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21 février 2009

Books - War Child: A Child Soldier's Story

In the mid-1980s, Emmanuel Jal was a seven year old Sudanese boy, living in a small village with his parents, aunts, uncles, and siblings. But as Sudan’s civil war moved closer—with the Islamic government seizing tribal lands for water, oil, and other resources—Jal’s family moved again and again, seeking peace. Then, on one terrible day, Jal was separated from his mother, and later learned she had been killed; his father Simon rose to become a powerful commander in the Christian Sudanese Liberation Army, fighting for the freedom of Sudan. Soon, Jal was conscripted into that army, one of 10,000 child soldiers, and fought through two separate civil wars over nearly a decade.

But, remarkably, Jal survived, and his life began to change when he was adopted by a British aid worker. He began the journey that would lead him to change his name and to music: recording and releasing his own album, which produced the number one hip-hop single in Kenya, and from there went on to perform with Moby, Bono, Peter Gabriel, and other international music stars. Shocking, inspiring, and finally hopeful, War Child is a memoir by a unique young man, who is determined to tell his story and in so doing bring peace to his homeland.

Soweto choir gets Oscar invite

The Soweto Gospel Choir will perform at the Oscars - the first time a South African act has received such an invitation. The choir has been nominated for an award for its song, Down to Earth.

Joburg's pride, the Grammy-Award winning Soweto Gospel Choir, will be performing at the 81st Academy Awards on Sunday, 22 February.

It's the first time the choir will perform at the Oscars, as the awards are better known, as well as the first time a South African act will perform at the annual red carpet event. The ceremony, taking place at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, in the United States, will be broadcast on MNET at 7.30pm on Monday, 23 February.

One of the choir's many songs, a collaboration with songwriters Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman, has been nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song. It already has a Grammy Award under its belt, for Best Song Written For Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media. Down To Earth is the theme tune for the Disney animated movie, Wall-E, which itself has been nominated for Best Animated Feature Film.(....)

Nightmoves Captured On DVD

by Paul Cashmere - February 20 2009, photo by Ros O'Gorman

Santana playing Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne Australia

Nightmoves, the music TV show hosted by Lee Simon in the 70s and 80s, has been resurrected on DVD.

Nightmoves first aired in Australia on May 13, 1977 on Channel 7. It was originally designed to be an adult version of Countdown.

Simon continued to host the show when he took up the job of Program Director at EON-FM. The show gave birth to the simulcast, a joint radio and television broadcast, giving the audience to chance to hear the show in stereo. (Yes kids, we still had mono television in the early 80s).

Nightmoves attracted the real music stars, as opposed to the pop stars. The DVD features performances from international stars Joe Cocker, Graham Parker, Peter Frampton, Santana and Graham Bonnet. The Aussie line-up features extremely rare to find songs by Billy T, Wendy and the Rockets, Kevin Borich, Mother Goose and The Ferrets.

But wait, there’s more. The 3 disc set also features interviews with Peter Gabriel, Steve Winwood, Phil Collins, Glenn Shorrock and Beeb Birtles, Bill Wyman and more. Nightmoves will be released on March 2.

Dengue Fever's Cambodian Pop Is Perfect Soundtrack for Lost World

By Scott Thill, February 19, 2009

Los Angeles hybrid groove band Dengue Fever has combined Cambodian pop with surf, ska, psychedelia and funk, winning crossover success and critical acclaim. The group's next move? Playing a live soundtrack for The Lost World, the 1925 film adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's dino-sci classic, when it screens this May at the San Francisco Film Festival.

The score will drop in what's shaping up to be a busy season for the sextet, which is led by siren Chhom Nimol. She was already a reputable Khmer singer in Cambodia before she was discovered by brothers Ethan and Zac Holtzman, who founded Dengue Fever in 2001.

For more on the band and its Cambodian musical influences, check out the biopic, Sleepwalking Through the Mekong (trailer below). The movie, which will be released on DVD in April, follows Dengue Fever as its members tour Phnom Penh and explores the roots of Cambodian rock from the '60s and '70s. The band will embark on a lengthy American and European tour in support of the DVD release.

Dengue Fever's third effort, Venus on Earth, was picked up last year by Peter Gabriel's Real World Records for distribution outside of the United States and Canada. As a band out of time and genre, the group seems a perfect fit for the San Francisco Film Festival's screening of a Library of Congress lifer.

"The Lost World is a classic exploration of man's fascination with his own prehistory," explained Film Society programming associate Sean Uyehara. "Like the territory depicted in the film, Dengue Fever's music comes from a time and place that no longer exists. The band and film both evoke the same kind of nostalgia."

