Keeping it Peel – Cerddoriaeth heb Saesneg

The BBC have produced a program compiling bits of various sessions of Welsh language rock music that were broadcast as part of John Peel’s regular radio show. There’s even been a recent re-mix of Datblygu’s hit “Maes E” and one of my favourite bands of the time, Melys have a new LP due out next year; exciting times.

This was of interest to me as I used to listen to these sessions when I was a younger man and also because I can now speak Welsh. So, listening to these recordings was strange as I was listening to something I used to hear in an unknown language to one I now speak; a big wow basically.

I’ve never quite understood this English language bias in the British media. There is an awful lot of English language music out there and sure, you can be perfectly happy only listening to English language music. However you would always be missing out of the even bigger amount of non-English language music that is out there. It’s music, there is no need to be able to grasp every tiny nuance of the lyric to appreciate the song and you rarely do that on a first listen anyway. Yet despite the efforts of people like John Peel, British radio continued to almost exclusively play English language music.

The reason the Peel program was so important to people who liked interesting music was that in the pre-internet era there were so few places to hear things that were not deemed popular. Records were expensive, an LP cost around £10, 20 years ago, almost exactly the same price as a CD now. today however you have the advantage of being able to listen to the entire album before purchasing a hard copy and people now only really buy hard copies to support artists they really love, whereas twenty years go you would occasionally take a punt of something because you liked the album cover which no-one would do these days.

There is almost no need for a John Peel show nowadays. We have the internet and the whole gamut of music available to us twenty fours hours a day at the touch of a button. Yet do people take advantage of this blessing by listening to the strange and obscure to us in the hope of uncovering a truly magical piece of music? Commercial radio is as awful as it ever was and I suspect it’s the same people who listen to interesting music now as then, despite the improved availability.

Welsh language music, specifically y Sin Roc Cymraeg / Welsh language Rock Scene, as opposed to the equally dull “daytime” Welsh language music that is as bad as “daytime” music anywhere else. Welsh language rock has always struggled to be heard outside of the Welsh speaking community. John Peel was one of the few who understood the value in exposing the scene to a wider public, because it was interesting music. Yet it is still largely ignored outside of evenings on Radio Cymru. It is simply not one of the major options on a service like Spotify, there is nothing to guide you to it unless you are actively looking for it. Such services always guide you to popular contemporary music. Alffa achieved one million listens on Spotify recently, which suggests things may be changing, but is still a rare exception.

It’s not just Welsh language music, there is world of wonderful music out there outside the English language. I just think it’s a shame that it isn’t easy to stumble across and that in today’s divided world there needs to be more exposure to the different the non-conventional, that other cultures exist than white male Europeans. Some music such as Soul has broken through, but so much has not. I’ve also heard of a friend post about discovering the wonderful Mongolian band, ‘The HU’ recently.  There is just so much wonderful music out there: Perfect pop music or k-pop from Korea. Folk music from Central Europe, wonderful Volksmusik form Germany, French Pop, Vocal trios from Georgia or Icelandic Electro or Russian string trios.  You simply don’t need to understand the language to appreciate the music. All of the linked examples demonstrate that all languages are great for music. They are all female fronted, but as a  heterosexual male myself, I just find more beauty in the female voice. It just seems mad to restrict oneself to music in English, when there are so many languages in the world.

The very sad truth is that for most musicians who want to earn enough to make a living from music have learned they need to sing in English to make enough money. Many Welsh language bands release songs to English to try to achieve commercial success as do bands across Europe. The Eurovision song Contest, once a competition where everyone sung in their native language is now a predominately English club. It’s very sad, because music written to appeal commercially is often dull, whereas that written to express your real thoughts is almost always much more interesting.

There is even a kind of liberal objection, that such ‘folk music’ is Nationalistic or promoting separatism, as if everything being the same, having no diversity, is somehow a good thing. That maintaining traditions is the opposite of being an open inclusive society, that seeking to conserve things is somehow wrong. If anything the white, male European/North American model is really not the one culture for humanity to have. There are so many interesting musical and cultural traditions out there, that are surely foolish to ignore or shun support for. I still don’t understand why so many people don’t look beyond the narrow confines of English language commercial music, especially in these dark days of Brexit, Trump and the rise of the far right. without it we would never have wonderful cultural mixes such as Bhangra combined with Scottish Highland bagpipes

 

 

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Sporting Sexism

In other news, we have had a fantastic month of sport. Part of me would like to wax lyrically over the wondrous performance of the Welsh football team, reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2016 and providing great joy for us Welsh footie fans, both on the field and the sense of unity it provided for the nation as a counter-balance to all the divisive brexit stuff.

However I’m going to talk more mainly about tennis as the Wimbledon tennis tournament finished at the weekend. I love watching sport for many reasons: It is an inspiration to improve my own fitness levels and an inspiration in the dedication to perform at the professional level, the strategies and interplay of tactics provide interest too and an appreciation of the sheer skill of the athletes. These aspects are often trumped by the emotional engagement where the viewer supports one side or the other. This is where tribal loyalties come into play.

Whilst I am a fan of several football teams, there is something different about national teams, because you didn’t choose the team, you were raised with it. Normally when I have watched any football match I can’t help but root for one team over the other, this is a widespread phenomena. During international football tournaments I usually have to pick a team/ country to support. This decision process is interesting as it is the culmination of the weightings of many factors, such as: Are they underdogs, have I visited that country, do I have friends from that country. Even without any guiding factors, during a match I end up picking a team to support. This picking a side phenomena, happens in every sport I watch. However when i am attached to a particular team, I am more engaged emotionally, the highs are a lot higher and the lows much much lower.

