wajeed the teacher
diego from italy
yuri from the netherlands
family kelly, paul and declan
fernanda from brazil
bozak, flying lotus and cinnaman
anna frost from sweden
red bull music academy - melbourne 2006
The travelling music circus brings its mayhem to Melbourne this September after visits to Capetown, Berlin, Sao Paulo, Rome, Dublin and others. From all over it brings with it 60 participants who cover every octave of electronic sound. They come to learn from their peers and musical jefés, to share, to see a country in its sonic context and to party.
With the help of local artists Timba Smits, Simon Childerhouse and Brad Howe, Kano has designed some week by week guides which should be floating around the street for the next month while the academy unfolds.
Check the gigs page for a list of RBMA gigs by participants and lecturers, read the daily diaries at the red bull music academy website and read declan's musing on his time at the academy, first as a participant in 2003 and then as a journalist in 2004 below.
I arrived in Rome on a Sunday night towards the end of autumn with a head full of swirling thoughts having traveled from Berlin that morning. Just under a year before I had arrived in Cape Town, South Africa to participate in the 2003 edition of the Red Bull Music Academy. Since then I'd been on the road for eleven months with an unwieldy suitcase and a box of records, accrued a stack of debt and had the time of my life.
Somehow I negotiated through the intense Rome traffic with my two items on wheels. One block from the station, in lee of the din, I came to a hotel where I bailed up the concierge with my undoubtedly offensive pidgin Italian and asked him if he might call me a taxi. I waited outside for a few minutes but no dice. No taxis tonight, too many people out in the city. As I walked back to the Stazione Termini and joined the longest taxi queue I’d ever seen, it slowly dawned that my trip was coming full circle. I was due home in three weeks and just as my trip had begun with an experience at the Music Academy, so it would end. Pointedly, I would be on the other side of the fence this time as a journalist.
Back in the late 1990’s in a boardroom in the Austrian countryside, a philanthropic employee of the energy drink giant came up with the idea for an annual musical utopia. 60 musical genii from the corners of the earth would get flown around the world to meet each other and at the same time be lectured by their heroes. These musicians - producers and songwriters of all different styles and genres - would drop in for informal “sessions” to tell their story and share their knowledge.
I had this vision of some crazy Red Bull employee drinking too much of the in house cider one day and this idea just exploding out of his head; Perhaps he or she was just plain visionary, I guess we’ll never know. But maybe they just had a few musical bones within them and saw that their company, which had reaped significant financial rewards from the sale of their beverage at dance events the world over, was in a great position to begin a program of corporate sponsorship that would ingratiate itself with the culture over time instead of just feeding off it to suit their needs.
Inside the doors were 30 new recruits who would be going through the introduction process, receiving their lecture schedules and probably still trying to settle their minds and stomachs into the idea that they had just been given an all expenses paid trip to DJ boot camp.
I too was a bit nervous. There are certain experiences in all our lives that hold pride of place and sometimes in the process of deconstruction, the shimmer can be lost, the mystery debunked and thus the event loses some significance; Kind of like getting a job at your favourite restaurant. This feeling of trepidation was slight but nevertheless present. My time at the academy the year before had affected me greatly while I was in Cape Town, but due to the nature of it – an intense program of inspiration information crammed into two short weeks – the significance of things had really sunk in over time. Going solo on my first major trip overseas, certain elements galvanised themselves. The Academy for me was a musical utopia and I was so excited to have the chance to be back there again.
Having the Academy replayed in slow motion Technicolor over again brought up so many of the emotions that I had experienced. The detachment afforded me by my new role drove them all home and I reveled in the duality of returning. The first days are overwhelming and watching the participants is fascinating. Some are shy among crowds, others are mute in the face of their heroes lounging around nonchalantly, others still are struggling to remember the names of their new peers or their origin. Off in a corner two DJ’s are forming a friendship in a tongue not their own over an album they both love. The days begin at a chaotic pace and don’t let up. The accented, sometimes dramatic notes of the Italian language reverberate around the walls of the academy. Sometimes the abruptness with which they yell “Pronto!” into the phone makes you wonder if the person on the other end of the line is brave enough to speak.
