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I just watched The Devil Came on Horseback last night, about the genocide going on in the Darfur region of Sudan.
If you don’t know anything about Darfur, read up on it here. Basically, the Arab-run government to the north is sponsoring a genocide against black Africans living in Darfur (located in the south-west of the country). The government has hired the Janjaweed (translated “the devil on horseback”), an Arabic militia force, to systematically wipe out the black Africans in Darfur. They burn people alive (even kids), set whole villages on fire, shoot their own countrymen indiscriminately, and use rape as a deliberate war tactic to destabilize families, bring shame to women, instigate fear and hatred, and spread STDs. What’s going on is sick and twisted beyond belief.
Since 2003, the Sudanese government has sponsored this genocide and killed possibly more than 400,000 people, all in an attempt to win a war against rebel groups that draw support among black Africans in the Darfur region. Rather than attack the armies like the rest of us do, they’ve decided to just wipe out everyone. Over 2.5 million people have been driven from their homes, many living in massive refugee camps in Chad.
The movie The Devil Came on Horseback is really well made. It follows marine captain Brian Steidle, stationed in the region as a military observer. Brian takes photos, interviews rebel soldiers, talks to Janjaweed militiamen, hears from the victims of genocide, and videos whatever he can get. The documentary pulls it all together into a nice hour and a half package. The great thing about it is that Brian isn’t some annoying, liberal, hippy pot-smoking college student jumping on the latest humanitarian bandwagon. He’s a marine, and he’s seen injustice and wants America do something about it. It gives him a lot of credibility that guys like Michael Moore don’t have.
Somewhere inside me is a bleeding-heart activist that likes to call attention to the latest international issue that needs our assistance, but I get tired of all the whiny neo-hippies just hopping on liberal bandwagons. Broad generalization, true, but I’m sure you get what I mean. Anyway, the movie is great because it’s nice to see a military guy calling attention to something like this. I feel like I can trust him.
So, moving on, watching this movie has once again caused me to think about how shallow my blog is. I give away (some might say “illegally distribute”) MP3s. I promote bands. I interview artists. I write about deep issues like “Defining Christian Muisc.” All while 400,000 people have been killed and countless women raped in a brutal genocide in Sudan.
So, to ease my aching conscience, I signed the petition here to get Bush and the UN to stop the genocide. Now who’s shallow?
Useful Sites and Links
SaveDarfur – learn about the genocide, sign a petition like me, or do something even more radical
Brian Steidle’s photos – see the photos he took while in Darfur
The Devil Came on Horseback – read up on the movie or watch the trailer
Invisible Children – some guys went to Sudan to document genocide but ended up in Uganda to document something just as creepy
Lately, I’ve been thinking about how hard it is to be honest as I look at bands to post about. I make it easier on myself by usually only posting about bands that I think are really great, but once in a while I offer to write about a band or artist that I’m not entirely sold on, that may be perfect for somebody but not really what I’m into.
Sometimes, I’ll gloss over the things that I don’t like. I’ll write about the positive things in the band and just ignore the stuff that bothers me. But, other times, I just gotta let it all out and be up front about what’s good and what’s bad, honesty to the point of brutality.
There are few groups that I’ve put up here that I can say I like without question or qualification. Doug Burr, mewithoutYou, and Ponoka are three that come to mind. I love those bands, hands down. Maybe a year from now, I’ll have qualifications for them, but right now, they’re some of the most perfect bands ever.
Back here, I wrote an honest critique of a band (Hello Kelly) that I don’t care much for. I wanted to be honest in the fact that I think they’re good at what they do, and if you like that style of music, then you might like them, but I thought they were a little cheesy, a little boring, and pretty similar to what’s popular now. Apparently, some people got annoyed that I gave my honest opinion (on my blog).
This got me thinking. I’ve never read a negative review of Christian music from any Christian publication. I don’t mean that as hyperbole either. I seriously can’t remember ever reading one. Secular reviews slam albums all the time, but Christian reviews are always positive and happy. If they don’t like the music, they just keep their mouths shout.
