Shiko rhythms, 27th July 2010

This post is mainly of interest to fellow drummers.

As Boyd is away for the next couple of weeks, and we’ve got performances at Drum Camp Wales coming up, and as I happened to have my laptop with me at Tuesday’s practice – here’s a round-up of what we’ve been up to, complete with some audio. The audio’s fairly poor quality (no fancy mic), but you can hear what’s going on, so hopefully it’s useful. (If you only want the audio, you can access it all here.) This is mainly focussed on the djembe parts — sorry, dundun players!

We’re currently working on 3 rhythms: Shiko, Dibon, and Lekoulee. On Tuesday we were practicing Shiko and Dibon.

Rhythm: Shiko

I didn’t record any audio for Shiko, and couldn’t find the patterns online on our site or on the Djansa site or Paul Nas’ West African Percussion Pages — if anyone knows where they are, let me know and I’ll put a link here.

Having said that, I’ve had a go at notating them myself (but might have got them wrong!) — and they all have nice simple mnemonics which are probably enough anyway:

  • Shiko part 1: B---B-T- “Chips, fish and chips”.
  • Shiko, part 2: T-T-B-B-T-T-BB-- “I like crisps and I like chocolate”.
  • Shiko, part 3: T-TT-TT-S-SS-SS- “This is how it goes, this is how it goes” (tones first time, slaps second time).

Rhythm: Dibon

Dibon comes in 2 parts, Dibon-1 and Dibon-2. Dibon-1 has 2 parts, whereas Dibon-2 has only one.

  • Dibon-1, part 1: TTSS--S-TTSSB-S- link; audio.
  • Dibon-1, part 2: S--SS-TTS-BSS-TT link (but note we’ve added a cheeky bass); audio.
  • Dibon-2, only part: SSTTs--B where s indicates a muted slap (hold down the previous tone); note that we start with the bass, on the previous beat — the link should make it clear. I use the mnemonic “I’m gonna play some bass” (where “I’m” is on the bass, and “bass” is on that muted slap, weirdly); audio.

Breaks

We have 4 breaks; I don’t have notation for any of them, but I do have audio. They are:

  • Intro break: Boyd call, response x 1, Boyd call, response x 3; short-call, flam, short-call, flam; audio.
  • Beer break: “I want some beer (4 times, alternating between djembes & dunduns), Want Some Now!”; audio.
  • Deniz’ break: “BTBT BTBT BTBT clapclap foom!” (but clap silently); audio.
  • Gra’s break: the head-mashing one; audio.

Dunduns

I think I have audio for the dunduns playing (all together) both Dibon-1 and Dibon-2 — but I might have got that wrong.

Putting Shiko and Dibon together

This is the sequence we were practicing on Tuesday; audio.

Intro Break
Shiko
Beer break
Shiko
Beer break
Call (Boyd only)
Deniz’ break
Dibon-1
Gra’s break
Dibon-1
Gra’s break
Dibon-2
Then on a call maybe jump back to the first Dibon-1, or stop, or have a cup of tea, or something.

Lekoulee

If anyone fancies looking ahead, since we need to practice this over the next couple of weeks too, here’s Lekoulee. :-)

A Haskell shell for computing musical scales, in 58 lines of code.

On my way home from work I had an idea for something I thought I’d find handy. Two hours later, I’ve written it — in Haskell of course. :-)

Context: I occasionally make what might kindly be called music, using computers and the like, and I don’t have any formal musical training. Consequently, I sometimes run into trouble regarding keys and scales. The idea I had was for something which would tell me, given a set of notes (ie the ones I’ve already used in a piece), what scales those notes are in — and consequently what other notes might also fit well with them. Long ago when I used Bars & Pipes on the Amiga, it had a tool for doing this. I could buy one for my Mac for about 8UKP (I may yet — it has a pretty GUI, which I might not be bothered to do), but it seemed I should be able to knock something up. The data types aren’t exactly complicated.

So I did it. I’ll put the code at the end of this post, or you can easily download it from here, in 133 lines of literate Haskell (58 lines of actual code). Here’s a screenshot showing typical use:

Haskell scale finder screenshot

Once again, I’ve been super impressed by how easy Haskell made this — and I’m particularly loving the Shellac library which gives me an interactive shell with history and graceful recovery from errors — all in 4 lines of code!

> react = mapM_ (uncurry printScale) . checkFit . parseNotes
>     where printScale :: String -> [Note] -> Sh () ()
>           printScale n ns = shellPutStrLn (n ++ ": " ++ ppNotes ns)
> main = runShell (mkShellDescription [] react) haskelineBackend ()

OK, I’m not using any of its juicier features like completion, state, automatic help, etc., but even so, it’s a great little library.

I could wrap it in a GUI, but to be honest, this’ll probably do the trick for me, assuming I haven’t made any big screw-ups, or got the scale definitions wrong. If anyone’s looking for a minimal Shellac example, maybe it’ll be useful.

(Update 2009-09-16 13:37: To get this up and running, if you’re not already a Haskeller, the following should suffice: 1. Download and install The Haskell Platform – nice ‘n’ easy. 2. Open a shell and issue cabal install Shellac-haskeline or possibly sudo cabal install --global Shellac-haskeline. 3. Download the code (from hpaste.org) and (still in a shell) issue ghci Scales, and when that’s loaded issue main. Or if you want to compile an executable, try ghc --make -main-is Scale.lhs Scale.lhs, just like in the screenshot. That should do it — I’d love to know if I’ve missed anything and/or if that works!)

Here’s the code (but, again, it’s prettier and easier to download from hpaste):

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Shake a shake a shake a tail feather

You haven’t experienced true joy until you’ve watched this cockatoo dancing to Ray Charles [via nicolas].

ToneMatrix: funnnn!

Much fun to play with: ToneMatrix, a Tenori-on-like Flash jobbie [via rhodri]. Go! Now! Play!

j-star 08, Holotronica, and Pierre/Gondry at onedotzero_adventures in motion at the BFI

Here are some words and some (mainly excellent) music videos for you.

