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29 novembre 2007

Powerful insight into iconic South African

MOVING TRIBUTE: The activist looms large at the Apartheid Museum Picture: KATHERINE MUICK-MERE

A historical exhibition can be boring if not handled well. But the Steve Biko exhibition at the Apartheid Museum is one of the most powerful Joburg has seen in a long time.

Steve Biko: Quest for a True Humanity is the first major exhibition to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the death of this father of black consciousness in South Africa. Five months in the planning, it is anything but dry.

Telling a story of unbelievable cruelty and resolute dignity, it is designed to make you understand Biko, cry for the loss this country suffered when he died, and celebrate the values he instilled in the youth.

Beginning with a massive panel containing a repeat design of Biko’s face, coloured in greys with touches of red, the show reflects a sexy icon evolved with indomitable dignity. Its story is horrendous and proud and begins long before Biko was born, on December 18 1946. It starts in the mid-19th century, when African intellectualism was mooted. Curator Emilia Potenza sensitively distils the ideas that shaped Biko’s thinking.

The exhibition continues through Biko’s life of rebellion and reflection on injustice, to its horrifying end and chilling aftermath. “It leaves me cold,” Jimmy Kruger, the then Minister of Police crassly declared shortly after Biko’s death on September 12 1977. Those responsible never told what happened; they appealed to the truth commission for amnesty but never apologised.

The exhibition concludes with colourful graphics: the faces of different people responding to Biko — from President Thabo Mbeki to musician Johnny Clegg, high school kids and US rapper Keith Murray.

“If you’re young and conscious,” Murray says, “sooner or later you’ll hear about Steve Biko.”

The exhibition is complemented by hand-picked quotes and beautiful photographs, and curator Potenza and designer Megan Futter have obviously invested a lot of care here.

Throughout, Biko’s earnest young face is omnipresent, often ghostlike, in the printed fabric panels. His voice and the sound of his name thread themselves through the show, filtering into your awareness of his passionate and pervading influence.

The exhibition, commissioned and funded by the National Department of Education and created in collaboration with the Steve Biko Foundation, features the only recorded interview with Biko, and Peter Gabriel’s Biko, considered among the most influential protest songs of the ’80s. Mantra-like, the repetition of Gabriel singing Biko’s name filters through the exhibition, which also pays moving tribute to the dozens of almost-forgotten freedom fighters who also died in detention.

German poet Rainer Maria Rilke famously offered advice to young poets: “No one can help you.” Similarly, Biko empowered black youth: “Black man, you are on your own.”

Christopher Till, director of the museum, says: ‘‘In this exhibition, we do not deify Biko. We aim to reflect on him as he was and place him in contemporary culture. Biko has become a popular youth icon, on a par with Che Guevara, but kids don’t know about Biko really.”

Steve Biko: Quest for a True Humanity is on until the end of June. Phone 011- 309-4700.

27 novembre 2007

Robert LePage is all about progress

Robert LePage is the director of San Francisco Opera’s upcoming premiere of Stravinsky’s “The Rake’s Progress.

Robert LePage, director of San Francisco Opera’s upcoming U.S. premiere of Stravinsky’s “The Rake’s Progress,” equates performance with play.

“I believe in playing,” says the acclaimed French Canadian director, actor, writer and founder of the multidisciplinary production company Ex Machina. “Actors bore me, but players are interesting.”

A hot commodity in the world of contemporary theater known for his innovative use of technology, LePage’s packed resume also includes film (“The Far Side of the Moon”), concerts (Peter Gabriel’s 1993 “Secret World” Tour), and even circus; he created Cirque du Soleil’s thrilling spectacle “KA,” permanently onstage in Las Vegas.

“That’s my thing. I always try to prepare a space for people to play,” LePage, “not yet 50,” says when asked what characterizes his varied body of work.

His unique style has been in demand for decades, going back to the 1980s, when many international opera houses were doing new productions of Wagner’s “Ring” cycle.

“I’ve been offered 10,000 ‘Rings,’” he says. “I’d never done opera before.”

His first opera, in 1993, was a successful Canadian Opera Company double bill of Bartok’s “Bluebeard’s Castle” and Schoenberg’s “Erwatung.”

Watch video clips from “The Rake’s Progress.”
Though still not devoted exclusively to opera, he calls it a big adventure. “It’s the great mother art,” a meeting point of different disciplines. LePage’s new interpretation of “The Rake’s Progress,” which has been produced in Brussels and Lyon, gives the story — about the decline of a fellow named Tom Rakewell due to decadent living — a 1950s Hollywood setting.

As a starting point for his direction, LePage points to the fact that Stravinsky, when he was composing in the 1940s, was looking ahead to writing opera for television. “He was an amazing antenna,” LePage says.

