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05 janvier 2008

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Michael Brook: Mustt Mustt & Night Song

Singer Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan collaborated with Canadian guitarist Michael Brook on these two outstanding albums in the early to mid 1990s, aiming to reach a cosmopolitan audience by blending his traditional, religious singing style with western production values. During these years, Khan's work made successful connections in broader, secular settings throughout the world, and he was featured on Bollywood and even Hollywood soundtracks (the latter including Natural Born Killers and Dead Man Walking).

By the end of the decade, Khan was widely recognised as the greatest qawwali (sufi devotional songs) singer of his era, partly due to his adventurous approach of blending various singing styles, ranging from commercial movie songs to revered Indian classical material. By this time, he was also a popular choice for innovative, club culture production artists, turntablists and vocal sample hunters, including Massive Attack, Talvin Singh, Bally Sagoo and Peter Gabriel.

Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Michael Brook
Mustt Mustt
Real World

Recorded with six years between them, Mustt Mustt (Real World, 1990) and Night Song (Real World, 1996) give an insight into a unique crossover project—Khan distancing himself somewhat from the traditional qawwali setup to explore Indian classical alaap and sargam forms, and Brooks excising eastern instruments for a more guitar, bass and drum laden ambient approach.

Khan popularized the khayal (vocal improvisation on a short verse) style of singing in qawwali more than any of his predecessors. Though khayal is a genre in Indian classical repertoire singing, its extensive use in Nusrat's qawwalis helped him garner praise from world music enthusiasts beyond Pakistan. Because Khan often challenged the strict regime of scale and structure followed under Indian classical music, his name doesn't frequently appear in the purist's list of Indian classical greats; yet he is still the most popular traditional singer among the masses.

With Mustt Mustt and Night Song, Khan comes out clear with his uninhibited aspiration to delve into classical style and distance, if not altogether to shun his traditional style of singing. On Mustt Mustt, he uses significant qawwali verses in just the first two songs (”Mustt Mustt (Lost In His Work)” and “Nothing Without You (Tery Bina);” the rest of the album is his adventurous foray into improvised singing in the khayal genre. What's most interesting is his extensive use of taranas (gibberish syllables) evident in songs like “Taa Deem” (Mustt Mustt) and “Avenue” (Mustt Mustt).

There are other subtle, and innovative, elements on these albums worth mentioning, including Khan's technique of note-blending, as highlighted on “Intoxicated” and “Sweet Pain”(Night Song) and “Tracery”(Mustt Mustt); melodic alaaps like “Lament” and “Night Song” (Night Song) and “Sea Of Vapours”(Mustt Mustt); and vocal vibratos in “Crest”(Night Song), “The Game”(Mustt Mustt) and “Fault Lines”(Mustt Mustt).

Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Michael Brook
Night Song
Real World

Night Song, recorded six years after Mustt Mustt, which reached number 4 on the Billboard world music chart, is a much more mature album. Khan gives more space to guitarist Brook, who complements it with succinct bass and drums parts. Night Song has an underlying theme of longing and lament; it also has concrete verses, in contrast to the non-figurative, abstract singing featured on Mustt Mustt, and “build-up” tempos which reach a climax on each song. It's interesting to note Khan singing on occasions at a slightly faster tempo than the bass and drums, creating a wonderful, mystical ambience that's instantly adorable.

Yet Khan's singing is seemingly effortless here, and seems to defy the genre itself—high-tempo, high-octave, khayal singing requires a fair amount of dynamism and Khan does this wonderfully on each song. Night Song could have been a career highlight if Khan hadn't sung it outside the traditional style he's best known for, and thus having it labeled a fusion album.

These are two very important albums—insistent yet melancholic, sacrilegious for purists, innovative for radicals—with Khan at his adventurous best.

Tracks and Personnel

Mustt Mustt

Tracks: Mustt Mustt (Lost In His Work); Nothing Without You (Tery Bina); Tracery; The Game; Taa Deem; Sea Of Vapours; Fault Lines; Tana Dery Na; Shadow; Avenue; Mustt Mustt [Massive Attack Remix].