The above is the gorgeous video for the equally beautiful and gentle song “Omstart” by Cornelius. It is one of two things I saw three weeks ago at the British Film Institute which particularly caught my eye/ear. The other is this 1998 video, “Deadly Media” by Hexstatic:

Actually, that’s a lie; several other vids caught my eye/ear to a similar if lesser extent…

I’d gone to London to see Bash, to hear Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie talk about Lost Girls at the V&A, and to go to Bash’s flat-warming party. On Sunday afternoon she had to work, so I was at a loose end and popped along to the National Film Theatre to catch j-star 08, “the latest and most inspiring music videos, motion graphics and shorts from some of japan’s finest moving image-makers and young talent” — part of the onedotzero_adventures in motion event taking place that weekend. I rather like shorts, and music videos, and the Japanese aspect promised an interesting time. While the results were mixed, I wasn’t disappointed.

On the way in, I noticed a “Holotronica” exhibit and, while scoffing at the hubris of an artist claiming to “devise” a term, and while unimpressed by the 3-d aspect of the display, I did rather enjoy the music playing as I walked past: the Hexstatic piece linked above. I thought it was a bit old-fashioned, but good for it — and of course now I see it’s 10 years old, so that makes sense. The use of vocal samples was reminscent of JMJ’s pioneering and wonderfully cheesy yet still compelling Zoolook (the video for which introduced a young me to the lovely word “Djibouti”), and the audio/video link made me think of Lasse Gjertsen’s modern classic Hyperactive.

The j-star show was very enjoyable, though a bit tedious in places. Many of the shorts were too long, and it was very very CGI heavy: only a few pieces weren’t entirely CG, and it often felt like it didn’t add anything, or wasn’t used imaginatively. The Cornelius video above was the standout exception, indeed the best thing in the show — thoughtful, subtle, and making the most of the total possibility of CG without just being a bunch of flashy effects. A number of other vids were just flashy effects (usually to some generic breakbeat music), a few were “in love with the underlying model” (exposing wireframes, etc., which is cute but ultimately empty) and some were cartoonish, and kinda fun but not soooo amusing. On reflection I think my enjoyment was often coloured by the music as well, of course. With that in mind, a few (non-exhaustive) comments…

Three of the pieces which weren’t totally CGI were excellent. Kosai Sekine’s video for Maledict Car by Jemapur used real world footage and imaginative symmetry to very good effect, I thought — and the music was great. K+Me’s Screaming Dance by Leonard de Leonard was very good fun and again had the advantage of a rather stonking tune. Finally, this Nike cosplay ad by Kan Eguchi is classic Japanese madness, and utterly awesome. The other vids with a substantial reality presence were Junji Kojima’s video for You-you-you by Polysics, which I quite enjoyed but didn’t find beautiful, and “Evening Before the Hangover” by Ichiro Sato, (I can’t find it online) of which I wrote “Alien disco, but so what?”. It was a cute joke, but basically dull.

Clear Skies In May by Tetsuo Suzuka was beautiful, imaginative, classical, and beautifully typographical. Well worth a look.

There were two 8-bit nostalgia trips, only one of which I enjoyed. Yosawya San by Tsuyoshi Hirooka & Yohei Ito was great: musically interesting, and a very cute video. Compared to the other (below), it seemed truer to the 8-bit gaming tradition, and with some really imaginative touches, perspective, etc. (Look out for the Go game on the TV screen.) The other, Hideyuki Tanaka’s video for Ram Rider’s hello_8 bit edition seemed more lego than 8-bit (in the video, anyway), and was about 2 minutes too long; I didn’t like the music though, which can’t have helped — although on reflection it was truer to the 8-bit tradition than the other offering, so there you go. Well, there it is: you might enjoy it, but I certainly didn’t.

On the cartoony side, it probably suffices to just mention Usavich – Beware of Dance — the first of three Usavich cartoons, and quite funny (I wrote “Tyres goes disco bunnies”, meaning Tyres from Spaced), but by the third I was really bored of them.

Afterwards, I took a saunter round the BFI, experienced and enjoyed The All-Seeing Eye (The Hardcore Techno Version) by Pierre Bismuth & Michel Gondry, and, wrote on a wall. I can’t remember the details of whose installation this was, but projected onto this wall/whiteboard was a cartoon view of a town, on which we were invited to draw “where you live” using the available coloured pens. I found a suitably rectangular collection of roads and drew a simple commutative diagram encapsulating commutativity of function application, which felt like as a good an explanation of where I live just now than anything else I could think of.

Then I went back to Bash’s and cooked a mighty vegetarian lasagna for the six of us there present.

To conclude: a great day (and weekend!), and one which made me think it might be worth living in London (for a while) after all.

Where I’m at, where I’ve been

I’m in Newcastle, staying at a hotel in the shadow of the rather impressive Tyne Bridge. I’m up here with Harold and others, visiting Michael Harrison, doing talks, etc. I spoke today, about “generating theorems from user interface automata”: lots of good discussion and nice ideas for what to do with this next. More of the same tomorrow, then back to Swansea on Thursday; it takes all day on the train. Oh yeah, and it’s frickin’ freezin’ up here. It keeps snowing, just a dusting. Thank heaven for warm gloves, warm hats, and Montane.

Lots of gallivanting of late. This time last week I was up in Gregynog for the annual Swansea CompSci shenanigans. For the first time since I joined Swansea, I wasn’t organising the trip (my sixth time there, and seventh in total) — but I didn’t get to relax because I was still doing the pub quiz (very well received), and a talk on my research (also seemed good, and by the way, woo Keynote!), and helping out because illness had knocked a few members of staff out of the proceedings. Oh, and I sang the first verse of a Czech folk song solo, and didn’t completely screw it up – so that was good too.

Then on Cardiff went to Friday (other way round) with gorgeous friend Adwoa, stayed overnight at gorgeous friend Kate’s house, then flew to Amsterdam for to see Rodrigo y Gabriela at Paradiso. Kate had spotted this gig and suggested a mission, and somehow Adwoa and I were so taken aback by the audacity of the proposal that we had to agree. A 24-hour trip to another country to see a band neither of us knew yet? Fantastic! And it was: with one notable exception I’d say this was the best gig I’ve seen since The Chemical Brothers in Cardiff in 1997. Gabriela is absolutely the star, to my mind (sound quality awful but just watch her go; better quality but less animation), but I would say that because I favour rhythm, and that’s where she’s at. Anyway, yeah, they rocked and I’ll be buying the live album when it’s out.

