Jazz/Bossa Nova Great Herbie Mann Dies at 73

Jazz flutist Herbie Mann died late Tuesday at his home in Pecos, New Mexico, near Santa Fe. At 73, Mann succumbed after a long battle with prostate cancer according to his family.

Known throughout the jazz and world music scenes for bridging multicultural musical styles, Mann popularized the Bossa Nova for the American audience and adoring fans worldwide. Mann was devoted to incorporating such diverse styles as African, Brazilian, Middle Eastern and Japanese into his music, as well as mixing in American soul and blues. Mann leaves behind a wealth of music with recordings such as African Suite, Brasil, Bossa Nova & Blues, Latin Mann, Memphis Two Step and his last CD Eastern European Roots, released three years ago in 2000.

Herbie Mann played with stellar musicians like Nigerian drummer Babatunde Olatunji and Brazilian musician Sergio Mendes. He was also known for having an eye for up and coming musicians like Chick Corea and Roy Ayers. With his own label Kokopelli, Mann put out more than 100 albums.

Herbie Mann is survived by his wife, Susan; sons, Paul and Geoff; and daughters Claudia and Laura. Private ceremonies will be held on Sunday.

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Tampere Vocal Music Festival

From my diary [by Vijayalakshmy Subramaniam]

I received the invitation from the World Vocal Music Festival, Tampere, late
last year. I was really excited as this was an international Vocal festival and
I would be representing the Indian way of singing. Also, it was being held in
Finland, a country not found on many itineraries.

After much planning, we, Murari, my husband Subra and myself, finally left on
May 29th, 2003.

May 29th

We arrived at Frankfurt airport at 7:30 am. Our friend Sriram, a much revered
Yoga teacher, was at the airport to receive us. We drove to their beautiful home
in a village called Beerfelden. Of course, because of the Right hand drive in
Europe, we constantly felt we were on the wrong side of the road! It was a
pleasure to drive on the autobahn. While we were still gushing over Sriram doing
180 miles/hour in his Passat station wagon, we saw another car overtaking us at
200 something!Angelika, Sriram’s wife and my friend, a German who has studied dance in
Kalakshetra and speaks fairly fluent Tamil welcomed us to their house, along
with their dog Inu and cat Choky. After some delicious bread with home made jams
and basil pickle, we took a refreshing walk into the woods near their house.

Sriram then drove us to Schonau, a quiet place near Heidelberg for our
performance on 31st. We stayed with a wonderful couple, Shanta( a Bengali lady)
and her German husband, Theo. They run a hotel and a ballet school. Shanta had
prepared a special Indian meal for us.

T.R.Sundaresan joined us here after conducting some mridangam classes in
Stuttgart.

May 30th

We spent the day visiting Heidelberg. It is a beautiful town with a lovely
castle and the river Neckar flowing gently down its length. It was sunny, quite
warm at about 28 degrees C. The cobbled streets gave the city an old world charm.
The place was teaming with tourists with their cameras round their necks (like
us!). It was nice long walk for us looking at all the sights and shops. There
were a couple of Indian shops; one a restaurant called Raja Rani and another a
phone call center. They were both pleasant but not particularly excited at
seeing fellow Indians!! The pubs are very cute. When the sun is scarce, people
really learn to appreciate it. Most people were sitting in the sun sipping their
beers and relaxing. Heidelberg is basically a University town and we could see
many students earning extra money working in these pubs. It is better to have a
juice or something stronger, if you like in most of these places. Coffee is
served without milk and sugar. You have to ask for it if you want. But the milk
is never warmed up. So for coffee guzzlers from Chennai this can be quite
difficult! I discovered this after asking for an Expresso coffee, which came in
a little cup; just decoction, tasted like some ‘kashaayam’ to me!!

The place is very scenic. The Germans are basically well built but there was
many a sight to cheer the tired eye! Jeans and short tops are universally
fashionable now, some shorter than the rest, spiked hair, colored hair. Very
different and interesting, in all!

