Friday 14 August 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 14/8/2020

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Fernando Augusto Pacheco

Change of chart

My passion for music charts started at an early age and, ever since, I’ve remained obsessed with what people are listening to. One of the reasons why is that they provide an often surprising window into a society’s cultural tastes. For example, not many people realise that the charts in my native Brazil are dominated by country music. Sure, samba and funk are popular but if you look at the numbers, you’ll see that Brazilians prefer the melancholic cheekiness of country.

Now that I’m living in the UK, I’ve grown to love some of the novelty acts in the British charts (though they have been full of rather dull and predictable singer-songwriters for the past few years). But this week, while working from our sunny Zürich HQ, I’ve been reminded of the unusual musical tastes of the Swiss. I admit that I’m not very familiar with many of the country’s acts, other than Yello and DJ Bobo, but it’s the diversity that makes Switzerland’s charts so interesting. They’re amazingly international – and I don’t just mean that they listen to acts from the UK and the US.

Take a look at the Swiss charts and you’ll find strong influences from its French and Italian cantons, as well as a particular Latin flavour. Oh, and lots of German rap. In this week’s charts, Aya Nakamura (pictured), the great French-Malian popstar, is in the Top 10 with her latest single “Jolie Nana”. There’s also a new viral sensation: “Jerusalema” from South African musician Master KG. And they are just a couple of the attractions. If you would like to hear the others – and I would recommend that you do – take a listen to yesterday’s episode of The Briefing on Monocle 24. Every Thursday, I present the Global Countdown, which looks at the top five singles in a given country. Yesterday it was Switzerland’s turn. Tune in – and prepare to have your preconceptions challenged.

Image: MEGA

Diplomacy / France

Leading man

Emmanuel Macron announced plans to expand France’s military presence in the eastern Mediterranean this week, responding to Ankara’s perceived overreach in disputed natural-gas-rich waters between Turkey, Greece and Cyprus. The move follows the French president’s swift intervention following the explosion in Beirut last week, when he spearheaded a conference that raised €250m in aid and pushed for a new national-unity government after the Lebanese cabinet’s mass resignation. “Macron is taking the role of custodian of the region,” says Fadi Hakura, manager of the Turkey Project at Chatham House, stressing that France has the strongest military of all the EU nations as well as a long history of involvement in the Middle East. As the US reduces its presence in the region, Macron (pictured) has been careful to co-ordinate a strategy with Washington that maintains France as a powerful Western presence. “He realises that if he didn’t, other countries – such as Turkey, China or Russia – would step in,” says Hakura.

Image: Getty Images

Media / USA

Rolling news

The Tribune Publishing Company is to close the newsrooms of five of its papers across the US. This includes the Lower Manhattan offices of New York’s Daily News (pictured), once the country’s largest-circulation tabloid, and one of just two remaining big tabloids in New York. The move comes as newspaper staff enter their fifth month of working remotely. With desks empty and the economic fallout of the pandemic eating away at advertising revenue, the temptation for publications to shut down expensive offices is clear. But it’s all too easy to underestimate the value of newsrooms.

A face-to-face exchange remains the most effective way for editors and writers to hash out complex ideas. What’s more, even a small building can – if thoughtfully designed – boost the prestige of a publication and the morale of its staff. “Something that we’re losing in all of this is that place is about culture for a business,” said Monocle’s editor in chief, Tyler Brûlé, on Monocle 24’s Late Edition in June, after the Miami Herald moved out of its offices. “It’s very difficult to create a culture over fibre-optic lines and across screens.”

Image: Shutterstock

Urbanism / London

Street smart

London’s Oxford Street is set to get a £235m (€260m) makeover, helmed by the urban design and public-realm consultancy Publica. It will be a mammoth task to upgrade one of the world’s most well-known shopping destinations. The new plan aims to turn the thoroughfare into a district that will be more welcoming to pedestrians, with less traffic, improved air-quality levels, more public art and better street furniture. It comes at a crucial time for stressed businesses, which need all the help they can get to bounce back from the economic crash caused by the pandemic. But plans to overhaul Oxford Street often run into problems. In 2017, London mayor Sadiq Khan launched a public consultation on proposals to pedestrianise the area but it didn’t get as much support as anticipated. Indeed, many residents and shop owners were angered by the scheme, which they thought would simply displace traffic and hit fragile profits. By tasking Publica with this new plan, Westminster City Council has signalled that it’s determined to change the street – but nobody will be happy if quality-of-life improvements lead to shuttered businesses.

Image: Getty Images

Culture / Berlin

Putting the art in party

Museums and galleries in Berlin reopened months ago but one fundamental slice of the city’s cultural scene remains hindered: nightclubs are either closed or subject to strict restrictions that allow a few people in but forbid them from dancing. Yet the German capital’s most infamous venue, Berghain (pictured), is refusing to let its dancefloor languish without punters. Known for its cavernous halls, long opening hours, notoriously unpredictable door policy and liberal attitude to sex on the premises, the club is now planning to reopen its doors as a temporary art gallery from 9 September. Olafur Eliasson, Wolfgang Tillmans and Tacita Dean will be among more than 80 artists to have provided works made during lockdown for the exhibition. Set up in collaboration with collectors Karen and Christian Boros, the show will be music to the ears of those who’ve missed their late-night trips to Berghain – though it’s unlikely that the art will shock the regulars.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Vietcetera and HubbleHQ

James Chambers talks to American entrepreneur Hao Tran, the co-founder of Vietcetera, a lifestyle-focused media company based in Ho Chi Minh City. Plus, we meet Tushar Agarwal, co-founder and CEO of HubbleHQ, a platform helping companies to find their perfect office space.

Gunsan: building on the past

Natives and newcomers to Gunsan in South Korea are creating quirky bars, art spaces and a bright future for this charming outpost.


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