Saturday, May 20, 2017

Jonnie Shualy - The Earth is Shaking

Jonnie Shualy is back six years after his last album and I really hope that this song gets the recognition that it deserves. A week ago I would've guessed that I'd hear about it on 88fm but now I'm not so sure. Last week 'Taagid' took over IBA (Israel Broadcasting Authority) after months of debates, delays and a nasty political mess which almost brought us to elections. The Landes committee instructed the radio stations to just change the schedule of the shows but under the new management 88fm, which is now Kan 88, has changed drastically. When you go to the new home page you see the following text in Hebrew: "Good quality music from Israel and around the world. From the great rock classics, through new artists in Israel and abroad to jazz, alternative, world music and blues". This definition used to fit the station's sound 24/7 but now it only applies to what you hear after 7 p.m. and even then, there is much less blues and jazz has been cut down from a daily evening slot to once a week. But the real change is what goes on during the day.
I used to check out all of the mainstream radio stations (Galgalatz, 99fm, 100fm and 102fm) and hear I song I knew, maybe I liked it and maybe not but it was safe and convenient. A good soundtrack to hear at the office that everyone could agree on and wouldn't make people too uncomfortable. 88fm wasn't like that. 88fm was what I'd hear on headphones to escape the other stations. There were many songs that I knew but many more which I didn't and that's precisely why I kept returning to the station again and again. But even if I wasn't such a huge fan of what was playing, the enthusiastic voices of the broadcasters kept me hooked. Creating a radio setlist is a craft which is often taken for granted. When you listened to 88fm you could tell that the broadcaster made thoughtful choices on how to open and close the show and what the order of the songs should be. The new management brought in editors who used to work at Galgalatz to "help" the broadcasters edit the shows they've been airing for years.  Now it's just hit after hit after hit with no connection between the songs and no attention to the time of the program. Yes, most of the hits are classic rock, and not a completely different genre, but it's not enough to keep listeners tuned. For an example of a carefully curated list see Gil Matus' program "Flight mode" which used to be on at the magical hours of early Friday morning. Now it's been moved to Saturday at midnight and I'm pretty sure it won't be the same-there's a reason last Friday's show was titled "Fare you well".
The change stung the most for me when I heard about Chris Cornell's tragic death this week. I didn't expect the station to play just Chris Cornell's music (though I really wouldn't mind) but I did expect them to play songs other than Black Hole Sun throughout the day. Chris Cornell was a key part of the grunge movement so why not play other songs from that time and artists who were influenced by him? If Soundgarden and Audioslave are considered too loud for listeners why not play some of Cornell's acoustic covers? And why not let the broadcasters make changes to their programs? Yes, there was a special program in the afternoon but it felt like a formality for fans to keep them quiet. I was crushed by Cornell's death even though I wasn't a huge fan of his and was looking for music to learn more about him, which I eventually found at the Katze radio, which is broadcasted online.
It's not a surprise that many 90s Israeli rock bands were influenced by Cornell's music, among them "Raash" ("noise" in Hebrew) which introduced us to Jonnie Shualy and his thoughtful lyrics. Shualy's new album, and this song especially, is tough, honest, and beautiful. I hope it will find its place in a narrowing musical landscape.
I think even those who weren't huge fans of Cornell were devastated by the news of his death because it just took a few minutes to see what a heartfelt and compassionate guy he was. He performed repeatedly in Israel and understood that music and fans come before politics and from what I heard from friends he gave amazing performances, always singing from his heart and soul. Here is a bit from his concert in Ceasaria from just last year.

88 guard facebook page:

Around me the earth is shaking
I can't find a place to sit
Around me everything is crumbling
I can't stay

Around me the earth is shaking
It's being swept under my feet
Around me everything is burning
I can't escape

Earthquake Earthquake

Houses crumble
Borders are breached
Walls are cracked
Windows are shattered

Where do I come from where am I going
I can't wait any longer
Why did I come here when do I leave
I can't wait any longer

Spinning like a compass on the same spot
Spinning like a compass on the same spot

The earth shakes the earth shakes

1 comment: