Popular music and the loss of anger

Los Angeles Times

When Beyoncé released her album "Lemonade" earlier this year, it took America by surprise, and not because she dropped it unexpectedly on a Saturday evening, or that it fueled speculation that her marriage was in trouble. The singer's newest work stood out because it was unapologetically angry. Though popular music has historically served as a barometer of youth culture's discontent, and almost every meaningful evolution in pop, rock and hip-hop has come from a place of disillusionment or outrage, pop music is now one of the few areas in American culture where anger is in short supply. EDM, celebratory club music that's often lyric-free, has hands-down been the biggest draw at music festivals over the last few years. The top rapper in the country, Drake, is a docile Canadian.


Pakistani jazz group beats odds

Los Angeles Times

The unifying power of music is rewardingly demonstrated in "Song of Lahore," a classy portrait of Pakistan's Sachal Jazz Ensemble, which, despite considerable odds, gained worldwide recognition with a little Internet assist. Once the musical hub of its country's thriving film-scoring industry, the ancient city of Lahore had been effectively silenced since the late '70s by the Islamic regime of Gen. Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, relegating its once-revered musicians to the shunned lower caste. With the oppressive climate beginning to loosen up in the 1990s, businessman Izzat Majeed gathered a group of master musicians in a soundproof studio and came up with the idea of fusing their traditional Eastern sound to Western jazz, specifically Dave Brubeck's seminal "Take Five." That mesmerizing performance became a YouTube sensation (it has more than 1 million views), leading to an invitation by jazz great Wynton Marsalis to appear with his orchestra at Lincoln Center in New York. The technical and cultural challenges related to those two 2013 evenings of musical fusion have been chronicled with evident artistry on the other side of the camera by co-directors Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Andy Schocken, as well as cinematographer Asad Faruqi's gorgeous, intimate lens work.


Roli Blocks is an affordable, modular way to make electronic music

Engadget

British music-gear company Roli is mostly known for its attempts at reimagining the piano. The full-size Seaboard and smaller Seaboard Rise may bear similarities to traditional keyboards, but their rubberized, touch-sensitive buttons let you modulate, pitch-bend and slide between notes in a way that's far different from what you can do on a standard keyboard or synthesizer. However, price is a big barrier to entry -- the Seaboard Rise starts at $800, while its full-size counterpart will set you back $2,000 or more. Roli Blocks are a set of modular synth controllers that snap together and hook up to your iPhone or iPad via Bluetooth. They're tiny and inexpensive: The main controller, called the Lightpad, is a small square (less than 4 inches to a side) that sells for $179.


With 130 billion war chest, Line hunts for acquisitions to jazz up content, technology

The Japan Times

Line Corp. plans to use part of the 130 billion it garnered from last month's initial public offering to bankroll acquisitions of content and technology, transforming its messaging service into a one-stop shop for Asian social media users. Japan's most popular messaging service is gunning for companies in areas ranging from artificial intelligence chatbots and advertising to video streaming and games, including those with augmented reality features, Chief Executive Officer Takeshi Idezawa said in an interview. The Tokyo-based company has assembled a dedicated team to scope out and review possible targets across the globe. The idea is to build Line into a "smart portal," supplementing its mainstay features of chatting, stickers and games with commercial services such as food delivery, job searches and travel reservations in main markets. "We are very open-minded about the size and geography" of potential acquisitions, Idezawa said.


A year later Villanova's 'Piccolo Girl' has come to terms with her NCAA tournament social media fame

Los Angeles Times

Piccolo Girl was among the last to know she'd become "Piccolo Girl." It was just as well. Villanova had just been upset in its second NCAA tournament game. She didn't want to watch. And there she was, on "SportsCenter."