Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Ali Jihad Racy & Simon Shaheen Taqasim: Improvisation in Arab Music
Adel Salameh Master of the Oud
Moneim Adwan Il Était Une Fois En Palestine

These are three records I bought in the delightful Xango World Music shop in Utrecht. Or, rather, the first two are. The third was erroneously included in the CD case of the Adel Salameh record (in place of the actual disc), though I was able to subsequently change it for the correct one, thanks to Xango's no hassle exchanges policy, though not before ripping it to my computer heh heh heh.

I have been interested in oud music for some time now, the oud being a stringed instrument popular in the Arab world. My beloved has bought a couple of oud CDs over the years, but they leaned towards being false oud (with Hamza el Din's playing being marred by his vocals (reminiscent of a sex-starved cat) and Anouar Brahem allowing some jazzers to dilute his oud attack). I bought the Adel Salameh record and the Taqasim album in the hope of getting some real deal stringy Arabic music, and I was not disappointed.

Salameh's record is all oud all the time, with no interference from vocals or other musicians. The Taqasim record is a collaboration between Shaheen, an oud player, and Racy, a player of the bouzouki (another stringed instrument, with a much higher sound, one in some ways similar to that of a mandolin, though you already know this); their record is a collection of taqasim (singular = taqsim), a type of improvised piece in this type of Arabic music. Salameh's records is obviously the more minimal of the two, as Shaheen and Racy do at least get to play off each other with their different sounding instruments. The sleevenotes to this record say, however, that the (Greek) bouzouki is not a standard instrument in the Arab world, and that this might actually be the first ever recording of oud-bouzouki taqasim. Blimey.

The overall effect of both of these records is very soothing, with the plucked strings of the oud and bouzouki being very easy on the ear. At this stage I cannot really say much more about these records, and will have to listen to them further to discern more details about the internal structures of each piece.

I cannot tell you that much about the Moneim Adwan record. It features a much larger line-up of musicians and thus has a more immediately textured line-up. Without sleevenotes I can tell you little about when it was recorded or what kind of musical genre it falls into. I need to listen to it more so I can form a fuller impression of it, so maybe I will be back to you on this next time.

It is interesting that both Adel Salameh and Simon Shaheen are both Palestinians (from Nablus and Haifa respectively). Maybe the Palestinians are particularly well-known for their oud playing. It could be that it was the Palestinian association that led to my originally getting the Moneim Adwan record instead of Adel Salameh's.

As an aside, what would really have rocked would have been if I had ended up with an accidental disc of that Palestinian boom rave music my beloved kept hearing when she was in Ramallah in 2005. That sounded deadly.


In a lost valley in West Papua, scientists have discovered A GIANT RAT.

They have also discovered a pygmy possum, who may be one of a previously unknown species. "I wuv you", the pygmy possum is reported as saying.

Pictures from the BBC. Would you like to know more?

Chris De Burgh reaches out to Iran

Popular Irish singer Chris De Burgh is reportedly going to play a concert in Iran. Mr De Burgh will apparently be the first western pop artist to perform there since the 1979 revolution. He will be collaborating with Iranian act Arian.

Some songs that Chris could perform:


'Blonde Hair, Blue Jeans'

'If Beds Could Talk'

'Lebanese Night'

Chris seems to be rather popular with people in Iran and other Muslim countries. Check out the comments here: Chris de Burgh Lyrics.

As well as being a musician, Chris De Burgh is also possessed of healing hands that can reduce the suffering of those in pain.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

My Boulez Shame

My beloved has accused me of embracing Serialism, as evidenced by my new fondness for using rules to generate compilation CDs.

Computers Don't Lie

One great thing about iPods and iTunes is the way you can use them to objectively analyse what music you like (other music solutions might have similar functionality). As iTunes will list how many times you have listened to a track, your actual listening preferences are laid bare. You might like to say that you spend your time listening to Tibetan necro-jazz, but iTunes makes plain that you are really listening to the greatest hits of Hanson on endless repeat. The iTunes play counts will of course bias towards the kind of music you like to listen to when away from a proper music player, but this serves to point out how much listening is done on the move.

That was all by way of introduction. This Christmas I am using iTunes smart playlists to generate rules-based compilation CDs which I will then give to people who have similar discs to give back. I will burn up copies of the following three discs:

1. New Favourites
This will have the most played tracks I have added to iTunes in the last 12 months.

2. All-Time Favourites
This will have the tracks on iTunes that I have played the most since the dawn of time.

3. Forgotten Favourites
This sadface disc will have the most played tracks not listened to in the last year. What went wrong with these tunes?

Random factors will determine who gets which disc.

Do you want to play this game? If you do, make sure to enclose a tracklisting with your CD.

Previous iPod favourites:

Favourite Tunes (as of 21/12/2006)

iPod Top Ten (as of 4/5/2006)

iPod Top Ten

Friday, December 14, 2007


Naughty dog Charlie, a bichon frise*, caused near disaster at the World Pie Eating Championship in Wigan. Charlie sneaked into where the pies were being prepared and ate twenty of them and damaged another ten.

Another source of pies was located. In an ironic development, Charlie was then entered into the competition, but he was too full to compete successfully.

Picture from the BBC article: Dog jeopardises pie championships

*a completely made up breed of dog.

