Archive for August, 2012

Going Global

Posted on: August 30th, 2012 by Ripple Creative Strategy No Comments

By James Sandham

Pussy Riot at Lobnoye Mesto on Red Square in Moscow


Well well, music lover. Welcome back to the blog. You know, for most of the summer I’ve been on a real classic rock kick – listening to great Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees like April Wine and David Clayton-Thomas – but for the past week I’ve veered off and really gotten into some good international stuff – I guess what you might call “world” music. And I know – this is the Canadian Music Hall of Fame – but because Canada’s such an international and multicultural place, I thought that this week I’d share some the international artists I’ve been into lately. So without further ado let’s take a little musical trip around the globe…


Tribalistas – “Já Sei Namorar”

This track was released in Brazil in 2002 by EMI, then internationally the next year, but I just stumbled across it recently and I’ve got to say: I’m pretty hooked – it’s got such a great rhythm and feels so warm. Unfortunately, it comes out of a one-off collaboration: Tribalistas (consisting of Arnaldo Antunes, Marisa Monte, and Carlinhos Brown) were an extremely short-lived band who, despite selling more than a million copies of their self-titled debut in Brazil, went their separate ways afterward. At least they left us with this.


Scala & Kolacny Brothers – “Heartbeats”

Scala & Kolacny Brothers are a Belgian women’s choir conducted by Stijn Kolacny and arranged and accompanied by Steven Kolacny on the piano. I found out about them through Diplo’s “I Like Turtles” mixtape, which includes this tune. It’s actually a cover of a song by Swedish electronic group The Knife, from their 2003 album “Deep Cuts” – which is apparently what Scala & Kolacny Brothers do: cover other people’s songs (such as Oasis, Bjork, U2, Nirvana – even German industrial rockers Rammstein) in specially made arrangements. This one, I think, is one of their most beautiful.


Mamani Keita – “Mali Denou”

Speaking of beautiful songs, this one really sets the bar high. It’s by Malian singer and musician Mamani Keita, from her 2006 sophomore release, “Yéléma,” produced and composed by French multi-instrumentalist Nicolas Repac. Listening to it is like drinking pure sunshine.


Tommy Lee – “Holding out the Pressure”

I got turned onto this tune by a friend of mine who’s always posting tracks from the reggae and dancehall scenes – some hits, some misses; but this one was definitely a hit. Hailing from the community of Flankers, Montego Baby, Jamaica, Tommy Lee is a Vybz Kartel member, and this is one of his most popular songs.


Pussy Riot – “Punk Prayer”

And as long as we’re talking international music, how could we omit this song, the one heard around the world and lately in the pages of every international newspaper? It’s by Russian feminist punk group Pussy Riot, and it was performed in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour as a protest against alleged too tight ties between church and government, and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s increasing authoritarianism. On March 3, after a video of the performance appeared online, three of the group members were arrested; they were recently sentenced to two years in jail, launching an international outcry.

This Week in Music History: August 27 to September 2

Posted on: August 28th, 2012 by Ripple Creative Strategy No Comments

By David Ball

Listen up drum circlers (and fans of Joni Mitchell), this is for you…

On Day Four of the third and final edition of the Isle of Wight Festival (August 26-30, 1970) in Godshille, UK, a delusional hippy by the name of Yogi Joe jumped on stage and proceeded to “accompany” Joni Mitchell on congas, ruining her otherwise soothing piano-based solo performance of “Woodstock.” News to all amateur percussive enthusiasts, specifically bongo and conga players and grating drum circle revellers, but you’ve been ruining songs for generations with your flaky and randomly-placed non-syncopated beats. But I digress…

Already having to deal with an increasingly unruly and hostile crowd of approximately 600,000 during most of her Saturday set (including 50,000 suckers that actually paid for tickets), a frustrated Mitchell asked Mr. Joe to leave (initially, the folk sensation allowed him to stay since they were old yoga acquaintances). But in very un-yoga-like fashion, Yogi refused, grabbed Mitchell’s microphone, and began to rant about the injustices concerning his fellow hippies who wanted a free festival and resented being kept off the grounds by huge fences and armed guards with trained dogs.

