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2014: a year in music

As 2014 comes to an end, I sum up my year in music. Well, according to Spotify. Apparently 45% of what I listened to was pop. I partly blame my kids for that, with whom I occasionally share my streaming account. The artist par excellence  was Sam Smith, the top album was his In the Lonely Hour and Calvin Harris’ Summer was apparently the track that I streamed the most. I can vouch for all of that.

On the move a lot, my conception of things is that I don’t listen to much music. 89% through a mobile device comes as no surprise, 26 802 minutes of streaming does.

World wide, these were the most streamed songs of 2014:

  1. Happy – From “Despicable Me 2″ – Pharrell Williams
  2. Rather Be (feat. Jess Glynne) – Clean Bandit
  3. Summer – Calvin Harris
  4. Dark Horse – Katy Perry
  5. All of Me – John Legend

Pharrell Williams’ megahit Happy was played more than 260 millions times during the course of the year. The most shared artist overall was the Brit Ed Sheeran with 860 million plays world wide.

2014 was also the year in which Taylor Swift made headlines by removing her entire catalogue from Spotify.

Here are a few personal spotify playlist recommendations for 2015:

Play! Manu Katché

News hit this summer that drummer par excellence, Manu Katché, was leaving his Münich-based record label ECM of 10 years for ACT Music, another Münich-based record label. The debut album was recorded live at the Paris jazz venue New Morning on 16 June 2014.

The change of labels is good news to the Spotify users who saw Katché’s input for ECM disappear as the German label pulled their entire catalogue from the streaming service late 2010.

The album features Italian Luca Aquino on trombone, Norwegian Tore Brunborg on sax and the Brit Jim Watson on keys.

Here’s “Beats and Bounce” from the album:

Spotify to Taylor Swift: “stay, stay, stay”

There has been plenty of turbulence around Spotify the last year or so.  Radiohead front figure Thom Yorke’s attacks on the artist royalty pay out model caused the most stir, Yorke urging all artists to boycott the the music service and  “fight this Spotify thing“, dubbing the service as the “last desperate fart of a dying corpse“. Spotify, Yorke argued, is the “last gasp of the old industry“, a greedy industry who for decades has been the major stakeholder in music sales and whose royalty and payment structures rips off artists.

Spotify’s pay out model is yet again in the spotlight as country pop icon  Taylor Swift decided to pull her entire catalogue from Spotify on Monday 3 November. Although no official reason was given, an  article Swift wrote for the Wall Street Journal  in June of this year, suggests that what artists are paid is at the core. In the article, Swift wrote of the value of an artist’s work:

In my opinion, the value of an album is, and will continue to be, based on the amount of heart and soul an artist has bled into a body of work, and the financial value that artists (and their labels) place on their music when it goes out into the marketplace. Piracy, file sharing and streaming have shrunk the numbers of paid album sales drastically, and every artist has handled this blow differently.

Swift’s decision seems to be a call-out to all artists to reject services that devalue their work through low payouts. Other sources suggests it could be an attempt to  drive sales of her new album, 1989, expected to have the  biggest first-week sales of any album in the U.S. since The Eminem Show in 2002. Swift  is one of the few artists who still drives massive sales, not just streams.

Spotify was quick to reach out to the artist and officially beg her to return through witty statements on twitter, using words from Taylor Swift songs:

Taylor Swift is one of the streaming service’ hottest artist. During the last 30 days alone, more than 16 million people have played her tracks on Spotify, and her single “Shake it off” is   the most streamed track on Spotify the last week, topping the list with over 3 millions plays.

What could be the implications of Swift’s exodus for Spotify? Swift’s departure from Spotify is definitely a setback for the streaming music service, writes  David Holmes for the Pando Daily – “How can a company claim to offer the best music service in the world if it doesn’t include what will almost certainly be the year’s best-selling album?”

Holmes suggests furthermore Apple could be a dangerous rival to Spotify in the coming months. With the forthcoming relaunch of iTunes incorporating Beats Music, Apple could “offer exclusive (and very lucrative) exclusive digital download promotions, like it did with Beyonce’s last album,” Holmes says, giving the following warning: “Huge artists like Swift could conceivably enter into an agreement with Apple to sell a new record on iTunes for its first week, before windowing it onto Apple’s streaming music exclusively. And with exclusive rights to the industry’s biggest names, Apple could annihilate Spotify and the rest with little effort“.

