In the final years of my secondary education, in one of those summery periods in which students are more occupied with parties than studies, I came across a song of a German hip-hop band that I liked very much. The tougher style of rap and hip-hop was taking control of the airwaves, with types like Public Enemy, NWA and Tupac. I liked that, but also liked the currents that included Beastie Boys and Arrested Development. Then, as said, I heard this crazy song by German group Die Fantastischen Vier (the fantastic four). And I was sold. They made me laugh, and even though they were German (which was not a good thing in The Netherlands of the nineteen-nineties), I really appreciated their music, and the way they played with language in their lyrics. And the story telling. Continue reading →
It must have been the summer of 2004. I was getting the hang of my relatively new job, driving to clients and between their offices. Implementing software, but also: listening to the radio in the car. And that’s where I heard her first: Amy Winehouse. A wonderful new artist, super music. That summer, I saw her live. In a hall in the Hague, where I had seen many other artists (US3, for example), passed an exam, worked and debated politics during the Model United Nations. A building with personal history. She was one of the many fantastic artists on the North Sea Jazz Festival, when it was still held in the place where it belongs: The Hague. And in that summer, in that room in the Congress Centre, Ms Winehouse became intertwined with my personal history. Today, at age 27, she passed away. A troubled lady, but when capable, a fantastic artist. I hope you’ve fought your demons and can find peace now.
Early on Saturday mornings, I would go to the Oosteinde street in Voorburg, The Netherlands, to gather with my teammates for a football match. I’d go there by bike, and sometimes my parents would drive me. Mostly that was when we would have an away game. We would play our opponents for increasing duration – starting at 20 minutes per half from the age of 6 till the full 90 minutes of matchplay at the age of 17. We would gather at our club, the now no longer existing DEVJO – merged some time ago with another club of our city, but by that time I had already stopped playing about 30 minutes before the match if we’d play a home game, and an hour for an away game. Our parents would drive us there, or at least, some of the parents. For to get a team of between 11 and 14 young boys to another venue, you don’t need that many cars. And on the way, we’d sometimes listen to the radio, and even sing along with popular songs like ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’.
It all came back to me during the physical therapy I’m having now, which basically is a 90 minute workout as well. And during that time, the radio plays. Tuned to a Latvian station that plays what could be defined as pop-classics from anywhere between a day and, let’s face it, more than 30 years ago. So when I heard this song, I couldn’t help smiling a bit. And wanting to go out on the grass and try to steal a win from 11 other boys in matching outfits.
Time flies. It has been already 26 years since Dutch band Klein Orkest released their single ‘Over de muur’ (Over the Wall). The world was a different place then, especially in the place this song is about: Berlin. The wall from the title no longer exists, the division between East and West has gone; Berlin is now one again, and the German capital. But other places, like Unter den Linden, Alexanderplatz and Kurfurstendamm that are mentioned in the song are still here. And so am I for one night. A stop in our three-day trip from Latvia to The Netherlands, and my first visit. Even though the Berlin of Over de muur has changed, I can’t help but hearing it played over and over again in my head. And being happy about change.
Looking back some years, I can see myself walking a springtime sunlit street somewhere in The Hague. On my way to the video rental place. A well known one locally, mainly for their commercials on the biggest local pirate radio station. Not only did they have an extensive collection of video tapes, but they were also quite big in cd’s. One of the cd’s I rented, to get a copy on tape, of course, was one of the Fat Boys. I think the title must have been Crushin’. On it were famous songs as Jailhouse Rap, The Twist – with Chubby Checker, and of course this one with the Beach Boys. Hurray for nostalgia!
Whatever seminars you’ll go to, or topical books you’ll read, there are some parts of a culture that are recorded in songs. Not necessarily protest songs, or songs with a message, but real pop-songs. Some have become part of the culture reference framework. In The Netherlands for example, there is a song that most people associate with the last round in a bar. In a lot of bars, it was the last song played before closing time. The songs title roughly translates into “It’s time” and it tells of what happens at closing time in… a bar.
