31 July 2015

Costa Rica #1: Footballer boy, come play us a song

The month is about to come to end, so it is the time for the last post of this month. July is the second month of summer and so it means that we are 2/3 way through summer, here in the northern hemisphere that is. Here in the Lapland it has not been much of a summer; my father said just yesterday that it is starting to look like autumn to which my response was that we have then skipped summer totally. There have only been couple warmer days, and even they were not so warm that they could properly called summer. I have needed to have my heater on the entire summer. Global warming, thank you very much.

Wikipedia: Costa Rica

With the lack of summer, it is nice to listen to summery songs. I am not sure how summery these songs in this post are, but the country they are coming from is: Costa Rica. Looking at the climate chart on Costa Rica's Wikipedia page: They have average high of 27 and average low of 18 all throughout the year pretty much. Even the average low is more than it is here currently. Gosh, I kind of wish I was living in the Central America... At least their weather is nice and constant, and recently I have been getting a starting interested towards Central American culture. Thanks to the music in particular.

In my Panama post, I mentioned that I wanted to pick a Central American country and decided to start going them through in a geographical order. Panama was obviously the first one of the set and after Panama, you can see it is Costa Rica that is next up ahead. I am not sure if I will keep going them through in the order, but I definitely have a high interested towards looking through the countries' music scenes.

So let us take a look how Costa Rica looks like, music-wise that is this time around.

First up we have got Debi Nova. Debi was born in 1980 in Costa Rica's capital city San José. Her real name is Deborah Nowalski Kader, from which you can perhaps guess that she is of Polish Jewish descent. She started playing piano at age of four and later on studied more instruments. When she was 17 years old, she moved to Los Angeles, US, where she signed a record deal and also studied at a music school. Debi started her career as backing vocalist, but in 2004 she also released her own material. She has worked together with many famous names and so far Debi has got two studio albums out.

Debi's first studio album was released in 2010 and the album's lead single was Drummer Boy. Drummer Boy is a dance-pop song and it charted in some of the U.S. Billboard charts. When I first heard this song earlier this summer, I immediately loved it. It actually became one of my most played songs in May/June turnover. It is utterly catchy, it has a nice ethnical shade and overall it is a very fun song. I feel this song is quite summery, so it fits the intro of this post actually, haha. I seriously fell in love with this song and I have hard time imagining any other Costa Rican song pass it on my list. "Dale" by the way means "do it".

Debi's second album then was released about a year ago, aka. in the summer of 2014. This album received three single releases, one of them being Emergencia. The title of course means "emergency" and unlike Drummer Boy, this song is in Spanish. Debi's debut album was mostly in English, while the second album was in Spanish. I have no particular preference overall on what language the singer sings in, but in Debi's case I care even less since I think she sounds amazing in both languages. In fact, I actually find it interesting to hear a singer sing in different languages, since people tend to sound different in different languages.

But back to the song. Emergencia is a ballad and quite far away from the summer feeling of Drummer Boy; Actually the music video for Emergencia makes me feel kind of cold with its gloomy and dark sceneries. But it fits well with the song, since it feels like a gloomy and bit dark song. I do not know what she is singing, but it does not sound sad, like the title and music could suggest. Emergencia is a beautiful song, both music- and vocal-wise. The stylish music video was shot in Chile, which makes sense since the hot climate sceneries of Los Angeles nor Costa Rica would have not fit the song's atmosphere at all really.

Drummer Boy is from Debi's 2010 debut studio album Luna Nueva, while Emergencia is from her second album Soy, which was released in 2014.

Okay, before moving on, let's talk a little about Costa Rican music scene. Costa Rica's neighbour, Panama has a population of 3,6 million. Costa Rica on the other hand has 4,5 people. In the Panama post I mentioned, or least I am fairly certain I mentioned, that I kept coming across great music from the country. You would think that having a smaller neighbour with vivid music scene, Costa Rica too would have lots and lots of music? In this you would be wrong, to my best knowledge and effort.

Honestly, it has been very hard for me to find Costa Rican musicians. Can it really be that such a country has so little singers? Or am I totally missing something here? I have had this problem with some countries, but I so did not expect to have it with Costa Rica with its population and Panama and whatnot. Please, do tell me if Costa Rica in fact has a vivid music industry! I would be very interested hearing more from this country, since so far the amount of artists I have found from Costa Rica is tiny.

Now that that is dealt with, let's get back to the music again. The other artist of this post is called Alonso Solís, or more of Alonso Solís y Leyenda, aka. Alonso Solís with his band Leyenda. Or just Leyenda. I was actually quite confused when I Googled Alonso, since all I could find was some footballer. But then it turned out that the footballer dude was in fact the singer Alonso! I must admit, that I rarely have heard about a athletic being also a singer. But then again my knowledge on sports is near the zero. So do not ask me about Alonso's career in football; all I can understand is that he plays as midfielder and striker. Whatever those mean.

Alonso too was born in the capital city San José, in 1978. He started out as a footballer in 1995. Due to my lack of Spanish skills, I have no idea how he came to be a singer, nor do I know anything about his band, Leyenda (which I assume means Legend). So, as if this post is not random enough already, let's throw in a random fact: Alonso is 1,78 meters tall. I am sure you can use that piece of information never.

But the songs! They are called Hoy Quiero Decirte and Luz De Mi Vida. I do not know much about these songs, but they were uploaded on YouTube 2010 and 2012 respectively. Hoy Quiero Decirte means "Today I Want To Tell" and Luz De Mi Vida "Light Of My Life". Even with my Spanish skills I know the latter is correct, but I am going to take Google Translate's word on the other title translation. Both song are, um, rock I guess? It is not hardcore rock or anything, but more softer rock music. The songs have nice Latin vibe, which makes them feel flowing and catchy. I said in the beginning that the songs of this post may not be very summery, but now that I listen to them again, these two songs actually feel quite summery. It must be the Latin vibe!

28 July 2015

History Of Music: Fortepiano

This post is the next part in my History Of Music series. In this series I will write about things related to music's history (surprise, surprise), including bands, traditions, instruments, genres, etc. I purprosely try to keep these posts short, so that they will not get boring or too long to be interesting to read for random music fans. "A nice batch of interesting information on a short, compact package", that is my motto with this series. Darn, I really should make a proper disclaimer paragraph for this series...

Earlier this month I started a new blog series about music related travel tips and reviews. In the first post of that series, I talked about a music museum in Turku, Finland. In that post I wrote about some things I saw in the museum, and how they inspired me to find out more about the subjects and eventually to write blog posts about them. Now would be the time for the first History Of Music post inspired by my visit to the museum in question.

Photo from Wikipedia

This is a fortepiano. Do you know what fortepiano actually is? When I saw one in the museum, I thought it looked like a piano, but the name was confusing: The other name for fortepiano in Finnish is "vasaraklaveeri", which comes from the German name for the instrument, "hammerklavier". Hammer means hammer and klavier is German for piano. Nobody in Finland calls a piano "klaveeri", so you can imagine my confusion. I suppose it was to make the fortepiano to sound fancier and more interesting. Well, if that was the case, then it obviously worked for me since it made me want to find out what the heck the thing is.

So, what the heck the thing is? Fortepiano is an early version of piano. What a surprise. Fortepiano was made by an Italian musical instrument maker called Bartolomeo Cristofori di Francesco. Bartolomeo Cristofori is actually thought to be the inventor of piano, so us piano fans should now bow him our thanks and respects. (Hey, there is a great blog post subject hidden in here!) It is not exactly known when he invented the piano, but there are evidence of piano's existence from early 1700s.

