Category Archives: Arts

World Music Teaches You Everything

April 3rd, 2014

World_Music
Music tells the stories of our world

I majored in Humanities as an undergraduate because it was broad-based and I could take many courses, from California Geography to Entomology to history, philosophy, languages and literature. Later, I took an MA in Comparative Literature for similar reasons: I could read the great writers from around the world, learning from epistolary novels (novels of letters e.g. Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther). Historical novels, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, and a lot of French writers (favorites were Balzac, Stendhal, and Flaubert). You learn about 19th century Paris from reading Balzac. You learn about Napoleon from reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace, 19th century England from Dickens, psychology from Flaubert. You learn so many things about history, sociology, and especially psychology, human behavior, dreams, our collective aspirations, longing, the whole panoply of human existence.

The same holds true for world music. You learn about geography, something Americans could use more knowledge about. I am quite knowledgeable about African history because of my fondness for its huge variety of music. Additionally, I know all about Cape Verde, for instance, because I love its music and met and interviewed Cesaria Evora many times. Now I can tell anybody about where it is–300 miles off the coast of Senegal. In 2 weeks, I’m actually going to Cape Verde for the Atlantic Music Expo and Kriol Jazz Festival. I’m really looking forward to it.

Because music is such a basic expression in all cultures, it necessarily teaches us about those cultures: again, history, psychology, anthropology, geography, customs, mores, everything.

I say don’t confine yourself to just one kind of music. Like all the varieties of food we can now enjoy, why just eat one kind? World music is about exploration, finding joy and delight. Why deprive ourselves of such valuable lessons? For me it has enriched my life beyond measure, which is why I’ve been a world music cheerleader for the past 30 years.

toms

Tom Schnabel, M.A.

Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Blogs for Rhythm Planet
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons
www.tomschnabel.com

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Celebrating Spring

March 13th, 2014

spring

With nervous pleasure,
The tulips are receiving
A spring rain at dusk
––Richard Wright

Cultures around the world celebrate spring as a time of renewal, healing, and rebirth, moving from the darkness of winter to the much-anticipated light of spring. Whatever form of celebration this takes, it is a time of new beginnings and hope. A time to celebrate life.

Original peoples were in rhythmic harmony with natural cycles, and created seasonal festivals, to honor their connection and dependency on the natural world. It seems only obvious then, that people who later came to believe in dying and returning gods–– synchronized their celebrations of birth, fertility and life, with those of the original people, often at the beginning of Spring, the Vernal Equinox.

The word Equinox comes from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night), equal night, meaning a moment in time when the earth’s axis is tilted neither towards nor away from the sun, but is aligned directly with the poles, and day and night are about equal in length. It is a global time of perfect balance.

Original people the world over understood that a state of balance was necessary for well-being and harmony, and knew that imbalance in nature or with the self was the source of illness or disease. To the Yoruba people of West Africa, “…disease is seen as a disruption of our connection to the earth.”

Spring is regarded as a time for healing, and cleansing, a much-anticipated occasion heralded by the appearance of tiny green buds, the first flowers poking through the still cold ground, and of course the winter-absent sounds of birds.

Birdsong and flowers are two mythically powerful avatars of spring in most cultures worldwide, and therefore it is not surprising that both are honored ritually in connection with celebrations of spirit, and of dying and returning gods.

Birdsongs

About three weeks ago, I was happily surprised when I realized that once again, I was hearing the sounds of birds. I had been tuned to a different, internal biorhythm––Winter, and had not even realized the sound was missing, and it made me walk around smiling all day.

At just about the same time, I read a poignant and bittersweet article titled” How to build a Perfect Refugee Camp” in the Sunday Feb.13, 2014 New York Times Magazine. It is a about the lives of Syrian refugees in Kilis, a refugee camp in Turkey near the Syrian border

One of many moving details that ran throughout the story was the presence and implied importance of Canaries in cages. They were photographed everywhere in their cages, inside and outside of most of the container dwellings, and the author often noted their presence, but without a real explanation.

I found that to be fascinating and have been trying to find information that could explain the origins of the tradition, of keeping Canaries, if in fact it was one…or is it rather a result of the heartbreaking situation they find themselves in. I began to think that perhaps the birds are there for another reason. A healing reason.

The sound of a songbird is at the same time elevating and calming, reassuring. We feel more at ease somehow, which means our lives are just flowing better, and we like that.

If some of us are lucky enough to hear the songs of birds interrupt and rise above the noise of a city or the noise of traffic, consciously or unconsciously, we feel better.

Julian Treasure explained that in his recent Ted Talk: The 4 ways Sound Affects Us,”… Most people find the sound of birdsong reassuring. There’s a reason for that. Over hundreds of thousands of years, we’ve learned that when the birds are singing,” things are safe.” It’s when they stop–– that you need to be worried.” Maybe it is a tradition based on the healing wisdom of the natural world, and as refugees themselves, perhaps these Canaries sing to bring about harmonious balance––a beautiful coping mechanism that calms everyone down, giving them a reassuring space to heal from the trauma of war.