Then we popped back to our hotel and asked the guy on the front desk if he knew of anywhere nearby doing decent electronic music, and he suggested Melkweg, casually mentioning that Nathan Fake (of my love for whom see here) was playing live. WTF? Oh yes, and Speedy J (hugely influential to my early electronic awakenings, e.g. via The Oil Zone) was DJ’ing. So we went there.

Electric Deluxe poster at Melkweg

Actually, I found Fake’s live set disappointing: way too much glitch, not enough repetition, just too screwed up — Adwoa seemed to rather enjoy it, however. And I couldn’t fault what I saw of Speedy J, though I confess I didn’t stay for the whole five hours. ;-)

Didn’t get much sleep, but it was pleasant. Awake at 7; on a tram at 7.30; at railway station at 08.00; at airport at 08.30; at departure gate at 09.10; liftoff 09.55; land Cardiff just over an hour later; asleep just over an hour later (again, at Kate’s). Since I was getting a train to Newcastle the next day, it seemed more sensible to stay there than to go to Swansea, so that’s what I did. Then I came here. Then stuff happened. Then I started writing this. Right, that’s me up to date. Bedtime!

I’ll Be Gone

I’ll Be Gone — great vid. Nice bass, too, though I think the song’s a bit weak (Mario Basanov & Vidis) [via someone's tweet, I reckon].

For your listening pleasure

Finally: I’ve created an artist account on last.fm, and now you can listen to all the music I’ve ever made that might not be total rubbish, conveniently organised into four albums spanning the last twelve years of mildly frustrated but entertaining knob twiddling.

I might even get royalties if enough people listen to them…

Big Music From Small Nations 2008

I’ve been to two festivals this summer, and it’s high time I wrote about them. The first was Big Music From Small Nations, back in mid July. Sadly I don’t have any photos – some of my friends took some but they’re locked away on Facebook so I can’t post them here. :-(

Still, let it be known I had a great time: my best festival experience so far, in fact (until the next festival, Dance Camp, of which more later). In 2007 Bash and I went (for which there are photos) and had a good time, but it rained rather a lot and the place got pretty muddy – we still had a good time, in I called it the first time I’d enjoyed a wet festival, but I’ve gotta say, this year was much better. It still rained a bit, but much less, and the areas that got very muddy last year (in particular the bottleneck between campsite and main site) were better protected.

The main difference was that this year’s Small Nations was smaller. It’s a fairly dinky festival anyway: about 1500 people last year — but I heard there were only 900 there this year. It’s been a bad year for festivals in general after so many were washouts last year, and the weather leading up to Small Nations this year wasn’t great, so I think a lot of “wait and see” types decided against going. That was their loss though, because it was fine.

As well as less people, there were only two stages this year, as opposed to three in 2007. I didn’t mind that at all, actually, because there was still always something on that was worth seeing, and you were less likely to miss something cool by being in the wrong place. The only part I minded was the absence of an open mic tent, because last year Shiko did a spot there and it was great fun — and a few of us hoped to do so again, really.

Lots of people from Swansea go to Small Nations. Somewhere in the last eighteen months or so (Shiko has a lot to do with this, for sure) I seem to have reached some kind of “Six Degrees” critical mass point, and whenever I meet new people in social/musical/party situations they always seem to already know people I know; similarly, I keep meeting people I’ve seen around, by similar mechanisms. I don’t know, I guess various networks are connected, and the circles I’m moving in are somewhat incestuous! As a result (and combined with the smaller numbers), this year’s Small Nations felt particularly friendly to me: everywhere I went, there was someone I knew, or someone I was about to meet. It felt like a big happy family at times — and that was definitely the aspect I enjoyed the most.

Of course, the music was also half the point. On Friday night I heard the Samba Galez in the distance as I pitched my tent, then the entertainment properly kicked off for me with Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba followed (in a rather different flavour) by Swansea psy-trance outfit Chaos Theory. Bernice described them uncharitably as “some kind of techno Spinal Tap” but I think that was a comment on their hair as much as anything. The music did what it was supposed to, that’s all I’ll say.

After the evening’s scheduled entertainment, I ended up at a big campfire in the corner of the campsite, where there was drumming, singing, etc., and met more good people. IIRC I got to bed around 2 or 3 or so…

… only to wake early on Saturday needing the loo, so off I popped to the facilities, then found myself mostly awake enjoying the early morning activity of the site coming to life. I sourced myself a cup of tea, and a little later a bacon/egg roll, and sat and watched the world wake up. Actually it was clear that some of the world hadn’t been to bed yet, including Naked Fireside Bloke (who, it later transpired, I’d met a few weeks earlier, but at that point he’d only been without shoes), and Scarily Aggressive Shouty Woman.

The plan had been to get some sleep in the morning, but I kept seeing people to talk to, and all of a sudden it was 10AM, and if I was going to go on the guided walk that was on offer, I’d have to go now — so I did! The festival site is here; we went on a circular walk a few miles away, around about here, starting outside the pub, heading down to the river, following it north for a while, then heading uphill under a few red kits, towards abandoned lead (?) workings, through some (sadly chopped – recently) forest, to a hilltop offering a magnificent view, the horizon stretching from the Black Mountain in the west (almost) to the Black Mountains in the east (the distinction between the two being the source of an intensely irritating discussion with a woman with a map who refused to listen and consequently took 90% of the conversation to realise I was talking about two different places). After that, back down to the pub, basically. We’d gone by minibus, and there were enough of us that two buses were needed. Gladly, I’d walked slow enough to be in the group destined for the second bus back, giving us — as our formidable guide Huw Garan put it — “time for a swift half” — time he put to good use by downing two pints of fine real ale. :-) Indeed, on that last half mile before we got to the pub, he whet his appetite by displaying his expertise on local watering holes: where does good beer, where food, where cider (“but their beer’s not so good, unless you get it on the first day or so: they don’t store the barrels properly”) – clearly a true local, in both senses.