Two records from the "Éthiopiques" series

v/a Éthiopiques 1: L'Age D'Or De La Musique Éthiopienne Moderne"
Gétatchèw Mèkurya Éthiopiques 14: Negus of Ethiopian Sax

Two more discs of Ethiopian jazz from the 1960s and 1970s to add to the collection, bought by my beloved and/or me at the concert where The Ex played with Gétatchèw Mèkurya in Amsterdam. Éthiopiques 1 features a lot more vocal stuff than I am used to from the series, while the Mèkurya disc is more typical of what I expect from the series (I know all about Les Éthiopiques, having previously acquired Éthiopiques 4 and a vinyl record compiling various Ethiopian jazz tracks).

One thing I am struck by with a lot of these tracks is how reggae-ish some of them sound, at least to my untrained ears. I wonder, could the proto-reggae musicians and producers in Jamaica have all taken their Rastafarianism seriously enough to take an interest in Ethiopian jazz? That would be mad.

Anyway, these records are great. You can't beat the Ethiopian jazz.

Overheard in HMV

"What's Bruce Springsteen doing among all the people beginning with S?

"Maybe it's something to do with the Irish alphabet".

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Heroes of the Internet #5: the Black-People-Love-Us couple

Sally and Johnny are an ordinary white couple, unexciting in every way, except one - Black people love them!!! Thanks to this, they get to lead a life of continuous excitement, in which they give each other high fives and say "you da man!" to their many Black friends.

You don't believe it? Check out the pictures, or the testimonials from their many Black friends.

Unlike many Heroes of the Internet, they are not known to have been present for Rick Santorum's concession speech.

Trapped in the Closet latest

I have seen TITC episodes 13 - 22 and can reveal the following:

1. Twan's former girlfriend, the woman he suspected of grassing him up to the cops, turns out to have had his child while he was in prison.

2. But said former girlfriend is now dyking.

3. Rufus the Pastor has decided to stay with his wife and renounce his gay lover.

4. But said gay lover is in hospital - and like all gay people who go to hospital, he is not there because he is getting his appendix out, but because he has The Package.

5. This means that everyone in TITC is in big trouble.

And Will Oldham plays a cop.

EDIT: It is in fact an inference of characters in TITC that Pastor Rufus' gay lover is in hospital because he has The Package; the Nosy Neighbour and her comedy chubster husband have deduced that this, rather than some routine tests, is what has him in the sickhouse. They have also taken it for granted that he must have given The Package to Rufus. Who knows, maybe TITC will prove to have misdirected them.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A Big Bear

Icebear Knut is now a year old. He is a very big bear now.

Here he is today. And here he is when he first appeared in public.

Knut found time to blog about his birthday.

Picture from the BBC. Knut's surprisingly dark looks come from his fondness for rolling in mud.

I Know All About The Visual Arts

Last night I was out in the Irish Museum of Modern Art where this Anne Madden person was giving a talk about painting and art and stuff. It was only half way through her talk that I registered that she was not just a commentator on the arts, but an artist herself. And it was only afterwards that I registered that the husband named Louis she mentioned is in fact Louis Le Brocquy (also an artist). I have heard that they live quite near me, so maybe I will run into them in Devitt's sometime.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Good Dog, Old Cat

Ghillie the springer spaniel is to receive a PDSA bravery award later this month. Two years ago, when he was just nine months old, Ghillie saved his owner's life. The owner, Mary Wilson, had collapsed while they were out for a walk, but Ghillie barked to attract the attention of passers by, leading to Ms Wilson being rushed to hospital for life-saving treatment.

Pussywillow of Shropshire, meanwhile, is believed to be Britain's oldest cat. The 26 year old lived a semi-feral existence until four years ago, when a human family let her move in after she survived a fox attack. Pussywillow likes to curl up by the stove.

Sunday, December 02, 2007


I am adjudicating a game of Diplomacy. This is the boardgame based on the timeless wisdom of political realism (this might be a more informative link). Here is a map showing the situation, with the next turn being spring 1904:
Two of the countries are being played by siblings. Can you guess which two?

live music: Gétatchèw Mèkurya and the Ex get together in the Paradiso in Amsterdam

I was in Amsterdam recently for a celebration of Frank's APA reaching 100 issues. Many of us who were there went to see Gétatchèw Mèkurya and The Ex playing together.

Just to refresh, Gétatchèw Mèkurya is an Ethiopian jazzer, while The Ex are a long-lived Dutch punk band. At this gig they were joined by Mèkurya and a couple of other brass players (Mèkurya is a saxophonist). I do not know exactly how The Ex got into Ethiopian jazz, but it seems to have become a real thing of theirs – if you go their concerts they are as likely to be selling copies of Les Éthiopiques as their own records. They recorded an album with Mèkurya recently, and are no strangers to collaboration generally, having previously recorded an album (and probably played some live dates) with a small orchestra. The Ex's music is far less straight-jacketed than their status as a "punk" band might suggest, and even on their own their music has a fluidity that makes an association with them and musicians from looser traditions highly appropriate.

So I loved this gig. The music has a bouncy and incredibly dancey quality that made sitting still or chin-stroking nigh impossible. For maybe the first time with The Ex I found myself really seeing the point of the singer, with his interventions strongly assisting the beat as it pounded along its way; I missed him when songs did not require him. This was all more fun than I could shake a stick at, and I am only sorry it did not go on for even longer.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

"Mangal Pandey: The Rising"

On the other hand, there are good films in the world, notably this one. Henry The Cow will not be too surprised to learn that it has an anti-colonial theme, being about Mangal Pandey, one of the first Indian soldiers to mutiny against the rule of the British East India Company in 1857. I will talk about it at more length later, but for now I can say that I have enjoyed my first Bollywood film.

Picture from the Wikipedia entry on the film.