Sofia Rei is an Argentinian singer. For this Tiny Desk Concert she has two accompanists: drummer Franco Pinna incorporates a drum from the Argentine Pampas into a traditional drum set and guitarist/bassist JC Maillard plays a pretty guitar and a modified saz bass.
In profile Sofia looks a bit like Polly Jean Harvey but when she sings it’s very different. Her voice is sultry and influenced by Argentinian jazz.
I love the way the first song, “La Gallera” starts with slow verses but the chorus are just wild and crazy and full of rhythms and some great chords. And of course, that drum is an integral part of the solo that fills the middle so the song.
“La Llorona” is a beautiful slow ballad with Rei’s voice floating above the percussion and gentle modified saz bass (more on that in a moment). The song builds over five minutes with her voice getting louder and more impassioned. And just as the song really builds and seems as if its going to rock out, it ends–leaving us wanting more.
“Todo Lo Perdido Reaparece” (“Everything That Has Been Lost Reappears”) brings her back home to Argentina. The song starts quietly with Rei singing some syllables and noises before the song proper starts. It is a slow ballad filled with percussion. Midway through the song while Maillard is doing a wonderful guitar solo, Rei picks up a charango and plays lovely high notes. The chord progression during this and the following section with vocals is fanatic–catchy but also unusual.
At the end of the show, Maillard talks about his modified saz bass. He says it is based on the Turkish instrument but it was made for finger picking rather than plectrum. His is the first ever made. With eight strings, it has bass strings for thumb picking and high notes for the other fingers. It also has a lot of “empty” spaces to make interesting percussion sounds. I love seeing new instruments and this little demonstration is very cool.
[READ: July 11, 2016] “Bad Character”
The May 16, 2016 issue of the New Yorker had a series called “Univent This” in which six authors imagine something that they could make go away. Since I knew many of them, I decided to write about them all. I have to wonder how much these writers had to think about their answers, or if they’d imagined this all along.
Ted Chiang says he never learned anything in the Saturday morning Chinese school he was forced to attend as a child. But that’s not why he wants to get rid of the Chinese character-driven alphabet system.
He says that he is a fan of literacy but that Chinese characters have been an obstacle to literacy for millennia. You have to learn three thousand characters and you can’t use pronunciation to help you–it’s all memorization. Even highly educated Chinese speakers regularly forget how to write the characters that they use infrequently.
He also decries the technological obstacles that Chinese poses–computers and smart phones are impossible to use. And even dumbed-down solutions like Pinyin just cause more work.
Interestingly, even though he wants to do away with the written characters the last couple of paragraphs of this essay talk about the virtues of this system.
Pronunciation changes over the centuries, so as language evolves, older works are harder to understand (take Beowulf). This is why “Classical Chinese remains readable precisely because the characters are immune to the vagaries of sound.”
Chinese culture is notorious about tradition. He says this is not because of the Chinese characters but there must be some influence. He speculates that if the English language had not evolved since the days of Beowulf, that maybe English culture would be more Anglo-Saxon.
Conversely if China didn’t have the language it does, it too may have evolved over the years and might be less resistant to new ideas. Perhaps the country would be better able to deal with modernity.
Regardless of whether that would be better or not, he’d love to live in a world where he wouldn’t have to hear the misconceptions about Chinese characters “that they’re like little pictures, that they represent ideas directly, that the Chinese world for ‘crisis’ is ‘danger’ plus ‘opportunity.'”
That’s a bit anticlimactic of an ending, but the overall essay was interesting.