The walk was great, and I met some good new people, but it lasted longer than I’d expected – the whole excursion took about five hours (including standing around time at each end, the bus journeys, etc.); bearing in mind I’d had about four hours’ sleep, I consequently spent a good part of the rest of Saturday thinking and saying that I should go and get some sleep. But I just couldn’t! Groovy things kept happening! There were people I had to talk to! Music I had to watch! Shops I had to check out! I think somewhere I managed to lie down for half an hour and inspect the insides of my eyelids, but you couldn’t call it sleep; at some point it became clear the night was beginning again. Somehow (I’ll leave it to you, but alcohol may have been one factor) I managed to stay up until 4 again, and oh, what a night.

The absolute highlight, the pinnacle, the best thing I saw at that festival, possibly at any festival ever, were The London Bulgarian Choir. Now, obviously this is a very personal thing: not everybody is going to feel the same way I (apparently) do about Bulgarian folk music, so please forgive me if this seems strange. Having said that, they got a fabulous reception, so I clearly wasn’t the only blown-away person in the tent. I don’t know, there’s just something incredible about the language, and the style of singing: so strong, so strange, such odd harmonies and beautiful dischords. But hey, don’t take my word for it: you can watch a goodly chunk of their Small Nations performance (minus some inter-song banter, sadly: Dessislava’s ++charming) on youtube here and here (note well: at least one of those handsome Bulgarian men is in fact a very cheeky cockney chappie). Then buy the album: I finally got it last week and haven’t been listening to much else since.

Actually, I lie. That wasn’t the pinnacle. The pinnacle was about 20 minutes after their performance, when I realised they were singing in a small tent in the middle of the main site (used in the day for face painting and the like), so I ran there just in time to become part of an impromptu spiralling circle dance as all around (and in the dance), a subset of the choir sang the wonderful Shto Mi e Milo (full version at 5:35 on the first youtube version). It was just incredible, and (looking back) an introductory taste of the joy to come at Dance Camp, a few weeks later. Seriously, at that moment I felt as happy as I have ever been. Bliss. I couldn’t tell you why.

Nothing could top that, but it did propel me into the rest of the night full of happy and feeling very open, so I had a great one. The main stage got rocked to pieces by N’Faly Kouyaté‘s crazy griot bouncing, and then torn to pieces by Sicknote, an extraordinarily rough, punky, danceable, visually exciting bunch of nutters from (I think) Newport. I think drinking with them would be scary, but man they rocked.

After that it was back to the fire circle into the wee hours, and around 3 I was saying goodnight to various people when I stumbled into a little spot where some Shiko types were hanging out; I had intended just to say goodnight, but somehow something I said caused a bloke called Phil to start on Monty Python impressions, and damn he was good. He started with Holy Grail, I think, but then moved onto the Four Yorkshiremen, and his delivery, his timing, not to mention his memory of the actual lines, was just perfect. I was bent double with laughter, begging him to stop because I couldn’t breathe.

(By the way, if you don’t know what I mean by the Four Yorkshireman, you really should check it out and then don’t miss the Amnesty International remake.)

Sunday was a much gentler day. I took it easy, mooched around, bought a t-shirt, ate good food, drank coffee, didn’t see much music, and just enjoyed chewing the fat and sitting in the sun. Oh, actually that’s something of a lie: there was a belly-dance workshop which I helped do some drumming for, but I think I did it badly, so I’ve mostly wiped it from the memory banks.

So, in summary, I had a great time, hung out with and/or met lots of sweet people, shook my stuff to lots of sweet music, laughed a lot, and discovered a love of singing and European traditional folk music which would bloom at the next festival, Dance Camp, along with much else besides.

Big Ideas (don’t get any)

Big Ideas (don’t get any) — Radiohead on the old-tech; awesome and then some [brunns].

Sinclair ZX Spectrum – Guitars (rhythm & lead)
Epson LX-81 Dot Matrix Printer – Drums
HP Scanjet 3c – Bass Guitar
Hard Drive array – Act as a collection of bad speakers – Vocals & FX

On a personal note, I’d just like to say what a joy it was once again to not only hear, but also to watch, a ZX Spectrum loading some bytes attached to an 80s television. It’s been too long…

UK CCTV used to create a music video

UK CCTV used to create a music video [risks].

Unable to hire a production crew for a standard 1980′s era MTV music video, they performed their music in front of 80 of the 13 million CCTV “security” cameras available in England, including one on a bus.

Also good, from the same RISKS digest: How not to use SSL, viz SSL-encrypt the page data, but send the credit card details in cleartext in the URL — win!

10.ambient.450.jpg

“Just a Bit crazy”

Just a Bit crazy — short bonkers flash music thing. Awesome!

David Byrne in conversation with Yorke and Eno

David Byrne’s Survival Strategies for Emerging Artists, including audio snippets of him in conversation (somewhere very tasty sounding) with Brian Eno (and others).

Unt:

David Byrne and Thom Yorke on the Real Value of Music. Gosh, don’t “Radiohead’s Oxford offices” look rather tasty, too…?

(Aside: grrrr at having to click a stupid “full page” icon to get the full versions of those stories rather than one page at a time. The web is not paper!)

Circles of Sound

Circles of Sound: African drumming (4 bands), dancers, DJ; Railwaymens Club, Wind St, Swansea; 8pm, Sat Nov 24th 2007

Woo. Come! Map.

Waves of happiness

Lots of things have been happening to me outside of computers lately, which is one of the main reasons I haven’t written anything here. I suppose Facebook has also been pressing my online contact buttons. Anyway, here’s one of those things.

Yesterday, I had my first experience of something called Five Rhythms dance. It’s hard to describe, but in short, you might say it’s moving meditation, set to music (ordinary, popular music, though thoughtfully chosen and sequenced), journeying through five phases called flow, staccato, chaos, lyrical, and stillness. A complete sequence through all five is called a wave. Well, yesterday I was at an all-day workshop here in Swansea, with a theme of male/female balance, in which we went through three waves: two before lunch, flowing together seamlessly (or was it just one? it feels like it was two, but it is a blur, I admit!), and then another, slower (deeper?) wave in the afternoon.