Another type is the nostalgic song, where someone tells us about how it used to be. Mistral Gagnant by Renaud is such a song. It is the story of a man sitting down with his kid and telling about how it used to be. The main point of reference is candy. The Mistrals Gagnants where little paper bags, filled with this powder that frizzles when you put it in your mouth. In each bag there used to be a small paper with a word on it. If the word was “Gagnant”, you’d won another bag.
So far thus, on the discussions on blogs and social networks. Blogs and social networks are there also for personal purposes. Like this blog. And then there is Twitter. A very personal tool, originally, intended to send that text message to all your friends by posting it once on a website. The question to answer with a tweet is “what are you doing now?”. But, people tend to use it more to answer the question “what are you thinking right now?”. And that within the limits of 140 characters. It is used in lots of different ways, and it can be very interesting. The Mars Rover was tweeting, Stephen Fry is, I am and one of the bloggers in the Lean Six Sigma arena is. But this is not a blog post arguing that businesses should use web 2.0. I think they should, but in a way that has a business rationale, and not “not to miss the train”.
This post is about a song. And how I got to it. It is about life, about how work and private life can be mixed and balanced, and how that can be wonderful. And thus, this is a blog post arguing that Life Is Wonderful. Because of a business blog, I follow the tweets of the blogger, who at one point wondered in a tweet how long you could refrain from starting to move to the music of a certain tune. This tune was a song I already vaguely knew and liked. But when I listened to it this time, it really caught me. I starting moving back and forth, tapping my feet etcetera. At work. And, I bought the album by Jason Mraz containing the song on iTunes immediately. A bonus track on that album was Life Is Wonderful, recorded live in Amsterdam. I might even go to one of his concerts in Paris, now. For me, wonderful find and small proof of how life is wonderful, indeed.
There are a couple of blogs I follow out of work interests. Especially those that are around Lean and Six Sigma. They give me great ideas that I can use in my job, and I can discuss issues there and in other places, like LinkedIn. Where these people hang out. Yet this is not a blog post to argue that everybody should have access to internet from the workplace. I think we should, but it’s not the point.
Before my first iPod, I have gone through a couple of walkmans. Autoreverse and all, so you didn’t have to flip the cassette manually. Mostly using the 90 minute tapes, on which you could fit one cd and then some extra songs, I took my walkman everywhere, like on the bike to work one summer. And with a tape, recorded from the freshly acquired Cranberries album No Need to Argue with bonus cd of four live tracks, I happily pedalled through one of the most beautiful woody parts of The Hague. My favourite song of the tape became the live version of Linger from the bonus cd. And from there it evolved to one of my favorite pop-songs ever. And always when I hear it, it reminds me of those summer bikerides through that beautiful part of The Hague.
“When the fire is smothered, the wolves will come” is what Acda en De Munnik tell me when I walk to the metro in the morning for my workdaily commute. The song, performed in Dutch, is about a guy, Herman, who reflects on his life and finds that it went differently from what he had originally planned. No more time for travels, only his journey back home where his wife awaits him with dinner. It is a song about being hung up on once set goals and not being able to cope with the way your life turned out. It is a song about people who cannot accept that the life they lead holds its own treasures, if you just stop lingering over the past and look for them in the present.
And as I listen to the song on my iPod, I suddenly realise that I am nowhere near where Herman is. Not only am I not sitting on a bench in the Vondelpark in Amsterdam, but I am walking to a metro station in Paris. I’ve been travelling across Europe last month for my job. When I woke up this morning, it was next to a beautiful girl I refer to as m/gl (Muse-slash-Love of my Life) for about three years now, and it looks that I can for quite some years to come. Yes, there is always room for improvement, but in fact, I am living the life I always dreamt of. It took Herman’s story to become aware of it.