Posted in Music, Politics, Songs of the Resistance

A Soundtrack for the Resistance – (4) Plowshares and Swords. part 2

It is in the shelter of each other that the people live (Irish Proverb)

Playing for Change is more than a band. It’s a musical movement that includes musicians from all over the world playing together with nothing more to guide them than a set of headphones. We all know the Rolling Stones famous Gimme Shelter – anti-war song and unfortunately movie theme. Their version of it is fantastic – great music, great musicians, just about everywhere on this little globe of ours.

I’ll be featuring more of their music in upcoming blog posts. I like organizations that use music to bring us together. I think things would be a lot easier if we all realize how much we all have in common.

I’ll end with this chestnut from John Lennon, a man of peace (eventually) who was taken from us before his work was done. Peace. Imagine that.

Thank you, John. And thank you, Playing for Change.

#songsoftheresistance

Posted in African Blues, Music, Politics, Songs of the Resistance

A Soundtrack for the Resistance – (3) Ain’t Gonna Study War, part 1

These days, I hardly know where to begin. Every time I pick up the paper we’re either dropping serious tonnage on our despised-country-of-the-moment or threatening to send in the troops, even if the enemy has weapons trained on its neighbor to the south. Bombing the shit out of this or that country does not solve the problem. The Syrian government was using the runways the US neglected to target in its “that’ll show ’em” bombing of its base. I’m not saying using chemical warfare against your own people is appropriate. All I’m suggesting is that escalation of one sort or another is often the result. Putin has no qualms about chemical weapons and neither does Assad. All that to divert attention from the probe into possible Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. Yeah, sure, why not. 45 would stoop to that and so would his staff.

What are we going to do to North Korea, while they’ve got their missiles trained on Seoul, by the way? Or Afghanistan, with that bigger-than-your-dick bomb we dropped on their caves? Is that to say we can do the same to North Korea? You really want WWIII? We’re starting to step on some nuclear-armed toes at this point. Is it really government by four-star general or by Goldman Sachs now? Are those the only options on the table?

Oh, wait, excuse me while we shift the conversation once again to the second doomed attempt to wipe out Obamacare, so the Republicans can get around to cutting taxes some more. But, don’t worry. We have plenty of bombs left and that’s not even counting the troops.

I’ve been listening to a lot of music lately with themes of war on one level or another. Unlike similar music played in the 1960s, we’re one with the world these days. What happens on one side of the world gets passed around through social media and we end up hearing it – or hearing all about it. For example, the West African country of Mali underwent a coup, followed by a take-over of the northern part of the country by Islamic extremists in 2012. I just saw a film based on that (Timbuktu), in which the lives of the residents of Timbuktu in Mali are overturned by a group of violent religious extremists. No music, no dancing, women covered, Sharia law.

But, you know what? Mike Pence is a fundamentalist, too, just from a different religion. As I watched the film, I could – almost – see the same happening if Christian fundamentalists took over a part of this country. France and the United Nations eventually drove the extremists out (for the most part), but not until a bucketload of misery was poured onto the population there. My point? Trump’s “Islamic extremists” are far more brutal and murderous towards other Muslims than they are towards countries in Europe or the US. Let’s not forget who started this shit parade in the first place – good ol’ boy George W. Bush with his invasion of of Iraq in 2003. Want to find out who created ISIS and its attendant brutality? Just look in the mirror.

This is a gorgeous arrangement, performed in France since Mali was a dangerous place for musicians during those days. This is a lament, for ancient city of Timbuktu and the people forced to live there. This was partially a civil war, which gave the extremists just the foothold they needed. Actions have consequences and it’s often the people who pay the price. The video is accompanied by excerpts of the film. I’ll provide a translation and a trailer, subtitled in English. If you want to see the perfect combination of idiocy and cruelty, watch this film. It’s available on Amazon. Other places too, I’m sure.