This is dumb. Reviews should be critical and offer the positives and the negatives, the strengths and the weaknesses. If all the music reviews are positive, then they cease to mean anything.
This is why I will always strive to be honest in my reviews. It may annoy you to see your band get picked apart on The Blah Blah, but I’ll try not to just rip you to shreds mercilessly, even if you deserve it. 😉 I’ll try to be nice as I talk about what isn’t so great on your album. I really do tend to think that even bands I don’t like have redeeming qualities, so you’ll probably be safe.
Yet, I don’t want to turn into a blog where I’m afraid to say a band is a little depressing, a little boring, lacking creativity, or spiritually empty. I want to stay honest about what I think, even if it offends you. If you don’t want to hear what I think, then you don’t need to send me your music or read my blog.
Man, this blog takes way too much time. Especially when it’s nice outside.
I get way too many e-mails from people wanting me to check out this band or that band. I have way too much music to listen to. I have way too many interviews I’ve been hoping to write. I have way too many MySpace pages to visit. I have way too many articles I want to write.
And I definitely don’t have enough time for it all anymore. It’s nice outside now (most days). I’ve been busier at church. I’ve got more freelancing work to do. I’ve started exercising again (more than just my fingers on the keyboard anyway). I’ve been reading more. And I’ve been getting excited about meeting with God faithfully again. All of which are good things.
So, yeah, I just wanna whine about how busy it is. I wish I could spend 40 hours a week (or more) just on The Blah Blah. I’d love it. But since I can’t, I’ll just keep plodding along as fast as I can.
Don’t stop sending me music suggestions or MySpace pages to check out or cool books to read. As long as you don’t mind me not responding to your e-mails in a timely manner or posting about every band you send my way, I’d rather have too much come in than nothing at all.
I love doing this blog. I love getting new music, interviewing artists, giving away MP3s, promoting new bands, researching musicians, and writing my thoughts on music and the music industry… but, man, I want more time to do it.
I’ve been getting into instrumental groups for a while now, and I’ve got a handful that I come back to over and over. I listen to them while praying, reading my Bible, working at the computer, driving the car, water skiing, parachuting, delousing mattresses…
About a month ago, my wife and I went to go see Explosions in the Sky in Milwaukee. You can see a review here, but the show was incredible. There were times when I wanted to cry, times when I wanted to get up and start dancing, times when I wanted to shout out in tongues as loud as I could (I am Spirit-filled after all)… For the next 75 minutes, I was lost in a land where nothing mattered but me, my wife, God, and the music of EITS. It was like through their music I was able to get away and ignore everything but what mattered.
Had it been a band with a vocalist singing about cars, girls, the death of a friend, or the guns of Brixton, I would have been taken into the world of the singer but not my own world. That’s one reason I like instrumental music – it lets you escape like nothing else.
Here are nine of my favorite instrumentalists you need to check out:
Explosions in the Sky – My favorite of the post-rock neo-classical instrumentalists.
Mogwai – You kinda’ have to include these kings of post-rock.
Foxhole – Get some horns involved and lots of loud guitar.
Sixty-five Days of Static – Speaking of loud guitar… and some sampling fun too. These guys can rock.
As the Poets Affirm – Trippy and a little dark and mysterious, with folk overtones. Great while praying.
Below the Sea – Moody, trippy, melodic, and awesome. Another good one to throw on while praying.
Unwed Sailor – Nice reverby guitar. Very pretty stuff.
Lightning Splits the Bark – Funky, synthy, and full of electronic samples and digital add-ons.
Don Peris – Folky, reverby, and pretty. Great chill music.
So, who are your favorite instrumental groups out there? I’m always on a quest to find great new music, so who should I look into?
I’ve been doing the Worship Wars since way back in mid-February, and I think I’ve gotten tired of it, so this will be my last post in the series, at least for now.
