Because life’s too short to think for yourself.
The Guardian will do your thinking while you do your living.
Vieux Farka Touré and the music of Mali: “spreading the news of what has happened to us and what is still happening”
From Chicago magazine:
By Kevin McKeough
Since the late, legendary Ali Farka Touré first brought the music of Mali to widespread attention in the mid-1980s, the western African nation’s musicians have beguiled listeners worldwide with their trance-inducing guitar patterns and Arabic flavored keening. Tragically, Mali has received more attention lately for the violent conflict in the country’s northern region, which encompasses part of the vast Sahara Desert. After Islamist extremists recently seized control of a large part of the area, including the storied city of Timbuktu, and committed numerous human rights violations, in January France sent soldiers into its former colony to drive out the militants. While the French military has retaken most of the area, the situation remains unstable both in northern Mali and in the south, where the country’s military has deposed two successive governments and reportedly is engaging in harsh repression.
Vieux Farka Touré, Ali Farka Touré’s son and a world music star in his own right, was performing Friday, Feb. 22, at the Old Town School of Folk Music. C Notes contacted Touré, who lives in the Malian capital, Bamako, to gain his perspective of the travails afflicting his country and how he and other Malian musicians are responding.
What are your thoughts about the Islamists’ invasion of northern Mali and France’s efforts to drive them out of the country? My thoughts are the same as everyone in Mali. The invasion of the Islamists was hell on earth. It was a nightmare unlike anything we have ever experienced. We are very grateful to President Hollande and the French for their intervention. For the moment at least they have saved our country.
How have these disruptions affected you personally? I am safe and my family is safe. But there is great uncertainty in Mali today. Nobody knows what we can expect in the next years, months or even days. So it is very bad for the spirit to be living in this kind of situation.
What’s your reaction to the Islamist invaders banning music in the areas they controlled? I was furious. It broke my heart like it did for everyone else. It was as though life itself was taken from us.
You were part of an all-star group of Malian musicians who recently recorded the song “Mali-ko” in response to the conflict. Please talk about the project and why you participated in it. Musicians in Mali play a very important role in society. We are like journalists, telling people what is happening. We are also responsible for speaking out when there are problems, and we are responsible for lifting the spirit of the nation. So that is why we made “Mali-ko.” Fatoumata [Diawara] organized everyone and we all spent some time hanging out in the studio and doing our little parts. It was a very nice project. I’m happy with the result and I’m happy that it got a lot of attention in the United States and in Europe.
Aside from the song, what role do you think musicians can play in responding to the situation in Mali? We can do what we are already doing—we are going everywhere we can around the world and spreading the news of what has happened to us and what is still happening. Equally, we must continue to entertain our people and keep them proud to be from Mali. For Malians, music is the greatest source of pride so we must work very hard to keep that pride alive. Right now it is not easy for people to be proud and have faith.
What do you think needs to be done in Mali? First and most importantly, we need to continue to drive out all the militants from our country. There is no future for Mali with terrorists living amongst us. Period. Also we must move quickly to engage in free and open elections to restore the faith and the legitimacy of our country in the eyes of the world and its people. These two things are the most critical at this time.
Your music resembles your father’s but has its own distinct quality. Can you talk about what you’re trying to do in the music, how and why you combine traditional and contemporary styles? With my music I try not to think very much about what I am doing. I just let myself be open to inspiration and it will take me where I need to go. So I am not thinking “for my next album I must do a song with reggae, or I must do an acoustic album because this will be good for my career” or anything like that. I think all artists are like lightning rods for inspiration and you must be open to it or it will not strike you. If you try to do something artistic it will not be as good as if you just let inspiration decide what you are doing. So my style is just based on what influences me and what inspires me.
For a country with a small population, Mali has produced a large number of internationally recognized musicians. Why do you think the country has so many excellent musicians? This is the mystery that everyone wants to understand. I do not know for sure why there are so many big international stars from Mali. But I know this: We take our music very, very seriously. It is at the core of our culture and it is the definition of Mali as a people. There is no Mali without Malian music. So I think this inspires many young people to try to become musicians. Maybe everywhere in the world has this kind of talent but there is not as strong a push for everyone to develop their talents in music. But honestly, I don’t know. We are lucky for this great richness of talent. That is for sure.
