Posts from ‘Videos’

Apr
19


A few weeks ago I received a hip hop video “B Sotak” from NasJota records aimed at getting out the vote in Sudan. It was a very good video and song, so I made an appointment to interview E-Hab Abasaeed, the president of NasJota. The elections are the first in over 20 years, and I wanted some insights. As anyone following events knows, the lead up to Sudan’s elections had been riddled with problems, with claims of vote-rigging and threats, but the biggest complication was the withdrawal of main opposition parties. This automatically gave incumbent president Omar al-Bashir an obvious advantage, offering him a “mandate” to govern that the international community would be forced to recognize regardless of his indictment by the ICC for crimes against humanity. And no less a VIP than Jimmy Carter initially legitimized the election. But what is the experience of those in Sudan who are actively trying to instill the roots of a democracy in their homeland? We couldn’t go to Sudan, but in a sense Sudan came to us, when we interviewed E-Hab who in turn connected us with Hisham Haj Omar, a member of Girifna, a youth movement in Sudan that tries to raise awareness of the election process and promote political dialogue in Sudan. In addition to their grassroots activism they have produced entertaining videos with a message.

Obviously both of these men are anti-Bashir. And as of this writing, with the election just recently over and votes not completely tallied, it remains hard to know how representative the vote will be. First the Polish air crash, and now the volcanic cloud that is paralyzing air flight has swept the election off the front pages, making it appear that our own politicos and media seem to be resigned to Bashir’s win.

If you are interested in seeing both videos excerpted here in their entirety, go to girifna.com.




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Jan
11


I recently returned from a trip to Taiwan, where I checked out the local music scene. Taiwan has a very layered cultural history; when I was growing up the country was called Formosa, a name given to it hundreds of years ago by Portuguese sailors. Taiwan was colonized by the Japanese, who left a profound mark, and most obviously, there is a huge Han Chinese population there that migrated in two major waves, one early, beginning in the 1600s, and another later during the 1940s and 50s under Chiang Kai-shek. There is also an aboriginal population, and although they have been marginalized like many of the aboriginals of the world, their music is increasingly being sold and enjoyed.

For my first installment, I’m going for the throat — with an à cappella performance by a Nanguan singer. (Usually this music is performed with an ensemble of string, wind and percussion.) I had been told that there was a very adventurous Nanguan singer named Wu Hsin-fei who was doing all kinds of collaborations with western and aboriginal musicians. When I set up my appointment to videotape her, she requested that it be in the studio of a master ceramist, so we drove up into the mountains (Taipei is surrounded on three sides by mountains, the fourth side being a harbor) and I found myself in another world.  I hope you will see and hear what I mean. So much of how we perceive music is learned, so you may need to “reset your brain” when you listen to this.  But I also think that her performance is so riveting, and I was able to get so close up, that you will be drawn into this very special experience. Personally, I find that it calms me immensely.

One of the artists I interviewed said that Taiwanese (or in this case, Chinese in Taiwan) music is about time and space. I tend to agree with that, and will go one step further: it has been so refined over the hundreds (sometimes thousands) of years, that it has retained only the most abstract essence of music. For me, it was akin to listening to a Western minimalist piece. And all you singers out there — check out her tone production!

Here is some background information about the artist:
“Ms. Wu Hsin-fei has had formal training in Nanguan music and has performed with traditional Nanguan ensembles. Over the past few years however, she has started to sing some of the most famous ballads of the repertoire à cappella. More recently, for her new CD, she has chosen to sing Tang dynasty poetry – till now not part of the Nanguan repertoire, together with solo instruments such as pi’pa, flute, guqin and Arabic oud.”




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Michal
Welcome!

Here’s where you’ll find my weekly original world music video blogs that appear on Huffington Post, as well as an archive starting in April of 2009.

This is also the place where you will find video that is exclusive to my site. I’ve traveled to places like Uzbekistan, Morocco, and Taiwan and no matter where I go I have found amazingly talented and creative people working in every genre from the deepest traditions to the cutting edge.

It’s been incredibly rewarding to interview them and to capture some of what they do on video. Enjoy what you see and hear, and let me know what you think. I welcome your feedback.

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