Hungarian Rock Hall of Fame – Rock Museum in Budapest

A rock museum opened in Budapest on 8 February 2014 in the Radnóti Miklós Colosseum, a new cultural and event centre in the 13th district. The displayed material – posters, photographs and other documents, instruments, equipment, artwork – come from  a variety of sources, but mostly private collections, and encompasses the years of state socialism, from the birth of Hungarian rock and roll in the early sixties until the 1989/1990 regime change and even beyond. The event posters were often saved by promoters, who have now donated them to the museum; the instruments, equipment, as well as a few stage costume items come mainly from the musicians themselves. The collection is continuously expanding – the curators are aiming at collecting more material from musicians outside Budapest, as at the moment the display primarily focuses on Budapest and shows less of music making outside the capital. The exhibition also features an interactive map of Budapest’s rock music venues – mainstream and underground. The curators have also compiled an accompanying book. There is an accompanying Facebook community. It will be interesting to observe how the collection will grow, and whether online participation and discussion regarding our rock music heritage will continue to unfold.

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Making of a Berlin club festival, showcasing Berlin Music scenes

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A radio show / podcast looking behind the scenes of Torstraßen Festival, a club festival in the Berlin district Mitte, that took place on 31st August 2013. Torstraßen Festival features mostly Berlin-based and Berlin-connected artists, and is at the same time very international. It showcases the international music scenes meeting, working and living in Berlin.

Listen to the podcast: S*P*A*R*K.fm #30 – TSF13.

Melissa Perales and Andrea Goetzke, two of the festival curators and organizers, select some of their favorite songs from the festival soundtrack.

They also talk about the discussion on Music Culture in Berlin Mitte, starting off the festival on Friday, 30 August.

And they talk about the festival overall, how it showcases international Berlin-based and -connected music scenes, how the festival involves the neighbourhood, they introduce the co-curators of the festival etc.

To learn more, reading the introductions to all festival artists, with links, videos, sound files, written by our colleague Norman Palm, is recommended.

Some podcasts on Berlin music scenes

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This may be of interest regarding popular culture and popular music developments in Berlin. Some radio shows / podcasts that I have produced over the past year, with interviews of some protagonists of Berlin Music scenes. The radio shows have been aired on the Berlin based free artist radio reboot.fm.

S*P*A*R*K.fm #19 – Expats // Berlin // Music Scenes I, produced on 28 April 2012:

S*P*A*R*K.fm #20 – Expats // Berlin // Music Scenes II, produced on 26 May 2012:

S*P*A*R*K.fm #29 – Queer // Music // Berlin, produced on 29 June 2013:

Varna, Bulgaria Mobility, May 2013

In May 2013 Matt Grimes and I were part of the BCU delegation that went on a mobility to Varna, Bulgaria as part of the IMMHIVE project.

Matt is the Degree Leader for Music Industries here at BCU, whilst I am a visiting lecturer on the same degree course. Our task for the 3-day visit was to undertake an investigation into the music scene in the city, and in particular to explore vocational education, music heritage and tourism, and the music industries.

We were fortunate enough to meet a few people from Varna who were heavilty involved in the independent music scene in the city. They were kind enough to sit and be interviewed.

Maria Grozeva is a music journalist with experience of working in Varna and elsewhere in Bulgaria. She is also a university graduate and had some useful insights into vocational education in Bulgaria.

Kobo Tsetkov is a musician who plays in a number of bands, most notably the Ska-Punk band High 5. In the video he talks about the local music scene, and also how he was taught to play guitar by a famous Bulgarian jazz-man.

As well as being kind enough to talk to us at length about their own experiences, Kobo and Maria also took us on a tour of musical points of interest in the city. This short video is an edited version of what was a fascinating and often very funny tour.

Maria, Kobo and others we met reported feeling ‘outside’ of the dominant culture in Varna. So much so that different sub-cultural groups (punks, Hip Hop fans, metal fans) often grouped together and acted as one larger group, which is interesting if you consider the often tribal nature and behaviour of sub-cultural groups in the UK. The Metal Shop in the city also served as the only dedicated outlet for Hip Hop, which would appear to support this.

