Tag Archives: africa

Rhythm Planet’s Favorite World Music Releases of 2017

January 18th, 2018

PlanetMusic_1

Now that we have 2017 behind us, we’d like to take a look at the countries in the African continent, in Latin America and India and learn a little more about some of them. We realize traveling to these destinations may not be possible, but we can agree that one way of appreciating their cultures is through their music. To guide us on this musical journey, we’ve invited our guest blogger and music aficionado, Tom Schnabel, to share with us a list of his favorites.

Rhythm Planet wrapped up 2017 by revisiting some of the best of world music from the past year. Five wonderful African albums made the list, beginning with the powerful female collective Les Amazones d’Afrique in a track featuring Angelique Kidjo (video at bottom), plus Senegal’s soulful Orchestra Baobab, and Mali’s Trio da Kali’s brilliant pairing with the Kronos Quartet. Then it’s the vocal artistry of Toto Bona Lokua, aka Frenchman Gérard Toto, Cameroun’s Richard Bona, and Congolese singer Lokua Kanza, and lastly the trio 3MA featuring Mali’s Ballaké Sissoko, Moroccan oud virtuoso Driss El Maloumi, and Madagascar’s valiha player Rajery.

We turn next to a good example of musical cross-pollination with India’s master sitar player Shujaat Khan and Iranian vocalist Katayoun Goudarzi, together exploring the Persian-Indian music connection that formed centuries ago along the spice route. After that, let’s check out a tribute to G.F. Handel from L’Arpeggiata with some crazy twists—it’s “crossover classical” at its best.

We switch gears and close the 2017 highlights show with the hot Latin band La Mambanegra from Cali, Colombia, followed by a young Cape Verdean star named Elida Almeida, who just released her third successful album.

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I hope you like these picks as much as I do. They represent, however, only a fraction of all the terrific world music I’ve enjoyed over the past twelve months. You can revisit, on demand, all the Rhythm Planet shows from 2017 (and earlier) on the KCRW website or on the KCRW app to hear more of the great world music from the past year.

Tom Schnabel, M.A.

toms

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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Africa: Higher Education Interrupted

October 27th, 2017

Africa

In the past few months, government crackdowns on students and faculty protests at many African countries have disrupted and temporary halted classes and in some cases led to the indefinite closures of universities affecting thousands of students.

Here’s a look at some of the countries affected:

Cameroon

Cameroon

In the wake of demands by staff and students for greater independence for their English-speaking region, the two main public universities in Anglophone Cameroon, after months of partial closures, have been shut down indefinitely by the country’s president.  For more on the university closures in Anglophone Cameroon, click here

Democratic Republic of Congo

DRC

In August 2017, the teaching staff at the University of Kinshasa voted to continue their strike to express their unhappiness in solidarity with academic staff of several other institutions in the country over non-payment of salaries and the failure of reaching a resolution with the government. For more on this topic, click here

Guinea

Guinea

In June 2017, a number of private universities in Guinea suspended instruction complaining about delays in payment of student grants from the government and the signing of contracts for teaching bachelor-equivalent courses. For more on the suspension of instruction at universities in Guinea, click here.

Kenya

kenya

Students at the University of Nairobi are finding themselves in the crosshairs of politics brought on by the country’s elections and strike by lecturers. As a result, on October 3rd, following a rash of student unrest, the University of Nairobi Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Mbithi announced the indefinite closure of the country’s second largest institution. Earlier, the students had protested against police use of excessive force and sexual harassment at the universities of Nairobi and Maseno.  On October 8th, Mount Kenya University shut its doors due to continued student protests and strikes by professors. For more on the university closures in Kenya, click here.

Rwanda

rwanda

Since March 10th, thousands of students have found their studies suspended because of partial or total closure of the private universities which failed to meet satisfactory standards of teaching. According to a report in UniversityWorldNews, 10 universities were given until September 2017 to raise their standards, or risk being closed permanently. An update of their status is not available.  For more on the university closures in Rwanda, click here.

Awareness of these events is key for international credential evaluators and institutions of higher education whose students may be from the countries cited above. These students may not be able to procure their transcripts because of the problems back home. With universities temporarily or indefinitely closed, students from the affected institutions will have a difficult time in requesting official transcripts and those who have been able to obtain their records may show gaps in their studies due to the temporary halt in their studies.

For further information on the world education systems and credential evaluations, visit our website at www.acei-global.org or contact ACEI at acei@acei-global.org

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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What Sparked the Student Protests in South Africa?

