Friday, May 23, 2008

Seven songs - and then some

So, the Seven Songs meme demonstrated what a great corner of the blogosphere I live in. It reached me neighbourhood via Richard S (Bob's choice: Chic "Everybody Dance" [cf Darren here] and Danny Kaye "Inchworm" (I had that LP when I was a kid!!)). Then on to Andrew (Bob's choice: Curtis "Move on Up"), who tagged me, along with Max, whose list included three of the greatest songs ever (Nina Simone's "Sinnerman", Paul Simon's "Slip Sliding" and Curtis' "People Get Ready").

Max tagged Rob, who tagged Catavino, who came up with a great selection of Spanish flavours, which made my mouth water. And Max tagged Kate, whose list gets extra points for linking to my Estelle/Duffy/Adele post. From Kate on to Beaman (featuring Yehudit Ravitz and some cool Polish ska) and the Meehan (featuring some quality grime).

I tagged Martin, who came up with another great list featuring the amazing Mariza and good old Bruce Springsteen. Martin tagged Shuggy, who broke all the rules, brilliantly, and Paulie, whose list include a couple more of the greatest songs ever (Rotary Connection "Black Gold of the Sun" and Roy Ayers "We Live in Brooklyn Baby").

I tagged Noga, whose list is also great, and features Sergio Mendes and Wasis Diop. Noga tagged the New Centrist (who only broke the rules a bit, and has an amazing selection, complete with Rapidshare downloads. So many highlights, but Jacob's Optical Stairway reminded me of an old flatmate I once had, who has since fallen on hard times, so that was poignant for me) and Salma (whose lovely list is Leonard Cohen-heavy (which is good by me) and a wonderful Persian version of "Windmills of my Mind", which she has uploaded for us to share).

And I tagged Richard, of Rough In Here, whose list is extraordinary. It spun me off on a journey that included SoundRoots, BKLYN, SoulBlending, Aurgasm and Masala.

Max and Richard both tagged Transpontine, whose list is superb. The Kode9 track with the Spaceape vocal is way cool - see here. I also liked "Portal", on the same album, which I found at Missing Toof. The Campbell and Lanegan track also took me on a journey that included Frequenze Independenti.

I think I'm still waiting for Jams, Roland, Darren and Incognito, but my three out of seven enriched my life enough I don't mind.


Oh, and the book/sentence meme from way back: as well as responses I already linked to, see Graeme and TNC.

Afghanistan: 'It's Our Generation's Spanish Civil War'

Terry Glavin: In the National Post, About Afghanistan: 'It's Our Generation's Spanish Civil War'

What do you mean you don't like Hasidic hip hop?

Listen to Y-Love at Comfort Music.

(Previous: Why? and Y-Love)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Kode 9

Transpontine sez:
Kode9 and Spaceape– Konfusion – caught some of Kode9’s set at The Amersham Arms in New Cross last Friday. What I like about the stuff he does with Spaceape is the languid MCing, it puts me in mind of the first Massive Attack album, particularly the tracks with Tricky on. Of course both the early 1990s ‘Bristol sound’ and dubstep have in common that sonic collision between reggae sound system culture and other dance musics.
Thank you, Transpontine, for introducing me to Kode9 and, through them, fellow South Londoners Burial.

See also:
If you like dubstep, you might like: baile funk, nueva cumbia, dub, grime.
All music posts here.

Hugo Chavez, His Corrupt Family and FARC: Or, What A Hypocrite Am I!


...was Cuba Solidarity Day.