Atahualpa Yupanqui, the famous Argentine folk musician, was quoted as saying,” Music is a torch with which to see where beauty lies, “ and the music of singing birds is certainly that. Perhaps that is why the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians in California, among many native tribes in California, chose to call their very important singing rituals, Birdsongs. These songs are very important to their cultures, and are meant to be shared in social gatherings. The songs tell stories, which unfold in a series of songs about migration, and life lessons. Both men and women participate, singing and dancing to the accompaniment of rattles.

Flower Fusion

The Yaqui Indians of the Sonoran Desert revere flowers, and view them as manifestations of souls. “Haisa sewa?” is a Yaqui greeting among men, which means,” How is the flower?”

In the springtime, the Yaqui perform their sacred duty of ensuring the existence of the world, by dancing the Deer Dance in Lenten and Easter rituals. After the Conquest, the Yaqui fused their original beliefs, synchronizing them to the Catholic Holidays, ensuring the survival of their ways. The deer dancers represent the spirit of the sacred deer who lives in the Flower World, one of the five worlds of Yaqui belief. Their rituals are conducted to perfect these worlds, and eliminate the harm done to them.

During these spring rituals, the sacred deer returns to this world, and the songs of the deer singer, are the voices of the deer, bringing mystical messages from their world. The return of the Deer spirit is syncretic with the resurrection of Jesus Christ, returning on Easter with divine messages from heaven.

For the ancient Nauhua people, Xochiquetzalli, the goddess of flowers and love, was the mother of their sacred dying and returning god Quetzalcoatl, or Kukulkan, the plumed serpent. As a dual-natured god, Kukulkan’s feathers represent his heavenly abode, and his serpent body allows him to travel on the earth. The Quetzal bird’s iridescent green plumes were used in royal costume and ceremonial garb for kings and priests.

The great pyramid El Castillo, or Kukulcán’s Pyramid, built in the center of Chichen Itza in Mexico, displays an astronomically symbolic reenactment, of the return of Kukulcán, as he descends to earth on the Vernal Equinox. An unusual shadow creeps down the northern stairway, appearing as a serpent, which finally unites with its stone head, which sits in the light at the pyramid’s base.

Tonantzin, Xochiquetzalli, and the Virgin of Guadalupe are all aspects of the great mother goddess of fertility, of life, and creation.

The ancient goddess Xochiquetzalli, (Flowery Plumage), gave rise to the pre-Hispanic belief in a “flower-woman”, who represented Mother Earth and fertility. She is celebrated on the Friday before Palm Sunday, in the Flor más Bella del Ejido (Most Beautiful Flower of the Ejido or Field) pageant, honoring the beauty of Mexican indigenous women, held in Xoxhimilco, Mexico. In the Náhuatl dialect, Xoxhimilco means,” place of the flowery orchard.”

In about 1570, Friar Diego Durán, who grew up in Texcoco, described the celebrations of Xochiquetzalli, ”… The dance they most enjoyed was the one in which they crowned and adorned themselves with flowers. A house of flowers was erected on the main pyramid . . .. They also erected artificial trees covered with fragrant flowers where they seated the goddess Xochiquetzalli… On this day they were as happy as could be, the same happiness and delight they feel today on smelling any kind of flower, whether it have an agreeable or a displeasing scent, as long as it is a flower. They become the happiest people in the world smelling them…”

As Christians honor the Virgin of Guadalupe with roses, and the Virgin of Candelaria with marigolds, the Nahua people honored Xochiquetzalli, singing Xochicuicame, flower songs. Xochitlahtoane (flower speakers), performed publicly. The songs were about flowers or related to rituals honoring Xochiquetzal, and were a channel to invoke a deity in an individual and personal way.

The most famous flower songs were those of Hungry Coyote, a ruler, and poet in ancient Mexico. One of his songs, The Flower Tree Song was sung during this Spring celebration in honor of Xochiquetzalli. Here is an excerpt:

“…Delight, for Life Giver adorns us. All the flower bracelets, your flowers, are dancing. Our songs are strewn in this jewel house, this golden house. The Flower Tree grows and shakes, already it scatters. The quetzal breathes honey, the golden quéchol breathes honey. Ohuaya ohuaya.

You have transformed into a Flower Tree, you have emerged, you bend and scatter. You have appeared before God’s face as multi-colored flowers. Ohuaya ohuaya.

Live here on earth, blossom! As you move and shake, flowers fall. My flowers are eternal, my songs are forever: I raise them: I, a singer. I scatter them, I spill them, the flowers become gold: they are carried inside the golden place. Ohuaya ohuyaya.

Flowers of raven, flowers you scatter, you let them fall in the house of flowers. Ohuaya ohuyaya.

Happy Spring!

