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20 avril 2007

Kidjo makes message magic

Angelique Kidjo performs at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 9, at the Corvallis High School Theater.

African vocalist uses the beauty of her voice to win audience over

It was 1998, and Lilith Fair was in its second year of bringing fabulous female artists together in a celebration of song and musicianship. The atmosphere of the Oregon Lilith Fairs was always highly charged with positive energy, from the womyn-centric village of craft and clothing booths to the mainly female audience dancing, singing and, occasionally, doffing clothing on a hot summer day.

Lilith Fair, at its best, had the mellow, universal-love vibe of old Country Fair before it went commercial, and without the creepy contingent of old men slyly taking photographs of topless participants and their painted breasts. I suspect actually, were such creepy men caught at Lilith Fair, they would have been summarily throttled by a tie-dyed sarong and thrown onto the stage for Sarah McLachlan to kick.

One of the highlights of attending Lilith Fair was the complimentary music compilation passed out to the audience. The CD contained dozens of female artists, many of which I heard for the first time by listening to the compilation after the event. It was in the 1998 collection that I heard Angelique Kidjo’s incredibly beautiful voice for the first time.

I quickly fell in love with her song “Oremi,” which means friend in Fon, a language of her native Benin, in west Africa. The song, and the album of the same name, propelled the already internationally popular Kidjo into the eyes of the American public. While Kidjo sometimes sings in English and French, her songs as frequently feature Fon, Yoruba, Swahili and other languages native to West Africa.

No matter the language, Kidjo’s songs deal with issues of social justice and human rights, from native rights to gender equality. It’s not surprising that her work as an artist has also led to a prominent role in international organizations, most prominently as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. She has been a voice for UNICEF since 2000, speaking out on issues ranging from child trafficking to AIDS/HIV.

Kidjo considered becoming a human-rights lawyer before deciding that her music was a valuable tool in communicating issues of justice to a wide audience.

Her latest CD, “Djin Djin,” will be released May 1, and features duets with a number of recording artists, including Alicia Keys, Joss Stone, Carlos Santana and Ziggy Marley. I was lucky enough to get a hold of an early release of the CD, and turned it up loud on a late Saturday morning, hoping its energy would help me get through a round of house cleaning.

“Djin Djin” did the trick, and the household was quickly dancing and jumping in rhythm to the music, and in short order, everything was gleaming again. To Kidjo’s credit as a musician, none of the “big names” who joined her on the CD ever overpowered her incredible vocals, in fact, it was easy to forget her duet partner in the beauty of her own voice.

In fact, although the title song, featuring Alicia Keyes and Branford Marsalis, and “Sedjedo” with Ziggy Marley were especially wonderful, I was even more excited about her solo pieces, including the uplifting “Ae Ae” and her version of Ravel’s Bolero, “Lonlon,” which is astonishingly powerful and a perfect way to end the album.

While the messages in her version of “Gimme Shelter” with Joss Stone, and the moving “Salala” with Peter Gabriel, expand upon her human-rights work, her expressiveness and thoughtfulness comes through in all the pieces, despite the language barriers for most American listeners.

Corvallis will have a chance to experience Kidjo’s mix of traditional African, R&B, jazz and funk during her visit to Corvallis High School May 9. Her album “Djin Djin” will be available locally beginning May 1 at Starbucks and other local music outlets.

18 avril 2007

Proposals for new Eden building

Eden Project supremo Tim Smit has pledged to build "the most exciting building in the world" in the next phase of development at the environmental centre. Plans for the building - to be called The Edge - are currently being drawn up and this is the first drawing of it to be released. The Edge has been shortlisted for the Big Lottery Fund's £50 million Living Landmarks: The People's Millions award. Mr Smit said this week that everyone at Eden is "very excited" by the scheme.

He said: "We always knew we wanted a third building at Eden and in the early days it was going to be about the dry tropics. However, that idea was put to one side about three years ago when we realised that we wouldn't be able to spend millions of pounds on a building which would recreate some of the poorest environments in the world. This building is not about that, it is about living within limits. We want to look at how well humans - individually and as communities - react positively to changes."

The new building will look at the approaching water crisis, the challenges in the supply of energy and the impacts of changes to our climate. However the building will not be about climate change, but because of climate change.