Like Stravinsky, LePage believes in progress. He says, “If one is in the theater, if you want it to evolve, you have to invite a lot of influences. You have to update.”

That attitude seems to be the secret to his success. He says, “I’m a free spirit. I used to be offered very specific things, but now I’m not hopping around, being commissioned. I’ve managed to do my own stuff.”

IF YOU GO The Rake's Progress Presented by San Francisco Opera
Where: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Nov. 23, Dec. 1, Dec. 4 and Dec. 7; 7:30 p.m. Nov. 28; 2 p.m. Dec. 9
Tickets: $15 to $275
Contact: (415) 864-3330 or

Family detective: Peter Gabriel

Nick Barratt's investigation into our hidden histories. This week: Peter Gabriel

Peter Gabriel was one of the founder members of the band Genesis, which celebrates its 40th birthday this year. Despite the rebellious image of the music scene in the late 1960s, the original members were public school boys from Charterhouse. Gabriel left the band in 1975 to launch a solo career, achieving his greatest success in the late 1980s with songs such as Sledgehammer. Today he takes a leading role in promoting world music through the WOMAD festival.

Who is he related to?

Peter Brian Gabriel was born on February 13, 1950, the son of Ralph Parton Gabriel and his wife of three years, Edith Irene Allen. His Gabriel forebears were fairly well known in the 19th century as politicians and businessmen in Streatham, south London, where a long-standing family business can be traced.

Census returns indicate they enjoyed a comfortable life, waited upon by numerous servants and educated at the finest schools. Peter's grandfather, Christopher Burton Gabriel, for example, also appears as a boarder at Charterhouse in 1891.

The family had a profitable timber business and one of the main characters to emerge is Peter's two-times great-grandfather, Christopher Trowell Gabriel, born in 1797. He was the son-in-law of the famous billiard-table maker, John Thurston, whose only daughter, Ruth, he married in 1833.

The business was clearly not without its ups and downs. Christopher's brother, Thomas, applied for bankruptcy in March, 1859, but Thomas was able to recover, to the extent that he became the Lord Mayor of London in 1866.

At his death in 1873, Christopher left an estate of just under £200,000, a vast sum for the period. His son, Thomas, received the estate in Ely, while his widow, Ruth, was given all household goods in the family mansion, Norfolk House. Christopher's religious beliefs are also made clear by his will, with various bequests made out to Wesleyan societies.

Further research reveals when and where the Gabriel fortune was first made. Christopher Gabriel senior, Christopher and Thomas's grandfather, founded the family business in 1770 as a craftsman making tools and chairs, before turning to the timber trade from 1812. Many inventories survive, showing how the business expanded in the late 18th century.

Other records of the Gabriel family were deposited at the Guildhall Library, London, where letters, accounts and documents stretching back to the 1620s can still be viewed.

Vibrant N'Dour enchants Kimmel

Senegalese superstar Youssou N'Dour, clad in white pants and shoes and a smart red-and-white striped African shirt, stood beaming at center stage, taking in the applause. He and his potent 10-piece band, Super Etoile de Dakar, had just delivered a satisfying set Tuesday night in their Kimmel Center debut, more than 70 minutes, showing why he is considered one of the world's greatest singers.

On display was his distinct tenor voice, a textural wonder, possessing a thick elastic tonality at bottom and rising up to the trademark keening wails that cascade down in perfectly controlled melisma. (Although he sings mostly in Wolof, Americans may be more familiar with this sound by recalling his soaring voice climaxing the 1986 international hit "In Your Eyes," by Peter Gabriel, an N'Dour enthusiast.)

Whether pinning held notes to the wall or sliding wherever with total control, the trim vocalist never oversang. He also gave the three-quarters-full house a taste of his stamina - after a quick break, N'Dour and company emerged to do another solid hour. Exuding the confidence of someone who began his career at age 12, the 48-year-old N'Dour repeatedly exhorted the compliant crowd to clap and dance, even coming into the aisles, to the particular delight of the West African ex-pats present in traditional garb.

The performance concluded with a lengthy onstage audience dance-off, likely the most erotic patron hip-shaking the Kimmel has seen. N'Dour showcased material from throughout his career, including his just-released Rokku Mi Rokka, an exploration of Malian sounds, and 2004's Grammy-winning Egypt, inspired by his Islamic faith. There were no covers, not even his mid-'80s Dakar-meets-Philly reading of the Spinners' "Rubberband Man" in mbalax - the percussive hybrid African genre he helped create - despite being just across Broad Street from Philadelphia International Records.

