Tag Archives: John Fahey

Discover New Music with Great Music Documentaries Available from Kanopy

14 Aug

JohnFahey
I love discovering new music, especially stuff that is strange and forgotten. I’ve spent hours countless digging through the crates of record stores looking for the weirdest albums I can get my hands on. Kanopy has a ton of great music documentaries that have exposed me to artists I would have never heard of otherwise. If you are looking to expand your musical palette to new realms, I highly recommend the following three music documentaries.

Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll
Very few people will go into John Pirozzi’s Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten knowing anything about the vibrant rock and pop music scene in that existed in Cambodia in the 1950s and 60s. Much like how the U.S. and Europe celebrated The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, Cambodia had its own mega-succesful stars during this time who turned the city of Phnom Penh into a flourishing center of the arts. I had previously known absolutely nothing about Cambodian rock music and was blown away by the talent of the performers showcased at the beginning of the film, leaving me to quickly wonder why all of the country’s biggest stars are so unknown.
The modern history of Cambodia is one of tragedy. During the Vietnam War, the U.S. carried out a secret bombing campaign of the country that killed tens of thousands and devastated the rural countryside. Out of the rubble rose the Khmer Rouge, an extremist group who systematically killed artists, musicians, and intellectuals. The Khmer Rouge almost entirely wiped out any memory of the Cambodian rock scene. Many of the most talented performers died in the notorious Killing Fields and the only surviving recordings were ones that were hidden or smuggled out of the country. While the film is ultimately a tragedy, the fact that the legacy of these incredible musicians has finally been resurrected is nothing short of a miracle.

THEORY OF OBSCURITY: A FILM ABOUT THE RESIDENTS
Are The Residents the strangest band to ever exist? Are they even a band or are they something else entirely? Theory of Obscurity documents the Resident’s 40+ year career as closely as you can follow a group whose members conceal their identities with giant eyeball masks and top hats. The Residents have always thrived on anonymity and experimentation, creating elaborate performances that appear more like avant-garde theater than a rock show. Playing a Residents album at a party could quickly clear the room. They are the type of band that takes many listens to “get” if it is ever possible to get them at all. With that said, I think everyone should at least experience this film to see if they are one of the “weirdos” who might be strange (or cool) enough to enjoy the Residents.

In Search of Blind Joe Death: The Saga of John Fahey
John Fahey was an acoustic guitarist who influenced everyone from Pete Townshend of the Who to Sonic Youth. While lots of famous musicians cite his influence, he is little known to mainstream culture, some of which can be attributed to his style of playing called “American Primitivism” which harkens back to the early delta blues and ragtime. Even though he started making records around the same time that rock music was breaking out, Fahey’s playing sounded so rustic that he liked tricking people into thinking he was forgotten early 1900s blues musician named Blind Joe Death. Fahey was also notorious for self-sabotage. He was an alcoholic who was too eccentric, too difficult to work with, and too out of step with the modern world to have material success. Despite his shortcomings, one cannot deny that Fahey was a breathtaking guitar player and entertaining personality. There’s a reason so many musicians talk about him in reverence and In Search of Blind Joe Death makes a compelling case for his importance.  BCCLS patrons also have access to the documentary on DVD.

Written by:
Karl Schwartz
Young Adult Librarian

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