Music Notes – September 2011

Rovics to play Ottawa Tahrir Benefit

Revolutionary singer-songwriter David Rovics, one of the outstanding troubadours in the USA these days, will give a concert at the Universty of Ottawa’s Alumni Auditorium October 2nd to raise funds for the Canadian Boat to Gaza. Rovics is an outstanding activist musician who tours constantly, playing for audiences large and small at cafes, pubs, universities, churches, union halls and protest rallies. His music has been featured on Democracy Now!, BBC and Al-Jazzeera, and the 200+ songs he makes freely available on the web (http://davidrovics.com) have been downloaded more than a million times. Among the concert’s sponsors are the Communist Party of Canada (Rosa Luxembourg Club), Carleton University CPC, the YCL, Students for Palestinian Human Rights (University of Ottawa), Students Against Israeli Apartheid (Carleton University), Independent Jewish Voices, and the Ottawa anarchist group Exile. Tickets are $10-$20 (sliding scale). The show starts at 7 p.m. Don’t miss this important event! For more info e-mail Larry Wasslen at cpccarleton@yahoo.ca.

Gary Cristall’s folk music history

The history of folk music in this land is closely connected to the struggles of the Canadian people for labour rights, social justice, and peace. Vancouver folk music historian and long-time impresario Gary Cristall has been tracing these connections through such projects as his 2008 five-part CBC radio series “The People’s Music” and his ongoing project to write the definitive history of folk music in English Canada. Last April “Music Notes” carried a story about one of the fruits of Cristall’s research: his discovery and release of historic recordings by the outstanding sixties Ukrainian-Canadian folk group The Milestones. An outline and preliminary draft of some chapters of “A History of Folk Music in Canada” is online. Gary Cristall is inviting people with stories and memorabilia to contact him and help him tell the story of the people’s music. Visit http://folkmusichistory.com/.

Media watchdog rules Israel “apartheid”

A ruling by South Africa ‘s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has dismissed complaints against a radio ad which called for a boycott of Israel and compared the Zionist state to apartheid South Africa. The ruling referred to a message broadcast on a South African Broadcasting Company radio station by Dave Randall, lead guitarist of the U.K. band Faithless, in support of South African Artists Against Apartheid. The ASA rejected the complaint registered by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies that Randall’s message is “false propaganda.” Reggae DJ The Admiral, a member of South African Artists Against Apartheid, welcomed the ruling: “The ASA decision is significant due to our own history of apartheid. The decision sends a clear message to the Zionist lobby that the time has come for an end to the baseless accusations of ‘discrimination’ and ‘hate speech’ whenever criticism of Israel is voiced.” Visit http://www.southafricanartistsagainstapartheid.com/.

Harlem in Vogue: Langston Hughes

Before there was Gil Scott-Heron, rap and hip-hop, there was jazz poetry. This hybrid art genre was popularized in the 1950’s by “Beat” poets like Jack Kerouac and Kenneth Rexroth, but those artists were working in a field that had first been explored by the great African-American poet Langston Hughes (1902-1967). A generation earlier Hughes had been one of the central figures of the “Harlem Renaissance,” and he was to go on to become one of the leading artist-intellectuals of the American left during the New Deal era and beyond. Harlem in Vogue: The Poetry & Jazz of Langston Hughes (Fingertips, 2011) is a double Cd of considerable artistic and historical significance. It makes available once again the brilliant jazz-poetry recordings Hughes made in the late fifties with orchestras led by composer-critic Leonard Feather and bassist Charles Mingus. For more information visit http://fingertipsrecords.com/.

Jazz great Ahmad Jamal a terrorist?

Eighty-year-old African-American pianist Ahmad Jamal, a native of Pittsburgh and long-time jazz luminary, came under suspicion in June, when U.S. authorities mistook him for Jamal Ahmad Mohammad Al Badawi, a fifty-year old Yemeni wanted by the FBI for helping to plan the USS Cole bombing, which killed 17 American sailors back in 2000. U.S. authorities froze the $10,000 that the Festival da Jazz in St. Moritz, Switzerland, was to pay the pianist in advance of his July 16th concert. Ahmad Jamal changed his name from Frederick Russell Jones when he converted to Islam in 1952. He is a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award and is Duke Ellington Fellow at Yale University. More than a matter of mistaken identity, it’s a case of racial and religious stereotyping, not to mention ignorance of one of America’s defining art forms. Organizers of the Festival da Jazz responded by inviting U.S. federal agents to attend their concerts as guests of honour, but apparently the U.S. Justice Department has declined the offer.

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