Varna is located on the Black Sea and, along with being a port, is a popular seaside resort. Along the beachfront there are numerous nightclubs and bars offering various forms of music-related entertainment. By far the most popular, it would seem, is a form of music known as Shalga. A Bulgarian student here at BCU advised us ahead of our trip that Shalga had taken many of the visually prominent images often associated with certain types of US Hip Hop (expensive cars, jewellery, semi-naked women, etc) as it’s basis. This would certainly seem to be born out in the way in which Shalga is promoted around the city.

Matt and I also had some time during which we explored on our own, and we managed to take a lot of photographs between us. Hopefully these, along with the videos above, convey a sense of what we found during our visit.

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The origins of the Birmingham Music Archive

The Birmingham Music Archive was created by BCU’s Jez Collins and aims to celebrate and preserve the rich musical heritage of the city that gave the world Black Sabbath, UB40, Dexys Midnight Runners, Duran Duran, and many, many more,

In this short video, made for the Independent Music Innovation course developed in 2013 by BCU staff, Jez talks about his motivation for setting up Birmingham Music Archive and how the origins of the archive relate to innovation and entrepreneurship in the music industries

Independent Music Innovation – Jez Collins – Entrepreneurship and Innovation from BCMCR on Vimeo.

Dublin Mobility, June 2013

This post was written by Annabel Monkhouse, a Music Industries undergraduate student at BCU who assisted us on our visit to Dublin in June 2013

In June I was sent to Dublin to research music heritage and the music scene in Ireland’s cultural capital. What I found wasn’t entirely what I was expecting.

When I think of Irish music, the first thing that comes to mind is jolly, upbeat, flute heavy music, played by groups of old Irish men in smokey pubs. Although that does exist and is still a large element of Dublin’s music culture (whether or not it has ‘sold out’ to tourism is another argument), it is not just about the traditional scene.

Like any cultural city, Dublin has a thriving live music scene which I was keen to discover more about. The first place we visited on our trip was Tower Records. Initially people were unwilling to chat, until we met Shane. He plays in a few bands around Dublin so knows the scene well and had fairly strong opinions on music and what was going on, just as you’d expect from someone working in the largest record shop in the city.

We ended up speaking to Shane for a good half an hour about his thoughts on music heritage in Dublin and how he felt the live music scene had changed and evolved over the past few years. Initially we asked about the more traditional Irish music and whether young people ever bought any. However, although they stocked it, Tower Records didn’t sell much. They were more of standard independent record shop, so we moved onto the current music scene.

After U2 and Thin Lizzy, I, and possibly many other people would struggle to name any other successful bands from Dublin. We spoke to Shane about this and he mentioned the live music venues in the city and their recent change in hands. He told us about the venues changing the way they run, and now instead of paying a band to play, the band has to pay the venue.  According to Shane, this is putting the local bands off playing the city and instead they are heading to towns such as Limerick. He felt this could be discouraging to local musicians.

After searching for the hidden record shops and trying to track down people we had been told knew ‘everything’ about music we found the more traditional Irish music shops. Sadly a couple of these were fairly empty when we visited, however the owners assured us many people who were either keen to learn more about their heritage, or fans of the traditional music often came into the store. One traditional Irish music store, Celtic Note, on Nassau Street had the feel of an HMV for example, because of its chart section, posters on the wall and the organised racks lining the shop walls. I found this interesting because it wasn’t going out of it’s way to push the fact that they sold ‘traditional Irish music’; it was just a normal record store and people were buying the records, proving that there is still an audience who are interested in this particular aspect of the Dublin and Irish music scene.

We then headed over to an independent record shop set up in a cafe, running alongside a vintage clothing shop. Elastic Witch is run by Gibb Cassidy, who also DJ’s around Dublin. He also spoke to us about the music scene in Dublin but completely disagreed with what Shane had said. Gibb felt that the live scene was still going strong and that many artists were trying new and interesting things in terms of their music. Gibb told us that he tries to encourage bands from Dublin, and will always stock their records in his shop. When we mentioned the traditional side, and keeping the heritage alive, Gibb started reeling off names of artists who use the older, more traditional instruments when making their music. For example an artist called Daithi O’Dronai who plays an electric fiddle and uses recordings of traditional irish instruments and songs, looping them to make more modern sounding music. I found this very interesting because although sampling old songs is incredibly common in popular music now, it’s rare to hear a track that actually samples traditional music. Here is a video of Daithi O’Dronai. The sound quality is poor but it nevertheless demonstrates what he does

I think this is the most exciting element of traditional music. How it is being interpreted, remade and re modeled to appeal to a completely new audience. The tradition is being kept alive in a much more interesting way than old men playing in pubs to tourists.