And what better way to end the Worship Wars than with Enter the Worship Circle?
I’m not a huge fan of the primary Enter the Worship Circle series of albums, but I respect Ben and Robin Pasley as musicians and I love their heart to worship. Besides, when it comes to hippy, gypsy acoustic worship music, no one does it better than the original Worship Circle crew.
Here we are with another post for the Worship Wars!
I’m not gonna be able to do justice to Keith Green with this post. I was up working late last night and accidently slept in this morning, so I’m running late. I’ll have to do a quick little post, when I should do something much bigger and better.
If you don’t know Keith Green, then read up on him here at Wikipedia, but I assume that most of you have heard of him.
In case you were wondering, Keith’s awesome hair is not the only reason I decided to name The Blah Blah after the coffeehouse where Keith Green first began playing music, but it is an important one (see here). Just feel the Bob Ross influence. Mmmm… happy little trees.
I’m finally back from a week off from blogging. As I explained here, part of my inability to blog for a while was busy-ness, part was computer problems, and part was burn-out from blogging every weekday for over half a year.
I’m thinking of taking a break for a couple weeks, once the Worship Wars are over, so I can get back into regular life, but today… let’s look at Red Mountain Church!
Red Mountain Church is a church based in Birmingham, Alabama, that places an emphasis on worship, particularly through hymns reworked to modern music. Read over their website to see their vision for their church and their city. It’s pretty cool stuff.
Anyway, they’ve got a pretty large body of musicians at the church who have collaborated to release five albums of those reworked hymns, and I think you should check them out.
Since I’ve been doing this blog for a while now, I’ve already posted about a number of noteworthy worship groups. Rather than revisit all of them individually, I thought today would be a great day to put up a couple of songs by each of them. Get it all done in one day, you know?
These guys each deserve a whole post of their own, but I want to get this thing moving along with the Worship Wars so I can go on to other things.
If you think of hippy drum circles and acoustic guitar when you think of Enter the Worship Circle, you’ll be surprised with their Village Thrift side of things.
Village Thrift is Ben and Robin Pasley, Todd Berger, and Ryan Lott taking songs that Enter the Worship Circle could easily have done, but stripping them of all that makes you think ETWC and filling them in with techno samples, DJ mixes, and funky electronic sounds.
It’s not the best electronic / techno I’ve heard, but it’s some of the most original and most anointed for worship.
I want to ask all you guys (and gals) a question today: What makes good worship music?
For me, I want to feel some connection with God in the music. The words don’t need to make sense. Heck, there don’t even need to be words there. The music can be a little boring or weird. As long as I feel a connection to God, I’m happy.
It usually helps if the music is good, but if it’s overly complex or interesting then I can sometimes focus too much on the music and not on God. It also helps if the lyrics aren’t overly confusing, but if they’re too lame, then I may end up paying more attention to that than God too.
I guess, ultimately, what makes good worship music is a good worshiper. If my heart is ready to worship God, it doesn’t matter how weird, bad, boring, complex, or simplistic the music is – I’m gonna worship Him.
It’s easy for me to get critical of worship music – especially now that I’ve been getting into the indie music scene in the past few years. The indie scene is filled with music snobs, so if you don’t fight it, you can become one too. The truth of the matter, though, is that God can, and does, use mainstream music (yeah, I know, can you believe it?). God doesn’t seem so bent out of shape about how good the music sounds or how well-thought-out the lyrics are.
So, if I’m more snobbish than God when it comes to music, that’s a problem. If God Himself would walk into the room, play some worship music, and I would stand back thinking, “Hmmm… sounds too much like something I’ve heard on Christian radio. I don’t like it” then I’ve got a problem.
Now, the debate becomes “Would God even play worship music that sounds like stuff on Christian radio?”
Anyway, what makes good worship music for you? The lyrics? The music? The message? The feeling of it? The energy behind it?