See Fausta, Incognito.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The European Resistance Archive

Via Arieh: European Resistance Archive – New Internet Source on Oral History of Anti-Nazi Resistance.
In May 2007, a consortium of political, trade union and historical organisations, led by an "understanding of European history, for which the resistance against fascism and Nazism played a constitutional role", launched an online project which might turn into one of the most interesting web-sources on oral history. The European Resistance Archive features video interviews with protagonists of European anti-nazi resistance from Poland, Slovenia, Austria, Italy, Germany and France – with more countries yet to be covered. Each country is represented by an interactive map, showing the most important locations of resistance and repression. The ideological spectre of the witnesses is wide: from Christians and Polish soldiers of the Armija Krajowa to Social Democrats and Communists, like Erwin Schulz from Arbeitersportverein Fichte, Lucien Decastel and Vincent Pascucci from the Jeunesse Communiste, Anita Malavasa from the Garibaldi-Brigade "Antonio Gramsci" or Giacomina Castagnetti and Lidia Valeriani of the Soccorso Rosso. Up to now, there are 20 video interviews of remarkable length – each one around one hour, directly viewable through an integrated web player and featuring selectable subtitles. There is a possibility to browse the interviews by key words, they are also available as bilingual transcripts, making them quotable sources for scholars.

Mbeki and Mugabe

I am only starting to realise now the dreadful complicity of the South African ANC regime in the brutal Mugabe regime. Recently, I read this powerful piece in the London Review of Books by RW Johnson. It was written in late April, in the wake of the elections, which Johnson observed first hand, and describes a period of opening after the elections, and then the clamp down. It also describes the preperation for the elections, and Thabo Mbeki's part in all of this.

Here are some extracts:
[Thabo Mbeki:] Mbeki’s fundamental position was that, as a fellow national liberation movement (NLM), Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF had to be maintained in power at all costs. According to this theory, the NLMs of southern Africa are those movements which used armed struggle to overthrow white rule – that is, the ruling parties of Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

In Mbeki’s and Mugabe’s minds Western imperialism is engaged in a struggle to overthrow the NLMs and restore, if it can, the preceding regimes – apartheid, colonialism or white settler rule. In so doing it will use various local parties as lackeys: Inkatha and the Democratic Alliance in South Africa, Renamo in Mozambique, Unita in Angola – and the MDC in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is the weakest link here, which means that the other NLMs must defend Zanu-PF to the death, for if Zimbabwe ‘falls’ South Africa will be the next target.Ever since the Zimbabwe crisis first erupted in 2000, Mbeki had seen it as his role to support Mugabe (while insisting that he was using ‘quiet diplomacy’ to solve the problem) and give him time to carry through his land revolution (i.e. to get rid of the white farmers), extirpate the imperialist lackeys of the MDC, and restabilise his country, with Zanu-PF then regaining its de facto position of unchallenged single party in a re-equilibrated Zimbabwe. [...]

[After the elections:] At this stage Mbeki, continuously on the phone from Pretoria and with his own emissaries in Harare, intervened. Could not the results be ‘adjusted’ so that Tsvangirai was brought back under the 50 per cent mark, while Mugabe got 41 per cent and Makoni 10-12 per cent? With no candidate getting more than 50 per cent there would have to be a run-off; Mugabe would then withdraw, leaving Zanu-PF to rally behind Makoni and, provided the security forces were given a strong role in the way the run-off was conducted, Makoni could be given just over 50 per cent and Tsvangirai kept out. This was acceptable to all parties except Mugabe, who again refused to stand down. Dismay and indecision followed – and serious discussion of a military coup. In the end that idea was discarded for fear that it might tempt a British military intervention.[...]

[Rats deserting the sinking ship:] The house belonged to the former Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam, convicted in absentia of genocide but shielded for many years now by Mugabe. The soldier advanced threateningly. I said I’d come to see Mr Mengistu. ‘He is not in.’ I asked if he’d gone away and was told that he had and that, like Titus Oates, he ‘might be away some time’. Mengistu’s alternative choice of exile is probably North Korea. So, if he’d done a runner, Mugabe really was in trouble.[...]

[The aftermath:] [Mbeki] and Mugabe clearly live in a paranoid world all of their own. There’s no knowing what they might attempt before the final Götterdämmerung... Seen this way the drama of Zimbabwe may indeed prefigure a more general crisis as these movements age and decay. We have seen enough of movements that believe they will remain to see the state wither away or to usher in a thousand-year Reich to know that bringing them to accept a less intransigent view of themselves is seldom a gentle business.