In Australia, it’s easy to feel disassociated with the world outside, and our geographical isolation can enhance this, sometimes increasing the feeling that Europe and America are the only beacons of output. And indeed it must have felt the same for Russian native Ilya Rasskazov and Rustam Ospanov from Kazakhstan; like kids in a candy store they flitted through the rooms of the converted convent, madly trying to soak up everything they could. The Music Academy quashes this feeling; it joins dots, pieces the mental jigsaws, cements relationships formed in the cyber realm and narrows the degrees of separation in the relatively small community of electronic artists and musicians.
Sounds a little bohemian and idealistic I hear you saying, like a schmooze fest for overzealous networking freaks? The Academy is a lot about networking but not uncomfortably so. Electronic music is still a young baby and its global nature needs to be embraced. People are furiously copying music, directing each other to websites and swapping mix cd's while in the studios one off collaborations are taking place with people that met only days before.
As a participant in Cape Town I had spoken with a number of different journalists that hailed from all over the world about my perceptions. But these people seemed to me strangely lost on the outer, floating outside an ambit, trying to get a clear picture of what we were going through. We were on the inner trying to process our information overload and represent it cohesively but it was sometimes difficult to convey just what it was you were feeling to those that weren’t going through it with you. I rarely remembered the journalists’ names and if I did, would likely forget where they hailed form. Were they were making a documentary or collecting interviews for their radio show? Writing a story or simply doing a drop in on the academy? I became this person to those thirty participants. Who are you again? Where are you from? And what makes you so special? What is this being used for? Oh that’s right, the Australian guy. You have lots of sharks down there right? And so on ad lib to fade, Crocodile Dundee, beach and kangaroo inclusive.
The sixty participants are divided into two groups of thirty and don’t go through the Academy concurrently. The program runs for a fortnight, breaks for a week and then another fortnight for the second wave of alumni, each with their own different and diverse set of lecturers. Ten days after a track was completed in the Rome first term, Benji B, presenter of a radio show on BBC's 1-Xtra, had somehow gotten a hold of it and had featured it on his show. Producer Zed Bias who had worked tirelessly with participants on the track and already expressed interest in signing it had told everyone involved not to let it get bootlegged and would be a little miffed. A spot on Benji’s show is a big deal and people would now be sitting up to take notice. Zed might have some competition for his signing now.
Herein lies the essence: Communication, meeting new people, having your ideas of what's possible expanded, hearing anecdotes from people who worked against all adversity to have their music heard and eventually, years later, earning their dues.
I left Rome three days before the end of the second term and said goodbye to friends new and old. Sadly I missed out on the end of term party where Cut Chemist, beat digger extraordinaire and producer of Hip Hop super group Jurassic 5, played a funk 45 set in a pizza joint. The party then moved on to a club where the promoter in question was apparently disgruntled because he hadn’t been selected as one of the core Italian lecturers for the Academy. Australian participant Kano Hollamby bore the brunt of this resentment in the form of unwelcoming attitude and an arrogant demeanour. So he refused to play his scheduled set and was told by the promoter he should look up to people like him with respect as he’d been DJ’ing for seven years. Kano’s been DJ’ing for the last fifteen years and his defiant stand was supported wholeheartedly by the group. Taking the affront as disrespect to the entire academy, it was decreed that the promoter should be mooned by an entire stage-full of participants and staff while he was DJ’ing.
I had a whole bunch of new stories and inspiration. In those 11 short days, crammed so full of music and life and energy, I met more heroes of the past and present and probably a handful of those from the future. I felt blessed to return again, ensconced in a world where music is all and sundry and the nerds reign supreme. Long live the Academy.
For more information on the academy, go to their website