Personnel: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: vocals; Michael Brook: production.

Night Song

Tracks: My Heart, My Life; Intoxicated; Lament; My Comfort Remains; Longing; Sweet Pain; Night Song; Crest.

Personnel: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: vocals; Michael Brook: production.

By Bhasker Gupta (All About Jazz)

Big names are back - BBB

PETER GABRIEL: One of English rock’s grandees, Peter has been preparing his world music album Big Blue Ball for 15 years. Guests include Sinead O’Connor and Natacha Atlas.


04 janvier 2008

Djivan Gasparyan, The Soul of Armenia

(Network/Harmonia Mundi, two CDs) The Soul of Armenia

Djivan Gasparyan is both the best-known musician in Armenia and the greatest exponent of the duduk, the haunting and atmospheric apricot-wood oboe that was the preserve of local shepherds until he brought it to international concert halls. His music has been used in films from Gladiator to Dead Man Walking. Now, as Gasparyan prepares to celebrate his 80th birthday, comes a well-packaged two-CD retrospective covering his career since 1989, when Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel helped promote him in the west.

What is most remarkable about this set is the sheer variety - Gasparyan plays with a flamenco guitarist, string orchestras, and a large Armenian ensemble. There's even an intriguing, drifting track in which he accompanies both the piano work of Michael Brook, and the extraordinary improvised singing of Pakistan's greatest Sufi Qawwali star, the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. But the finest tracks, some recorded only last year, feature him with minimal accompaniment and demonstrating the duduk's gently mournful charm.

Robin Denselow/ Friday January 4, 2008/ The Guardian

03 janvier 2008

Harry Potter goes to Mogadishu

That Daniel Radcliffe's in such a hurry to grow up. First, there was his full-frontal showing in a London revival of Peter Shaffer's Equus, and... well, until he commits a live sex act or eats one of those six-pound steaks in one sitting, I think he's effectively shattered his boy wizard image for the time being.

And while he's still got a couple more o' those Harry Potter movies to make, it looks like he's going to keep after that whole adult acting career thing with the lead role in Journey, a biopic about the life of British photographer Dan Eldon, who was stoned to death in Mogadishu in 1993 (whilst attempting to take pictures of the aftermath of an errant attempt by the UN to assassinate General Farah Aideed). Eldon, who was only twenty-two when he was murdered, has been immortalized through his journals, which were published a decade ago as The Journey is the Destination. According to The Guardian, Baz Luhrmann and Peter Gabriel circled the project for a time before it fell to Bronwen Hughes.

Hughes is an interesting hire. After an unrewarding Hollywood dalliance (which spawned Harriet the Spy and Forces of Nature), she made the gritty, very solid Stander. If there's a decent film to be made from Jan Sardi's adaptation, I think Hughes could deliver something fairly memorable. And, judging from her collaboration with Thomas Jane, I think she could coax a fairly indelible performance out of Radcliffe. Failing that, perhaps she can get him to whip it out again.

Journey is in the very nascent stages of development, so this is all subject to change.

01.03.08 By Jeremy Smith Contributing sources: The Guardian

30 décembre 2007

Wizard to play the magician of Somalia

Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe lands role as a war photographer whose work has been widely acclaimed since his tragic death From Hogwarts school to the hell of Somalia's civil war, Daniel Radcliffe is to make his biggest career leap yet. The Harry Potter actor has seen off competition from Hollywood's A-list to star in the true story of a young British photographer who met a tragic end.

The film, Journey, will see Radcliffe play Dan Eldon, a 22-year-old who was among four journalists stoned to death by a mob in Mogadishu in July 1993. Eldon left behind 17 journals, thousands of pictures and a legacy that has won admirers including Madonna and Julia Roberts.

His mother, Kathy, says that she has rejected numerous bids for film rights to the story, and met but turned down leading actors including Orlando Bloom, Heath Ledger, Ryan Phillippe and Joaquin Phoenix, all of whom were eager to play the part. But then she sat down with 18-year-old Radcliffe and his parents at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles.

