March 25, 2011

Art and the Moon: Engblom’s art attack.

Filed under: art,helgé janssen,peter engblom,reviews — ABRAXAS @ 7:12 am

What a fantastic evening AND the moon at its closest to the earth in two decades 19 March 2011. What a stunning venue – Khaya Lembali expertly managed by Helena tel: 082 9015931.

The venue is used for conferences, functions including weddings.


Khaya Lembali proved to be perfect as a setting to view Peters comprehensive photographic exhibition. This ‘art activist’ showing was a very welcome expansion on the Eshowe event and Peter certainly knows a thing or two when it comes to styling his inimitable ensemble instillation soirées. It was a hit!

Dave Starke opened the evening with perfectly pitched aplomb and after two solo acoustic numbers was joined by Shomon Daniel. Shomon absolutely dazzled using breath across her vocal chords as a maestro violinist might manifest the perfect pitch from strings. Her shamanistic take on standard songs banks on the malleability of her musical accompanist as much as it relies on her ability to intuitively connect with her audience. Give her any sentence and her vocal prowess will convert it into a musical line to remember. Shomon is a unique performer with a singular vocal technique that is Jazz focused and Trip Hop influenced. Don’t even try and box this artist….give her free reign and you will be delighted. Any talent scouts listening?

The Zululand Vikings (aka the Norwegian Field Band) spread their infectious expertise and swung their way into everyone’s hearts with flawless composure! Collectively they give new meaning to the term ‘band’ where they wield their trombones, tubas and and French horns as if born to do it! And do it they do!!

The exhibition was far more radical than the Eshowe display giving a broader insight into the range of Peter’s photographic visions. The beauty of the images is matched by the brilliance of his synthesis: the bringing together of seemingly disparate images to tell a contemporary tale so vital to modern South Africa.

Oh dear: ‘modern South Africa’? Is that an oxymoron? Well, I’ll leave you to ponder that. But one image slammed directly into my consciousness:

this one: (demand diamonds)

Certainly the pièce de résistance of the exhibition. Accessing virtually all of Peters obsessions: advertising, beauty, sloganeering, blackness, women, modernity, nostalgia, fashion, styling, painting (Tretchikoff?), a sense of period, irony, a wry interpretation of political correctness, everything comes into crystal focus in this win win manifestation.

And then a sharp art collector (David Gouldie) snapped up the entire range of Peter’s 9 cm X 5 cm photographic blocks – about 100 in all! Wow!

The snacks and eats flowed profusely making sure that the 150 odd guests were not only fed a diet of cutting edge culture. The delectable delights were of course enhanced (and how could I overlook this?) by the eye candy!

Peter Engblom is blazing a trail through Durban’s art scene. When next he exhibits one of his instillation soirées, break down and cry if you do not have an invite. Alternatively beg, steal, or kill to get one!

Also visit: ecomuse.co.za.

157. Week-end (Jean Luc Godard 1967 F)

Filed under: film,rené veenstra — ABRAXAS @ 6:28 am

(Post)cinema: Daniel Miller reflects on cinema in the age of the media-industrial complex.

In 2006 the Berlin Biennial launched forum expanded, a section to take account of the new forms of cinema which had been developed in video art. As part of their ambition ‘to show different films differently’, organisers installed a black box in the lobby of the Arsenal movie theatre to accompany a more conventional programme projected on the big screen.

In 2009, the box showed Stefan Zeyen’s short film Farewell, 2009: 1min 41s long and repeating in an endless loop, the work shows a woman looking back from the passenger seat of a departing convertible. The film image is scaled up in counter movement, so the woman never seems to get further away, but the picture quality corrodes as the real distance increases, until the frame decomposes into film grain and white noise. ‘Think of Maria Schneider in The Passenger, 1975,’ Anthony Lane wrote after the death of Antonioni in 2007, ‘kneeling in the back seat of a speeding convertible, turning around, and revelling in the dappled, tree-bowered road that unspools behind her–what finer way to flee your past?’ This time it was cinema itself leaving something behind: Zeyen shot Farewell on 35mm film, in a period in which the film industry is switching to video.