October 13th, 2016

2016-10-16
University of Witwatersrand (Wits University) on Monday, protesters throwing rocks were dispersed by riot police using tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades. (Photo credit: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images)

Monday, October 10, 2016 was supposed to be the start of regular classes at the University of Witwatersrand but this did not happen as students continue their protests against tuition hikes.

Here is some background and update on the ongoing student protests in South Africa:

1. In 2015, tuition fee hikes of between 10% and 12% were proposed.

2. The demonstrations began last October at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Students blocked the entrance to the university campus in protest against proposed hike in fees by 10.5% for 2016.

3. Under the banner #FeesMustFall, demonstration caused the closure of some of the country’s top universities. President Zuma ordered a freeze on tuition fees for a year.

4. Students have been protesting since September 20th, following the education minister’s announcement that universities can raise tuition up to 8 percent.

5. Protests at many universities have been peaceful. But at the University of Cape Town, protesters lobbed petrol bombs.

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Students protesting under the “FeesMustFall” banner. (Photo credit: BBC)

 

6. Fire destroyed a library at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).

7. Fires were set at Cape Peninsula of Technical (CPUT).

8. Students at Rhodes University put up burning barricades on campus streets.

9. President Jacob Zuma says the damage has cost the government more than $40 million.

10. According to President Zuma, the government has also absorbed $1 billion after similar protests forced a tuition fee freeze last year.

11. Annual increases in student fees differ between universities as fees are determined by institutions. Fees also vary by degree programs.

12. The government subsidizes tuition for poorer students, but undergraduate fees can be as high as $5,000 a year, which makes it unreachable for many black students.

13. More than two decades after the end of apartheid in 1994, South Africans continue to face extreme income inequality. The students want the opportunities they were promised when apartheid ended.

14. Protests show growing disillusionment with the governing African National Congress (ANC), which took power after 1994.

15. On Tuesday, October 11, 2016, President Zuma announced the establishment of a Ministerial Task Team to resolve the current impasse at institutions of higher learning. Those invited to serve on the  Task include heads of the following Ministries: The Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, Minister of Higher Education and Training, Minister of Science and Technology, Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Minister of Police, Minister of State Security, Minister of Defense and Military Veterans, and Minister of Home Affairs.  Absent from the team is the Minister of Finance who is set to answer a summons to appear in court on November 2. Ultimately, it is the Finance Ministry that would be tasked with finding the funds to address the funding issue for higher education.

For an audio/webinar presentation of this blog report on student protests in South Africa, please click here: http://www.anymeeting.com/mwemfxacpupn/E954DD83804B3F

Sources: 

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/10/10/497380342/photos-students-police-clash-in-south-africa-over-free-tuition demands?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=2036

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-37607757

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-34615004

http://www.thedailyvox.co.za/president-zuma-leaves-pravin-task-team-deal-feesmustfall/

http://www.thedailyvox.co.za/buildings-torched-overnight-wits-cput-ukzn/

http://www.dontparty.co.za/latest-news/is-feesmustfall-the-most-significant-protest-of-the-new-south-africa/

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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Sister Deborah and Ghana Jollof: Tasty Rice

This is a culinary tale–or rather competition–West African style.

Last Sunday morning, I heard a story and song on NPR’s Weekend Edition about a rice rivalry in West Africa, particularly Ghana vs. Nigeria, surrounding a ubiquitous rice dish in the region (Ghana, Nigeria, and Senegal) called Jollof. The tune’s nice grooves and rhymes caught my ear, as did the conversation between host Linda Wertheimer and Ofeibia Quist Arcton, the Ghanaian journalist and NPR reporter. (When in Senegal, Quist Arcton finishes her stories with a wonderful flourish: “Ofeibia Quist Arcton, Dahkaaaaaaaaaah.” I’ve always loved her style.)

Ghana
Ghanain restaurant menu. Photo by Rachel Strohm (CC BY-ND 2.0) via Flickr

The song “Ghana Jollof” is sung by Sister Deborah (b. Deborah Owusu-Bonsu), a popular Ghanain TV host, model, and academic, who holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Arts, London. The lyrics were written by her brother, Wanlov (“one love?”) the Kubolor. The song basically postulates that the Ghanaian version of the rice dish is better than the Nigerian version. The basic ingredients include rice, tomatoes, onion, chili pepper, salt, pepper; Ghanaian and Nigerian versions add goat, lamb, or beef. The Senegalese version (not part of the culinary showdown) uses fish. Between Ghana and Nigeria it’s a competitive recipe, so think West African Top Chef.

