music Tag

irish music, folklore, ballads
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“You couldn’t let them all pass you by!”

Irish music Everywhere I go in Ireland, I hear music. It’s not just the melodic lilt of the Irish speech, which makes every conversation seem like an audition for a reality show. There actually is music playing everywhere and it’s dominating my quick trip through the country. From the first pub I walk into after arriving in the country, to the tunes playing from the stereo of the bus. The songs tell the stories of Ireland – the history, the celebrations, the disasters, the loss, the longing. In the lyrics of the music, there’s often a fine line between happiness and despair. That’s the story of Ireland. “There’s great history behind every one of them,” Tony McCabe, the lead singer of The Mighty Ghosts of Erin, tells me. “And some of them be true as well. That’s the frightening thing about some of them,” he says before launching into a throaty laugh. Tony’s band sings...

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03 July
barcelona, spain, queen song, city tour (9)
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The melody of Barcelona

Barcelona, Spain Barcelona, it was the first time that we met. Barcelona, how can I forget? It’s the mix of the classic with the modern that gives Barcelona its flavour. The same way the operatic melodies of Montserrat Caballe combine with the stylised pop of Freddie Mercury’s voice in their song ‘Barcelona’. I don’t know why I think about this song when I think of Barcelona now. It’s been weeks since I was there and I have only discovered the duet since then, as I did research into a city that I feel calling me back. Perhaps the song is part of that: siren-like, it’s more like the city than it ever meant to be. Montserrat Caballe, the opera singer and Barcelona local, asked Freddie Mercury to help her write an ode to the city in preparation for the 1992 Olympic Games. She was supposed to be the guide, the local expert with the...

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20 November
San Colombano, Luigi Tagliavani, bologna, music, italian instruments, piano, harpsichord, clavichord, spinet (1)
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The keys to good music

Maestro Luigi Tagliavini “I was born on October 7th, 1929,” Luigi Tagliavini tells me. It’s the start of one of his stories. “My pregnant mother had waited and waited and I didn’t arrive. Finally, on October 6th in a theatre in Bologna, Rossini’s opera Cinderella was played and my grandmother said to my mother ‘the child doesn’t come, let’s go to the opera’. And then they went to the theatre – and I too of course – and a day later I was born. Then my grandmother said ‘oh, he will be a musician’.” 83 years later, it’s clear his grandmother’s prophecy was realised. Luigi Tagliavini is standing at a harpsichord, his fingers on the keys, softly caressing the instrument as it sings. The harpsichord is more than four hundred years old and the Italian treats it with respect… but also with an intimate familiarity. The instrument is one of his. Over his many...

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16 May
south america, music, number one, hit song, michel telo, sie7e
  |   Observations   |   14 Comments

The South American song of summer

South American party song: Michel Telo As you travel around South America, you’ll hear music everywhere. Radios will be playing in shops, bars will have their carefully-chosen playlists and even on buses kids will be playing songs on the speakers of their phones. There’s been one song that has been a constant during the past few months I have spent here in South America. The people here appear to play it on repeat sometimes and a day will not go by without hearing it several times. Just the first few notes will emerge from a speaker and I’ll know what’s about the come. My readers in continental European countries will know the one I’m talking about because this song has jumped across the Atlantic and gone on to be number one in 12 countries there. It’s been translated into at least 6 languages and has a justifiable claim to be the most popular...

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09 March
Gram's Place Tampa Florida (7)
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The Tribute

Gram's Place at Tampa, Florida tribute |ˈtribyoōt| (noun) An act, statement, or gift that is intended to show gratitude, respect, or admiration It was exactly two decades ago that a young man built a tribute in Florida to a musician he revered. It was no statue, though – no lifeless representation of what had once been. This young man decided to build a youth hostel as his tribute, and through the energy and vitality of the community that grew within it, he created a heaving and breathing monument that captured the spirit of his idol. Tributes have many layers and they often say more about the creator than the hero. Four years ago that young man – twenty years older but, by all accounts, light of heart – took his own life. The hostel didn’t close, though. It still remains today, still welcomes in visitors from around the world and still fills the night...

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11 November
New Orleans, Louisiana, crime, poverty, katrina, is New Orleans safe
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The Big Easy is harder than you think

Crime in New Orleans Just a block or two from where I was out drinking one night, two people were shot dead and several more injured in altercations that escalated quickly. The next day the local newspaper had a big article about the murders, filled with the usual fist-shaking condemnations of police and politicians. Next to that, though, was a similar-sized article about what effect the shootings would have on tourism. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the essence of New Orleans. It’s a city where decadence meets dangerous and where it’s not just the drink prices that are criminal. New Orleans is one of the most popular destinations for visitors in the US but outside the purring tourist-fuelled economy there’s suburb after suburb of poverty, crime and hopelessness. Hurricane Katrina didn’t help, and it gets most of the attention these days, but it’s not the problem. It merely exacerbated it. There were many...

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08 November
Graceland Too, Elvis, Paul MacLeod, Graceland, Holly Springs
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How obsession can corrupt a person’s sanity

Graceland Too We had a forewarning about the man and the house we were about to visit. It was to the extent that my travelling companions and I agreed on a code word we would use when it was time to escape. It was a bit of a joke on the way to the house. As it turned out, we needed to use it. Graceland in Memphis may be the spiritual home of Elvis, but an hour’s drive south of the city, in Mississippi, is Graceland Too, the spiritual home of a man who calls himself Elvis as well. His house is a tribute to The King and, as became quickly apparent, a monument to obsession and how it can corrupt a person’s sanity. You can spot Graceland Too as you drive up the street in Holly Springs, a small town rich with Civil War history. It stands out from the antebellum homes...

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24 October
graceland, memphis, tennessee, elvis presley, the king
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Long live The King

Visiting Graceland in Memphis Every day flowers and tributes arrive at Graceland, in the small city of Memphis. Sent from fans all over the world, they are placed around the gravesite of the man known by many simply as ‘The King’ and remain there until they wilt or are too weather-damaged to be on display. The strange thing is not how much is sent to his final resting place, but that the tributes are still coming more than thirty years after his death. At his gravesite, in the meditation garden of his former home, visitors still stop and spend a moment in quiet thought as they look down at the bronzed tombstone. “He became a living legend in his own time; earning the respect and love of millions”, says one of the lines of the epitaph. That, in some ways, captures the spirit of his enduring status. In our recent memory is the...

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20 October