The Dublin I saw in my brief time there seemed to be fairly tourist focused, especially around Temple Bar. To me it felt like the more traditional scene was surviving on tourism. The gigs during the day in the local pubs were filled with Americans and the odd English man, and when we asked about instruments in a music shop, we were informed their main clientele were American. However, this is based on my very brief, personal experience.

Music is clearly an important aspect to Dublin’s cultural heart, clearly demonstrated by the wall of fame, the statue of Phil Lynott, the numerous record stores and streets lined with buskers.

Here are the video interviews we conducted with those we met.

Dublin Mobility, June 2013

On 19th June I took a one-day trip to Dublin as part of the IMMHIVE project in order to research the local music scene. I was particularly interested in finding out about vocational music education opportunities, music heritage and tourism and digital culture.

With only a few hours in the city, I had to work fast. I made a whistle-stop tour of various locations and interviewed a number of people involved with music in Dublin along the way. I also took a number of photographs.

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My general impression of the city is that the music scene is very vibrant. Live music and music retail in particular seem very strong. Lots of bars and restaurant seemed to offer some form of music, whether that from DJs or live bands and artists. I also saw numerous buskers on the street, no doubt buoyed by the large amount of tourists that visit the city.

I was also able to visit a number of excellent record shops, ranging from those which sold traditional Irish music, outlets serving the contemporary chart market, and specialist shops dealing in 2nd hand and new music in a variety of genres. The staff in the shops were more than happy to give me information about my areas of interest in the city and my interviews below provide some interesting insights into what goes on in Ireland’s capital city. I hope you find them useful.

First of all, however, I visited Brian Carty at The Sound Training Centre. The centre offers vocational courses in Audio Production, Sound Engineering, Music Technology, and Live Sound, Lighting and Stage Production. As well as these longer courses leading to a qualification the centre also offers short, weekend courses to people interested in learning more what the centre offers.

Next I spoke to Robert Curly, a music fan and publisher of Comic Books who works in SubCity Comics. Robert gave me his perspective on what it’s like to be a music fan in the city. We talked about attending gigs, music heritage, and buying music in the city. I also asked Robert about training opportunities for musicians and music entreprenuers

After meeting Robert I took in a few of the city’s many record shops and put many of the same questions to staff. Here I am speaking to Owen Davies, who works in Claddah Records, a shop selling predominantly traditional Irish music. In an illuminating interview, Owen gave me some interesting and alternative views on the manner in which vocational music training is delivered in Ireland.

Next on my tour was Spindizzy Records, a shop selling a mixture of new and 2nd hand vinyl in a variety of genres. Whilst there I spoke to Enda and posed the same questions. Enda was too shy to appear on camera but was happy for me to film the interior of the shop whilst we talked

My final video interview was with Dennis Cassidy, an employee of Rage Records, a shop that sells second-hand vinyl and computer games. We spoke in the shops excellent vinyl basement, where all genres of music were represented and where I could easily have spent quite a lot of money. The interview with Dennis was particularly interesting. Not only was he able to give me an insight into the workings of a Dublin Record shop, but he is also a drummer in a band that tours the country and a drum tutor at a local college.

My final visit of the day, which I didn’t record on video, was perhaps the best. I went to First Music Contact and spoke with Angela Dorgan. The small First Music Contact team work considerable magic with a very limited Arts-funded budget and I was incredibly impressed with what they have put together. Essentially their activities can be viewed as a process through which bands pass, which they have organised into a pyramid structure. Working from the bottom upwards, the FMC pyramid is organised as follows:

First Music Contact: Offers advice and assistance to bands and artists, and also management and record companies, via online tip sheets, regional clinics, one-to-one consultancy, and a series of podcasts, and all free of charge. Bands who interface with First Music Contact in this manner are invited to create a profile on the next level in the pyramid, Breaking Tunes.

Breaking Tunes: Is an online portal that allows Irish bands to upload music and information in order to create a dymanic EPK. The portal is free to the public, online and via a Smartphone app, who can then stream music, view upcoming live shows and send messages to the band. Music Industry workers, such as labels, management companies and so on, have a different level of access (after first being vetted by First Music Contact) that allows them to contact bands with opportunities. There are currently 7000 Irish bands on the portal, with over 5000 having been active (by adding new music, gig dates, etc) in the last month.

