Music

Jazzanova: Broad Casting

As eclectic as its title would suggest, Jazzanova's Broad Casting is a compilation of downtempo and broken beat music by some of today's most interesting electronic artists.


Jazzanova

Broad Casting

Label: Sonar Kollektiv
US Release Date: 2006-10-10
UK Release Date: 2006-07-03
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Throughout the history of recorded music, the term "disc jockey", or, more commonly, "DJ" has carried a multitude of meanings. At first the discs in the title referred to records, and the jockeys were those who managed the musical activities at radio stations. As technology improved and music became more portable, the term DJ also could be used to refer to those who spun the records at parties and clubs. Today, when music is carried on compact discs or in compressed electronic files, the term DJ has an even broader range of significance. Today, it can refer to musicians who bypass the live music scene altogether and produce albums with their own original material. Of course, none of these musical activities are mutually exclusive. As Jazzanova proves, modern DJs can be equally successful on the radio, in the club, and in the studio.

Jazzanova is the name assumed by six German DJs who have been working together for the past 10 years. The group members made a name for themselves with their live sets, a series of remix projects, and a radio show. In 2002, Jazzanova finally released its first album of original music, In Between. The group's name might be somewhat misleading to listeners who have never heard the DJs' music. Although they incorporate jazz instruments and melodies into their music, the members of Jazzanova are definitely grounded in the electronic scene, creating music that could be classified as broken beat or nujazz. The title of the group's latest release, however, is anything but misleading. Broad Casting pays tribute to the fifth anniversary of the Jazzanova radio show by including the work of many important electronic artists, and it is as eclectic as one would expect from an album with "broad" in the title.

Broad Casting opens with "Candlelight" by Wahoo, a seductive chillout track with a vocal that recalls Donald Fagen, and then moves into "Or at Least", a samba by the Slapped Eyeballers. The music soon moves from these smooth jazz waters into more unsteady electronic territory. After the brief "Intermission" come several downtempo beat-driven tracks, including "Flashback (Jazzanova's Mashed Bag)", which simmers with 1970s soul, and "In the (Re)Mix (Starship Interpretation)" by Capitol A, which merges old-school hip-hop and a sparse, jazzy, electronic groove.

As Broad Casting develops, it becomes increasingly complex. Around halfway through its duration, it moves into broken beat territory, incorporating grooves which are more complex amalgamations of polyrhythmic percussion. Jazzanova contributes a remix of its own music to the collection, "Boom Clicky Boom Klack (Mr. Scruff's Vocal Mix)". This track features vocals by British musician Shaun Escoffery, and it is one of the highlights of this album. After it, the music gets trickier, moving from the low-key acid jazz of Ciara Hill and Atjazz on "Nowhere (I Can Go) (AtJazz' Astro Black Mix)" to the jazzy, hip-hop-heavy "Serve It Up (Starship Mix)" by Clyde and Capitol A. Another highlight from this section is "Sun of a Beach (London Mix)" by Pharoah Roche. Mixing Latin rhythms and guitars with fuzzy beats, Roche creates a tropical party track.

Two of the least accessible tracks on Broad Casting come near the end of the album. As "Beatzep" by Jaslopski unfolds, spacy electronics emerge while the rhythm shifts against a pulsing volume swell that runs throughout the entire track. "Step Off" by Arken is even more difficult, featuring tweaks and twirps over a loping beat. These tracks are interesting in their own right, but they almost seem out-of-place next to the more accessible and more obviously jazz-influenced tracks on the rest of the album. Apparently not wishing to end their album on an uncomfortable note, Jazzanova concludes Broad Casting with the mellow "So Long" by Nicola Kramer and the reserved "Just a Lil' Lovin' (Just a Lil' Outro)" by Jazzanova/ Outlines.

Collections of music by various artists are always somewhat hit-and-miss endeavors. Their eclectic content has both benefits and drawbacks. Almost everyone will find something to like on this wide-ranging album. On the flip side, few people will find every track to their liking. Broad Casting is about as good as a collection of obscure music can be. It stands out from lesser compilations because every selection here is a high-quality example of its genre. Chillout, downtempo, hip-hop, broken beat, and acid jazz are all well represented here, and they are only a few of the many styles present. Fans of any of these genres should be satisfied with the album, and anyone looking to explore these styles or simply hear some new grooves should definitely tune into Jazzanova's Broad Casting.

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"Now I am just more tired and poor. So no, I haven't changed. I'm just older and more tired," says French radio journalist and documentarian Sonia Kronlund, as she looks back on the experience of making The Prince of Nothingwood (2017).

Joining Salim Shaheen, the most popular and prolific actor-director-producer in Afghanistan on his 111th no budget feature, Kronlund documents the week-long shoot and the events surrounding it. She crafts an insight into a larger than life persona, yet amidst the comedy and theatricality of Shaheen and his troupe of collaborators, she uncovers the heavier tones of the everyday reality of war and patriarchal oppression. If The Prince of Nothingwood will popularly be remembered for celebrating the creative spirit of its star, it is equally an important communication on Afghanistan, it's culture and its people. Alongside the awareness of the country cultivated by mainstream media news outlets, Kronlund's film offers an insight into a country that can humanise the prejudice and xenophobic tendencies of a western perspective towards Afghanistan.

