Which Path Will It Be?

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Matrix 121 (as in one to one to one to one to one…) began as an adjunct to bahia-online.net, the site being an erstwhile guide to Salvador Bahia but really more — in these days of Wikipedia and TripAdvisor (let those guys cover the obvious stuff) — of an exploration of this in many ways amazing (for better and for worse) area’s profoundly moving culture — to a great extent musical — and of that culture’s benighted underpinnings.

Our Discovery Gambit in an Ideal World

I thought it would be great if any and all around the planet who might possibly be moved by this splendid music (made for the most part by deep-souled Brazilians living in poverty) could somehow have a chance to find it and hear it and in a sense get to know the people who make it. But the problem with this of course is that for music — and the other arts as well — to move beyond very limited circles it’s necessary to invest. This is how record companies work. Top dawg test pilot Chuck Yeager put it like this with respect to the U.S. Space Program: “No bucks, no Buck Rogers!” With respect to the music industry I’d paraphrase that thusly: “No bucks, no Mick Jaggers!” Sans heavy publicizing and media support old Mick and plenty of others wouldn’t have gone beyond skinny unknown kids playing pubs and tiny venues until giving up and getting jobs collecting bus fares. Jay-Z’d still be hustling and Aretha would’ve remained in her church choir in Detroit (that would’ve gotten me to church!). Make no mistake: Widespread artistic fame is bought and paid for.

Our record shop embellished with friends Raízes de Acupe

So not being a publicly traded corporation and scratching to pay the rent on my specialty record shop (authentic Brazilian music with a concentration on the deep roots music of Bahia) I opted for a twist on the methodology of one particular social group without the financial means for large-scale media propagation (but nevertheless dedicated to ensuring that important news was heard by all in the community and beyond): pre-Civil War African Americans. Their word-of-mouth Grapevine Telegraph was the origin of our expression “I heard it through the grapevine”. And their grapevine worked (cue I’ve Got Algorithm if this isn’t sophisticated enough for you).

Another angle on the methodology is Open Curation. Professional curators are fine and dandy but why should the world be limited to them? How many of them could be out there, after all? And what do they know about the far corners and interior bayous of the vast world of music? Who’s gonna curate that? And why limit the system to music???

One of Kengo Kuma’s splendid out-of-the-loop projects

Dancers might want to recommend other dancers, and painters other painters, and writers other writers, and musicians, and dancers, and painters…and painters architects, and architects filmmakers…

These recommendations/curations by their nature are all bound up together into a system, concatenations of navigable worldlines (our term, borrowed from Minkowski, for links of recommendations-in-series) meaning that one might start with anybody and in a leap or three or several (shades of six degrees of separation) wind up almost anywhere else.

And so our own backland geniuses, battling poverty, formerly cut off from the world-at-large, become as if by a wave of an Afro-Brazilian Euterpe’s wand eminently discoverable from Wakanda to Walla Walla. As do others from Ennis to beyond the pale…

Which is the point of all this.

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Our Discovery Gambit Thus Far in the Real World

It was easy to get the Great Bahians to sign up…I know them. Many of them I signed up myself. A free web page for them and they tell me who they want to recommend, with others free to recommend them themselves. Se bem não faz, não faz mal (if nothing good comes of it, nothing bad will either).

Then we move onto further-afield people in our orbit: Music writer Jim Gavin…music writer Michelle Mercer…filmmaker Simon Brook (Peter’s kid; Simon’s documentaries have included people from Václav Havel to ex-Clasher Mick Jones to ex-Beatle Paul McCartney)…to Simon’s movie associates producer Lauranne Bourrachot (one of the producers of A Prophet, which won the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2009) and Finnish director Mika Kaurismäki, both Brazilophiles…to percussionist Jon Otis (Johnny’s kid and Shuggie’s brother)…to New Orleans music writer Jay Mazza… I throw them into the matrix and then advise them that they’ve crossed the border between the gloaming of the traditional twilight world of paid-for publicity into the bright sunlit world of democratic matrixity.

Then my old music royalty business client Airto Moreira consents to be signed up. And he played with Wayne Shorter and Michelle Mercer (from the paragraph above) wrote Wayne’s biography and I LOVE Wayne Shorter…so he’s GOT to be in there, to be recommendable whether he recommends or not. SLAM! Wayne’s matrixed!

Tommy Peoples: A Hogwart’s music teacher must have sprinkled fairy dust on that bow.

And I love Tommy Peoples, the Charlie Parker of Irish fiddle, so I throw him into the matrix and advise him (update: Tommy passed recently). And Tommy’s daughter Siobhán is a mightily talented and expressive chip off the old block; she’s got to be in there…

And New York city pianist/composer Aaron Goldberg signs up, and that’s just great. And Greg Osby…

Nilze Carvalho, amazing at 12 years old…

Quincy Jones? Doesn’t know I exist. But he is a shepherd leading, or musically abetting maybe, his extremely talented protégés. So given that Michelle knows Wayne, and Wayne knows Quincy…why not put Q up…and given that he actively promotes his protégés, put them down as curations from his page? Would he mind? He’s a big Brazilian music fan. Hangs with Milton Nascimento. Milton’s decades-long percussionist is Robertinho Silva, who’s played with Luciano Calazans, who’s my ex-neighbor and great friend (worldlines as degrees-of-separation will get you everywhere). Q’ll find out eventually, maybe he’ll even wind up in my record shop (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Castro-Neves and David Byrne and Nilze Carvalho have been).

What??? Never heard of Nilze Carvalho??? Recorded with Jacob do Bandolim’s Época de Ouro when she was 12 years old, playing bandolim/mandolim??? That’s kind of the Brazilian equivalent of recording with Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters! She’s GOT to be in the matrix!!!

O que é meu is “What is Mine”.

The truth of the matter is that for all practical purposes I am acting as a one-man-band here…ridiculously poised with bass drum on my back and pulleys and contraptions…huffing and banging away down here in Salvador…trying to call attention to and provide the means for the world-at-large to access profoundly moving and historically important musicians who have little or no access themselves to that world. This by utilizing a simple means which allows others to kick in and cast bridgework around planet earth, linking heretofore separate islands of human creativity into a — dare I say it? — matrix in the truest sense of the word.

A rising tide raises all boats. If anybody wishes to likewise tilt at the moon that pulls those tides, you’re welcome to sign up and curate!

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Curating is done by clicking on the little crosses which will appear (when you are logged in) next to the categories for which people are curatable, on their They Curate Me tab. You will appear on that They Curate Me tab when the page is refreshed, and they will appear on your I Curate Them tab.

You can likewise be recommended for categories which you create for yourself. If you care only to recommend, and not be recommendable, simply do not create categories!

We ask — in the spirit of this endeavor — that recommendation categories somehow involve the arts (or where these arts take place; city, country, etc.).

Thank you!

Randy “Pardal/Sparrow” Roberts