The future of music is still in the making.

You can read about Spotify’s royalty pay outs  here.


Spotify Family

This is music to my ears“, writes Andrew Denham, MD of Panasonic UK, of Spotify’s plans to create a family plan with 50% discount for up to 4 additional members on the same account. I am sure Denham is not the only one finding his listening session abrupted by a family member connecting to Spotify from a different location: “Up until now we’ve had to vie for control of our Spotify account. In fact, this happens most weekday mornings as my son logs into Spotify from his smartphone on the way to school,” Denham says in his entry for Huffington Post.

According to Spotify, the service will be rolling out in the next few weeks for premium users. Pricing starts at €14.99 for two users per month, €19.99 for three, €24.99 for four, and all the way up to €29.99 for all five users. Equivalent prices in the US.

“Crappy” Beer vs “Fancy” Beer

2-star Michelin chef David Chang (soucre: Wikipedia)

I hate fancy beer“, writes 2-star Michelin chef David Chang in a recent article for the GQ Magazine and adds: “shitty beer […] pairs really well with food. All food. Think about how well champagne pairs with almost anything. Champagne is not a flavor bomb! It’s bubbly and has a little hint of acid and tannin and is cool and crisp and refreshing. Cheap beer is, no joke, the champagne of beers. And cheap beer and spicy food go together like nothing else.”

Brewmaster Garrett Oliver (source: Oliver's twitter profile)

Brewmaster Garrett Oliver (source: Oliver’s twitter profile)

The brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery, Garrett Oliver, quickly fired back and stated that he “hates crappy beer.” He also hit out against the poor awareness of beer in American restaurants in Food & Wine, saying “beer is the only food or drink where if you go to a restaurant, the average customer knows more about the beer than the house, even if they have only 10 beers on the list. That’s a disaster. Can you imagine if you walked into a steak house and 70 percent of the customers knew more about steak than anybody who worked there?

Cheap beers pair well with all food? Really, Chang?

I was recently in Málaga, stopping by a craft beer shop for a quick taste of some “fancy” beers, before heading over to an upmarket and trendy new gastro bar in the city centre, where the need for a quality beverage became all too evident. They had none on the menu, and with the citrusy freshness and overall richness of a Dougall’s 942 fresh on the palate, it became quite clear that the one-size-fits-all-beer on offer didn’t bring out anything in the food, it was just incipient and dull,leaving much to be desired. My friend and I looked at each other in amazement, both realizing at the same time something was clearly missing: Why would not a trendy, ambitious new gastro bar, with an upshot young Michelin chef behind it,  have something new and fresh and bold on the beer menu?

Here’s hoping quality beer within short will be on the menu, possibly the default choice on tap, in a wide range of restaurants and bars, especially the ones pretending they have something novel and fresh going on.



Drink local: Málaga craft beers

SRW_DrinkLocal_LogoWhat’s with the concept drink local? The idea is of course to support your local brew. It is not an encouragement to stop drinking the regular brands from your supermarket, but if you think of it for a moment, they produce beer by the millions. Your local micro brewery produces perhaps only a few thousand litres a month. It is handcraft versus a totally industrialized process. Craft beer versus “Big” beer. Although there are some excellent big beers out there, the mainstream is innocuous and flavourless lager type of beer, to paraphrase Ron Lindenbusch, the Marketing Director of the successful US micro brewery Lagunitas. During most of the 20th century, beer has been dominated by large-scale manufacturers who have been, by and large, producing one style of beer. A bit boring, right?

A brief history of beer

We have been making beers for a thousand of years. In fact, ale is one of the oldest beverages humans have produced, probably dating back to 9500 BC, when cereal was first farmed. In my home country, Norway, until the 1800, no farm was complete without a brewhouse. Viking-laws had it that you could loose property and grounds, and even risk expatriation, if you repeatedly failed to brew for Winter-Solstice.

What is craft beer?