Timbuktu Fasso (Fatoumata Diawara & Amine Bouhafa)

Timbuktu Fasso
Timbuktu, my country
Ko o ye ne faso ye

it’s my country
N balimalu Tonbuktu ye ne faso ye
My friends, Timbuktu is my country
Mmm ko o ye ne faso ye
it’s my country
Sinjilu, Tonbuktu ye ne faso ye
My brothers and sisters, Timbuktu is my country
Ko denmisɛnnu bɛ kasi la Ala
The children are crying
Allabadenya, badenya dugu ye Tonbuktu ye
My brothers and sisters, our land is Timbuktu
Sinjiya, Sinjiya dugu ye Maliba ye
My brothers and sisters, our land is the great Mali
Yankalu yan ye ne faso ye
People here, this is my country
Oo booo boo ooooo booo boo ooo
Ko o ye ne faso ye
it’s my country
N balimalu Maliba ye ne faso ye
My brothers and sisters, the great Mali is my country
Aw bɛ kasi la mun na
You are in tears, why
Denmisɛnnu bɛ ka if the mun na
Children are crying, why
Aw bɛ kasi la mun na
You are in tears, why
Kamalennu bɛ kasi la
Young people are crying
Maliba -don dɔ be se –
The great Mali one day vaincrako yan ye ne faso ye
This is my country
NbanbaN Sinjilu Tonbuktu ye ne faso ye
My brothers and sisters, Timbuktu is my country
Ko siniɲɛsigi jɔrɔ from bɛ an na
The worry of the future is in us
N ko denmisɛnnu bɛ kasi la yen
Children are crying out there
Denmisɛnnu bɛ kasi yen mun na
The children are crying over there, why?
Aw ye hami na mun na yen
You’re worried, why out there?
Aw kana kasi la Ala
Do not be crying
AllaMaliba don dɔ – bɛ se –
The great Mali will someday defeat
Aw bɛ – aw bɛ kasi la yen mun na yen
You are – you are crying out there why out there
Al-you are in tears there why Allan ko denmisɛnnu bɛ kasi yen Ala
Children are crying over there AllaMaliba n ko don dɛ bɛ se
The great Mali, I say, will one day defeat.

Here’s the trailer to the actual film (warning – it’s depressing).

And don’t think it couldn’t happen here, with our own Christian Taliban.

I can’t stop listening to this. It’s so haunting and beautiful. An African singer, accompanied by a string section comprised of European musicians, all lamenting in unison. Why do we think guns and bombs will solve anything?

#songsoftheresistance

Posted in Music, Politics, Songs of the Resistance

Soundtrack for the Resistance – (2) Despair is Not an Option

Despair is not an option (Bernie Sanders)

Hope is the one seat they have not already taken (Margy, author of this blog)

Trump is busy de-funding Planned Parenthood and I’m getting ready for a tax protest march on the Cambridge Common  this Saturday. We still don’t know where Trump is getting his money and how much of it he’s paying his taxes. Is Russia his overlord? We have no idea. Everyone else in Trump’s camp seems to be on the Kremlin’s payroll.

We will not crawl into a corner and blow away. We will show up at town halls, make calls, find new progressive candidates to run against the Koch machine and – eventually – we will prevail. Tiny steps, yes. Incremental advances, but the push is on.

And we will sing. In this interconnected world, the voices are coming from around the world, but the message is the same. We will not accept this. Our setbacks are only that. Like some crazy political whack-a-mole, one protest that’s put down leads to several more in other places. The Dakota Access Pipeline may have been rammed through a nation’s sovereign borders, but other nations-within-a-nation are taking up the struggle.

Ever hear of the Pilgrim pipeline in New York and New Jersey? How about the Sabal Pipeline for natural gas in Florida? Nobody’s giving in to this.

The New Dakota Pipeline?

By the way, in my research I found out that indigenous people from throughout the US and the world came to support the protesters at Standing Rock. We all remember the military folks who came to apologize for their part in earlier massacres and land theft, but did you know that the New Zealand Maori and the Australian aborigines also sang and danced in their honor? Did you know other US and Canadian tribes came to stand with the Standing Rock Sioux? This journey has led to my own education and a feeling that Native Americans may just be starting to feel their oats once again. About time we treated native Americans like human beings.

Like the song says, stand up. Be strong and don’t let the current right wing wave wash you out to sea. Stay rested, take breaks from social media, love like there’s no tomorrow. If we don’t, there will NOT be a tomorrow.