Diverse musicians 'Change' their tunes for peace

By Edna Gundersen, USA TODAY

Natural studio: Playing for Change founder Mark Johnson, left, records an Indian musician for the album.

Further proving that music is the universal language, more than 100 musicians across the planet are entwining talents to promote world peace.

Playing for Change — Songs Around the World, a 10-tune CD/seven-track DVD due April 28 on Hear Music, captures mixes of known artists and street musicians from locales as far-flung as Nepal, the Himalayas and the Palestinian territories.

Grammy-winning engineer Mark Johnson spent a decade seeking and sequencing montages, including footage of the late Bob Marley on his War/No More Trouble updated with U2's Bono and players from the Congo, Israel, India, Ireland, South Africa, the USA, Zimbabwe and Ghana.

A video of Stand By Me, with U.S. buskers Roger Ridley and Grandpa Elliott spliced into a single performance with musicians from the Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Venezuela, France and Brazil, has drawn 7 million YouTube viewers (also at

Others tackle Marley's One Love, U2/Bob Dylan's Love Rescue Me, Peter Gabriel's Biko and Tracy Chapman's Talkin' Bout a Revolution. Some musicians will join a brief tour starting March 20 at South by Southwest in Austin.

TheFilter Gets More Money From Peter Gabriel, Rafat Ali Wednesday, February 18, 2009 - Media Recommendation Firm TheFilter Gets More Money From Peter Gabriel

Music and digital media recommendation service and tech firm TheFilter, based in Bath, UK, has received more funding from musician Peter Gabriel, though the amount was not disclosed. The round was led by current investors Gabriel and Eden Ventures, and also attracted new high-profile private investors, including Roderick Banner, chairman of WPP-owned media agency Banner Corp, Michael Brochu, former CEO of LoudEye, as well as John Taysom, founder of, another Gabriel-backed company. Gabriel also backed OD2, one of the first digital music companies. Gabriel and Eden Ventures started with a $1.8 million investment alongside cofounders Rhett Ryder and Martin Hopkins, then led a $5 million round in 2007.

TheFilter started in the UK in 2007 and expanded to the U.S. last year, evolving from a music-playlist sharing site to other kinds of media, including movies and web video. Competition is from specialized sites such as in music and Flixster in movies, as well as general social media sites.

Surviving a Hitch in an Army of Boys

By HOWARD W. FRENCH, the New York Times, Published: February 16, 2009

Barely pages into Emmanuel Jal’s fast-paced memoir about growing up amid modern African warfare, the reader is brought up short by the following sentence: “There was peace in Sudan for the first three years of my life, but I cannot remember it.” It is the first of many stark, declarative statements about a human condition of cruelty and wretchedness that afflicts the lives of countless young people in distant African lands, people whose stories we are unaccustomed to hearing.

Mr. Jal’s tale, of a lengthy and devastating civil war between northern and southern Sudan (not the conflict in Darfur, more familiar to readers today), begins in the mid-1980s when he is somewhere around the age of 7 — though he is not altogether sure because he inhabits a world where time is marked by seasons, including one for hunger, rather than calendars. At the very outset we are introduced to the boy’s family as they move southward through their country in a convoy of trucks from an area controlled by “African Arabs” to their own ethnic heartland, inhabited by “pure Africans,” in the book’s somewhat overly reductive language of ethnicity.

Four Arab men with angry eyes speak among themselves about a rebellion brewing in the country. It will fail, and the pure Africans who seek to revolt “will remain slaves beneath us just as they are meant to be,” one vows. Moments later, a fight breaks out when the Arabs steal the meager rations of Emmanuel’s family; after they begin to beat his uncle, the boy throws himself onto one of the men’s ankles and bites it.

The scene ends with a fadeout to unconsciousness. Thus started, time rushes past in this recollected tale of appalling violence, “like sand,” in the words of the narrator, “running through my fingers as I look back.” The attack in the truck marks Emmanuel’s loss of innocence, and with it is born a burning hatred for Arabs that will drive his behavior, often with tragic consequences, through most of the story.

Emmanuel is taken by his mother from one village to the next in the south, each time under the pretext that the new destination will be safer. There is little respite, though, as Sudan’s relentless army, bent on ethnic cleansing, unfailingly closes in and attacks anew. At one early stop the boy learns that his father has absented himself from the family to undergo officer training in the rebel southerners’ Sudan People’s Liberation Army (S.P.L.A.).

