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Introducing Pitchfork’s 25th Anniversary Project – Pitchfork

Introducing Pitchfork’s 25th Anniversary Project

A note from Editor-in-Chief Puja Patel

Pitchforks 25th

Graphic by Lindsay Ballant

I was nine years old when Pitchfork published its first review in 1996: It was a 132-word assessment of the Amps’ Pacer. I lived outside of Baltimore in an extended family of immigrants, from India and Zimbabwe, who loved music and surrounded themselves with it. My mom’s brother had a records and tapes store in their home city of Vadodara, and my earliest understanding of music was shaped by her carefully combing through the piles of mixtapes he’d send to us. Arriving in the United States in the ’80s, my parents were drawn to disco and funk and chart-topping artists like Bruce Springsteen and Tina Turner, who represented their cultural ideas of America. (Their idea of a rock canon was limited to Fleetwood Mac, the Rolling Stones, and the Beatles and, as a result, mine was, too.)

High school and–I hate to admit–movies like Almost Famous and High Fidelity brought about the realization that I didn’t have the same musical background as my friends, who had an easy familiarity with rock’n’roll via their parents’ living through its heyday. So I quietly checked out the Rolling Stone Record Guide from the library and pored over it as if it was homework, downloading classic albums as a tedious exercise that felt crucial to my belonging in a rural-suburban, primarily white town. Thankfully, a librarian noticed my constant renewals of the encyclopedic volume and pointed me to the periodicals room, which had back issues of SPIN.

When I discovered Pitchfork in college, my want to understand historical musical lineages meant I had amassed a ridiculous collection of albums, organized in mp3 form, on a huge, wheezing hard drive. The website quickly became a sort of new, dynamic record guide. In it I saw the value of discovery, of irreverence, of wanting to find the Next Big Thing before everyone else, of having a dissenting opinion just because it was my own. I felt Pitchfork’s closeness to music that was on the fringes and its wariness of the mainstream. It was the place where I discovered Arcade Fire, and the Go! Team, and Antony and the Johnsons, and its album reviews regularly appeared in debates between my friends, pretentious college radio DJs and the more mellow fans alike. As for so many others, Pitchfork became not only my go-to for keeping up with indie, but a sounding board for which to form my own judgments and spark my own discussions. It turned out that taste-building and canon-creation could be as personal as it was academic. To this day, when a new batch of reviews go up in the middle of the night, the site sees a huge spike of traffic—by the time our largely Brooklyn-based staff wakes up in the morning, a conversation around our album scores has already begun.

I’ve been a music journalist for about 15 years now, and this month marks my third at the helm of Pitchfork. I’ve worked for a lot of music magazines and websites, and seen a lot of change. Still, the role of the music critic has felt both difficult and a little unclear in the past few years, as global trauma became the forefront of every discussion, live music came to a standstill, and overdue social reckonings came with determination. For one, the racial justice movement that followed the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor also reverberated through the music industry: labels and streaming services were called upon for pay parity, musicians began to navigate where and when their voices might be used as protest, fans learned about performative and authentic allyship, journalists and publications interrogated their practices and biases.

It all reminded me of a passage from activist and academic Angela Davis’ Blues Legacies and Black Feminism, which critiques popular white male blues scholars who limit the depth and intent of music made by female blues legends like Bessie Smith. Davis writes that musical recordings and written accounts of these singers from the past are all that exists to inform the modern reader’s perspective of a formative American musical genre. She notes that music critics observed that, at Smith’s live shows, she sang racially-pointed lyrics about the consumption of her work, ones that conspicuously did not appear on her recorded music at the time—possibly because her record label found it unsavory, possibly because she didn’t want to make that music for them. Piece by piece, Davis analyzes music writing of the past to restructure the history, meaning, and impact of the blues, one of the most significant cultural traditions of this country’s history. She shows that music writers are record-keepers, that they are colored by taste, knowledge, and identity, and that music criticism, for better or worse, can help unearth new revelations long after it’s first published.

Since launching, Pitchfork has reviewed more than 28,000 albums, and published tens of thousands of news stories and features spanning 19,757 artists and counting. (Our recently launched Reviews Explorer can help you navigate some of that.) The archives hold countless treasures: early interviews with everyone from Kendrick Lamar to Lana Del Rey to Sufjan Stevens; explorations of scenes like Michigan rap and the reemergence of Japanese city pop; the journeys of genre-morphing musicians like SOPHIE and Frank Ocean; difficult reporting on prominent musicians; essays on how music makes us feel and why we listen to new music at all; lists that pinpoint the best music of the year, of a singular artist’s work, or a genre, or an entire decade of music.

