Sunday 19 December 2010

Enrique Morente

Martinete, from Enrique Morente Sueña la Alhambra

Enrique Morente, the leading flamenco singer of his generation, died earlier this week, aged 67. He is much mourned, and will be much missed, and not only in the flamenco community.

As a singer, Morente, from Granada, was capable of expressing an intensity of feeling with superb control in a wide range of traditional flamenco palos or styles. Throughout his career he was also one of flamenco's leading innovators, forever searching for ways of bringing the centuries-old forms and themes of flamenco into meaningful contact with the modern world.

These two sides of his work can be seen in some of his earliest records, produced in homage to three leading cultural figures of the early 20th century.

The work of the Republican poet Miguel Hernández was banned in Spain throughout the Franco dictatorship (1939-1975). In defiance of this censorship, in 1971 Morente became the first artist in any sphere to produce a complete work in his honour, Homenaje flamenco a Miguel Hernández, performing a set of his poems in flamenco style. 

A year later the Catalan popular singer Joan Manuel Serrat issued his own collection of songs based on Hernández poems, which gained immediate popularity in Spain; several of Serrat's songs became anthems for movements of resistance to dictatorship across the Spanish-speaking world. He has issued a further set of songs for the Hernández centenary this year, and has given scores of sell-out concerts throughout Spain and Latin America. Serrat's older songs are immediately recognised, and sung along with, by Spanish audiences, and some of the new ones probably will be, too.

Morente's songs, meanwhile, are virtually unknown. This is a great pity, because I think his versions more successfully capture the spirit and the sense of Hernández's poems in music than those of Serrat.

Morente then followed up in 1975 with Se hace camino al andar, in remembrance of Antonio Machado, generally regarded as the leading Spanish poet of the 20th century, and a major cultural figure in the Republic of the 1930s.

He was criticised by some, partly for straying from traditional flamenco themes in works like these, but also on racial grounds - he was from Andalucía, where flamenco is rooted, but he was not a gypsy. Some of the traditionalists held - some still hold - that flamenco can only be performed by gypsies.

His response was to issue a record in which he sang from the repertoire and in the style of Antonio Chacón, one of the first flamenco singers to be recorded, in Homenaje a Don Antonio Chacón (1977); Chacón was not a gypsy and was not considered authentic by some of the traditionalists - the same charge that was levelled at Morente.

It is difficult for outsiders to comment on disputes like this; it would be a family dispute, except that one side holds that the other isn't a member of the family in the first place. Many others singers and musicians have stretched the boundaries since then, but Morente continued to be regarded with suspicion by some, who probably couldn't forgive him for having started the rot.

There was a strong Granada connection to much of his work, though he sang palos from all over Andalucía. He recorded poems of Federico García Lorca, and one of his last works was the suite Morente sueña la Alhambra (2005), dedicated to the iconic fortress-palace of the Moors, which dominates the city. The stunning martinete in the video-clip above, based on the words of the Latin Good Friday hymn Omnes amici mei, is from this suite.

Morente worked with music and musicians from any and every tradition that attracted him, including African, Cuban, Algerian, and classical, and wrote a flamenco mass. The only pity is that a good deal of this material was apparently never recorded.

His most controversial project was Omega (1996), a collaboration with the Granada punk band, Lagartijo Nick, in which the flamenco sometimes gets swamped by the punk, or the punk by the flamenco, depending on where you're coming from.

The esteem he is held in can be seen in the roll-call of Spanish cultural figures who came to the chapel to pay their respects the day after he died: they included the cream of contemporary flamenco, such as Paco de Lucía, Tomatito, Miguel Poveda and José Mercé; popular singers Miguel Ríos and Alejandro Sanz; singer-songwriters Paco Ibáñez and Joaquín Sabina; film directors Carlos Saura and Pedro Almodóvar; and from the political world former prime minister Felipe González, amongst others.

Morente's daughter Estrella is now one of the leading figures amongst the younger generation of flamenco singers. Spanish television broadcast this clip of the song she sang to his coffin:

We saw Estrella in London a couple of years back, and she finished her concert with the martinete at the top of this post, with the singers in the same tight circular arrangement. Spine-tingling. She'll be back over in a couple of months - I hope she does it again, in honour of her father.

