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There are those days when cynicism goes out the window and you finally meet someone who actually knows what they’re talking about and, despite their age, have a very real and great respect and curiosity for and knowledge of the past about music.

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And so it was last night where amidst some who were trying too hard to prove themselves and be accepted and where the term “jazz” was bandied about for every artist from Adele to Amy Winehouse, here was this soft-spoken young girl strumming my face with her fingers through her very focused plans to further her education in Jazz with a deft knowledge of the work of Chet Baker, Horace Silver, Esperanza Spalding, the original Dave Brubeck Quartet, Larry Coryell etc.

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Like the new “leisure time practice” of selfies and photo bombing, this wasn’t an evening knee deep in name dropping. It was a free flowing imparting of stories, thoughts and ideas between two people from different generations with music bringing them together.

It’s been said here before and it will be said here again and again, but without a knowledge of the music and music makers and wordsmiths and musical storytellers from the past, it’s tough, nay impossible, to create today- impossible without asking how they did it- how the Beatles created and gave the world everything they did, warts and all.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBYBOMTJ0sQ

How do the Stones keep rolling and how has that team of Jagger-Richard endured and how has The World’s Most Elegantly Wasted Man and the Human Riff come up with such a catalogue of Iconic Rockarama?

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How can someone be a “jazz bassist” without ever having heard the breaththrough music made by Joni Mitchell with the incredible Jaco Pistorious who came and left this world with a renegade spirit that was there in his lifestyle and all the music he produced?

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Renegade spirits- Lennon, Dylan, Neil Young, Bowie, Brian Wilson, Brian Eno, Keith Richard, Tom Waits, Rickie Lee Jones, Miles Davis, David Byrne, Todd Rundgren, Henley, Scott Engel…the list is endless with such brilliant storytellers like Ray Davies of the Kinks, the hugely underrated Jimmy Webb and all those song cycles he wrote before twenty, the musical chameleon that has always been Joni Mitchell and the heart on your sleeve songs of artists like James Taylor, Nick Drake, Elvis Costello, Cat Stevens, and that incredible song that is “A Man Of The World” by the fragile soul who was Pete Green in the first chapter of Fleetwood Mac who, like Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett and Brian Jones, shone on like a crazy diamond before fading out.

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“It’s in the SONG, man” is something that was instilled into me throughout this lifetime odyssey where music has been the soundtrack to my life.

It’s that need to go back to the past to keep my ego in check when getting lost, dazed and “elevated” in Hong Kong’s notorious big fish in a small pond syndrome where way too many average musicians become what they’re not through a combination of music’s Peter Principle and an incestuous and cliquey small-town music scene where too much time is spent talking and not enough on creating- whether the results are hit or miss.

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Accidents are all part of the growth process. It keeps one honest. It pushes one to go back to that drawing board and find new ways of saying, “You left me and I feel so miserable, I want to slit my wrists and watch the rivers of blood spill over” without succumbing and becoming a simpering, whimpering fool like the music of the mawkish James Blunt.

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Those singer-songwriters who keep recycling the same songs and wondering why no music publishing deals have come their way need to wake up and realise that their “originals” are either unoriginal by being derivative, or else a lazy approach to thinking that stringing a few words together that mean nothing over the same tired chord formations in a minor key will do.

This resignation or lack of being in touch with the progress of music results in what happened recently with Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me”- a beautiful song, yes, but- and coincidentally- with a chorus that bears such a resemblance to “I Won’t Back Down” that the songwriters of that song- Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne- are now credited as co-songwriters of the Smith hit.

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Though we might all share a love and passion for music, we’re all different and approach this subject in different ways.

To some it’s a full-time gig and any full-time gig must be tempered with a combination of commitment, creativity and business and common sense. It’s called creative financial survival.

Others are on the periphery of the music scene and are either music fans, and also music fans able to offer working musicians the emotional, creative and financial support needed.

Put it all together into one melting pot and it’s a gumbo of different agendas with no one person ever being always correct.

Me, I have outgrown Hong Kong and probably most of Asia. Those years with Universal and then EMI Music exposed the corruption, bollocks, bullshit and dysfunction that continues to exist in music companies where, simply put, decades old problems have been allowed to carry on regardless with mediocre talent- another example of the Peter Principle- being promoted purely because of that age old practice of sucking up to Head Office. And you know who you are.

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The problem, ironically, is when these people leave, or are kicked out, because, unless living under a rock, music companies are losing businesses and where a recording contract with them means diddley squat to an artist’s bank account.

Many- too many- of those who walk away from music companies or music industry-related companies like music channels and “management” are, invariably, “the enemy within” with that old attitude of wanting everything for nothing, hiding behind cons that they’re here to “save the music”, and, like many musicians who wonder why they have yet to kiss the sky, a lack of respect for and a total disinterest in music, musicians and improving an art form that is getting away from us too easily and too quickly and ending up in the hands of those who have fucked it up once and who should never ever be allowed near it again. And you know who you are.

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They had their chance to do something worthwhile and they blew it.

The same goes for artists who are afforded opportunities and squander these for a pocketful of mumbles that are sometime promises.

Both need to be drummed out or ignored as we re-start that musical engine with a renewed sense of purpose instead of running around like headless chickens trying to be all things to all people, pleasing no one including yourself and so giving as to end up being too easily impressed by mediocrity.

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Hans Ebert
Chairman and CEO
We-Enhance Inc and Fast Track Global Ltd
www.fasttrack.hk