‘I’m never going to go back to film,’ David Lynch said following the release of his video-shot Inland Empire, ‘Film is a beautiful medium, so beautiful, but it’s a dinosaur … You die the death. It’s unreal slow and you die. I don’t want to die.’ Asked to explain his film’s rabbit-hole plot, Lynch could only reveal: ‘It’s about a woman in trouble.’ This insistent link between death, film and women, confirming in the final reel the feminist claim that ‘woman is the very ground of representation’ (Teresa de Lauretis), enjoyed the premiere of its inescapable conclusion some 40 years previously, thanks to a man who had earlier stated that all he required in order to make a movie was a girl and gun: ‘END OF CINEMA / END OF WORLD’ proclaimed the final title of Jean-Luc Godard’s 1967 movie Week End, as his bourgeois protagonists switched sides in the class-struggle, joining a roving band of revolutionary cannibals.

The flesh eaters provided a colourful culinary metaphor for Godard’s own principal artistic strategy. ‘Godard,’ wrote Peter Wollen, co-writer of The Passenger, ‘treated Hollywood as a kind of conceptual property store from which he could serendipitously loot ideas for scenes, shots, and moods.’ The director, who had once been arrested for shoplifting was not alone in his conceptual kleptomania. The same year that Week End appeared in the movie houses, Guy Debord published Society of the Spectacle, the major literary achievement of a roving situationist movement which believed in the truth of ‘the passage of a few persons through a rather brief period of time’ and which proposed a strategy of ‘detournement’ against the spectacular ‘pseudo-world’ conjured by capitalism. ‘It is obviously in the realm of the cinema,’ wrote Debord and Gil J Wolman in A User’s Guide to Detournement, 1956, ‘that detournement can attain its greatest effectiveness and, for those concerned with this aspect, its greatest beauty.’

Fifty-three years later, 14 months after the 40th anniversary of May 1968 put the situationist legacy back on the agenda, and two months after the silver jubilee of the French New Wave was celebrated in London at the British Film Institute, detournement appears dominant in contemporary creative practice. In the era of what American cyber-lawyer (and Obama ally) Larry Lessig calls ‘remix culture’, musicians make records by assembling raided samples, critics write essays by tendentiously combining quotes, novelists generate books by mashing-up other media, and television shows endlessly cite other shows in a vertiginous spiral of mediation and irony. Analogous processes have always existed. Balzac, the master of immersive simulation (and one-time inventor of the concept of the ‘screen-woman’) peopled his novels with characters fleshed out from paintings, while Shakespeare liberally recycled plots from his predecessors. What has changed lately is scale and extension. The supernova of media created by networked computing has opened a black hole in the centre of social space, turning detournement into a survival strategy. It is no longer possible to escape from the media-industrial complex, and it remains undesirable to submit to it.

What to do? Web-ensnared knowledge-workers, hooked into the net through their jobs, and their jobs through their networks, report feeling alienated from their currently-not-online colleagues. The first group has started to live in a landscape of memes, lulz and virals; the second group struggles for breath in the torrent. This brave new dimension of human incomprehension represents the reverse side of humanity’s massively amplified new communications capacity.