Before fortepiano and the actual piano, there were many predecessors, in example the harpsichord. Harpsichord was the most used keyboard instrument until Fortepiano took over; Fortepiano had more varying sound ranges and it was overall better than harpsichord and likes. There are different kinds of fortepianos, but the main principle is the same.

Fortepiano eventually evolved into the piano that we more commonly know. So, now you might ask, is it really that different from modern piano? Let's take a look at this video by some guy named Matt Bengtson, who here explains more about the fortepiano's structure and history, and also plays examples with his fortepiano. If you are interested on what he is saying, you can hear the music samples from around 5:30 onward.

Even to my untrained ears that sounds different from the piano I am use to. Or what do you think?

Fortepiano has a huge role in the history of music, since it was the main keyboard instrument during the classical era. That is when the most famous ones of composers lived: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven... All of these huge names composed their music for fortepiano. So if you want to hear what ie. some of Mozart's compositions sounded like to the composer himself, you should hear it being played on a fortepiano instead of piano. The modern version of the piano came to be only around the early 1900s. I think that shows the importance of the fortepiano.

I think that is all about the fortepiano for now, since I do not want to go into the technical stuffs and such now. Plus short and compact. We will meet the fortepiano again in some future parts of this series, since it has inspired me to look into also other piano-like instruments and the history of the piano itself (I am a huge piano fan and the rumour has it that I have tried to learn play it myself too). One thought that crossed my mind during to writing of this post: Why do they not teach us this kind of interesting stuff in the school music classes, instead of choir singing the same songs over and over and over again?

More about fortepiano ie. on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fortepiano

I tried keeping this post shorter than normally, because I felt like this could be a subject that is not as interesting to common music blog readers? Please, do correct me if I am wrong, since at least I find subjects like this highly interesting!

26 July 2015

Slovenia #1: Time to dance

Here is a country that has gotten pushed back for a while: Slovenia. I have meant to blog about Slovenian music for already few months now, but for one reason or another, the post has never made it to the schedule. But now it is finally time for that post.

Wikipedia: Slovenia

Slovenia has a population of only 2 million people, so you would not expect the country to have very vivid music scene. To my surprise, I have kept coming across great artists from Slovenia. There you once again see, that size does not always matter. I knew Slovenia had many great artist, since I have watched their Eurovision Song Contest representative selection shows, but I was still surprised by the amount of artists I found while looking more deeply into Slovene music. And of course I knew few artist prior to that too. In this post, I will feature two artists; Both of these two are singers I have known a while. So the newer finds will have to wait a bit, but there will definitely be more Slovenia posts in the future!

Let's go...

First up we got Nina Pušlar. Nina was born in 1988 (I share a birthday with her! Though I am three years younger.) in a small town called Ivančna Gorica (one of those posts, where I can not write all the letters with my keyboard, it seems). Nina started singing from a young age, performing in choirs and musicals. She studied in a music school and was a member in two groups, before taking part in a TV contest show called Bitke Talentov 2005. She ended up winning the contest and released her first studio album a year later, aka in 2006. So far Nina has released four studio albums and she has participated in multiple contests with good success. Besides being a singer, Nina also writes songs.

The first song of the post is Nina's song called Tik Tak Tok. The song was released in Nina's 2011 album and it received a music video next year. I am now going assuming that the title does not require a translation. I am not sure what she sings about and since Google Translate's Slovene skills are just okay at best, we are left wondering. But the video gives an approximate idea. The song is quite catchy and fun. It is a party feeling to it, but it is a bit lighter than usual club songs. I really like the music and Nina's voice sounds nice with this type of music (though perhaps not quite as nice as with the next song).

The other song from Nina is called Pozdrav Z Ljubeznijo. The title means 'Greetings With Love'. I find this song very easy going and soft; It is nice to listen to and feels somewhat nostalgic, though yet again I do not know what she is singing about. It is quite simple song. And by simple I do not mean boring or uncreative, but rather like simple way of living and not having too many gimmicks and such. This gives the song that soft feeling and harmony. There is actually quite many similar kind of songs to this in Slovene and nearby countries, but Nina's songs stand out from the crowd. Perhaps it is Nina's voice or something in the music, but there is definitely something special in here.

Tik Tak Tok and Pozdrav Z Ljubeznijo can be found from Nina's 2011 album Med Vrsticami.

For some reason both of the songs from Nina ended up being from the same album. This does not mean that other of her albums do not have great music; It is just that these two are my favourites from her. Having the artists' songs from one album only, makes me think that it seems like that they only have one good period of music. That is why I usually try to pick the songs from different parts of the artists' careers. But sometimes my favourites just happen to be from the same album. This matter actually could be made into a separate blog post, so I am now writing it down to my notebook (the blog post will see daylight who knows when). I just always feel the need to explain this matter, but now that is out of the way so let's move on...

My favourite singer from Slovenia: April. And once again it is the same old story: I am not able to find much information on the artist. So some of the information following is coming from my memory of things I learned about April through the years. April is the stage name of Spela Papez. She was born in a town called Domžale, which is near the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana. April started studying multiple instruments as a child, but eventually switched to singing. According to her website April felt like there was not much trendy club music in the Slovene radios, so she decided to fill this gap. Her music is definitely trendy dance-pop. She has been called "Lady Gaga of Slovenia", mostly thanks to her interesting fashion style, but to me her sound is quite different (how different can you even get in the same field of music anyway) from that of Lady Gaga's.

This first song from April is called Ladadidej. The song was released in 2011 and April participated EMA 2011 (Slovenia's Eurovision representative selection show) with it; She finished second out of the ten songs competing. Ladadidej is a very catchy dance-pop song. It is a strong music and couple repetitive parts, which make it a perfect dance song (in my opinion that is, of course). The song is interesting and sounds a lot of fun. Those are things that I always love most in a dance song: catchy, interesting and fun. This song fulfills those and even after more than four years, I never seem to get bored of this song. And I have been listening it a lot. Definitely my favourite song from April and also my favourite song from Slovenia.

To not much a surprise, I first came across April when she performed in the EMA 2011. Obviously, she was my favourite then. Back then she did not have many songs out, but to my joy she has released many songs since then. And even more to my joy, songs that I really like. I have read that April became a mother recently and because of that she is currently taking a break from her career. Hopefully she will eventually start releasing music again, because I truly enjoy her songs.

One of her songs that I like the most, is called Ujeta Na Netu. The title means 'Caught On The Web', though I am not sure if it means web as internet or spider's web. The first one supposedly. The song was released in 2012. It is a dance-pop song and a very catchy one too. I actually really love some of the elements in the music (I am sure you can guess which). This song too has the factors needed for a great dance song: catchy, interesting and fun.

The last song of the post goes to April: Paše Mi. The other two songs from April have been dance songs, but this one is different; I am not sure if it qualifies as a ballad, but at least it is slower and ballad-like. Paše Mi was released in 2013. The title means 'Fits Me', which does not much help on figuring out what she is singing about. The song does sound beautiful nevertheless. The music sounds a bit dream-like and April's singing is very pretty. I have mentioned like zillion times, that I do not care too much for ballads, but this is the kind of slower song that I like: it has the stylishness of a ballad, but catchiness of uptempo song. To me this song sounds very beautiful.

Due to the lack of information available, I do not know on which albums these songs are available, if on any.

23 July 2015

Malaysia #1: Lovers of different sorts

Everyone who knows me knows that I obsess over East Asian music; Japanese, Korean, Chinese... That is pretty obvious from reading this blog too. But my love also expands beyond East Asia to Southeast Asia too. If Japan is number one and South Korea number two, then Thailand is the number three for me. I am that kind that once I fall in love with music from one country, then I like to move into another country nearby with somewhat similar kinds of music. So couple years ago I moved from Thailand to its neighbour: Malaysia.

