Gigs, grooves and graphics

Back to normal in here today, this last week has been a bit of an odd one. Robin, Vanito and Rawle have been recording and, slightly intensely, discussing Vanito’s new material. More on that later. Then there’s been a bit of a saga about another Cuban: Saskia. Robin and Saskia played a gig in a local spot last week, one of the local spots that has started paying acts to come and play live. It’s been a bit of an uphill struggle getting through to bar-owners here. The economic crisis is hitting publicans hard here in Spain. I actually know someone who confessed to me that she was skipping meals to make ends meet financially. Dumbfounding, to see that happening in the 21st century, and of course, it all depends on where you live whether a meal missed counts as something shocking or an everyday occurrence. Let’s not get into that, suffice to say that when people are cutting back on food, bars are going to feel the pinch too. So, convincing bar-owners to shell out some money for a band is a tough call, but some managed to see the logic in the gamble, and for a while we had three bars in a little village of less than 10,000 inhabitants, paying for bands to play. This is huge news in Spain, it actually (and rather sadly) made Alpedrete one of the foremost locations in Spain for live music. However, we’re down to two bars now. The third, having agreed to share 20% of the night’s bar take with Robin and Saskia, chose to give them 150 euros at the end of the night. The place was rammed, stayed rammed until 3am and took at least 3000 euros. We’ve done this before, we know how to gauge a crowd. Much of the week was taken up with the laborious calls and counter-calls, visits, appointments and missed appointments that are the way of all things business in Spain. Agreeing eventually that the figure needed to be amended, the publican summoned them both down to the bar to receive a top-up. The envelope contained seven euros.

What else? Recording. Always a bit of a schedule-messer. Late nights, late mornings, sudden flashes of inspiration and stultifying logjams of composer’s block. It’s been becoming obvious that there exists the possibility for Vanito to make a solo record that sounds much like the material he’s performed with Habana Abierta for the last twenty years. Not exactly the same, but with little more than a few stylistic niceties around the edges to differentiate it as his own work. It’s equally clear that doing so would be safe and uninteresting, although it’s likely it would retain a good chunk of Vanito’s existing fanbase. Thing is, there’s also the possibility to come up with something really exciting – a crossover of sorts between traditional Cuban music values (which even Vanito admits are stuck somewhere in the 1940s) and the production approach of something much more contemporary and European/urban. Yes, when I put it like that, the traditional Cuban approach does sound like the preferable option, but honestly, my cack-handed attempts to describe it aside, it would be in very safe hands. Perhaps if you’re more used to hearing Robin’s work with Nightmares on Wax or Olive, you might not pick up on the guy’s musicality. Believe me, he has a very disciplined, traditional and erudite approach to the piano, and to music. If BlancoMusic gets the record out of Vanito and Robin that they’re capable of making together it will sound spectacular. It’ll be two styles properly integrated with each other, based on a shared projection of an end result – not just something mixed to go under a vocal. So Vanito seems almost convinced now, it’s taken a while. Now trying to agree on that shared projection is the task in hand. I can’t believe my good fortune sometimes, just being involved in even the most peripheral way, with issues like this.

Vanito’s taking a day or two to think it all over.

The bar fracas is over now. Robin and Saskia just gave them their money back and said, fine, if that’s how it is, that’s how it is. Keep your money, no-one will be playing here again.

I had a look at the big graphic of the week, this one here:

It’s good, a little sensationalist, but good stuff for the public to be aware of. You know already that BlancoMusic is against the idea of streaming, as much as a protest against the revolting cash-in that the streaming services do to both the unwitting artists whose material they profit from, but also from the best intentions of music lovers who see the services as a way of hearing music whilst compensating the artists they love. I hate to see that intention exploited by entities who do nothing for the artists who provide their content. We don’t feel that the resulting PR gained from streaming sites is worth it, and so we don’t stream. There are others who make a very valid case for streaming sites too, it’s all about perspective. If you’re interested in hearing a viewpoit on this other than my own repetitive ranting, go check out Steve Lawson’s blog here:

OK, have a lovely weekend, everyone, I’ll be back on Monday.


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