Launching Inland Empire in California in 2007, Lynch read from the Aitareya Upanishad: ‘We are like the spider. We weave our life and then move along in it. We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives in the dream. This is true for the entire universe.’ The universe as a web in an age of webs (and the web development software Adobe ‘Dreamweaver’), like the clockwork universe deduced by Isaac Newton in an age of mechanical clocks. Like an internet image-board, or a sequence of YouTube videos surfed automatically (a la Andre Breton), Inland Empire stitched together patches from half-conceptualised ideas, obsessions and signs of distress to create a work that the critic Nathan Lee characterised with a term borrowed from the Rochlitz-born media theorist Friedrich A Kittler: ‘information-system’. According to Lee, Lynch’s film (along with David Fincher’s cool urban procedural Zodiac, Richard Kelly’s execrable Southland Tales and David Simon’s seminal DVD-format series The Wire) constitutes a new form of system-based storytelling for a new-media age. According to Kittler, ‘the general digitization of channels and information erases the differences among individual media’ and provokes an equivalent integration in aesthetic/ conceptual software. As optical fibre networks transform formerly distinct data flows ‘into a standardized series of digitized numbers’, a principle of infinite mediation is ingrained in reality. Every coordinate point in the universe comes to rub up against every other. The result is less the death of cinema than its apotheosis apotheosis (əpŏth’ēō`sĭs), the act of raising a person who has died to the rank of a god. Historically, it was most important during the later Roman Empire. .

‘A face in close-up,’ notes Dennis Porter, ‘is what before the age of film only a lover or a mother ever saw.’ In the golden era of film, the sight remained restricted to the sacred spaces of movie houses. But as sensors and screens have proliferated, cinematic intimacy has become pervasive. Cheap recording equipment has augmented media vision; tethered information appliances, iPhones especially, have rerouted supply lines. The result is a world that is simultaneously a film set and a screening room, flooded with images ripped from their contexts.

This is the world of the image-file, born from the womb of pornography. Following the introduction of consumer video equipment in the 1980s, and the subsequent triumph of the porno-friendly format VHS (Video Home System) A half-inch, analog videocassette recorder (VCR) format introduced by JVC in 1976 to compete with Sony’s Betamax, introduced a year earlier. over its technically superior rival Betamax, the industry experienced the destruction of its traditional distribution model. In 1970 there were 900 adult movie theatres in the US; 17 years later, only 200 remained. In a crucial mutation in social space, pregnant with incalculable consequences, pornography abandoned the city (the polis) and penetrated the living room (the oikia). Consumer tastes individualised and extended into the long tails beloved of new-media economists and the artists who follow them (see ‘Mark Leckey: In the Long Tail’ AM324). Audiences particularised. ‘Every advance in technology,’ notes the critic Dana Stevens, ‘has had the effect of isolating consumers of culture from one another: movies took us away from live actors, video took us away from other filmgoers, and now iThings are depriving us even of our fellow couch potatoes.’

The crucial new prosthetic was the remote control. The new forms of interaction that the device facilitated (rewind, fast-forward, pause) cycled back into production, transforming narrative values. The compilation, a primitive information system which anticipated the interminable links of review articles that appear on websites like Bookforum, achieved mass-market dominance; according to the documentary Pornography: A Secret History of Civilization, 1999: ‘Of the almost 9000 new titles released in 1998, compilations account for almost two thirds.’

The disintegration of blue movies into series of sexual numbers ran in parallel to the shattering of grand narratives in the radical academy. Under the red lights, and on seminar-room OHPs, pornography and theory both came to embrace, more-or-less simultaneously, smaller, more singular, more tactical units. Meanwhile, Godard responded as well. In the words of Wollen, the director ‘abandoned the centre, breaking down his narrative into a mosaic of micro-elements’.

As discourse networks upgraded and conquered the mainstream, these developments became live. From RedTube to YouTube, the internet now proposes a cinema of clips: mobile, hybrid and elemental, sometimes urban-dystopian (‘Bus Uncle’) and sometimes symbolically rich (the many clips of Wii remotes being thrown through TV screens). And beyond the relative calm of the video districts, even smaller units are circulating. On imageboards like 4chan, memes built from an image and a few snatches of text shoot round the planet in minutes, trailing psycho-dramatic sparks (or lulz) as they go. The fact that lolcats remain the most widely known genre of imageboard productions is a striking coincidence, given the status enjoyed by this animal in the history of film: ‘As is well-known,’ writes Jacques Ranciere, ‘the cat is the fetish animal of dialecticians of the cinema, from Sergei Eisenstein to Chris Marker–the animal that converts one idiocy into another, consigning triumphant reasons to stupid superstitions or the enigma of a smile.’