Mr Smit said: "It will have at one level a horticultural collection and the chambers below will be created by great thinkers and creative people of our generation looking at what it is to be a human being. I can't say what is going to be in any of the chambers as, for many of them, it is not known yet. However, we have worked a lot with the Sensory Trust and we are interested in the question of what it is like to be disabled. Having asked that question we also want to know what it is to be able. You might have people who might appear to be born without problems, but then might not be able to engage emotionally or have a poor sense of smell, something which is not immediately obvious but is disabling. We want to explore the effects of that and this will be interesting for all sorts of reasons. We are hoping that the chambers will be connected by corridors, some of which might be dark or lined with fur, or with rope. Or you might have to take off your shoes and socks to walk through them to experience something."

Mr Smit declined to say who would be involved with creating all the chambers but did confirm that author Philip Pullman, famous for the His Dark Materials novels, and musician Peter Gabriel would each be responsible for a chamber.

He added: "There will also be rooms created by the British public. They will be able to have their input in what it is to be a human being. We have already started work on site asking our public what are the things that move them. The smells, tastes and senses that excite them. People are fascinated by talking about themselves and their responses. We hope over the summer we can gather more of this information from visitors to Eden."
Eden will submit its final application for the lottery funding scheme next month and in October a final shortlist will be made of projects to go forward to a live public TV vote. The final vote will take place in the new year. Mr Smit said: "I want this to be the most exciting building in the world. That is exactly what we want for Eden and we believe that The Edge can be that building."

16 avril 2007

'Tiny Bubbles' singer Don Ho dies at 76

Hawaiian singer Don Ho (music), best known for his song "Tiny Bubbles," which he typically performed while accompanying himself on ukulele, died Saturday at the age of 76...

...In one of his final studio performances, Ho appeared on a 2002 anthology album, "When Pigs Fly: Songs You Never Thought You'd Hear," singing a version of ...Peter Gabriel's "Shock the Monkey."

Peter Gabriel: Fighting injustice with a videocamera

The TED Conference Launches All-New Website Focused on the Distribution of Its Award-Winning Audio and Video Podcasts

Redesigned Website Promotes "Ideas Worth Spreading"

TED, known for its annual invitation-only summit of the world's brightest minds, today unveiled the new (, showcasing the extraordinary talks that have made the conference famous. With its striking design and groundbreaking video technology, the free site encourages audience participation consistent with its tagline, "Ideas worth spreading."...

Peter Gabriel on TED Talks

Peter Gabriel. Musician and activist Peter Gabriel explains the personal ... Peter Gabriel first took the musical stage by storm with the band Genesis, but ...

Music Review: Angelique Kidjo's - Djin Djin

Angelique Kidjo is a world renowned, Benin born, Grammy nominated singer. Her diverse music has won fans across the globe, as she effortlessly blends traditional African pop music with contemporary, modern grooves. She has been appointed as Good Will Ambassador by UNICEF, and performed her music in front of world leaders and dignitaries as well as millions of fans. Her new CD, Djin Djin is a welcome return for this musical queen.

Kidjo is an accomplished singer/songwriter in her own right, one who could easily sell millions of records at any given time. Any collaboration with the “hot” artist of the day, to help boost record sales is totally unnecessary. If any such artist were presented on a full length disc of hers, it would certainly help further establish and solidify Angelique’s reputation.

That is exactly what happens with this CD, as Angelique shares the stage with several celebrity musicians including Brandford Marsalis & Alicia Keys("Djin Djin"), Carlos Santana & Josh Groban ("Pearls"), Joss Stone("Gimme Shelter") , Peter Gabriel ("Salala"), Ziggy Marley ("Sedjedo"), and African music legends Amadou and Mariam ("Senamou –(C'est L'amour)"). The result is a hybrid of musical styles and influences, all beautifully coming together. If you didn’t have enough reasons to buy this CD before, you most certainly do now.

While the collaboration efforts are noteworthy and excellent, the real gems are found in the songs where Angelique is free to do her thing, unencumbered by making nice and sharing her vocal space with her guests. True, her work with Groban on the Sade reworking of is almost better than the original and it is one of the highlight songs of the album. But she also shines brightly on "Pearls""Ae Ae," and she makes us feel so at home on the shuffling "Papa. " To top it all of, Angelique hands in a amazing rendition of the classical piece Bolero entitled "Lonlon (Ravel's Bolero)," bridging European classical music with African folk.

