Archive for the ‘Popular Culture’ Category

Hello readers.

This is the first in a long line of entries containing mini music reviews of artists I’m listening to at the moment. Whilst I know that you all have a diverse range of taste in ear candy, I’m sure there is something I could recommend to you for your aural pleasure.

To tell you the truth, I’m surprised that I’m not blogging more about music, I used to deejay (and still do occasionally), have a pretty sizeable music collection and occasionally play bass and acoustic guitar (in a band and solo)…

So, without further ado, here is my current selection of album reviews in no particular order:

1. Soldier of Love– Sade (Neo Soul)

After a long hiatus of about 10 years, Sade is back and topping the U.S. album charts for the third week running. This long awaited album seems a little more melancholic than previous  Sade releases but is still pretty much in classic Sade territory with no ground breakingly different styles, except perhaps the title track:  ‘Soldier of Love’ which has a trip hop Tricky-esque beat to it. Other than the standout tracks, most tracks, I feel, are quite flat and appear almost as filler, however if you are a Sade fan you must get this album since there is enough material to keep you going….though I doubt for another 10 years…

Stand out tracks in my opinion are  ‘Soldier of Love,’ ‘Babyfather’ and ‘Skin.’

Rating 3.5/5

2. Blackmagic-José James (Soul/Jazz/Hip Hop)

After being introduced to  José James via Brownswood record label in London, 2 years ago. I was instantly hooked onto the  unique style and voice of José James, who describes himself as a ‘world citizen’ from Brooklyn on his myspace site. His first album ‘The Dreamer’ was an instant classic, with no filler, and music to evoke moods from a smoky jazz club to romance induced ballads to kick back sunday morning beats, my favourite being the Freestyle Fellowship cover of ‘Park Bench People.’ If you click the link on the left, it takes you to an awesome live rendition of the song, with ‘Soil & Pimp Sessions’ performing the jazz classic ‘Red Clay’ as the music. Make sure you check it out, as Jose flips from jazz singing to a ‘scat battle’ with the saxophonist.’

Now, that enough about ‘The Dreamer’ album, this review is all about his NEW album; ‘Blackmagic.’ Well all I can say is wow! The first three tracks on this album, are all amazing, with the rest being silky smooth and seductive. Its hard to pick Blackmagic apart other than to say that it evokes thoughts of Marvin Gaye, Billie Holiday, Terry Callier and Gil-Scott Heron.

Having seen José perform live at the Jazz Cafe in London last year (he is also playing this month), his live entourage, a full fledged Jazz/Soul quartet did not disappoint. Not only did Jose tear the roof off with his vocals ranging from soul to scat, the band had more soul than a Motown New Years party. As with most music today, some of the lyrics are a little ‘steamy’ but tame in comparison to chart music.

Standout tracks? ALL OF THEM!

Rating: 4/5

3.  Gilles Peterson Presents Havana Cultura – New Cuba Sound

This double CD compilation, put together by Radio 1 D.J. and eclectic musical guru Gilles Peterson after a trip to Cuba is one definitely for speakers to pump loud and proud. It features a hand picked selection from Havana’s music scene, last made famous by the Buena Vista Social Club. The first album/cd is performed by a band Gilles Peterson himself has produced himself, led by Roberto Fonesca (piano) and is as good as cuban jazz gets.  You’ll be finding it hard to sit still while this is on.

The second album is Giles  selection of his favourite Cuban tunes by current Cuban artists spanning many genres ranging from hip hop, pop, salsa and reggaeton . There is no doubt that the jazzy rhythms on this double CD leave you wanting more and tempt you to be more adventurous with your next foray into this vibrant musical scene..  before you know it, you’ll be booking that flight to Cuba, shaking the maracas all the way through check in (or maybe not, based on current tensions).

Again, like Jose James’ album, this album is packed to the brim with great tracks, but the Jay Dilla/Jay Dee cover ‘Think Twice’ by Danay & Obsesión is head and shoulder above all of them, worth getting the album just for that track alone!

