Monday, July 31, 2006


From the New York Times, an archive of editorials on the plight of farmers in developing nations.

Project leader: "Andrés Martinez has been an editorial writer at The New York Times since the summer of 2000. A native of Mexico, Mr. Martinez is a graduate of the Columbia Law School, where he served on Law Review."


Comedian Alexei Sayle said at a demo in Trafalgar Square: "While Israel has all the privileges of a state it behaves worse than a terrorist organisation."


Mazen Kerbaj recorded a duet with the Israeli air force on his balcony on the night of 15/16 July. He plays trumpet. The Lebanese emergency services provide some backing too. The sound of war. Check out Starry Night. Also see his blog of gripping drawings, poems and prose. Given the cataclysmic events of the last 48 hours, this work is amazingly cheering for its stubborn spiritedness.

Sunday, July 30, 2006


Electronic Intifada has an Electronic Lebanon site, just up this month: there's an interesting story by the following film studies academic who was in Beirut just before the bombing started. The photographs of Shatila refugee camp are great:

"Hamid Dabashi is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York. He has travelled extensively in Palestine, Lebanon, and the rest of the Arab world. His previous travelogue to Palestine and Lebanon, "For a Fistful of Dust: A Passage to Palestine," was published in
al-Ahram Weekly (23-29 September 2004, Issue No. 709). He is the founder of Dreams of a Nation: A Palestinian Film Project. His edited volume, Dreams of a Nation: On Palestinian Cinema (2006) will be released next month by Verso. His forthcoming book, Iran: A People Interrupted, is scheduled for publication in the Fall 2006 by the New Press."

Also check out:

Palestinian filmmakers respond to the Locarno International Film Festival. Israeli filmmakers on the opening of the Arab film biennial in Paris.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


Just sick to my stomach--some days literally--about the war on Lebanon. I'm amazed, though a cynic shouldn't be, that the BBC reportage has gone to some lengths to justify Israel's military expedition by constantly going on about kidnapped Israeli soldiers and the bunker-bound popular support for yet another invasion of Lebanon. The Americans want to give Israel free reign (whoops, Freudian slip--I meant 'free rein') rather than go for an immediate ceasefire so they can ratchet up the pressure on Syria and Iran. The arrogance with which Condee Rice can blithely wave away calls for an immediate ceasefire is gobsmacking. The US doesn't want a democratic Arab government in the Middle East so it's scuppered progress on that front in Lebanon by taking out the infrastructure and killing civilians. Hezbollah may not be destroyed. More insurgents, terrorists, freedom fighters who hate Israel and the United States will emerge from shelled neighbourhoods and refugee camps. Islamist recruitment will only benefit. There's shitloads of media reportage out there at the moment and frankly it's depressing listening, watching and reading, so I haven't followed the crisis exhaustively. Besides I'm desperately trying to finish an overdue piece on black music and technology for a journal. And family illness has made that harder too. But these woes and commitments aside, in the comments pages of The Guardian, rather than the 'proper articles' you can find a piece about the 'framing of Hizbollah' by Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, assistant-professor at the Lebanese-America University. And stalwart of the British left, Tariq Ali comments about 'a protracted colonial war'. I'm no apologist for the authoritarian anti-democratic governments of Syria and Iran and their spheres of influence, but this war has not been 'started' by them. Make no mistake: this is an Israeli-American war. Biased.

Monday, July 17, 2006


Turned on the TV3 news to see the caption 'Lebanese War' on the screen. I note that the Vietnamese named the so-called 'Vietnam War', the 'American War'. So why isn't this latest disproportionate use of force by the Israelis called the 'Israeli war' or the 'Israeli-American war' or the 'Hezbollah War' if you want that westernese 'balance'? What price the 'Syrian-Israeli war' or the 'Muslim-Jewish war' or 'The War on Lebanon'?

DJ /Rupture's Gold Teeth Thief mix just doesn't date. For those who want to give shape to their current distress, disaffection, anger and muddled thoughts about the interstate we're in.

