Showing posts with label wonders of the internet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wonders of the internet. Show all posts

Friday, June 10, 2011

Jonathan Mann's Song-A-Day Project. I participated in song #890

I met Jonathan Mann earlier this year through the Family Crest. I first saw this video he wrote the day after a Family Crest show and I quickly learned that Jonathan is no ordinary songwriter (if that even exists).

Jonathan has been writing a song a day for the last 891 days and posting them on his youtube page. The idea is that if he writes a song every day, yeah, most of them will be mediocre, and some of them might even suck, but there's that small percentage that actually might be pretty good. So he's been writing about whatever pops into his head: Paul Krugman, elves and Maru the cat.

For the month of June, he decided that writing songs is a lonely process and wanted to get some friends involved. So, he ran a campaign to raise money for a larger song-a-day project that would pay a handful of musicians and eventually lead to the production of an album of songs written during June.

You can also watch the whole process of writing, recording and mastering each song, every day on streaming video here:

Read more about the project in this East Bay Express article that ran yesterday.

SO, I stopped by yesterday with Sarah Dabby, violist of the Family Crest and recorded some vocals for "They Double Dared Us" (I come in toward the end). It was a blast and I'm looking forward to stopping by again.

Don't worry too much about the video, these songs fly past so quickly that they just need to get posted. This one might just be a little creepy because Jonathan is just sitting there staring at the camera while footage of his eighth grade graduation runs above him. Oh well, just enjoy that face then. Lol. (And watch the video below it to see some footage of us recording.)

Because the internet is such a useful and empowering tool, the cello part came remotely across the interwebs from Barton Lewis. There are also opportunities (like today) to record yourself singing and send it to Jonathan to be included in the final track.

At the end of the month, we will all be able to vote the songs will be included on the album. I'll be looking to you guys to help get my tracks on it! :)

Here is a video from the behind the scenes, I show up around 1:45 into the video.

Seriously, today's song is about Maru the cat who turned 4 a couple weeks ago. We love him.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Thank you Flying Spaghetti Monster for giving me the internet and this video

I just wanted to thank YouTube, the internet and the powers-that-be for giving me this video cover of the "Bed Intruder Song" for Tsugaru Shamisen! This is Mike Penny, and he is badass on this instrument.

If you haven't seen the original yet click here.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Support singer/songwriters Pam Shaffer and Lia Rose make their studio albums,

In the past week, two singer/songwriters, Lia Rose and Pamela Shaffer, have reached out to their fans asking for help paying for the making of their studio albums. Kickstarter is an awesome site where artists can appeal to their fans (and find new ones) and fans can directly support artists they like. There is no middle man.

The awesome thing about the concept behind Kickstarter, is that if you donate money to Pamela or Lia's projects you are really just pre-paying for the album you would have bought anyway. So it's really more of an investment in the music that you like. And it's just another way to donate to the arts.

Pamela says,
"I love donating to the arts whether it's by purchasing a friend's album, being a member of LACMA or dropping cash in a tip jar for a musician on 3rd street."
If you take a look at the Kickstarter site, it has allowed Pamela and Lia to award various amount donations with different prizes: house shows, signed CDs, pre-release downloading and handmade cover art.

I'm going to donate some cash right after I finish this post. Every dollar helps them get that much closer to a finished product, and studio recordings ain't cheap to make. (Update: you can sign in through facebook and then pay through Amazon, so you don't have to open another account or give your credit card out to yet another site. Easy-peezy)

Check out the widgets below and their music. Please think about supporting these ladies on Kickstarter to make their studio recordings.

Los Angeles musician Pamela Shaffer needs help finishing her album

Bay Area musician Lia Rose (of Built by the Sea) needs support making a solo album

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hanging out with Julia Nunes at In-N-Out and her show at the Swedish American Hall

Julia and I prepare for Animal Style awesomeness

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing Julia Nunes play live at the Swedish American Hall in San Francisco. Since I showed up with Jack Conte of Pomplamoose, I got to meet her backstage before the show. This East Coaster told me that she had never been to In-N-Out before, so I offered to take her after her show. Like I NEED and excuse to get to In-N-Out. I know I've lived back on the West Coast for two-and-a-half-years, but it's still a novelty.