I’ll wind this screed up with another trip down memory lane because, yeah, I’m a baby boomer and so are a lot of the women marching at the head of the crowd:

Watch out now, take care
Beware of falling swingers
Dropping all around you
The pain that often mingles
In your fingertips
Beware of darkness

Watch out now, take care
Beware of the thoughts that linger
Winding up inside your head
The hopelessness around you
In the dead of night

Beware of sadness
It can hit you
It can hurt you
Make you sore and what is more
That is not what you are here for

Watch out now, take care
Beware of soft shoe shufflers
Dancing down the sidewalks
As each unconscious sufferer
Wanders aimlessly
Beware of Maya

Watch out now, take care
Beware of greedy leaders
They take you where you should not go
While Weeping Atlas Cedars
They just want to grow, grow and grow
Beware of darkness (beware of darkness)

Song and Lyrics by George Harrison

Stand up. Stay on your feet. Don’t succumb to inertia, fear or cynicism. We have to do this.

#resistancesoundtrack

Posted in Music, Songs of the Resistance

A Soundtrack For the Resistance – (1) Get on Board

For the loser now
Will be later to win
(Bob Dylan, The Times They Are’A Changing)

April is National Poetry Month and it coincides perfectly with a little project I’ve been planning in my  head for some time now. Resistance to the Trump/right-wing agenda is at an all-time high and I’ve been searching like crazy for some good protest songs. Call me a snob, but my idea of a good protest song are those that came out during the 1960s: The Times They Are A Changing, Eve of Destruction, Gimme Shelter, etc. You get the drift. The stuff I was seeing on Facebook was pretty pathetic. Come on guys, I thought, can’t you do better than that?

Short answer: yes, we certainly can and we have. We’re a lot more inclusive than we were those many years ago and even the old chestnuts have been given a good polishing by a new set of actors.

Oh, sing it woman.

Here’s one of my all-time favorite poems. One that still tickles the back of my mind every time I start to forget it, getting in and under my skin should my mind wander away. I first studied it in high school and it taught me well.

I Am Waiting – Poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I am waiting for my case to come up
and I am waiting
for a rebirth of wonder
and I am waiting
for someone to really discover America
and wail
and I am waiting
for the discovery
of a new symbolic western frontier
and I am waiting
for the American Eagle
to really spread its wings
and straighten up and fly right
and I am waiting
for the Age of Anxiety
to drop dead
and I am waiting
for the war to be fought
which will make the world safe
for anarchy
and I am waiting
for the final withering away
of all governments
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Second Coming
and I am waiting
for a religious revival
to sweep through the state of Arizona
and I am waiting
for the Grapes of Wrath to be stored
and I am waiting
for them to prove
that God is really American
and I am waiting
to see God on television
piped’ onto church altars
if only they can find
the right channel
to tune in on
and I am waiting
for the Last Supper to be served again
with a strange new appetizer
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for my number to be called
and I am waiting
for the Salvation Army to take over
and I am waiting
for the meek to be blessed
and inherit the earth
without taxes and I am waiting
for forests and animals
to reclaim the earth as theirs
and I am waiting
for a way to be devised
to destroy all nationalisms
without killing anybody
and I am waiting
for linnets and planets to fall like rain
and I am waiting for lovers and weepers
to lie down together again
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Great Divide to ‘be crossed
and I am anxiously waiting
for the secret of eternal life to be discovered
by an obscure general practitioner
and I am waiting
for the storms of life
to be over
and I am waiting
to set sail for happiness
and I am waiting
for a reconstructed Mayflower
to reach America
with its picture story and tv rights
sold in advance to the natives
and I am waiting
for the lost music to sound again
in the Lost Continent
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the day
that maketh all things clear
and I am awaiting retribution
for what America did
to Tom Sawyer
and I am waiting
for the American Boy
to take off Beauty’s clothes
and get on top of her
and I am waiting
for Alice in Wonderland
to retransmit to me
her total dream of innocence
and I am waiting
for Childe Roland to come
to the final darkest tower
and I am waiting
for Aphrodite
to grow live arms
at a final disarmament conference
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting
to get some intimations
of immortality
by recollecting my early childhood
and I am waiting
for the green mornings to come again
youth’s dumb green fields come back again
and I am waiting
for some strains of unpremeditated art
to shake my typewriter
and I am waiting to write
the great indelible poem
and I am waiting
for the last long careless rapture
and I am perpetually waiting
for the fleeing lovers on the Grecian Urn
to catch each other up at last
and embrace
and I am waiting
perpetually and forever
a renaissance of wonder

I am a nasty woman. I didn’t have a hat, so I brought my heart instead. I stood in the the cold, feeling warm by the heat and light of so many others standing beside me. I felt the power of us and then I saw it – in town meetings, on the telephone, in a Congresswoman’s office, on Facebook and Twitter and YouTube. I felt the parts of me that had sheared off over the years come back to make me whole.

