’t ask questions
Though to answer yours: It was one of the best plays I’ve ever seen. Seriously. “Bird in Magic Rain with Tears.” Who would’a thought?
Here’s to the art of “where to I start?!”
– – –