You won’t find this blog doing late-breaking news or commentary. Web-browsing, I am led to a report of an interview given by Cambridge academic George Steiner to a Spanish newspaper in 2008, in which he is quoted as saying:
“It’s very easy to sit here, in this room, and say ‘racism is horrible’,” he said from his house in Cambridge, where he has been Extraordinary Fellow at Churchill College since 1969.
“But ask me the same thing if a Jamaican family moved next door with six children and they play reggae and rock music all day. Or if an estate agent comes to my house and tells me that because a Jamaican family has moved next door the value of my property has fallen through the floor. Ask me then!”
In his essays and books, Steiner is a model of erudition. But his knowledge of music is quite evidently lamentable. In my experience, almost nobody likes BOTH reggae and rock music, and certainly no Jamaican I have known.
Ignorance of reggae seems to be a special attribute of the literati. VS Naipaul once described its beat as “pseudo-portentous”, a property which I have never been able to hear in the music itself. I doubt he could either; he just liked the phrase and disliked the music. And – like Charles Rosen with Mendelssohn – used his sharp verbal skills to seek to justify his prior musical tastes. In both cases, the attempt fails.
In response to Steiner’s ignorance, I decided to listen to the Master in a superb chilled-out remix:
- Dreams of Freedom: Ambient Translations of Bob Marley in Dub. Remix Production by Bill Laswell, Creative Direction by Chris Blackwell. Brooklyn, NY: Island Records, 1997.
followed by some of the best industrial noise:
- Shinjuku Filth. Darrin Verhagen. Melbourne: Iridium, 1999.