The show was so fun. Julia's stage banter, like her online humor, is very self deprecating. When seeing her sing live you really get to hear the power of her voice. Her songs are pretty straight up pop songs played on the guitar (which she has decorated with black sharpie marker and blue guitar strings) and two different ukuleles. I really enjoyed her random stories about meeting strange characters at the airport and witnessing her first rate beat boxing (but she might want to not quit the uke, *wink*).

Julia is the #27th most subscribed to musician on youtube and has some of the most loyal enthusiastic fans out there. After getting rockstar parking right outside the Swedish American Hall a good hour and 45 minutes before the opening band was supposed to go on, I spotted three fans hanging out on the sidewalk playing cards on the cold Market Street sidewalk. Yup, they were Julia Nunes fans and they wanted front row seats.

Julia has just released a new EP called "I Think You Know" and it was produced by Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn of Pomplamoose. I was playing it in the car on the way home last night and just couldn't get enough of the vocal harmonies of "Through the Floorboards." Theses songs have got Nataly Dawn's vocal arrangements written all over them. They are just gorgeous. I also love the song titled "Grown a Pair" written about a guy one of Julia's friends was dating.

If you are somewhat in the dark about what this youtube-musician thing is, check out the videos below. Julia makes them in her dorm room with her college friends. These two are pretty special, as most of them are just her and her uke in front of the computer. But these two are way more intricate. Watch her silly banter after the song is over. This video of "Binoculars" consists of video she asked her fans to send in which she edited together.

Julia is heading up to Seattle tomorrow and then to Minneapolis and Chicago.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A case study of Pomplamoose: 10 tips to be a successful internet musician

Hello all! As an assignment for a potential internship (I'll tell you more when/if I need to) I've been asked to write up a case study about the band Pomplamoose and how they've become a financially successful internet band. I figured this would be a good blog article to have out in the world for posterity and reference, so I'm taking my assignment digital.

Pomplamoose has, in less than two years, become one of the most successful independent bands on the internet: they are in the top 100 most subscribed to musicians on YouTube, they have racked up over 2.5 million hits on their cover of Beyonce's "Single Ladies" and are completely financially self-sustaining; meaning: they don't need day jobs.

Before I explain the various marketing and artistic tactics made by band members Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn, I must define "internet musician": what does it mean? According to Nataly, it means "being a bad musician." Yes, there are many musicians that can be found on YouTube that aren't very good; and some have enormous followings. But there are also some very talented people out there and just like the regular traditional music industry, they have to figure out clever ways to rise above the rest. But when the internet is your only resource, you can call your own shots. You don't need a record label. The internet has given musicians and artists ways of connecting with their fans directly: no middle men needed.

Here is the main question: How has Pomplamoose reached the hearts of their fans? And how have they gotten these fans to spend several bucks on mp3s and merch?

This is key: being a successful artist isn't really about being rich and famous, it means being able to devote all of your time to your art, and you need money for that.

The way I see it, all the traditional ways of having a financially successful music career have gone out the window. Pomplamoose has eradicated managers, record labels, promoters, live shows, and even actual CDs. Granted, there are many successful internet bands that use some of these (like CDs and playing live), but Pomplamoose has left all of these behind. They've only played live twice and they don't even have a physical CD you can purchase, all of their music is digital.

If you want to be a successful "internet musician," take one of these 10 tips from the Pomplamoose model:

(much of this information I got directly from the mouth of Nataly and Jack in this interview)

1. Be good at what you do
Just watch a Pomplamoose video. They are are great fun, and the music is good enough to take offline and listen to when you're not looking at YouTube. Nataly has a gorgeous voice and her harmonies are well constructed. Jack's musical abilities are varied, well thought out and the mixing and editing is flawless.

2. Make interesting videos that people want to watch over and over again

Pomplamoose works in a new medium called "VideoSong" and it has two rules:

1. What you see is what you hear (no lip-syncing for instruments or voice).
2. If you hear it, at some point you see it (no hidden sounds).

Snarkmarket has a very good discussion of the characteristics of Pomplamoose's VideoSong and why it is so enticing to viewers:
-Nor­mal duds, nor­mal envi­ron­ment. No span­dex, no fog machine.

- Gear. Lots of it.

- Sub­di­vi­sion of the video frame: over­lap­ping tracks visu­al­ized as over­lap­ping views.

- Per­for­mance! This isn’t just a hid­den cam­era in the stu­dio. It’s nat­ural, it’s unpretentious—but it’s still a performance.

