In three recent posts ((1) Bands with which I used to jam: Lusting after Mary, Steel Fury, Three Lesbian Folksingers, (2) Kommunizm (Egor Letov) - Stop The Rolling Stones, and (3) Rock is Dead, and I Know who Killed it) I was able to explain exactly why rock and roll died. The first was some memories of my service as a humble foot soldier in the army of Rock, the second meditations on how Rock died (and punk and genuine industrial music arose) in the Soviet Union, and the third pulling all of that together to show exactly who killed Rock. Of course, good analyst that I am, I have thus discerned conditions necessary for Rock to live. These are
- Being within fifty years of a folk musical culture rooted in catchy melodies where most people who can play instruments do play instruments.
- Being within fifty years of a time when copyright was not enforced well.
- A social milieu where it is not utterly irrational to collectively hope for things to get better.
Of course none of these things any longer hold in the United States (see the third post above for the argument).
Thus it seems to me that all of us former footsoldiers in Rock's Army really need to be asking ourselves the following empirical question. Are any parts of the world that do satisfy all three of these conditions?
My guess is that the best options are Brazil, Turkey, recent Arab Spring states (if things go well), and those sub-saharan African contries that have had really good decades (this never makes it in the American news). Possibly Indonesia as well?
I don't know enough about the ecosystem of folk music in Arab countries or Indonesia. One thing I think that might hinder rock there is that Muslim worship does not use music like Christian (especially evangelical and charismatic) worship does. I may be biased here, because I learned to play guitar myself in a charismatic church (as a child I actually provided background music to several violations of the laws of nature, and probably would not have become a philosopher had I not reacted as a child so strongly against the serial hypocrisy of Christian conservatives). But it is just true. So much of the blues and early rock had a symbiotic relationship with American Christian churches, for example Jerry Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart are first cousins and in fact learned to play piano together both at church and at honkytonk bars they'd sneak out to as teenagers.
This being said, several people have told me that Constantinople has perhaps the most exciting music scene in the world today, with what people are doing with traditional Turkish folk tunes in the manner that early rock took from the blues and Appalachian music (actually blues and Appalachian and Cajun music were all influencing each other long before recordings), and some of the music from Tahrir, Tunisia, and Libya was pretty amazing.
Who knows how all this will turn out? But just as it gives me great joy to know that it is not impossible that there is some planet in the universe with creatures like us, but not nearly so flawed, it gives me great joy to know that Rock may be being reincarnated as I speak in entirely different cultural millieus.