Hard Working Class Heroes: An annual, 3-day showcase event in Dublin where bands from Breaking Tunes are invited to submit music in order to be considered for a slot. Music Industry workers active on the Breaking Tunes portal are invited to attend and run A&R and Industry panels. From 2013 onwards the showcase will also be open to Tech Startups as well as bands.

Music From Ireland: The HWCH event has already led to several bands securing deals with record labels and publishers, but the support from First Music Contact does not end there. Music From Ireland attempts to build a brand around Irish bands at International music festivals. From 2013, Tech Start-ups will also be supported in a similar fashion at events such as SXSWi

FMC Tour: Currently in development, this latest level in the FMC pyramid will provide assistance to bands benefitting from the work of Music In Ireland as they plan, book and then tour in overseas territories.

If my flying visit to Dublin revealed anything it is that there is so much more to explore there in terms of vocational music training, music heritage and digital culture. I’d love to spend a couple of days there really getting to grips with what is going on.

Tampere Media Museum

Here are my photos from the Media Museum. I found this small-size, but rich museum fascinating, partly because of the imaginative display; also, the fact that the display did not proceed chronologically, rather by presenting the development of one media after the other – printing and journalism; television; the telephone; photography; radio; computers and the internet, and so forth; and the fact that throughout the exhibition reflected on the dynamic and two-way relationship between technological innovation and society, as well as the continuities of our engagement with new technology – regarding both innovative uses and anxiety and social debates. The many local references – to Linux and Nokia, for instance – were also informative. Regarding continuity, the following was probably my favourite example:

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Harry Whittier Frees: ‘What’s delaying my dinner?’, 1905, USA. “The American Harry Whittier Frees photographed cats and dogs in funny situations in the early 20th century and sold them, for example, as printed postcards. Cat photos quite similar to those taken by Frees are very popular on the Internet even today”

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Realising that objects so familiar from my childhood – the Commodore 64 – and teenage years – the Sony walkman I used daily for so many years, tamagotchis, floppy disks, video cassettes – are now media history, museum items, was a particularly revealing experience. It reminded me not only of the speed of technological development, but also of how quickly and perhaps irrevocably our everyday objects, laden with rich personal and social meanings, become obsolete and therefore forgotten – or at least hidden, to borrow a metaphor from Sarah Baker and Alison Huber, ‘under the bed’ – ‘in places between remembering and forgetting.’

Baker, S. and Huber A. (forthcoming) ‘Saving “rubbish”: preserving popular music’s material culture in amateur archives and museums’, in S. Cohen, R. Knifton, M. Leonard and L. Roberts (eds.) Sites of Popular Music Heritage: Memories, Histories, Places. Routledge

Roma Café, Tampere

During my visit to Tampere on 7 June 2013, I was walking around Finlayson , the rehabilitated cotton mill factory area, now home to cafés, restaurants, offices,  museums, galleries and other creative spaces.

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I had just visited the fascinating, cleverly arranged Media Museum (see my separate blog post for photos) and a neighbouring gallery featuring an environmentally conscious exhibition centred around the theme of waste, when I spotted a large tent being pulled up in one of the open-air squares within the complex. I found out from the couple of young people setting up the tent that a Roma cultural event with music, dancing and food would commence in a few hours’ time, at 3pm. So I wandered off to town, visited the Klubi venue and Epe’s Music Store (I had already purchased my ticket for the Sauna Open Air Metal Festival the next day in Swamp Music earlier in the morning –  I had a brief chat with the staff, they assured me that there was quite a vibrant local music scene, even if most of the acts are not known outside Tampere) and returned to the Roma Café location. It wasn’t extremely busy, about 25-30 people were present while I was there, but the atmosphere was very pleasant; the Roma guests performed and taught dances, while those who weren’t brave enough to participate ate cakes and drank coffee.

I chatted to Elina Niinivaara, one of the organisers, who told me that the Roma had come from from Romania and were travelling around Europe trying to find jobs;  most of them have children and other family back in Romania, and they are trying to earn something to send back to them. This year the Roma involved in the event had come to Finland because they had heard there might be jobs for them  – which turned out to be not quite true.  Since finding a job remains so difficult, the travelling Roma remain economically and socially marginalised.  Elina explained that in Finland, they mostly stayed only for the summer months, when it is possible to sleep in cars or outside without freezing.  In the autumn they go back to Romania or to other countries, and many already  leave during the summer – many are disappointed when they find out the miserable work situation in Finland and try to collect money for the trip back home as fast as they can.