[Pomplamoose's VideoSong] is show­ing us a com­pli­cated, vir­tu­oso per­for­mance, but mak­ing it really clear and acces­si­ble at the same time. It’s enter­tain­ing, but it’s also an exer­cise in demystification—which of course is exactly the oppo­site objec­tive of every music video, ever. Their pur­pose has been to mys­tify, to mas­quer­ade, to mythol­o­gize in real-time.
This demystification is one of the most powerful tools that Pomplamoose and other video bloggers use. Music lovers crave something "real" which is why if they think your music is good AND they like you as a real person, you've got a way in.

3. Be charming: make viewers care about you
This is true of any successful blogger (video or regular blogger). You have to be cute, funny or on the flipside, totally horrible. Either way, you have to present yourself in a way that people will want to keep coming back to see what you're doing and what you have to say. Fans think of the musician/blogger as their friend, someone they'd want to hang out with. Nataly and Jack are the most adorable couple: she is a smart self-deprecating cutie-pie who likes cereal. Jack is a goofy multi-instrumental smartypants who is obviously totally in love with his girlfriend. They have amazing musical chemistry as well as a social chemistry that you can see when they sit in front of their computer and chat.

4. Use several sites to spread the word - variety is key
Pomplamoose is on: YouTube, twitter, myspace, facebook, digg, iTunes, E-junkie and I'm sure many others. It's true that the average person is probably only on a couple of these sites, but many of these services are free, so why not take the time to set up and account. Nataly and Jack said that two-thirds of their sales come from iTunes and the other third comes from E-junkie. But they like E-junkie better because you can post a song immediately and E-junkie takes a smaller cut than iTunes.

5. Encourage fans to help shape the band's identity
Nataly and Jack have asked their fans to contribute designs for virtual album covers and t-shirt designs. Many of these designs can be found online for all to see, for example as the Pomplamoose myspace profile picture. People love to see their own names in print, they also love to see hard work acknowledged and available for others to see. Fans eat that up, it makes them feel truly appreciated by the musician.

6. Offer free stuff
Covers must be free due to copyright issues; Pomplamoose has used this to their advantage. Nataly and Jack put just as much work and time into covers as they put into their originals. I downloaded all of the free Pomplamoose mp3's off of E-junkie. If I decide to spend another $10 or so to get the originals, it would feel like a 2 for 1 deal. I also want to support my "friends" so that they can keep making more music that I love.

Covers also get viewers who aren't fans yet to take a peek. I saw "Single Ladies" posted on facebook, and since I like the song, I was curious about a cover. Unlike some other artists I've come across, Pomplamoose's originals are just as good, if not better than their covers. So if a viewer is impressed with the originals after seeing a cover, he or she will be more likely to spend a little bit of cash.

7. Get creative with your merch
There has been Pomplamoose soap (handmade by Jack's sister) and dongles (flashdrives). Who else sells stuff like that? They told me that they'd like to do more merch sales that help support and promote artists and craftspeople. Both the soap and dongles completely sold out and were sent to 30 countries. People LOVE to support Pomplamoose. Their fans are very loyal.

8. Have an online network of artists to interact with
I really love watching bloggers have some sort of relationship. Pomplamoose are fans of Julia Nunes and talk her up on YouTube. Julia and Pomplamoose talk to each other through their YouTube videos and fans can watch these coversations. Pomplamoose goes to Julia's house and produces some tunes with her. They make a video about it. Julia's fans mesh with Pomplamoose's fans. It's a big love fest. Nataly and Jack really think of YouTube as a community, they get crap for it, but it makes sense to me.

9. No need to make a big push to play live
Pomplamoose has only played twice in the last two years, this is one of the main things that set them apart from almost every other band. They played their second show ever at the Brainwash Cafe last month in in San Francisco. There literally wasn't enough room for everyone who showed up and folks were outside on the sidewalk.

Pomplamoose has fans all over the world. Until they're financially successful enough to tour extensively, they'll focus on what they do best: videos. Also, preparing to play live is a whole other skill and takes up a good amount of time, so they have chosen not focus on that.

10. Keep it interesting, change it up
I was actually wondering where Pomplamoose was heading and what they might have in store for the future. The VideoSong format is really cool, but it might be losing some of its novelty value. "Come on! Keep impressing me" says the fan. But then I checked Pomplamoose's twitter feed: They're looking for horn players. Nice. Step it up! I don't know how they're all going to fit in Jack's little recording studio, but it will be interesting.

