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09 décembre 2006

BBC shows best teen beats

Fans of TV talent shows would have been familiar with the format - an act performs, the judges debate the merits of that performance, the presenter asks them how they feel - and ultimately, one of them is awarded the winner.

But the final of The Next Big Thing - the BBC's global search for the best young musical talent - was different in a couple of ways. Firstly, all the acts were aged under 18. Secondly, they were all really rather good.

In this case, selecting the eventual winner would be legendary producer William Orbit, Rough Trade founder Jeff Travis, African star Angelique Kidjo and Dirty Pretty Things drummer Gary Powell, with former Genesis frontman Peter Gabriel also giving his input.

And so to the acts. Brazilian six-piece combo Sweet Cherry Fury began the night with their jaunty, raucous take on boredom in exams, Cold Blonde Body. Having flown 20 hours from Sao Paulo - and lost their luggage en route - they were determined not to let a minor technical hitch that had delayed the start of the gig put them off.

Lyrical flow

Impressively, performing live at the BBC's famous Maida Vale studios in front of industry icons seemed to inspire them rather than make them nervous - something, on the most part, in common with all the performers on the night. They threw themselves into their songs with both intensity and passion. As Vardy, the lead singer of British three-piece rock group Skagz put it, "we're having the time our lives."

There was an intense performance from Malawian rap act NiC, a duo who volleyed words back and forth like Sampras and Ivanisevic in their prime, deciding not to bother with those fancy passing shots and just belting the ball at each other. Their angry - if interestingly anti-materialistic - rap stems from their frustration at attempting to break into the music industry in Africa. Judge Gary Powell was particularly impressed by what he described as their "lyrical flow", saying they could be understood better "than acts in the charts earning millions".

NiC would eventually finish second, a place shared with British duo Stefan and Mya - whose much more light-hearted song, My Dunks, is about a fashion victim and his girlfriend, who feels she is always second-best to her man's trainers.Their bickering couple style drew high praise from the judges. "I'd say you're like Lily Allen, but you're much better than that," said Powell.

But everyone brought something different to the final, despite - or perhaps because of - their widely diverse backgrounds, sounds, and themes. Refugee Malikinke delivered a multi-language plea to African men to think before they sleep around; US multi-member group MLK performed an eight-word, two-minute celebration of Martin Luther King; while the Skagz thrashed out their up-tempo rock song about singer Vardy "getting attacked in the mining village of Whitwell".


As soon as she stepped behind the microphone, however, the star quality of the act who go on to win shone through. Armenian performer Silva not only sang, she also really performed, coupling her smooth vocal with some well-honed dance moves. The 17-year-old's tango-based song I Like - written by her sister and produced by her brother - would not have sounded out of place on any hit-centred radio station. But, with a little polish, the same could have been said for most of the other acts too. None were noticeably weak - a benefit, perhaps, of having a panel of music industry experts give their input into choosing the final seven.

The four judges admitted they had expected the standard to be "much lower", and were visibly impressed. As they deliberated and the groups awaited the result, the genuine camaraderie that had grown between the acts - they had stayed together in the same hotel since arriving in London earlier in the week, and cheered each others' performances - was clear to see. They all stood huddled together, nervously chatting to each other, offering congratulatory handshakes and hugs whenever one of them was mentioned by name by the judges.

When the result was announced, the cheers and applause were such that any one of them could have been cheering their own win as much as Silva's. Silva herself was utterly overwhelmed by the experience, and accepted the trophy with tears in her eyes. Asked if she was happy to have won, she could manage only one word: "Yes."

British musicians fight for copyright extension

Paul McCartney and U2 were among thousands of musicians who signed a full-page newspaper ad that appeared Thursday, calling on the British government to extend copyright protection for their work. Peter Gabriel, Cliff Richard and Billy Bragg were also among the 4,000 performers whose names appeared in the Financial Times pages calling for an extension, a position that also has the support of most record companies.

"We call upon the U.K. government to support the extension of copyright in sound recordings," the ad read. The appeal was in response to Wednesday's release of the Review of Intellectual Property, which was commissioned by Britain's Treasury. The review was led by Andrew Gowers, the former editor of the Times.

Gowers's report rejected calls by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) to extend Britain's copyright on sound recordings to 95 years, from the current 50 years. Those terms would compare to the Sonny Bono Act, enacted in 1998 to lengthen copyright protection in the U.S.

Gowers argued in the report that there must be a balance between protection of the artist and of the consumer, and he rejected the notion that artists would move elsewhere to evade the shorter copyright protections. It's not known whether the government will act on the recommendation. If so, recordings by artists such as Richard, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones would be in the public domain within the next few years.