The album sounds incredible thanks to super producer Tony Visconti’s guiding hand on the boards. With a clean and dry mix being applied, there is very little outboard effects and studio tricks on the songs. Every hand drum is heard with crystal-like clarity and every musician is heard clearly, making this one of the smoothest mixed albums that I’ve heard in a long while. With this CD, Angelique’s musical career looks ready for an invigorating boost! Get yours now and give yourself a boost as well, at your local Starbucks Coffee Shop, as the CD is distributed by their new Starbucks Entertainment/Hear Music Division.

The song "Mutoto Kwanza" is dedicated to UNICEF by Goodwill Ambassador Angelique Kidjo.

Angelique Kidjo - Djin Djin Razor &Tie Records/Starbucks Entertainment

Joseph Arthur : Un voyage astral entouré d'astronautes

Découvert par nul autre que Peter Gabriel dans les années 1990, le New-Yorkais Joseph Arthur n’a pas eu peur de repousser ses limites musicales pour l’enregistrement de Let’s Just Be.

Délaissant en partie ses airs folks, il nous arrive avec un produit des plus éclectiques où le rock et les expérimentations occupent une place de choix. Cette nouvelle direction artistique n’est pas étrangère à son association avec le groupe The Lonely Astronauts.

«J’étais en solo depuis une dizaine d’années et là, je voulais faire quelque chose de différent, avec un processus d’écriture en groupe», a-t-il indiqué cette semaine, quelques heures avant de monter sur la scène du O Patro Vys pour un petit concert privé à l’attention des membres des médias montréalais et de l’industrie.

Le risque était grand pour celui qui a réussi à se forger une solide réputation auprès de quelques-unes de plus grosses pointures de la chanson américaine (il a assuré la première partie des Ben Harper, R.E.M., Tracy Chapman et Coldplay et participé ce mois-ci à un concert en hommage à Bruce Springsteen).

Mais son désir de chambarder ses habitudes musicales était plus fort que tout.

«C’est vraiment une nouvelle sorte d’expérience pour moi. On a tout enregistré avec un 16 pistes live, sans reverb ni ordinateur. Ça s’est fait très rapidement, à la vieille école. C’est rafraîchissant de faire ça!» exprime-t-il.

80 chansons en trois semaines

Le moins qu’on puisse dire, c’est que le groupe était sur la même longueur d’onde, produisant les chansons à un rythme effréné.

«Après avoir écrit en tournée, nous sommes rentrés en studio et avons enregistré 80 chansons en trois semaines. Ça donne un résultat éclectique qui, à première vue, ne semble pas cohérent, mais qu’à force d’écouter, on en comprend le sens», raconte-t-il.

C’est ainsi qu’on passe du vieux rock à la Rolling Stones à un son plus dynamique, sans laisser pour compte le côté folk qui a fait la réputation de l’auteur-compositeur-interprète.

Ces derniers se laissent même aller dans une composition d’une vingtaine de minutes intitulée Lonely Astronaut.

«C’est comme une version rock du film 2001: L’Odyssée de l’espace. Il y a certes un côté progressif, mais je pense que le disque dans l’ensemble possède cette facette. Sans l’avoir fait de façon trop sérieuse, je voulais provoquer les conventions du rock’n’roll avec cet album», explique-t-il.

Avec encore près d’une soixante de chansons en banque, il ne serait pas étonnant que le groupe revienne à la charge avec un autre opus.

Malgré tout, le chanteur ne ferme aucune porte à d’autres avenues.

«Nous allons peut-être attendre un moment. Let’s Just Be dure quand même 80 minutes, ce qui en fait un album double. Peut-être aussi que nous allons écrire encore de nouvelles chansons, sans compter que je continue également de travailler mon matériel solo», évoque-t-il.

Artiste avant tout

Joseph Arthur est un artiste avant tout et, pour lui, tous les moyens sont bons pour s’exprimer, que ce soit par la musique ou encore par la peinture.

Il lui arrive même de fusionner ces deux genres d’arts, comme ce fut le cas pour la conception de son album ainsi que lors de la représentation de mardi au O Patro Vys, alors qu’il a peint une toile au cours de sa prestation.

Cette passion le mènera même à ouvrir sa propre galerie d’art dans les prochaines semaines.

«Je vais ouvrir ma galerie à Brooklyn et je suis très emballé à l’idée d’y penser même si c’est plutôt compliqué présentement d’organiser mon horaire en raison de la sortie de mon album», explique celui qui n’accorde jamais une entrevue sans un papier et un crayon pour se laisser aller à ses pulsions de dessinateur.