Stagehands eventually grabbed Mr. Joe and dragged him from the stage, whereupon he proclaimed, “I believe this is my festival!” Indeed it was not, Yogi – although, unable to control the steady stream of gatecrashers, exacerbated promoters eventually announced that the event was indeed “free.”

"Desolation Row" - hippies' view from the hill outside the gates of the Isle of Wight Festival, 1970

The unfortunate Yogi Joe incident left the Saskatchewan folk sensation close to tears; Mitchell’s hour-long set wasn’t going over too well to begin with as she had to deal with a huge and mostly rowdy audience along with being rattled by a case of the nerves.

Joni Mitchell at the Isle of Wight Festival August 29, 1970

Amidst a chorus of boos, Mitchell manned-up and finished-off the remainder of her gig, but not before famously admonishing the disruptive throng for “acting like a bunch of tourists.” She had a point – though I’d say they were behaving more like “moronic boorish cheapskate tourists,” because not only did they jeer Joni, but they weren’t overly enamoured with some of the other big-name Isle of Wight acts either, including Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, The Doors, Chicago, Sly & the Family Stone, The Who, and Jimi Hendrix. To their credit, however, as Kris Kristofferson noted (after being booed mercilessly off the stage on the festival’s opening day), the crowd really loved Leonard Cohen’s overnight set of Sunday, August 30.

The Isle of Wight Festival was resurrected in 2002 and celebrated its 10 year anniversary on June 22 when 55,000 fans rocked to headliners Tom Petty, Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen.


On August 30, 1957, Paul Anka’s “Diana” reached No. 1 in the UK, where it remained for nine straight weeks. Shockingly, the Ottawa-born teen idol’s ‘45 was his only No. 1 pop hit in the UK; it also claimed the top of the US and Canadian singles charts.

“Diana” brought Anka immediate stardom and is recognized as one of the most successful singles ever produced by a Canadian artist. The legendary performer and prolific songwriter of over 900 songs was inducted into the CMHF in 1980 and received a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2005.


More chart news….

Bryan Adams’ seasonal classic, “Summer of 69,” peaked at No. 5 on Billboard on August 31, 1985. Looking back, I’m quite surprised that it didn’t grab top the spot on the noted US singles chart, given that it’s infinitely superior to the one that did, Huey Lewis’ “Power of Love.”

But hey, at least the 18-time Juno winner’s single made a dent in the Top 5, seeing as it stalled at only No. 11 in Canada. What’s up with that, hosers? Written by the CMHF inductee and frequent partner Jim Valance, “Summer of 69” was the fourth of six singles to reach Billboard’s Top 15 from Adam’s 12-time-platinum album, “Reckless.”


Add Canada’s Keanu Reeves’ to the list of Hollywood actors turned unsuccessful musicians. He joins such notables as the Bacon Brothers, Lt. Dan Band’s Gary Sinese, Bruce Willis, Gwyneth Paltrow, and CBC Radio’s respected Q pitchman, Billy Bob Thornton. (For the record, I didn’t forget put-on bad-boy actor Jared Leto, but I’d rather go to a concert featuring would-be bluesman Steven Segal than endure 30 seconds of the former’s obnoxious faux metal band, 30 Seconds to Mars).

The Toronto-raised A-list actor was born in Lebanon on September 2, 1964 and went on to star in such blockbusters as “Speed,” “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” and “The Matrix.” But Reeves belongs on the above list because of his work with Dogstar, a pretty decent grungy rock trio that was active from 1991-2002.

Bass-playing Reeves formed the band after a chance encounter in an LA supermarket with fellow-actor and avid drummer Robert Mailhouse (the Canadian thespian and hockey enthusiast first noticed his future drummer because he was wearing a Detroit Red Wings jersey). The two strangers hit it off immediately and eventually began jamming together. After several changes, Dogstar added guitarist/singer Bret Domrose to the lineup in 1994. During their 9-year career, the trio released just two under-the-radar albums and one EP – but, thanks to Reeves’ impressive star-power, Dogstar were still able to get noticed: they toured with Bon Jovi in 1995, shared concert bills with David Bowie, and appeared at several big festivals including Glastonbury in 1999. And I must say that Dogstar’s performance on The Tonight Show some 12-years ago wasn’t too bad, in an emo-meets-Goo Goo (as in Dolls) kind of way.