We took a train back to Schonau. All the instructions at the vending machine
were in German and there was no one around to guide us. After much guessing and
buying a ticket to somewhere in North Germany, we finally got our tickets and
had a good ride back!

May 31st

The day began with my workshop on music. The participants were seated close
together. Love for music and an interest in most things Indian was a common
thread. Aided by the power point presentation I had prepared, I explained to
them various facets of Carnatic music. I tuned a sloka in Mohanam raga and got
them to sing along! This was a real hit. They could now understand better the
concept of Sruti, raga and laya. My workshop was a big success.

Sundaresan conducted his tala workshop in the afternoon. It was really cute to
see Germans sitting on the floor, putting tala and doing ‘ taka dimi taka junu’
!!

Our concert in the evening had a good turnout. The main piece I sang was
Papanasam Sivan’s Janakipathe in Kharaharapriya. The applause was tremendous and
most encouraging. We had many questions to answer informally. It was a tiring
but rewarding day.

June 1st

It was a relaxed morning. Our friend Egon had baked some fresh rolls and served
us with hot tea in never ending pots. He is an interesting man and we learnt
some special swear words in German and taught him some Tamil ones, part of a
holistic cultural exchange!

Shanta took us for a walk around Shonau. She is so popular; we suggested she run
for Mayor of the town! It turned out that this was no joke and a serious
suggestion had been made to this effect!!

Summer is good time to visit Germany. All the plants are in bloom and the place
is heaven. Roses, geraniums, rhododendrons, poppies, blossoming apple trees,
berries; an endless collage of colors. Every house and every public place takes
pride in display of flowers and their color schemes. We just couldn’t get enough
of it.

Sriram picked us up at 4pm for a drive to Stuttgart for a home concert. It was
sad bidding goodbye to Shanta and Theo who have grown to be very close friends.

The concert was in a very beautiful house in Stuttgart. We had a select
gathering of music lovers. Some of them had attended Sundaresan’s workshop and I
was amazed that they were putting talam with me! This, truly, is creating
awareness about Carnatic music in the western world; our contribution towards
making people enjoy our music. I explained briefly about the ragas and composers
of the songs I presented. Sriram translated these into German for those who were
not fluent in English. Again, our program was wonderfully well received and we
left for Munich with a sense of anticipation.

June 2nd

Ah, a day exclusively for sight seeing and shopping! I discovered that shopping
is not very exciting in Germany, or Europe for that matter, as things are really
expensive to Rupeewallahs! Interestingly, many Indian things and styles are in
vogue and we saw many famous boutiques displaying things Indian and took pride
in that! There are the ubiquitous “made in China” and “made in Taiwan” tags.
However, all this did not really deter me and I did end up with a bag full of
gifts for my dear ones! Got home with weary feet, predictably. Murai and Subra
decided to take charge of dinner. Anjali was joining us later that night. We had
delicious aubergine [eggplant] and zucchini fry from Murari and a dal makhani
from Subra. Boring jobs like making the rice was left to me! It was sumptuous.

June 3rd

We rehearsed in the morning. I decided to present an RTP as the piece the
resistance that evening. Our concert was in the Ethnic Museum-Volkerkundemuseum.
It was beautiful with exhibits from all over the world. The entrance had a
serene Buddha welcoming everyone.

The hall was packed to capacity and even had a few people standing at the back.
The concert was a success from the word go. The Germans are a very cultural
people themselves and come with an open mind to listen to other styles. They are
very disciplined listeners and their intense attention inspires you to give of
your best.

Got back home in really high spirits. Ilango, the charming son of Sriram and
Anjali, spent some time with us and we had really good fun. Despite a good
dinner, we were hungry and polished off the lovely asparagus and cream sauce (a
seasonal delicacy) Anjali had made earlier!

June 4th

We bid them goodbye in the morning and took the superfast ICE (intercity express)
to Frankfurt where we had to board the flight to Helsinki. Sriram and Anjali had
been really nice and helpful and made out stay in Germany full of warm memories.