Jeannie Winston Nogai
Owner / Winston Nogai Design
www.jeanniewinston.com / E: jeanniewn@gmail.com

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Love and Romance: Our 3 Favorites in Music, Literature, Art and Film

February 13th, 2014

Last year for Valentine’s Day we posted a blog on how different cultures and countries celebrate the day. This year, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I’ve invited three of my friends and contributors to ACEI’s AcademicExchange blog to chime in and share their most favorite romantic songs/musical compositions, literary creations, film and art. Here are some of their personal favorites.

Music
Contributor: Tom Schnabel

My three picks in the music category are:

“I Only Have Eyes for You” by The Flamingos

Tom: “This is a late 50’s doo wop classic and always makes me swoon with wonder and fills my heart.”

“Romeo and Juliet” by Tchaikovsky.

Tom: This is the story of passion against a backdrop of doomed love. It also reflects some of the great composer’s conflicts of being a famous closeted gay man in Tsarist Russia. The melody theme comes about 10′ after the opening and is one of the most ravishing melodies in all of music.

“In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel.

Tom: This mid-80s song is a longtime favorite, and still resonates with listeners today.

toms
Tom Schnabel, M.A.
Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Check out Tom’s show Rhythm Planet and his blog

Literature
Contributor: Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert

This was a tough assignment as there are so many brilliant works of literature by authors who have tackled love and romance. I see a theme in the three I’ve picked for this post and that is their timelessness and relevance to today’s times.

Here are 3 of my favorites from a very long list:

“Jane Eyre” (pub. 1847) by Charlotte Bronte.
janeeyre

Jasmin: Jane Eyre, has been one of favorites since I was a teen and the book was required reading in school. Set in Victorian England, the novel’s gothic, melancholic tone and the hauntingly imposing “Thornfield” manor, home of its moody and mysterious master, Mr. Rochester, shows Jane’s evolution from a young woman into adulthood. Though her love for Rochester is palpable, she’s not willing to settle for anything less than she feels she deserves. Jane Eyre is considered by many to have been ahead of its time given its exploration of such taboo subjects like sexism, religion, and class structure. Jane’s single-minded character, her strong desire to be Rochester’s equal but remain independent (she has no reservation in advertising for a new post as governess when she thinks her current post is ending) is also a bold feminist statement at a time when such sentiments were neither welcomed nor discussed openly.

“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice

Jasmin: All my friends and family will vouch for me when I say that I’m a certified loyal fan of Jane Austen’s novels. Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a classic tale of love and misunderstanding set in early 19th-century class-conscious England. It depicts a time when the choices young English women had was either marry, become a governess, join a convent or enter the oldest profession to survive. Elizabeth Bennet, the protagonist in Austen’s novel, is an intelligent, educated and like Jane Eyre, another single-minded independent young woman who refuses to abide by the traditions of the time. The novel shows us the world through Elizabeth’s eyes and the love that evolved between her and Mr. Darcy, member of the landed gentry, as she lets go of her prejudice and he overcomes his pride.

“The Red and the Black” by Stendhal
stendhal

Jasmin: I first read the English translation of Le Rouge et le Noir by Marie-Henri Beyle–the French author who is best known by his pen name Stendhal–in my early 20’s, fresh out of college and wondering what I wanted to do with my life. It’s not a “romantic” novel, per se, but love does play a part in the protagonist’s life that ultimately betrays him. The novel is a sociological satire of 19th century France and chronicles the life of Julien Sorel, a young man of modest means from the French provinces who rises up the social ladder amidst hypocrisy, deception, emotional and romantic entanglements fueled by jealousy. He’s imprisoned after attempting to kill the married woman he had once loved when he finds out that she had a written a negative character reference calling him a social-climbing scoundrel who preyed upon emotionally vulnerable wealthy women. His love for her is resurrected when she visits him in prison which she continues to do so until his execution by the guillotine.

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI
www.acei1.com

Art: Paintings
Contributor: Clayton Winston Johans

Well Ladies and Gents I was hoping to get to some more somber and less fantastical representations of Love’s joys and outcomes however, I could not pass up these three classical representations of love incarnate, despite either infamy or popularity!


“The Kiss” (1907) by Gustav Klimt

TheKiss

Clayton: Gustav Klimt appearing in the world, July 14 1862 and leaving it, February 6 1918 is considered one of the most prolific Austrian painters of the 20th Century.



Utilizing inspiration from Bizantine mosaics and use of actual gold leafing techniques, Gus cranked out the The Kiss and other paintings of variable similarity in a series of paintings  later deemed a part of his ” Gold Phase”.


Here is how I feel the situation went down from the Man’s point of view:



(Read slow for best results)



I cloak myself in gold and meet her in the fire. 

Hips swivel and one knee rises as she turns to me,
revealing a river of hair that splays across the
sheen like a splash of molten copper.
Palming my hand across her cheek, she embraces my breath.
I greet her. 
A kiss for life, a kiss for now.

Two ivory figures liquescent, amongst a spread of velveteen amber.