I’m finding it quite hard to write about, because what I want to express, I can’t, really. I suppose I could say it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life, but that somehow sounds throwaway and doesn’t really capture it. It certainly feels like it’s going to have been a very significant experience – it’s definitely opened up some doors.

As someone who loves anyway to dance, and in particular rejoices at the moments when the music and the dance take you out of yourself, out of caring who’s watching, out of thought and out of the moment, well, I just loved it. It was easy and challenging, and familiar and surprising, hot and cold, fast and slow, I could go on…

I’d worried, in hearing about the process, that the music would be some half-baked new agey nonsense incapable of moving me. I was completely wrong – it was singularly excellent, including a number of pieces I recognised (Massive Attack’s Protection and Art Of Noise’s Close To the Edit are two staccato pieces I particularly remember), and much else new. The James Holden Remix of The Sky Was Pink by Nathan Fake (as I found out afterwards) was where it hit the peak to me, at the start of chaos in the final wave. You can hear it on Youtube, but you’ll have to imagine satisfactory bass and a transcendent mental state, I feel. (I’ve just bought it on Juno — my first paid-for music download evah!)

I’m feeling very different after yesterday, about a number of things. If I had to pick one word it would be “calmer”, but it’s also a sense of being more centred, more accepting, more flowing, more connected and (frankly) more alive. A reinvigorated sense of connection with everyone and everything else – for which I’m sure I can largely thank the group, which was (trying not to sound too much of a hippy, if that’s not too late) just utterly welcoming, safe, nurturing, open, opening. If the purpose of the day was the explore male/female balance, it certainly worked for me. Gah, incredible and indescribable!

Though I have written many, words fail me. There we are.

If you want to find out more, and in particular if you’re in Wales and want to try it, here’s Alan Withers, the teacher (workshop dates here, and there are weekly classes in Swansea (clashes with Shiko, alas) and Cardiff). If it sounds at all interesting, I’d say go for it – only good things can happen.

Oh, PS: Shiko should be busking somewhere in Swansea town centre this Saturday, hopefully, as part of Oxjam. More details when I know them. Come gives us your ears and money!

Me drumming, two weekends running

Yo.

Next Saturday it’s carnival time in Swansea! Once again I’ll be playing steel pans with Rocco’s Rockets, or whatever we’re called this year. Photos from last year here. This time, I’m pleased to report, I’m on bass (pleased because this is easy, it’s bassy, and I’m close to the Jamie-powered main drumkit).

A number of changes from last year: starting point, route, and ending point is different – in particular, we end up on the open area in front of the Waterfront Museum, which sounds all right to me. This probably means we go down Wind Street, which ought to be interesting.

So, come and see!

Then, the following weekend, on Saturday 1st September, Shiko are gigging in sunny Porthcawl. It’ll be in the afternoon, around 2pm, as part of some bigger event taking place (possibly some surfing thing?). There’ll be several drumming groups from the area playing, so it promises to be pretty good. More details as I have them.

Fanti for Bee Hop, 02007/07/21

Fanti djembe and dun-dun/bell patterns for Shiko gig @ Bee Hop, July 21st, 02007.

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Djelidon for Bee Hop, 02007/07/21

Djelidon djembe patterns for Shiko gig @ Bee Hop, July 21st, 02007.

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Shiko gig: Crofty Carnival, Saturday 30th July 2007

Heyup. Shiko will be drumming at Croft Carnvial this Saturday — come and see us!

Crofty is a small village on the north coast of the Gower Peninsula (map here). I’m not 100% sure of the times yet, but I think it starts around noon. I should become certain tomorrow. It’ll probably be a smallish fun affair, drumming on foot as part of a parade, apparently. As usual with Shiko gigs I’m not completely sure what to expect. :-) There is talk of heading off to Pontardullais afterwards to do some busking in pubs (it’s their carnival this Saturday too).

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

Ladies and Gentlemen, introducing the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble – how good is that? Blog here.

(Found while googling for “Moments in Love”, the old Art of Noise number, yielding this fine rendition.)

A save point is reached on my journey of musical discovery

We went to Hay-on-Wye today. For those that don’t know, it’s a little town with an abundance of (mainly second hand) bookshops, and the location of an annual literary festival much beloved of the British middle class: Guardian readers/Radio 4 listeners in particular. Today was the last day of the 20th edition (a ha ha ha) of the festival; we popped by but didn’t linger, all the good events being sold out. Instead, we hit the shops.

I’m very proud to say that my prize purchase of the day was not in fact a book (though I bought four), but the album Innervisions by Stevie Wonder, featuring not only what I’m rapidly coming to believe is The Greatest Song Ever Recorded, Higher Ground, but also what is certainly The Song With The Greatest Intro Ever Recorded, namely Don’t You Worry ’bout a Thing. Awesome. Just incredibly awesome. Why wasn’t I informed?

I can only conclude that until now, I was not ready, and so the Universe kept Stevie and I apart from each other. I note that Innervision was released in 1973, the same year as Tubular Bells, an album which (along with its successors and others like of its ilk) had a much greater influence on my musical development than the joyous funkfest within which my ears are currently glorying. I wonder if I’d have grown my afro sooner, had things only been different…

While we’re on the topic of shaking your (big) hair, I’m happy to report that Shiko’s Monkey gig on Saturday went well and was a lot of fun. It was crowded (and cramped – we were playing literally on the dancefloor!), people danced (a few, anyway), people appluaded and cheered, and (it was generally agreed) we sounded good and didn’t noticeably screw up. Later there was an impromptu jam on the top floor with three djembes, a shekere and a bell, which was much more raw and at least as enjoyable (as a player) as the “proper” gig. So yeah, a great night. I’m still very much loving the drumming, and loving getting better at it, which I seem to be doing. Woo.

Shiko live! This Saturday and next Saturday!