‘The film has enriched our field of perception,’ wrote Walter Benjamin Walter Bendix Schönflies Benjamin (July 15, 1892 – September 27, 1940) was a German Marxist literary critic, essayist, translator, and philosopher. He was at times associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory and was also greatly inspired by the Marxism of Bertolt in 1936. ‘By close-ups of the things around us, by focusing on hidden details of familiar objects, by exploring commonplace milieus under the ingenious guidance of the camera, the film … extends our comprehension of the necessities which rule our lives [and] manages to assure of us of an immense and unexpected field of action.’ In the teeth of continuing bien pensant criticism (criticism cinema also faced), the internet has performed the same service with respect to psychology. ‘Fifty years ago,’ noted Benjamin, ‘a slip of the tongue passed more or less unnoticed.’ Even five years ago, feelings of hostility, contempt, derision, envy, vanity, boredom, fear, sexual desire or aversion, plus a great deal of simple self-absorption, which internet blogs and message boards now duly record, remained concealed beneath politesse and reserve. What has changed is the fact that this stuff is now exposed, and this should be celebrated as offering new opportunities.

In 1936, Benjamin separated progressive ‘exhibition value’ from reactionary cult value; where the former facilitated a relationship of ‘testing’ by encouraging an audience to identify with the camera, the latter instilled a logic of reverence and authority, through exclusionary rhetoric and manipulative rituals. In a conference paper published in March 2009, political scientists Eric Lawrence, John Sides and Henry Farrell identified the contemporary strain of this tendency: ‘Blog authors tend to link to their ideological kindred and blog readers gravitate to blogs that reinforce their existing viewpoints. Both sides of the ideological spectrum inhabit largely cloistered cocoons of cognitive consonance, thereby creating little opportunity for a substantive exchange across partisan or ideological lines.’

‘Anything shot anyhow,’ is how Jean-Pierre Melville, who played the novelist Parvulesco in Breathless, once summarised, apparently negatively, Godard’s artistic approach. In Week End the director cut together, in the words of Craig Keller, ‘the themes of class struggle, environmentalism environmentalism, movement to protect the quality and continuity of life through conservation of natural resources, prevention of pollution, and control of land use. , body-politics, commercialisation, and the very end of civilization itself’ in a story of cross-purposes, clashes and unexpected exposures. It was Godard’s striking ability to pull these strands together–no simple matter–which constituted his singular genius. Put in different terms, Godard was the master of structure.

‘At the end of this director’s career,’ the painter and critic Manny Farber predicted of Godard in Artforum in 1968, ‘there will probably be a hundred films, each one a bizarrely different species, with its own excruciatingly singular skeleton, tendons, plumage.’ The political hopes which engage intellectuals–Benjamin, Debord, Godard himself–invested in cinema in the 20th century comes down to the fact that cinema and politics share a common trajectory, as arts of constructing narratives through associations and scenes, dissociations and jump-cuts. ‘Fragmentation, interval, cutting, collage, montage,’ Ranciere summarises, ‘what is involved is revealing one world behind another … organising a clash, presenting the strangeness of the familiar, in order to reveal a different order of measurement that is only uncovered by the violence of a conflict.’