“Romance” (1932) by Thomas Hart Benton

romance

Clayton: Thomas Hart Benton April 15, 1889-January 19, 1975 was a Missouri Native and American surrealist. It can be said for the sake of description that Benton’s work was centered around working class American life and its simplicities and colors as seen through a warped looking glass (perhaps the bottom of a wine bottle). To put it simply, Romance 1932 was inspired by two young lovers sharing the joyous contemplation of life’s beauty and plainness while walking together.


Be aware that my interpretation of how the Woman’s feelings are depicted in this image are based solely on my view that this painting is of a couple’s nightly stroll, regardless of the hues and values that obviously suggest otherwise:


That air was so sweet with life and I breathed it in as we walked past the house.
That mother pearl shone above us,
lighting our way through our walk in that night.
Just the two of us. Yes just us, walked past that oak tree.
Looking at him and him back with delight.
He said I was all smiles, brighter than the moon herself.
Like flower of the night.

“Amor and Psyche” (1638) by Anthony Van Dyck

Amor

Clayton: Van Dyck, Flemmish Baroque painter, known for his time spent painting for the English Royal court, illustrated a scene from one of Rome’s most romantic stories ever told, Cupid and Psyche.

I can’t make up a better description than this:

Jealous of her magical love affair with Cupid (Amor), Psyche’s sisters convince her that her mysterious lover is a demon.  Deceived and curious to know the truth, Psyche seeks out her lover’s identity, where they meet in the dark with a lamp and a dagger. At the site of her true lover’s beautiful demi-god form, she cries in surprise, spilling hot oil on his body. Cupid flees to his house in the heavens and his mother Venus casts Psyche on an odyssey to appease the gods for her treachery. When Psyche completes the final task of retrieving a box full of Proserpina’s* tears said to cause everlasting beauty, she is struck with curiosity to look inside the box.  Upon opening the box, she is struck unconscious and enters a deep state of sleep. Cupid, all wounds healed, sets out for his love and awakens and brings her before Jupiter. In trade for his servitude, Jupiter happily weds Cupid with Psyche. At the wedding feast, Jupiter feeds Psyche ambrosia, sealing their lives and love eternally.

* (Queen of the Underworld)

Clayton
Clayton Winston-Johans
Director of Communications, ACEI
http://www.acei1.com

Extra!

The Frustrated Evaluator’s picks:

I decided to jump in here and throw in 3 of my favorite films on love and romance. They may not be your traditional favorites, e.g. Casablanca, Gone With The Wind, Doctor Zhivago, and even contemporaries like When Harry Met Sally, etc… (which happen to be favorites of mine), but ones I think address love and romance in not so traditional ways.

Harold and Maude (1971)

haroldmaude
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0067185/?ref_=nv_sr_1

Frustrated Evaluator: Simply put this is a love story between a young man Harold and a much older (79-year old) woman, Maude played by Ruth Gordon. Through Maude, Harold who’s intrigued with death learns to live life to its fullest and begins to see and appreciate life as the most precious gift of all.

The Graduate (1967)

Graduate
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0061722/

Frustrated Evaluator: Directed by Mike Nichols, this film is the story of a young college graduate Benjamin Braddock (played by Dustin Hoffman) who is seduced by an older married woman, Mrs. Robinson (played by Anne Bancroft) and ends up falling in love with her daughter Elaine (played by Katharine Ross). Let’s also not forget the terrific soundtrack by Simon and Garfunkle. The film is classic boy meets girl (Benjamin is set up on a date with Elaine), boy loses girl (after he breaks the news to her that he was having an affair with her mother), boy wins girl (crashed Elaine’s wedding to Carl and takes her away). But it is the final scene, the last shot, that sticks with you where a disheveled Benjamin and Elaine still in her wedding dress sitting in the back seat of a bus. At first they seem ecstatic and exhilarated by what they had just pulled off but gradually their expression changes as they both realize what they had done. You can hear them both thinking: “Now What?

WALL-E (2008)

Walle
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0910970/

Frustrated Evaluator: Not just another one of Pixar’s usual genius with animation but a love story. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland that was once our planet but abandoned for eons. WALL-E is the robot that remains on this wasteland and reminds us of what we all need and seek: companionship, protection and trust. I never expected to get wrapped up in the romance between a pair of robots. But I did and so will you.

I know this is cheating and we were all asked to give 3 of our favorites, but I’m going to sneak in a few more of my odd and not so odd romantic favorites: Star Man, The Lady and the Tramp (animation), The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Crying Game, Jules and Jim, Gilda, Brief Encounter, In the Mood for Love, Lost in Translation, and one my favorites from the ‘80’s “Say Anything,” which compliments Tom’s favorite music selection.

Hope you like our list. Now, it’s your turn: Tell us what are your favorite romantic films, novels, music and paintings?

And, Happy Valentine’s Day!


