Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Le Musique Afrique

My taste in music has diversified at an alarming pace this past year. While I still get melodramatic to the likes of Sigur Ros and Alexi Murdoch, warmer weather has me craving faster, more up-beat-beats. Happy stuff. Something that makes me as happy as I am when I'm all dusty on the back of a boda-boda. Or floating upside down with my head in the Nile. Love for music, I'd like to introduce you to Africa. Check out my two favorites.

Issa Bagayogo (Mali) - a good friend burned this CD for me when she first heard I was traveling to Uganda. Even though it's West African, it provided a memorable soundtrack for the visit. Historically, Mali is the source of much of the world's pop music (blues, R&B, hip hop, funk, etc.). Unlike other new artists that blend traditional African beats with Western pop, Techno Isso (as he's called in Mali), records his tracks at home - in Bamako. He's doing a great deal to continue the Malian music tradition into the 21st century.

The Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars (Sierra Leone, photo above left) - when I first heard this band at my friend Carrie's house last fall, I immediately liked the music. It wasn't until last night that I learned the story behind the band's beginnings - through a documentary (see it on PBS June 26th!) of the same name at the DC Filmfest. In short, six Sierra Leonean musicians, all refugees of their country's brutal civil war, came together to form the band while living in a camp in Guinea. Facing deep physical and emotional scars, they found healing in the creation of their music, and used it to give a voice to the masses of Sierra Leoneans living outside the borders of their homeland. The reggae beats definitely have a universal appeal (what initially attracted my attention), but the lasting impression is in the honesty of lyrics expressing the difficulties of the refugee experience.

you left your country to seek refuge in another man's land
you left your country to seek refuge in another man's land
you will be comforted by strange dialects, you will be fed with unusual diets
you've got to sleep in a tarpaulin house, which is so hot
you've got to sleep on a tarpaulin mat, which is so cold
living like a refugee is not easy
living like a refugee is not easy

Monday, April 09, 2007

Of blooms, melting ice and despots

It's spring in DC, which means that cherry blossoms are in full bloom, there's a green mist spreading over the city, and a good number of days with temps over 70 degrees. I've been running/climbing/down-dogging like a maniac, and generally enjoying the good fortune of this weather and my new-found energy. That said, I'm finding that while frolicking amongst all of this beauty and activity, I have less to actually say.

I am reading some interesting things, and I'm pleased with the coverage that two issues have been getting in the media lately:

GLOBAL WARMING (generally)
ZIMBABWE (specifically)

When I say "the media," I'm actually referring only to The Economist and NYT - because I've been catching up on back issues and my daily NYT emails. This week's Economist alone included pieces focusing on things like pros and cons of ethanol, Supreme Court ruling on the Clean Air Act, drowning seals in Canada, and the scary findings of the latest report from the UNS's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - which found that we may lose 25% of all species by 2100. I hope that all of this press must mean good things for the green movement, and swift policy least the IPCC's report has laid to rest the argument that global warming is a fictional idea made up by crazy liberals. All of this information is complimented visually by Planet Earth in HD on the Discovery Channel, where Sigourney Weaver's smooth, NPR-like voice guides us across our amazing planet - and pays careful attention to flora, fauna and landscapes that are deleteriously affected by warming.

As for Zimbabwe. Public acts of violence against the opposition party leaders in the country have served to bring international media attention once again to Robert Mugabe's ridiculous dictatorship. The Economist has been covering the story for the past few weeks, pressing the international community (particularly Zimbabwe's neighbor, South Africa) to encourage his stepping down. Regional support for bringing his disastrous rule to an end has been weak, to say the least. Mugabe's leadership was birthed amidst the "freedom fighters," when he led a guerilla war in the 1970s to liberate what was then Rhodesia from minority white rule. Despite hopeful beginnings, his persistent presidency has seen the freefall of Zimbabwe's economy, the highest inflation rates in the world, and a tragically plunging life expectancy (now only 34 for females - down from 63 ten years ago). Hopes were much higher a few weeks ago for transition to new rule - it doesn't look like Mugabe, 83 years old and planning to rule to 100, is going anywhere. At least not for now.