Rating: 4.5/5


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I am suspending my Facebook notice until June, for two reasons.

1. I have exams, so don’t need the unnecessary distraction.
2. I want to test if Facebook truly is an unnecessary distraction by being detached from it for a while and see if my life is enhanced or not, through its absence.

I am not a hypocrite, I have had Facebook for a few years now, and I’m what you might call a ‘heavy user,’ with over 40 photo albums, regularish status updates, admin of about 10 groups, one of them having nearly 2000 members (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2218692770) and over 1300 friends (not showing off here, trying to make a point!)…

So I have definitely ‘done’ Facebook…

At the moment, logic tells me I don’t need Facebook and its to my detriment, so I’ll put my money where my mouth is and test not having it.

Next Entry: Facebook? Do I really need it?

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The persecution of the Baha’is in Iran has reached crisis point with the unfair trial of seven of its members, on ‘espionage charges for Israel,’ which carries the death penalty.

The Baha’is are being defended by Iran’s only Nobel Prize winner (for peace), Human Rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi.
However, Shirin has been threatened and had her office shut down for defending the Baha’is.
An interview with Shirin, regarding her defence of the Baha’is, can be seen on U.K.s Channel 4 News here (at 18:41 into video)

Shirin has been denied access to them and their files.

This persecution has also been condemned up by the European Union. Their statement can be seen here.

However, interestingly enough, members of the entertainment industry have joined in the plight of the Baha’is being held in Iran on these unfair charges.

In today’s Times Newspaper, what could be called an ‘A-List’ of British Comedians have joined forces to sign a statement condemning this persecution. The statement is here and quoted below

Voices from the arts call for the imprisoned Baha’i leaders in Iran to receive a fair trial

Sir, We are deeply concerned at the continuing imprisonment for more than eight months of seven leaders of the Baha’i community in Iran. No formal evidence has been brought against them.

They have not been given access to their legal counsel, the Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi. She has had no access to their files and has suffered threats and intimidation since taking on their case.

Spurious charges now look likely to be filed against these Baha’is in the Revolutionary Court. “Espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities and propaganda against the Islamic republic” are their alleged crimes.

In reality, their only “crime”, which the current regime finds intolerable, is that they hold a religious belief that is different from the majority.

As artists who strive to uplift the human spirit and enrich society through our work, we register our solidarity with all those in Iran who are being persecuted for promoting the best development of society — be it through the arts and media, the promotion of education, social and economic development, or adherence to moral principles.

Further, we join with the governments, human rights organisations and people of goodwill throughout the world who have so far raised their voices calling for a fair trial, if not the complete release of the Baha’i leaders in Iran.

David Baddiel

Bill Bailey

Morwenna Banks

Sanjeev Bhasker

Jo Brand

Russell Brand

Rob Brydon

Jimmy Carr

Jack Dee

Omid Djalili

Sean Lock

Lee Mack

Alexei Sayle

Meera Syal

Mark Thomas

Only last week actor, Rainn Wilson, who recently played the lead role in the film ‘The Rocker’ and plays ‘Dwight,’ in the American version of the Office (Mackenzie Crook’s role in the U.K. version) voiced his concern to CNN as can be seen here

Additionally, Robert Wood representing the U.S. State Department, Bill Rammell representing the British Foreign Office and Amnesty International have all made statements showing concern about the wrongful persecution of the Baha’is in Iran, especially with regard to this trial.

So in a spirit of unity, media and politics mix, to stand ground against oppression and persecution by governments who take away basic human rights, like freedom of religion.

I applaud those defenders of human rights and these comedians for taking a stand for something precious to us all.

That is the right to follow which ever Faith we choose (or choose not to).

Ironically, something Iran voted in favour of; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (specifically Article 18).

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Note: I posted this originally on ‘Baha’i Perspectives’ today:

With a new film about Che Guevara about to hit cinema screens shortly, the idea of revolution and the revolutionary will be thrust upon us yet again.