Kevin McKeough is a contributing music critic for Chicago magazine
See also ‘The Hendrix of the Sahara’
Wikileaks a CIA operation (part 2)
“As the NATO alliance inches closer to a military attack on Syria, a new front in the destabilization of the Damascus government has been opened by the intelligence agencies of the Western powers. The vehicle chosen by the CIA and its allies for this new assault is once again the shadowy limited hangout operation calling itself Wikileaks, and its chief spokesman, the Australian Julian Assange,” author and historian Dr. Webster Griffin Tarpley wrote in the article published on Friday.
Tarpley said that Assange and his staffers released “some 2.43 million e-mails by Syrian government officials, politicians, and companies doing business” with Damascus to “discredit the Syrian government, and even more to harass companies in the NATO sphere who are working as contractors for Damascus.”
. . .
He went on to say that the website is “complicit in the violent overthrow of the Syrian government by the NATO-backed death squads.”
“Assange has now taken refuge in the Ecuador Embassy in London. By contrast, US soldier Bradley Manning, who is accused of providing the raw material for Cablegate, has been brutalized by the US government ever since his arrest. The radically different treatment given these two has been a cause for comment,” the American author wrote.
Commenters to this article have a more nuanced take:-
The fact that Wiki always chooses to “reveal” certain info against specific countries and at specific times is a clear indication of its political complicity. And, more significantly, its Zio-friendly stance reveals its allegiance to CIA-Mossad.
It was obvious that he was a tool in the hands of the Zionist disinformation machine.But I`m not sure if he managed to contribute with his secrets disclosure in anything than mere gossip.
like Al-Qaida Wikileak too is ffiliated to CIA and was created by US Regime. No nation in the world can match US in Treachery. US, Al-Qaida, Wikileak, Arab League, all on the same side and same train in Syria.
I have to sit here and laugh anyone would believe Assange. If the US government wanted him – they would have had him by now. He’s CIA/Mossad! [That theory is especially comprehensive.)
Assange – antisemite and tool of Zionism, crazed hater of the USA and CIA plant, hounded by corrupt judiciaries and protected by them. No wonder his hair has gone white.
Here is the single most famous image in Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier:
“At the back of one of the houses a young woman was kneeling on the stones, poking a stick up the leaden waste-pipe which ran from the sink inside and which I suppose was blocked. I had time to see everything about her – her sacking apron, her clumsy clogs, her arms reddened by the cold. She looked up as the train passed, and I was almost near enough to watch her eye. She had a pale face, the usual exhausted face of the slum girl who is twenty five and looks forty, thanks to miscarriages and drudgery; and it wore, for the second in which I saw it, the most desolate, hopeless expression I have ever seen. It struck me then that we are mistaken when say that ‘it isn’t the same for them as it would be for us’, and that people bred in the slums can imagine nothing but the slums. For what I saw in her face was not the ignorant suffering of an animal. She knew well enough what was happening to her – understood as well as I did how dreadful a destiny it was to be kneeling there in the bitter cold, on the slimy stones of a slum backyard, poking a stick up a foul drain-pipe.”
“George Orwell’s elegiac Road to Wigan Pier celebrated the heroic, martyred men who dug our coal. He chided the middle class for not noticing these heroes who brought heat into their homes. Orwell’s chauvinism rendered invisible the women who were still working at the pits around Wigan, and who lay and lit the fires that warmed not only the homes of the middle classes but also the miners themselves.”
Of course, Campbell learned to hate Orwell while in the “old” British Communist Party. The CP had form when it came to spreading lies about him.
When experienced journalists see Rupert Murdoch and his dynasty in operation, they think,:-
Watching Murdoch’s performance reminded me a little of The Godfather. In the gangster genre, the most powerful mafiosi are often elderly, amiable and rather ineffectual-looking figures in bad clothes, who look like they should be living in old people’s homes, and sometimes are. But that belies their power.
No, I’m not saying that Rupert Murdoch is a member of the Mafia, or behaves like one, or that he has done anything improper. But he is, nevertheless, a great study in the charisma of power. When you possess this kind of aura you don’t need to throw your weight about. You don’t need to look threatening, or bark or growl. In fact, you hardly have to do anything at all, because everyone does your bidding, practically before you have even thought about it yourself. So, I’m sure Murdoch told nothing but the truth when he said, “I’ve never asked a prime minister for anything in my life”. At this level, you don’t have to ask.