The Open Rights Group, which included Matt Black, a DJ from Coldcut, supported Gowers's recommendation. "The only people to benefit from term extension would be the giant traditional media groups," Black said. "Here we can recognize that music is a key part of our culture, [and, indeed, a key export], that recycling is a natural part of musical creativity," he added.The review also called for a crackdown on music piracy and counterfeiting operations, including dramatically increasing the maximum prison sentences for those found guilty of online copyright infringement to 10 years from two.

Fairlight Signed By 44 Pop Stars On Ebay

Get it for Christmas and support WITNESS charity if you have a spare $100,000 05-Dec-06
Fairlight Signed By 44 Pop Stars On Ebay
For music fans around the globe the ultimate holiday gift this year is available online at EBay: a vintage Fairlight CMI keyboard signed by 44 legendary artists who used it to define the sound of the Eighties. The Fairlight will be auctioned online up until live auction at the WITNESS Benefit Dinner and Concert in New York City on December 11, 2006. With a starting bid of $100,000 already registered, this is a gift that will likely appreciate considerably over time and, because it’s being auctioned for charity, will keep on giving beyond the holiday season.

Here's the details directly from the press release that we have received..

Fairlight has donated a vintage CMI (Computer Music Instrument) keyboard and arranged to have all 43 keys plus the chassis autographed by the artists that made the instrument the most important development in music in the Eighties. The signatory artists, who used the CMI to radically change the music of the day, include Lindsey Buckingham, Nick Rhodes, Stuart Copeland, Elvis Costello, Mike Oldfield, Hans Zimmer, Roland Orzabal, Barry Gibb, Steve Winwood, Kate Bush, Laurie Anderson, JJ Jeczalik, Joni Mitchell, Annie Lennox, Boris Blank, Midge Ure, Alan Parsons, Geoff Downes, Brian Wilson, David Gilmour, Mark Knopfler, Sir George Martin, John Paul Jones, Trevor Horn, Jim Kerr, Brian Eno, Jean Michel Jarre, Howard Jones, Herbie Hancock, Thomas Dolby, Keith Emerson, Mark Mothersbaugh, Bono, Jan Hammer, Todd Rundgren, Stevie Wonder, Iva Davies, David Hirschfelder, Chick Corea, Daryl Hall, Mike Rutherford, Billy Gibbons, Peter Gabriel and David Bowie.

Iconic hits such as “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel; “Thriller” by Michael Jackson; “Rocket” by Herbie Hancock and “The Unforgettable Fire” by U2 are classic examples of the Fairlight CMI as it was used within the 80’s genre. Among the first commercially-available albums to incorporate it were Kate Bush's “Never for Ever” (1980), Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday” (1980), Jean-Michel Jarre's Magnetic Fields (1981), and the Buggles' last album, “Adventures in Modern Recording.” Peter Gabriel's "Shock the Monkey" and its parent album Security (1982) also feature the instrument.

The Fairlight CMI was the world’s first digital sampler and featured other radical advances for the time, including a light pen interface and menu-driven GUI. One of the CMI’s most significant software features was the so-called "Page R,” which was the world’s first real time graphical music sequence editor, widely copied on other software synths ever since. The instrument was featured extensively in the futuristic videos of those who used it dominating the 80’s music scene and, being the first device to cross the computer/instrument divide, was the subject of passionate debate within the artist community — Phil Collins, a CMI detractor, went so far as to advertise “No Fairlight Used” in the liner notes of his 1985 album “No Jacket Required!” A Fairlight CMI can be seen in the Devo film “We Are Devo” and in Jan Hammer's music video for the Miami Vice theme song. It also makes an appearance being operated by Nick Rhodes in Duran Duran's video for "The Reflex".

The CMI hit the height of its popular frenzy among the artist community when it was featured in a now-legendary performance by Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Thomas Dolby and Howard Jones at the 1985 Grammy Awards. Ironically, the Grammy Album Of The Year in 1985 was “No Jacket Required.”

Though still selling to the music community elite, the cost of manufacturing forced Fairlight to discontinue the CMI in the late Eighties, as it migrated its business to building digital audio workstations and mixing consoles for the Hollywood film production business, the television broadcast market and the higher-end of music recording where the “Fairlight Sound” is still highly prized.

On December 11, WITNESS’ annual benefit will be hosted by the organization’s founder and chairman, Peter Gabriel, and actor Gael Garcia Bernal. The event will include performances by Paul Simon, Angélique Kidjo and Kate Pierson & Fred Schneider of the B-52's.