Now before you start dusting off that dusty Che Guevara t-shirt, let us take some time to reflect on what true revolution is all about.

The term revolution comes from the Latin revolutio’ which translates to “a turn around.”

Revolutions are usually led by a revolutionary, someone who has a major or sudden impact on society. These ‘revolutionaries’ are often iconic people; sometimes charismatic and sometimes notorious (and sometimes both).

Examples of 20th century revolutionaries range from Ayatollah Khomeini to Che Guevara, Mao Zedong to Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King to Adolf Hitler.

Revolutionaries can be classified in two ways. One is according to the ideology they propose, whether religious or social, like the Islamic revolution in Iran or communist revolution in China.

Or they can be classified by the methods they use to bring about change; for example, a violent or non-violent approach (e.g. Che Guevara and Gandhi, respectively).

Many revolutions come and then, after time, dwindle. Communism and Fascism have had their fire burn fiercely but have dwindled away in a relatively short space of time, gradually being replaced by other menacing ideologies like religious fanaticism or rampant consumerism.

The ideologies promoted by some revolutionaries, especially in the 20th century, have persisted and penetrated throughout the global consciousness. These are the ideas promoted by people such as Martin Luther King (Civil Rights Movement), Mohandas Gandhi (Truth-seeking and non-violent struggle) and Emmeline Pankhurst (Suffragette movement-Women’s right to vote).

Since these luminaries have pushed their ideas forward, we have witnessed the election of an African-American President of the United States of America, a female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (two terms no less), formation of the United Nations, creation of recognized borders for each country, and in a few days, the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

A new world order is certainly being created before our very eyes.

The question is, what is the nature of this New World Order, and where did it come from?

From my own research, the first recorded usage of the phrase ‘New World Order’ was in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the ‘Most Holy Book’ by Bahá’u’lláh, founder of the Baha’i Faith, in 1873.

The world’s equilibrium hath been upset through the vibrating influence of this most great, this new World Order. Mankind’s ordered life hath been revolutionized through the agency of this unique, this wondrous System — the like of which mortal eyes have never witnessed.

Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, paragraph 181

To understand the full nature of this New World Order from a Baha’i perspective would require a discussion far greater than the scope of this post.  Notwithstanding, it will be dealt with in more detail in part 2 where, for instance, the origins of this ‘revolutionizing and wondrous system‘ will be described.

Before I continue, let me just say that the New World Order Baha’is are talking about has nothing to do with U.F.O.s, reptiles masquerading as humans, the Illuminati, secret societies, or any conspiracy theory.

It has everything to do with a global spiritual civilization with community development at its grass roots.

For a New World Order to be created, an old world order would have to disintegrate in its wake.

A transition on this scale would certainly require a revolution on an extremely large scale.

Thus a revolution and a New World Order go hand in hand.

So where is this process? When did it start? Who was the charismatic leader that began this revolution?

Was there even one?

Is the author of this post completely deluded?

The revolution I am going to describe is one that does not fit neatly into any category of revolution because it transcends the material plane of existence.

One thing I can tell you now is that it began on the evening of the 22nd of May, 1844, in Shiraz, Persia. (More to follow in part 2).

From my understanding, the forces released from that momentous day are still being felt today.

Already in the space of less than a century the operation of the mysterious processes generated by its creative spirit has provoked a tumult in human society such as no mind can fathom. Itself undergoing a period of incubation during its primitive age, it has, through the emergence of its slowly-crystallizing system, induced a fermentation in the general life of mankind designed to shake the very foundations of a disordered society, to purify its life-blood, to reorientate and reconstruct its institutions, and shape its final destiny.

Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By

A revolution on this scale cannot be ignored. So why has it been?

As Gill Scott Heron sings ‘The Revolution will not be Televised’.

I’ll stop here and continue in part 2 to describe the characteristics of the ultimate revolutionary, the history surrounding this revolution and explain why this one will not be televised.