The purpose of this event was to actively facilitate the social involvement of this population, and besides raising awareness about the issue, to enable this minority group to assume a position whereby they have the opportunity to share their own culture and knowledge (e.g. through the teaching of dance and sharing their cuisine) and thus, so to speak, reverse their passive political position. Elina also invited me to the evening event that would follow, with a live music performance at a local bar. This proved to be much busier and livelier than the afternoon event; the first performance featured three musicians performing mostly popular Roma songs, and even some rock and roll; the second act was, interestingly, sitar music.

Of the group that performed  the evening club, at least some had been in Tampere the year before as well, but the Roma people at the café event were there for the first time, as far as the organisers know.

I wanted to record an interview with Elina but she was too busy; however, she and her colleague Stina Riikonen were kind enough to send me responses to my questions via email afterwards, so the following is based on the responses of both.

The organisers are a working group of 5-6 persons (plus several helpers). Some of them are visual artists, some students, some have been working in the social sector. The initiative had come from two of them who had met through a network working for migrants’ rights – they wanted to do something with the traveling Roma. As there was only two of them, and as they had started to think about some kind of a café event, they contacted a their friend Stina Riikonen, a visual artist who had been developing and organising a series of multicultural café events with changing cultural themes (http://kulttuurienkahvila.net/). Together they began to develop the idea further.

They contacted the Roma in the streets, in collaboration with a church-based centre that had opened a place for the Roma this spring where they can have a shower and get some clean clothes. They advertised this place for the Roma and at the same time created contacts and talked about their plans. They had an interpreter working with them a few times, which they found extremely helpful – it probably wouldn’t have worked without.

In the end they had more people willing to participate than they were able to take. They were trying to make sure that the selected participants would all be from different families, so that the payment would be equally distributed among the groups; and they were also looking for people with different kinds of skills and ideas.

They had several goals, including the following:

1) “to give some Roma a decent job for at least one day”

2) “to turn around the everyday situation so that at the event the Roma would be the guests of honour and the ones who teach and perform to the audience”

3) “to create contacts with the Roma and get to know their situation better”

4) “to break prejudices by creating interactive and intimate atmosphere where people can meet the Roma”

5) “to show that we see that all people are truly equal.”

In terms of evaluating the event, they have been very satisfied with the results: they feel that they mostly reached our goals and in some cases even achieved more than they had expected to. It is, however, difficult to determine how exactly the participants evaluated the event. But it is telling that they all spent the whole afternoon together (this was not expected from them, they could simply have performed their bit and left with the payment), danced and laughed. Several also asked if they were planning to continue, and at least one hoped for a common private party. The most touching evaluation for the organisers came from somebody who said that the day reminded him of his childhood, when they used to travel around in Romania with his family and work together, dance and play together and eat together.

To the question of whether they were planning anything similar for the future, the answer was yes and no. It was a lot of work for them to organise the event, and none of them got paid for it. However, they have been talking about possibilities to continue working with the Roma. The multicultural café event series will continue, but most likely with a different theme.

The event was financed through small grants from different sources: NGOs, the city of Tampere, the Social Forum etc.  Roma Café was organised in collaboration with Tampere Social Forum – it was not exactly part of it but a parallel event. They got a lot of help from the Social Forum and also visibility. The Forum was organised in the museum in the square at Finlayson, which explains the location for the afternoon event. For the evening club they looked for a place for quite a while and ended up in Artturi after some compromises regarding money, space, equipment etc.

(Tampere Social Forum is connected to other Social Forums – see Wikipedia)

The organisers thought multicultural events were quite commonplace in Tampere and there was quite significant interest in them, but the culture of travelling Roma was definitely not among the popular ones. Indian food, African music, or South American art sells well, but no-one would organise an event about the culture of travelling Roma (Finnish Roma minority, on the other hand, does interest quite many people). So in this sense this was also a political act: to invite and give stage to the people “most despised in our society.”

My many thanks to Elina for her company throughout the event, and to both her and Stina for the informative responses.