To mark our 25th anniversary, we’ve spent months putting together a package looking back on the past two-and-a-half decades through a Pitchfork lens. It kicks off today with our list of the 200 most important artists of Pitchfork’s history to date, the ones who had an outsized influence on how this publication considered and listened to music. Over the next two weeks, we’ll survey the niche microgenres and technological advancements that had lingering effects on the way music is consumed. Our staffers will also revisit album scores from the archives that they’d like to quibble with, an acknowledgment of the reality that opinions and cultural contexts shift between writers, editors, and audiences with the passing of time.

To that end, we’ll also celebrate the evolution of our publication—what we’re excited about right now, and where we see music going next. In the past few years, we’ve purposefully expanded the range of music we cover, reexamined how we listen to music as a staff to allow more voices to be heard, and widened our contributor pool. Since the pandemic began, we’ve reported on the ebb and flow of the music industry, launched our Selects playlist to showcase what the staff is listening to, and reached out to our favorite independent venues across the country for a snapshot of how they were holding up. We canceled Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago due to the coronavirus in 2020, and then saw it sell out upon its return last month—a sign that a genre-spanning, inclusive lineup (including three female headliners for the first time in our history) is what music fans actually want.

Pitchfork began in a bedroom in Minneapolis, where its editor oversaw the sending of promo copies of CDs to writers around the country. In a bizarre way, the pandemic brought us full circle: we sat at home on Zoom, listening to music and occasionally teetering into the classic debate of whether the underground has gone pop, or if pop has once again co-opted the underground. Sometimes we can all agree on whether a piece of music is exciting or dull, and whether we should spotlight it amid the hundreds of new releases we get monthly. Sometimes we don’t.

That’s the joy of being here—the understanding that there isn’t one single perspective, that none of us will know everything there is to know about the history of music, nor be able to listen to all the music that there is to listen to. It’s recognizing that earnest listening, research, and a well-constructed argument are what make for valuable criticism. It’s knowing that we’re surrounded by people who are passionate and curious, who have different interests and tastes and listening habits, and who might be better versed in any given artist or genre. It’s remembering that we as a publication have the ability to shape how the stories of music are told and how this moment in time is remembered, and that we can have fun while also taking that responsibility very seriously. It’s seeing my younger self in the readers of Pitchfork now, and the ones of our future.

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Abusive Harare teacher pleads guilty, blames toothache – NewsDay


A HARARE school teacher who last week caused a social media stir after he was filmed brutally bashing a Lower Sixth student pleaded guilty to assault charges when he appeared in court on Saturday.

Talent Chingwaru, a teacher at Harare Einstein Tuition Centre, was represented by Advocate Joshua Chirambwe instructed by Mukudzei Moyo.

Chingwaru told Harare magistrate Judith Taruvinga that although he pleaded guilty to the charges, he had committed the offence while he was overwhelmed by anger due to the student’s misbehaviour.

He said when he brutally beat up the student, he was suffering from a toothache, which was stressing him and as a result, he failed to control his anger.

Taruvinga postponed the matter for sentencing to today as there was need for the complainant’s medical affidavit to be availed to the State.

Allegations are that on October 14, Chingwaru assaulted an 18-year-old student, who later made a report at Harare Central Police Station.

State papers allege that the Lower Sixth student was found in an “O” Level classroom watching movies during lesson time and he ordered him to go back to his class.

Instead, the student allegedly went to a biology classroom where he coincidentally met the same teacher. A harsh exchange of words ensued, resulting in the teacher assaulting the learner.

  •  Follow Desmond on Twitter @DChingarande1

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Plans to revive Cape film industry – IOL

WESGRO has a plan to resuscitate the floundering film industry by securing up to R17.8 billion-worth of productions and turning the Western Cape into a film powerhouse over the next five years.

The lofty target, set out in the investment and promotions latest report, is expected to create up to 18 472 jobs by the 2024/25 financial year.

The report noted that the Covid-19 pandemic struck a severe blow to the industry with it falling severely short of the past financial year’s R2.8bn target, and only managing to rake in R600 million due to a tough economy.

However, recently the City of Cape Town’s Film Permit Office said 50 productions, which included local TV series, four international feature films and commercials were being made in the Cape Town. The office had issued 671 permits in the past three months, almost double the 375 permits issued over the same period the previous year.

The sector is also pinning its hopes on South Africa having been moved off the UK’s red list, which would be a major boost for business, as the region accounts for a quarter of the province’s summer-season international advert shoots.

Wesgro’s 2020/21 annual report indicated that the unit, tasked with promoting the Cape Town and the Western Cape as a prime film location, had during the first months of the pandemic only managed to secure seven films, shows and adverts to the value of R612m. These projects had create a total 413 full-time jobs.

The figures were a drastic drop from the R2.1bn and 2 147 jobs that were netted in the previous financial year.

Head of the unit Monica Rorvik said while the pandemic brought challenges to the sectors, parts of the industry had managed to adapt quicker.

“During early lockdown, sectors such as animation, post (production) and gaming were able to pivot and grow as most production companies were able to work from home. Many companies even expanded their employee base over the past year,” she said.