Sitting on a monitor, N'Dour began the second encore set with a gorgeous folk ballad. As guitarist Mamadou "Jimi" Mbaye worked up a beautiful solo, shifting from kora-like lines to bluesy inflections, fans came up front to snap photos of each other, the smiling star framed above them.

Posted on Thu, Nov. 22, 2007 By David R. Stampone For The Inquirer

25 novembre 2007

Theatrical visionary prophesied nine eleven

A leading theatre director foretold the destruction of the Twin Towers in a play which was due to be performed in New York but abandoned 10 days after the 2001 tragedy - according to a new book.

Dr Aleksandar Dundjerovic from The University of Manchester says the depiction of terrorists crashing a plane in Robert Lepage's 'Zulu Time' was an eerie coincidence - but typical of his visionary qualities. In 'The Theatricality of Robert Lepage' launched tomorrow, the Senior Lecturer in Theatre Performance explores the Canadian artist's creative process by putting his best known productions under the microscope.

Zulu Time was a collaboration with musician Peter Gabriel and due to tour the world following a 21 September premier at the enormous Roseland Ballroom in 2001. One of the scenes was to feature big-screen images showing news footage of plane crashes ending in a collision caused by terrorist hijackers.

Lepage is famous for using lavish stage sets which use huge television screens and other multimedia innovations. The artist - well-known for his shyness and cross dressing - spent $200 million - the biggest theatre budget in history - on a high profile production for the Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil.

He has wowed UK audiences since he exploded onto the scene in the 1990's, most notably with his solo performances The Far Side of The Moon in 2001 and The Anderson Project in 2006. However, he is also known for theatre aestheticism that is built on a shoe string budget working with unknown artists and actors.

Dr Dundjerovic said: "The depiction of terrorist atrocities in Zulu Time is an amazing coincidence. Unsurprisingly, the production was abandoned though it did resurface briefly at the Montreal International Festival in 2002- in an altered form. But it hasn't really seen the light of day as sensitivities are still so raw. I think it's unlikely we'll ever see it performed now. The episode is in a way typical of how Lepage works as he allows the audience to construct a story by giving them images and ideas.

"What begins as his feeling eventually becomes intensely pertinent. This quality is evident in other productions. For example in 1989 'Tectonic Plates' was set in Venice in a completely flooded stage where the characters were slowly drowning. It was about man's destructive interaction with the environment long before the issues of global warming hit the headlines. His work shows that theatre is absolutely capable of pointing to you towards what the future holds. After all, our future is based on our past. This explains why prediction and foresight are evident in Lepage's work in general and is one of the reasons why many people regard him as a visionary."

He added: "Since the 1980s, multimedia and new technologies have had a great impact on theatre, allowing performance to establish its own language of communication with the audience independent of the written text. He is one of the pioneers and main exponents of mixed-media performance and internationally renowned for his distinctive work. The book will give a bird's eye view of how this great theatre practitioner works."

19 Nov 2007

Torch in new hands

Successors to the throne: Rizwan (left) and Muazzam have successfully filled the void left by their celebrated uncle.

Rizwan and Muazzam Mujahid Ali Khan have fashioned a place for themselves in the crowded qawwali arena and share more than a lineage with their uncle, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

Almost 10 years ago, a great deal of scepticism greeted the news that the heirs to the great, late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, could be found within the family itself – negating the need to squander time looking to anoint one from the existing qawwali performers. The tradition remains that the successor is chosen from the qawwali party and when Nusrat passed away just over a decade ago, the mantle passed to his pupil and nephew Rahat Fateh Ali Khan.

Rahat, the son of Nusrat’s younger brother Farrukh and second-in-command in the party before his demise four years ago, had been groomed to assume Nusrat’s place and is still seen as the legitimate soul-keeper of Nusrat’s legacy.

When Rahat finally presented his international release on Rick Rubin’s American Recordings label in 2001, the question was not only whether he could uphold Nusrat’s name but also if he could hold his own in a domain that was already filled with potential descendants – through blood lines or otherwise.

Nusrat’s fame has expanded beyond the confines of qawwali, the exceptionally compelling devotional music of the Sufis of the Indian subcontinent, and it was not only related to the popularisation of qawwali among Western audiences. Nusrat’s collaborations with the likes of Peter Gabriel, Michael Brook and Eddie Vedder broke new ground for a genre of music whose origins can be traced back to the eighth century.

It is his albums with Gabriel for his Real World imprint – divided into 10 releases of classic numbers and compositions and predominant fusion ventures with Brook – that remain Nusrat’s enduring main body of work outside his native Pakistan. After his passing, Real World released a single commemorative album (Body & Soul) made up of renditions from the vault of his previously unreleased recordings, while the tracks for their tribute release Star Rise, which featured interpretations from the Asian Underground dons, were all completed bar one when the news of his death arrived.