Commenting on the auction, Fairlight Chief Executive John Lancken said today, “Bringing together the artists and the instrument that turned music on its head back in the Eighties is a fascinating exercise in the history of music, but to do it with WITNESS to support peace and human rights around the world is especially gratifying. We believe that this project, the culmination of two years of hard work, is only the beginning of a long and productive relationship between Fairlight and WITNESS as we bring to bear our digital media expertise and our user base of studios and broadcasters around the globe to help advance the great cause that WITNESS fights every day.”

Echoing this sentiment, Gillian Caldwell, Director of WITNESS, said today “The Eighties is remembered for among other things the unique music of the time, much of which was created on the Fairlight CMI. Today, WITNESS seeks to ensure the current decade is not remembered as a time that the world turned a blind eye to human rights abuses across the globe. To open up the eyes of the world to these abuses, WITNESS relies on sound and video technologies, which is why it is especially exciting to see a professional audio company like Fairlight support our cause.”

The December 11 auction marks the end of a two-year program embarked on by Fairlight, WITNESS and New York City public relations agency Griffin Public Relations & Marketing to reach out to the artists who had used the keyboard. Working with artists, agents and managers, the group pitched participation, sought an agreement to autograph and then issued the keys individually to artists around the world. The autographed keys were each returned to Fairlight in Sydney and the keyboard was recently reassembled and shipped to New York, where it will go on display at a VIP reception before the auction.

Peter Gabriel and Gael Garcia Bernal to Host WITNESS’ Benefit Dec. 11, 2006

Event to highlight WITNESS’ ongoing work to end human rights abuses in Burma

(CSRwire) NEW YORK, NY - November 17, 2006 - Musician Peter Gabriel and film sensation Gael García Bernal will co-host the “Focus for Change” benefit for WITNESS, the international human rights group, on December 11, 2006 in New York City. The event, to be held at the Hammerstein Ballroom, will include performances by Paul Simon, Angélique Kidjo and Kate Pierson & Fred Schneider of the B-52’s.

WITNESS (, the New York-based organization that deploys video and technology to promote human rights causes worldwide, was co-founded in 1992 by Peter Gabriel. WITNESS has partnered with groups in more than 60 countries, bringing often unseen images, untold stories and seldom heard voices to the attention of key decision makers, the media, and the general public -- prompting grassroots activism, political engagement, and lasting change.

The December 11th event highlights WITNESS’ work in Burma, where over the past decade more than one million ethnic minority civilians in eastern Burma have fled from attacks of the SPDC - Burma's military regime - in a brutal campaign of repression, assimilation and counter-insurgency. Some have become refugees in Thailand and other neighboring countries, while others have been displaced inside the country. Burma dictator Than Shwe’s use of military force has resulted in extra-judicial killings, torture, rape, and forced labor on a massive scale. Over 3,000 villages have been destroyed or forcibly abandoned due to the military’s attacks. In the last six months alone, more than 20,000 people have been displaced from their homes and 5,000 fled to refugee camps in Thailand.

At the event, supporters will hear a keynote address urging effective international action by the UN Security Council by Mr. Kwe Say, a representative from WITNESS partner, Burma Issues, who fled an attack on his village and lived on the run as a child. Burma Issues, a Thailand-based organization staffed primarily by people who have fled from Burma, uses video to document the systematic repression of civilians by Burma's military government for international audiences and to educate and mobilize grassroots communities within Burma.

WITNESS’ benefit will also bring some of music’s best loved legends together to safeguard human rights and raise awareness of rights abuses all over the globe through the auction of a one-of-a-kind vintage Fairlight CMI keyboard signed by 43 of music’s biggest artists including Stevie Wonder, Bono, Herbie Hancock and Annie Lenox. The Fairlight CMI (Computer Music Instrument) was invented in 1978 and was the world’s first digital sampling keyboard. The keyboard, which was discontinued in the late 1980s, is now a highly prized collectors’ item. An online auction on EBay will begin on December 1, 2006 enabling music enthusiasts and collectors to bid on the keyboard in the ten days leading up to the auction. Then, on the evening of December 11th, an accompanying live auction will take place at the WITNESS benefit and the winning bid will be authenticated and announced.

Corporate sponsors of Focus for Change include Fairlight; DivX, Inc.; TED Conference; Griffin Public Relations & Marketing; Newscorp; Lindblad Expeditions; Deckers Outdoors Corporation; Hobie Surf Shop; EOS Airlines; Hennessy; Belvedere Vodka; Hudson Yards Catering; American Apparel; Chocolat Michel Cluizel; and Auction Cause.

Corporations or individuals interested in event sponsorship, can visit ( or contact Sara Federlein, WITNESS, 718.783.2000 ext. 304 or


WITNESS uses the power of video to open the eyes of the world to human rights abuses. By partnering with local organizations around the globe, WITNESS empowers human rights defenders to use video as a tool to shine a light on those most affected by human rights violations, and to transform personal stories of abuse into powerful tools of justice.

