Today Anywhere Else But Here Today celebrates its first birthday, and it’s a nice excuse to reflect about the past year. The remit for the project at the start was very simple: to explore the world of pop and discover hidden treasures from the past. The impetus was equally simple: disgust with the world today, particularly the one close to home. I have to confess I never anticipated I’d have so much fun, though. I did not suspect the project would prove to be such a revelation, either.
I guess I made life slightly more difficult by opting only to post clips of actual performances, but YouTube has consistently proven to be a treasure trove. And the occasional supplementary mixtapes have helped to fill in gaps and add additional colour. It is a constant source of amazement that there is so much great music out there which I had no idea existed. And at the risk of being repetitive, this continues to raise serious questions about ALL existing accounts of popular culture and indeed everything else in life.
I am not being self-deprecating but this project really is put together from a position of relative ignorance. I knew next to nothing about the pop music of the countries’ music before I started to explore in a consistently random and haphazard way. So all the findings posted on the site are oddly subjective, and probably not representative. But then what is?
What has struck me time and time again is the way music of great beauty has been made ‘in difficult circumstances’. Much of the music has been made ‘despite’ repressive regimes of whatever hue. Certain music has successfully skipped past the censors. Some of the sounds have been made in the midst of bitter political struggles and actual wars. Other sounds have been made before political uprisings have put a stop to such cultural activities, while others still have been made following the very welcome overthrows of dictatorships. At times the sounds are straight refractions of Western sounds, while at other times the country’s own musical traditions make things more intriguing.
One wonderful by-product of the project has been to learn a lot more about a country’s history indirectly through exploring its music. Greece and Uruguay are brilliant examples of where this has happened for me. Before I started investigating and becoming besotted by the pop sounds created in the ‘60s and ‘70s in these countries I was pretty ignorant about the political and cultural history and context. I keep coming back to the idea of the more you learn the more you realise there is to learn. There are times I confess when I wish I didn’t get QUITE so immersed in the exploring, but those occasions are few and far between.
The project deliberately started in the old Eastern Europe for a number of reasons. And there is definitely a need to return there at some stage to cover it in more depth at a later stage. In the meantime, as a birthday present here is something very, very special from Poland ...