Watching the tunes – 6 music documentaries

Crossing the bridge – The sound of Istanbul
Filmmaker Fatih Akin takes us on a journey through the city of Istanbul, introducing the audience to a wide cross section of the local music scene. German musician Alexander Hacke from the band Die Einstuerzenden Neubauten serves as a guide and sound engineer, recording sessions in all sorts of places – street squares, bars, a boat on the Bosporus. At the same time, Akin, who is German born of Turkish descent, explores themes of East and West, home, belonging and identity.

The punk singer
The punk singer is the story of Kathleen Hanna, front woman of the band Bikini Kill and Riot Grrrls’ first lady. Following her career from the very beginnings of the Riot Grrrl movement in the early 1990s, the documentary delves into reasons why Hanna suddenly dropped off the radar and ended her music career, seemingly premature. The film is not only a fascinating portrait of an inspiring woman and artist, but also a great lesson in feminism and rock music.

El Gusto
In the narrow, winding streets of Algiers director Safinez Bousbia uncovers the story of a long forgotten orchestra of Jewish and Muslim musicians playing Chaabi music. Fascinated by their stories and the music that they played, Bousbia sets out to discover what happened to the musicians. Torn apart by the Algerian War of Independence (1954-62), they are now brought back together after almost 50 years.

Twenty feet from stardom
Most of us would have heard of the Rolling Stones, Sting, Bruce Springsteen and Michael Jackson (unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 50 years…) But probably less people are familiar with Darlene Love, Judith Hill, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, Tata Vega and Jo Lawry. They are the back up singers behind the big stars and this American documentary tells their story. It’s an exclusive look behind the scenes in which the background singers emerge from the shadows.

Benda Bilili!
Following a group of street musicians from Kinshasa (Congo), Benda Bilili! was filmed over the course of 5 years and shows a real triumph over adversity. Despite physical disability and great poverty, the members of the band Staff Benda Bilili not only manage to produce an album, but they also get to tour the world with their music. A truly uplifting watch with tunes that will definitely get you moving.

Released in 1996, the documentary charts the rise of Grunge from small town clubs and garages in the Northwest of the US to a global pop culture phenomenon. It features interviews with all the Grunge heavyweights, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney, as well as producer and godfather of Grunge, Jack Endino, and the founders of the Sub Pop record label which was home to many Grunge bands. In addition, you get tons of fantastic live footage and an insight into how bands tried to cope with their new found fame.

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