There are many other ways to be a successful "internet musician." One of my favorites is Kina Grannis. She's got another style all together and each musician will. But you have to cover all of your bases so that you win the hearts (and pocket books) of your fans. As I said earlier, being a successful artist isn't about being rich and famous, it means being able to devote all of your time to your art, and you need money for that. If your fans really love you, they will support you.

I mean, look at this video they made me just because I asked...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Interview with Pomplamoose!

Hello everyone! Last week I got to do an interview with the band Pomplamoose. They are sweet genuine people and I learned so much from them. I posted an interview in three parts on Check it out.

I wanted to stress that if you are a musician or have friends that are struggling musicians, tell them to read this interview (at least the first two parts). Nataly and Jack of Pomplamoose are supporting themselves on their mp3 sales! Of course they are also talented and charming, but they've made the internet really work for them. They're doing so well they're even looking for a personal assistant to help them with day-to-day administrative tasks.

If you are in the Bay Area next weekend, Pomplamoose will be playing a show at the Brainwash Cafe on Friday November 13th.

Read the interview

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

And now, a special 'hello' to all of you at

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pomplamoose says hello to all of you at Always More to Hear

I had the pleasure of meeting Nataly Dawn and Jack Conte of Pomplamoose last night in San Rafael and yes, they are as adorable in person as they are in their videos. I brought a camera to prove to you all that I had indeed met them, but totally forgot about it until I got in the car. So they made me this little video for us (like a radio station does where famous people say who they are and thanks for listening) and sent it over.

The interview will go up next week to help promote the second EVER Pomplamoose live show: (San Francisco at the Brainwash Cafe on November 13th!) But I couldn't wait to share this video with you all. Wanted to do it now.

Happy Birthday Nataly!!!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Two more crazy awesome youtube musicians: Pomplamoose and Lauren O'Connell

We all know that the internet is an extraordinary thing and has changed the way we live our daily lives (and I don't even have an iphone yet). The internet has also, of course, changed the way we listen to music and how we make music.

One of my favorite artists that I've written about before, Kina Grannis, is one of these people. She writes songs, records some covers and makes youtbe videos with her Mac computer and edits them into some gorgeousness.

But I've got some new finds thanks to my friends on facebook: Pomplamoose and Lauren O'Connell.

This is Pomplamoose. Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn hang out in their apartment in the Bay Area (I guess they are an item and live together) and make music videos. Nataly has a gorgeous voice that she layers and layers and layers and Jack plays all sorts of instruments. They remind me of the early recording experiments of Les Paul and his wife Mary Ford.

These videos are awesomely edited together and showcase a fabulous sense of humor. Watch Jack jump around, say silly things and put puppets on the kick pedal of a bass drum. Oh, and Nataly recently got a Master's degree in French Literature. So she's smart too. And did I say pretty? Because she's really pretty.

Pomplamoose will be playing live in San Francisco on November 13th at the Brainwash Cafe. I hope I can check it out. I would be very interested to see what they do live.

This is their cover of Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)." Yes, I still love this song. This is the first tune I heard of theirs, they have *ton* of good ones though. Click around on their youtube page.

I just discovered Lauren O'Connell this morning (thanks Joey), so I'm still learning about her and all her videos on her youtube page. But, she is friends with Pomplamoose and is only 20! She layers and edits all of her own stuff and does very neat things with percussive sounds (doors slamming, kicking things) to get the sound she wants. She also plays a bazillion instruments.

Oh, and she's freaking hysterical too: "Right next to my bed, is the FUCKING RAT POISON!"

She says on her myspace page that she "doesn't understand the internet." Yeah, right. She's genius at using it.

Oh look, I just found a Nataly and Lauren collaboration. Cool.

So, if you're looking to make it big on yotube as a musician, this is one of the equations that are successful. You must:

1) be funny, charming, silly, etc.
2) cool cover songs (originals are good too!)
3) edit and layer audio and video.

What do we call this? Patchwork editing?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Be part of a "Thiller" dance world record: 300 locations worldwide participate next Saturday the 24th

You love the man.

You love the dance.

Join the worldwide record attempt for the most people dancing simultaneous to Michael Jackson's "Thriller."

Over 300 locations all over the world from Netherlands to Peru will participate on Saturday, October 24th at exactly 5:30pm (Pacific Coast Time).