Previous: Chinese arms/repression in Zimbabwe, Solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe, Stop Chinese Arms Shipments to the Zimbabwean Regime!, Defending Zimbabwe

All posts on Zimbabwe. All posts on Mugabe. All posts on Mbeki. All posts on the ANC.
Related: All posts on Desmond Tutu.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Chinese arms/repression in Zimbabwe

In this post, and more recently in a comment here, I was optimistic about the capacity of the South African proletariat to act in solidarity with the dissenters in Zimbabwe, and in this post I was critical of the South African regimes complicity in bolstering Mugabe.

Today, I read this at Freeborn John:

South African newspaper The Weekender reported on Saturday that:

the Zimbabwean government confirmed that three million rounds of assault rifle ammunition, 3 000 mortar rounds and 1 500 rocket-propelled grenades - ordered from the Chinese government - had arrived in Harare.[...]
SAS Drakensberg is a South African Navy ship, so it's hard to see how Mbeki isn't complicit, even if he didn't directly order the refuelling.

Read the rest, including the British connection, via Avient, "controversial business, run by a former British army officer, Andrew Smith. They have been accused of bombing civilians in the Congo in 2006" and may or may not be linked to the transportation of arms into Zimbabwe.

YES the Shoah, BUT the Nakba

More essential analysis from Norm:
Seumas Milne is a very good guide to things. I mean, he's a good guide to how a certain section of the left - not to put too fine a point on it, the regrettable section - thinks. His column yesterday provides an example of what I mean. It gives us the pure form of a contemporary leftist trope. It is worth examination for that reason - for representing a set of rhetorical moves that has become rather general amongst anti-Zionists. [Read the rest.]
(To add to trad left, rococo left, leftover left, indecent left, idiot left, etc: the regrettable left.)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Blog recommendation: Thunder and Lightning

Thunder and Lightning, found via Rough in Here. Sample: many, many virgins for Ahmadi; Banjara music; Lola Flores.
(Jogo and Noga, you'll like those posts, even if you might not share the author's politics.)

In praise of disco

And further to this (on pop v rock), read this.

UPDATE: More from the Ingrate.

Arguments for Marxism, no.84

Marxism and the agency of change: Norm argues for the role of the working class. And he's right.

(Note: the 84 in the title is a random number, but I'm sure if you go back through my blog you'll find around that many, mostly under my "Marxish" category Let's call this one no.83!)

Extraordinary women

Further to this (on Irene Sendler/Irena Sendlerowa), read this.


I was planning, in response to an e-mail from Jogo, to write my thoughts on J Street, a project towards which I am broadly sympathetic. Any of you who have any opinions on it, feel free to post in the comments.

In the meantime, via Jogo, the first two parts of an interesting series in the LA Times:
1. Judea Pearl says early Zionists acted in good faith to coexist peacefully with Palestinians. George E. Bisharat replies that all partition efforts before Israel was established in 1948 treated Palestinians unfairly.
2. George E. Bisharat says Jimmy Carter assumed the pragmatist role that the Bush administration refuses to play in relation to Hamas. Judea Pearl sees wishful thinking behind Carter’s actions, as well as a willingness to accept terrorism as a legitimate tactic.

Who Do We Think We Are? Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in New Cross

Interesting looking event:
Who Do We Think We Are?, Religion, Culture and the Invented National
A Lecture by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown at the Ian Gulland Lecture Theatre,
Goldsmiths, University of London, New Cross, London SE14 6NW
5 June 2008, 5.30pm-6.30pm
Free Admission, followed by a drinks reception. ALL WELCOME

Award-winning author, journalist and cultural commentator, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, will argue that Britain has gone through extraordinary economic, social, demographic and value transformations since the 1950s. The nation's storytellers, the mirrors that reflect us back to ourselves, seem not to have caught up with this reality however, and so there is a gap between who were are and who we think we are.