'The timing is right and the person is right and I couldn't ask for more,' said Kathy, a journalist, producer and activist. 'He has portrayed a magician for years and my Dan was a different kind of magician. There are parallels in the two Dans' lives. Daniel Radcliffe is a poet, he keeps journals and he's half Jewish. He has a puckishness, sense of humour and energy inside him which remind me of Dan.'

For Radcliffe the role marks a career watershed. He appeared in a TV adaptation of David Copperfield before winning the prize part of Harry Potter in the series of blockbusters based on JK Rowling's novels. But in the past year he has sought to escape Hogwarts' shadow by taking to the West End stage in Equus, appearing nude in one scene, and acting in the film December Boys and the TV drama My Boy Jack

Journey is likely to be a tough test because of the extent to which Eldon and his work still fascinate and inspire. The compilation of his richly textured journals, The Journey is the Destination, has sold nearly 200,000 copies since its publication 10 years ago, and his work now has a permanent home at a new gallery in New York. His mother said that in preserving his legacy she and her daughter, Amy, have enjoyed the support of Trudie Styler, the wife of musician Sting, Alanis Morissette, the singer-songwriter, and Rosie O'Donnell, the comedian and talk show host.

Director Baz Luhrmann and musician Peter Gabriel both expressed an interest in the film, she added. 'Julia Roberts has bought two of Dan's works and been wonderful. Madonna said, "I want to be a Dan fan".'

Eldon was born in Hampstead, north London, to Kathy, who is American, and a British father, from whom she is now divorced. When Dan was seven the family moved to Kenya and he fell in love with Africa. After spells in America and travels worldwide, he followed a family friend to northern Kenya where she photographed refugees of the civil war in neighbouring Somalia. Horrified, Eldon also took photographs which were published in Kenya's leading newspaper.

In 1992, he went to Somalia on assignment for Reuters. He witnessed American and UN troops launch 'Operation Restore Hope', first with a sense of relief, then growing frustration, and his pictures helped draw international attention to the developing crisis. On 12 July 1993, he was due to leave Mogadishu - his bags were packed and his replacement had arrived.

But then UN forces bombed a house where they believed the warlord General Farah Aideed was present. Instead, 74 innocent men, women and children were killed and more than 100 injured. Survivors raced to the journalists' hotel and asked them to take pictures. Travelling in convoy, under the protection of Somalis, Eldon and a group of colleagues went to the bombed compound.

As they began to take photographs, the crowd erupted in anger at what had happened and attacked the journalists. Eldon and his colleagues - Hansi Krauss, Anthony Macharia of Reuters and Hos Maina of the Associated Press - were surrounded, stoned and beaten to death.

'I was in LA, working on a film, and I awakened to this telephone call which changed my life,' Kathy recalled. 'We flew to London and then to Kenya for the service, still feeling numb at that stage. I thought he was gone for ever but I've always felt the tremendous energy of his spirit. I couldn't heal myself until I transformed the horror of Dan's death into some positive things.'

Journey will be directed by Bronwen Hughes, whose films include Harriet the Spy and Forces of Nature, and scripted by Jan Sardi, who gained an Oscar nomination for his screenplay for Shine. Kathy is yet to announce a producer but hopes to start filming next year in Kenya, as Somalia remains too dangerous. Profits will go to the Creative Visions Foundation.

'The film is a teen coming of age story - entertaining, funny, dark at times - but ultimately triumphant,' Kathy said. 'People will leave the cinema feeling inspired, thinking: "Oh my God, let me start living right now!" It won't be pious. We're not trying to idolise him or make him or a hero.'

She said she and Amy burst into tears the first time they contemplated Dan being portrayed on screen. 'A lot of older actors wanted to play this character but we resisted because Dan was a boy emerging into manhood. If you're an established leading actor then you're too old for this role,' Kathy said.

'Daniel Radcliffe is the first time we've found a young enough actor with a global following. We love the way he's a global soul. He's travelled the world and feels comfortable in the world and hasn't been corrupted by Hollywood.'

David Smith in New York/Sunday December 30, 2007/The Observer