I am in this for the long haul. We are in this for the long haul. We took 30 years to break. Picking up the pieces and putting them back together will take time. We’re going to the end of the line.

I love the line: well, it’s alright, even if you’re old and gray. Well, it’s alright, you’ve still got something to say.”

Thank you, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan. Miss ‘ya, George. And you, too, Roy.

More coming soon. Lots of great songs, in a month of great poems. Write!

#nationalpoetrymonth, #resistancesoundtrack

Posted in Elizabeth Warren, Music, Politics, stress

Time Out for Music

Sometimes it’s  just too much. Every time I open the paper there’s another disaster looming in Washington. We no sooner fend off one attack when another one comes to take its place like a horrific modern version of the Persian Immortals. First it’s health care, then it’s internet privacy, then its the nomination of a right-wing warrior to the still-open seat on the Supreme Court. It’s immigrant policy gone awry by a Twittering imbecile who seems to be taking his marching orders from Wall Street and mainstream Republicans, the very people he pledged to push back. We’re surrounded on all sides and fighting like mad just to stay in the same place.

Like all good revolutionaries, I really do need some serious R&R to stay in the game. We have at least two years until there’s a potential change of guard in Congress. Hopefully, we won’t be a smoking pile of rubble by then, or by 2020.

On the positive side, I’ve come to know my Members of Congress: 2 senators and one congress woman. They’re very progressive. In fact one, Elizabeth Warren, is a rising star and possible someday-president. I meditate every day, try to get out of the house if the weather cooperates (we’ve had a few storms roar past these last few weeks) and my energy level is up to it. Today, I happened to be working on a business page I have on Facebook and came across the part of the feed that digs up something from your past:

I usually ignore it, but this time I didn’t. A year ago one of my cousins shared a video of a group of women singing traditional Polish folk songs. I grew up hearing the Americanized versions of some of these and hated their corny, jerky rhythms with a passion. But this – this was different. It was beautiful and it touched something in me, I think because of the elderly woman who was sitting next to them. She was just listening to the song at first then, tentatively, began to sing along with the lyrics as she remembered them. Towards the end she added a few additional, quavering lyrics of her own.

That woman could have been my grandmother.

It’s a very sad, old love song. A woman is in an apple orchard and sings about a boy who’s become angry at her for unknown reasons. After a while, though, he forgives her and comes back. It’s very rural with themes that run throughout Slavic traditional music. There’s always a girl. Or a boy. Fill in with orchards, fields and animals and you have a Slavic folk song.

My grandmother loved to sing and took every opportunity to do so. It kept us amused as kids and filled lonely hours when we were away at school and my parents at work. Now that I’m older and my grandmother (babcia, in Polish) is long, long gone I wish I’d learned some of those songs and sang them for her, along with my fiddle, like the woman in the video does. I wish I had her back, just to do that and re-connect with something very old and down to the roots.

 

Posted in Music, Wow!

Second Act

I’m going through a nostalgic phase, thanks to Amazon Prime and their free collection of Beatles music from the 1960s. I have the originals, of course, on vinyl and probably worth a mint by now. However, I listen to music online these days and it’s pretty difficult to fit a vinyl record into that teeny CD slot. With my current Amazon subscription I’ve been rocking out to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Magical Mystery Tour, Revolver and more. It takes me back to days when homework was all I had to worry about. Mom and dad housed, fed and clothed me and I was happy and at one with my Buffalo, NY world.

I won’t say that life was simpler back then. It wasn’t. We were dealing with an undeclared war in Southeast Asia, pollution, popular protest, police violence and more. Sounds like we’re still there, actually, only this time in the Middle East. The Democrats and the Republicans have since switched places too, at least to some degree. President Johnson’s War on Poverty and civil rights legislation gave the south away to the Republican Party and now Donald Trump is giving it back. The Republicans started a war in the Middle East and the Democrats seem to be hanging onto it. In some cases, they’re making it worse. Drones are not anybody’s friend.

But that (the 1960s) was then and this is now. Getting back to music, I often wonder how the Fab 4’s progeny turned out. Fortunately, YouTube has some good answers to that. I first learned about George Harrison’s son, Dhani, when I tuned into the Concert for George put together by Eric Clapton and company. I must say that George had some very famous and incredibly talented groups of friends. Billy Preston did the best cover of “My Sweet Lord” that I’ve ever heard. In fact, I think it was better than the original, and for me that’s saying a lot:

For you George Harrison fans, get out the hankies. It’ll bring tears to your eyes. Anyway, between the swaying, clapping and banner waving was the kid. He really looked like George reincarnated up there on that stage with all those aging rockers.

