Thursday, January 25, 2007

Great movies, great music

I've started listening to Louis Armstrong recently. It is not often that I encounter new music that I like, so it was quite a nice surprise. Louis is surprisingly consistent in his quality, and all his music is refreshingly brilliant. And to think Jazz started because the African Americans were being oppressed by the whites. They had something to say, and wanted to be heard.

Just yesterday N and I watched "Promises", a movie made by B.Z. Goldberg. Fairly simple: Mr. Goldberg (or going by his name: BZ) grew up in Jerusalem and now lives in the US. Going by the accounts in news, you probably are aware of a slight violence problem in Israel. We all hear what the politicians say, but what do the people feel? And to find out, BZ interviews both Israeli and Palestinian kids. Nothing fancy, he just listens. Sometimes they talk about what they do: play soccer, volleyball, and sometimes they talk about the conflict and how it affects them. It is a lovely view on the reality. Even though BZ is Jewish, his portrayal is plain and unbiased. The misery of Palestinians and Israelis comes through quite easily. The kids speak freely because they too have something to say. And BZ wants them to be heard.

Both movies and music are means of expression: of telling a story. Invariably, the really good stuff tells a good story, or tells a mediocre story extremely well. I might not be as oppressed as the African Americans were, but it is easy to feel their plight when listening to Armstrong and T-Bone Walker. It is not just misery that needs audience: "Don't worry, be happy" is a fine example of happiness needing audience as well.

On all discussions of record companies, and the recent escapades of the MPAA and RIAA, the big question is, "But who will pay the artists?" Well, most of the artists really don't care much for being paid: they want to be heard. Like Artie Shaw famously said, "... but the business is dirty." He was much happier being heard, and playing what he damn well wanted to play. When business got involved, it took some of the pleasure away from him. I don't think BZ Goldberg wanted to smash the box office with his movie (and I really doubt it will). I think BZ wants to be heard, and that is compensation enough. Like Tyler Macniven, who made the endearing movie, "Kintaro Walks Japan", BZ wants you to listen. Tyler even put his entire movie on Google video, and you can buy the DVD if you'd like. But you don't have to. This is not limited to movies: Frizbee puts its music online. I might be their sole Indian fan, but they're glad they're being heard outside Wales.

It is people like Jones,Gwynedd, Hughes (Frizbee), BZ (Promises) and Tyler Macniven (Kintaro Walks Japan) that have my attention. And dollars.