PLAYLIST: Best of March

Peru, Ukraine, Sweden, Chile, South Korea, Spain, Brazil, Japan, Slovakia, Guatemala, Poland, Turkey, Czechia, Jordan… 44 great songs from around the world on Spotify.

If you like it – also check out our previous playlists.

Covid-19 stories: Apart from this new playlist, we asked our correspondents from China, Italy, Argentina, Ukraine, New Zealand and Belgium to tell us about the situation in their countries, how it impacts local music & them personally.

Each of them also gave us one song of hope. Find it below!

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Covid-19 stories

William Griffith, China:

Living in China has been strange to say the very least during these times… watching slowly how the music scene reacted and tried to navigate the pandemic has been both equally enlightening and frightening. I hosted a pair of farewell gigs (I’m in the process of moving from Beijing to Shanghai which as you imagine has been put on hold since then) the week before the lockdowns in Hubei began. Bittersweet, terrifying, and lucky I was. And while I was visiting family over in Singapore over the Chinese New Year holidays, you could sense it was only going to get worse as gigs began being cancelled left and right all the way through April.

The weight of what has happening didn’t hit truly until I returned to Beijing where I was forced to partake in a 14-day quarantine in the comfort of my home. And while initially I was a bit annoyed at said restrictions to my life, it was clear the situation was indeed dire and it was for the better. Everything was shut down for most of February/March anyway so it didn’t change too much in terms of options.

What was most amazing though was how the music scene quickly adapted to the situation – artists locked down began live streaming from their bedrooms; old concerts were being replayed to keep ears at ease; DJ sets unfolded across television screens across the country, and soon enough venues and labels were actively organizing livestreams every weekend, throwing bands in empty audience less venues to perform. It’s strange when all the sudden you have a handful of ‘virtual gigs’ to attend to – switching from one to another as if you’re flipping through television channels (I managed to even sneak in a song request via text message to one friends set).

Just last week Chengdu Community Radio hosted a live outdoor concert in a local park amongst the blossoming trees. And while folks are eager to get out and about again (and in some cities, clubs are already testing the waters and are reopening), it’s good to know that the music will be there no matter what despite the monumental financial losses the industry at every level is facing.

Presently, I’m out of quarantine and there’s a slight bit of normalcy to people’s lives here in China – we even managed to attend a park last weekend and were surprised it was full of people (face-masks still being worn) looking to enjoy themselves and reconnect with friends. But we’re not out of the woods yet, and the music scene in particular will have to be patient until everything settles down completely. But when the fog clears, I think going out to shows is going to be at the top of everyone’s list. Till then, throw on that new album and keep safe.

#SongOfHope: It’s a song from a Wuhan band SMZB (生命之饼), called “Ten Thousand Ways To Rebel” (一万个反抗的方式)

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Stefano Bartolotta, Italy:

I live in Lombardy, the region with the vast majority of infections and casualties in Italy, and with more or less 20% of the world’s totals. My city, Milan, is not in a terrible situation yet, but things are getting worse in the last few days. Hence, when I go out of home to go to the supermarket (I only do it for this reason, otherwise I stay home), the atmosphere is surreal and depressing.

Of course, all kinds of public events are cancelled, and, as it’s happening almost everywhere, a lot of musicians are making videos of themselves performing at home. You can enjoy several live performances every day, and this can actually be helpful for your mood. There are also a couple of popular hashtags that can help catching all of these videos, like #iosuonoacasa (I play at home) and #stayon. Musicians are very often taking this opportunity to promote fundraising for this health emergency.

During the last month, there were a lot of great releases in Italy: albums, EPs or singles by more or less 20-25 artists or bands. This is not related to the virus, it was already planned, and it’s helpful for us staying at home because the average quality is really good, and we have more time than before to listen to music. I work from home, and I can’t listen to music in my office because I have to speak a lot with other people, but from home, I can do my job and listen to music. Now, almost no-one is postponing releases because of the virus. Only one band I like, Perturbazione, decided to do so and release the new album one month later than originally scheduled.

There’s a lot of fear that independent musicians and promoters, who rely on touring for most of their incomes, will suffer significant financial losses, and it’s not easy at the moment to imagine how impactful can these damages be for them. The bigger tours, the ones set in arenas and big clubs, are all being postponed until in Autumn, and, if they go on like this, who thought about touring from October to December may not be able to do it because all the slots are being grabbed by who was supposed to tour in Spring. We’ll see how it goes.

About what kind of music we’re listening to, I think that everyone should speak for themselves. Personally, I’m realising that I can’t listen to quiet and delicate music, and I need something strong instead. It doesn’t have to be loud, but it has to be intense, because there’s already too much quietness around, so I need something to shake me up.

#SongOfHope: It’s called “Non è per sempre”, which means “It’s not like this forever”, by Afterhours.