Gig-tastic… Shiko will be drumming at 5pm this Saturday (19th May 2007), at Coffee Cesso, next to the Waterfront Museum in Swansea Marina. We’ll be playing as part of a charity fundraiser for wells in Africa, so come along, listen to some good music, and give generously! It looks like a good event – from 12 noon until 7pm it’s free (fingers crossed for good weather so we can play outside), then from 7pm to midnight it’s ticketed (a tenner each) but with some pretty good local bands, I’d say. More details here. While Shiko gigs are usually “unpredictable” in terms of timing, we’re assured that 5pm really is our slot, and it really will be 5pm not, say, 5:30. So don’t be late!

Then, the following Saturday (26th May 2007), we’ll be playing again, at the Monkey, on the wonderful Mondo world music night. Woo! Heaven only knows what time we’ll be playing at this one. :-)

Come!

A chilled night of African drumming at the Monkey

Oh, hey, the Shiko gig at the Monkey on Monday was fun. It was reeeeaaalllly quiet: probably a quarter of the people there were Shiko people, I’d say. Monday night in Swansea’s bound to be fairly quiet, I suppose, particularly outside term time, plus it was the first night of the new Wales-wide smoking-inside ban. The latter may or may not have been a factor, but it certainly made for strangely smoke-free Monkey experience.

We were there as part of an “African Rhythms” night – basically a couple of guys DJ’ing African music (not the usual Mondo boys, one of whom, Eddie, is also a Shiko’er), and us! As I said, it wasn’t massively well-attended, but that was kinda cool, because it ended up feeling less like a gig, and more like just going and playing together somewhere, but with people dancing. :-) Two people in particular: two girls who do African dancing (they were in the carnival, I remember). We’d prepared three pieces, but in the end only did two of them, and that seemed enough. Later, some random jamming occurred, which was sweet. So, all in all, very chilled, very cool, very much fun.

Kassa for Monkey, 02007/04/02

Kassa djembe patterns for Shiko gig @ Monkey Bar, April 2nd 02007.

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Yankadi/Macru for Monkey, 02007/04/02

Yankadi/Macru djembe patterns for Shiko gig @ Monkey Bar, April 2nd 02007.

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Kennefoli/Soli for Monkey, 02007/04/02

Kennefoli/Soli djembe patterns for Shiko gig @ Monkey Bar, April 2nd 02007.

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Surprise Shiko gig: Monday 2nd April, Monkey Bar

Woo. In a surprise move, Shiko will be drumming at the Monkey Bar, Swansea, on the evening of Monday 2nd April 2007. There is, apparently, some sort of African night going on, and since our beats are west African, our beats are invited. :-) Come!

Tune in

Bash has just played me “Tune In” by Hadouken!. Incredible. I haven’t felt this way since Funky Town. No, wait. Turn The Page.

Two future Shiko gigs

Sometimes people complain to me that I don’t tell them about Shiko gigs far enough in advance (typically I forget about it until the day before, or the day after). Well, let’s do something about that, and put some gigs on the long-range radar for anyone who’s interested.

First, on Saturday 19th May, there’s a benefit gig in Cafe Cesso (?) at the Waterfront Museum, Swansea Marina. This is the cafe at the edge of the museum, with a stage, etc. I think this happens in the afternoon, and there’ll be various people playing, raising money for a project installing wells in Africa. (Novel wells where the pumping is powered by a kids’ roundabout at the top, which leads me to imagine parents swinging whips and shouting “play harder!”, though I’m fairly sure that’s not the actual intent.)

Second, and muchos excitingly, on Saturday 21st July, we’ll be playing at the Bee Hop festival in Dorset, which just looks so cute you could take it home and feed it. This one I’m really looking forward to.

So there you go – no excuses, come and watch! I’m sure there’ll be more cropping up as the summer gets going, and I’ll try to do a better job of mentioning them here. There is, by the way, also a running page of upcoming Shiko stuff on the Shiko site. But anyway.

Shiko at Mumbles St David’s Day Parade 2007

Drumming in public last Saturday was super ++fun.

The “Mumbles St David’s Day Parade” turned out to be somewhat smaller than I’d expected, but was excellent, nonetheless. It consisted of a group of primary school children in a Chinese-style dragon (red, of course), Shiko drumming alongside them, and another group of primary school childen behind, dancing and holding aloft a banner (which I didn’t actually read). About 50 people in total, I guess? It was enough, anyway, and a good crowd turned out to watch us.

The dragon looked like this:

Parade dragon (thumbnail)

Pretty good, eh? There are more photos on the all new Shiko flickr space.

The parade started in the quarry car park, crossed the road to get to the sea front, went south for maybe a couple of hundred metres in front of the grassy bit, then back north along the road to the mini-roundabout, and up Newton Road past the shops and the Ostreme Centre as far as the church at the top. We should have ended up in the school grounds opposite the church, but apparently nobody knew the combination lock for the gate! There was a moment of faff before plan b, and a diversion over the road.

This was the first time I’d drummed and walked at the same time. We all had light drums, mine one of these, donated to Shiko by Abbie, sadly missed since she disappeared around the world on a yacht. Although you can’t see it, I carried it via my climbing harness & a crab, as opposed to the more traditional sling (eg Chris, on the left). I wasn’t sure how well that was going to work, but it was great! I felt very much the modern climbing djembe innovator.

So yeah, it was a lot of fun. Lots of enthusiastic spectators, bemused shoppers & Mumblians, and an interesting mix of car drivers. The downhill traffic was halted all the way down Newtown Road (the uphill side was kept clear, halted further back), and the cars contained, I’d say, a 70/30 mix of people who were lovin’ it, happy to be in the middle of this strange unexpected happening (especially if they had kids, as you can imagine), and scowling men on their own in large cars trying to get to town and Do Important Things. I took particular care to play enthusiastically at these people, and make it as clear as possible that I was having a damn good time on this gorgeous sunny day, even if they weren’t. :-)

In other news, chor and indeed tle.

“Somebody somewhere has got to be high”

PHP programmers: did you know that the name of your favourite language actually stands for Pot Head Pixies? All starts to make a bit more sense now, eh?