Wikipedia: Malaysia

Did you know?: Many of Southeast Asian and East Asian countries have Buddhism as their main religion, or at least a religion that is similar to Buddhism; When most people think of religions in the Far East, they think of Buddhism and religion where nature is close and life style is harmonic (Taoism, Hinduism...). To most parts this is the case, but not with Malaysia. In Malaysia there is a freedom of religion, but the country's state religion is Islam. Who would have thought that in the middle of all the Buddhists, there is a country full of Muslims?

Buddhism is though the second largest religion in Malaysia, with 19,8% of the population being Buddhists. That is still small compared to Islam, which 61,3% of the population practices. (Stats are from 2010 and taken from Wikipedia.) There is of course a story behind the expansion of Islam into Malaysia; to put it into short, Arab traders brought the religion during Medieval times. To get more into this subject would go too much beyond the subject of this blog and it is about the time to move into the music anyway. But you can read more about Islam in Malaysia in example on Wikipedia.

But now to the music.

First up: Siti Nurhaliza. The Malay titles are a bit confusing to me, so I am entirely sure how her full name goes, but let's give it a shot: Datin Sri Siti Nurhaliza binti Tarudin + bunch of honours. She has been given multiple honours, including Order of Loyalty to the Crown of Malaysia. Datin Sri in front of her name is also an award given by the ruler of Malaysia, and to my understanding Datin Sri is highest one to be given out. And for additional information: Malaysian people use patronyms and binti means 'daughter of', so binti Tarudin means daughter of Tarudin. A bit confusing name to say the least. I have a weird obsession about names, so I just love opening up their meanings! Anyway, from the amount of honours Siti Nurhaliza has received, you can guess how popular she is in Malaysia.

This first song is called Falling In Love. This was actually the first Malaysian song that I heard, so it is a good starting point. Although by a Malaysian singer, the song is in English (on a side note, it is the only English song in this post). In 2011 Siti released her first, and so far only, English language studio album, All Your Love, and Falling In Love was the lead single from it. It is a fun dance-pop song where Siti sings about falling in love with someone. I must say, that this song has got me hooked and it is one of my most-listened songs in my iTunes; It is very catchy and happy, and I could listen to this on repeat. This song immediately made me 'fall in love' with Siti (pun intended).

We know Siti is highly famous and respected, but what about her background? Siti was born 1979 in Kuala Lipis, which is a town at the center of Peninsular Malaysia, in the state of Pahang. Siti's family actually still lives in Kuala Lipis and the expensive house Siti build for them has become a tourist attraction. She grew up in a musical family and two of her sisters and one brother have also become singers. She is Sunni Muslim. Siti started professionally performing in 1995 and very soon she signed her first record deal. Her self-titled debut album was released in 1996 and it became a huge hit. Since then Siti has released fifteen more studio albums and become highly successful in Malaysia and abroad. This quote from Wikipedia says a lot: "Currently, she has been listed as one of Malaysia's richest, most-influential, most award-winning, most single-produced artists."

The other song from Siti is called Galau. The title means 'Confused' and the song was released in early 2013. The lyrics tell about worries that lovers have to face. The music is very beautiful and somewhat classical. I find this song absolutely beautiful; Siti sings very lovely and the music is just stunning. The music video is simple, yet stunning, which fits the song perfectly. The stunning scenery is, by the way, from Moroccan Pavilion in Putrajaya's Botanical Garden. I am not usually fan of such ballady songs, but this totally got me and even after couple of years, I still find it as stunning each time I listen to it.

Falling In Love is from Siti's 2011 studio album All Your Love, while Galau for my understanding has only been released as a single in 2013.

Moving onto Stacy. Stacy is the stage name of Stracie Angie Anam, who was born in 1990 in a city called Kota Kinabalu, the capital of state Sabah.

Did you know?: Malaysia is divided into two parts: Peninsular Malaysia on the Asian mainland and East Malaysia on the island of Borneo. Most people connect Borneo with Indonesia, but it is actually shared by three countries: Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, the latter being completely on the island. About half of Malaysia's land area is on Borneo, but approximately 80% of people live in the Peninsular side of the country. There is still big cities in Borneo, like the mentioned Kota Kinabalu, where lives almost half a million people and Kuching with its population of over 600,000 people.

But back to Stacy. Stacy grew up in a poor family and she dropped out of school at age of 16 to support her family by singing in clubs. She auditioned to many reality show contests, but was only successful in 2008, when she auditioned for the sixth season of Akademi Fantasia. Stacy ended up winning the contest as the youngest ever winner. Her first single release came with the show and the song, Aku Stacy (meaning 'I Am Stacy') hit number one in the Malay charts. Since then she has had multiple number ones and she has released two studio albums and one mini album. Besides for her singing, Stacy is also known for her dancing skills.

The first song from Stacy was called Kasanova, while this second one is called Bosan. Both are from her first full-length studio album Stay-C, released in 2011. I doubt I have to translate the title of Kasanova (hint: switch the K to C) and the lyrics tell the expected story: Stacy has been dating a 'casanova', who has of course been unfaithful to her. Bosan then means 'Bored'. From what I get of the lyrics, Stacy is dating this person, who bores her with his excuses and reasonings, and seems a bit arrogant on that matter. She does seem to come across bad boyfriends, doesn't she?

Both of these songs are what I like about Stacy: dramatic, catchy and dancy. Even I feel like dancing while listening to Stacy's music, and that is saying a lot since I hate dancing. Kasanova has a darker shade and is more dramatic, while Bosan sounds funnier and a bit more lighter. Both still very catchy and I have had each stuck on my head many times. I find Stacy's voice interesting and it fits these kind of songs. And the music gives Stacy a chance to show of her dancing and dancing also has a major part in her music videos. Young and dramatic, that is how I would call Stacy's style.

Kasanova and Bosan can be found on Stacy's 2011 album Stay-C.

Time for the last artist of this post. And she is Betty Banafe. Full name Betty Ibtisam Abu Bakar Banafe (try saying that five times fast!), Betty was born in 1979 in Johor Bahru. Johor Bahru is Malaysia's second largest city and it connects the island nation of Singapore into Malaysia via a causeway. Betty has a varying gene-pool with Malay, Arab and Javanese descent, which surely explains her complex name. Betty's father opposed when his daughter wanted to become an actress, but she did so anyway. Acting seems to be her main job, but she is also a singer (duh, this is a music blog after all).

What makes Betty's music interesting, is that she also sings in Arabic; There is only few Malaysian singers who does so. As for as I can understand the language (Arabic in this case, thanks to listening so much Arabic music lately), the song I featured from Betty, Tak Sengaja, is in Malaysian. At least it is written in Malaysian way and Google translates the title from Malay into 'Accidentally'.

Tak Sengaja was released in 2013. The song is very beautiful and harmonic. I do not know what she is singing about, but I get a feeling of longing, yet peacefulness. It has a bit mysterious feel to it. Betty has a bit rough voice, which adds a nice edge to the music. I really like the elements in the music, particularly during the chorus. Those make the song sound a bit Arabic to me and I find this kind a mixture of Malaysian and Arabic music styles. The song sounds positive and beautiful, and together with the music video they make me feel wistful, yet calm.

I can not be certain, but I believe Tak Sengaja is from Betty's only studio album Ibtisam.

19 July 2015

Libya #1: Two veteran artists

Africa is the continent that has in percentage gained least attention in this blog. So it is about time for a new blog post from Africa. In my recent Ethiopia post, I mentioned that I asked my friend to name a random African country of which music I would next search into. She named Ethiopia and Libya. Well, the Ethiopia part I obviously already did and, as I promised, today is the turn for the Libya post.