Intrigued by the story, I searched for the video and found it online. It’s quirky and fun, and a little mysterious. Why are those guys dressed up as women? Folks are shown on the up-and-up, driving a 6-series BMW convertible.

I had fun with this, and I hope you do too. For those of you interested in trying the dish, here is the Ghanian vegetarian recipe. And the competing Nigerian version:

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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Tinariwen, The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer

November 13th, 2014

Tinariwen-Emmaar
Tinariwen’s Emmaar (2014)

Tinariwen, The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer sounds like a gruesome scene from the Kel Tamashek uprising of 1963 in northern Mali that saw the death of messianic Tinarwen frontman Ibrahim Ag Alhabib’s parents when he was a small boy. But in fact, it’s actually the group’s playbill for the North America tour for their latest album, Emmaar.

When The Harpoonist (Shawn Hall) and the Axe Murderer (Matt Rogers) walked onstage last weekend at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex to open for Tinariwen, not many people knew who these two guys from Vancouver were. The duo’s name apparently references the blues harp(oon) from a line in country music singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson’s hit, “Me and Bobby McGee”: “I took my harpoon out of my dirty red bandana.” “Harp” being slang for the harmonica (Shawn Hall); “axe” is a common term for the guitar (Matthew Rogers). These two bust out the sounds of a full live blues and roots band playing their respective instruments while stomping and tapping out beats with both pairs of feet on kick drum, snare, foot tambourine, and shaker. (Check out the video at the end of this post to see them in action.) It’s no wonder why Tinariwen booked this Vancouver duo as the opening set for their entire North American tour.

HAM-160x160
The Harpoonist & the Axe Murderer

Perhaps it’s that DIY nature with which Saharan ‘desert blues’ band Tinariwen feels some kinship. As the story goes, Tinariwen was founded in 1979 by Ibrahim Ag Alhabib while he, Abdallah Ag Alhousseyni, and Alhassane Ag Touhami were scraping by in the Algerian refugee camp of Tamanrasset. The following year, they answered Muammar el-Quaddafi’s call to create a Saharan regiment of Tuareg fighters and received infantry training while performing their soulful dirges and finding fans amongst other sympathizers seeking to establish a single independent Tuareg republic. Their anthemic music became “the soundtrack for Tuareg independence and reconciliation,” spread via bootleg cassette tapes by their Kel Tamashek fans who began to call them “Kel Tinariwen,” derived from the word ténéré, which means ‘of the deserts.’

Ibrahim-Ag-Alhabib-300x195
Tinariwen founder, Ibrahim Ag Alhabib

After the Tamanrasset Accords of 1991, Tinariwen left the military to fully devote themselves to music. Ibrahim says, “I had long ago realized that I was a musician and poet, and that these were better weapons with which to achieve what I wanted.” Performing their songs in mostly minor keys with static harmonies, like “Tahalamot,“ guitarist Abdallah layers consistent modal rhythms over a signature bass key, painting a vast ever-changing desert landscape.

Tinariwen’s blues sound is one of ‘assouf,’ expressing a deep loneliness and eternal yearning. Due to the political instability of Mali, they remain nomads, unable to return to their native homeland for risk of incarceration or worse. Now a multi-generational collective of musicians and songwriters, their timeless music sings of exile, struggle, and division, but also of “the beauty of the desert, the sky, the lands, our blues, and the nostalgia of an old time.”

Tinarwen-Joshua-Tree-300x199
Exiled from their native Mali, Tinariwen recorded their latest album, Emaar in Joshua Tree, CA.

Raised on North African protest music, Berber traditions, and raï music, Tinariwen were exposed in the military camps to the Western sounds of Led Zeppelin, Carlos Santana, and the “guitar-driven anthems of Jimi Hendrix and the American blues.” Also hugely influential was Malian bluesman Ali Farka Touré, who reinterpreted native kora and djéli (griot) music for electric guitar, creating a sound reminiscent of the Mississippi delta blues. Most African slaves brought over to the U.S. were originally from the Sahel region and kept the musical, cultural, and spiritual traditions of their native homelands, which would pave the way for the early twentieth century American blues tradition.

Bassist Eyadou Ag Leche says, “I’m told that a lot of the Africans who went to North America came from West Africa, from our part of the world. So it’s all the same connection. I think that any people who have lived through something that is very hard, feel this [assouf], this pain, this longing. That is what will make [our] music sound similar to each other.”

Tinariwen perform “Islegh Taghram Tifhaman” from their album, Emmaar.

