Letter #18

Goooooood morning!

Hi. Hope you had a cracking week. The weather in London at the moment is my favourite; sunny, but a bit cold. Great weather for disco goths.

I’m mixing things up a bit this week. So HERE’S the playlist 😃 .

–  🎼 –

This week has an overriding spiritual feel to it. Happiness. Love. Togetherness. Perfect for us lot, I thought. I explain properly later on.

Right, below is the notes, and below that is the tracklist.

If you have any music that you’d like to share with us, please add it in here.

– ✏️ –

I realised the other day that I make quite a lot of references to stuff that I’m not sure I’ve ever qualified or explained here. Take above, for example, the word ‘togetherness’. It’s a lovely word, but to me it means more than just plain-old-sitting-next-to-each-other togetherness.

The same goes for some of the religious language and music I use. Chants. Prayer. Even meditation music. I reference light and dark. Language like ‘transcendence’.

Then, alongside all of that I often use the word ‘culture’.

Now that’s a big one.

These things mean so much to me, so I thought I’d explain why.

Music has always played a massive role in my life (yes, before you say it, I know this isn’t an X-Factor audition). My whole family have always been into music, and so growing up I heard a lot it. As I got older, I found myself feeling increasingly like I didn’t belong where I was growing up. Music gave me a connection to another world, and the more I listened to, the more it bought me a sense of belonging. This must be true of almost any teenager, I’m sure. (And for my friend Simon, growing up in a musical house meant meeting Stevie Wonder – more here.)

With each new artist I listened to, I found a new view of the world. In many cases, I found new worlds. New cultures. Along with writing, music became a core part of how I expressed myself – I would make endless mixtapes, I would play music to family and friends, and music would become my therapy. It was a way to understand myself, and a way to make new friends.

As I got to my late teens, I became obsessed with understanding culture. I would spend my time buried deep in records, magazines, and books, trying to find anything I could to piece together what a culture looked like. Techno. Street art. Ibiza. Brit pop. Acid house. YBA. Funk (good documentary here). High fashion. Beatniks. Dada. Berlin. New York in the 70s. New York in the 80s. Acid Jazz. Pirate radio (two excellent documentaries here (London), and here (Southend)).

I was obsessed with understanding what culture was. What it meant. How and why it worked. How I could be a part of it.

Then I got my first job in advertising. It took me a while, but I soon realised that brands were a part of culture too. Or at least good brands were. So I made a case to my boss to build a tool that would help show brands how culture spread. It worked! I moved jobs, and moved to a creative agency, desperate to understand how advertising ideas could spread through culture. And now, I spend my time understanding how to bridge the divide between culture and brands – helping brands become additive to culture, rather than derivative of it.

Understanding culture has become a lifelong pursuit.

In this pursuit, I’ve started to see music as the backbone of culture. Music – much like art, fashion, or literature – is a form of self-expression, and a basic currency of culture.

We use that currency to tell people which culture we belong to. It illustrates our story, without uttering a word. Most importantly, it attracts people that hold the same values towards us. it creates endless splinters and subcultures (best demonstrated by the Hyman Archive here). If you’d like a modern day example, pick up a copy of The Move (here). It’s a magazine that covers the South London ‘new rare groove’ scene – it’s excellent, you should subscribe immediately.

It’s easy to see how powerful culture can be. It taps into people at their very core, and empowers them.

I didn’t see the spiritual aspects of culture until a few years ago.

Traditionally (or at least until the 1960s), the term ‘culture’ has been predominantly used in reference to ethnicity, religion, or nation. Culture still drove a sense of belonging. It still held people together through a common set of symbols, language, values, beliefs, and norms. The subject matter was just different.

I have never been particularly religious, so I suppose I found my religion in other areas. Then, when going through a particularly stressful time at work, I decided to try meditation (Headspace). After two weeks, I felt different. So again, I followed my usual curious/obsessive process; how do I find out everything I possibly can about the culture that this belongs within. I read about transcendental meditation (thanks to David Lynch – if you have any interest whatsoever, get his book!). I read about the scientific side of mediationEventually I reached Buddhism.

It turns out that a lot of the people that have been at the heart of building cultures also meditate. In fact, a lot of them follow Buddhism too. Rick RubinTim Burgess. Even Scorsese. I’m currently reading an excellent book on SGI Buddhism, which is told through a series of interviews between Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, and Soka Gakkai president, Daisaku Ikeda (here). Jazz and Buddhism!

I took a lot out of learning more about the philosophy that is behind Buddhism (I’m still not one for practicing religion, as such); being kind, and understanding to everything in the natural world feels like a pretty good life lesson for anyone. However, the parallels with culture were starting to become much more obvious for me.

Then I read Love Saves the Day, and learnt about David Mancuso. A Buddhist, intent on adding something to culture, and creating a community. Music was the spine to the culture, but the symbols, language, values, beliefs, and norms were borrowed from Buddhism. What was paramount was a sense of togetherness, and belonging.

Everything fell into place for me, in an instant.

I beg you to listen to Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy’s tribute show on WorldWide.FM (here).

I believe that music is the spine of culture, and that culture brings people together, gives us a sense of belonging, and a sense of value. Ultimately, these are the three things that I (and many schools of Buddhism too) believe lead to transcendence, and enlightenment. At the very least, they show a path to happiness and love.

So, I suppose that’s why I write this letter ❤️.

For more culture stuff like this, you can follow me on Instagram here.

If you’ve enjoyed reading, but missed some of the other letters, they’re all available here.

As always, if you’ve read to here, thanks for indulging me ♥️.

– 📄 –

  1. Chuck Mangione – Land of Make Believe
  2. HNNY – Sunday
  3. Jazzanova – L.O.V.E. And You & I
  4. Metropolitan Jazz Affair – Night in Tunisia
  5. Fugues – Fu-Gee-La
  6. Native Dancer – Big Blue
  7. Vulfpeck – Funky Duck
  8. ‘Thesda – Head Trip
  9. Marvin Gaye – Heavy Love Affair
  10. Fred Wesley – House Party
  11. Stevie Wonder – Did I Hear You Say You Love Me
  12. Bileo – You Can Win
  13. Marta Acuna – Dance Dance Dance (disco version)
  14. Patchworks Ginger Xpress – Brothers on the Slide
  15. Jamiroquai – Little L
  16. Shigeto – When We Low
  17. Izo FitzRoy – Skyline
  18. Rotary Connection (ft Minnie Riperton) – I Am The Black Gold of the Sun
  19. Red Astaire – Love to Angie
  20. Poppy Ajudha – David’s Song
  21. Laura Misch – Daylight
  22. Theon Cross – Newly Awakened
  23. Joe Farrell – Bass Folk Song
  24. Kojey Radical – Super Human
  25. Chassol – Odissi, Pt. III (Farewell)
  26. David Cunningham – Corners
  27. Dorothy Ashby – For Some We Loved
  28. Sonny Sharrock – Blind Willie
  29. Jon Bap – Don’t Run Into the Dark So Quick
  30. Rare Earth – Get Ready

See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

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