Wikipedia: Libya

The first thing I found out about Libyan music scene was that it is barely non-existent. Which was quite surprising to me, since Libya has a population of over 6 million people. Which is not per se that much, but I have found much and much music from far smaller countries too. I suppose it is a cultural thing then? This obviously made it very hard to find Libyan singers (since they barely even exist) and my lack of Arabic skills did not make it any easier. Perhaps since I have been so in love with Arabic music this year, I could someday study the language. Someday.

Even though Libyan music industry is tiny, there is still few good names to be discovered. I even managed to find enough music for two to three posts already. In this post I will feature two singers, two songs from each. Both of these singers are very experienced and very well known in the Libyan music scene. Though I am not sure how much that is saying with such a grueling competition. Anyway, they are both highly talented, though their music is not something that is commonly heard in this blog.

So, let's take a look:

The first of the two artists is Ahmed Fakroun, which is written أحمد فكرون in Arabic. Ahmed was born 1953 in a city called Benghazi, which is located by the coast and is the second largest city in Libya (the capital city Tripoli is the largest). Ahmed studied music already as a young child and learned to play many instruments ranging from piano and guitar to traditional instruments like mandola and oud. His professional music career he started back in early-70s. He has a major discography and decades of experience behind him, and his music is very well known in the Arabic world. His Wikipedia page even calls him "a pioneer of modern Arabic World Music".

The first song from Ahmed is called Soleil Soleil. Doesn't the title already sound fun and bright! This song was released in 1983, so it is kind of old already, but as if it is not obvious in this blog: I love music from 80s! Soleil Soleil is no exception. The story does not tell who provides the female vocals. The song is very fun sounding (I was about to add -ny at the end of fun, but let's go with fun) and funky. I do not know what the lyrics say, but the music and singing make it sound like a happy song. The bright colours of the music video fit perfectly to the song.

Ahmed Fakroun's style is varied; From a young age he had an interest towards music from all corners of the world, particularly European music. He has taken influence from many different types of music, as well as having both traditional and modern elements in his music. (Sounds like something I would do if I were a singer: mix different kinds of music styles from around the world, old and new. Just like in this blog!) Along with Arabic music, one of Ahmed's main genres is raï. Raï is folk music, originating from 30s' Algeria and mixing music styles of Spanish, French, African and Arabic music with traditional Algerian elements.

The second song is called عيونك, which means 'Your Eyes' (do not ask me how to pronounce the Arabic name). Unfortunately I do not have any knowledge on when this song was actually released, but it sounds very timeless whatsoever. Again, I do not know what he is singing about, but the song sounds calm and romantic. The word wistful comes to my mind. With the title, I would go assuming it is in fact a romantic song. The music is particularly nice here; I especially love the flutes in the background.

Like I said, I do not know when or where Your Eyes was released, but for my understanding Soleil Soleil is from an album of the same name, Soleil Soleil.

The other artist is Nasser El Mezdawi. But before moving onto Nasser more, let's take a moment to announce a milestone reached in this blog: The song above is actually the 300th song to be featured in this blog. Oh, how the time goes by... On a funny note: I realised that the 100th song was from Venezuela and 200th song from Finland, meaning all the hundreds so far have been from different continents! This I have not done on purpose, but now it get me thinking that perhaps I should make sure that the next 3 hundreds are also from different continents. Just for the fun of it!

But about the 300th song itself: It is called شنطة سفر, which means 'Travel Bag'. (All the translations are provided by Google Translate, so they are the be taken with caution.) I believe the song was released in the 90s, though I could be wrong, since this kind of information seems to be hard to come by without knowledge on the local language. This time I made sure it was my favourite song of the post that was the 'hundred song', so obviously this is my favourite song from this post. The beginning of the song reminds me of something, though I can not put my mind on what exactly. The song sounds very positive and catchy. Yet again I do not know what the lyrics are saying, but with the sound like this it can not be nothing but happy!

And now about the artist himself. Nasser El Mezdawi, whose name can also be written as Nasser El Mizdawi with and without hyphen between El and his last name, was born in the capital city of Libya aka. Tripoli in 1950. Nasser started his professional career in 1975 and he has studied music in a music school. With such a long career, Nasser is a big name in the Arabic music and he has been very successful, and still is. Besides being a singer himself, Nasser also composes songs to other Arabic artists (including Amr Diab, who I featured in this post as this blog's very first African singer). Nasser too has gained fame in the Arabic world and beyond, and is taking influence from here and there, so his music too is an interesting mixture.

This other song from Nasser is called مشينا, which means 'We Walked'. Again I do not when this song was released, but to me music is timeless anyway. There is something surprisingly soothing in this song. I hear a strong Arabic sound in it, which of course makes it exotic sounding to me (even though I have listened so much Arabic music lately that I am getting very familiar with it). I can picture Nasser singing this song with his band behind him, although there seems to be some interesting instruments in the music, so I am not entirely sure what exact instruments the band is playing in my vision! Something that sounds very lovely at least.

My apologies for not being able to provide information on which albums these songs are available on.

17 July 2015

Problems with artists' nationalities

In a recent post I mentioned that I had scheduled a post related to a problem I face sometimes with this blog. Back then I re-scheduled that post to write that other post (for reasons mentioned in it) and now would finally be the time to talk about the problem I mentioned before. It is a problem I quite often have to wonder thanks to this blog: the nationalities of artists.

So, what is the actual problem here? In the modern days of internationalization many people, including singers, can have multiple nationalities. In example, one of their parents could be from France and one from Germany. In this blog I do feature posts in which I feature music from a certain country. So to which post would I put the example artist, France or Germany? Now there is a pickle.

And unfortunately that is not the only pickle (on a side note: I hate pickles, yuck!). Because I like listening, and blogging about, smaller artists too, I come across the problem of not finding any actual information on the artist. If they sing in a certain language that is only spoken in one country, the nationality is guessable, but otherwise if I do not find their country of origin from anywhere, it is pretty much impossible to guess from where they come from. And bands with members from multiple countries are a whole another issue!

Photo source

So, what is a blogger to do? With the case of dual-nationalities (sometimes it is even more than just two options!), it is a decision of choosing which country to blog about them in. If there is just enough information to be found (in a language I or Google Translator can understand enough), I will consider few points. Where were they born? Where they grew up or have lived most of their lives? What languages they speak and in which they sing in? Where are they making their career?; Which country's record label they are signed to, where they are more promoted, where they are more famous? Sometimes the artist have stated their "main nationality" in their website, social media, or somewhere.

I use the facts mentioned above to make the decision. Sometimes if these things are not known, or they do not make the decision any clearer, I have few other ways to determine in which post to feature the singer in. Of course I can pick randomly, though I try to avoid that. Sometimes I (in a personal option) for some reason connect the artist more to one country over the other. Like if they have represented a country in some competition (in example Eurovision Song Contest) or participated a singing competition (Voice, X Factor, etc.) in other country. Sometimes I just place the artist to the country that "needs it more". By this I mean the country with smaller music scene and so worth less artists to blog about.

One complicated case is an artist who was born in example in China to Chinese parents, but who has lived most of their life in example in Australia and is making their career there. China or Australia? This too would be a bit case by case situation, but I think in this example I would go with Australia. At least if the artist announces theirself as an Australian singer.