Drumming on the streets of Mumbles

Last night, Shiko featuring Gimbo played a gig. Sorry I didn’t mention it sooner – I meant to, but kept forgetting. It was at a fundraiser put on by the University’s Visual Arts student society (jugglers, firebreathers, etc.), at the Chicago Rock cafe off Wind St; they’d asked us to come along and play, and so we did: and it was good. In fact, I’d say it was the best gig we’ve done since I’ve been Shiko’ing (which is, admittedly, less than a year) – quite tight and confident. Speaking personally, it was certainly the most confident I’d ever been when performing to an audience (musically at least). We weren’t playing for long, but what we did was fairly high impact, I think. (We did Kennefoli/Soli, then Kassa, for the record.)

Anyway, fair warning: on Saturday 3rd March 2007, we’ll be playing in a St David’s Day parade in Mumbles. More details than that I do not know, except that we’ll be walking and drumming simultaneously, which will be a new experience for me, at least. Should be fun – hope to see you there!

Ooh look: Shiko a few weeks ago. That’s me seated on the right…

Shiko, 13th February, 2007

(Also, awesome (but 5MB) montage of the Shiko new year party, for which I was sadly absent.)

hpDJ: an automated DJ with floorshow feedback

Here’s a little gem for anyone else out there interested in dance music, DJ’ing, and computers: hpDJ: An automated DJ with floorshow feedback. Basically, it describes a system which allows one to define a “qualitative tempo trajectory” for a DJ set, then chooses tracks to fit the trajectory (the words “partial ordering” occur at this point, but that’s as close as we get to TCS), and automatically beatmatches/timestretches/mixes the tracks accordingly. Towards the end it considers the performance and “collaborative consumption as composition” possibilities, with genetic algorithms and the like, but the bit which impressed me the most was on the mixing, where the opportunities afforded by doing the job in software are recognised and made the most of.

However, because hpDJ operates in the pure software realm of digital signal processing (DSP), it is possible to create as many sweepable band-pass/cut filters as is desired for any particular cross-fade from one track to another. As with traditional hardware mixers, each DSP filter can have variables that control the degree of attenuation or boost, and its center-frequency. In addition to this, the shape of the DSP filter’s transfer function (e.g. the nature and rate of the fall-off or boost) and its bandwidth can also be under automatic control. Recording studios do have filters with these added controls, but such filters (known as a Parametric EQ) are too expensive to be built into each channel of professional mixing desks on a many-per-channel basis.

Thus, it becomes possible to specify hpDJ so that it analyses the audio frequency-time spectrogram for the incoming and outgoing tracks in the cross-fade, and uses a number of heuristics to determine how many DSP Parametric EQ filters are necessary and what their settings should be. This can be used to, for instance, selectively suppress the frequencies for a synthesizer melody-line in one track, attempting to make that melody “disappear” while keeping the bass-guitar and percussion elements in place during the cross-fade. By employing simple heuristics for detecting when one component of one track “clashes” with another component of the other track, such aesthetically unpleasant clashes (which may remain despite perfect beat-matching) could be automatically eliminated by hpDJ.

Note that this is all happening automatically (except maybe setting some initial loose parameters at the start) – very impressive.

Although this was published only in 2005 (I spotted it in this book on this man‘s desk), much of this was apparently done around 2000 or so. Thus, I wonder what goodies they’re cooking up in Bristol even as I type. Dave Cliff’s “inventor profile” page doesn’t really bring us up to speed, I feel… Aha! He’s moved to Southhampton.

Finally, I note that this is the first paper I’ve ever seen which opens with a Sisters of Mercy quote. Rock on.

Alison Goldfrapp just doesn’t get monads

I’ve just realised that Goldfrapp’s song “Strict Machine” is actually a rant against haskell, or possibly miranda. One can hope that it’s the Python or Ruby runtime she’s in love with, but somehow you just know it’s the JVM, in all its baroque 80s-retro glory. Silly girl.

I blew her a kiss once, you know. I got a cold stare in return.

Steel pan drumming at the Swansea MAS Carnival 2006

As previously reported, last Saturday was carnival day in Swansea and I got roped in, very willingly, to do some steel pan drumming. It was a great day, and I have discovered a love for dancing in the street. :-) There were loads of amazingly dressed people doing fun things and generally celebrating the idea of having a good time and being alive. Good stuff. I ended up in the Monkey that night and met lots more interesting people, including someone who’s going to help me execute my next Cunning Plan. Watch this space.

Meanwhile, my carnival photos are here, although they’re mainly before/after shots (ie of the preparation and aftermath), since during the actual procession I was a bit busy banging on my drum. A few favourites:

Gimbo with facepaint Smoking blue devil Jamie and foxy devils Young fellow panner Mandy and Dan, ready to go The Mask Karen warming up The infinite red carpet players Post-parade stilt relaxation Abandoned head dress

“And on rhythm guitar… give it up for… gimbo!”

Late notice but: tomorrow I will be playing steelpan in the parade at Swansea Carnival!

I had never played one before Wednesday (ie two days ago). I got roped into it by one of my African drumming buddies, went to rehearsals Wednesday and yesterday, and tomorrow is the big day.

So if you’re in town tomorrow around 1PM, 2PM or so, look out for me at the front of the steelpan float, dressed up crazy, probably with painted face, trying desperately to keep up with Rocco’s frantic hammering. Hopefully I’ll look like I’m having a good time – possibly ending up in the Monkey in the evening.

Tonight it’s “Jab Jab”, which is some crazy pre-carnival procession-cum-pub crawl. I’ve been told it’s better than the carnival. Alas, I don’t think I’ll make it, because one of my work computers has just died (the Windows one, obviously), right in the middle of me trying to do my post-resit-exams marks admin work. Gaaaah! Fricking computers! Ah well, party time tomorrow, anyway.

Unity 10th Birthday Party this Friday

This Friday (28th July 2006), there will be an evening of “Uplifting Dance Music” (what Julie and Heather used to call “bleepy shit”) in Swansea, to which you should come.

It’s the 10th anniversary of the very first outing of the classic Swansea dance night Unity, which stopped running several years ago (certainly before I came to Swansea). I understand it will be something of a reunion of lots of people who were involved over the years, so it ought to be quite good fun.