Real World declared that Body & Soul, out in 2001, would be its last album featuring Nusrat and it had no intention of raiding the Lahore recordings of the qawwali master to meet the demand for his music. By that year, his less heralded nephews, Rizwan and Muazzam Mujahid Ali Khan, had already established headway in the tussle to fill the colossal void left by Nusrat.

Rizwan possesses the astounding vocal range and pyrotechnics that Nusrat made his own and receives ample support from brother Muazzam. The accompanying musicians themselves display an amazing sense of timing in their play and tend to place their passion on the edge – the result, one can only surmise, of years of practice.

When the Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali Group was introduced to Gabriel as the possible inheritor of Nusrat’s music in the late 1990s, the Real World proprietor only glimpsed – in consensus with millions of Nusratistas – the futility of striving to replace the irreplaceable.

That was until he was convinced to come down to the recording studio to see the Rizwan and Muazzam brothers performing in the flesh – an experience that moved him to sign them up.

Their debut under Real World in 1999, the four-track Sacrifice to Love, was a resounding success commercially and critically and regular gigs on the Womad circuit offer them the broader platform from which to make their transition from qawwali prospects to global marvel.

A lesser-known Real World release under the label’s limited edition series in 1998, Attish – The Hidden Fire, had actually preceded their first album and provided an enticing sample of their ability.

Delicately paced, packed with vocal intensities that burn with adequate glow and containing enough twists and hypnotics that held its listeners in enthralled attention, Attish – consisting of six numbers of absorbing fervour – was already deserving of its tour de force status before Sacrifice to Love came along to dismiss any vestiges of doubt over the siblings’ potential to hold up the high-flying qawwali banner that loomed large over the stages from Lahore to London under their late uncle.

Though Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali Group’s 2001 follow-up to Sacrifice to Love, A Better Destiny, was less abrasive in its energy and vigour, it cleverly sought to place them in a versatile milieu. A Better Destiny refused to mine qawwali standards – and consciously stayed away from pieces that bore the heavy Nusrat hallmark – to independently forge the group’s character away from the constant comparisons with the qawwali great. The return to the root languages of qawwali was a deliberate step in this direction and endowed two standout entries – Chishti Balam in the Farsi language, and Qalander Shahhen Shah, in olden Hindi – with an iridescent quality.

Their third album, Day of Colours, was a virtual homage to Nusrat – which, unfortunately, had the effect of ruining the diligence and meticulous planning that went into their gradual introduction and vault into prominence. Despite this glitch, the Rizwan-Muazzam siblings are viewed as prescient choices in an attempt to step into Nusrat’s shadow and nothing would come close to appreciating their claims than to observe them perform in the flesh.

The Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali Group will present a tribute to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan in two performances at the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas tomorrow and Wednesday. Tickets for the shows, which commence at 8.30pm, are priced at RM25, RM55, RM75 and RM95. Call 03-20527007, or browse for details.


Scorsese - Documentariste musical.

Bercé par un environnement musical intense, varié et populaire, Martin Scorsese a systématiquement intégré la musique dans ses films comme un élément central et réfléchi. Les génériques de ces films témoignent ainsi d’une recherche cinématographique esthétique et musicale constante. Dans le désordre, on y retrouve Frank Warner, “chercheur” d’effets sonores pour Raging Bull, Sid Vicious, bassiste des Sex Pistols, qui torture le classique my way à la fin des Affranchis, Bernard Herrmann qui, par ses compositions, révèle , en partie, la personnalité de Travis Bickle dans Taxi Driver, Peter Gabriel pour une composition originale dans La dernière tentation du Christ ou encore Philip Glass pour Kundun

Plus récemment, le cinéaste s’est orienté vers le documentaire pour satisfaire son oreille avertie : D’abord en produisant une série sur les grands noms du Blues américain (il réalisa un des films de cette série) puis en nous livrant d’une part, un portrait de l’insaisissable et protéiforme Bob Dylan, No Direction Home et d’autre part, un documentaire sur les Rolling Stones, Shine a light.

Aujourd’hui, le cinéaste poursuit la thématique en préparant un documentaire sur le plus méconnu et le plus mystique des Beatles, George Harrison : “La musique de George Harrison et sa quête de sens spirituel possèdent encore aujourd’hui beaucoup de résonances et je vais m’atteler à les approfondir”. Appuyé par la veuve du musicien, Olivia, qui co-produira le film, Martin Scorsese devrait avoir accès à un important stock d’archives et d’inédits pour retracer la vie du musicien et du producteur, entre autres films, de La vie de Bryan des Monthy Pythons.

Articles : La musique chez Scorsese et Scorsese et la Musique

By Thomas Le Jouan | novembre 18, 2007