The Frustrated Evaluator
www.acei1.com

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Calypso Gets Muzzled in Guyana

January 16th, 2014

Calypso

Q: Why is it that music always gets banned in totalitarian regimes?
A: Because music is a human expression of freedom.
Q: Why did the Vatican try to suppress music that had any rhythm to it?
A: Because rhythm is dangerous and might make people want to get down, shake some booty, even fornicate.

In Germany and the Soviet Union, jazz was banned because it was considered decadent and bourgeois. Way too much freedom there.

In Iran, even a woman’s voice wasn’t allowed on the radio; it might enflame men’s baser instincts.

In the case of Guyana, it’s more like Fela Kuti in Nigeria or maybe South Africa under apartheid. Especially Fela, calling taking names in songs like, “I.T.T. (International Thief Thief)” and “Coffin for Head of State” and “Army Arrangement”.

Calypso in Trinidad and Tobago (calypso’s capital) has always been the mouthpiece of the people. It’s a great topical music. Great Calypso artists like Young Tiger, Lord Kitchner, and others sang about the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1952, the growing popularity of bebop music (for and against), and for people whose reading skills were limited, calypso classics filled the void. There were songs about Kennedy facing down Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev during the Cuban missile crisis.  Calypso lyrics told the truth, giving the people straight talk on current events.

Now the Guyanese government is trying to quash calypso music in Guyana. Why? Because calypsonians there are writing songs about the endemic corruption that has plagued the South American nation. Radio stations are getting calls “suggesting” that the DJs not play certain hit songs. A top singer, De Professor (né Lester Charles), after winning a big song contest with the song, “God Nah Sleep” that a local radio station got stormed when it put the song into heavy rotation and tried to ban the song from airplay. Some of the lyrics went like this:

“While dem a thief, thief, thief,

we just sit down like if we lame”

Guyana, though known to many Americans from the hideous Jonestown Massacre of 1978, has known corruption, assassinations, election fraud and violence since independence from Britain in 1966. Repression continues with this latest ban on musical freedom.

Here is De Professor’s song that so upset the government ministers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVpnPnnfchQ

toms

Tom Schnabel, M.A.

Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Blogs for Rhythmpalent
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons
www.tomschnabel.com

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January 1964: A Retrospective

January 2nd, 2014

3894222760_7285673a25

As we start the New Year, we thought it would be interesting to look back and see what historical events took place on this month in January, fifty years ago in 1964. As you can see from the list below, in only one month, a great deal happened around the world, some of which continue to be part of the news today.

We hope you’ll find this retrospective interesting or at the least amusing in that history does have a way of repeating itself, from political unrest, revolution to diplomatic stalemates. It also chronicles some firsts, such as the announcement about plans to build the World Trade Center, the first female presidential candidate and the Beatles having their first #1 hit in the U.S.

January 1964

January 1st – In Africa, Federation of Rhodesia & Nyasaland dissolved


January 2nd – Failed assassination attempt on president Nkrumah of Ghana (though 2 years later in 1966, a military coup led to his ouster forcing him to seek exile in Guinea)

January 3rd – On TV in the U.S., the Jack Paar Show shows a clip of the Beatles singing “She Loves You.” To view the clip, click on this link:
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJ8RfymgO8Q

January 5th – Pope Paul VI visits Jordan & Israel


January 7th – Bahamas becomes self-governing
(and on July 10, 1973, it gained its independence)

January 8th – European Parliament accept Mansholt Plan

January 8th – U.S. President Lyndon B Johnson declares “War on Poverty”

January 11th – Panama ends diplomatic relations with US
 after the breakout of anti-US rioting that started two days earlier on January 9th

January 11th – U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry reports that smoking may be hazardous

January 12th – In Tanzania, revolution overthrows Sultan of Zanzibar, one month after independence Revolution

January 13th – Hindu-Muslim rioting breaks out in the Indian city of Calcutta – now Kolkata – resulting in the deaths of more than 100 people.

January 14th – Jacqueline Kennedy’s 1st public appearance (TV) since President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. To see a clip of her TV appearance, click on this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auVIO5zM8C0

January 18th – Plans for World Trade Center announced (NYC)

January 22nd – At the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, the Wisconsin Pavilion displayed the world’s largest cheese (15,723 kg or 34,591 pounds) manufactured

January 24th – 24th Amendment to US Constitution goes into effect & states voting rights could not be denied due to failure to pay taxes

January 25th – Beatles 1st US #1, “I Want to Hold your Hand” (Cashbox)


January 25th – Echo 2, US communications satellite launched

January 27th – Margaret Chase Smith (Sen-R-Maine) tries for Republican Presidential bid

January 29th – 9th Winter Olympic games open in Innsbruck, Austria

January 29th – Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove,” premieres

Kubrick
Film Director Stanley Kubrick

January 29th – Unmanned Apollo 1 Saturn launcher test attains Earth orbit

January 30th – Military coup of Gen Nguyen Khanh in South Vietnam

January 30th – Ranger 6 launched; makes perfect flight to Moon, but cameras fail

January 31st – The U.S. report “Smoking & Health” connects smoking to lung cancer

Together, let’s help make 2014 a year of remarkable achievements and breakthroughs that promote the betterment of our global society and planet as a whole. Happy New Year!