And what about the bands with member from multiple countries? I know quite a few of these! Two easy solutions usually are: 1. from which country there is most members from, 2. where they live and make music in. Usually with at least other of these questions there is a clear answer, but sometimes not. Then I have to take a look at other information available (similar to the questions mentioned with solo acts) and based it on that. And if nothing else helps, then I will just randomly place them into one of the fitting countries.

Photo source

There is surprisingly lot to think about with these cases! If nothing helps and there is no way of placing them into any country, I will just add their music to my YouTube playlist, where I add artists whose nationality I do not know. This list is luckily very short since there is usually always one way or another to place the artists to fitting countries! But if nothing helps, then I will just leave them be and look back later on, in case there is more information available on them then. Of course I can just leave those cases unblogged (I am making up words here), but I will kind of disappointed if I find a great song and I know I can not blog about it. Serious problems, yes sir.

I am probably just making things more complicated than I should; I am quite a perfectionist, so I want to do things properly. But in the end, does it really matter? So what if I accidentally blog about an artist in a wrong country's post? (I have known for a while there is at least one of these cases in my blog, but I have not gotten around to fix it. *insert a whale fail*) I kind of feel that it could be offensive to the artist if I state their nationality wrong, but then again I doubt that any of the people I blog about are going to read it. And I bet that with most of the cases, the artist would not even care at all; dual-nationals are probably connected to both of their countries.

Sometimes I may get it wrong, but I will fix it if I am notified of the mistake! In the end, this is just a fun blog and nothing to be taken too seriously. It is just me perfectionist brain that wants to do it properly and get grey hairs over such matters! First world problems and so worth.

Any views on this issue? Please, leave a comment!

14 July 2015

Favourite artists: Simple Plan. Canada #3

In my previous post I said I am doing this two-part series thingy, where I at first feature some country's music from one certain theme (aka. genre) and then make a Favourite Artists post of the same country's artist of the same theme. Like I did few months ago in this and this post. This time around the them is Canadian punk-rock music. This post is obviously the second part, aka. the Favourite Artists post. In my Favourite Artists post I feature my ultimate top favourite singers and groups, of whom I have been a fan of for years.

And the band of this post is...

Photo from here

Simple Plan

In this post I will tell facts about the band amongst the songs. I picked six songs to feature, instead of the usual five; The struggle was serious when selecting the songs since I love almost all of their songs. But these six are perhaps my ultimate favourites from them. I will try to keep the text parts shortish, since these Favourite Artists posts tend to end up quite long. And on that note, better get going on:

At first I want to mention that in my opinion Simple Plan's style is quite varied. If you find this first song too punk for you: give a try to the other songs in this post too. They are fairly different and you might like those even if you do not care for punk-rock!

Simple Plan is a band from Montreal, Quebec, playing pop punk and alternative rock. The members of the band are lead vocalist Pierre Bouvier, drummer Chuck Comeau, guitarist Jeff Stinco, rhythm guitarist Sébastien Lefebvre and bassist David Desrosiers. The members were in different bands during the 90s, including Reset, but in 1999 they formed Simple Plan together. The band's line-up has not changed since 2000 after David joined. Simple Plan debuted in 2002 and so far they have released four studio albums, of which particularly numbers two and three, have gained worldwide success. The band has toured Americas, Europe and Asia, and worked together with many famous artists.

The first song from Simple Plan is called Shut Up!. It was released as a single from Simple Plan's second album in 2005 and it is a pop punk song. This was amongst the first Simple Plan songs that I heard and that made me fall in love with this band. The message of the song could be taken as many ways, or more of to who it is pointed at, but the main point is stated on the title. I find this song catchy and quite fun, despite the image perhaps given by the title. And I also really like the music video; even though I am not about destroying such a nice looking place, the video is pretty hilarious!

Simple Plan makes their own music (which you would assume to be an obvious thing with instrument playing bands but is not always) with Pierre and Chuck writing most of the lyrics. They look for an inspiration from their own lives and also from things that they find important. This includes lyrics like Save You, which tell about Pierre's brother's fight with cancer, and many songs about problems faced by the youth. Simple Plan has also created Simple Plan Foundation, which raises funds to help with teenage problems. Respect.

My second favourite song, and most likely the first song that I heard, from Simple Plan is called Untitled (How Could This Happen To Me?). I believe the part in the parenthesis was added for the single release. It was released in 2005 and represents the different side of Simple Plan: it is a ballad kind of song with beautiful and sad lyrics. I really love this song. And the music video too is amazing: it tells about the victims of drinking and driving, and MADD anti-drunk driving campaigns have used to song and video. A very important message and it makes the song even more emotional, as if it was not very emotional to start with.

Simple Plan's style is quite varied, but there are certain themes that repeat in their works. Many of the songs focus on love and such matters, but, like I mentioned before, they also sing a lot about teen problems, like loneliness and identity problems. I suppose teenagers are a main audience to punk-rock bands, so it is not quite surprising really (and I too was a teen when I first came across the band, though I do not believe it was some teenage angst that made me love them, since the love has remained). For a punk rock band, they make really beautiful ballads. I would actually not call Simple Plan a punk band, since their music is more 'poppish' and 'rockish' than punk, in my opinion that is. Some have called Simple Plan 'emo', and I suppose in some songs they are, but that is definitely not all that there is to the band.

One of their best songs considering teenage problems are called Perfect. Actually of their albums, their first studio album is the one that focuses most on teenage problems and which also is the most punk. Perfect was from this first album and was released as a single in 2003. I must admit, that I originally did not care for this song, but then I heard it live in their concert and fell in love with it. I guess feeling the emotional reaction it got from the audience around me gave the song so much more feeling and meaning. The message is "sorry, i can not be perfect" and even though this would mainly be considered as a teen song, I believe this is a feeling that many, many adults can connect with.

Astronaut sort of continues the theme. It was a single from their most recent album and was released in 2011. You know how many bands and singers have nicknames for their fans? After the released of Astronaut, Simple Plan's fans have been called astronauts. The song is very beautiful and meaningful: the lyrics tell about the loneliness faced by many. Very emotional song and the way Pierre sings makes me shiver. The music video too carries out this story so well. There is so much truth in this sentence from the video: "Being human is the most terrible loneliness in the universe".

My journey with Simple Plan started when I came across Untitled in 2004 or 2005 and since I totally fell in love with it, I of course searched the internet for their other songs too. Back then they had only two studio albums out, which I obviously had to immediately buy when I listened to more of their songs. I remember waiting excitedly for their third studio, a wait that felt like forever since it was released in 2008. That album ended up becoming my favourite album from Simple Plan and one of my favourite albums of all time.

Rock concert + me = nope!!
I am not much of a concert goer for two reasons: 1. they are too expensive, 2. I do not like concerts that much. Simple Plan's concert is one of the only ones I have been to actually. And I have to say it was quite an experience compared to the other concerts I have been to (pop mainly). And honestly, I do not think I would go again. I really loved Simple Plan's performance, but rock concerts are not for me! I am a fairly small person and at times it felt it was very dangerous being in the audience; a smaller girl next to me got almost knocked over so many many times and it was not much easier for me either. I had to make my way to the very back, which was safer, but then I could see barely anything. Never again.

Now about the last two songs: When I'm Gone and I Can Wait Forever. Both of these are from Simple Plan's third studio album, self-titled Simple Plan, which I few paragraphs ago names as my favourite album from Simple Plan. When I'm Gone was the lead single from the album, and I remember being so excited about it, since it meant the much-waited album was to be released soon! I immediately like the song and the love has remained. The lyrics tell about a break-up and I would say the genre is mostly electropunk. I think the music sounds quite interesting, perhaps it is the electro sound that makes it. I also really like the music video, which concept is very cool and very well produced.

