When the Ivy League MBA’s started to take over Hollywood some years ago, pitch meetings were no longer about the subject and tone of a film, it became about merging two films into one. For example, an aspiring filmmaker had to pitch his project as “Blade Runner meets Jurassic Park” rather than a thoughtful explanation of the subject and tone of the film he wanted to make. In essence, the studio heads giving the green light to a picture knew little about the art, they knew money and if you could boil your concept down to two pictures that made money, you could get a green light. Now that a generation or two has passed, that thinking has seeped its way into other art forms as well. Granted, in this day and age, an aspiring musician does not need a green light from a multi-billion dollar, multinational corporation to make an album but I hear that way of thinking even in the music business these days, albeit at the end of the process rather that at the beginning. A band trying to attract “ears” and sales must compare its music to other music that listeners may be familiar. This is especially true for indie bands that want to attract an audience.
The Great Game is a band put together by Mounzer Sarraf, a Belgian / Lebanese composer. The band combines a wide variety of musicians with diverse backgrounds and styles and according to their press, is a democratic band where each member theoretically contributes equally. What they have achieved is nothing short of interesting. In the parlance of today’s classification game, they are equal parts Talking Heads, King Crimson and Zappa’s Mothers. The instrumentation is all over the place with horns, accordions, and of course guitars, bass and drums. They combine world beats with rock, blues and Latin idioms to create a style of music all their own. It may have a difficult time appealing to the mainstream but anyone looking to broaden their musical horizons should pick up a copy of their self-titled album released in early March of this year. In keeping with the “democratic” spirit of the band, this album is available for free on their website alongside a link to a crowd funding campaign to support the band if you so desire. In the tradition of a European street busker, The Great Game is not afraid to put their music out there for free and if the recipient is so moved, they can leave a donation at their Indiegogo campaign. A novel approach for a novel band.
Uncle Duke; a.k.a. Rob Penland is the producer and host of "The Mad Music Asylum" a 4 hour weekly syndicated radio show and now a 24 hour streaming internet station.