ACEI

Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc.
www.acei1.com

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Nelson Mandela, South African Music and the Struggle Against Apartheid

December 26th, 2013

On December 5, 2013, Nelson Mandela, a beloved hero, a giant of history and one of the greatest visionary leaders of our time who fought to protect and promote human rights, passed away. As we come to the end of 2013, we would like to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela by sharing a blog from our frequent guest blogger, Tom Schanbel, who writes about the important role music played in shaping the history of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.

From all of us at ACEI, we wish you and yours a very happy holiday season.

mandela
Source: New Yorker, December 16, 2013

During my tenure as music director of KCRW (1979-1991), we had a dedicated African show (The African Beat) and often featured African music on other programs as well. We gathered South African music wherever we could: from Jo’Burg’s Kohinoor Store in Johannesburg, SA, from a woman named Di Brukin who brought us the latest SA grooves when KCRW was still on the John Adams Middle School Campus in 1981-1984. Roger Steffens, host of the popular Reggae Beat show (1979-1989), was sending Paul Simon the latest music from The Cockerel Boys, Kwa Thema High Jumers,  Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and Boyoyo Boys on cassettes. Thus, inspiring Simon to record his epochal Graceland in 1985. We featured a lot of other Zulu Men’s Hostel Choirs too, such as the lesser known Abafana Baseqhudeni. Plus, lots of mbaqanga music–the infectious joy of Zulu jive. All this was during the period where Mandela was incarcerated in his small prison cell on Robben Island, a former leper colony and animal-quarantine center. During the 1980s, black South Africans were acutely aware of Nelson Mandela and the ANC (The African National Congress) that he led. And, music was a weapon against apartheid. We see this in the historic documentary Rhythm of Resistance, shot underground and clandestinely in the mid-1970s.

South_African_Albums

I once interviewed writer Rian Malan (the grandnephew of David Malan, a major definer of the doctrine of apartheid) on Morning Becomes Eclectic after his book My Traitor’s Heart was published. Rian Malan loved the exuberance of black South African culture, Zulu jive music and the joy it inspired. In this famous book he also wrote of the hatred and criminal horror inspired by apartheid. The irony of it all was not lost on me.

The cover image of the December 16th New Yorker magazine is of Mandela: a combination of both Tommy Smith’s unforgettable black power salute on the podium after winning gold at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics and the Statue of Liberty. Random fact, Tommy Smith later became a track coach at Santa Monica College. This music not only celebrates Mandela’s courage, leadership, and legacy: it is a celebration of life and the triumph of hope over despair.

(Note: Please also read the tribute to Nelson Mandela by Amnesty International in this link:
http://www.amnesty.org.uk/nelson-mandela-1918-2013#.UrCy_tJDuSo )

Tom Schnabel, M.A.
Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Host of music program on radio for KCRW Sundays noon-2 p.m.
Blogs for KCRW
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons
www.tomschnabel.com

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Martin Heidegger’s Influence On “Riders On The Storm”

December 5th, 2013

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Heidegger’s Concept: “Geworfenheit” (“Thrown-ness”)

The song is a 60′s classic: “Riders On The Storm”. We’ve heard it a thousand times. But do many people know it may well be associated with the thinking of a modern German metaphysical philosopher?

Jim Morrison was a voracious reader; even his senior-year high school English teacher said he read more than any other student. Later in the mid-1960s, as an eager UCLA Comparative Literature student in Jack Hirschman’s legendary classes (Hirschman was brilliantly unorthodox), he wolfed down works by existentialist writers like Genet, Sartre, Camus, Antonin Artaud, and others. I majored in comparative literature as well, and read these very same authors.

Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) espoused a central concept he called “geworfenheit” (“thrown-ness”). It’s an ontological precept that states we are thrown into the world, a world we can’t understand or make sense of. Another perspective given by Toronto Psychotherapy Definitions describes it as: “the accidental nature of human existence in a world that has not yet been made our own by conscious choice.”

It is known that Jim Morrison knew and read Nietzsche and perhaps Heidegger too. The lines “into this world we’re thrown” (from “Riders On The Storm”) is identical to Heidegger’s notion of geworfenheit.

We saw this arbitrary “thrown-ness” in the classic poem by English writer Matthew Arnold, “Dover Beach” (1851) which presaged the metaphysical phase shift from religion to evolution, from spiritual hope to brute existence, that came when Darwin published the Origin of Species in 1859. Like Darwin’s theory of the survival of the fittest, Arnold’s lines are similarly bereft of metaphysical or religious optimism:

From “Dover Beach” — Matthew Arnold

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Similarly, in “Riders On The Storm”:

Riders on the storm
Into this house we’re born
Into this world we’re thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out alone
Riders on the storm…

Many of these themes turn up in Albert Camus‘ existentialist writings as well. In novels like The Stranger and The Plague, Camus questioned the meaning of existence in a world seemingly governed by randomness.