To participate in this once in a lifetime event, check in with the "Thrill the World" website.

All dancers must know the steps exactly as shown in the demonstration video. Remember, the dance occurs EXACTLY at 5:30pm on Saturday, October 24th. Zombie costumes encouraged!

See the list of registered cities here or start your own!

To register for the Bay Area event click here.


p.s. how much do we love the internet for making this possible??!!

Monday, August 10, 2009

I'm sorta loving this Chris Brown song in all of its incarnations

I was not a fan of Chris Brown until I saw this video of the coolest, cutest, happiest wedding procession ever to exist. I've watched this 6 times or so (youtube viewers have watched if over 18 million times. I love it. It makes me so happy and I have no idea why.

If you love it too, go to the site the couple made in honor of the popularity of this video where they are raising money for Sheila Wellstone Institute, dedicated to ending domestic violence in our communities.

I happened to find this video today while poking around youtube. It's the promo video for Kollaboration: an all Asian American concert that occurred in February in Los Angeles.

I already love Kina Grannis and I've seen David Choi (gorgeously pop perfect voice) performing duets with Kina. BUT WHO ARE THESE OTHER VELVET VOICED WOMEN?? I'm sort of in love. The four sisters are Jazmin, the other lady is Jane Lui (click on their names to hear more). I'm feeling the Asian American love and wished I had known about this show back in February.

So I can't get "Forever" out of my head now. Thanks alot...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

People who yell at each other on the internet

I just wanted to point out that there are two people that have been yelling at each other on one of my Michael Jackson vs. Beatles articles from last month and continue to do so. 

I don't even know what they're arguing about anymore. But just yesterday one of them admitted to being from Canada and then the other one started to lay into him for that. He even brought up "Blame Canada" from South Park. It's pretty funny.

I thought about stepping in at pointing out how ridiculous they are being, but then it might stop. And this is just too fun.

Check out the back and forth here on

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ra Ra Riot plays a Sunday morning breakfast show in Golden Gate Park, sans cello

I take sleeping in on weekends very seriously. But sometimes it's worth getting up at 8:30 AM on a Sunday morning, especially if you know that you're going to witness an intimate performance of a popular band in a park!  Take yesterday: I got up and headed over to San Francisco to see the band Ra Ra Riot perform a live set in Golden Gate Park. 

The event was part of a "Live and Local" series thrown by SPIN earth tv "A voluminous new music site with correspondents from 6 continents who are producing videos, articles and photos about their music scenes." I just heard about this site and am now following them on twitter

After wandering around the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park for a couple minutes wondering where the crowd was and wondering if it was all a cruel joke (and seeing some other folks doing the same) I found the crowd in a meadow to the east through the trees. Ra Ra Riot and Spin earth tv had brought along free bagels, donuts, fruit and coffee.

I'd say there were about 50 people there. Everyone looked half awake (I'm sure some of them were at the Greek Theater the night before to see Ra Ra Riot and Andrew Bird open for Death Cab for Cutie).   I'm not too familiar with Ra Ra Riot, but since I like free stuff and I like the park, I thought this would be worth my time. 

It turns out that the cello was broken, so the band could only perform two songs.  It was sad, but it was nice to hear some music that early in the morning, especially from a band of their stature.

I'm still wondering if only those two songs were playable without the cello, but like I said, I don't know their music that well, so maybe. But it was still worth getting up.

These are two short video clips I took of "Each Year" - sans cello. If you want to see the full performances, I've reposted this on with someone else's footage.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Neat and addicting website: WhoSampled

I came across an addicting website the other day while trying to remember what the name of the song where Fatboy Slim sampled Camille Yarbrough. Turns out it was of course "Praise you" and I found this neat site that puts the two youtube videos right next to each other: WhoSampled: exploring and discussing the DNA of music.

My friend Raya Yarbrough (also a vocalist) is the grand-niece of Camille Yarbrough, who is the vocalist sampled on "Praise You." I heard that Camille made so much money off this sample that she was able to buy a condo in Harlem, where she lives today. Spin Magazine called her the "fore mother of hip hop." Very cool.