By the way, if you are looking for some examples of actors-turned-musicians that do not suck, check out Canadian superstar Ryan Gosling and the work he’s produced with Dead Man’s Bones. Or better yet, Sarah Polley’s haunting take on The Tragically Hip’s “Courage” from the Sweet Hereafter film soundtrack.


Next week: Alan Thicke and Heart


“Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell from August 29, 1970, Isle of Wight

School of Rock

Posted on: August 23rd, 2012 by Ripple Creative Strategy No Comments

By James Sandham

Well, music lover, it’s that time again – I heard a back to school ad on the radio for the first time the other day, and then, when I was down at the community centre, I overheard a couple kids talking about which lockers they’d been assigned. It wasn’t a few days later that I was down at the local art shop, and what’s the most prominent thing on display? Not pens and paint like usual; no, it was BACKPACKS, all big, bulky and burdensome looking, like physical manifestations of stress and work itself. I was making my way back home when a cool August breeze blew down the street, and that’s when it hit me:  the summer is almost over, folks. Labour Day – and the school year – are coming on fast.

It’s strange, you know – for some reason this realization still jolts me. I’ve been out of school for six years, and I don’t have any kids (or even know any people with kids of that age), but this time of year still reminds me (and probably always will) of going back to school. I guess that’s what sixteen years of behavioural conditioning will do. But in some ways, despite all the stress and awkwardness associated with going back to school, I have to say that sometimes I miss it. Or I miss the idea of it at least – the routines and seasonal patterns and whatnot. So with that in mind, I sat down to compile a few tracks on the subject. Here are a few of the favs.


Barenaked Ladies – “Grade 9”

Ah yes, this one. Back in high school we had a student council that would play this over the PA almost every morning before class. It annoyed the hell out of me at the time. In retrospect, however, I’ve got to say that it really does capture a moment in life. Grade nine was a silly and frantic sort of stage. It’s from the Barenaked Ladies’ first album, “Gordon,” which came out in 1992.


Pink Floyd – “Another Brick in theWall”

Years later, when I joined student council myself, this was the song we played over the PA. Or tried to – the faculty usually turned it off, which really only served to make us identify with the song all that much more – but looking back I can understand how it must have grated on them to come in and hear this first thing. A disheartening way to start the day. Then again, maybe they expected it – high schools aren’t exactly renowned as bastions of empathetic sensitivity.


Rough Trade – “High School Confidential”

I was never really into this tune personally, but it seemed too good to pass up on a list of back-to-school tracks. It’s from Rough Trade’s 1980 album, “Avoid Freud,” and was the band’s breakthrough Top 40 song in Canada. It even resulted in a JUNO Award for the song’s producer, Gene Martynec, who also did some really good 60s garage music as part of Bobby Kris and the Imperials. Anyway, this is what I assume high school must have been like in the ‘80s – very edgy, very tough.


Gold Panda – “Quitters Raga”

Here’s something a little more contemporary. It’s by UK performer, producer and composer Derwin Lau (aka Gold Panda), and while the song itself doesn’t really have much to do with going back to school, its fan-made music video, on the other hand, seems to perfectly capture the ambiance of this time of year. It’s shot in the late summer and early fall, on what looks like a campus, with a bunch of young kids goofing around, and it really just seems to capture the whole transition of going away to school.


Nada Surf – “Popular”

And to wrap things up, the Nada Surf classic. This came off their debut album, “High/Low,” from 1996 – right at the end of my elementary school years – and it’s basically a survival guide for high school. Or maybe it’s supposed to be sarcastic – I still haven’t figured that out – but it works equally well either way. Interesting fact:  the whole song, except for the chorus, is from the 1964 teen advice book “Penny’s Guide to Teen-Age Charm and Popularity,” written by TV actress Gloria Winters. Anyway, it’s a good one to nip any nostalgic back-to-school delusions in the bud.

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