It was perhaps equally random and absurd that Camus should die in Paris in a car accident, a passenger in a luxury car called a Facel Vega en route to Paris from Provence to Paris. Camus, poet and theorist of the absurd, is supposed to have said that the most absurd way to die would be in a car crash. Morrison, died in a his bathtub in his Paris apartment of an overdose. You find more flowers on his grave in the Paris Père Lachaise cemetery than on other famous people buried there as well, such as Oscar Wilde, Honoré de Balzac, Sarah Bernhardt, Georges Bizet, Chopin, and Molière.

Listed below are the lyrics to “Riders On The Storm”. Note, the use of the word “thrown” just as in geworfenheit.

“Riders On The Storm” – The Doors

Riders on the storm
Into this house we’re born
Into this world we’re thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out alone
Riders on the storm

There’s a killer on the road
His brain is squirmin’ like a toad
Take a long holiday
Let your children play
If ya give this man a ride
Sweet memory will die
Killer on the road, yeah

Girl ya gotta love your man
Girl ya gotta love your man
Take him by the hand
Make him understand
The world on you depends
Our life will never end
Gotta love your man, yeah

Yeah!

Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Into this house we’re born
Into this world we’re thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out alone
Riders on the storm

Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm

Tom Schnabel, M.A.
Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Host of music program on radio for KCRW Sundays noon-2 p.m.
Blogs for KCRW
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons
www.tomschnabel.com

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The Difficult Life For Those Born Albino In Africa

August 22nd, 2013

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Joseph Torner from the film, In the Shadow of the Sun

There is a new film about being born albino in Africa, In the Shadow of the Sun. The name derives from the classic book, The Shadow of the Sun by Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski. In this moving narrative, the author talks about Africans, dispossessed of their history, who simply walk around large shade trees all day to gain refuge from the sweltering heat and sun.

This holds true for Africans born with albinism. Superstition has it that black people can’t be born with white skin; the devil and sorcery must be involved. As such, superstition and traditional thinking also has it that such people must have otherworldly powers either from the devil or witchcraft. Such unfortunate albinos are murdered and their body parts sold. It is a terrible underground economy. Murdering tigers and black rhinos for gall bladders and horns to sell on the Chinese market for aphrodisiacs is tragic enough; killing albinos for similar reasons is perhaps even more horrific, depending on how you feel about endangered animal species.

The new film is by Harry Freeland and it tracks the life of an albino man in Tanzania named, Josephat Torner as seen in this video trailer. Click here to watch.

A more famous albino is Malian superstar Salif Keita. He was scorned in his youth for having white skin. Rejected and lonely, he would roam the fields nearby his home and sing to the birds. A neighbor heard him and complimented him on his powerful and beautiful voice. He went to the Malian capital Bamako, joined the band at the rail station which became known as The Rail Band and later Les Ambassadeurs du Mali, and rose to stardom for his incredible music.

He told me about the pain of being ostracized when I interviewed him. I put it in my book Rhythm Planet: The Great World Music Makers (Rizzolli). Salif affirms his differences from other in a beautiful song called, “La Différence”. In the song he sings that what makes somebody different also can make them beautiful.

Here are the lyrics. Keita opens the song singing in French, then switches to Mandeng:

Je suis un noir
I am a black man
Ma peau est blanche
My Skin is White
Et moi j’aime bien ça
As for me I like this
C’est La difference qui est jolie
It’s the difference that is pretty

Je suis un blanc
I am a white man
Mon sang est noir
My blood is black
Et moi j’adore ça
And I love this
C’est La Difference qui est jolie
it’s the difference that is pretty

Je voudrais
I would like
Que nous nous entendions dans l’amour
that we hear each other in love
Que nous nous comprenions dans l’amour
So we can understand
et dans la paix
each other in love and peace.

There is a beautiful photo of Salif’s daughter on the cover of the 1995 album Folon: The Past by photographer Matthew Donaldson.

salif-keita

There is also a message in the CD booklet:

If you want to help Salif Keita’s fight for albino people, please send your gift to SOS Albino, Post Box 133, 93511 Montreuil, Cedex, France. I found this link online from the president of SOS Albino (it’s in French). In it, the President of SOS Albino, Thièmo Diallo, appeals to the African public for fuller understanding on what actually causes albinism in hope for an end to superstition and fear.

Make sure you tune into my show at http://www.kcrw.com/music/programs/cl

Tom Schnabel, M.A.
Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Host of music program on radio for KCRW Sundays noon-2 p.m.
Blogs for KCRW
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons
www.tomschnabel.com

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Keepin’ It Eclectic and Worldwide!