This is the original "Take Yo' Praise" from 1975:

This is the hysterical video that WhoSampled uses on their site: I repost it here because it was filmed in front of the Bruin Theater in Westwood, the neighborhood near UCLA in Los Angeles. I grew up about 6 blocks from this theater. Check out these dance moves:

Another video WhoSampled entry I wanted to point out was that of Moby's "Run on" from the album Play. This is my favorite Moby track:

Here's the original four part harmony gospel tune (one of my favorite genres of music, a precursor to motown, do-wop and any vocal harmony group) by Bill Landford & the Landfordaires called "Run On for a Long Time":

Here's Moby's tune "Run On":

I think I like this tune more than most of the others because of the way Moby samples Landford: he samples the whole song. This really hardly ever happens with samples, it's usually little bits played over and over and over (oh, the joys of electronic music). Really Moby just adds an accompanying track to the vocals and I think it really adds to the tune.

Check out the rest of the site, there's more good stuff there.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Support Tara to be part of the Youtube Symphony

Be part of a musical revolution!  I know it sounds cliche, but please keep reading. This is very exciting:

My friend Tara is part of an amazing youtube project where classical musicians upload audition videos of musical segments, and viewers vote on who they like best, sort of like "American Idol" or "Dancing with the Stars". Last year she got to play at the 2008 Grammys with the Foo Fighters as part of My Grammy Moment

This year you can vote for her, and other talented folks from all over the world, to play a composition by Chinese composer Tan Dun, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas.

I think this is one of the most exciting and innovative combinations of youtube, the internet and pure musical talent bringing musicians together from all over the world. 

Definitely check out some of the other musicians, there is a category for over a dozen instruments including contrabasson, harp, french horn, marimba, tuba and more!

Here is the message I got from Tara on how to vote. If you have any questions, let me know.


Dear Friends,

Last year it was the Grammy's -- this year, it's Carnegie Hall!! :) One year ago, many of you helped me play at the Grammy Awards by voting for me on You Tube. Are you ready for some more You Tube fun??

You Tube is holding auditions for the You Tube Symphony -- and it is up to YOU to vote for who should get into the orchestra. This is such a cool project!! The chosen musicians will be flown to New York City from around the world to perform together in Carnegie Hall this April!

Voting will take place from February 14th through February 22nd at

Please vote for Tara!!!!!
1. Go to
2. Click on the Vote button
3. Find my video under the "Cello" category (you can cycle through the contestants or search for "taraklein1027")
4. Cast your vote by clicking the green thumbs up!

Please help me in spreading the word to as many people as you can! Thank you so much for your support!! :)

Much Love,


Here is Tara's audition video from the 2008 "My Grammy Moment". I think she's pretty awesome, but I might be a little biased...

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Gunther: And why the Swedes crack me up

To those that have not yet been graced with his presence, let 2009 welcome you with Sweden's Gunther (Mats Söderlund): a hysterical model turned europop parody.   

Once you get past the pornographic mustache, pouty lips, terrible dance moves, and mullet (and the scantily clad "Sunshine Girls"), you won't be able to get these songs out of your head. You are welcome to curse me for it.

Here is "Ding Ding Dong"

And another gem: "Tutti Frutti Summer Love." Nothing beats the flying fruit and extra special surprise you get at 3:13.

What's the funniest thing you've seen on the internet lately?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The AccoLade and Souad Massi: Muslim Women and Music

Many of you may have heard about this already, but NPR and The New York Times have both run stories about The AccoLade, a all-female rock band from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (you can listen to the NPR radio spot here).

The three college students posted the tune "Pinocchio" on facebook and myspace and at first, only had a couple dozen fans, but now they have over two thousand.

They do not play live shows or share their full names, nor to they post images of themselves on the internet out of respect for their religion. The NPR story states that "cultivating a modest and somewhat anonymous identity online lets them thrive in this strict society." Instead they interact with their fans on facebook and myspace and share original drawing and paintings to represent themselves (see the above images).

Dina, Dareen, Amjad and Lamia, all college students between the ages of 19 and 21 have received a wave of international support as well as criticism for being female and playing in a rock band. The ladies state on their facebook page (with a few edits to bridge the language gap):
Anyone in this world can play, hear and create music no matter what their gender is or nationality, we are making music and we would appreciate it if the comments are only about our music, lyrics, paintings, where talk about our song, or how good/bad our song is…and omit anything that is irrelevant or inappropriate .

And by the way we are not facing any problems with anyone, and we are satisfied with what we are doing and the way we provide our song to you ... as we said before we are doing this for fun only and we respect our country, culture and traditions …we’ll continue our music without contradicting them…
Read an interview with them here (scroll all the way down).