Somehow the art of brewing beer – and consuming it – got lost along the lines. Enter the micro breweries in the 1970s to bring diversity to the market. The essence of craft or artisan beer making is not a modern concept,  but the term as such originated in the UK to describe the new generation of small breweries that focused on producing traditional cask ale, as opposed to beers that had been artificially carbonated (usually by adding CO2). Particularly telling is probably the growth in local breweries (and brewpubs) in the US. In 1980 there were 90 registered breweries in the US; by 2013 the number had increased to 2 822 (cf. the US Brewers Association). Among these, 119 are larger regional craft breweries, 1 412 are microbreweries and 1 237 are brewpubs. The US is probably the most exciting brew scene right now, with small brewing companies directly employing approximately 110,273 people in 2013. It brings a whole new meaning to the phrase, “will work for beer.”

In a few years “small” may not longer fit the definition; recent studies show craft beer is now beating “big” beer in the US (CNBC and WSJ). I have no figures for Spain, but judging by the amount of local breweries that are fast emerging, and the variety of beers now available from larger supermarkets, Spain could be following suite.

There’s perhaps no exact definition of what craft beer or a craft brewery exactly is, but craft breweries are in general characterized by the fact that they are small and independent breweries who manufacture their product using the traditional ingredients of malted barley, wheat, hops, yeast and water, without any additives or artificial colouring or carbonization. Beers are matured in cask or bottle, and the process is referred to as “live beer” as the yeast keep fermenting in bottle. Some will say the whole enterprise is about being creative, others will say it is all about heart and soul. Others are simply saying that they are making beer like it always was made, before large-scale industrial breweries tampered with the process in order to mass produce beer and make it as cost effective as possible. It’s slow beer against fast beer, if you will.

Drink local is about supporting your local community, the diversity and creativity involved in beer production and levering the awareness of beer as a quality drink. Craft beer is in many ways becoming the gourmet of beers.

Local Málaga breweries

The beer scene in Málaga is rapidly growing as the cult of artisan beer is taking on. The number of restaurants offering alternatives to the traditional industrial brands are still scarce, but a number of specialized outlets can get you quickly acquainted with the world of craft beer. Most of these shops or bars carry local brews. In particular, two local brands stand out: Malaqa (Málaga) and La Catarina (Marbella).

Cerveza Malaqa

Founded by the two friends Army Nougues and Pablo López in 2013, Cerveza Malaqa is located in the San Luis polígono of Málaga, just south of the university campus. Touted as the most successful microbrewery in Málaga.

They currently offer seven distinct types of beer in their regular production:


Back to School Blonde ale 4,8% 42
Holden Wheat ale 5,6%
Brown Brown ale 6,2% 29 Centennial
Tortuga Porter 5,7% 33 Centennial, Mosaic, Citra
Kernel Panic APA 5,4% 42 Centennial, Citra, Mosaic, Simcoe
Awesome Bear Double IPA 9,2% 80 Centennial, Citra, Mosaic, Simcoe
Kosmonavt Imperial stout 10,4%

Connect with Cerveza Malaqa:

Twitter: @cervezamalaqa
Instagram: cervezamalaqa
Vimeo: Cerveza Malaqa

Cerveza Malaqa
Calle del Alcalde Guillermo Rein, 158 Málaga
29006 Málaga

952 91 10 27


La Catarina Craft Beerla catarina

The lovechild of founder Skander Allani, his partner Ignacio Garvayo and master brewer Alessio Allegretti, this brewpub opened its doors in august 2013. A year later they offered their first brew, a refreshing and floral blonde ale. Regular production now consists of six different types of brews:


Golden Mile Blonde ale 5,1% 15 Hersbrucker, Saaz, Perle
Sierra Blanca American wheat 5,3% 18,6 Chinook
Tarifa IPA 4,2%  51 Magnum, Citra
Altos Hornos APA 6,3% 62 Citra, Simcoe, Amarillo, Wakatu
De Pedro Double IPA 7,5% 90 Centennial, Citra, Mosaic, Simcoe
Cruz de Juanar Dark cascadian 6,8% 82,5 Cascade, Williamette, Amarillo, Sumit

Connect with La Catarina:

Facebook: La Catarina
Twitter: @LaCatarinaCraft
Instgram: @lacatarina

La Catarina Craft Beer S.L.
Calle Gabriel Celaya 6, Pol. Ind. La Campana
29660 Nueva Andalucía
+34 952 81 81 85

Other breweries in Málaga

Although not a brewery but a beer shop, La Domadora y el León in Frigiliana makes one of the most promising brews in the province, an APA-style ale they have dubbed a tropical pale ale: “La Axarcä“, a fruity beer with hints of mango and citrus.