Saturday, July 15, 2006


So a lot of press this week over the Zidane-to-Materazzi headbutt. Marseilles' version of the Glasgow Kiss. I've never seen or heard about the headbutt to the chest before. Quite impressive in its rhinocerotic power. My partner fancies Zidane because he looks like Daniel Day Lewis, not because of the headbutt. I have to admit some simpatico feelings towards Zizou initially. I thought the World Cup wasn't that good. And the shot of Zidane walking off past the trophy into the dressing room summed up football today. I'm glad that event hijacked a crappy final. It was more interesting than most of the football. The refs were crap half the time. Too many theatrics from players who should be ashamed of themselves. I hated the one centre forward hoik the ball up in the air shit in the tournament. What are we? 1953! Apart from being super corrupt (Italia fixing, Nike-adidas sweatshop goods etc.) soccer in Europa is still a fucking racist environment in which to play or watch. I know a bit of argy bargy, sledging, call it what you will is a legit bit of the nastiness in contemporary gamesmenship but I'm sick of racists getting away with it on the field and terraces. When I were a lad in the 70s there was no shortage of little snotty English shits ready with the 'Paki cunt' comment when they were lunging in for the tackle. They were 10 and 11 years old. Can't blame football for this behaviour entirely. But why should the fair football field be a legit site for racist abuse? Take it away somewhere else if you have to. It doesn't have to be that way, to quote the Blow Monkeys. I guess I was dying for the headbutt to have some postcolonial validation and valence as Muslim retaliation. What price 'righteous anger'? If indeed the words 'terrorist' and 'Algerian' were uttered alongside the words 'mother' and 'sister' in the cluster of mumbled and spat sentences thrown by the tall Italian, then Zidane meted out a bit of the ole Marseilles street justice. I read the amazing variation in global lip reading on various websites and felt 'deaf' in many languages. I thought one of the more interesting points--forget where it was I'm afraid-- was that Zidane has some of that (subaltern) anger that comes from being a postcolonial subject in a racist society. 'Oh Look there's a Nigger/Arab' to borrow from Frantz Fanon. It leaves a mark even if you try and repress it. But that anger is diffused and not politicized. It gets you sent off on several occasions. Other people, myself included, give it a different kind of value. We use it for our own political imaginations. Zidane has been quiet, respectable and the good beur. But the headbutt incident proved that you can't rub the hurt of racism away completely, even if Jacques Chirac has an affectionate word in your ear on the palace balcony. Anyway, looks like the advertising contracts are safe. I'm glad he didn't apologize. Or it was a strange ambivalent apology. On the one hand, he apologized to all the kiddies who might have been watching. But then he refused to 'regret' and therefore to fully apologize for the actual headbutt. He would have done it again if his mother and sister were so impuned. That's what being a man is about. So Zidane's headbut reminded us of 'family values'. Ironic turn of events that. Je Ne Regrette Rien was The Guardian headline, recalling the Little Sparrow, Edit Piaf. Which sent my mind spinning to the turntables in the building overlooking a banlieu block in Paris, and the DJ in the film La Haine who cuts up that song by Piaf with hip hop beats and Nique La Police. Fuck the police. Will be interesting to see if Zidane speaks up for the disenfranchised French African/Arab/Muslim youth and communities in his post-footballing career.


That's the name of a Television Personalities' song. In many respects, they took a more suburban and reflexive turn but were in the tradition of Syd Barrett's English whimsy. They weren't aiming for interstellar overdrive and bliss, but little fragments of psychedelic insight to inform the quotidian. Has anyone remarked how the TV Personalities might have influenced Belle & Sebastian? I'm sceptical about the desire to sustain romantic myths about artists. Yes, these out-of-it lost Byrons have a spark of something that we rarely access in our everyday lives but is it worth it? What about the damage to the self and the people around these 'crazy diamonds'? Anyway, I'm not a big Pink Floyd fan, but I don't hate them Johnny Rotten style either. I do hate The Wall and that bloody education song. But I love those early Syd-penned singles like 'See Emily Play' and 'Arnold Layne'. And the first album Piper At The Gates Of Dawn is also excellent. Fantastic murky production with all kinds of little explosions. Syd is also one of that (first?) generation of male vocalists post Ray Davies that sang unashamedly in an English accent without hamming it up to the max for Yanks like Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits Here's a good obituary for Syd. See you in outer space, mate.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


Extracts from a story by Marjorie Cohn about Israel's invasion of Gaza:

'Israel has used the killing of two Israeli soldiers and the capture of a third by Palestinians as an excuse to invade Gaza with overwhelming military force and demolish its infrastructure.'