The train was delight. It had a bistro in the next coach and we enjoyed a
croissant and coffee there.

After checking in our bags we had almost two hours to kill. Filled our hand
baggage with more goodies, had pasta and pizza at an Italian restaurant and then
boarded the plane.

We arrived at Helsinki at 1730 hrs. We found Jani Salo, our driver to the van to
Tampere waiting for us with a smile and a board that said SUBRAMANIAM. In
Finnish, the J is pronounced Y. So he was Yani to us.

From here onwards the absolute professionalism of organizing left us dumbstruck.
Yani gave me a bag with a welcome note from the Director of the festival,
detailing my schedule till out departure. There were artist badges we should
wear, meal and coffee coupons, and the festival brochure. The drive was nearly
two hours and Jani updated me local news and customs. He is a guitar player and
one of the nearly 200 volunteers who work for this festival. As in any other
country, he is finding it difficult making a living out of music and is also
training to be a psychiatric nurse! Some things are the same all over the world,
right?!

We had dinner with some other people from the festival office. We then met Kerb.
She would be our guide during our stay. Unlike Germany, most Finns speak English.
Kerbo has visited India and also many other countries. She was very articulate
and it was a pleasure to have her with us.

June 5th

The real purpose of our tour started! The day began with a TV interview for me.
A few questions on what I hoped to tell them in my workshop and what I expected.

The workshop began at 1000hrs. I had my CD presentation and my tambura. It was a
very interesting workshop as all the participants were musicians/ singers/ choir
conductors.! It was easier talking to them but also more challenging, as they
were all professionals. I could explain more intricate details regarding our
music and they could follow it very well. I got them also to sing and I must say,
they are quick learners. The afternoon saw Murari explain violin playing
techniques in India. Sundaresan demonstrated the mridangam, kanjira , morsing
and the konakkol with great aplomb.

We attended the performance of a Swedish group called The Real Group. It was
amazing. They had no instruments but together the five of them created real
magic on stage, mimicking various instruments even as they sang! Incredible!!

The flags of the participating countries were flying outside the main hall. My
heart filled with pride to see the Indian tricolor flying high there.

June 6th

We walked around and saw a little bit of Tampere in the morning. Went to the
museum and had a good time. My concert was at 21hrs. My sound check was at
19hrs. It was sheer pleasure. The stage, the mikes, the lights. Absolute
professionalism. (They had earlier faxed me the stage proportions and asked for
my requirements in terms of seating, mikes, etc.) Each person executes his job
perfectly.

We started about 15 minutes late. The hall, Old Customs House, was packed. I
started with Saveri varnam and did Nanupalimpa in Mohanam as the main piece.
Sundaresan played the kurraippu with kanjira, morsing and konakkol thrown in.
The applause at the end of this piece was tremendous! I concluded with a javali
and a tillana.

My goodness, we had an ovation of more than 5-6 minutes! It was overwhelming!
They wouldn’t let us leave the stage! I had to sing one more song before they
let us go, and that too because there was another special performance from
Africa after us.

It was an exhilarating experience to say the least. What made it more special
was that the appreciation was from a musically very knowledgeable gathering.

The group Tartit, from Mali that performed after us was quite robust. Their
music resembled our Rajasthani folk music. An interesting incident was one lady
participant’s fascination for my Sari! She took a photo of me and then wanted to
know where the zip was! I had to show her then that it is an unstitched garment
and tell her how to wear it!!

June 7th

Our day of leisure in Tampere. Went sightseeing in Kerbo’s car, ate doughnuts
and ice cream, shopped in their supermarket.

Vegetarianism is catching up among the younger generation and we were ok on
the food front. Of course, we’ve never eaten so much lettuce in our lives, so
regularly! We enjoyed Mexican enchiladas and tortillas, Felafel and Thai tofu
stir fry. There was good bonhomie among our team and everyone was game to try
out new things. It all added to a very enriching experience and made us more
aware of different people and cultures and reiterated the fact that the world
doesn’t revolve around Adyar and Mylapore alone!!

