It’s often said that the best music comes out of adversity. Jazz, hiphop, punk and so many other genres have stemmed from societal, racial and economic hardship…So far in our end-of-year mini-series, I’d say that we have beyond doubt proved this to be true. While 2016 has seemed, at times, socially and politically apocalyptic, the response of the world’s musicians has been incredible.
In this edition of our 2016 Round Up, Melodic Distraction’s writers look back at the defining musical moments of the year. From events that shaped the industry, to moments when the industry shaped the world, 2016 was nothing short of a powerful year for music.
Common At The White House: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert
Chosen by James Zaremba
In 2011, President Barack Obama invited musician, actor and activist, Common, to the White House. While his invite to the poetry-based event in Washington should have been problem free, many from the right wing of American politics, including Sarah Palin and Karl Rove, found trouble in Common’s presence. An often political artist, the American right wing took issue with Common’s support for a convicted felon in his: ‘A Song for Assata,’ a track from his, Like Water For Chocolate album that voiced his support for Assata Shakur, a murder-convicted Black Panther living in exile in Cuba. While Karl Rove’s public statement read that Common was a “thug” and not to be invited into the White House, Obama’s administration stated that the socially-conscious work of Common should be welcomed amid a climate of African-American disillusionment with US politics.
This year, Common was invited back to the White House for a second time by NPR, who consistently deliver beautifully stripped-down performances as part of their Tiny Desk series. Common took the opportunity to deliver a performance that spellbindingly captured America’s social and racial conflict of the time. One particular track about America’s private prison system, performed in the style of a Negro spiritual, challenges the 13th amendment that Common rightly stated, “was keeping slavery alive in America.” In a year that saw the Black Lives Matter movement dominate worldwide headlines, Common’s performance in historically one of the most prestigious buildings on earth is certainly a movement in the right direction. With this being considered, I can only imagine that such opportunities will become fleeting under the Trump administration.
The performance truly speaks for itself so I will not labour the importance of this Landmark Musical Moment, but it is also worth noting that Common’s accompanying band consists of Robert Glasper, Kariem Riggins and Bilal – TASTY!
The song addressing the mass-incarceration of African-Americans can be found 4:55 into the video below.
What.CD Shut Down
Chosen by Jaxon Eastabrook
2016 has been a rough year in the music world, with the deaths of Sharon Jones, Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Prince, Phife, Maurice White and recently Colonel Abrams, it has proven to be a year of unthinkable loss. I’m sure my co-writers will cover the aforementioned legends as they deserve, but personally I want to acknowledge the loss of something else, that is, the legendary music sharing site What.CD.
What.CD was a digger’s paradise, a tight-knit invite only community of music lovers who shared their vast knowledge and collections with other users. I’ll be the first to admit that I myself did not even have an account, but would often get access through friends if there was something I was really after. Despite this, the powerful 4 sentence closure announcement on their website was enough to send shivers down my spine. The collection of music on What.CD was frankly mind-blowing, it was probably the largest ever collection of underground music in one place and had high quality files of some of the rarest tunes you could possibly hope to grace your ears with. Having such a resource suddenly taken away is a monumental blow not only to DJs and music lovers, but to the power of creativity and the sharing of ideas.
Rest In Peace What.CD. May you rise again.
Bowie’s Death and Blackstar Album Release
Chosen by James McElhone
For a huge number of people, Bowie’s death was the definitive tragedy of 2016. The man was the most influential shape shifting musician of all time. His final project, Blackstar, proved he will be forever remembered and influential as he created one of his most experimental records to date. With the knowledge of his imminent death, on Lazarus he wrote lyrics like – “Look up here, I’m in heaven”. It showed Bowie in death, as in life, to be in total control. Despite his illness, this album was a gift to us, his fans, a farewell of extreme strength and creativity. Of course we wanted him here forever, making music, but for me this was the perfect way for him to go, making a bold musical statement that confirms his immortality. Also, if you leave the sleeve of the album in the sun, it transforms into a galaxy of shining stars. R.I.P. to the legend, David Bowie.