So, I wondered (after drifting around some more and discovering the Traveling Wilburys, Harrison’s Cloud 9 album, etc., etc.), did The Kid decide to follow in his dad’s footsteps? Turns out kinda’ yes, although all I could really find online were his rendition of his father’s songs. Pretty amazing covers, though. Dhani’s a dead ringer for his dad, in both face as well as voice.

Dhani-Harrison
Dead Ringer

Okay, then. I rambled around a little bit more and came across Julian Lennon, son of the late John Lennon. I don’t have the same fuzzy, happy feeling about John Lennon, despite his tragic death. John was a real bastard, according to what I’ve heard. Angry, arrogant and violent. His love and peace songs were, by his own admission, an attempt to compensate for his earlier behavior. His life was cut off before I could really gauge his progress on that. He was the face and voice of the peace movement in the 1970s, but I would want more time to see what really became of all that.

John had two sons, Julian (by his first wife, Cynthia) and Sean (by his second wife, Yoko Ono). Their father was by far the better songwriter, although neither of them are slouches in their own right.

Speaking of shoes to fill, I’ve recently come across James McCartney, the rather strange-looking son of el famoso Paul McCartney. Dull-faced and pudgy, I thought he looked more like a banker than anything else. I ignored that family for a while then, somehow, came upon it again. I don’t know what prompted me, but I decided to listen to McCartney, Jr.’s song “Glisten.” The intro came up, with Junior holding an electric guitar and finger-picking it like an acoustic (which was interesting). The band behind him was good, really good, as rock music goes. They played the intro, then seemed to go into another intro. James honestly looked like he totally missed the first intro, but that was his expression, not his intention. His face was totally flat and I couldn’t make out what the heck was going on in his mind with this really, really good rock band behind him.

Then, he began to sing.

A shiver went down my spine. Really, it did. An actual shiver. The  melody did that, and then the words. They carried me right into his head and into his heart. He sang about love, longing and loneliness (and maybe a father’s disappointment) with an intimacy I’ve never heard from anyone before. This was despite a rocked up beat that, although extremely competent and full of energy, was still an assault on my own musical sensibilities. His face remained deadpan throughout most of the video, except at the end when he closed his eyes.

Um, I think I found my favorite junior. I listened to another song of his on YouTube (Angel. Go find it), also extremely intimate and melodically complex. I bought the mp3 of the album both songs came from (Available Light). The album is short, only six songs, but they were six great songs.

The last song on that truncated album – Old Man – answered the question I originally asked myself: “how do you follow an act that basically created the genre in which you’re playing? How do you step out from underneath a shadow that big?”

There’s no decent YouTube video of this song, so I’m just going to give you the words:

Old man look at my life,
I’m a lot like you were.
Old man look at my life,
I’m a lot like you were.

Old man look at my life,
Twenty four
and there’s so much more
Live alone in a paradise
That makes me think of two.

Love lost, such a cost,
Give me things
that don’t get lost.
Like a coin that won’t get tossed
Rolling home to you.

Old man take a look at my life
I’m a lot like you
I need someone to love me
the whole day through
Ah, one look in my eyes
and you can tell that’s true.

Lullabies, look in your eyes,
Run around the same old town.
Doesn’t mean that much to me
To mean that much to you.

I’ve been first and last
Look at how the time goes past.
But I’m all alone at last.
Rolling home to you.

Old man take a look at my life
I’m a lot like you
I need someone to love me
the whole day through
Ah, one look in my eyes
and you can tell that’s true.

Old man look at my life,
I’m a lot like you were.
Old man look at my life,
I’m a lot like you were.

It’s a lot more powerful with music. So go listen to it and then buy it. I’d just play it off the album if I could, but I’d probably get into trouble and then you wouldn’t be able to read this post at all.

Nostalgia has its rewards. It’s transported me to a different, easier place and it’s led me to new discoveries I otherwise wouldn’t have made. Thank you, John, Paul, George and Ringo. You’re all fine lads, even though two of you are already gone. I’ll keep looking and listening for the traces you’ve left behind.