I went with a friend to see a documentary, Searching for Sugar Man, last night. The small description in the paper intrigued her. A Detroit musician in the 1970s named Rodriguez, who released a couple of albums that did nothing in North America (but unbeknownst to him were selling as big as Bob Dylan and Elvis in South Africa and were practically the soundtrack to Apartheid.)
He disappeared after his second (what he thought to be unsuccessful) album didn’t do anything, and rumors in South Africa circulated that he shot himself on stage, or set himself on fire and died on stage after a series of bad happenings at a concert (sound issues, heckling etc.) It is really quite an interesting and inspiring documentary.
After the film, we went to grab a coffee (yes, it was midnight but yes we’re musicians.) On the walk there she said something to the effect, “Imagine if your music was famous in another country and you didn’t even know it.”
In the age of technology I would find it difficult to believe someone could be in the same scenario. Sure, places like North Korea are cut off from the majority of the internet but they’re likely also cut off from your music.
When I got home I logged onto Twitter, to see if anyone had “mentioned” me, and I noticed a couple tweets from Amazon Japan with the name of my new single, Play On, and (of course) a bunch of characters I didn’t understand.
Being resourceful I copied and pasted the Tweet into an online translator and it said, Play On is #26 on the Amazon Japan Urban/R&B digital downloads charts. Impressive in itself but by the time I got home it had already shot up to #7. And was #39 in Jazz Fusion.
I released that song over a month ago, and it had been likely been crawling up their charts all that time without me even knowing. And, I assume, a bunch of people from Japan have been walking around with my music in their ears, and my name in their mouths.
Would I have eventually found out? Probably by sales reports but those can take months to come in, and I never have known what number I charted at. So, I guess I was somewhat of my own Rodriguez for a few weeks. I mean, it’s not 30 years later, and my song isn’t inspiring social change (that I know of) but the slight relation to the documentary and irony of the conversation that night is something in itself.