Known for her sharp commentary on issues of multiculturalism, race and religion, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown won the George Orwell Prize for political journalism in 2002 and the Emma Award for Journalism in 2004. She is a regular columnist for ‘The Independent’ and London’s ‘Evening Standard’, a radio and television broadcaster, and author of several books including the acclaimed ‘No Place Like Home’ and ‘Who Do We Think We Are? Imagining the New Britain’.

For more information about this lecture tel 020 7919 7600, e-mail For a map and directions to Goldsmiths see

Links: Yasmin A-B's homepage, in the Independent, and at CiF. She is a founder of British Muslims for Secular Democracy, and involved in Ed Husain's Quilliam Foundation (both admirable causes: see Yasmin here and Martin here).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Against rockism

[Written late on Monday night]

Today, taking advantage of the glorious London weather, I worked from home, sitting in my garden. (I had a piece of work to do that required concentration, away from the distraction of the internet and telephone.) Unfortunately, however, the evil rentier property magnates who own the freehold of the house next door to me have decided to turn the tiny garage at the end of their 20 foot garden into a two-floor “luxury townhouse”, conveniently blocking out half the light that reaches my small garden. So, today, the builders (one of whom is appropriately called Bob) were there. Although likeable blokes, they played Virgin radio.

Virgin radio, originally part of the Richard Branson empire (but now, I think, owned by Chris Evan's Ginger Media, or the conglomerate that now owns that), was, I believe the second national commercial radio station in the UK, arriving fairly early in the period when FM radio gained dominance over LW/MW. For those of you lucky enough never to heard, it was the UK pioneer of the format broadly known as Adult Oriented Rock. My hatred of Virgin stems from my years as a warehouse worker, when Virgin tended to be the least hated station amongst the workforce, and hence the default choice of station. (I would do my best to sneak it on to BBC London, then known as GLR.)

Subjected to it all day today, it brought back the suffering, one of the factors, I think, which motivated me to switch to a white collar profession, a choice vindicated in the age of the mp3, when I can now work to the accompaniment of whatever I want to listen to.

Virgin features all of the bands I hate: U2, Brian Adams, REM, Oasis, David Gray, Counting Crows, Alanis Morissette, Coldplay, Radiohead, INXS. The artistes (is that the right word?) on the playlist today were, without exception, white. Most were male. There are earnest hoarse-voiced troubadours, swaggering long-haired types, lots of sweat and leather and testosterone, “classic” tracks that bring back bad memories, “new” hits that are recycled versions of the old ones. The only moments of respite were a couple of lite-metal songs (Guns ‘N’ Roses, Bon Jovi) which at least have a sense of irony and fun (or am I imagining that?) and some beautiful pop music during the “eighties hour” (ABC “When Smokey Sings”, a Madness song).

Listening to ABC, it came into focus what is wrong with Virgin FM: rockism. Pop music aspires to nothing other than providing the soundtrack for having fun, dancing and falling in love; rock thinks it is above the trivialities of pop, thinks it is more serious, more “adult”. Rock thinks it is more “authentic” (epitomised by rock’s preference for “real” (i.e. electric) instruments over electronic sounds). Hence rock’s masculinism: rock thinks pop is only good for girls.

In its honesty, though, in the universality of the affects it evokes and provokes, pop actually reaches a poetry that rock rarely manages. Compare “When Smokey Sings” to Virgin FM staple “Isn’t it Ironic”. The former describes, with utmost simplicity, what it is like to listen to a beautiful pop song. The latter claims to be pondering seriously on deep metaphysical issues. Which one is actually the more profound?

Previous: Bono is a wanker; Chris Martin rolls in it; No Music Day.

Death of a heroine

The Poor Mouth: Death of a heroine
On Irena Sendlerowa, a great woman.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Left-right convergence and conspiracy thought

David Aaronovitch on "Dr" Nicholas Kollerstrom, the Holocaust denier and astrologist we looked at the other week. Final paragraphs:
[Kollerstrom represents] a unique political movement, made possible by the internet and existing as an informal fusion between far-left and far-right forces; forces which regard themselves as anti-imperialist, anti-war (or, rather, since they have a regard for “resistance” fighters in Hamas, Hizbollah and the Taliban, “anti-Western”) and anti-Zionist.

