Monday, 20 July 2009

Rooted cosmopolitanism

The far right's old cliché prefaces 'cosmopolitanism' with 'rootless'. But it's always struck me that your common-or-garden cosmopolitanism - I can't speak for that of the super-rich - is anything but rootless. When the native and exotic mingle on the same patch of ground they tend to hybridise; and the hybrids root firmly and stay put. Or at least the best ones do.

What grows up in our variegated garden is not always a good thing (Yorkshire-Islamists, for example, are very much a bad thing); but it quite often is, particularly in the realms of food and music. And for me, at least, these little cultural plants are always interesting.

I've already posted on a few examples of rooted cosmopolitanism (as I shall call it): Jones Dairy Cafe and The Specials, for instance. But as I find it so interesting I think I'll do a series of posts on the fruits of this phenomenon.

Let's begin with what started me on this train of thought, as I was jigging around the kitchen to the closing music of 5LiveXtra's [sic] Test Match coverage yesterday evening. It struck me that there are few radio experiences more enjoyable than listening to Blower's fruity tones summing up the day's cricket just before Booker T and the MGs' Soul Limbo - BBC cricket's theme tune - comes on to play the programme out.

Booker T and the MGs were the house band of Stax and Volt, the record labels that produced greats such as Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Sam and Dave and others. That they were the tightest, most together soul band ever is beyond argument. The rhythm section always seemed to me almost spookily good: precise, rock-steady and, in counterpoint, accentuating the soul in the vocals.

Anyway, when they weren't accompanying Stax legends, they released instrumentals. Green Onions, the Mod classic, is probably their best known. But Soul Limbo can't be far behind, solely because a BBC producer back in the 1970s chose it as the theme for the Today at the Test cricket highlights programme. A small piece of unsung genius on his (or her!) part and a little lasting gift from the wave of black soul music that hit our shores in the 60s.

Now, its percussive precision, swirling organ and Caribbean rhythms, unfailingly bring to mind leather on willow, and those tin cans rattled by Windies fans. It feels the most natural pairing and I think it always will.

But stand back a second: isn't it difficult to think of a less likely combination than a Memphis soul backing band and the consummate public-school josher, Henry Blofeld? Wodehouse meets Wilson Pickett, but it works.

Here's an illustration of the effect Soul Limbo can have on a cricket loving audience ("fooking cricket!"):

12 comments:

Brit said...

Too right, Gaw. I think Soul Limbo would be a strong contender for my Desert Island Discs... and a radio for TMS the luxury. (Especially on days like today)... Can't wait to tell Kirsty.

Gaw said...

When I next have a party - probably some time after the kids go to college - I must play Soul Limbo. It would certainly keep you in good spirits on your desert island beach.

BTW hope you post on the Ashes again.

Brit said...

I did a lot on the 2005 Ashes, but the trouble is that The Old Batsman does cricket so well that it seems a bit pointless.

As for rooted cosmopolitan, I think the Notting Hill Carnival is an interesting case. Is that multiculturalism or integretion? It's now as much a British tradition as Wimbledon or the Boat Race.

Sean said...

C4s mambo No5 is best...pure summer. cricket and girls all in one.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Some party that was: cricket, soul music and British people hugging each other.... ahh, I wish I was home again.

Another multicultural pairing that seemed so was appropriate was Winifred Atwell's Black and White Rag for BBC's snooker prog Pot Black.

Kevin Musgrove said...

Soul Limbo always seemed just right when Joel Garner and Malcolm Marshall were stuffing it up us in test matches. After that it became a part of the DNA along with the cakes, the silly nicknames and the celebrity interview. Football gets an interview with some gum-chewing child with a thickly-knotted tie. Cricket gets Rolf Harris studiously not giving away the trick with Jake The Peg...

Gaw said...

Brit: Old Batsman is very good indeed, isn't he?

Sean: That was a cracker, as a theme, wasn't it. But I don't think it's going to be used enough to become part of the furniture.

Gadj: I love that period in a party where the euphoria takes over. Bliss. I'd forgotten that Pot Black theme - it was brilliant. Funny it's about B&W, when it was colour TV that made snooker broadcast-able.

Kevin\: too right. Your fellow Mancunian (I think), Athers is very good isn't he? Well worth reading and listening to.

Football is just downright depressing. The arrival of MidEast oil money is hardly going to improve things. Looks like Stevie G could have been a decent middle-weight though, if he gets sick of the money...

Brit said...

Football depressing? How can you say that on the day that Sven Goran Eriksson joing Notts County?


That does look like a great party.

Brit said...

joing...

Good word, I've coined it.

Gaw said...

Brit: I thought that had to be some sort of goke. But it wasn't - can things get any more strange and seedy? Yes, I'm sure they can.

Mind you, theatrical blood being used in rugby is something that you wouldn't really have thought likely. The scandals used to involve real blood!

Brit said...

Fake blood! See, this is what professionalism gets you.

Interesting that you get a much harsher ban for fake blood than for real eye-gouging.

Sneakiness is a greater crime than brutality.

Gaw said...

'Sneakiness is a greater crime than brutality.'

All the press comment has been the other way, but I think that's an excellent point. Quite Barnesian (Simon, not Stuart).