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Rodrigo Piedra, Argentina:

I’m writing this on my 10th day of quarantine. As lots of other local industries, live music has been shut in Argentina. My last concert was Black Flag in their first ever visit to Buenos Aires, on March 7th, the last weekend with live music in the city.

Since then, as in many other countries, artists, managers and labels quickly started to make online shows and even virtual festivals. It was always a marketing tool, but now seems to be the only way to approach the audiences and to stay in touch with the fanbase.

This led to some other questions, like the gear needed for a decent live streaming, or how to resolve technical problems in total isolation. At the same time, releases are not being posponed, which implicates a new way of promo. We’re all learning in the way.

#SongOfHope: El Magnetismo – “El Mató A Un Policía Motorizado“, which was also used in a government spot recently.

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Dartsya Tarkovska, Ukraine:

The quarantine started in Ukraine on March 12 and was supposed to last for three weeks. Needless to say, that concert agencies and ticketing companies felt huge pressure due to plenty of concert rescheduling and cancellations for that period. Music Export Ukraine held a poll among industry professionals about COVID-19 impact. It turned out that 53% of artists had to cancel up to 10 gigs in Ukraine and abroad. All in all Ukrainian industry risks to loose 30-50% of the planned income if the situation remains the same. This week quarantine was extended until April 24 and some say that it will take even longer. Now industry needs to figure out how to keep on working without the most profitable part of it – live industry.

On top of that, the government is willing to stop financial support of any cultural and sport activities to strengthen healthcare instead. Despite all reasonings, this decision can have a destructive result on the culture. Ukrainian cultural managers are trying their best these days to be heard and convince the government not to do that. On another hand, it’s amazing to see how artists and some music companies remain supportive to their fans. Ukrainian music media Slukh is doing a marathon of online concerts – they’re going to stream gigs of emerging Ukrainian artists every day until April 3. Ukrainian music label Masterskaya and online radio Artistocrats.fm also initiated a set of Friday online gigs and parties.

All of us need to understand that temporary quarantine measures are going to have a huge impact on our lives – both personal and professional. Industry needs to come up with new ways to keep things going, but for now everyone’s too disoriented and shocked to be creative about it.

#SongOfHope: DakhaBrakha just released their new album and there’s one special song – “Vynnaya Ya”. For some reason it made me smile and dance and I listen to it over and over these days.

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Martyn Pepperell, New Zealand / Aotearoa:

Per direction from our Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden, from midnight on Wednesday the 25th of March 2020, our country entered self-isolation for at least one month. We’re staying home. Travel is restricted, most businesses have closed, except for essential services, and healthcare services are being prioritised. The government has also been busy arranging a variety of economic relief packages, which, I feel very fortunate to say, include provisions for freelancers like myself.

I’m expecting things will get worse before they get better, but I’m also very relieved. If everyone down here plays ball, we might have a fighting chance of slowing the impact of this virus and saving tens of thousands of lives along the way. Freelancing over the last few weeks has been interesting, to say the least. It’s been extremely hard to concentrate while processing local and global news updates, but I’m sure we’ll start to create new routines for ourselves over the coming weeks. Even when it feels like the whole world is grinding to a stop, life goes on, especially for all the frontline essential service workers, in particular, medical workers, who will be pulling some of the longest shifts of their lives while they work to help us get on top of COVID-19.

Thinking about this pandemic presents a quandary for me. In a sense, it’s looking like it will become a universal experience, but at the same time, it really won’t be at all. As a result of where we live in the world, our wealth level, family situation, line of work, etc., our experiences will differ dramatically. I worry a lot about how this will change us and hope that we find ways to stay kind and learn from it, rather than closing off and hardening our hearts.

As always, music is a refugee of sorts for me, and I’m sure for some of you as well.

#SongOfHope: “Prove Me Wrong” by MC Jam & DJ Jam, a slice of early 90s street soul full of honesty and social aspiration.

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Brett Summers, Belgium:

Optimist tot in de kist, that’s how we describe an eternal optimist in Dutch. Literally this translates as: optimist until the coffin. It is also a good way to describe myself, I tend to always look on the bright side of life. Therefore it took me some time to oversee the impact of this whole corona thing.

While at first I was mainly worried about the financial impact, getting a big share of my monthly income from deejaying at parties and before/after concerts, I quickly realised that all the measures taken were very important, and not just for vulnerable people.

Seeing countless gigs, festival and non-musical events getting axed worldwide really makes me sad. I can only hope that everybody realises that we are the only ones who can save our summer, by sacrificing (a big part) of our spring. Let’s hope we will be able to see bands on stages in June, July and August. Be careful and stay safe.

#SongOfHope: Marble Sounds’ “Leave a Light On“, not sounding too happy but very hopeful.

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