July 18, 2013

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This week’s Rhythm Planet features a wide variety of new music from around the world in many different styles.  We feature some Brazilian classics from the band Azymuth and French bossa novista Nicola Conte’s new collection Viagem 5, some cool vibes to beat the heat with Joe Locke and Milt Jackson; we debut new albums from France’s Deep Forest, New Zealand’s Fat Freddy’s Drop, Malian modal blues from Samba Toure.  We remember the great R&B singer Bobby “Blue Bland”, who passed away recently, and there’s modern sufi music from The Shah Hussein Project, a mystery track from the German band Dirtmusic with a song inspired by Werner Herzog’s amazing movie Fitzcarraldo.  We wrap things up in a quieter mode with gorgeous new albums on the prestige label ECM, renowned for its pristine sound, production values, and acoustic music. These final four ECM albums are by saxophone virtuoso Chris Potter (warning: it’s jazz not for the feint of heart), German jazz pianist Julia Hulsmann gives a jazz treatment to a Manuel de Falla classic, “Nana” and finally two beautiful albums from Swiss singer Susanne Abbuehl and veteran English singer June Tabor, who makes her ECM debut.

Despite the moribund state of the music industry, it’s amazing how many good records are being produced these days, and many of the albums featured here might well go under the radar. That would be a pity, so I’m doing my small bit to get the music heard.  You may discover some you really like.

 

Rhythm Planet Playlist: 7/5/13

  1. Azymuth | Meu Mengo | Remixes & Originals | Far Out
  2. Neyde Fraga | Onda Quebrando | Nicola Conte Presents Viagem 5 | Far Out Recordings
  3. Joe Locke | Bittersweet | Lay Down My Heart | Motema Music
  4. Milt Jackson | The Cylinder | Ballad Artistry Of Milt Jackson | Collectables
  5. Deep Forest | Atali Wowo | Deep Africa | Big 3 Records
  6. Samba Toure | Be Ki Don | Albala | Glitter Beat
  7. Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland | Farther Up The Road | The Anthology| Duke/Peacock
  8. Fat Freddy’s Drop | Silver And Gold | Blackbird | Fat Freddy’s Drop
  9. Shahram Shabpareh | Leila | Shahram | Secret Stash Records
  10. The Shah Hussein Project | Saiyyon Assi | The Shah Hussein Project Vol. 1 | The Active
  11. Dirtmusic | Fitzcarraldo | Troubles | Glitter Beat
  12. Chris Potter | Wayfinder | The Sirens | ECM Records
  13. Julia Hulsmann Quartet | Nana | In Full View | ECM Records
  14. Susanne Abbuehl | My River Runs To You | The Gift | ECM Records
  15. June Tabor | Near But Far Away | Quercus | ECM Records

 

 

 

“Please join me online and listen to my music show “Rhythm Planet” at http://www.kcrw.com/music/programs/cl. Thanks!”

Tom Schnabel, M.A.
Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Host of music program on radio for KCRW Sundays noon-2 p.m.
Blogs for KCRW
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons
www.tomschnabel.com

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America’s Jazz Ambassadors

May 16, 2013

Louis Armstrong

During the cold war in the 1950s and 60s, when America was worried about Sputnik, ICBMs, and building bomb shelters, there was a quiet but determined cultural diplomacy going on behind the Iron Curtain. The U.S. State Department around the mid-1950s started sending American jazz musicians into Russia, newly-independent African nations (whom the USSR was wooing), Yugoslavia, Hungary, Pakistan, India, and other developing nations. The State Department first thought of sending a top US ballet company such as Martha Graham’s or the American Ballet Theater. The great U.S. Representative Adam Clayton Powell, who was the first African-American to be elected to the Congress (his district was Harlem), proposed a better idea: send top jazz musicians abroad to represent American democracy. After all, isn’t jazz the most democratic of artforms?

And so it was that Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Brubeck Duke Ellington toured the world spreading the infectious musical joy of jazz to people in countries where jazz was either little known or forbidden.

A recent show at the UCLA Fowler Museum was dedicated to this wonderful chapter in musical diplomacy. I led a panel that included Quincy Jones, who was on the very first tour in 1955. There is a picture of him near the Sphinx , a country being courted by the Soviet Union because of the Suez Canal’s strategic location. Another pictures shows Q at the Acropolis, posing as Rodin’s sculpture The Thinker.

In one funny incident, perhaps apocryphal but I think not, Louis Armstrong was sent to Ghana. Upon his return to the States, he landed at Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C.. Vice President Richard Nixon was there to meet him, and was in the limousine that went out onto the tarmac to greet him.

Nixon asked Satchmo if there was anything he could do for him. Louis said yes, please can you carry my trumpet case through customs? Satchmo was a regular pot smoker and had some fine Ghanaian weed in his case. And the Vice President got it through customs without a hitch.

Jazz was certainly the great cultural ambassador of America back then. Hip hop has now joined and shared that distinction. The great LA band Ozomatli was dispatched to tour the Middle East, Burma, and other places recently.

Check out this video of Satchmo’s arrival in Ghana 1956: it’s great!

Tom Schnabel, M.A.
Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Host of music program on radio for KCRW Sundays noon-2 p.m.
Blogs for KCRW
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons
www.tomschnabel.com

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