Then I Can Wait Forever. This song I saved for last for one particular reason: It is my favourite song from Simple Plan! It is the only song in this post that was not released as a single. This belongs to the 'beautiful songs from Simple Plan category' and is a ballad-like song, though not a pure ballad. You would not assume that punk bands would make romantic songs, but sure enough Simple Plan does (though it is a fairly small percent of their songs). The lyrics deal with having to be away from your loved one and how it hurts (reality of a touring musician, I suppose). I do not know exactly why this is my favourite, but I find the song very beautiful and it feels like there is lots of emotion in the music and singing. I am not very emotional person, but this song manages to make me feel emotional, even when I do not even have self-experience from this matter.

I think that was most of what I wanted to say in this post. Or at least this post is getting to be so long, that it is better to leave it here. Here is the traditional listing about where you can find the songs from:

No Pads, No Helmets... Just Balls, released 2002: Perfect
Still Not Getting Any..., released 2004: Shut Up!, Untitled
Simple Plan, released 2008: When I'm Gone, I Can Wait Forever
Get Your Heart On!, released 2011: Astronaut

11 July 2015

Canada #2: Punk, rock and grunge

This is kind of a theme post. Last May I did a similar thing: at first I made a regular feature post featuring one country's, in that case Finland's, music fitting to a certain theme. The following post was a Favourite Artists post (in those posts I feature my ultimate top favourites, whose fan I have been for years) featuring one of my top favourite bands fitting to the theme started in the previous post. Now I will be doing the same thing, except with Canadian music of a different theme. The last time my theme was Finnish heavy metal, this time it is Canadian punk-rock with a bit of grunge.

Wikipedia: Canada

When I think of Canadian music, the first thing that comes to my mind is punk and rock music. Canada of course has great musicians in other genres too (like the three classic ladies in my previous Canada post), but my Canadian favourites tend to be punk and/or rock; Particularly the band that I will feature in the Favourite Artists post in couple of days. From reading this blog it is obvious that I favour pop music, but I also love music from all other genres too and my ability to even recognize genres from each other is horrible at the best. The artists featured in this post are some of my Canadian punk/rock favourites, most of them I have a fan of for a quite some time already.

Did you know?: Grunge is a subgenre of alternative rock, having its roots in Seattle in the mid-80s. I was not aware of this genre until some time ago, though that is not too surprising considering the said genre knowledge I have. Grunge took influence mainly from hardcore punk, heavy metal and indie rock. Nirvana in example, is one of the best-known bands to have played grunge. In ten years, grunge switched into post-grunge. Post-grunge is a more commercial version of grunge, if you put it in simple. Post-grunge had its peak in success during late-90s and early-00s. In this post it is post-grunge, rather than grunge, that is featured.

And here we go off with the first song:

And so all of the readers disappeared... Please, bear with me! Haha. Nickelback. In the magical place called the internet, Nickelback has a not-so-good reputation and people tend to say that everybody hates the band. This obviously can not be the case since Nickelback is actually one of the best-selling Canadian bands and they have a 20 year-long career behind them. With their fame and record sales, it would be almost a sin not to feature them in a punk-rock themed post. And honestly, I do truly enjoy few of their songs.

Nickelback was formed in 1995 in a town called Hanna, which is in the province called Alberta. With the population of 2600+ people, it is actually very interesting that a worldwide famous rock band comes from this small town. The band is fronted by the lead singer and lead guitarist Chad Kroeger. Other members are rhythm guitarist Ryan Peake, bassist Mike Kroeger and drummer Daniel Adair. The three first one are original members of the band and only the drummer has been replaced few times, with Daniel Adair joining ten years ago. I always find it interesting, and respectful, when a band can stay together for such a long with pretty much all of its original members. It is really not foregone.

The song I am featuring from Nickelback is called Photograph. This is my favourite from them and also perhaps the first I heard of their music. The song was a worldwide hit and one of their best-selling singles; I remember it being played on MTV all the time. Photograph was released in 2005 and it is an alternative rock and post-grunge song. In the lyrics the singer reminisces about his youth and wonders how much things have changed. Even though I like the music too, the lyrics are my favourite part of the song. The singer Chad's vocals are very recognizable, which some seem to hate, but I like since his voice gives Nickelback's music a certain sound that can not be mistaken for any other band.

Photograph is from Nickelback's 2005 album All The Right Reasons.

Next up is another very famous Canadian name: Avril Lavigne. Avril has had worldwide success with millions of album sales and multiple number one hits, especially during the noughties. She was born in 1984 in a city called Belleville, in the Ontario province. She is Canadian-French. Avril started her career as a 15-year old in 1999 and in 2002 her first single already became a major hit. Avril writes or co-writes pretty much all of her songs. Her main genres are pop punk, pop rock and alternative rock, though her earlier material includes also post-grunge styles (like I mentioned, the genre was on its peak during the beginning years of Avril's career). On a side note, let's mention that Avril is married to Nickelback's Chad Kroger, which could have made a good bridge between these two acts, but I did not remember this fact while planning this post.

The first song from Avril is called My Happy Ending. This is one of Avril's best-selling singles and my own personal favourite. I remember listening to this, along with other Avril's songs from her two first albums, a lot when I was young. Which would have been quite hard not to, since they were playing her music on MTV all the time, haha. I still love this song and now it has an added nostalgic value to it too. The song was released in 2004 (I feel so old...) and it is a post-grunge and alternative rock song. Avril sings about a relationship, that was suppose to be her 'happy ending', but was not.

I must admit that I have not been much into Avril's newer material which ranges from her usual sound to somewhat obscure songs. My favourites from Avril come from her earlier years and actually while I was planning this post I realised that all the songs I considered to feature were actually from her second studio album, Under My Skin. I did not want to feature songs from just one album, so I ended up picking one from her first album instead as the second song: Complicated. But needless to say that Under My Skin is by far my favourite album of Avril's.

Complicated was Avril's debut single. It was a worldwide hit with number one spots in the charts of FOUR different continents. Go big or go home, eh? Complicated was released in 2002 (!?! I feel the wrinkles coming in...) and it is a pop rock and pop punk song. I think music-wise the song is a bit more relaxed than most of Avril's songs (even her ballads) and it has interesting sound effects. Avril's message in this song is for people to stop being pretentious and be themselves. A good message, that is.

My Happy Ending is from Avril's 2004 studio album Under My Skin and Complicated from her debut album Let Go, released in 2002.

The next singer is called Skye Sweetnam. Compared to the previous acts of this post, Skye is a very small scale artist, but she has had also some success, home and abroad. Skye was born 27 years ago in a place called Bolton, near the most-populous city in Canada, Toronto. Skye started studying singing and dancing from a young age and in 2002 she started her professional career with her debut single being released in 2003. She sings alternative rock, teen pop and pop punk, and she also co-wrote all of the songs on her two solo albums.

I came across Skye's music during the era of her first studio album, Noise From The Basement, which was released in 2004 (gosh, this post makes me feel so old!). Perhaps I was going through some punk-rock phase back then, since most of the artists I like of this category, I found back then. I have not been listening to Skye's music much in the recent years, but I still found them really good, and now of course they have that nostalgia feature too. I really liked many of her songs from the debut album, but my top favourite from Skye is a song called Human from her second studio album, released in 2007.

Human was released as a single in 2007 and it is an electronic rock song. The lyrics are quite common theme for a rock/punk song, but I find these better than usual; She sings about how things around us try to brainwash us. The music is very catchy and I particularly like the verse parts (well, that is a new one since I usually names choruses as my favourite bits). The music video also is interesting; a bit weird, but finds the song nicely. Zombie-dancing in a wasteland? Don't mind if I do!