It is where Gilad Atzmon (the anti-Jewish Jew), the folk of the “pro-Palestinian” Deir Yassin Remembered who sympathise with the old Nazi Ernst Zundel, meet the Socialist Worker’s Party, hook up with Dieudonne Mbala, link to old US lefties like Ralph Schoenman, hobnob with believers in the blood libel such Israel Shamir. The right-wingers at share columns with the supposed lefties at Counterpunch, and are referenced by pro-Milosevic Serbs, Russian nationalists and conspiracy loons.

They are, in electoral or mass terms, insignificant. Whether they poison the minds of too many silly Kollerstroms is another question. I think they do.
I'm holding with "astrologist", by the way, as opposed to "astrologer" or "astronomer", as the "ist" conjures up the cranky, ideological nature of that psuedo-science.

Also, thanks to Councillor Sue for doing some research and finding that he has not been a Green Party member for many years, if indeed he ever was. (He does say he "belonged to things like the Green Party".)

Seven songs

Andrew has tagged me with this meme:

List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to.

Here we go. (Some downloads at the bottom of the post.)

1. Miles Davis “Blue in Green”
from Kind of Blue. Not actually my favourite Miles album, but last night, at the end of a hot and tiring day, accompanied by a very large glass (or so) of cold white wine, it was perfect.

2. Curtis Mayfield “So in Love” from my favourite Curtis album There's No Place Like America Today (1974). I was inspired by Andrew and Max to dig out some Curtis, one of my cultural heroes.

3. Dolly Parton “Down from Dover” (from The Fairest of Them All, 1970) Most sensible people acknowledge that Dolly Parton has one of the most beautiful voices of our time: pure and true as Appalachian mountain water. It is not widely enough recognised that she is a great songwriter too, as this song shows. If she were a fella, or probably if she had gone out with Gram Parsons, or possibly even if she was a skinny brunette instead of a busty blonde, she would be recognised as a musical genius.

4. Ry Cooder “Los Chucos Sauves” featuring the late Lalo Guerrero from Chavez Ravine, Cooder’s excursion into the Los Angeles of 1950. It’s perfect for a sultry sunny day, but has an edge.

5. Candido “Jingo”. Nine minutes and 22 seconds of Latin disco heaven. I know nothing about Candido apart from what it says in the sleeve notes of Soul Jazz RecordsNu Yorica 2: a 1970 Salsoul release written by Michael Olantuji, produced by Joe Cain, one of the pioneers of the twelve inch single, performed by Candido Camero, veteran of the Duke Ellington orchestra and the Dizzie Gillespie band.

6. DJ Sandrinho “Berimbau”. I don’t even know where I got this from, but it is an insane baile funk re-working of the Bahian capoeira standard. Baile funk is the intense electronic music of the favela, a bastard variation of UK grime, Puerto Rican reggaeton or Detroit booty bass. Keep it unreal. [Links: wikipedia, Rio Baile Funk Blog, Fat Planet]

7. Solomon and SoCalled Dobriden Yardstyle for the Mekhutonim [Socalled/P.S. Bova Remix] For some reason, I’ve been listening to Hiphop Khasene (a concept album; the concept is the wedding of hip hop and klezmer) while driving lately: cruising through the streets of SE4 blasting out phat beats and shtetl sentiments. This track is untypical of the album: both less hip hoppy and less klezmery, but very cool.

I'm tagging: Jams, Roland, Noga, Incognito, Martin in the Margins, Darren and Richard. (Note to the tagged: don't feel obliged to write as much about your songs. I can't help myself!)

Listen to:
Note: I don’t know anything about the ethics and legality of posting these tracks. If you own the intellectual property on them, and want me to take them down, let me know and I’ll comply! If you like them, buy them.

While we're here: check out Richard S's excellent selection.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Non-random music selection

Now that the elections are behind us, this blog can get back to its normal business of mid-Atlanticism, esoteric music, yidishkayt and personal obsession. This post is the second of those.