Also worth mentioning is the APA of Trinidad, a family-run brewery in Alhaurín el Grande and the hoppy  APA “Project Fear” from 84 Brewers in Málaga.

Also make sure to check out:

(updated March 2016)

Drink local!


Double bass love

One of my long time favourite instruments is the double bass, also known as the contrabasse, stand-up bass or upright bass. It has been around for centuries, although it is not known who built the first ones or when they first appeared in music. According to, the earliest known illustration of a double bass type of instrument dates from 1516, however Italian chancellor Bernadino Prospero witnessed “viols as big as I” being played in 1493.(1)

The bass virtuoso Dragonetti.

The double bass virtuoso Dragonetti. Source: Wikipedia.

One of the great makers of the double bass was the Italian Gasparo da Salò (1542-1609), or Gasparo di Bertolotti, as his real name was, one of the earliest violin makers and an expert double bass player. Da Salò built some of the instruments that were later played by virtuoso venetian Domenico Dragonetti (1763-1846), perhaps the first super star bass player in history. Dragonetti was instrumental in showing the possibility of writing scores for the bass as a solo instrument, and separate from that of the cello. He met occasionally with Beethoven, whom he possibly inspired to write difficult, separate parts for the double bass in his symphonies, parts that did not double that of the cello. Beethoven paved the way for separate double bass parts, which became more common in the romantic era. The bass is notable in his Fifth and Ninth Symphonies, with the recitative at the beginning of the fourth movement of the Ninth Symphony as probably one of the most known pieces of music in history.

Bottesini with his Testore bass around 1865.

Bottesini with his Testore bass around 1865. Source: Wikipedia.

Other historical virtuoso bass players count Giovanni Bottesini (1821-1889), considered the Paginini of the double bass of his times and the Russian born composer, conductor and double bass player Serge Koussevitzky (1874-1951), music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1924 to 1949. Both men contributed to the view of the bass as a diverse and versatile instrument, encouraging both musicians to learn the instrument and composers to write music for it.

In modern times the double bass is probably more associated with jazz music than classical music. Two of the most influential double bass players the last 100 years have been the Americans Charlie Mingus (1922-1979) and Charlie Haden (1937-2014). A great crossover artist between classical and jazz is the French-born virtuoso Renaud Garcia-Fons (Paris, 1962).

For a lot more information on the double bass, read this Wikipedia-entry.

Below is a video showing that there are no limits to what you can do with a double bass. Israeli multi-instrumentalist Adam Ben Ezra uses loop recorders to create a sea of sounds and give you the impression that what you hear comes from an entire band, and not just one instrument. He is one of the new breed of musicians who use YouTube to promote their skills and artistry, and in particular the double bass as a solo instrument.

Double Bass Looping:


Notes   [ + ]

1. Bernadino Prospero was the Ferrarese chancellor of Isabella d’Este (1474-1539), the Marchesa of Mantua and one of the leading women of the Italian Renaissance as a major cultural and political figure. Her chancellor Prospero was attending a ceremony in Vigevano on 6 March 1493 honoring the birth of the heir of Ludovico il Moro in which a musical performance took place, entrusted to “those Spanish musicians which the Most Reverend Monsignor Ascanio of Rome sent” and who played on, as Prospero reported, “viols as big as I” (Source:

Sublime soprano Gheorghiu

Despite certain vocal mannerisms, which has not made her a favourite among the purists, and despite a reputation for being a conceited, demanding and difficult diva, Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu (Adjud, Romania, 1965) remains one of my favourite female voices. The plaintive character of her voice, so suited to Puccini, is mesmerising and a trait, I wonder, of Romanian sopranos in particular (listen to fellow Romanian voice Illeana Cotrubas).

Gheorghiu is often cited because of her looks. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph in June 2013, she said that “Before me, an opera singer did not need to be beautiful. Because of me, the audience now expects everything: a whole package” suggesting that today you cannot survive in this art form only on a beautiful voice.

Here she is in a promo video for her 2011 EMI release “Homage to Maria Callas”, singing the aria Ebben? Ne andrò lontana from the composer Catalani’s opera “La Wally” (1892).