Human is from Skye's 2007 album Sound Soldier.

The song starts around 4:26.

In 2011 Skye took a stage name Sever and joined forces with three guys to form a punk metal band called Sumo Cyco. The other members of the band are guitarist M.D., bassist Thor and drummer Wolf. The band is independent and somewhat small-scale, but they sure have an interesting style, to say the least. Sumo Cyco plays alternative metal, hard rock and alternative rock music (all the genres come from Wikipedia, since my mentioned skills in the genre knowledge sector), so it is a bit darker from Skye's solo music. I do not know what I expected when I first looked into this band, but probably not something quite as insane as this.

I am not even going to try explaining Sumo Cyco's style, since even to me it is pretty messed up. But in a good way, at least most of the time! Just look at the music video above and you get the idea. So far Sumo Cyco has released one album: Lost In Cyco City. The song above, Interceptor (yes, I had to use a translator to figure out what that means), was released in 2011 as one of their first songs. The song weird and I certainly had a moment of WTF when I first listened to this (also the first song I listened from Sumo Cyco, so I was not well prepared), but now I actually quite enjoy this song. The music video too is pretty messed up, but I actually like it a lot. Trust me to like anything that is weird and creepy!

Sumo Cyco's album Lost In Cyco City was released in 2014, but Interceptor was not part of it nor was it released officially as a single either. But it is available on iTunes at least.

08 July 2015

Georgia #1: Happy days of freedom

Time for a new post! I very, very rarely post two posts in consecutive days, but I have fallen a bit behind from my schedule thanks to being unwell and seriously aching for quite sometime now. (Fuck you, wisdom teeth, fuck you very much. Sorry for swearing, but seriously: fuck them.) It is not like I for some reason must keep up with my schedule, but I like to. In today's post we are hopping to another continent and to...

Wikipedia: Georgia

Georgia. Though it is not that far away from Europe, so the hop does not have to be very big! Georgia is one of the countries of Caucasus, bordered by Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey. To be honest, I am not very familiar with the cultures of the Caucasus region and to a foreigner it comes off, thanks to the news, as a bit violent region. Even though there obviously is disputes in the area, there is also strong, interesting cultures to be found. And stunning landscapes! Georgia is actually one of my top favourite countries in the Eurovision Song Contest, so I am a bit surprised now that I had not before taken a deeper look into Georgian music or the country otherwise. It was about a time that it happened.

So, let's take a look:

Up first we have a timeless song that has a kind of position of an Eurovision Song Contest classic: Stephane & 3G with their song We Don't Wanna Putin... erm, I mean We Don't Wanna Put In. This song is definitely very well known amongst the fans of Eurovision, even though it never even participated; Georgia picked Stephane & 3G to represent them in 2009 (held in Russia, by the way) with the song in question, but EBU (Eurovision organizer) declared that the song was against the rules of Eurovision due to it's political nature. Instead of changing the lyrics or picking another song, Georgia decided to withdraw from the contest that year. Still the song became one of the most talked ones that year.

Music and politics are both matters that cause strong feelings in people and of course they meddle with each other all the time. With many nations coming together, it is certainty that each year there is political songs in the Eurovision Song Contest; Perhaps Stephane & 3G were just too direct. But behind the ruckus it cause, there is actually a very good song. With ever so fitting lyrics (okay, I am going to stop here, since this blog has surprisingly many Russian readers) and highly catchy music, We Don't Wanna Put In is a great disco song. It is catchy, fun and colourful. Whenever I listen to this, I can imagine people dancing in a disco and having fun.

But Stephane & 3G are more than just their Eurovision near-participation. The band was formed in 2008, and though their discography is not wide and I am not even sure if they are still together, they have some other great songs too. The group consists of Stephane Mgebrishvili, Nini Badurashvili, Tako Gachechiladze and Kristine Imedadze. The 3G in the name means 'three girls' referring to the three girls in the band. All of the members have lots of performing experience behind them, with many contest and TV show appearances around Europe and Asia, and also many received awards.

The other song from Stephane & 3G is called For Somebody. It was released in 2010. The song is definitely a disco song and I actually like the music a lot. The vocals are what make this song interesting; Honestly, when I was first listening to this, it was a bit 'WTF' moment, but after the initial shock the catchiness of the song won me over. It is a bit messed up and weird, but at the same time a very funny and hooking song. Even with hearing just We Don't Wanna Put In, I thought the band was a bit insane, and For Somebody just confirms this theory.

Both We Don't Wanna Put In and For Somebody are available on Stephane & 3G's 2010 album We Don't Wanna Put In.

Moving on to Mariam Chachkhiani. Mariam was born in the capital city of Georgia, Tbilisi in 1995. According to Wikipedia she first appeared on stage when she was just six years old. In the following years she participated multiple festivals and in 2007 she attempted to represent Georgia in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest, though she did not succeed. In 2013 she had more success when she took part in the second season of Akhali Khma, which is the Georgian version of The Voice (additional fact: Stephane of Stephane & 3G is a coach in the show). Mariam won the contest.

Mariam's debut single was called Feel Free. It was released soon after the final of Akhali Khma, in 2014. Mariam's Facebook page states that she a pop and dubstep artist, but to me this song does sound like it has a soul influence too. I find this song great both musically and vocally; it has edge. It is a catchy and fun dance song, yet there is a somewhat old-school feel to it.

Mariam's Facebook page states that she is an unsigned artist, which surprised me a bit, since I have lived in a presumption that winner's of singing reality TV contests receive a record deal at least. Perhaps different countries have different prizes then? From what I have collected while getting to know Georgian music scene, I have gotten an image that the music industry is not very big in Georgia. Or perhaps without any understanding of the Georgian language I just fail to find that many artists? Though with a population of almost 4 million people, I would have expected more. And it has also been quite hard to find information on the artists, though to that I am very use to.

But back to Mariam. This year she has released two more singles and her first music videos. Other one of these is called Gibberish. Gibberish means nonsense, in case somebody was not familiar with this word that I always found so funny sounding. How could a song with such a name be not fun? There is an international team behind Gibberish with lyrics written by Brazilian Ronaldo Junior and the song produced by British Loop G. The song sounds very dramatic and a bit dark. Mariam sings about being free to loose herself and the overall feel of the song is very strong. Even though a bit dark, with the word gibberish and some fun elements in the music, it is actually quite fun song.

Mariam Chachkhiani has not released any albums to my knowledge, but the songs featured are available as singles.

Last artist of this post: Lizi Pop. Lizi is also known as Lizi Japaridze, Japaridze being her real last name, though her real first name is Liza. Lizi was born in 2003, though the story does not tell where, making her only 11 years old as of now. Despite her young age, she has already been professionally active for few years. According to her Wikipedia page, she speaks three foreign languages: English, Russian and Afrikaans, of which I find the last one quite surprising and interesting; Why is a child from Caucasus studying Afrikaans? I find that a bit impressing, as also the fact that she has a green belt in karate. Hands up, how many of us had achieved this much when they were eleven years old?

Lizi's most notable work so far is participating the Junior Eurovision Song Contest (Eurovision Song Contest for 10-15 year olds = the songs must by sung and also written by juniors of the age.) in 2014 with her song Happy Day. She finished 11th out of the 16 participants. And even though this is the worst placing Georgia has received in the contest, I find this song a lot of fun. It is a bit silly song, but in a child-like innocent way. A very cute and sweet song, and the Georgian language sounds interesting. Lizi herself said: "I want all kids, in every continent, in country, in every family to be happy and joyful in their lives". That is a great message for a song to have.

