Saturday, June 28, 2008

1 Giant Leap for Mankind

A decade ago global multimedia convergence was merely a moon shot business paradigm, an open-ended concept flying right off the edge of the known world. For the machine mind, lacking the bandwidth to make all human expression available to the consuming audience, it was like an oversized Great Pumpkin being push through a hand-cranked meat grinder. It was only for a fortunate elite of prosumer guinea pig geeks who cared to spend five grand for a PC on steroids, usually the type of people who were featured wizards for Wired Magazine or who freelanced data crunching modules for the NSA, who could manage to collect RAM like speed-obsessed silver speculators.
Now, though, it’s common to find art instigators using their machines as magical wands for producing intelligent life. Almost every conceivable type of performance is rendered handy through a laptop as cumbersome as a coffee-table book with more amped-up power than the first Apollo missions, which spits out and picks up all of this thrilling cultural stream from out of the thin air.
Your mileage for all of this techgnosis may vary.
1 Giant Leap’s mileage just happens to be limitless. Just as long as the duo, consisting of Jamie Catto and Duncan Bridgeman, doesn’t mind going in circles, globally. Taking this step for mankind to another advanced conclusion, they’ve managed to move a convergent media franchise forward for undeterred post-pop positivism. The kind that spawns a globe-trotting travelogue to reach medicine men, movie stars, progressive thinkers, artisans, singers, rappers, poets, authors, philosophers, pretty much anyone with a great creative vibe. They turn all of this gaia stuff into movies and world music-goes-ambient CDs, all to be broadcast on every conceivable medium, all of it to a great, dancing beat.
For you hardline lefties out there ready to dismiss 1 Giant Leap’s one-hundred-beat per minute drive to soak up the world’s cultural zeitgeist, their second film and CD release, “What About Me?,” can hardly be accused of typical imperial Brit appropriatin’. It’s more like 1 Giant Leap offers the world its rhythms, asking the whole planet to appropriate them.
As Catto said recently, “We have an amazing network of people who we think are stunningly talented and we hook them up with other people that are stunningly talented to get cool people working together.”
1 Giant Leap is, is nothing else, is an observance on how film and music are both sold at the same bazaar in the global village square.
Catto, 40, has for a couple of decades honed his skills as one of the founding members and ballad singer of Faithless, a music group from the same collaborative generation as Prodigy and the Chemical Brothers. After the singer/songwriter became the art director and video director for the band, he left in 1999 to form 1 Giant Leap as a project. In doing so, it formed out of his own chaotic collection of skills as photographer, script editor and arteur catalyst a perfect Coke bottle for inviting the world to sing.
There's no discrimination between art and entertainment, nor need to disenfranchise anything. What you end up with, in “What About Me?” is an audiovisual project bringing together performers and thinkers from around the world. The effect on the screen bombards your singed-globe sensibilities in much the same style as “What the (Bleep) Do We Know?”
Reached for a brief chat amid the creative chaos of his life by the telly from London, Catto seemed to both like and distance himself from that caparison, saying, “It feels good that (What the Bleep) did well, but it wouldn’t do to say they influenced us. More like, it was the other way around.”
The first film by Catto and Bridgeman, an experienced director and producer with such film credits as “Bulletproof Mask” and “Lady in the Water, was called “1 Giant Leap.” Nominated from a Grammy, the film and album/DVD was recorded on a six-month trip around the world and includes musical and spoken-word contributions from Michael Stipe, Kurt Vonnegut, Dennis Hopper, Brian Eno, Baaba Maal, Tom Robbins and Arrested Development, among others.
But if combining Stipe for a song with Asha Bhosle, or Eddi Reader with the Mahotella Queens and Revetti Sakalar, might seem a tad complex, they are pretty Thoreau in the simplicity of their approach. Their chief items in the travel bag: The laptop and video camera.
“When you walk into some village in Africa, we don’t have a have a 16-member crew, which certainly makes it easier to get around,” he says. “To keep it low key is really useful. So we have a three-member crew. That includes two men and one woman.”
Having a woman on the team gives the group more access, he says. “People trust women more, I think.”
In Britain, the band makes its initial tracks to sing to with a 10-piece band, and then spreads the quantum vibe outward from there.
“We are just trying to put together the most inspiring people, the most inspiring singers ... the most inspiring everything that can be made.”

-- Douglas McDaniel

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