It’s week three of Whisky Rocks! Last week I talked about my top 5 musical discoveries of 2013. This week they got us talking about where we find the music that we love. And stay tuned because in a couple weeks we get to check out the bands who are in the competition! Are you one of those bands? We’ll see… Chaka V.
Discovering new music is like connecting with that gorgeous guy on the streetcar, it’s always when and where you least expect it.
I’m an international wanderer by nature, so I’ve never been exclusive to one music source or scene. YouTube is fun for me because sometimes I’ll spend the afternoon just going from one video to another listening to artists I’ve never heard of before and occasionally I find one that I adore. I also love festivals—Montreal Jazz Festival, Osheaga, NXNE—because I can do what I love, which is roam and listen to music.
But in this post I want to focus on radio’s influence, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Let’s start with the bad and the ugly, shall we?
Joe Strummer of the Clash once said, “If I had five million pounds I’d start a radio station because something needs to be done. It would be nice to turn on the radio and hear something that didn’t make you feel like smashing up the kitchen and strangling the cat.” This sums up my thoughts on 99% of commercial mainstream radio.
I’ve realized that most “popular” stations don’t give a damn about music and it appears that anything goes. They’ll play the same flippin’ 3 songs and 172 commercials an hour, and most of the “artists” they play “sing” songs so mind-numbingly stale, tired, and complete with hackneyed lyrics, that it could force a confession out of an innocent woman. The only good thing about most is the giveaways (I have a knack for winning concert tickets).
The willful monotony is often infuriating. Once my sister and I forgot our iPods and found ourselves trapped in the car with a five hour trip to Montreal ahead. Thirty minutes into listening to the radio, I was ready to open the door and fling myself out of the car. I was madly turning from one channel to another and three of the stations were in the midst of playing the same song. “This is a conspiracy,” I said.
This nightmare is a rare occurrence because since the iPod popped its colourful little head into the world, I’ve thrown radio aside like mouldy bread (and music TV channels along with it). It was freeing but when I didn’t have time to constantly read mags and blogs, I did find myself disconnected from new artists.
But! Over the last few years two radio shows have come into my life that helped me heal my radio rage, and I’ve discovered amazing artists because of it.
A few years ago I was living beside a tyrant who screamed expletives every Friday night after 10:48 p.m., like clockwork. One evening I turned on the radio to drown him out—my iPod was dead—and it happened to be on JAZZ.FM91. David Basskin and his Stolen Moments radio show was on. I love jazz so I was able to get back to my late night writing. This became a ritual. The tyrant would start screaming, I would turn on the radio and Basskin’s warm, friendly voice would put me at ease. One evening he played a band out of Staten Island, New York, called the Budos band (Daptone Records). The minute I heard their mix of afrobeat/afrofunk/afrorock, I was in love. I’ve seen them live—amazing—and they inspire me creatively. I now listen to tons of shows on JAZZ.FM91, too many great hosts to name here.
Laurie Brown’s CBC radio show The Signal is fantastic. Listening to Brown for two hours is like being locked away in a cabin in the mountains during a glorious snow storm. She tells stories and there are no commercials! I’ve discovered great artists, notably Alt-J and James Blake, listening to Ms. Brown. When I heard “The Wilhelm Scream,” it cemented my appreciation of her show. So obviously radio can be a powerful influential outlet when led by hosts with vision and a true love of music.
Finally, I have to give a shout-out to AUX TV, ever since I turned to AUX for the first time to watch the Barry White bio, “Let the Music Play,” I’ve been an AUX girl [Ed. note: aw shucks]. So I can thank AUX for getting me to tune into music channels, on an actual television set, again.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chaka V. is a writer and journalist and the creator of The Winehouse Mag.