It’s at “The Inferno” (above Blockbuster Video in Uplands), running from 9pm to 1am; admission is 4 quid (2 quid before 10pm). “Dress extravagantly”, the flier says. It’s being organised by Geraint, the man who first drew me to Swansea so many years ago in order to twiddle knobs on synths and make bleepy thumpy things happen.

Maybe see you there…

(Apologies for short notice; I’ve been meaning to blog this for ages… Wanted to scan the flier but don’t have access to a scanner and didn’t sort it out. Bah.)

wmii FreeBSD and xmms plugins (in ruby)

A few days ago I started using wmii, with Mauricio Fernandez’ ruby scripting magic, and oh it’s fun.

The status bar monitors that come in Mauricio’s code don’t work for me, however, because I’m running FreeBSD not Linux, and things like uptime and battery status get report differently. Also, there wasn’t any xmms control/monitoring. I have now fixed both of these problems, and invite others to partake of the goodness.

So: wmii-freebsd@gimbo.org.uk.rb – a ruby/wmii plugin defining status bar monitors which work under FreeBSD.

And: wmii-xmms@gimbo.org.uk.rb – a ruby/wmii plugin defining an xmms status bar monitor, and some key bindings for simple control of xmms (play/pause; next; previous; forward 5 secs; back 5 secs; toggle shuffle; er, that’s it).

Status bar screenshot:

ruby wmii freebsd/xmms status bar monitors

From left to right: xmms monitor displaying track name, time elapsed, shuffle status (“>” is normal, “@” is shuffle); current master volume; the “-N-” is a standard plugin so I say nothing here; temperature and CPU speed; load averages; uptime (h:mm); battery status and time remaining; date/time.

Comments, suggestions, bugfixes, criticisms of my appalling ruby code all welcome.

Let’s groove!

This coming Saturday sees my glorious musical return to Aberavon, scene of my first (now legendary) gig, oh so many years ago.

This time round there won’t be any bleep or samples, but there will still be plenty of thumping drums – I’ll be there as part of drum troupe Shiko, laying down some African rhythms for the delectation of the good folk at the Sandfields Aberavon Beach Festival.

We’ll be playing at 1pm. Come and see! And hear!

Getting fruity in Swansea

Seen the new Tango ad, with the fruit rolling down the hill, through windows, knocking over the bike, etc.? The one that’s a spoof of the, oh, is it a Sony ad in San Francisco? (Sony: CGI sterility; Tango: real fruit messiness).

Well, the Tango one was filmed here in Swansea. I thought it was the legendarily steep Consistution Hill, but others seem to think it’s Cambridge Street. Anyway…

They did some pretty decent viral marketing via via the “Swansea North Residents Association” website – looks convincing at first, but the clues are there. My doubts disappeared when I read they were launching the Swansea Yodelling Club. :-)

If you haven’t seen it, it’s online in various places, including google or at that “residents’” site.

The music: José González‘ cover of The Knife’s “Heartbeats”. It’s lovely, but The Knife‘s version is even better – totally electro. Hear here.

Clusterer

Via Will, a Guardian article on Hans-Joachim Roedelius, one time Cluster member and jamming buddy of His Enoship. Having spent this morning lounging in bed soaking up Music For Airports and Neroli as I lounged around in bed this morning, this is all very timely. I haven’t heard any Cluster, but may have to now.

Update 2005-04-10: Just in case the reader missed it, I was lounging around in bed yesterday morning.

At last, something worthy of the name “303 clone”?

It’s about time someone did this [null]. Think it’s a bit late for me: I might have actually bought/built one five years ago but now I don’t have time for making music, and if I do have time, can’t be arsed with soldering irons any more… Still, I must admit, I am drooling just looking at it. Very sexy box.

A few misc bookmarks

A couple of things I had bookmarked elsewhere but wish to bring over here (so I can delete the elsewhere): Spiral Synthesis, Evolution UC-16 knob box, notes on using USB memory devices with Linux, er, that’s it.

Shit

I am slain. :(

Thanks for the bad news, Rich…

We must all now listen to crazy breakbeat music followed closely by Gambian jazz and old 78s, in remembrance.

Elektronic – Supersonik

Wow, it seems that the exceedingly cheesy “Elektronic – Supersonik” tune mentioned here is in fact Molvania’s Eurovision entry [null].

Zladko “Zlad” Vladcik rose to prominence in 2002 when he won Molvanian Idol in controversial circumstances – the other finalist, Ob Kuklop, pulled out due to a serious throat condition after one of the judges tried to strangle him. “Zlad” immediately released the megahit, “Juust Az I Amm” – hailed by Rolling Stone as the most incorrectly spelt song of all time.

Superb.

Logic Audio FAQ

Been getting into Logic Audio a bit lately, so here’s a little bookmark for myself, which the rest of you must ignore, or else: a Logic Audio FAQ,

mixtapehost.com

mixtapehost.com – download free DJ mixes, some of them very long, in various styles. My head is currently bobbing to this one. Via [seymansey]

Lots of free VST plugins

Lots of (apparently) free VST plugins.

… and a few more here, too, including the rather nice “Tapeworm” – yes folks, it’s a Mellotron.

Studio black magic

Black Magic – old Sound On Sound article on some audiophile/hi-fi good-practices/myths/snake-oils and their applicability (or otherwise) in a studio setting.

House music in a nutshell

House music in a nutshell [bash].

Marillion stick two fingers up to the RIAA, kinda

Marillion and the death of the music industry [bash].

History will see it [the music industry] as a funny little anomaly that happened between 1950 and 2010. While technology made it possible, advances in technology will also make it impossible.”

Steve Hogarth

Nice.

While we’re on the topic of music news, I was amused to note that Goldie Lookin’ Chain are in this month’s Q Magazine. I will provide edited highlights in due course.

Blimey, I just nearly choked on a piece of chewing gum.

Orbital to split up

Shite – now I have to go to Glastonbury this year. What a pain in the ass. Oh, except the tickets have all sold out, and a pair seems to be going for 400 quid (and counting) on ebay. Screw that. Bollocks, I’d really hoped to see Orbital again some time. :-(