Thursday, September 30, 2010

From the Congo to Boston

The best thing about being back from the beach is that I can put my brain back into gear again. That meant starting at the Anderson Gallery for the panel discussion on "Collecting African Music," something I have no intention of doing but every desire to learn more about.

The discussion was yet another tie-in to the current South African shows, specifically Siemon Allen's record collection at the Anderson. Besides the collector, Bill Lupoletti and David Noyes of WRIR were on the panel to add their music geek perspectives.

The talk was interesting, what with two DJs and the collector himself. The first point of contention was Paul Simon's Graceland. It seemed that while the DJs liked the African rhythms of it, Paul Simon not so much.

On the other hand, Simon's controversial decision to ignore the cultural boycott against performing with South African musicians got widespread approval since it allowed South African musicians to be heard at a time when it was not the norm.

Bill said that, "The album opened a market. It was a synthesis of what Simon did before as well as the South African music that inspired him." He saw this as positive, as did the others.

One thing the talk made clear was that it is no longer possible to just go to your local record store and find the latest in African (or world) music. The Internet and e-Bay have replaced the record store as the places to procure the latest, mainly because there are fewer independent distributors than there used to be.

Bill said, "World music is a term nobody likes and everybody uses," because it means so little. But WRIR's Congolese program gets listeners from all over the world because it is the only broadcast program of Congolese music in the entire country. There goes that WRIR, making us proud again.

The takeaway from the panel was Siemon Allen's directive, "Don't let the collection become an end into itself." Hoarders of music help no one but themselves.

By the end of the talk, it had been a long time since the herring roe breakfast, so I went on over to the Belvidere at Broad for dinner and perhaps some company and ended up with both.

Tonight's soup was vegetarian onion soup gratin, fortunately not vegan, so it had a lovely cheese layer melted on top. Vegetable stock works beautifully instead of beef stock and I am here to attest to that.

Next up was the golden and red beet salad with Maytag Bleu cheese, toasted pine nuts and micro-greens. After that filling soup course (necessary due to the damp coolness of all this rain), I filled up quickly on the beet course.

My neighbors at the bar were business associates in town from Boston and while she didn't last long (8:12), he stayed and chatted for four hours, unexpectedly providing great company with all kinds of literary leanings. How often can a stranger show you e-mails referencing Yeats, Keats and Nirvana?

His extensive travels, his long-time concert-going habit (King Crimson and Devotchka? Damn.)and his sarcasm made him a worthy conversational partner and I was thrilled to have lucked onto someone so interesting and willing to chat up a stranger.

By the time we got ready to leave, the only other person at the bar was using a yellow highlighter to annotate his non-fiction book on love (he was a masseuse and a nutritionist). I wished him luck at book-learning about love.

I dropped the Bostonian (like me, a lapsed Irish-Catholic) at the Doubletree and made my way home in the pouring rain.

Although I like beach rain so much better (lots warmer and I can still hear the ocean), there's nothing like getting home and back into the swing of things.

I can do this. I can do this.

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