We also attended more concerts. Philomela from Finland was very impressive. Also,
Anuna from Ireland.

June 8th

Left Tampere at 0330 hrs to catch our flight from Helsinki to Chennai via
Frankfurt. Back in Chennai by midnight.

Finland has a population of about 5 million people. It has very severe winters
and short summers. They suffer from a very high rate of suicide as the winters
can be very depressing. But the country is very rich in its music and folklore,
not to mention their sportsmen. The sheer energy and enthusiasm of the people is
amazing. Almost 60 choir groups participated in the competition. With the
resources at hand, the festival was a perfect study in organizing efficiency.
People are truly cultured. You may enter the hall only between pieces, if you
are late. There is no sauntering in and out of concerts. People come because
they want to listen and they listen with full attention. No talking in between.
It would be really good if we could practice some of this etiquette in our
concerts back home. We have every reason to be proud of our culture and rich
heritage. Maybe we could culture ourselves some more?

It was a very satisfying trip to me personally. We in Chennai know about
Carnatic music and its glory. But what is immensely gratifying is to be able to
communicate this to stranger, to us, to our customs, language, lifestyle and
music. Bias is inherent towards vocal music because of the perceived language
barrier. To be able to transcend all this and create a sense of happiness and
satisfaction among the listeners is something that has to be experienced. It is
a challenge and therefore an achievement, something that I shall look forward to
always and render as my service to this art.

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Reggae Remake is in the Pink

Easy Star All-Stars – Dub Side of the Moon
Easy Star All-Stars

Dub Side of the Moon (Easy Star Records ES-1012, 2003)

I first learned of this project while interviewing Eric Smith of Easy Star Records in late 2001. When he told me the label was planning to do a reggae remake of Pink Floyd’s perennial bestselling rock album Dark Side of the Moon, I was intrigued, but not to the extent I knew some people would be. Though I was (and am) quite fond of the music and attitude that comprised the Pink Floyd original, I certainly didn’t count myself among its more rabid fans. I never even owned a copy, but given how omnipresent the album was at parties, on the radio and in college dorm rooms, I didn’t need one. Still, whether your affection towards the original is casual or hardcore (or if maybe you’re just a fan of solid reggae), you’re likely to be floored by how well the Easy Star All-Stars have pulled this off.

Guitarist (and label co-founder) Michael Goldwasser and keyboardist Victor “Ticklah” Axelrod (also a member of Afrobeat band Antibalas) were responsible for reconfiguring the tracks inna reggae style, and they’ve done so brilliantly.

The original’s opening heartbeat sounds are rendered on nyabinghi drums, potentially indulgent rock guitar solos are replaced by DJ chatting, and, in a particularly inspired move, “Money” is laced not with cash register cadences but the bubbling/coughing rhythms of a water pipe being smoked. But don’t get the idea that this is all played for laughs, for nothing could be further from the truth.

The gloomy life-cycle cynicism of the original is still the core aesthetic, and most of the distant, elusive sonic textures (such as the melancholy guitar and keyboard accents) are intact.

Essential to this reggae re-casting are the disc’s guest artists, with Frankie Paul nailing the frustrated but resigned tone of “Us and Them,” Kirsty Rock giving “The Great Gig in the Sky” the right anguished/orgasmic vocal wail, Ranking Joe and Dollarman toasting their way through the gaps and Dr. Israel doing sufficient damage to “Brain Damage.” Plus, there are a few dub versions at the end to make a good thing even better, enhancing the rock-to-reggae transition while adding an extra starkness that even Pink Floyd themselves likely couldn’t have envisioned.

I don’t know if the Easy Star gang embarked on this with a so-crazy-it-might-just-work outlook or the complete opposite, but let’s all be glad they saw it through.

This disc has gotten a lot of positive reviews already, and I’m pleased to add my voice to the chorus of approval.

