Saturday, 13 March 2010

Music, underground.

I found Brussels metro surprisingly tranquil for the first few months after my arrival. However, it seems that the little accordion guys have found a way to sneak the bastards on board: you can tell an accordionist by the suspicious bundle, carried at chest height and sheathed in black plastic bags or a large black cloth. No sooner have the doors swooshed shut then, with a triumphant grin, they whip off the cover and start to force a wheezy caterwaul out of the poor battered instrument.

As soon as you see the smile spread across his little face, your heart sinks and you try to get as far away from the awful noise as possible. It is bad enough that your ears are already assaulted by canned music at each metro stop without also having to sacrifice the relative peace of the train carriage.

Now, I am not against accordion music per se: I rather admire the Ukrainian accordionists who play on the Kraków Rynek (although they have a repertoire of three - Mozart's Turkish Rondo, Bach's Toccata in Hammer Horror minor and I forget the other one. Maybe there isn't a third one). But what I appreciate most is the choice: stop and listen, or walk on by. I do not like being stuck in a tin box hurtling down a tunnel, crammed into a corner with a bloody accordionist for heavens' sake, and no 'mute' button.

The selection of platform muzak at Brussels' metro stations is eclectic to say the least. I have heard - regularly, uncensored, at Arts-Loi - a sweet little ditty from Lily Allen's latest album, entitled 'Bless you'. Well, something like that anyway. Put it this way, BBC Radio 1 can't play it: there would be no lyrics left in.

Are you kidding, Brussels? Does nobody at STIB/MIVB actually speak English?! And even if they don't, surely the One English Word that everybody knows (apart from 'ok' and 'coca cola') is precisely that one?!

In any case, at around six in the evening (at least at the weekend), the piped pop is replaced by soothing classical music: presumably to ward off the Belgian equivalent of hoodies. The classical selection is actually not too bad. Sometimes it's better than Klara Continuo (maybe it is Klara Continuo).

One of the best things about living in a pedantic country like Belgium is the sense of triumph you get when you finally find a way of undermining the system. Stand up for your rights! Refuse to submit to metro muzak! Fight fire with fire...

 ... by singing along. We wouldn't judge you.


(altogether now...

Va pensieeeero! sull'ali dora-a-a-te!

9 comments:

thestuffinbetween said...

I have no idea what the Va Pensiero was all about, but it was absolutely riveting.

Lilacspecs said...

That eclectic music thing? Not just on the metro. We went to a friend of CB for dinner once and I heard "Hey Ya" by the Black eyed Peas playing. And everyone there except maybe one guy was fluent in English. But song lyrics are different. They just seem to totally zone out on the meanings of lyrics and listen mostly to the music.

Laura and Ben said...

Who chooses the platform music? It's been puzzling me for over a year now.

We had a lovely metro journey with someone belting out "When the rumba rhythm starts to swaaaaaiiiy..." - he was really going for it, despite only knwoing 70% of the words. His enthusiastic guitarmanship made a nice change from the accordions.

scatts said...

Thanks for the Hebrew slaves, excellent stuff!

scatts said...

Thanks for the Hebrew slaves, great stuff!

(if this appears twice - it's not my fault guv! Poxy bloody Blogger comments system drives me bonkers)

scatts said...

Thanks for the Hebrew slaves, great stuff!

(if this appears twice - it's not my fault guv! Poxy bloody Blogger comments system drives me bonkers)

scatts said...

Thanks for the Hebrew slaves, great stuff!

(if this appears twice - it's not my fault guv! Poxy bloody Blogger comments system drives me bonkers)

pinolona said...

Hi Ian, how's it going? Wesołych świąt and smacznego jajka by the way...

I know, Blogger can be a pain in the arse: still possibly thinking of a switch, one day, maybe.

Isn't it a great staging/recording? I think it's the New York Metropolitan Opera - they are great, every single face tells a story, every chorus member is acting their socks off. Really excellent.

One of the choirs I sing with here performed it in a concert a couple of weeks ago, which is why it was so great that we could sing along in the Metro! (we have no shame).

scatts said...

I see it did appear twice, bugger!

Yes, fine here thanks, hope you're good too & Happy Easter to you too!

It is very well staged. Must be a fun song to do in the metro with all that reverberation and stuff going on.