So, to tennis, I am not a massive tennis fan, I generally prefer team sports. Tennis does have an easily observable tactical interplay, coupled with the mind games of the swings and roundabouts of confidence of the players. I believe the most popular form of tennis is the Men’s Singles, but for me I find the mixed doubles much more fascinating. More fascinating because it is now a team sport and that makes things much more interesting and the team dynamic becomes interesting in itself, they smile more and seem to enjoy playing. It also tends to be a bit slower, it’s not just about whacking the ball as hard as possible and this gives watchers more time to consider the battles playing out.

This brings me to sex. I have written a little about the trials and tribulations of being a heterosexual male. There is another phenomena that I don’t seem to have much choice about and that is finding sportswomen attractive. So, and I think this applies to most people, that we end up supporting athletes we find the most attractive, perhaps especially when they are wearing skimpy clothing and running about a lot. Sometimes I think this is awful. Awful because there tends to be a general consensus agreement about whom is attractive, I’m a little off normal, but there isn’t a huge amount of variance. So attractive sportspeople gain more support than those less attractive and this is unfair. It is unfair because someone could be a brilliant exciting player, but they don’t garner support because the other person is more attractive. Generally I don’t think there is anything at all wrong in being attracted to people, it’s natural, but it can be an issue if you decide to act on this attraction.

What I mean by acting on this attraction isn’t as sinister as it might sound. The act is often a male commentator making remarks about a sportswoman that are not related to their sporting ability, such as ‘how lovely they are’, you do hear this from time to time. I was watching the Mixed Doubles final from Wimbledon and found myself thinking that Heather Watson is impossibly lovely and beautiful, however if I was a sports commentator I would not mention this. I don’t know how much other people find this, but watching that match I went through appreciating the sporting spectacle, the drama as I would for any other sporting event, but underneath this is a part of the appeal are the continuing thoughts of how attractive she is as a woman. It’s like sport can become kind of like soft pornography.

I am a huge advocate of equality. I love watching rugby, I have female friends who play rugby. However I can’t bring myself to go along to the games and support them, because of the sexual aspect, I imagine that I would feel like a pervert watching women rolling around in the mud. I have been told not to worry about it, but at the back of my mind I’m wondering if my motivation for going to support and appreciate the game is affected by a desire to appreciate their bodies.

Everyday when out and about I see attractive women wearing attractive clothing and it is nice, but it isn’t the reason I go out and about. I’m just wondering what it is about sport that is different. It also applies to films, sometimes I am motivated to watch films with actors I enjoy, whether male or female, yet there is that little bit of extra motivation if I regard the female actress as attractive. There are very attractive female actors out there, who don’t act very well, so I am not motivated to watch their films, yet it is possible to ignore their acting ability sometimes. Really I wouldn’t have enjoyed watching this tennis match so much if it wasn’t an enjoyable well played game. At the end of the day, no matter how attractive someone is if they are not good at what they are doing, the appeal of watching them diminishes. It seems that the motivation of watching a game is decided by a weighing up of many factors, sexual attraction being only one. The best things to watch are when the sportspeople are both good at what they do, entertaining and very attractive!

Fashion Attraction Preferences

Often, I have been asked ‘What kind of women are you attracted to?’ I never used to be able to give an answer. When people offer lists of ‘attractive’ women, I tend to agree with some of the selections,but don’t find the others attractive, The women I have had relationships with and those women I find attractive,  didn’t seem to fit into any general category, there are always exceptions. My basic belief is that it is individuals that are attractive, I imagine that there are a wide number of spectra of traits that i have preferences for, however that any individual person can transcend what may appear a huge incompatibility based on any individual spectra. Really, i make an effort not to judge people based on their appearance, although I do to some extent when ‘checking someone out’ to see how attractive I find them.

Nonetheless, I have found online quizzes that I found interesting, in that it enabled me to actually define the kind of women I generally find attractive, based on a number of attributes, both physical and personality traits. It’s called the ‘Beautiful faces test’ and the ‘Your kind of girl test’ on the dating website, http://www.OKCupid.com. Basically, three pictures of the same famous woman are shown, each picture features more or less of a particular trait and you choose which you find most attractive. For example, in one picture the nose is prominent, the second less so and the third where the nose appears less prominent. Your attraction based preference is indicative of whether you have a preference for prominent noses or smaller noses.

One of the most interesting preferences was for dress, again selected by showing the same woman wearing three different styles of clothing. In this case it’s wasn’t a simple spectra, rather it was based on a favoured style and least favoured style How people dress is a product of many forces, but ideally, I feel people should dress to reflect their own personality. Nonetheless dressing a particular way does have an influence on the sort of people you attract. It seems my preference is for women who wear ‘artsy’ cloths, women who strive for individual looks that they find by mixing and matching from vintage shops and charity shops, and  would agree that this is a reflection of what I like to see women wear. Whereas my least favourite style was stylish/smart/fashionable. What is perhaps interesting, is that the very clothing style that is advertised most heavily is the fashionable style. This is possibly a reflection of that this style is where the fashion industry makes the most money from, and partly that this style is generally more widely popular amongst women.

These tests are heavily based on physical attributes, though it would be interesting to consider personality traits, which dress is indicative of. For example, preferences for quiet activities, group activities, athleticism.

The other issue is dating sites themselves. Generally the only preferences they ask about are about physique or ethnic background. It seems discriminatory, focusing on attributes when they are lots of other , arguable more interesting and indicative of personality, preferences people can have.

Anyway, for the record, using the limited spectra offered by these two tests, this is the kind of woman i am generally attracted to:

I am slightly towards the cute end of the sexy- cuteness spectra, the middle of the dark – light spectra, I do have a strong preference for Artsy over stylish. I like big eyes, prominent noses and small mouths.

Actually, I don’t really think this is the sort of answer people are seeking when they ask me what kind of women i am attracted to.