“Location shooting is more seasonal, and although we lost most of last season’s foreign projects, locals were still shooting and some work was even done with foreign directors and producers being “Zoomed” onto location shoots as soon as shooting protocols and mandates allowed locals to shoot again,“ Rorvik said.

“When the rest of the world started opening up to flights, unfortunately South Africa was at a competitive disadvantage, and we lost some shine as a destination until our vaccines became available to the industry.

“The great news is that the UK travel restrictions have dropped the Red List ban on South African travellers and we expect to see more of our commercials, and catalogues, industry return. The UK is where 25% of our summer-season foreign commercials are sourced.”

Rorvik said shows like Netflix’s Blood and Water and Oscar-winning documentary My Octopus Teacher were great drivers of tourism for the province.

“The pilot with Netflix on Film Tourism was fascinating and it showed how shows like Blood and Water help drive cultural tourism. My Octopus Teacher also had such a big impact for adventure and conservation interest in coming here and experiencing our African sea forest,” she said.

“And it’s not just Netflix; we have other streamers shooting here all the time, and when we do get filmmakers here, our destination marketing team is able to offer them packages to go (and experience) other tourism offerings.”

Animation is growing in the province and creating jobs. A recently announced partnership between Cape Town-based animation studio Triggerfish and a German-funded Employment for Skills and Development (E4D) project was formed to nurture young talent. The studio is well known for movies such as Khumba and Adventures in Zambezia.

Film producer and Triggerfish’s chief executive Stuart Forrest said: “The mandate (for the project) was to stimulate and improve the resources available on the continent for animation. That came out of the fact that as a company we are doing most of our work internationally. We have TV series being produced in France, Ireland, Egypt, Uganda and Zimbabwe.”

“There is a huge disconnect given the youth unemployment problem, because our industry is still so small, but (the country) also has an incredibly resourceful and talented workforce,” Forrest said.

He said when the pandemic hit staff worked from home and the sector hired people from anywhere in the world. “The downside to that is training stopped becoming a priority. If we can train young people in Africa, it will raise the talent we have in South Africa.”

Chairperson of the Garden Route Film Commission Patrick Walton said the film industry was growing in the region and aimed to showcase itself as a prime film destination.

Earlier this year the district municipality adopted a film policy framework to help promote the area and increase investments for film. Shows like Temptation Island, Love Island, The Bachelorette and Black Sails shot there.

“A lot of work has gone into building the commission and engaging with the different municipalities to work towards a similar goal,” he said.

Rorvik said the draft film policy, which is open for public comment until October 31, seeks to provide funding mechanisms to help upcoming film-makers, which would grow the industry.

She also added flights to the province were vital in making it easier for film-makers to choose the province.

“It is incredible that film-makers from North America have many more flights to choose directly to Cape Town in season, and our connectivity to Europe and Asia has increased,” she added.

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Teacher nabbed for brutal student assault – NewsDay


A PRIVATE college teacher in Harare was yesterday arrested after a video of him brutally assaulting an 18-year-old student went viral.

Police confirmed the arrest of the Harare Einstein Tuition Centre Maths teacher, Michael Freeman Chingwaru, who was caught on camera in a fit of rage assaulting a hapless student using fists, a belt and open palms.

The teacher was widely condemned for his behaviour shown in the over one-minute-long video, where he was attacking the student while his peers were pleading with him to stop the attack.

In the video, the student did not fight back, but could only complain that Chingwaru was hurting him while he stood in a corner, defying orders for him to sit.

“The ZRP confirms the arrest of Michael Freeman Chingwaru (39), a Maths teacher at Harare Einstein Tuition centre for assaulting a student (18) at the same institution,” police national spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said.

“The Lower Sixth student was found in the ordinary level class watching some movies during lesson time and ordered to go to his class. Instead, he went to a Biology classroom and coincidentally met the same teacher, where a harsh exchange of words occurred, resulting in the teacher assaulting the complainant.”

Nyathi said school authorities should ensure that peace prevails in learning institutions at all times.

Corporal punishment is outlawed in Zimbabwe and teachers are forbidden from physically attacking students as punishment for any wrong doing.

There was speculation as to the reason why Chingwaru assaulted the student, with some claiming he had found the student in an uncompromising position with a female student, believed to be his relative.

This was after Chingwaru posted a picture of a boy, with a girl in a compromising position, claiming that was the reason for the attack on the pupil.

Another video of Chingwaru has emerged with him violently confronting a Zesa Holdings employee at the school before he was restrained.

It could not be immediately established when the video was taken, but he exhibited the same violent conduct and anger as shown in his attack on the teenage student at the school.

School authorities could not immediately comment on the incident, with the Primary and Secondary Education ministry saying investigations on the matter were underway. He is expected to appear in court soon.

Follow Moses on Twitter @mmatenga

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