Buy Dub Side of the Moon

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Rap Group Orishas Sings against Domestic Violence

Orishas
Orishas
(Prensa Latina – Cumbancha) Havana, Cuba – Cuban rap band Orishas, permanently settled in Europe, is participating now along with Hispanic artists in the recording of an album against domestic violence. Gathered under the slogan “Artists united in defense of mistreated women,” the artists’ new album intends to call society’s attention to the situation. In the recording of the double album, titled Hay que volver a empezar II, artists such as Pedro Guerra (Spain), Lila Downs (Mexico), Ojos de Brujo (Spain) and Luz Casal (Spain) also take part. Thus, the Cuban rappers join the production of this second music project born out of an initiative to raise awareness sponsored by the Women Institute of Spain. As in its first edition, which sold more than 25,000 copies, sales revenues will go to associations that assist victims of violence in the European nation.

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Valle Son Returns to Canada

Canada – Cuban band Valle Son returns to Canada for an extensive summer tour. Valle Son (vah-yeh sohn) is a 7 piece group from the rural village of Viñales in the lush tobacco-growing highlands of Pinar del Rio, the westernmost province of Cuba, where most of them have been playing together for more than a decade.

In July 2000, Valle Son traveled to the Yukon for a month-long tour. There they recorded their CD Son de Cuba at Old Crow Studio in Whitehorse, released on their imprint, Caribou Records– home to the Undertakin’ Daddies, Kim Barlow, and Anne Louise Genest. Son de Cuba is rooted in the traditional son style, yet embodies a contemporary, hybrid sound. Driven by the clave rhythm, the music integrates elements of jazz and mambo to create a propulsive, vibrant groove.

Valle Son would have returned to Canada sooner, but a 2002 North American tour crumbled, with visa delays in the wake of 9/11. This year’s trip takes them through the US and into Canada this summer for a series of festival and concert dates, continuing in July after they record their second Caribou CD in Whitehorse.

July 4 – 6 Vancouver Island Music Festival, Comox
July 7 Butchart Gardens
July 8 – 9 Harrison Festival for the Arts
July 11 – 13 World Festival, Harbourfront, Toronto
July 12 Lula’s Lounge, Toronto
July 16 Beneath the Arches, Turner Valley, Alberta
July 17 Ironwood Grill, Calgary
July 18 – 20 South Country Fair, Fort Macleod, Alberta
July 24 WISE Hall, Vancouver
July 25 – 27 Mission Folk Festival
Aug 5 Art Space, Prince George, B.C.
Aug 6 Downstream Bar, Jasper, Alberta
Aug. 7-10 Edmonton Folk Music Festival

Media contact: Ellie O’Day, 604 731.3339, ellie@oday.org

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Review for Crazy Rhythm Django Reinhardt

Django Reinhardt – Crazy Rhythm
Django Reinhardt

Crazy Rhythm, 2 CDs plus booklet (Iris Music 3001 864, 2003)

I’ve always been fascinated with musical prowess of guitarist Django Reinhardt. Normally, I wouldn’t consider putting a Reinhardt review on a world music site, his music is more aptly placed on a jazz site, but in doing some research after receiving a compilation from French label, Iris Music, I realized the origins of my fascination. That tight, neat guitar work that marked him as truly gifted was based upon his gypsy heritage.

Crazy Rhythm is a two-CD set with 48 tracks that will knock your socks off. With the likes of Stephane Grappelli, Coleman Hawkins, Dicky Wells, Benny Carter and Freddy Taylor playing and singing along makes it downright delightful.

Reinhardt was born in a gypsy camp in Belgium in 1910 and eventually ended up with his mother’s family in a makeshift camp in Paris. The tribe was known as the Manouches or French Gypsies. Django started out his young life playing violin and guitar with a gypsy troupe, and later touring dancehalls playing popular music. He was 18 when a fire raced through a caravan he was in, severely injuring a leg and destroying some of the use of the fingers on his left hand.

