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Gaza - Syria: Selective memory and diversion tactics

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There’s some stuff flying around the blogosphere and social media about Syria from the apologists for the Israeli government which is clearly designed to throw off track those of us campaigning to end Israel’s persecution of Palestinians. Thankfully yesterday’s (19/07/2014) demo showed it isn’t working. However it’s still quite sickening to see. 

The selective memory of these people beggars belief. They point to the deaths of Palestinians in Syrian refugee camps to make an horrifically childish “it’s not just me” type statement, but they ignore the obvious question of why there are Palestinian refugees in Syria in the first place! The fact that Israel denies Palestinian refugees re-entry to land they were living on for hundreds of years, even in the face of massacre and besiegement in Syria, is conveniently ignored. Most campaigns in support of Palestinians have been making the demand for decades that Israel should allow refugees to return. So no Dave Rich, we’re not blind to the situation in Syria and knowledge of the complete story doesn’t absolve Israel in the way you appear to hope for.

There are more links between what’s going on in Syria and what’s happening in Gaza right now than these people choose to see. The same forces at work in wreaking havoc in Syria, going right back to disrupting the secular Arab independence movements of the 50s thru 70s, replacing revolutionary leadership with the ilk of Assad, are responsible for the plight of the Palestinians since 1947. The same powers that have been arming terrorist thugs in Syria left Palestinians to the mercy of Zionist terrorist thugs in 1948 and went on for over 60 years to provide the weapons that Israel is using now in Gaza. Those of us who have a long history of standing against injustice and imperial manoeuvring around the world know this. Those that call us “revolutionary tourists”, in an attempt to use the plight of ordinary Syrians to divert attention, are the real “tourists”. These are the “fashionable revolutionaries” that join the world in celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela while conveniently forgetting what he said about Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians and conveniently forgetting Israel’s economic and military support for the South African apartheid regime

First they use the anti-semitism line and then, when Jews are seen in opposition to the Israeli government, they point to the “evils” of Hamas - an organisation that wouldn’t have been elected if not for Israel’s assassinations and undermining of previous Palestinian political leaders. Now they selectively point to other travesties. Travesties that involve Arabs, as if what - to excuse the persecution and murder of Arabs in Palestine? Political desperation stinks!

View comments 7/20/14 — 3:20pm Short URL: http://tmblr.co/ZnNYDq1L-QbTH
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Digging in the Bass Bin

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Further sonic memories surfaced by my musings on the Southbank Centre’s recent Meltdown Festival.

Techno was always at the periphery of my digging/listening. Then in 1998 I spent a week with Carl Craig in Detroit. One night he and a group of friends took me to a warehouse rave. While my gaze wandered over the heads of the heaving crowd into the night sky via the charred remains of what was the roof, Derrick May came on and dropped his latest cut. It was this (a remix of a 1996 release) and it became part of the soundtrack for the rest of my stay:

Icon - Derrick May

Before that visit my short techno playlist revolved around this classic: 

Bug in the Bass Bin - Carl Craig / Innerzone Orchestra

Carl Craig’s “Bug In The Bass Bin” is an essential piece of electronic music history. It changed the dance music landscape forever when 4Hero got hold of it and, referencing dub, gave birth to the sound that is Drum ‘n Bass. No it wasn’t Goldie. “Timeless” is a forever classic, but it was 4Hero that turned the graffiti artist Goldie on to Drum ‘n Bass. He served his apprenticeship in their Dollis HIll studio before going on to form Metalheadz, whose club night became church for  a devoted D ‘n B congregation.

The day before I left Detroit, Carl took me down to the Planet e basement and loaded me up, filling a sports bag with CDs. Back in London Techno was less peripheral for a good while as I ploughed my way through it all. The following track, “Nort Route" by Balil, survived the longevity edit along with quite a few others that included, of course, Derrick May’s "Icon".

Nort Route - Balil

Listen to all of these tracks and you can hear what led 4Hero’s Dego to his next adventure (with I.G. Culture) to create another new sound. After the hipsters-come-yummies got the Blue Note closed down, Sunday service moved from Hoxton Square for Metalheadz to Curtain Road and Plastic People for the sound of Broken Beat or “BRUK”! And the cycle of reference and innovation continues…

So what was I doing in Detroit with Carl Craig? That’s for a future post about something else entirely, but it does also involve 4Hero.

View comments 7/11/14 — 7:00pm Short URL: http://tmblr.co/ZnNYDq1LC3HpC
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Jazz in the Arts Council National Portfolio

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Today I found a letter on Facebook originally posted in a blog at London Jazz News that began  with these words:

As might be expected there has been the usual wailing and gnashing of teeth over the loss of funding to Jazz Services in the current round of Arts Council three year NPO awards. The internet is awash with musicians justifiably angry at what looks like very bad news. 

After the Arts Council National Portfolio funding decisions of 2011 (for 2012-15) a lot of friends and colleagues were stressed and anxious in the months running up to this year’s decisions given that the Arts Council budget had been cut more since and many were already squeezed by the loss of local authority funding. Three years ago I spent a lot of time expressing anger and posting consoling messages to friends in organisations like moti roti, onedotzero and Weekend Arts College to name just a few. 

However, I have to say that compared to 3 years ago, yesterday was a walk in the park. Yes everyone was asked to submit stand-still budgets, but the Arts Council has also born some of the cuts internally, for example by moving out of that ridiculously expensive building in Westminster by 2015 and drawing more money down from the Lottery for Grants for the Arts (project and touring funding). But I most welcome that FINALLY we are seeing some redress to the situation where a tiny handful of large traditional, mostly mono-cultural, London-based organisations use up nearly half of the pot. We know who they are and if not here’s an example: English National Opera got a 29% cut! I don’t want to celebrate cuts (even though I can hear some of you cheering!). The ideal way to solve the imbalance would be just to give more money to the smaller, struggling and, as a whole, more representative organisations without robbing Peter…, but we don’t live in an ideal world and it’s about time we saw the beginnings of some redistribution of wealth going on. ENO’s cut contributed to adding new more grass roots organisations to the portfolio. Some examples are listed in the aforementioned post

Yes Jazz Services has been dropped from the portfolio, but NYJO is now funded as a separate organisation, Tomorrow’s Warriors (counter-balancing NYJO’s notorious lack of diversity) have had an increase, and some of the extra lottery money has boosted the Grants for the Arts touring budget. Given that over the years many jazz musicians have complained about limited access to touring funding from Jazz Services whose delegated function as distributors of jazz touring funds has hitherto hindered direct access to funding for such tours from the Arts Council, perhaps it could be argued that this decision has democratised the process and allowed the few Jazz Services beneficiaries to fly the nest.

An alternative (if somewhat utopian) solution might have been to withdraw even more funding from opera and ballet and allocate it to jazz (including Jazz Services) ensuring that more jazz artists could access funding, especially given the inverse relationship between audience numbers and funding levels across these art forms - ACE funding for opera for 2015/16 is £59.2m, audience is 1.67 million attenders; ACE funding for jazz in 2015/16 is £1.67m, audience 2.67 million attenders! Even taking into account the larger budgets required to stage opera this represents a prevailing perverse imbalance, but taking the inescapable pragmatic view, the tiny steps taken by the Arts Council to re-dress this imbalance can only be seen to represent some progress. We can’t rest on this, but for now I’d rather prioritise my protestations and direct them towards the CONDEM government whose cuts across the board, in particular to local authority funding, represents the biggest threat to the arts and society as a whole.

Notes: 1 View comments 7/2/14 — 9:42pm Short URL: http://tmblr.co/ZnNYDq1L6wKAO
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