Fabric’s Closure and Hard-Fought Return
Chosen by Josh Aitman
2016 has seen the elephant in the room transform itself into well… a bull in a china shop. The unjust closure of clubs and cultural spaces around the UK for years has been no secret. What with Passing Clouds fighting for life, The legendary Kazimier in Liverpool bidding farewell as the council make way for yet more pointless student accommodation and not to mention the near miss by Ministry of Sound and catastrophic closure of the Dance Tunnel in London. All over the country, clubs have seen their doors close with no room for objection…until the council decided to mess with Fabric…
One club too many, Fabric’s impact on so many lives; whether it be artists, employees or party-goers over the last two decades lead to the biggest hold up in UK club history. The closure not only sparked a campaign to “save our culture,” raising over £300,000, but when the club, last month, were granted permission to reopen their doors, it sent an earthquake around the country as it became apparent that councils no longer held the upper hand. Fabric’s closure and reopening deserves its place in our Landmark Musical Moments simply for the impact it will have on any future council-led nightlife bullying. Let’s hope the fight to save 24 Kitchen Street, Liverpool is not already over…but merely beginning.
Closure of Space, Ibiza
Chosen by Aiden Brady
Space closing marks the end of an era for Ibiza. The island was once a counter-cultural hippie hub but is now a steadfast icon of dance music culture, splayed with chrome and pearly white aesthetics. The closure of Space raises several questions for Ibiza’s future. Which club will take its place as the island’s flagship? Will we see any change in the club culture in Ibiza and will any new clubs sprout up to introduce fresh ideas? Regardless, there must surely be some scrambling on Ibiza to see which club will reign next, the outcome of which will hopefully be beneficial for the island’s ravers if nightclubs are to try and win their favour…
Pay Day? Let’s Buy Some Records…
Chosen by Tom Lye
Whilst DJs and audiophiles alike have always been copping their music on vinyl, it’s only been recently that the medium has regained commercial popularity. The growth in record sales only surpassed digital sales in early December, after almost collapsing due to the introduction of CD and digital media.
With that in mind, we have arrived at a crossroads in which the future of music consumption is uncertain. Streaming sites appear to be saturating the online market, with Apple Music, Spotify and Tidal (is that still a thing?) just a few examples. As promotional tools such as Record Store Day become increasingly polarised within and without the music community, the ability of pressing plants to maintain and increase output amongst such widespread popularity will undoubtedly be tough. It is clear that major labels are taking advantage of this newfound passion for vinyl, and the argument will forever be contested as to whether this is a good or bad thing for the parties involved.
All I can say is that I tend to actually consume and appreciate music far more when I purchase the record. Therefore, when you have records being bought and listened to by pre-teens and pensioners, as well as everyone in between, it can surely only be a good thing. Exciting times. Mysterious and highly suspect times, but exciting nonetheless.
Landmark Musical Moment – British festival meltdown
Chosen by Robert Thorpe
As we all know, the current state of the large UK festival is in a strange place at the moment; with ever-changing lineups focusing more on the main stream, a growing corporate and over-branded touch each year and mostly all of them losing their main identity to what made them great in the first place.
Bestival (who usually ace it every year) had to cut back on staging, lighting, sound and size of the festival due to low ticket sales. The result was a mediocre version of what people loved about the festival and also resulted in a massive social media outrage. I Don’t know what Rob Da Bank was thinking booking Sean Paul & Wiz Khalifa for a headline act though as Bestival thrives on a history of booking good talent. Scottish festival, T in the Park, pulled the plug on their 2017 edition due to the “financial and logistical constraints” rendering the festival not workable after their previous festival in summer 2016.
Add on two deaths, mass brawls and even a dedicated Twitter page showcasing the cheeky antics of the punters there (I’m not gonna lie it’s amazing) now is a better time than ever for T in the Park to get back to the drawing board and focus on what made the festival great in the first place.