Django found himself forced to give up the violin. Being a self-taught musician, Reinhardt didn’t give up on the guitar and taught himself a new technique in fretwork for the frozen fingers on his left hand. Soon, Django turned from gypsy song and popular dance band music for the latest trend – jazz – and in 1934 The Quintet of the Hot Club was founded.

Crazy Rhythm features Django with The Quintet of the Hot Club, Coleman Hawkins & His All-Star Jam Band and Dick Wells & His Orchestra. The compilation contains such classics as “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” “After You’ve Gone,” “Georgia On My Mind” and “Solitude.” I have to admit that more than once I felt like I was trapped in Woody Allen movie. But pieces like “Miss Annabelle Lee” and “Lady Be Good” prove that Django never lost that bit of gypsy soul.

With Stephane Grappelli’s violin singing sweetly on “In a Sentimental Mood” you can guess that Django and Stephane had a musical relationship that doesn’t come along very often. “Improvisation” is a marvel, especially if you’re reminded that Django was self-taught and lacked complete use of his fingers. The most amazing aspect is that all the recordings took place in between 1936 and 1939, proving that there are those capable of quantity and quality.

Django Reinhardt fans, Stephane Grapelli fans and fans of the early years of jazz are sure to enjoy this compilation. As an added bonus, the accompanying booklet, with both French and English translations, contains some interesting histories, observations and stories. The booklet also has some fabulous photographs of Django. Crazy Rhythm is a compilation that possesses a delightful opportunity for devoted Django fans to infect newer listeners.

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The San Francisco World Music Festival 2003

SFWMFSan Francisco, USA – ­ The annual San Francisco World Music Festival  has officially announced the program for the 2003 edition of the festival. Coming to the San Francisco Bay Area from the mountains of Altay, the forests of Kamchatka, and the steppes of Tuva, some of the world’s most indigenous throat singers, folk dancers and musicians, and shaman spiritual elders of Central Asia and Siberia will unveil centuries-old folk rituals this September 12 & 14.  Additionally, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, India’s most celebrated santur instrumentalist and vocalist, his gifted son Rahul Sharma and the acclaimed tabla player Ustaad Shafaat Ahmed Khan will perform the timeless music of North India on September 13.

These concerts are a sampling of Door Dog Music Productions 4th annual San Francisco World Music Festival, running September 4-18, 2003 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco State University, and the San Francisco Dance Center, featuring artists from Afghanistan, Altay, China, Eastern Europe, India, Kamchatka, Lebanon, Russia, and Tuva. ”By bringing
together acclaimed international and local world music artists for 2 weeks of dynamic concerts, master classes, documentary film screenings and youth showcases, our festival facilitates human understanding through artistic vulnerability among the world¹s cultures
,” states Executive Director &
Producer Michael Santoro.

New to this year¹s festival is a specially commissioned orchestral work with libretto by the internationally acclaimed Lebanese composer Marcel Khalife, set to premiere September 11 as an international music experiment and artistic statement for global peace.  This centerpiece will be performed by a select orchestra of locally based world music masters, including KITKA, an all women
Eastern European vocal ensemble, the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra as directed by Benjamin Simon, Chinese erhu virtuoso Zhang Xiao Feng, Chinese master percussionist Hai Pu, and a leading female Lebanese vocalist Omayma Al Khalil, and includes visual and lighting design by Matthew Antaky.  Co-produced with the San Francisco International Arts Festival, this opening concert will promote San
Francisco as a world center for arts and culture.

This concert is a metaphor for cultural understanding and communication,” notes Santoro. “All of the different compositional components – Western classical music, Chinese traditional music, Arabic music, Eastern European music, and all of the respective cultures uniting — is not an easy task and through this process, new territories will be explored, providing insight and enrichment.”  says Program Director Kutay Derin Kugay, “The San Francisco World Music Festival is going beyond traditional music with this commissioned composition by Lebanese composer Marcel Khalife.  And with over 200 strings of the Santur masters, father and son Shivkumars, the festival sets a new standard for world music presentation.”