PS: I've no idea what the horse is doing there . . .

Friday 17 December 2010

Mikileaks: New nationwide lottery

Mikileaks researchers have uncovered Demolition Government plans to launch a new, nationwide lottery early in the New Year. Millions working in the public sector have been entered in the draw, and those selected - who could number over 100,000 - will find out when a letter drops through their door by 1 January or shortly after. This lottery is unusual, in that all winners will receive the same prize: their very own redundancy notice, signed with 'best wishes' by D Cameron, N Clegg, G Osborne and E Pickles.

Remember - "We're all in this together!"

All of sudden

10 minutes later . . .

Israel visit 2010

King David and his harp
I spent a week in Israel in November, and have now managed to get all the photos up online. It was mostly family - a wedding, and cousins both old and new on both sides; the wedding and family photos are separate, any family or friends who would like to see them, please email me.

There was also time for a number of visits and excursions, and an opportunity to get to places I hadn't seen on my previous trip last year.

On the first day I met up with cousins Halina and Harry for a trip to Jerusalem, and although I'd been to some of the places before, it was still a fascinating and moving visit. We started the day on the Mount of Olives, with its fantastic views of the cemetery and the Old City, and then walked round the Old City, where I managed to lose the group for a while (as you do). I'd only stopped for a moment, to take the photo of King David above, and when I turned round they'd disappeared. Just like that.

We met up again for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is an amazing jumble of churches, chapels and shrines in different corners and on different levels, all belonging to different sects. It's the focal point for Christian pilgrimages from all over the world, and the people are as fascinating as the stones.

We then went to Yad Vashem, the holocaust memorial. I'd been last year, and found it just as shocking this time. You are not allowed to take photos inside the museum, for obvious reasons, but I did take a few outside.

The following day cousins Maureen and Franklin came over to Old Jaffa, where I was staying, and we had a walk around the old town. As the day before, it was great to spend a day with cousins that I rarely see - even though we had to go all the way to Israel to meet up!

After the wedding, and a few more family visits, I stayed for a couple of nights at Kibbutz Daliyya, saw Roman and ancient Jewish remains at Zippori near Nazareth, failed to get down to the sea at Ma'agan Michael, and came across Roman waterworks at Nachal Taninim.

I hope to put up some brief posts here about these latter visits, before too long.
Note: you can see the Jerusalem posts from last year's Merkavah 09 trip for fuller comments, and many more Israel photos from that trip.

Miguel Hernández Centenary: photos

Falla Experimental - 001

A Collection of photos from my visit to Orihuela for the Centenary celebrations for the poet Miguel Hernández at the end of October.  

There are 11 Sets of photos, including an international conference, a week of public art, performance and participation in the park, a homage at the poet's tomb, poetry readings at the house he was born in and the one he spent his childhood in, a few from a concert by Joan Manuel Serrat, the creation of 100 metres of poetry, and the burning of the fallas at the end of the week. I will write more about some of these in later posts.
Note: in any of the Sets, you can browse the thumbnails, then select a photo to see a larger version; from there you can navigate using the right and left arrow keys, or pull down the Actions menu to View All Sizes and select a larger version. You can also choose to see a Slideshow, from the Set page or from the Actions menu; you can let the slideshow run, or pause and continue as you wish.
You can see a few other posts on the Centenary here on this blog (more to come), and my translations of some of Miguel Hernández's poems are on There are Nightingales that Sing, along with the original texts, a range of video, audio and visual material, and links to useful websites.

Wednesday 15 December 2010

Mikileaks: We're all in this together

Mikileaks can reveal that many of the members of the Demolition Cabinet are quite rich! In fact, most of them are millionaires. I bet that surprised you as much as it surprised us. It's OK though, our society and institutions are safe in their hands.

We don't usually reveal our sources, for obvious reasons, but this report's from a reputable daily newspaper.

And remember - we're all in this together.

Mikileaks: "Sorry, we sold out”

From a Mikileaks informant:
I phoned the Lib Dem Head Office this morning and asked for a copy of their manifesto. They said, “Sorry, we sold out”, I said “I know, but can I have a manifesto?”
Police: "Protesters have failed to stick to the agreed route."
Member of public: "To be fair, so have the Lib Dems."