'Israel's brutal retaliation against Palestinian civilians constitutes collective punishment. Attacks on a civilian population as a form of collective punishment violate article 50 of the Hague Regulations, which provides: "No general penalty, pecuniary or otherwise, shall be inflicted upon the population on account of the acts of individuals for which they cannot be regarded as jointly and severally responsible."

'The Fourth Geneva Convention also prohibits collective punishment. Article 33 says: "No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed." The Convention requires all states party to it to search for and ensure the prosecution of perpetrators of the war crime of "causing extensive destruction … not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly." Amnesty International called the deliberate attacks by Israeli forces against civilian property and infrastructure war crimes.

'Collective punishment is likewise forbidden by Article 75 of Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions. As four U.S. Supreme Court justices agreed in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld last week, Article 75 is "indisputably part of the customary international law."

And Gideon Levy of the Haaretz newspaper:

'Will the blackout of Gaza bring down the Hamas government or cause the population to rally around it? And even if the Hamas government falls, as Washington wants, what will happen on the day after? These are questions for which nobody has any real answers. As usual here: Quiet, we're shooting. But this time we are not only shooting. We are bombing and shelling, darkening and destroying, imposing a siege and kidnapping like the worst of terrorists and nobody breaks the silence to ask, what the hell for, and according to what right?'


God, it's almost unforgiveable that I didn't even notice the death of Arif Mardin last week on June 25th. He was one of the greatest record producers. With the massive legacies of Mardin, Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun there's surely a strong case for the importance of the Turkish contribution to rhythm and blues or 'black music'. Distribute that authorship, babee!

I love this picture of Mardin in the Atlantic studio with Aretha (and is that spouse Ted?).

Just some of the roll call of artists he recorded: Howard Jones, Carly Simon, The Young Rascals, Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, Patti Labelle, Average White Band, Anita Baker, the Bee Gees, Judy Collins, Phil Collins, Culture Club, Roberta Flack, Aretha Franklin, Hall & Oates, Donny Hathaway, Norah Jones, Chaka Khan, Melissa Manchester, Manhattan Transfer, Modern Jazz Quartet, Willie Nelson, John Prine, Scritti Politti, Queen, Dusty Springfield, David Bowie, Jewel and Ringo Starr.

I'd be on my knees in sijdah just for Dusty in Memphis and I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You.

Goodbye, Arif.

Monday, July 03, 2006


The International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM) is pleased to announce its 14th biennial conference:

¡Que viva la musica popular!

Universidad Iberoamericana
Mexico City, Mexico
June 25-29, 2007

Popular music remains at the heart of everyday life in many different ways. Its ability to organise, reassure, provoke, contain or anaesthetise attests to its influence within social life. The organisers of the 14th biennial IASPM in Mexico City invite papers that provide theoretically grounded accounts of popular music’s role as a soundtrack to individual, collective, local, national and international experience. This includes examination of the significant changes in popular music consumption, with, for example, the emergence of the mobile phone and TV talent show franchises as key links between contemporary youth audiences and performers. Equally, in the age of the ‘mash-up’, innovation in digital technologies (for example, Pro Tools and Acid Pro software) continues to challenge prior modes of production and viability for producers in an era of industry/company integration. While these are important issues for debate, this conference also emphasises effect and affectivity: the astonishing ways in which popular music moves us to different forms of expression and feeling.