Demain soir à La Tulipe, Joseph Arthur sera entouré de ses Lonely Astronauts afin de faire découvrir les extraits de son nouvel album, disponible enmagasin mardi prochain.

Philippe Renault/ Le Journal de Montréal

15 avril 2007

Womad Summer School

The WOMAD Foundation is bringing the spirit of WOMAD to Bath Spa University this summer for the first-ever WOMAD Summer School.

It will take place between July 30 and August 4 and is running alongside the International Guitar Foundation's Performing Arts Summer School.

The Summer School is a week-long opportunity to deepen musical experience, with classes in music, voice and dance master classes, ensemble tuition, 'in conversation' sessions, workshops in vocal technique, performances and more.

Philip Castang, founder and manager of the International Guitar Foundation, said: "We are delighted to welcome WOMAD to our summer school programme and it is a real honour to have such a legend as Bill Cobham to inspire and instruct students, members of Tinariwen who are currently at the top of the world music scene, plus their producer and Robert Plant's guitarist and collaborator, Justin Adams. "In addition we have 25 more celebrated artists/tutors from countries as far apart as Zimbabwe, Brazil, India, Senegal and UK. "I am absolutely amazed at the range and quality of artists taking part. It is a really unique and special event and an experience not to be missed."

WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance) was originally inspired by Peter Gabriel back in 1980 and is now recognized throughout the world as a unique and important festival organization promoting music, culture and arts from around the globe.

The WOMAD Foundation is a registered educational charity and the educational arm of the WOMAD Festival organisation.

"Worldwide, the WOMAD Foundation provides opportunities for cultural exchange, learning and active participation," said Annie Menter, WOMAD Foundation Director. Through these activities we bring the arts of different cultures before the widest possible audience. Music is a catalyst for the imagination and has the ability to transport us to spaces and places we may never physically visit. The WOMAD Summer School is a fantastic opportunity for us to bring the ethos of WOMAD to Bath."

The following week-long courses are available:

# Drum Academy: Led by legendary drummer Billy Cobham (USA) who invites students to come and improve all aspects of their playing and performance.

# Dance Roots: Landing Mané (Senegal) and Fernanda Amaral (Brazil) will take students on a journey from West Africa to Latin America through the dance expression and interpretation that has evolved over centuries.

# Patterns of Percussion: Sets out to explore the wealth of rhythms and techniques of Cuban, Indian and African percussion with charismatic tutors Johnny Kalsi (UK), Vicente Arrencibia (Cuba), Chartwell Dutiro (Zimbabwe), Landing Mané (Senegal) and Abass Dudu (Ghana).

# Striking A Chord: A vibrant introduction to the myriad of vocal techniques from Zimbabwe, Cameroon and the British Isles with Coco Mbassi (Cameroon), Cara Dillon (Ireland), Chartwell Dutiro (Zimbabwe) and Kirsty Martin (UK).

# Guitar Connections: Justin Adams (UK), Tinariwen's Abdallah Ag Alhousseyni (Mali) and Kevin Brown (UK) will dig deep into the links between the Mississippi and the Sahara.

# Singer Songwriters: Explore lyrics that spring from the heart and mind and give voice to experience and emotions that touch us all. Andy White (Ireland) will be hosting a week of opportunities to write, discuss ideas, collaborate, perform - or simply listen and take it all in. More special guests to be announced.

# Children's Art Camp: A host of fun things to do for younger family members in arts, crafts and dance workshops which will be led by artists from our experienced child-friendly WOMAD workshop team.

Extra curricular activities will include films, DJ sessions, informal performances, collaborative jam sessions, special interest classes, and one-to-one clinics as well as the opportunity to get stuck into the vast array of musical facilities on hand.

The WOMAD Summer School is supported by Arts Council England.


Summer School - for those aged 12 years and over - costs £250. There is a group discount available - save 10% if four or more students book together.

Children's Art Camp - for five-12-year-olds - costs £16 for one day and £75 for a whole week.

Download a booking form from (then select chosen course from bottom of the page)

£67m Eden project will show the perils of a warmer world

Plans for Britain's first tourist attraction dedicated to climate change and how humans will live with increasing temperatures will be unveiled this week at the Eden Project in Cornwall.

As Britain basks in unseasonably warm spring sunshine, temperatures this weekend are expected to hit 25C as warm air from the Azores covers the country, the founders of Eden's 'biomes' - giant plant-filled bubbles - want to build a new area to allow people to explore what life will be like when weather patterns push humans to invent new ways of living.