In quick succession the young boy witnesses the rape of an aunt and then is separated permanently from his mother amid another army onslaught. At the next way station he is taken in with scores of other children who are told they are being moved to Ethiopia to go to school. But once there, he is told he must join the southerners’ rebellion as a fighter. It is his father’s will, the boy is told. For good measure, an elder intones, “The gun does not know who is old or young.” Emmanuel, for the record, is 9.

Despite these grim contours, the story sometimes has the cloying feel of a fairy tale. This, perhaps, is a risk of the “as told to” genre. Mr. Jal, who received little schooling until well into his teens, after he was rescued by an aid worker, immigrated to England and eventually became a successful musician. His co-writer is Megan Lloyd Davies.

The writing is usually sturdy, and in a middle section that relates a long death march through the south it even rises to an urgency that recalls Jerzy Kozinski’s novel “The Painted Bird.” Elsewhere, though, it sometimes feels dreamily like Technicolor when color would do, and admits insufficient room for reflection on many themes, notably fear and hatred.

Some of the book’s most interesting observations seem almost inadvertent, depriving the reader of context that is important to understanding this conflict, and African conflicts in general. From Biafra to Rwanda, and now Darfur itself, the West has a long tradition of reducing them to good-versus-evil stories bereft not just of nuance but also of politics, history and complexity.

There is no gainsaying Mr. Jal’s experience of terror, but amid his frequent loathing for Arabs the book provides only a glimpse of the geopolitics of the war, with Ethiopia hosting hundreds of thousands of Sudanese refugees near their common border and allowing rebels to train on its territory.

In one recollection, the young Emmanuel, at the time he thinks he is being sent to school, astutely wonders why the Western aid workers are “nowhere to be found except in food lines or the hospital.” A few pages later he says that “while the khawajas” — a local expression for whites — “thought they ran the camp, it was the S.P.L.A. who were really in charge.”
These words amount to a provocative challenge to the myth of the beneficent and powerful Western humanitarian worker whose impact is thought exclusively good. Too often in African conflicts these workers’ presence has amounted to unacknowledged collusion.

Mr. Jal’s narrative makes another important point, but again almost incidentally. As horrible as civil conflicts are, often their collateral damage is worse. After lusting for vengeance against the Arabs, the boys’ first “battle” is a murderous raid against an Ethiopian village. The next combat is against the Ethiopian state, whose army evicts the rebels.

“War Child” ends with its least compelling material, a made-for-Hollywood account of how Mr. Jal succeeds as a antiwar musician, playing concerts around the world and toasted by the likes of Peter Gabriel. “I’m still a soldier,” he writes, “fighting with my pen and paper, for peace till the day I cease.”

Music site charts success, Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Online music site,, the brainchild of Cheshire businessman Steve Purdham and rock star Peter Gabriel is aiming to double users in 2009. The venture allows music fans to listen to music for free, but each track is preceded by an advert. With close to a million users already, they’re aiming to hit 2m by the end of the year. Purdham, the former chief executive of Surfcontrol, told How-Do that the whole thing has proved "irrationally seductive."

"It’s all come together through fate. We [Purdham and Gabriel] first heard of the idea in 2006/2007 and we went in as investors, but I ended up wanting to run it." Describing it as a "work in progress," Purdham admits that it’s been a difficult 18 months to get everything in place. "We had to answer 3 questions. Can you get the music? Would an audience come and would advertisers pay the right rate to sustain it? So far we’ve only answered the first 2. We’ve got increasing numbers of unique hits and subscribers and 3.5m tracks online, so now we can go to advertisers to give them what they want."

As previously reported, one advertiser is Littlewoods. "We tell advertisers to forget the music, just tell us what demographic they’re aiming for and we’ll find the right songs. We can do it by age, location, gender, or jazz, blues and so on. We don’t link ads to specific artists." The majors have also now come on board: Music site charts success "I was seen as the devil, mentioning the 2 things labels hated the most ‘free music’ and ‘MP3 files!’" Sony signed a deal this time last year, with EMI, Warner and Universal following suit. launched on November 11, 2008.

Angelique Kidjo in Hawaii

mauiweekly, Hawaii, February 19, 2009

Angelique Kidjo’s music celebrates the beauty of diversity, as well as the unity of cultures.

A four-time Grammy-nominated singer and composer, Angelique Kidjo brings her stunning voice and unforgettable stage presence to The MACC’s Castle Theater on Saturday, Feb. 21, at 7:30 p.m., as part of “The MACC Presents…” 2008-09 Global Rhythms Series.

Combining African and Western influences, Kidjo’s music celebrates the beauty of diversity, as well as the unity of cultures. Her musical influences include childhood idols James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Carlos Santana and Jimi Hendrix, as well as the Afropop, Caribbean zouk, Congolese rumba, jazz, gospel and Latin styles of music.