While more than 30 individuals wait to hear if they will face criminal charges, reputations are in shreds and political careers on life support, Murdoch, like a Marvel Comics villain, puts on the don’s Borsalino at the end of last week’s show, flashes the re-enamelled fangs and is swept from the Royal Courts of Justice looking triumphant. Of course he has been irreparably damaged by the scandal, as he pointed out several times (like all true villains, Murdoch aspires to victimhood). It’s just that he seems to be suffering a good deal less than anyone else who became entangled with his enterprises.
I sat on a sofa, Brooks perched on the arm of another sofa, and Murdoch walked and talked. He was excitable and angry. “You’ve impugned the reputation of my family,” he said at one point. He called me “a fucking fuckwit” and became furious at my bemusement that he should find our campaign so upsetting, given that one of his newspapers famously claimed that it did indeed decide elections.
Brooks said very little, but, when her boss’s rage blew itself out, chipped in with: “We thought you were our friend”. Their use of language and the threatening nature of their approach came straight from the “Mafioso for Beginners” handbook.
His statement does, however, reveal a much wider and more significant truth: the Murdoch way of doing business. If you come to our parties, if you join us on our yachts, if you are at our cosily-arranged dinner table, we might expect something in return, but we certainly don’t expect you act in a way contrary to our interests. And if our largest-selling newspaper supports your political party … well, it’s not difficult to guess the rest.
In retrospect, that incident in the Independent newsroom was the first sign of a fissure in the edifice of News International. Little more than a footnote in newspaper history it may be, but what it betrayed was a breathtaking lack of judgment and discretion, the head of the country’s most powerful media organisation straying on to the sovereign territory of another newspaper to berate the editor over an incontestable truth in an advertising campaign. It’s the same lack of judgment, together with a monumental arrogance in the wielding of corporate power, that has led us to where we are today. Which, of course, is the eve of the appearance before Lord Justice Leveson of Rupert Murdoch, the capo di tutti capi.
(Another blogger spotted this mafia motif before I did).
The days when Stop The War played a reasonably positive (if popular-frontist) role against the Iraq adventure, are long gone. It shamed itself when it objectively supported Gaddafi by opposing the Western bombing that helped the rebels overthrow that deranged regime. Its main response to events in Syria has been to denounce the (non existent) possibility of Western intervention, rather than to denounce the barbaric regime of al-Assad and offer any, even verbal, support to the brave rebels.
Now, it is increasingly acting as the unpaid mouthpiece of Tehran, as Lindsey German’s craven performance on ‘Russia Today’ demonstrates:
Did I say “unpaid”? Stop The War’s main man, is of course, a bought-and-paid-for lackey of Tehran (ie: he works for the regime’s ‘Press TV’ channel). And he doesn’t always sound all that anti-war, either:
Stop The War is now a bunch of unreconstructed Stalinists, anti-Israel fanatics and degenerate ex-SWP’ers whose main role in life seems to be to defend the clerical-fascist regime in Tehran and its nuclear ambitions.
Not a word of support, of course, for the brave Iranian trade unionists imprisoned and persecuted by the regime.
…aka God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen:
A reworking/’interpretation’ by the most refined jazz group of all time: John Lewis (pno), Milt Jackson (vibes), Percy Heath (bs), Connie Kay (drms): the MJQ, augmented on this occasion by an orchestra.
‘Gin For Christmas’ is actually ‘Bugle Call Rag’, with no very obvious Christmas connotations, but (one suspects) plenty of evidence of gin. Perhaps, on 30 October 1939, Hamp and the boys had already started celebrating.
The riff behind the solos and throughout the performance, could be vocalised as “(Some) Gin For Christmas”, which may account for the title.
Ziggy Elman (tp), Toots Mondello, Jerry Jerome, Ben Webster (saxes), Clyde Hart (pno), Al Casey (gtr), Artie Bernstein (bs), Lionel Hampton (dms).
Hamp back on his first instrument, the drums. I’ve chosen a Youtube clip from a breathless young fan, meeting the ageing Hamp shortly before the great man’s death; then we see and hear a 78-rpm record of ‘Gin For Christmas’:
Further to Jim’s post on antisemitism in the Middle East this programme, The Last Jews of Iraq, should be heard (only available for another day). It’s a story of ethnic cleansing, very moving and frightening. It’s presented by Alan Yentob, the BBC grandee and himself the son of Iraqi Jews.
