Friday, August 14, 2009

Please remember that this is NOT an exorcism

Last week through the recomendation of a friend in Zanzibar, I found myself at Makan in Cairo, for a performance of a strange and endangered style of music know in east africa and the mid east as Zar. Zar is ritual trance music performed mainly by women(unusual for musical activity in this part of the world), mainly for the purpose of warding off evil spirts, known broadly in this part of the world by the arabic word "jin"(genie in english). "Ward off" is perhaps the wrong way to put it, since it seems the goal of these ceremonies is to open up a dialogue with these spirits, and to diagnose the issues they reflect.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


So I am in East Jerusalem at the moment. Have been here for the last two weeks working, and have been meaning to post about many things. My time working is almost done, I will finish production on this film about forgiveness and justice I have been working on on Wednesday, and then potentially do another day or two for a documentary that is happening about the Jerusalem music festival, which has an incredible line up, and is happening within view of my hotel room window, alas I have worked every night that it has happened so far so i haven't been able to make it. Hopefully that will change in the next few days; the festival ends on friday.

I have so much to report on from being here, and I am backlogged at this point, so I will start with the first of a series of very dramatic experiences I have had in the last two weeks that have woken me up to the brutal realities of the Israeli occupation, and the dark psycho-geography of this part of the world.

Last friday we went to shoot the weekly protest in a town in the west bank called Bel'in. It is a village in the West Bank located west of the great city of Ramallah, home to a small number of people that for generations have farmed olives on the surrounding land for their livelihood. Two years ago Israelis settled on that land, and the government has walled in the village as a way of "protecting" the settlers. The settlement is, by anyone's definition, illegal, it violates the Oslo agreement and is one of many, many, many illegal settlements on Palestinian lands that stoke the fires of this conflict and inflict brutal repression and interment on the Palestinians living near them. There is one road for the settlers, kept very well by the Israeli government who theoretically have no authority here, and another, third world(if I may momentarily employ what is otherwise a disgusting and antiquated phrase) road for the Palestinians. The only other point of rupture in the wall, a gate used by the settlers, is fiercely guarded by the IDF. Every friday for the last two years, a peaceful, organized march has wound its way to this point, and the villagers ask to be let into their lands by the military. Every friday for the last two years they have been denied. They proceed into civil disobedience by not dispersing when the IDF asks them to at gunpoint, and the soldiers respond with tear gas, rubber bullets(which in Israel are usually coated with metal and kill those unfortunate enough to come in contact with them), and treated human waste that they spray out of a cannon.
The cannon, which the IDF officially refers to as the "skunk cannon", is somewhat mysterious. Obviously from the name of the weapon and the PR surrounding it, the army does not what to have it be know that it is either made from human waste or a synthetic simularcrum, which is the first step to biological warfare. The cannon is also useful in identifying those who have participated in the protests since the odor persists on the subject for weeks after expose, despite repeated washings....

The institutionalized brutality by the Israeli military on display weekly in Bel'in in remarkable. The horrifying metaphorical implications of spraying your own shit on people who's land you have stolen boggles the mind. I'm deeply ashamed and angry that my government helps to finance this, and that the narrative in the US is that all Palestinians are terrorists. I'm going to try to do my small part over the next few posts and radios shows to bend that narrative somewhere closer to the truth....

Monday, May 4, 2009

Monday, April 27, 2009


Returned this week from two weeks in Rwanda and Congo, doing location sound(as usual) on a film about reconciliation and forgiveness. We went to shoot events around the 15th anniversary or the Rwandan genocide.
This was my second time in Rwanda, I found it a landscape transformed by the pageants of the commemoration, everywhere everyone and everything was swathed in purple. Roadside gacaca courts greeted me on all sides while driving between various points in the country.....

Rwanda, and the great lakes region of Africa in general, is stunningly beautiful. Infinite hills rolling off into dramatic skyscapes. Torrential rainstorms turning everything green against gray. On this journey I had the opportunity to venture farther afield, out of Kigali, and into the countryside. My first impression of Kigali, when I first visited it last year was slightly negative. It has the feeling, in many ways, of being occupied territory. There is a large international aid worker presence, which leaves a strong mark on the phsyco-geography of the place, and serves(at least to me) as an unpleasant reminder of the total failure of the international community to prevent(or even care about) the 1994 genocide. Residents proudly refer to it as either the "Singapore of Africa" or the "Switzerland of Africa" and on first blush it lacks the anarchic energy I've become used to in large african cities. But on this trip I had the time to let the energy of the place take hold of me and I grew to love the calm, gentle, relaxed pace of the city and the ease and quiet of its people. Rwandans are some of the quietest people who's voices I've ever recorded....

This weeks show, downloadable here, features edits of field recordings I made at the commemoration ceremony, as well as new music I obtained on a day trip to the DRC. More on that

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Gideon Boot

I need a Gideon boot and a khaki suit,
I'll stand out in Babylon and defend the truth....

Pan of the Future

Just digitizing the stack of music I obtained during my all to brief trip to Trinidad and Tobago last week. My time there was almost entirely filled with the sounds of Jamaican music, which surprised me, though that just may have been what I was tuned into. Went to an amazing club in St. James on Friday which I can't remember the name off, and had my mind blown by the new Richie Spice single, blasted through righteous sound. Always good to hear the rough, short attention span style that people dj with in the Caribbean. One verse-one chorus-jump cut. The only Trini sounds I sighted in the whole session that evening was an amazing remix of Marlon Asher's "Ganja Farmer". Which is a serious jam.

The trip was also surprisingly devoid of steel drum music, until my last night, which was a Monday and seems to be the night when the bands practice. All night as I wandered around Woodbrook in Port of Spain I was treated to the ethereal shuffle of bands tuning up and locking in together. Below is an interesting video about the construction of steel pans. They have an interesting and singular history, totally apart from other tuned percussion, but incredible versatile. I've seen people play Mozart on them.....

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Elusive

Youtubery of the elusive Omar Hayat playing at last year's festival in Essaouira. Every guidebook blurb I've read about Moroccan music mentions this guy as being one of the few gnawa artists influenced by reggae, but no one in Morocco, particularly the CD vendors, seems to have ever heard of him.....

Anyone who knows anything about him or has any of his music let me know.....