The location of this conference is timely, given the rapid change in cultural trade flows and agreements between nations, where popular music plays a major role in debates about cultural sovereignty, and the feverish rhetoric surrounding the ‘cultural’/’creative’ industries. At the same time, popular music continues to be appropriated for specific political ends, representing particular ideologies, and in some cases, whole nations.

As has always been the case, conference organisers welcome papers that shed light on specific, local experiences and debates, along with wider issues of transnational importance. In keeping with the increasingly broad scope of popular music studies, the conference welcomes papers based on any disciplinary approach, including musicology, semiotics, philosophical/cognitive studies, anthropology, gender and cultural studies, sociology, literary criticism, etc.

Abstracts should be no longer than 250 words, and should include the following:

Paper Title
Surname, First Name
Email Address
Intended Stream

When attaching abstracts, please send as both an .rtf and .doc. Please use your surname as the file name, eg: smith.rtf, jones.doc.

The conference organizers would ask that you provide three to five keywords in order to help facilitate the organization of the schedule.

Abstracts should be sent to the following address:, and should be received no later than November 15, 2006. Presenters will be notified by February 1, regarding acceptance.

The streams for this year’s conference as follows:

1. Songs of desire

Convenor: Franco Fabbri

Feelings, emotions, passion are at the same time the subject of many popular songs (content), the factors that influence how subjects are articulated (expression), the shared competence within a genre or across genres (code). Affect in popular music is coded/decoded by the mind, interpreted by the body, predominantly mediated by the voice. This stream welcomes papers based on any disciplinary approach (musicology, semiotics, philosophical/cognitive studies, anthropology, gender and cultural studies, sociology, literary criticism, etc.) approaching song (individual songs, genres, idiolects) as the meeting point of thought and feelings, the body, the human voice, for any purpose and project.

2. Performance

Convenor: Shane Homan

Musical performance remains one of the central rituals and pleasures of popular music. This stream invites consideration of understandings of performance within a range of cultures and contexts, including the re-evaluation of ‘classic’ performances on the stage or screen that continue to inform contemporary practices and histories; debates about repetition and improvisation; or performance within multimedia environments, and the implications for the presentation and reception of the musical text in relation to particular discourses of authenticity. We welcome papers on the cover, tribute, or interpretation that investigates performing the ‘original’, or contributions to debates about stage virtuosity, including understandings of musical skills, training and creativity. Discussions can extend to how famous musicians ‘perform’ their celebrity roles in a variety of industry and media contexts; or how audiences ‘perform’ subcultures or fandom roles; or take on the role of ‘performer’ themselves.

3. Technology & industry

Convenor: Martha Tupinambá de Ulhôa

The use of the phonogram, the disc, the tape, and now the computer archive has changed enormously the way people produce and listen to music. Music technology has even blurred the distinction between the spheres of music production and consumption, as well as the notions of authorship and performance. Also the music industry has had to adapt to new ways of consumption that bypass its control, as the debate on copyright and the release of "historical" performances transfers is showing. This stream welcomes papers dealing with the technological impact on popular music practices, including studio, live and even private popular music production and consumption questions from cultural, aesthetic, ideological, economic, sociological, historical, legal or musicological perspectives.

4. Nation, Region, City

Convenor: Michael Drewett

This stream is concerned with popular music meanings which are specifically located within the context of space and place, whether on the local, national, global or glocal level, including the role of music in urban and suburban structures, in the construction of national identities and policies and in place-related practices of domination and resistance, such as post-colonial struggle. Papers that place particular emphasis upon the spatial dynamics of popular music are welcomed.

5. Popular and Unpopular Musics

Convenor: Geoff Stahl

The notion of ‘the popular’ can be cast in multiple ways. The meaning and uses to which ‘the popular’ is put means different things with regard to taste, musicians, the industry, governments, etc. The notion of what constitutes popularity and what that popularity may mean is fraught and contested in a number of fields, whereby the production, distribution and consumption of music can become the locus of many different kinds of struggles. This stream is designed to take up many of these issues, considering the different resonances of ‘the popular’ (and by inference its so-called opposite, ‘the unpopular’).