Music Notes – March 2015

Celebrating Bob Marley

Feb 6th marked the 70th anniversary of the birth of Jamaican musician Bob Marley, who died of cancer on May 11, 1981. Marley’s anniversary was observed with concerts throughout the world, including a gala outdoor event in Kingston, Jamaica, headlined by his musical descendants. Bob Marley was a pioneer of reggae music and remains its most influential figure. Starting with The Wailers in 1963, he released many of the earliest reggae recordings before achieving world-wide fame as a solo act in the 1970’s. His albums “Catch a Fire”, “Burnin’”, “Rastaman Vibration”, “Uprising” and “Exodus” are landmarks in world music. Songs like “Get Up, Stand Up”, “Redemption Song”, and “War” are perennial anthems of resistance to racism, neocolonialism, war, and inequality. “Redemption song” is inspired by a 1937 speech given in Nova Scotia by the renowned Jamaican political leader Marcus Garvey. “War” is based upon the famous “Appeal to the League of Nations” by Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie in June 1936, after his country had been invaded by fascist Italy. Bob Marley was a Rastafarian, a spiritual practice that holds such values at its very core. Like Che, Marley’s image has been widely marketed, but it’s easy to appreciate his true message. Just listen to the songs! 

B.C. musician boycotts Winter Games

Singer-songwriter Raghu Lokanathan is a member of two music groups that were scheduled to perform at the Canada Winter Games, a sporting event that was being staged in Prince George, B.C. as People’s Voice was going to press. The performances were to be part of an entertainment package organized by the Coldsnap Festival in association with the games. Instead, in a February 5th letter to the editor of the local daily newspaper, The Prince George Citizen, the long-time Prince George resident declared that he’d be boycotting the festival. His reason: Northern Gateway Pipeline (a.k.a. Enbridge) is one of the official sponsors of the Canada Winter Games. The $6.5 billion pipeline boondoggle would carry toxic Tar Sands bitumen through Bear Lake, 70 km north of this central BC city of 70,000. Judging by the mostly-favorable comments on the paper’s website, Raghu Lokanathan’s stance has been well-received. Incidentally, last December Lokanathan performed at a fundraiser in Prince George for local First Nations who have launched a legal challenge to the pipeline. Bear Lake is in the federal riding of Price George-Peace River. Its House of Commons seat is held by Conservative MP Bob Zimmer. For more info visit http://dogwoodinitiative.org/.

Holiday hounded to death by G-Men

U.K. author Johan Hari’s new book “Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the Drug War” documents the deliberate targeting of African-American jazz great Billie Holiday. Her story is a featured case study in this history of America’s century-long “war on drugs” and it provides evidence that drug addiction is related more to personal histories of abuse than to actual physical causes. Billie Holiday was stalked by the very man who launched the “war on drugs” after World War I – the jazz-hating and racist Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) chief Harry Anslinger. His vendetta against the singer began in 1939 after she’d recorded the anti-lynching song “Strange Fruit” and begun singing it in racially-mixed nightclubs. Hari recounts the story of Holiday’s ensnarement by FBN double agents in an operation that led to a debilitating prison term. Finally, in 1959, an FBN agent planted drugs on her and had her arrrested. Later that year, her health in decline, she was placed in a New York City hospital, handcuffed to her bed, and forbidden visitors. Billie Holiday died there on July 17, 1959. Learn more about the book at http://chasingthescream.com and look for out “The Hunting of Billie Holiday” at www.politico.com.

Top cellist tangles with YouTube

Zöe Keating, a Canadian-born avant-garde cellist, has built a successful career as an indy musician, combining electronically-inspired solo work with soundtrack composing, stints with groups like cello-rock band Rasputina, and collaborations with contemporary performance artist Amanda Palmer. Last month, Keating, a popular blogger with more than a million followers, shared her concerns about YouTube, the increasingly commercial video sharing service, now owned by Google. In January YouTube told her that she’d have to sign a five-year contract with them or lose her artist’s channel. Here’s a sample what Keating objects to: 1) Anything that a third party uploads to YouTube with her name on it will be loaded onto her page; 2) Ads will accompany all of her songs; 3) All new music must be given to YouTube (i.e. no more releasing new music to core fans on other services). Keating’s reflections on her dilemma (whether to sign) provide a fascinating glimpse of the contemporary music business as experienced by an articulate artist with principles. Check out the blog and sample her brilliant album “Into The Trees” at http://www.zoekeating.com.

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