Thursday, 9 December 2010
Or rather 'Slushay!', the title of an early revolutionary song used in the atmospheric first movement of Shostakovich's Eleventh Symphony. Its text was crucial to the composer, beginning 'the autumn night is as black as treason, black as the tyrant's conscience'. 'Listen to the Banned' is a collection of tracks by artists around the world whose free expression has been curtailed by censorship. It's been very carefully assembled by the multitalented Deeyah, born in Norway of Punjabi/Pashtun parents.
It's better than I could have hoped, since many of the artists represented aren't merely giving us plain protest songs. Most are superb and refined musicians, starting with Iranian singer Mahsa Vahdat.
She takes me back to our Christmas day in Isfahan some years ago, when our hotelier invited us to his home and gave us a concert featuring his teenage son, a superb player of that weird and wonderful big drum with jingles the daf (we have one sitting here at home, a handsome beast; I think that's what Mahsa is holding in the above photo), and his wife, a first-class singer who, like Mahsa and many others, can't perform in public except in the company of a male singer.
I suppose it's because I have a special, if unversed, affection for middle-eastern artistry that I love the subtle art of Afghanistan's Farhad Darya, Lebanon's Marcel Khalife and the Israeli Palestinian Kamilya Jubran. But the marimba/mbira accompaniment to the song of Zimbabwe's Chiwoniso Maraire is enchanting too. And there's a real note of exuberant protest in the number 'to freedom' Uighur Kurah Sultan composed while in prison under Chinese orders (sadly he died in 2006).
I especially like the segue from Sultan into the solo voice of the Alevit Kurd Ferhat Tunc.
One quibble, the usual when it comes to the loose title of 'world music'. It's not enough just to have a paragraph on the artists, however handsomely produced the booklet; we need texts and translations of all the songs. But this is a good 'beat the Xmas mush' present: read about it here and buy it on Amazon; you'll be promoting the work of Freemuse, disseminating freedom of song throughout the world.
And you can help another deserving cause make it to Xmas slot no. 1 (though sadly the X Factor winner is no doubt the firm favourite; to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw on inferior French farce, 'ten million teenage girls can't be right'). I like the subversive idea of a specially recorded Cage 4'33, but I also like this, not exactly as music, but the idea and the film are good. You'll need to click again on the screen once it's started to get the full YouTube picture.
And all power to the students and lecturers who yesterday claimed public spaces to fight back with classes and speeches, not brickbats. Hope they manage the same today. How proud I was of Goldsmiths forces last night at Noelle's memorial concert for flinging out Prokofiev's quasi-revolutionary 1917/18 incantation Seven, they are seven so superbly. They'll need a bit of that eloquent, focused fire for their protests. More on the superlatively moving and engaging concert when I get some pictures through.