Music Notes – May 2010

Oscar Peterson Statue in to be Unveiled in Ottawa

One of Canada’s greatest musicians, jazz pianist Oscar Peterson (1925-2007) will be honoured with a statue in Ottawa. The bronze work by sculptor Ruth Abernethy will be unveiled June 30 at the National Arts Centre. Oscar Peterson was born and raised in a working-class district of Montreal. Because his railway worker father, an immigrant from the Virgin Islands, was a union member (Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters), he was able to provide a sound musical education for Oscar and his pianist sister Daisy, a prominent music teacher in Montreal. The NAC Foundation has launched a public appeal to raise $210,000 to pay for the statue, but it would be more fitting if parliament simply voted the funds. Why not restore those slashed corporate taxes and put some of the extra cash into cultural spending, including honouring great artists?

Gloria Estefan and the Anti-Cuba Campaign

Singer Gloria Estefan headlined a March 28 rally in Miami in support of the so-called Ladies in White. While Estefan held aloft a photo of this dubious Cuban group (which to date has never been arrested or harmed), convicted international terrorist Luis Posada Carriles grinned and waved to the crowd. Posada Carilles was the mastermind of the 1976 mid-air bombing of Cubana Flight 455 which killed 73 people. U.S. courts have refused to extradite him to Venezuela to face justice. As for Ms. Estefan, a few weeks after her display of concern for human rights the Grammy award winner and her musician husband Emilio hosted a $30,400 per couple cocktail reception fundraiser for President Obama at their Miami mansion. Gloria Estefan is the daughter of a bodyguard of former Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.

Sinead O’Connor Calls for Pope to Make “Full Confession”

Irish singer Sinead O’Connor’s fight against the sexual abuse of children in the Roman Catholic church goes back a long time. She tore up a photograph of Pope John Paul II before millions of American television viewers on Saturday Night Live in 1992, after adding a verse about child abuse to the Bob Marley song “War.” Now 43 and a mother of four, O’Connor continues to speak out against the church hierarchy. In response to the latest revelations of child sex abuse and the role of Pope Benedict XVI (then Cardinal Ratzinger) in the coverup, O’Connor is calling for Irish catholics to boycott mass until the pope makes “a full confession” and agrees to “a full criminal investigation.”  Her stunning Saturday Night Live performance can be found on YouTube.

Lilith Fair Rescinds Support for Anti-Choice Groups

Lilith Fair organizers have backed off from their decision to allow crisis pregnancy centres to contest for donations to local women’s groups. The travelling music festival, founded by Canadian singer Sarah McLachlan, was a showcase of women in music in the late 1990s. It raised millions of dollars for women’s charities and promoted local artists as well as big-name acts. While most recipients of its funds have been women’s shelters and health clinics, the decision this year to allow fans to “choose their charity” from a pre-selected Facebook menu resulted in anti-choice groups being added to the menu in some U.S. cities. In response to protest, Lilith Fair has removed the pro-life groups and promised to release a set of criteria that will “resolve most of the issues.” Crisis pregnancy centres seek to persuade women to give birth but do not offer advice on the available options.

Media Spin: Did China Really Ban Dylan?

Taiwanese concert promoter Broker Brothers Herald told the the South China Morning Post on April 3 that the Chinese government did not give permission to stage Bob Dylan concerts in Beijing and Shanghai. The Guardian and other western media quickly picked up on the story, giving it a censorship spin. Doubts emerged a few days later when journalists with The Atlantic and Wall Street Journal published online stories that dug deeper. It turned out that no tickets had been sold, no venues had been confirmed and Dylan’s official website had not listed any China dates. The real story was suggested by bloggers on the Chinese music scene who wrote that the Taipei promoter was trying to flip the rights to a mainland promoter and was asking for too much money. Follow-up calls by journalists to the Taipei promoter were stonewalled, and China’s Ministry of Culture has stated that it never received an application for a Dylan performance.

On Ricky Martin “Coming Out”

Puerto Rican superstar Ricky Martin, 38, whose sexualized dance videos over the past two decades have never featured same-sex couples, ended years of speculation last month when he posted a message on his website stating that he is “a fortunate homosexual man.” It’s easy to call this a publicity stunt or say “we knew it all along,” but that would be to miss the point. Even in supposedly enlightened North America, LGBT people are still subject to legal discrimination and violence. When someone like Martin comes out of the closet, it sends a positive message to countless LGBT people throughout the word.

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