Are you, like me, tired of the endless drone of re-hashed half-baked “stories” concerning manufactured singers and musicians? The Sun considered it a “top story” that Cheryl Cole was worried that the US wouldn’t take to her when she goes over to do the US X-factor. This is not a news story, in fact, its barely worth mentioning. It is so insignificant in the grand scheme of things that I wonder why people would consider wasting their time and energy to contemplate such a thing!
Regardless, this celebrity culture is lapped up by millions (or potentially billions) of morons around the world. Why? Is it because they care, is it because they are big fans of Cheryl? I doubt it. I suggest, it is because it is all they know. They have been spoon fed for the last decade a mainstream culture that fits around consumerism and celebrities. People are not there to bring about social change but merely to consume (yes that’s right…even when you buy the Rage single at Christmas). The only anecdote to this, are performers who are there for a reason!
We can see examples in history where music has been used for the positive. The Clash breaking down racism by playing reggae, Tracy Chapman highlighting the plight of domestic violence or the Brit pop era pushing a generation into wearing questionable anoraks. What have WE had though? In the US, there has been a growth in politically aware hip-hop to highlight the on-going class and racial divisions! We have not had this (a quick challenge…name a famous UK hip-hop artist other than Roots?). It would appear, we are essentially culture-less; there is no music that defines my generation! Or is there?
I think not, I just think its a minorities game, but one that has the potential to take off like wild fire! The localization agenda!. There is a growing movement within the Greens that is working towards a localized agenda (do everything at the most local level possible). This way, you can build community and public trust whilst enjoying the benefits of a thriving local economy. This can protect you economically when Icelandic banks melt down, it can increase a sense of community, and it can reduce the intensity in which activities are currently undertaken, thus reducing their environmental impact.
I am going to make a bold leap here. I suggest that the same can be said for music.
In my local music scene there is a handful of really strong performers who play relentlessly to average to small crowds. Thier music is about local life, issues that affect you and me. When a local artist recently sang about the misery of the cheese rolling being canceled, I felt it! Why should I sit in my car, travel for an hour to Bristol to watch a band that charges 30 quid to get in, when I can see quality entertainment from people who want to be on stage at their local venue (any one who still thinks going to watch Morrisey is a good idea needs their heads checking).
In Cheltenham, we have the perfect example of a localized music scene, mutually supportive to create a sense of security and warmth. The istartedthefire label has created a “family” of artists who regularly play together at music venues around the county optimise this. They represent a phenomena which I can only see growing. They sing about stuff they care about; love, politics, life and their own lives. This is something that is lost in the wider music scene. People like it so much more, if your singing and you know what for!
Last Sunday I went to an all dayer in the Frog n Fiddle in Cheltenham that highlighted local talents such as Ben Marwood, Joe summers, Ruth Bewsey, The Midnight Mile and Jim Lockey and the Solemn sun. These guys are all either part of the Istartedthefire family or are close friends. As a result it created an atmosphere unparalleled to any gig I have been to in recent months. The evening cumulated in Jim Lockey singing unplugged with the audience circled around him. Not only, did this work but it engaged the audience. The whole crowd felt part of the scene. This was local people taking control of their own entertainment, thus protecting themselves from the corporate driven bullshit that we get fed in our lives!
People worry that when they go to see local music the quality might not be as good as that of national bands. To that I would say listen to Cheryl Cole and then check out some of the Myspace sites of the guys above. Hopefully you get my drift!
If you want to protect yourself economically, socially and emotionally, get involved in your local music scene!