Kicking off the festival this year on September 4th is a North Indian Master Class by the distinguished Vijay Kichlu.  Another highlight is the first annual Youth World Music Showcase on September 6, featuring elementary and high school students of world music masters in the San Francisco Bay Area — from Alice Fong Yu Chinese Orchestra & Percussion and Fremont Deaf Choir to the India Tabla Quartet and Korean Youth Orchestra.  “It¹s important to provide not only role models but opportunities for children in the Bay Area to experience world music,” explains Santoro, “to give them inspiration to pick up an instrument and learn about another culture¹s music.”  On September 18, Chinese Peking Opera artists Chen Tsai-Yen, Sun Ji-Hai, Guan Yi, and Zhang Ying-Chao
will hold a live lecture demonstration of scenes from “Farewell My Concubine
”.

Comments Deborah Clearwaters, Manager of Public Programs at the Asian Art Museum, who has worked with Door Dog Music Productions to present a World Music Concert Series at the museum since March 2003, “The Asian Art Museum is proud to be part of the 2003 World Music Festival.  Many artifacts in our museum bear direct connections to musical traditions.  Presenting living masters of Asian music to San Francisco audiences helps build a better understanding of the diversity and richness of Asian culture.”

In addition to music there will be live radio performances, master classes at San Francisco State
University, San Francisco Dance Center and the Asian Art Museum, and a documentary film screening at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Screening Room.

Founded in 2000 by Executive Director Michael Santoro and Program Director Kutay Derin Kugay, the San Francisco World Music Festival  uniquely showcases the musical diversity from the Bay Area and around the globe by presenting high quality world music performances by master artists both locally and overseas, and from traditional to contemporary explorations.  

Tickets: Yerba Buena Box Office, Phone: +1 415-978-2787.

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Unwilling Accomplices

Famed journalist Edward R. Murrow once said, “No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices.”  I began to wonder if the same couldn’t be said of a single corporation.  Can a corporation terrorize a whole nation without all of us being its accomplices?

Are the quiet complicity and the indifferent ignorance of consumers the makings for a tyrannical corporation or are they the plot details of the success story tales told by defenders of the so-called “free market?”  And if this is the recipe for tyranny, do we really care?

The media behemoth currently ruling the American airwaves is Clear Channel Radio. It dictates music playlists and politics to over 1200 radio stations in the U.S. It boasts of over 110 million listeners and has captured a good 20% of radio’s advertising dollars.

Conservative talk radio hosts Rush Limbaugh and Dr. Laura Schlessinger are just two of the numerous celebrities featured by Clear Channel’s Premiere Radio Network productions, the likes of which are syndicated to more than 7,800 stations across the country. In addition, Clear Channel own 37 television stations, 700,000 billboards, 130 concert venues and plans are in the works for Music Guide Live!, a magazine for the summer concert season.

Right about now you might be asking yourself, ‘So, what’s wrong with that?‘ The problem lies in the business practices of Clear Channel.

After Natalie Mains of the Dixie Chicks expressed shame over President Bush’s willingness towards war, Clear Channel stations across the country stopped playing songs by the group. Clear Channel officials denied a company-wide mandate had been issued, but they didn’t demand that the Dixie Chicks be placed back on the playlist in an effort to prove that narrow kind of political culture
didn’t existed within the company.

Then, there’s homogenization of playlists. Clear Channel is reported to control roughly 60% of rock music programming, so how hard do you think it might be for a local band to get airplay on a Clear Channel station?

There are accusations of pulling popular syndicated programs from radio stations in favor of Clear Channel competing stations, encouraging devoted listeners to switch to Clear Channel stations. Local programming has fallen by the wayside as Clear Channel sets up region-wide “cyber-jocking” to save the cash on local DJ jobs.

Adding to their naughty reputation, Representative Anthony Weiner, a Democrat from New York, asked the Department of Justice for an investigation of Clear Channel Radio’s business practices. Competing stations have accused Clear Channel of operating shell radio stations through front companies while Clear Channel remains the key player when it comes to control.