I am so impressed with these women and their courage to live and make music within the system, even in a city like Jidda, by far the most cosmopolitan city in Saudi Arabia. It got me thinking about other female Muslim musicians and also how the internet is really revolutionizing and changing the world that we live in. It as has made things possible for women like The AccoLade to do what they love and share it with others.

Another woman who comes to mind is Souad Massi, an Algerian singer/songwriter who started playing as a teenager and was immensely influenced by American roots music, flamenco and rock bands like Led Zeppelin and U2. In the 1990s she joined an Algerian hard rock band called Atakor, but because of the political climate (civil war), political lyrics and growing popularity became a public target. Massi tried disguising herself by cutting her hair and dressing in male clothing. But despite these efforts, she began to receive death threats, so she left the band and moved to Paris in 1999.

Massi, finally found massive success in her solo career in Europe. This is a clip of a gorgeous performance in Brazil of the tune "Yemma," a song for her mother.

From the research I've done online, it looks like she never moved back to Algeria. I also can't tell how much her gender effected the reaction she got from her involvement in Atakor. But I do know that women and musical performance do not mix well in the Islamic world. I am doing further research on why and what women are and are no allowed to do. (For example, women are allowed to perform for other women, which is the case in the Bedouin community of the Sinai Desert between Israel in Egypt.)

If you have any information on this topic, I would love to hear it. I am very curious. (I found this too from Muslimah Media Watch, very interesting how the media is framing AccoLade in terms of it's political presence more than it's musical attributes.)

I also think it's fascinating that a band, in this age of the world wide web, no matter who or where they are, can be successful and have fans, without ever leaving their homes; ESPECIALLY if they don't want or need to make money from their music. They don't need record labels, or CDs or managers. Just an audio recording and an internet connection.

If you are a Muslim female musician or are a fan of a Muslim female musician, Please check this out: there is an effort out there by the English organization called Ulfah Arts to connect these women and give them a supporting network.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Straight No Chaser: A Triumph of College A Cappella

Just in time for the holidays: Indiana University's own male collegiate a cappella group Straight No Chaser has landed a record contract with Atlantic Records based on their performance of "The 12 Days of Christmas," a viral video that spread like wild fire last year.  

What's so great about this is that this video is ten years old and the guys that are touring are the original members.  Read the about story here or watch a video here.   This is the video that Altantic Records CEO/Chairman Craig Kallman and 8 million other youtube viewers saw:

For those of you that don't get the joke (and don't feel bad, we can't all be huge college a cappella dorks), Toto's "Africa" is THE cliche college a cappella tune. Don't know why, it just is.

Straight No Chaser is on tour promoting their newly released Christmas CD "Holiday Spirits" and will be playing the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco on Monday December 15th. Anyone want to go with me? 

I miss this stuff. College a cappella is great music, and these guys are as good as it gets. I mean, 'N Sync wishes they could pull off a performance as good as these guys.

Check out how effortlessly Straight No Chaser slips from tune to tune and style to style in this version of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" including bits of "Brown Eyed Girl" and "Don't Worry be Happy."

Friday, November 14, 2008

"Distubia" cover by Kina Grannis

I'm sort of obsessed with this today.  This is Kina Grannis, she's a singer/songwriter in LA. She's got three albums of original music out, all of which you can buy on itunes, imeem, myspace and every other music distribution method out there. (I should check out imeem)

She's cute as a button, a good guitarist and has a lovely voice. I'm sure she's a decent songwriter, but that's not what interests me about her.

Like many folks out there, Kina posts video blogs on youtube.  Every Monday she records covers on garageband and makes her own videos with her Mac (I assume).  Before and/or after she performs she talks about random stuff, it's very youtube celebrity (and gives shout outs to all of her fans that have birthdays that week).  She's got over 33 THOUSAND subscribers presumably from all over the world.  In the world of modern day technology you can be famous from your bedroom.  And then maybe you tour,  but you might not. It's amazing.

This is Kina's cover of Rihanna's "Disturbia," wonderful pop schlock, that gets into your brain and won't go away.   I really enjoy watching and listening to Kina's video.  I think I just like that it's good and homemade.  It's hard for me to knock the songwriting skills of professional songwriters.  They are very good at what they do.  And when you hear an INTERESTING version of the song, you'll know why.

This is the wonder of the internet and home technology. 

I love covers.  Stay tuned for more.