In October of this year at the UK premiere at the BFI London Film Festival, Kronlund spoke with PopMatters about being driven by questions rather than inspiration. She also reflected on the subjective nature of documentary filmmaking, the necessary artistic compromises of filming in Afghanistan, and feeling a satisfaction with imperfections.

Why filmmaking as a means of expression? Was there an inspirational or defining moment?

Not really, no. I have always done documentary. I used to write scripts and TV series but I only make documentaries myself for radio and television. For this story, I figured out after a while that it deserved a bigger ambition and a bigger screen and that's why I don't very much believe in inspiration. To be honest, I made this film because I had to do something. I didn't have a big project where I thought: I want to make this. I went there and I found a little money and at the end the ambition and the inspiration came along the way. But there was not an urgent necessity to make this film. It fits with a lot of things that I'm interested in, like popular culture -- What does art stand for and why do we go to the cinema? What is the purpose? This is a question I'm interested in, but inspiration, not so much.

Has The Prince of Nothingwood provided you with the answers to those questions?

It has, and I hope it helps people to think about this question. It tells you that there is an urgent need to make images, to make films, even during war,and even if you don't have the money. And even if the films are not very good, they will find somebody who will like them. So something is going to happen, and I think that's very touching. I don't like Shaheen's films, I hardly watched them -- I paid somebody to watch them. But I'm very moved by all these people that do like his films, and it makes you think about the value of art and the purpose of why we make cinema. I used to study aesthetics in London, so it was one of the questions I had and while the film is lighter than this, that's what was in mind.

The film uses Shaheen as a doorway, beginning as a story about one man which becomes a story about Afghanistan, its people and culture.

Yeah, but it's not so much about Afghanistan and it's not my purpose is to say things about the country. There's one guy like him in Iran who makes cowboy movies in the Iranian desert and there's also a guy like that in Tunisia. I mean you have this person with an urgent need to film whatever they have under their hand and since it's war, then it tells you something about the war. But it's not so much interested in him.

There was a lot of editing, 148 hours that you haven't seen [laughs]. Making a documentary is really telling a story and I don't have any idea of objectivity -- it is my point of view on Shaheen. Some people say to me that they would like to show his films, that they really want to see his films, and I say: "You don't see how much I have edited. I show you the very nice parts of his films." People think he's a great filmmaker and that's the story I wanted to tell -- but I could have told another story.

To my mind, objectivity is a human construct, a falsity that does not exist.

Except mathematics maybe, and sometimes physics.

The purist opinion of documentary as objective is therein built on a faulty premise. From the subjective choices of the filmmakers that bleed into the film to the subjectivity of the subjects, it's not purely objective. Hence, it calls into question the traditional dividing line of the objectivity of documentary and the subjectivity of narrative fiction.

Totally! It's the editing, and why you chose this guy, how you film it and what you show, or what you don't show. It's not only subjectivity, it's storytelling. Not many people ask me about this, they take it for granted that it's the real Shaheen. But I'm not lying, I'm not saying things that aren't true, but I am telling a story, a fictional story out of what I filmed. I took scenes that happened one day and I put them with another story that happened three months later and that's why we had seven months of editing with three editors. So it was a lot of work.

One of the striking aspects of the film are the light and comedic moments offset by a darker and heavier sensibility, which include moments when, for example, Shaheen talks about arranged marriages.

We made 70rough cuts and there was one version we tested and you couldn't believe you were in Afghanistan. People would say: "Oh this is too funny. You don't see Afghanistan, it's just a bunch of crazy guys." I then said: "Let's put in a little more darkness." You then have to strike a balance and to me, if it's not perfect, I'm happy.

Shooting the film in a dangerous and volatile part of the world, was the approach that once you had enough footage you then looked to shaping the film in the edit?

It's not when you feel you have enough, it's finding a balance between security and artistic concerns. That's it. You have a plan and you have an agenda. There are things you want to do, but it has to be balanced with security concerns. The real story I was going to tell about Shaheen I found in the editing room and in the end, I only kept five days of the shoot. The whole film takes place in Bamyan (Province), nothing in Kabul, although I had weeks and weeks of footage there that I had to take away.

There's a moment when Shaheen asks if you are scared, which sees him verbalise our silent recognition of your boldness and courage to bring this story to the screen.

It's very difficult and it's not like you are walking in the street and there's a bomb. This is not what's difficult. The difficulty is to cope with your fear and to have rules and to follow or to not follow those rules. There are many foreign people that never go out at all in Kabul -- it is forbidden. You have British diplomats who do not even drive their car from the airport to the embassy -- they will take an helicopter that costs £2,000 each way. Then you have foreign people who walk in the street without a scarf -- these girls get kidnapped.

In between these you have Shaheen, who is telling me all the time that I'm too scared, because it's a man's value to be brave and he's a brave guy, there's no question about that. He was in an attack two weeks ago. There was a bomb in a Shia Mosque and he helped to carry out the bodies. So there's no kidding about the fact that he's a brave guy and he has to be because he's been fighting to make his films. But you are in the middle of this and I'm not a brave person at all and I don't think being brave is a very important question. It is, but I'm not brave, I'm very scared and so in the middle of all of this stress it's enough just to manage to not go crazy, or to not drink too much [laughs].

Salim Shaheen and Sonia Kronlund (courtesy of Pyramide Films)

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