Tokyo is one of the largest cities the world, with around 30 million people living in the metropolitan area. It’s also the most densely populated city on Earth. Tokyo is crowded, and it took me a few weeks to get used to it. Or, perhaps more accurately, it took me a few weeks to accept that going anywhere means being constantly surrounded by people, especially on the trains. It’s not exactly pleasant, particularly during rush hour or last train when station workers push people into train cars with a slab of cardboard.
Commuters jammed in on a Keihin Tōhoku Line train at rush hour, a shot I snapped on my mp3 player.
A cardboard-wielding station worker, waiting for the right moment to shove people into the cars for last train.
It’s one of the largest festivals in Iceland with more than 800 shows happening over a five-day period all across Reykjavík. Most artists are from Iceland, but there are also folks coming in from as far as New Zealand, and as close as the UK.
This year Airwaves’ 7,000 tickets sold out by mid-October. Since it’s a showcase festival—premiering up-and-coming local and international acts, similar to SXSW in Austin, Texas—there are a large number of industry and media folks coming as well. It’s not just a festival for rising talent, though—The Flaming Lips, Caribou, The War on Drugs, Ásgeir and Jungle are also on the line-up. I got an industry pass along with other festival directors, music producers, label owners, media personalities, and managers. I’ll post a re-cap after the festival with a write-up about shows, pictures from the photo pit and videos of performances and adventures around the festival. Suffice to say, I will not be sleeping for five days.
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During late August, I hosted the first GRASSROOTS event in my backyard. GRASSROOTS is a community building music & arts project where I feature Iceland-based artists and musicians.
At every GRASSROOTS event, I will facilitate a series of community-building activities such as dinners, facilitated dialogue, arts and crafts workshops and sharing exercises.
The three goals of GRASSROOTS are:
1. Bring the community together in intimate spaces
2. Showcase the work of talented artists and musicians
3. Share the vision of Saga Fest
The first concert was small (about a dozen people), about six attendees were from Iceland and the other six were international visitors or residents. This is similar to the demographic makeup of what I’d like to see at Saga Fest.
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Most people in the Western world have some idea about Japan, even if these ideas are largely imagined. It’s where people are stuffed into trains with the same intensity you use to desperately jam yet another outfit into an already over-packed suitcase, but it’s also the place where an endless horizon of mountains stoically rise above the clouds. It’s home to a vibrant youth culture where fashionistas stomp around the streets of Tokyo in combat boots, a Lolita-esque dresses, fake eyelashes and purple pigtails, but where you can also see a woman rushing to catch the train while making sure she doesn’t trip over the elegant folds of her kimono. Home to both samurai and to Pikachu, Japan can easily be imagined as a land of contradiction: a place where visions of an ancient past and a futuristic dream world coexist in the present.
Fashion in Harajuku, one of the best spots in Tokyo to get a glimpse of youth culture and Tokyo’s incomparable street fashion.
Nothing, and no one, but mountains as far as the eye can see. The Hachimantai Mountains, on the border of Akita, Aomori, and Iwate prefectures in northern Japan.
These contradictory, nearly competing histories are rather interestingly bound together by a singular notion of Japanese identity. In other words, the past, present, and future of Japanese society may be drastically different from one another, but they are linked by a general idea of “Japaneseness,” and perhaps what it means to be Japanese in contemporary Japan. But if these are all imagined ideas, in what way do they gain meaning, and how are these identities negotiated?
This blog explores the relationship between imagination and music. I believe that the deep connection shared by music and society is one of the most important avenues for people to imagine, and identify who they are. Music is a sonic imagining, a soundtrack that reveals a society’s collective unconscious, to borrow an idea from Carl Jung. From each society’s unique conception of beautiful music to the way that people listen to music, and to the way that music challenges listeners, music is capable of being historical, present, and progressive all at the same time. There is music from multiple eras floating around any society at all times, with each genre holding meaning to whoever listens.
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(Non-Arabic speaking readers can access English subtitles for this video by using the “captions” button located in the bottom right corner.)
My colleagues and I reach the small, withered doorway of an old apartment building in central Amman after a precarious decent down a steep set of craggily concrete stairs. From outside we can hear a group of voices talking over the dim hum of a grainy radio, though access to the building is obstructed by a canopy of wet, drying clothes strung about a low lying chain of crisscrossed metal wires.
Inside, surrounded by the building’s unfinished walls, fifteen or so men are gathered around the makings of a modest dinner. Though they have little – just black beans and rice – they are quick to invite us for supper. We politely decline and instead ask to see the rest of the two-bedroom apartment that the men share.
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