BBC Search For Next Big Thing In Music

30 November 2006 ; The BBC's international search for the world's best young band or solo artist is heading towards the grand finale with young musicians from Armenia, Brazil, Ghana, Malawi, UK and USA winning their way into the final. The global panel of judges of BBC World Service's The Next Big Thing contest has shortlisted as the finalists:

Armenia: Silva - I Like
Silva is 17-years-old. The track was composed by Silva's sister Mane and produced by Edgar, her brother.

Brazil: Sweet Cherry Fury - Cold Blonde Body
Sweet Cherry Fury are a six piece girl band from Brazil who share a passion for rock and roll.

Ghana: Mishkini - 3 Eyez
Mishkini is a young Liberian refugee living in Ghana. The song is performed in Ewe (a Ghanaian language), English and French. It talks about consequences of unfaithfulness among lovers.

Malawi: NiC - Take A Look Into My Eyes
Nick Giannakis wrote this track to describe the trials and tribulations he goes through trying to excel in the music industry in Malawi. The song touches on issues like drugs, loyalty and peer pressure.

UK: The Skagz - Whitwell
Whitwell is about Skagz's singer getting attacked by yobs in a village near where they live. Dave from Skagz says: "Like all Skagz songs, it's about real life experiences, it's honest and it's real."

UK: Stefan Abingdon - My Dunks
My Dunks is an observation of the fashions and trends of teenagers today. Stefan says: "It's my protest against fashion victims, which blatantly includes myself!"

USA: MLK and the Dreamers - Great Man
Made up of six musicians from three different local schools, MLK and the Dreamers were drawn together by their love of music. The band members like to describe their sound as "original, playful, and energetic".

The seven finalists are expected to fly into the UK next week to perform at the BBC's famous Maida Vale studios. The Next Big Thing is showcasing musicians who are 18 or under, compose original tracks and are unsigned. The shortlist was judged by a global panel of music industry names including critics, artists, record label pioneers and industry heavyweights. The BBC initially planned to shortlist six finalists, but the global panel came up with seven names.

The Next Big Thing producer Simon Pitts explains: "We had such a high standard of entries it was simply impossible to get it down to six." One of the panellists, British writer and broadcaster, Miranda Sawyer, described Silva and her song I Like as "unnervingly sophisticated".

UK-based Gareth Simpson, who recently developed OXJAM - Oxfam's most ambitious music event ever – said he liked the range of influences evident on Silva's performance: "There's an eastern feel fused with a contemporary R&B."

Ilka Schlockermann, German-born and now UK-based musician, producer and publicist, described Mishkini's 3 Eyez as "an interesting, mellow track" while Sergio Dias, the lead singer and founder of internationally-acclaimed Brazilian band Os Mutantes, liked the rhythm division of Mishkini's melody which he described as "simple but hearty". Sergio Dias also liked the "well produced, good contrasts" of Stefan Abingdon's My Dunks.

Another The Next Big Thing judge, Bernie Cho, Manager of MTV Korea's Creative and Content Department, was full of praise for NiC's Take A Look Into My Eyes. Bernie said: "With tight lyrics, disciplined delivery, and mood-swinging instrumentals, NiC's hypnotic hip-hop track has all the basic ingredients for a good-to-go, radio-friendly song. But by throwing in some off-colour, off-speed counterjabs like electric guitar chords and exotic, operatic choruses, NiC surges from OK to excellent on my scorecard. A nice, mature effort…"

Swedish producer, music engineer, DJ, musician and label manager Christopher Berg had special praise for The Skagz's song, Whitwell. Christopher said: "I like the quirky verse-groove… and this band understands the importance of a dynamic arrangement… I could see this band getting signed and releasing something successful, with the right producer involved."

Broadcast journalist and academic from China, Mao Xi, explained that she chose MLK and the Dreamers' song, Great Man, because "it proves a band can still make music using traditional instruments and without the latest technical equipment. It is a good song where everyone involved is having fun and the listener is drawn into the happiness."

The Next Big Thing final will take place on Saturday 9 December 2006 in a special programme. Producer William Orbit (of Madonna, Robbie Williams and Sugababes fame) will be joined by world music legends Cathy Dennis, Angelique Kidjo, Rough Trade founder Geoff Travis (Antony & The Johnsons, The Strokes, The Smiths) and special guest Peter Gabriel in a live show to select the winner from six finalists. The competition is part of a week of programmes from BBC World Service, Generation Next, which explores the real issues in the world according to under-18s.