Wednesday, March 02, 2005

My Music History, Part V: The European Years

I came to Europe in 1998. I initially spent a couple years in Germany, then moved to Italy in 2000, where I now find myself. Those who know me know that coming to Europe opened up a whole new world for me in a lot of ways, not the least of which is musically. As you may recall from my last entry, I was stagnating a bit in the years immediately preceeding my arrival in Europe. After getting here, it didn't take me long to realize that there was a whoooooole lotta good music being made that we weren't hearing in the US. Most Americans think the only music in Europe is the techno-pop type stuff. There certainly is alot of that, but there's so much more. In fact, I think Europe might even be better than the US, because we get all the US music PLUS all the European stuff too.

For those who don't know, I initially came to Europe with the US Army. There are a lot of black people in the US Army. And most of them listen to nothing but hip hop and hardcore/gangsta rap. With so much exposure to it, I eventually started liking it a lot. I liked the hard beats and lyrical flow of it I guess. I'm not always crazy about the lyrics themselves, but they become more palatable when put to a good backbeat. One of my favorite CDs during this time became Tupac Shakur's "All Eyes on Me". I was - and still am - hooked on the song "Thug Passion".
I also developed more of a liking for R&B during my time in Germany. I discovered Usher, R. Kelley and D'Angelo. D'Angelo, for those who have never heard him, is some of the finest music to make love to. Just thought I'd throw that in there. Here is a funny thing I've noticed in Europe; you know how, in the US, the record stores will mark each section according to the musical genre? For example, "Rock", "Country", "Rap", etc. Well, in Europe, they do the same, but here's the funny part - they put all the rap, R&B and hip hop under the same section and call it "Black Music". Can you imagine a record store in the US doing that? Holy crap, the NAACP would go nuts! But to the Europeans, it's apparently all just "Black Music". Don't be fooled though, it's extremely popular over here.

Anyway, as I said, I discovered alot of stuff here that I probably never would have heard in the US. Here are some of the better songs I've listened to over here that I don't think ever hit it big in the US (although I could be wrong):

Tu Es Foutu (Ingrid)
Mundian te bach ke (Panjabi MC)
Narcotic (Liquido)
Moi...Lolita (Alizee)
Breathe In (Frou Frou)
Stranded (Lucretia McNeil)
I'm Still Waiting (Sasha)
Strong (Robbie Williams)

Some of those may or may not be familiar to you if you're from the US. If not, check 'em out, you might like 'em. I spent quite a bit of time in the clubs when I got to Europe. As a result, much of the music I listened to falls into the dance or techno category. I've also spent a lot of time in Irish pubs, and have developed an affinity for traditional Irish songs. There are few things in the world as fun as being in a crowded Irish pub with a bunch of friends drinking Guinness and belting out "Wild Rover". In fact, while I was in Germany, it became a tradition that when we went to the pub, I would always get up on stage and sing it. I've done it several times and always brought the house down. Here's a shot of me onstage in Nurnberg, Germany:

There's another thing about Europe that I prefer to the US when it comes to music; the sampler CD. For those not familiar with it, a sampler CD is basically a bunch of songs that are currently popular on the charts. In the US, you can find such CDs, but they never contain new songs, for the simple reason that the record companies want you to buy the artist's CD. If you buy a sampler CD that has the artist's song on it, why bother to buy their CD? But in Europe, sampler CDs are very popular. I believe that the "Now That's What I Call Music" series is popular in the US, so I guess it's changing a bit. The Now series is from the UK, and is great. It's usually a double CD set and has most of the current songs on the charts. Think about it - at any given time, you might really like 6 or 7 songs that are popular. But you don't want to buy 6 or 7 CDs just for the one song, right? Therein lies the beauty of the sampler CD. And they're not just limited to pop, you can get them in several different genres. I personally love them, and have bought quite a few of them here. They're good because they almost always feature some lesser known European songs that I would otherwise never hear.

We have MTV in Europe just as in the US, but it's a little different. Most countries have their own MTV ( such as German MTV or Italian MTV) They do this so the VJs can speak in the local language. One feature I like is the European Top 20. It's pretty much the same songs that are popular in the US, but there are always a few that aren't. This way, I get the best of both worlds - I can keep up with what's popular back home, and follow some of the local stuff too. I only get one American channel at the house, so most of time I just keep the Italian MTV channel on while I'm at home.

So there's a (very brief) snapshot of how being in Europe has influenced my musical tastes. In the next - and final - edition, I'll try to tie it all together and I'll take a look at where I'm at right now.

Stay tuned for Part VI...


Ed Abbey said...

They have sampler CD's here in America but they are always older songs not in the current charts for the reason you listed. I have bought numerous ones especially those with songs from the 70's and 80's because hey, why buy the cow when you can just get some of cream! I think the music industry in general is going to go through a major transformation in the upcoming decade as digital copying of music becomes even more widespread. Maybe even to the point where musicians go back to their roots of traveling around doing live shows for a living instead of just to appease the fans and living off their album royalty checks.

Jessica said...

Also a thing to mention is the CDs in Europe cost much more, but in the last year I was living in the Netherlands the price gap was starting to close so that's a good thing.

Anonymous said...

"Black Music," indeed. I am originally from Memphis, TN, and they tried this once there with exactly the results you describe, NAACP and all.