The £67m building, called The Edge, will not be a semi-spherical greenhouse like the existing two structures, but the same designers hope the undulating, super environmentally friendly structure will be just as much of a talking point. Green innovations include indoor 'wind' turbines powered by the updraft of air heated through the greenhouse-like roof and the most up-to-date designs to collect and recycle water. The building will generate its own light from the turbines and heat from stored warm air.

The plans will be submitted by the end of May to the Big Lottery Fund, which has shortlisted The Edge and five other projects for a contest for up to £50m to be decided by viewers after a TV series, probably this winter.

Inside the new building will be a hypothetical country, based on dry tropical regions, with examples of how past civilisations dealt with massive changes in climate, how current societies are learning to cope with global warming and what people might have to do in future to survive when energy, water and other vital resources begin to run out. Underneath will be chambers of light and dark, with displays designed by famous names including musician Peter Gabriel and the author Philip Pullman to give visitors different sensory experiences.

Early ideas for The Edge include a wall of keys, from shed doors to a death chamber; a room filled with voices speaking about love in every language; and connecting corridors which force people to navigate using different senses, possibly bare feet or sound.

There will be plenty of plants, but Eden's latest - and last - zone will be very different, says Tim Smit, the co-founder and chief executive. 'The biomes we already have are a shop window for the world, plants and human dependence on them,' says Smit. 'We'll be inverting [that]: looking at us rather than the plants, looking at humans and what it is to be human.'

Eden caused a sensation when it opened six years ago, when visitors peaked at 1.8 million. Numbers have levelled off at just below 1.2 million visitors a year - but it is still one of England's top 10 paid-for attractions.

Eden staff hope that The Edge could tap into the zeitgeist as successfully as the centre's original recipe of education and entertainment.

Weather forecasters promise the recent mini-heatwave should continue this weekend and after a brief cool patch should return again later this week.

Last week the Met Office predicted another summer of above-average temperatures, after a spate of record-breaking years, while earlier this month the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued an apocalyptic warning of future mass migrations fuelled by loss of fertile land, droughts, rising seas and more intense storms - the very problems The Edge would address.

Despite some of the best environmental credentials of any organisation in Britain, Eden has been criticised in the past for not doing more to promote the issue of climate change.

Now the Cornish attraction will have to tread a fine line between educating visitors about their effect on potentially catastrophic climate change and not turning people away by lecturing or overwhelming them. It will also be entering the controversial tussle between environmental campaigners and climate change sceptics over how to present 'balanced' evidence - including scientific consensus that man-made global warming is causing damaging change and remaining uncertainties over the problem.

The new zone is an evolution of the original plan for a third desert biome, which had to be put on hold because the project initially raised enough money only for the existing rainforest and Mediterranean biomes.

In keeping with its past caution, Eden insists The Edge is 'not a building about climate change; it is a building because of climate change'. The focus will be on the dangers of humans living beyond their means - the reason past civilisations have collapsed, Smit points out - but, just as important, on how future generations can avoid the same mistakes, he says.

'The building will be to explain what it means to live within the limits, and because of climate change those limits will become more and more extreme, so we'll be hitting it head on. But it's not a shrine to the dangers, it's a response to them,' said Smit.

'The point is not about making them feel hopeless. Our brief is to make them feel excited about what humans are capable of if they can organise themselves. The single biggest message from Eden is optimism.'

Simple measures are not enough, says Smit, who talks of 'a new language, a new paradigm'. But he also rejects the idea that the transformation needed will significantly alter our quality of life, stressing instead how society can reduce massive waste and live more efficiently: 'We're going to have to view growth as a different animal and be very careful with language, so people realise we can live and progress without that impacting so heavily on the environment.'

Smit says his inspirations for the project include the Holocaust museum in Berlin, where visitors have to walk across a floor covered in tin plates with smiling faces and the names of victims before they enter the main display halls; and a clay print of a gorilla hand which has fascinated visitors to Bristol Zoo.

Eden's competitors for Lottery funds are a massive extension of cycle and walkways by Sustrans; the restoration of Sherwood Forest; plans to transform Somerset's waterways into a network of tourist attractions; a scheme to open up much of the National Museum of Science and Industry's stored collections; and an environmental regeneration of the Black Country industrial heartland.

Juliette Jowit, environment editor
Sunday April 15, 2007
The Observer