Let’s face it, Clear Channel doesn’t get any brownie points for inspiring a website called ClearChannelSucks.org, dedicated to bringing to light the company’s dirty little habits. And finally, when was the last time you heard anything here on World Music Central played on a Clear Channel station?

I don’t know if a company like Clear Channel Radio is tyrannical or not. I do know that listeners are getting short changed with the same playlists being played over and over again. I also know local bands, concert tours, world music musicians and fair business practices take a hit when this kind of corporate rule comes to prominence.

But the question remains, are we Clear Channels’ accomplices? We might be. Recently, someone sent me an email saying that Americans love complacency and I wondered if it might be true. Finally, I decided that while we’re quick to jump on the bandwagon, we’re equally quick to jump off. I don’t think we’re as enamored with complacency as some people might think. The key is finding the
moral outrage – finding our inner rebel.

I’m a great believer in finding solutions to problems. For example, I complained bitterly for weeks and months over a woman in the neighborhood who used her obnoxious leaf blower on at all hours of the day and night. Solution: Sneak over in the middle of the night with a bunch of leaves and a bottle of industrial-strength glue and glue leaves to driveway. Now before you start calling the police, I didn’t actually do it, but it was a comfort to have a real solution.

But what is the solution in this case? Is it time we take Clear Channel to task by calling or writing Clear Channel advertisers expressing our disgust? Is it time to call up our congressmen to demand an in-depth investigation? Is it the time to stand up to corporate bullies like Clear Channel Radio and say, ‘Pretty is as pretty does and bring the paperwork to prove it?’ Of course, you could just sit back and do nothing, but you don’t really want to be an accomplice, do you?

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The Hidden Gate – Jewish Music Around the World

The Hidden Gate - Jewish Music Around the World
Boston, USA – The Hidden Gate – Jewish Music Around the World on Rounder Records was released this week.

From Biblical beginnings, Jewish culture and music are found in over 100 countries spanning six continents. While sharing a strong common history, each geographical region has developed its own distinct identity.

The Hidden Gate samples this vast musical heritage, featuring Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino and Judeo-Arabic songs from Israeli legends (Chava Alberstein, Ofra Haza) and captivating Sephardic singers (Savina Yannatou, Yasmin Levy) to the little heard music of African and Asian Jews, and the klezmer innovators of Eastern Europe and the New World (The Klezmatics, The Klezmer Conservatory Band).

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Music Industry to Take File-Sharers to Court

Durham, NC, USA – Last Thursday the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) announced a change in tactics in its battle against Internet file trading by filing lawsuits against large-scale file-sharers. The RIAA, the association behind the five biggest labels, plans to ferret out Internet offenders they see as violating copyright laws, and file civil and/or criminal lawsuits. As early as August, file sharers could be facing $150,000 fines.

Long seen as one of the causes for sharply declining sales, Internet file-sharing in the past forced the music industry to mount legal actions against Napster and will now turn its attention to the pursuit of individual users of Kazaa, Grokster and iMesh, all popular software packages for file sharers. The RIAA recently won a court battle which will be used to force Verizon to identify the culprits. Reasoning that file-sharing damages all artists, the RIAA has stepped up measures against what it sees as common theft.

The threat seems to have worked in the short term. The announcement and a full-page ad in the New York Times, signed by various music industry trade groups and associations, coincided with a 16% drop in the number of users of Kazaa, the most popular file-sharing software. Of course this drop meant that only 3.8 million users instead of the usual 4.4 million users.

The battle hasn’t been won yet. Fears remain for the music industry as technology enthusiasts shift gears to invent newer software with the ability to cloak users’ identities. The RIAA has been warned by some that it will have to walk a fine line in order to boost industry-run file-sharing software and not further alienate music fans.

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Your Connection to traditional and contemporary World Music including folk, roots and various types of global fusion