The Jewish population of Iraq had existed by the waters of Babylon since 597BC and in 1917 made up one third of the population of Baghdad.
They had their golden years in the 1920s and 1930s, living a comfortable and integrated life among their Arab neighbours. When the state of Iraq was created, they regarded themselves as both Iraqis and Jews.
In 1936 Hitler’s Mein Kampf was translated into Arabic and published in Baghdad. Ideological hatreds began to arise and with growing Zionism in the Middle East Jews began to be regarded as aliens and were attacked in the streets.
In June 1941, a Nazi sympathiser, General Rashid Ali al-Kailani seized power in a military coup. A plan to exterminate the Jewish population of Iraq was formed. The mayor of Baghdad (a Muslim) intervened, General Rashid Ali fled the city, but there was a 2 day pogrom. 180 Jews were killed.
After the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, 98% of the Iraqi Jews left. Those who remained behind lived under suspicion and official persecution, culminating in public hangings which the government celebrated with a national holiday.
Any of these stories – Bosnia, Rwanda, the Sunni-Shi-ite conflict in Iraq – will tell how different communities who had co-existed well enough turned into hostile tribes. Suddenly your fellow citizens in all their different shadings become one kind of person or another – the person who denounces, pursues, even murders or the person who shelters and protects.
In 1947 there were 118,000 Jews in Baghdad. There are now only seven left.
A moving tribute at the the Guardian Sports Blog:
“Both [Frazier and Ali] were subsequently reduced to peddling their past, with contrasting success. A preserved cigarette the then Cassius Clay signed for boxing historian Hank Kaplan in the Fifth Street gym in Miami in 1961, went for $1,900 at auction many years later; some of his shorts and robes have brought bids of $40,000. At the International Boxing Hall of Fame convention in upstate New York in 2000, Frazier was charging schoolboys $50 for his autograph on a glove…
“Frazier is leaving us in reduced circumstances, a tale as familiar as it is sad and, surely, avoidable. He is embraced for the heroics that made him Smokin’ Joe, an uncomplicated fighting man, naive perhaps, but dignified and honest.”
The tragic end of ‘Smokin’ Joe’, and so many other pro boxers (including even Ali), reduced to shambling, semi-coherent shells by repeated blows to the head in the name of “sport,” should make professional boxing anathema to the left. Tragically, it doesn’t, as any reader of the Morning Star (which covers boxing in loving detail) will know.
One of the few socialists to roundly denounce this barbaric “sport” and call for its banning, was the American Trotskyist James P. Cannon. Here he is, writing (in ‘A Dead Man’s Decison’ published in the US SWP’s paper The Militant, Sept 24, 1951), in the wake of the death in the ring at Madison Square Garden, of Georgie Flores:
It is a commentary on the times and the social environment out of which the boxing business rises like a poisonous flower from a dunghill, that nobody came forward with the simple demand to out-law prize fighting, as it was outlawed in most states of this country up till the turn of the century. Cock-fighting is illegal; it is considered inhumane to put a couple of roosters into a pit and incite them to spur each other until one of them keels over. It is also against the law to put bulldogs into the pit to fight for a side bet. But our civilisation -which is on the march, to be sure – has not yet advanced to the point where the law and public opinion forbid men, who have nothing against each other, to fight for money and the amusement of paying spectators… Such spectacles are part of our highly touted way of life…
…The [safety] precautions, which are supposed to take care of everything, in reality take care of nothing. When you get inside those ropes your head is a target for self-propelled missiles known as fists, and there is no way of making that safe. As the soldier said, when he was asked why he ran away from the front lines: “You can get hurt up there.” Blows to the head never did anybody any good. And if anybody ever got any fun out of it, he hasn’t been heard from yet. The “sport” in prize fighting is strictly for the spectators and the managers and promoters.
The incomparable Joe Louis himself testified to this in a notable statement at a newsreeled press conference, when he renounced his title to turn promoter. A reporter asked:”‘Which do you think you like best, Joe, fighting or promoting?”
Joe, a man of few words, answered: “I like promotin’.”
“Why is that, can you explain it?”
“Sure,” said Joe. “They can’t hit you when you’re promotin’.”
Those words belong in the book of Proverbs.