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Mikileaks: He's a Liar Liar

Mikileaks hears that the Posh Boys have been caught telling Porky Pies! The evidence collected by Captain Ska and his friends is incontrovertible, and very catchy. It is available from iTunes and other online music stores, for Xmas No 1 (proceeds to: Crisis, Disability Alliance, FalseEconomy and Women's Health Matters).

Remember - "We're all in this together"!

Monday 13 December 2010

Mikileaks: Posh Boys wreck the joint

Mikileaks Exclusive

Insider sources have confirmed the identities of several of the students responsible for the current spate of violent attacks on our institutions. Amongst the gang leaders are Master D Cameron, Master G Osborne and Master B Johnson. It is believed all three harbour ambitions to "be something" in politics.

Cameron expressed the group's strategy succinctly to our undercover agent: "Things got a bit out of hand and we'd had a few drinks. We smashed the place up and Boris set fire to the toilets".

Mikileaks calls on members of the public to remain vigilant. This gang is dangerous and are clearly intent on wrecking anything they can get their hands on.

Lewes against the Education Cuts

Sat 11 Dec

Over 300 Lewesians turned out to protest against the Coalition Government's proposed Education Cuts, in particular the three-fold rise in university tuition fees, and the withdrawal of the Educational Maintenance Allowance available to over-16s who remain in full-time education.

As was to be expected, a special target of local anger is the local Liberal Democrat MP, and government minister, Norman Baker, who joined other LibDem ministers in voting for the cuts even though they had specifically signed a pledge before the election earlier this year to oppose any rise in fees, and indeed proposed they should be phased out.

The demonstration was called by local school pupils, at two days' notice - fantastic! Congratulations!!

There are some photos from the demo in the slideshow above, including some of the witty placards, and you can also hear some of the witty chants :-) :

Norman Baker - Shame on you - Shame on you for turning blue!
They say "cut back" - we say "fight back"
No ifs, no buts - no education cuts
Lib Dems, hear us say - "give us back our EMA"

Monday 6 December 2010

The 10 Commandments of the Mediterranean Diet

This picture has been viewed on Flickr 75 times since May. Who by, or why, I've no idea. It's a plaque I saw in Soria, in northern Spain.

When I put it up, I didn't bother giving it a proper title, nor any form of description or comment, so there's no way it could have been googled. I've just noticed it's already been viewed twice today, so I've added a quick translation in fulfilment of point B at the end.

The 10 Commandments of the Mediterranean Diet and Culture:

1 - thou shalt have Olive Oil every day of thy life
2 - thou shalt not forget bread and cereals
3 - fruits shall accompany thy meals
4 - thou shalt eat salad daily
5 - thou shalt include vegetables, greens and legumes
6 - thou shalt not live without fish
7 - thou shalt drink milk every day
8 - thou shalt not eat too much saturated fat
9 - thou shalt take walks on work days and holidays
10 - thou shalt always seek company

These 10 commandments are summed up in two:
A - thou shalt love the mediterranean diet like thou lovest thyself
B - thou shalt pass on its benefits to others

Friday 3 December 2010

Lewes going nowhere

Big Snow - 21

Fri 3 December

Lunchtime today. This is the main railway line between Lewes and London. There have been no trains on it since Wednesday at least.

Lewes isn't exactly cut off from the world, but with no roads in or out of town for 24 hours or more, few shops open until today and a run on bread and milk, with all schools closed and many local services suspended, with no trains and hardly any buses for 2 days, with Gatwick Airport closed, and with broadband erratic and, horror of horrors, no Guardian delivered, it has certainly felt like it at times.

The snow began on Monday, which was a bit odd, because as we know it never snows in southern England in November . . . I'd been to the University to do a lecture, got some shopping on the way home - and didn't leave the house again until this morning (Friday).

