Tag Archives: music

We need a virtual bookshelf


Kindle or audible?

That’s the question I asked myself two weeks ago. I wanted to get Tim Harford’s Adapt but didn’t want to wait for a hardcopy of the book to be shipped to South Africa. So I could either download it as an audiobook from audible.com or get the e-book from Amazon and read it using Kindle for PC. I ended up going the Audible route but bought this e-book because I wanted to try out both formats.

I’ve enjoyed both books, but there is one problem. I can’t put them on my shelf.

To anyone that collects books, albums or games, part of the pleasure of owning it is not just knowing what you have, but seeing what you have.  You want to be able to arrange it. You want to proudly display it to other people.

What’s needed is a virtual bookshelf app that people can put on their Facebook pages, tablets and desktops that will display all the books, albums and games they’ve bought online. Items on the shelf will need to be securely verified by vendors such as Amazon, Audible, Steam, GOG, Rhythmmusicstore etc. This will prevent users from displaying things they may like, but haven’t paid for, essentially a favourites list.

I’m not suggesting this because I want online vendors to be richer. The aim is to increase the exposure and income of independent writers, designers and musicians. A crucial feature of this virtual shelf is that it should display the date the item was purchased. This provides an incentive to invest in the work of new creators so that you can later win those “I knew about them before you” disputes with friends.

This week, I’d like to buy this album by goema punk band The Genuines. I’ve tried stores at the Waterfront, with no success.  If I buy it online it’ll just go into the Music folder on my hard drive with countless other albums I got from friends.

If I had a virtual shelf, that problem would be solved.

 

Credits: thanks to Johan for pointing out the early adopter incentive.

 

Lake of Stars could be even better

 

I’ve dedicated two previous blog pieces to what was cool about the Lake of Stars experience. Now in this final instalment, I’ll dish out some constructive criticism.  Here are three ways it could be even be better:

#1 Make it easier to get there

The big problem here is that flights, much like bandwidth, are still too expensive across Africa. A flight from Johannesburg to Blantyre costs R5,100. You know where else you could fly with that money? Milan.

There is hope though. 1Time has announced that it will offer flights to Kenya this year at a cheap R1,619. SAA currently offers the same flight at the might-as-well-fly-to-New-York -and-back price of R8,338. Hopefully we’ll see cheaper flights to East and West Africa in the next few years.

At half the price of a plane ticket, the festival organised a special bus from Johannesburg, but only two festival-goers made use of this. I was one of them. It was a trip full of highlights and trouble, but never dull.

I hope they don’t cancel the bus this year. If organized and promoted properly, it could become a jolly, music-filled bus ride,  similar to the MK Avontoer.

On the local level, transport could also be easier between the resorts in Mangochi .  If your lodging wasn’t at the festival site, getting home at night was tricky and unreliable. An hourly shuttle service could solve this.

 

#2 Make it easier to spend money

If you’re running a business, one of the things you don’t want is a shortage of ATMs and credit card facilities. There was only one ATM at the festival and when it inevitably stopped working, the only other ATM for miles was in town. To get to town, you’d have to pay for a taxi. So if you happened to be broke, as most ATM-seekers are, you’d find yourself in a proper Catch-22.

The only place I could find where you could pay for food or drink with a credit card was the Nkopola restaurant.  And even they treated a credit card transaction like a strange and inconvenient custom. Paying took a long time, and you had to do it at the front desk. Once the payment went through, a letter, not a receipt, was printed out for you to formally sign. It ultimately became amusing, something to joke about with the receptionist.

 

#3 Make it like Ibiza

Wait, hear me out first. I’m not suggesting it should imitate Ibiza’s electronic dance music or its island-of-vice reputation.  Lake of Stars should strive to have the cultural significance of Ibiza. In the same way Ibiza incubated the Balearic Beat in the 80s, Malawi could be the playground of an emerging sound. It could be a place where musicians showcase new material, learn from one another and compete. Sometimes, isolation breeds innovation. We’ve seen influential music scenes develop in peripheral places like Seattle, Manchester and Bellville. Let Mangochi be the next.

 

Videos from Malawi

 

Earlier this week I shared the best moments of the trip to Lake of Stars with you. Here are some video clips I recorded there and on the way back.

At the start of the clip, you’ll see the nice breakfast I got every morning. One of the best aspects of the meals I got in Malawi is that it almost always included these round chips that look like banana slices. Unlike the starch-paste chips you’re served everywhere in South Africa except for Steers, these Malawi chips are made from potatoes, albeit small ones.

I was walking around town and came across this shop called Vampire Electronics. Most of the shop signs I saw were painted and included an extended list of every service they offer. While I was taking a clip of the sign, the owner called me inside. Here he explains why he called his shop Vampire Electronics. Warning: content on the small screen may offend sensitive viewers.

This girl, who said her name was Fanny, wanted to sing her Chichewa translation of the hit from The Bodyguard to me .

The Chinese Cultural Delegation’s performance was one of the pleasant surprises at Lake of Stars. It was interesting seeing these cultural ambassadors, considering China’s increasing involvement in Malawi. The impression that I got from speaking to Malawians is that cross-cultural relations between the two countries require some work. One guy in the crowd kept shouting “You’re bad in bed” in Chichewa during the performance. Others, who were more jovial, shouted “Fank you!”

After Lake of Stars was over, we needed to find a cheap way to get from Mangochi to Blantyre, a distance of approximately 200 km.  We took this minibus taxi, which played some good tunes.

On our way to Malawi, a Mozambican official stopped our bus right after we crossed the bridge over the Zambezi. He wanted to arrest one of the passengers for not wearing a shirt. On our way back we were stopped at the same spot. This time the official wanted to arrest a woman because she did not look enough like her passport photo. I sneaked a recording of it. You’ll see at the end of the clip that the bus driver manages to lure him away by promising to buy him a drink.

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The video clips were recorded with the Nokia N8. I hadn’t used it much since I won it at TEDx Cape Town, but it became a trusted companion on this trip thanks to its Carl Zeiss lens and long battery life.

Big in SA

Sixto Diaz Rodriguez, a folk musician from Detroit, recorded two albums in 1970 and ’71. Sales weren’t great and neither were the reviews, so he gave up on his music career. He stayed unknown in America, but went platinum in South Africa.

In 1992 the Australian pop band, Indecent Obsession, released “Indio”. It was not as successful as their previous album and none of the singles made it into the Australian top 20. In South Africa, it was huge. The album reached the top of the charts and spawned hit singles like “Rebel with a cause”, “Indio” and “Kiss me”. The latter landed at number one and stayed there for 27 weeks.

Why were Rodriguez and Indecent Obsession big in South Africa but relative failures in their own countries? Was it mere chance, a local DJ’s influence or did they appeal to some odd facet of South African taste?

 

– Thanks to Staal,  who posed the question at Sunday lunch