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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Gil Scott-Heron

I am writing this blog entry sitting in the living room, while my wife and two oldest kids are watching the Eurovision Song Festival finals. (I was in an expert meeting on music yesterday (by chance and/or by mistake), and people assured me that to develop culturally everything starts with getting acquainted with culture at a young age within the family. So we don't have to worry about the musical future of the kids, I am sure.) As you know, for the first time in many years The Netherlands reached the finals. Well done, Anouk! The Netherlands should have reached the finals some years ago, as you'll remember, but we sent the right guys with the wrong song. Of course, there again is some media discussion about whether or not Anouk's song is nice and/or good - Koningslied revisited, as it were. I understood that one of our national singing heroes has said that the song made him slightly depressed (and it indeed is a ballad about a suicide), and then other people told him to shut up because the song is GOOD so he should LIKE it.

Never a dull moment in The Netherlands, musically speaking.

And if there is a dull moment on a Friday night, you may turn to Radio 90 FM, the local radio station from Leersum c.a., and listen between 21 and 22 hrs to 'Melle op Vrijdag!' ('Melle on Friday'). Melle is Melle Keuchenius, a son of friends of mine, and he turned from a baby into a DJ in just about 18 years time - isn't that amazing? He plays all kinds of music, has a nice way of talking you through the hour, and invites nice guests to his programme.

Very nice guests.

Like me.

But that was a coincidence. When I visited Melle's family a couple of weeks ago, I heard about his radio programme, and understood that every Friday a musician called Age introduces over the telephone a song of his choice. But now Age had to play a gig so Melle asked if I could be his replacement. Of course I could, I was honored - even if the question came only half an hour before the Moment Supreme. So I had to pick a song in a hurry, and decided on Gil Scott-Heron's 'New York is Killing Me' (by the way, listen to some of the remixes on YouTube, like Jamie xx's remix - curious...). And told a little bit about Gil Scott-Heron's career (radical black poet/singer in the 1970s, disappeared, came back in 2010 with a CD just before he died in 2011) and about the song - a simple blues, great lyrics, great arrangement, great voice.

I had two minutes to talk about the song. And as I have been thinking, talking, and writing endlessly about music those past few years - also in this blog - and been spinning arguments around about everything I could possibly think about when it comes to music, I for some time dreaded the two-minutes idea - what can one say in two minutes? Until I realized that I actually was not supposed to say anything about music at all in the way I have been saying things all this time. I was not supposed to deliver an argument. The only thing I had to do was to say something about a song I really like. Not why it is good, not how that can be seen from fifteen angles at the same time. Just simply why I like it.

So I tried to do that. Two minutes is more than enough for that. And actually, it was quite a relief. Down from the meta-levels, back to the basics.

So if you need me again, Melle, on a Friday night, and I'm not out playing a gig, I am all yours.

And you, dear reader: check out Gil Scott-Heron - music that to me is frighteningly beautiful.

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