I had not ever heard a Junior Eurovision song, as far as I can remember and know, before couple months ago I listened to Lizi's Happy Day. I absolutely adored this song and ended up listening to other JESC songs too. Perhaps it is needless to say that I liked what I heard. I still have not taken a very deep look into the world of the Junior Eurovision, but since I like Happy Day, and some others I listened to, so much, I have been inspired to finally watch the contest. The 2015 edition will be held on November 21 and I highly look forward to watching it (and I will of course write a blog post about the experience!). I honestly did not expect such talents to be found in children.

edit. And just as I was about to publish this post, I realised: I have in fact heard at least one JESC song prior to Happy Day. I liked that song a lot too, so now I am even more looking forward to 21st of November!

07 July 2015

Italy #1: Ricordi d'amore

Time for the first feature post of this month: Italy. This is also the first feature post for Italian music, though Italy was briefly visited in the second part of my 80s music series: European hits. All of the songs featured in this post are sung in the Italian language, in change for the usual English. Do not get me wrong; I do not have anything against of singing in English, but songs in the local language bring nice variety to this blog. And that is after all what this blog is about: cultural variety and different kinds of music.

Wikipedia: Italy

I have recently been watching the TV series called The Borgias on Netflix. Even though it was shot in Hungary and the production has nothing to do with Italy, the events of the show are placed in Italy, so this Italian music post comes at a fitting time. I am that kind of TV series watcher, that I always go and look for more information on the real-life characters, events, places, etc. mentioned in the show I am watching. So recently I have learned quite lot about Italian geography, and Italian / Vatican history of course. I always prefer historical shows with real-life events over modern relationship dramas or comedy shows, since there is always something interesting to learn from them.

But let's move to the music now. I am not sure what there is to learn from these songs, perhaps something about love, but let's have a look. The title by the way translates into 'memories of love'.

The first artist of the post is Peppino Di Capri. He was born in Naples as Giuseppe Faiella in 1939. With nearly 60 years of musical career behind him, he is truly a veteran in the Italian music scene. He has had much success in Italy and Europe and he has won many awards and competition, including two victories at the highly respected Italian music contest San Remo festival. Peppino's discography is very wide and his style is Italian pop and Neapolitan song. The latter refers to traditional music mainly about love sung usually by male soloist in the Neapolitan language (the language of southern Italy, ie. Naples).

I do not know from where Peppino Di Capri got his artist name, but it translates into 'Peppino Of Capri', Capri being an island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, near the coast of Naples. Perhaps Peppino has some sort of connection to the island or perhaps he just admires the beauty found from there. I am sure many people are familiar with the stunning scenery found from the islands of the Mediterranean Sea, and the island of Capri sure does not lack of it. I can see Peppino Di Capri being inspired by this beauty and his songs tend to remind me of beautiful islands and their harmony.

The song above, Le Donne Amano, relates to Capri too: It was the theme song for a TV series called Capri. It is probably needless to say that this is the source where I first heard this song and totally fell in love with it. It is a very romantic song and of course reminds me of the breath-taking scenery from the show. Peppino Di Capri plays piano and I assume he plays piano in this song too. The title means Le Donne Amano and the lyrics tell that women are complicated, but you would still do crazy things for their love. The song sounds absolutely beautiful and harmonic, and I can imagine this being played in some romantic scene.

Le Donne Amano is from an album of the same name, Le Donne Amano, released in 2006.

The next singer is Giusy Ferreri. Giuseppa Gaetana Ferreri (coincidentally the first two singers of this post have the same first name, expect different gender versions of course) was born in 1979 in the city of Palermo, the capital of the island Sicily. She is a pop-blues and rock singer, who started her career in 2005, though she only hit famous in 2008 after becoming second in the first Italian version of the X Factor. Since then she has released four studio albums and won multiple music awards.

The first song from Giusy is called Ti Porto A Cena Con Me. It was released last year and she participated the San Remo festival with the song, finishing ninth in the 'Big Artists' section. Since Google Translate is yet again not so cooperative I am not entirely sure what she is singing about, but something about going on a dinner with her, which definitely fits the music video. The music video is quite stylish by the way (and was shot in Verona). And so is the song. It has a very classical Italian sound and it feels deep. Giusy's fairly rough voice along with the beautiful music makes a nice combination and the song sounds very beautiful, in a sad and a bit gloomy way.

Giusy Ferreri has done well in the Italian charts with two number ones and also had success in some other European countries too; I do not know why, but I was a bit surprised to find out she has charted in Belgium, which is not Italy's neighbouring country. Is Italian music popular there? Anyway, like I said Giusy participated the Italian X Factor and became second. The other one of Giusy' two number one hits is called Non Ti Scordar Mai Di Me and it was released just after when the X Factor final had been aired; The single cover even features the X Factor logo.

The X Factor singles tend to be successful and Non Ti Scordar Mai Di Me remains to be Giusy's best-selling single to date. And I do not think it is just because of the show, since this song is really good. The title translates into 'Never Forget Me' and that is what she sings about. I find the music catchy and interesting. Giusy's vocals again add an interesting shade to the song, making it sound even a bit dark. In my opinion there is something very Italian in Giusy's voice and style. And I think that has lots to do with the fact that I find her music so good. Molto bene!

Ti Porto A Cena Con Me is from Giusy's 2014 studio album L'Attesa. Non Ti Scordar Mai Di Me can be found from her 2008 EP of the same name, Non Ti Scordar Mai Di Me, and also from her debut studio album Gaetana, released also in 2008.

Last up we have Jovanotti. I have also seen him called by other names like Lorenzo Jovanotti. His full name is Lorenzo Cherubini and he originally picked the stage name Joe Vanotti from the Italian word giavanotto, which means a young man. After a spelling mistake in a promotional poster, he stuck with the name Jovanotti. Jovanotti was born in the capital city of Italy, Rome obviously, nearly 49 years ago. He started his career already in 1988 and has a long discography behind him. During his years, Jovanotti has tried out many different styles of music, but his current main genres are pop and world music.

Jovanotti is highly popular in Italy and all of his albums since 1994 have charted number one in the Italian charts. So far he has released thirteen studio albums, plus bunch of compilations and live albums, with his most recent album just few months ago. Besides Italy, Jovanotti has had good success elsewhere in Europe too, in Switzerland particularly. He seems to be that kind of artist whose success does not fade with time, but rather grows. There is always something special in the mix if an artist can make great music still after decades in the music industry. The two songs I picked to this post are actually from his most recent studio album.

The first song was a song called Gli Immortali. The title translates into 'Immortals' and in the lyrics Jovanotti reminisces about the days of the past. This song is my personal favourite from Jovanotti. I must admit that I usually do not like this kind of music, so I was quite surprised that I actually liked Jovanotti's music. And a lot, on that matter. There is something that caught my attention in this song. It feels very meaningful and special. The music and Jovanotti's voice are a bit rough, but that adds nice edge to the song. I find it a catchy and fun song, in an Italian way.

The other song is called Sabato. Sabato means Saturday and in the song Jovanotti sings about things he does on Saturday, mainly with his female companion, with some interesting choices of words. Though to him "it's always Saturday, even on Monday night". Positive way of thinking, eh. The song has a very interesting sound to it, which is very catchy and fun, though I could see it becoming a bit annoying on a long run. The song is definitely lots of fun, both musically and lyrically. Jovanotti, by the way, writes his own songs and in his most recent album (30 tracks in two discs!) all of the songs are written by him, except one that he co-wrote together with Stephan Moccio. Writing your own songs is a quality that I always highly respect on artists!

Both Gli Immortali and Sabato are from Jovanotti's studio album Lorenzo 2015 CC., released in February this year.