With her latest album Djin Djin (pronounced “gin gin”), she returns to her musical roots, bringing international artists such as Peter Gabriel, Alicia Keys, Ziggy Marley and Josh Groban to the musical world of Benin, her native country.

Kidjo launched her career at age six in the Beninese port village of Cotonou. The political turmoil in her country led her to relocate to Paris, the capital of world music, and then, ultimately, to New York City, where she now resides.

Fluent in multiple cultures and languages, Kidjo has won respect from her peers and expanded her following across national borders. Her diverse background also earned her access to humanitarians who sensed the passion in the words of her songs, resulting in her long-term dedication to global charity work. As a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, Kidjo has traveled far to mesmerize audiences on countless stages, speaking out on behalf of children for the international organization.

Kidjo recently sang at President Barack Obama’s inauguration, and now will bring her soul-stirring music to the Maui audience. Enjoy a delightful evening of African music, international beats, rhythms and tunes from this award-winning chanteuse.

Tickets are $12, $30 and $47 (half-price for keiki 12 and under), with a discount available to MACC annual donors. Visit The MACC Box Office or call 242-SHOW (7469) to charge by phone Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For patron convenience 24 hours a day, purchase tickets online at

February 19, 2009

15 février 2009

Hector Zazou & Swara: In the House of Mirrors

Pitchwork, Joshua Klein, February 12, 2009

Hector Zazou & Swara: In the House of Mirrors [Crammed; 2008]

French-Algerian composer Hector Zazou, one of the world's most prominent-- and most prolific-- musical synthesizers, died last September. He spent much of the past 30 years crossing border after border and culture with culture, with sometimes striking results. His was the rare name linking disparate Western avant-pop luminaries (such as Björk, Peter Gabriel, David Sylvian, John Cale, Laurie Anderson, Brian Eno, and many, many more) with a host of similarly diverse fellow composers and performers gathered from around the globe. He often dealt in concept albums, with inspiration drawn from the Arctic, Africa, and all points in between.

In the House of Mirrors, released just a few weeks after Zazou's death, features the composer's final fusion, bringing together four primary players from India and Uzbekistan-- Toir Kuziyev on tambur and oud, Milind Raykar on violin, Ronu Majumdar on flute, and Manish Pingle on slide guitar-- to record in Mumbai compositions envisioned as modern updates of Indian classic music. But for a man who loved his concept albums, Zazou here keeps the focus woozy and blurry. It's like a Ry Cooder record by way of Fripp & Eno, all over-lapping notes and drones, the melodies often entrancing but also tantalizingly open-ended and prone to meandering

Like similar-minded projects from Cooder (among other well-intentioned culture-vultures) the curiosity factor is one of the primary attractions of In the House of Mirrors, though the link between Uzbekistan and India is less than obvious. The musical traditions of the Central Asia country and the Indian subcontinent may overlap somewhere down the Silk Road, and one way or another the pan-Asian quartet (who call themselves Swara) wound up in Mumbai as eager collaborators. But their roots have less to bear on the results than the way they individually and collectively lend a tactile exoticism to what might have ended up just another mushy of electro-acoustic project à la Bill Laswell.

Which isn't to say tracks such as "Wanna Mako" don't flirt dangerously with new age, like the aural equivalent of burning incense. Or that the nearly 12-minute "Darbari (With Soul Without Rules)" doesn't sound like a film score wandering about in search of some visuals to. But Zazou, like many of his more ambitious fellow travelers, at least understood the importance of discord and darkness to his music, with mystery and ambiguity undercutting the more smoothed over surfaces. Certainly "Sisyphe" hums with a spooky sense of dread, while "Twice as Good as We Are" mines the collision of jazz, traditional Asian music, and the evocative echo of empty space with results worthy of the best of the ECM label.

Taken as a whole, however, Zazou's swan song is ironically hurt by one of its most prominent attributes. Zazou is such a seamless synthesist that he neglected to leave more of those aforementioned rough edges intact. For all its shadowy turns, In the House of Mirrors still remains simply too placid to make the most of its various and varied ingredients. After all, one of the most exciting things about fusion of this sort is the sense of recognition, parsing where all the pieces of the musical puzzle meet and how they may have mutated. In the House of Mirrors, on the other hand, is tour-brochure slick. While the collision of centuries old traditions with contemporary sounds has produced countless curiosities in the past, this particular one is ultimately missing the dirt and feet-on-the-ground grit needed to help it transcend the sterile bounds of the studio and achieve something more affecting rather than merely effective.