It snowed more on Tuesday, and folk had fun of various sorts: building snowmen, throwing snowballs, sledding, falling over, that sort of thing. In Brighton they're a bit more up front with their snow fun: they have adventures with a tea tray, and spend the morning on the beach; in Lewes we're more sophisticated: we have things like Wolfie's blog and Long Slow Distance's unexpected visitor, and we grow icicles and decorate the war memorial with snowballs. We dig up our old cartoons, and we paddle our own surfboard, and have a nice sit down when it all gets a bit much.

Then it came down long and hard on Wednesday evening, and everything ground to a halt. On Thursday it froze, hard; overnight temperatures were said to have gone down to -10ºC, which is the sort of cold we get once a decade here. 

Today it has hovered around zero. I ventured out to do my bit to keep the local economy going, and didn't slither once, which pleased me no end as I had a bottle of milk on my back, and I have a tendency to trip, slip and fall over things like paving stones, blades of grass, pockets of air, things like that.

Here's some of my photos from this week; I've seen plenty of superb and atmospheric shots from others, many of which I've lost track of, but here's a few to be going on with: evening walk, saunter past castle, Lewes FC football ground, street view, some of Viva Lewes' photos of the week, Railway Land, the Cliffe Christmas Tree, railway station, and a gorgeous set from Richard Gailey.

Throughout the week the Viva Lewes Twitter feed has been invaluable, retweeting information and comments from all around, and pointing towards much of the excellent photo and video material above. Great fun, and very useful, although I can't say it's as satisfying a read as The Guardian . . .

PS: plus some great pix from Kirstie Fuller

Wednesday 1 December 2010

57 varieties of hypocrite

(from today's Guardian)

For those not familiar with UK politics:
- the Liberal Democrats have 57 MPs (members of parliament)
- they are propping up the Conservatives in a coalition government
- during the general election campaign earlier this year they promised to abolish students' tuition fees, if elected
- they won a number of university town seats on the back of this pledge
- the senior Liberal Democrat Vince Cable is the minister in charge of the government department which is currently introducing a huge rise in tuition fees, alongside a massive cut in the funding of university teaching
- a wave of student occupations and demonstrations is taking place all over the country against these cuts and charges
- one leading Liberal Democrat said the pledge was 'a legitimate position for an opposition party', but 'a very different position for a party with responsibility' (see dictionary definition of hypocrisy below)
- many Liberal Democrat MPs are getting cold feet over the parliamentary vote on this issue, due next week - should they vote for? against?? abstain??? individually???? all together?????
- the Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell does Cable as a baby elephant
- Heinz (of baked beanz fame) used to boast they sold 57 varieties of tinned food
- the Liberal Democrat logo is a bird with far too many wings - or is it a worm?
- the lobby is where MPs go to cast their votes in the House of Commons
- 'lobby fodder' is an expression used to refer to MPs who always vote the way their party tells them to

- hypocrite: when someone pretends to believe something that they do not really believe or that is the opposite of what they do or say at another time (Cambridge Dictionaries Online)

They say a picture is worth a thousand words - well I've used over 250 here but I'd far rather look at Steve Bell's cartoon . . .

Oh, and by the way, I - and I'm sure many others in Lewes - will be very interested to see how our own Liberal Democrat MP, Norman Baker, votes on this issue.

Big snow now!

Big snow in Lewes, 9pm. Well it is December. Do you think I've summoned it up by getting out those old cartoons (Snow Humour, First Aid Post, Who put that there)? Spooky!

Who put that there?

Speaking as one who unfailingly trips over the only stone in the field, I know just how that poor fellow feels - hurt, resigned, and stupid.

Another one I've kept for years, though it's not as yellowed as the other two (Snow Humour, First Aid Post).

First Aid Post

Ian Gammidge, 1960s (?)

Another one in the same vein (see Snow Humour), but with a subtle difference. Isn't Life just like that?

This one had to be folded over to fit in my wallet, and then sat on for 40 years, to produce the artistically creased effect.

Snow humour

I've been sitting on this for 40 years and more. I've kept a cutting of this cartoon in my wallet, in my back pocket, ever since I first came across it. It's now a yellowing, faded, nibbled shred of paper. Every now and then it falls out, and I remember it, and wonder, and  smile.

And here's a photo of the original incident.

Brighton students dance against the cuts

"If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution".
Emma Goldmann (the quote's apocryphal, but who cares?).