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Artists whether they are musical or visual, are very perceptive to their surroundings, and express what they take in through their chosen medium.

With the songs chosen below, the artists have made musical social commentaries on the state of our planet Earth and the decline of the world order of our society (but they don’t take into account the positive things that are subtly happening).

It is interesting because from the late 60’s onwards, music and art began to take a more global analysis of the world and a realisation of a common humanity, a positive thing, and a form of integration.

Ironic that this positive realisation contrasts with the collapse of moral standards in society as we know it, something that is accelerating post World War II.

The songs below,  are especially selected not because they talk about the disintegration in the world but rather because they acknowledge world problems being universal, reflecting that common humanity, destiny and the idea that nobody is immune. They suggest we are in it together and have to work together to overcome the problems. Surely that is a positive thing i.e. integration?

As a Baha’i, my viewpoint is that the root cause of the problems is a spiritual one, and that transcends borders, nationalities and race. As Bahá’u’lláh, founder of the Baha’i Faith says, “The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens,”

The songs below are as relevant today (if not more so) as when they were first penned.

They talk about subjects ranging from pollution, racism, economic woes and war…… any of those sound familiar?

Links to relevant videos are provided.

1. Sign O’ The Times-Prince (1987)

Prince’s seminal music piece describing key 80s news headlines from discovery of AIDs to the explosion of the Challenger Space Shuttle…superb

2. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised-Gill Scott Heron (1971)

A well referenced spoken word poem written in the early 70’s alluding to the rise of commercialisation of everything. Gill Scott’s title, however, refers to the fact that real revolution cannot be commercialised, shown on tv a news event and is happening as we speak.

3. Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)-Marvin Gaye

Long before ‘Inconvenient Truth’ was released, Marvin Gaye

4. Too Young To Die-Jamiroquai

Classic Jay Kay, at his best..

5. What’s Going On?-Marvin Gaye

Marvin’s ode to humanity to wake up….

6. Fear-Lenny Kravitz (1989)

Funkier than old green socks in a garbage can.

Written with the help of Lisa Bonet…great lyrics!!!

7. Something’s Got To Give-Beastie Boys

Very unique Beastie Boys song, with accompanying video that wouldn’t look out of place in Baraka

Opening lyrics:

I Wish For Peace Between The Races
Someday We Shall All Be One

8. So Much Trouble In The World-Bob Marley

9. Loose Ends-Will I Am, Justin Timberlake, Pharoahe Monch & Sergio Mendes (2006)

One of best tracks on Sergio’s revival album; ‘Timeless’ (album highly recommended)

Great lyrics, great flow by Monch, lyrics by Will.I.Am and great soulful vocals by Justin. Listen to it.

Opening of Will.I.Am’s verse:

The world is changin
We in danger
’cause We ain’t changin
Our behaviour

10.Imagine-John Lennon

One of the most beautiful songs ever written…acknowledging all the things that have caused war and division in the world from religion, materialism etc.

Though, as a Baha’is we acknowledge and recognise all the great religions, we also believe it is better to have no religion than belong to one that preaches hate.

“If religion becomes a cause of dislike, hatred and division, it were better to be without it, and to withdraw from such a religion would be a truly religious act.”

Abdul Baha, Paris Talks

End lyrics of Imagine:

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

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So, before I post my next blog entry on my own blog, I have been busy posting on the International Baha’i blog, ‘Baha’i Perspectives’.

In this latest entry, called ‘The Matrix: I Know Kung Fu!‘ I try and correlate the journey of Neo, the skills of Kung Fu, the Seven Valleys and Transformation…

This is part 2 of a 2 part blog series.

Have a read and leave a comment if you like…

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At the moment, I’m in between locations. And that means at times, *shock horror*, no internet.

However, I did write a blog entry for another site (in my links) called Baha’i Perspectives.

Its called ‘The Matrix-Why I Chose The Red Pill’

Click here to read it.

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