First, Johnny Paycheck's "Take This Job and Shove It" is one of the two great Marxist country songs, along with "9 to 5", written by Dolly Parton. Listen to the former at Setting the Woods on Fire, one of my current favourite music blogs.

Second, stretching my category of Jew-ish music pretty far is a version of the lovely Jorge Ben "Pais Tropical" recorded in Israel and released by Varig Brazilian Airlines on CBS records in Tel Aviv. Listen at Twelve By Twelve.

One of the greatest of all Jewish musical figures is Doc Pomus, who I only discovered relatively late in life via Lou Reed's Magic and Loss. like many Jewish artists within African-American music (see this post, and Mick Billig's Rock 'n' Roll Jews), Pomus was not so well known as a performer, but made a huge contribution as a songwriter. The wonderful Boogie Woogie Flu has the definitive Doc Pomus blog post, featuring Ray Charles, Dr John, Bob Dylan, BB King, Irma Thomas and many more.

Sticking with Jews, I've been meaning to check out the new young Ladino superstar Mor Karbasi for a while. Martin has inspired me to buy her album.

I hate Slavoj Zizek, but I love all sorts of Latin music and I love grime and baile funk, so I was likely to like the new dirty urban forms of cumbia music coming out of Colombia, as featured at Buenos Aires' Zizek Urban Beats, as brought to you by Arjan.

Circling back to North America, for one of the most beautiful songs in the repertoire of American folk music, Stephen Foster's "Hard Times, Come Again No More", as recorded by many of the greatest American musicians, at the Old Blue Bus. (My favourite version, though, is the recentish Mavis Staples one, which I'll try and dig out.)

James McBride on Obama and Wright: The Uproar

I have a huge amount of respect for James McBride, author of the beautiful (if flawed) Color of Water. Here is what he says about Barack Obama and the Bad Reverend: Obama and Wright: The Uproar - New York Times

(Ta: Jogo)

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Reasons to vote for Ken, no.5

OK, it's election day, and this is my last one.

Because he is a competent mayor, who has done a good job of administrating one of the world's greatest city, and no other candidate could plausibly do that.

Ken: "The Labour Party has poured money into London. We’ve received £39bn over ten years for transport, £2bn coming in for a major new sewer system, £4bn that the Mayor has to spend to build 50,000 affordable new homes, £79m going towards youth provision – and that’s before the Olympic investment."[source] Can you seriously imagine the buffoon Boris being in charge of that sort of thing?

Can you imagine Boris going off to Singapore winning the competition to host the Olympics and not putting his foot in it? I mean, Boris can't even visit Liverpool without having to dashing to escape the lynch mob; can we really expect him to represent London on the world stage? Boris couldn't even be trusted to say the same thing from day to day that he was demoted from being a junior shadow minister, it was too responsible for him; it demonstrates contempt for the people of London that the Tories trust him with our city.

London is a palpably better place as a result of Livingstone's term. Oyster cards, the congestion charge, decent investment in buses, community police officers on the beat: we cannot afford to jeopardise this.


If you don't accept my reasons, Dave Hill has at least five more, here (h/t Andrew). This is my favourite:

Two: Livingstone Has Made The Best Joke
It happened last Friday morning. A caller to Vanessa Feltz’s Radio London show asked the three main candidates which Shakespeare character they most resembled. Livingstone, self-mocking, chose Julius Caesar. Johnson said Pericles. Much has been made of Johnson’s admiration for the great Athenian leader of that name. Embarrassingly for the classicist, Shakespeare wrote about a different Pericles. Livingstone, often derided as an un-British philistine, spotted this. Johnson, graciously, acknowledged his mistake. Talk then turned to the Sun’s endorsement of the Tory candidate. Johnson expressed his gratitude for this. “Oh Boris,” quipped Ken, “that was before they heard your mistake about Pericles.”
Also read: Livingstone interviews in Time Out and the Jewish Chronicle, the Time Out final assessment, the ES's Paul Waugh on the 7/7 factor.