The Harpoonist & the Axe Murderer perform “Love Me ‘fore Ya Leave Me.”

Tom Schnabel, M.A.

toms

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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10 Fast Facts on Mauritania

August 7th, 2014

mauritania

Recently, I saw a performance by the Mauritanian singer Noura Mint Seymali, who plays the 9-string harp, the ardin (reserved only for women), and her talented musicians at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. The Skirball hosts free summer concerts bringing in international artists and performers to give us Angelenos a taste of the musical flavors from around the world. Noura’s melodic voice and music, a blend of Berber, Afro-pop, and desert blues had everyone on their feet dancing; transporting us to a desert oasis thousands of miles away.

YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HLfWoZhC7s

Influenced by its Moorish past, Mauritania has a rich and thriving music culture (as evidenced by the performers I saw at the Skirball).

In terms of geography, Mauritania (three times the size of Arizona) is situated in northwest Africa with about 350 mi (592 km) of coastline on the Atlantic Ocean. In the north, it is bordered by Morocco and on the east by Algeria and Mali, and Senegal on the south. The country is 70% desert and growing because of ongoing droughts, with the exception of the fertile Senegal River valley in the south and grazing land in the north.

maur_house
Image source: Steve McCurry’s Blog

The history of Mauritania dates back to the 3rd century AD. The original settlers of Mauritania were the Bafours people. Berber tribes began migrating to the region between the 3rd and 7th century AD removing all traces of the Bafours people. The Mauritanian Thirty-Year War occurred between 1644 and 1647 when the Beber fought against the Beni Hassan tribes and Maqil Arab invaders.

Mauritania was first explored by the Portuguese in the 15th century, but by the 19th century the French had gained control and became one of the colonies that constituted French West Africa. In 1946, it was named a French overseas territory.

Now, here are some fast facts on Mauritania:

1. Mauritania gained its independence from France on Nov. 28, 1960, and was admitted to the United Nations in 1961. (Having once been a French colony, Mauritannia’s education system has been heavily influenced by the francophone system which is still prevalent today even after its independence.)

2. The capital of Mauritania is Nouakchott, which means “place of the winds.” It was designated as the country’s capital only in 1960 and is therefore one of the world’s newest capitals.

Nouakchott,
Nouakchott, capital of Mauritannia

3. Mauritania is one of the last countries to abolish slavery. It passed a law in 1981 to abolish slavery. Yet, according to 2003 estimates, despite the legislation against slavery, there still exists around 90,000 slaves in Mauritania.

slavery
Image source: http://borgenproject.org/modern-day-slavery-mauritania/

4. Majority of Mauritanians are devout Moslems and belong to the Sunni sect.

5. Arabic is the official and national language. Other languages spoken include: Pulaar, Soninke, Wolof (all national languages), French, Hassaniya (a variety of Arabic).

moslem_men

6. If you look at Mauritania from space, you can see a clear bull’s-eye-like image called “The Eye of Africa.” It is a Richat structure with a diameter of about 30 miles and believed to be the result of the simultaneous lifting of the underlying geology. It is, nevertheless, quite striking.

Richat

7. With about 40% of its population still below the poverty line, Mauritania depends heavily on iron ore exports, fishing and off shore oil wells for its economic progress. In addition to ion ore, Mauritania’s other natural resources include gold, gypsum, phosphate, diamonds, copper and oil.

8. Mauritania’s extensive coastline offers excellent opportunities for those who wish to explore the beach, surf, swim or fish in the sea.

maur_beach

9. France’s colonial influence is apparent in Mauritania’s education system that follows the francophone system. Primary school covers 6 years and begins at age six, followed by 7 years of secondary education which leads to the Secondary Education Diploma “Diplome du Baccalauréat de l’Enseignement du Secondaire” (BAC),

10. Mauritania’s University of Nouakchott offers two-year Diploma programs (“Diplome d’Etudes Universitaires Géneralés” also called “DEUG”) followed by two additional years for the “Maitrise.” There are also seven specialized institutions of higher education

Bonus fact:
11. Mauritania’s Bay of Nouadhibou, hides one of the biggest ships cemeteries in the world. There are more than 300 wrecks from all nations beached permanently on its shores. (For more images of shipwrecks on Mauritania’s shores click here: http://www.fogonazos.es/2006/11/shipwrecks-on-coast-of-mauritania.html)

maur_shipwreck

Sources:
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13881985
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/mr.html
http://www.wfp.org/countries/mauritania

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert
Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert
acei@acei-global.org

ACEI
http://www.acei-global.org

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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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