Thursday, 16 January 2020

Marathon 2: Desert Blues

Still week 2.

30 mins Easy Run (the talking one, no one to talk to.)

Location: Whitby - Links View, Upgang Lane, sea wall, Promenade. 4.5km

Weather: Fine with high cloud, cold wind.

Outfit: 2019 Scarborough 10k shirt, best shorts, black trainers, Colorado souvenir socks.

MusicEtran De L'Aïr: Music From Saharan Whatsapp. 17 mins.

The wind makes white horses on an otherwise calm North Sea. Stumps of an old pier are visible in the sand beneath the pavilion. Everyone is walking a dog - not the same dog. I have to stop twice to avoid treading on pugs.

I'm doing the beach run, a route that EJGH worked out before I joined in running, and which we've both been doing for ten years. My best for this is 25 minutes and a bit. I'm a long way off that pace these days, plus I'm taking it easy as I'm supposed to, so call it half an hour.

Lesson of the day: Don't try to stream music whilst doing the beach run. There's no phone signal at the beach; I already knew this, so I don't know what I was playing at. The plan was to listen to Etran De L'Aïr on the way down, get into a running groove, then follow it with Head Of Light Entertainment's latest EP on the way up, being buoyed along by melodic sunshine pop. A quarter of an hour each way, job done.

As it was, Etran De L'Aïr fell silent just after I reached the sea wall, and didn't re-emerge until I was past the Crescent on the way up - which was a shame because the skittering rhythms were, if not putting me in a trance, then certainly getting me in a good frame of mind to run. Desert blues is mesmeric or it is nothing. Melodies don't go anywhere, a whole song can go on one chord; Etran De L'Aïr favour two chords and a drone with a djembe rattling along in the background. Riffs are endlessly repetitive, yet never played the same way twice. Tiny variations sound momentous. The vocals on this EP are quiet, possibly not miked up. According to liner notes, it was recorded directly onto a phone, then Whatsapped to the record company, hence the title.

I know what this sounds like: first-world business people and white cultural tourists demanding some sort of gritty authenticity from black African performers. Hard to argue with that, except that the music is genuinely meditative, and the performance is really charming.

That's all I have to say. If you're running, this is 17 minutes of good running music.

Click here for Etran De L'Aïr: Music From Saharan Whatsapp.

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