Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Top 30 Albums, 2012

At last, it's the end-of-year musical list that all stay-at-home dads long for and live for. I won't bore you with too much prose this time, having long since run out of new adjectives to describe sounds that deserve more than mere phrases. As always, this is in no way a professionally assessed list, it's a rundown of the recordings I enjoyed listening to most, in approximate order. My apologies to the thousands of artistes I never heard, or have never heard of. It was already a good enough year without me needing to hear any more.

30. Tift Merritt - Traveling Alone (Yep Roc)
Track: Traveling Alone
Listen to: ooh, I don't know. When traveling alone?

29. Cat Power - Sun (Matador Records)
Listen to: still traveling alone, dreamily driving across vast, unpopulated midwest landscapes (never done this, but it's a plan).

28. Air - Le Voyage dans la Lune (EMI)
TrackSonic Armada
Listen to: while watching the disconcerting 1902 sci-fi film of the same name that Air belatedly put a soundtrack to.

27. Mark Lanegan Band - Blues Funeral (4AD)
Listen to: while celebrating decay.

26. Amadou and Mariam - Folilo (Nonesuch)
TrackOh Amadou
Listen to: when reading reports from northern Mali about how brutal Islamic fundamentalists are suppressing all forms of music beside religious incantations.

25. Alabama Shakes - Boys and Girls (Ato Records)
TrackHold On
Listen to: for old-fashioned musical virtues - raw, head-ripping, down-to-the-bone brilliance.

24. Cate le Bon - Cyrk (TCG)
Listen to: when you're wishing the Velvet Underground and Nico had made a few more albums.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

2012: Six Countries, Six Stadiums

This year I managed to get out the house a bit more than usual, taking me to some new places, and also back to some more familiar ones. It's sad but true - the easiest way for me to remember where I was, and when, is to mentally archive the football games I went to.

Nakivubo Stadium, Kampala - the
 crowded section (pic: SAHIP)
1. Saturday May 5. Nakivubo Stadium, Kampala, Uganda. Competition: Bell's Ugandan Super League. SC Villa v KCC. Entrance: 5000 Ugandan schillings ($2).
I enter the former national stadium at 2.45pm for a 3pm kick-off, because I'm always prompt, and you never know if there will be a rush on tickets. No worries, I'm the first person there in the 15,000 capacity ground, and the only way I know there's a game on is because there are two teams warming up. The match kicks off at 3.15, and a few hundred profoundly unenthusiastic fans drift in, reacting only to goals with begrudging applause, but never cheering good play. By half-time, a few lads have finally affixed the sponsors' boards to the perimeter fence. At the final whistle no one moves, maybe because there's lots of space in here compared with the cramped, chaotic city beyond, or maybe because someone's setting up a sound system next to a barrel of cold beers. Final score: SC Villa 2 KCC 0.

Hand-crafted seating at the national
 stadium in Bujumbura (pic: SAHIP)
2. Wednesday May 9. National Stadium, Bujumbura, Burundi. Competition: A cup game between two unidentified teams. Entrance: free.
After a meeting in one of the government buildings close by, I walk across the road late in the afternoon to take a look at the ground. The gate's half open, so I peer in, expecting to be shouted away by a groundsman, as would happen in England. Except there's a game on, with about 150 people watching. It's a neat ground, surrounded on three sides by mosaic stone seating, with a less alluring covered main stand. I see the last 20 minutes of the match, then it goes to penalty kicks, at which point, strangely, half the spectators leave. One goalkeeper aggressively taunts an opponent who's missed his kick. Bad karma, dude - the goalkeeper's team goes on to lose, prompting wild celebrations among the victors, while the remaining spectators shuffle out wordlessly. One man hits the fence in frustration, the only visible display of fan emotion. Final score: someone won on PKs.

Bukavu's Stade de la Concorde: Built in Mobutu's
 name, on this day host to honky house-dads (pic: SAHIP)
3. Saturday May 19. Stade de la Concorde, Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo. Competition: Great Lakes Peace Cup, DRC quarter-final, second leg. Espoir du Grand Lac v Umoja. Entrance: free.
In the sparse but spacious former President Mobutu Stadium, two teams of former combatants and community members battle it out on a testing surface. As by far the whitest person there, I am invited to take the ceremonial kick-off, for the first and possibly the last time in my life, praying that the anti-diarrhea tablets I had to take earlier that morning will remain effective. A clutch of small boys spend the entire game staring at me while I make small talk in broken French with the South Kivu Minister for Sport and Leisure in the VIP section (six plastic chairs on the concrete terrace cordoned off from the masses). "Tricky surface," I venture. "They're used to it," he replies tersely. Final score: Espoir du Grand Lac 1 Umoja 0 (3-1 on aggregate). More pictures here.