In his masterpiece Histoire(s) du Cinema, originally filmed for French television and released on DVD DVD: see digital versatile disc. DVD
in full digital video disc or digital versatile disc

Type of optical disc. The DVD represents the second generation of compact-disc (CD) technology. in 2007, Godard recounts a story of successive assassinations: the sound film destroying silent film, Hollywood betraying its greatest artists, cinema sacrificed on the altar of commerce. Yet this is not the whole story: as Keller notes for the website ‘Senses of Cinema’, the bracketed ‘s’ in the work’s title was intended to indicate other possible stories that might have been, and which still remain, possible. There is no single history and no standard index, no meta-language controlling the relationships between text and images, or between texts and texts. In this sense the problem remains as it was. ‘It is because this time for real,’ Godard intones over the Histoire(s) voicetrack, ‘the only veritable popular art form rejoins painting. That is: art. That is: what is reborn from what is burned.’ What survives is a slogan Godard displays on a supertitle: ‘Let Every Eye Negotiate For Itself.’

DANIEL MILLER works in Germany.

this article first published here: http://www.thefreelibrary.com/%28Post%29cinema%3A+Daniel+Miller+reflects+on+cinema+in+the+age+of+the…-a0203604938

Milestones that matter

Filed under: music,warrick sony (kalahari surfer) — ABRAXAS @ 6:15 am

We thought we’d celebrate the 21st anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release by talking with a key musician and producer of the anti-apartheid movement, Warrick Sony, who continues to campaign for human rights while remaining – based at Cape Town’s Milestone Studios – a much sought-after composer, engineer and producer in film, TV, sound art and pop.

How long have you been at Milestone Studios and how did that relationship develop?

“I’ve been at Milestone since 2001. It’s a great place and it’s in the best part of Cape Town. I first met owner Murray Anderson while working on my album (as Kalahari Surfers) Turntabla with UK producer and Orb/Youth collaborator Greg Hunter. We worked at my studio in Cape Town – I’d just moved there after being shot in a hijacking from Jo’burg! – for a couple of months and then moved to Milestone to mix. Greg blew his main speakers. After the dust had settled I merged my gear with Murray’s and we started tackling film scores, sound design and album work.”

What gear and techniques do you use for your various projects?

“I do everything using a combination of Pro Tools and Ableton live. For sync to picture and set piece recording work I use Pro Tools, but export files to Ableton for editing and punchy production. It’s hard to beat the versatility of Ableton Live for sound design and music composition. I also use the new Melodyne Software for fine control over multi-chordal tuning and experimental techniques. You can make a Mozart piano piece sound like Schoenberg. I can do a wild solo on a weird, out of tune, homemade African instrument then edit and tune it in Ableton, do a whole lot of MIDI work and export the whole thing back to Pro Tools to master.”

Is there anything you miss about analogue recording?

“I liked the fact that the gear was real. Professional gear was expensive and chunky and you felt like you were getting what you paid for. You could unplug a reverb unit and carry it across to another studio or lend it to a friend… it was a solid piece of metal with cables. I hate the software rip off where one pays the same money for a product that exists more or less virtually. Another thing: the invention of CDs was dumb. Before this your master tapes were sacred; vinyl and cassettes were inferior then suddenly we were handing out master tapes to everyone. This was the cheapening of recorded music.”

Do you still feel a political agenda of any kind?

“My most recent album is called One Party State. We live in a democracy where if the ruling party were to lose an election – like in Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe and elsewhere – the losers would resort to civil war. It’s scary to see the way our rulers are behaving. Corruption and cronyism are undermining our country and sapping our resources. Plus, a new and ugly racism is emerging into the mainstream with ruling party utterances sounding a lot like before. It’s a very political environment and anyone who doesn’t see that is half asleep…”

What’s exciting you about the South African music scene at the moment?

“I like the fact that the scene here is so varied. We have small sales and it’s difficult for professional musicans to make huge money like their counterparts in Europe and America, but there is passion and fierce dedication – especially in our live music scenes. Huge crowds support concerts of African house music, called kwaito, as well as trance, dubsteb, rock and Afrikaans-language hip-hop – plus all the possible fusions in between.”


this interview first published here: http://www.prosoundnewseurope.com/main-content/full/milestones-that-matter

March 24, 2011

diane coetzer on syd kitchen

Filed under: 2011 - G-String Blues,music — ABRAXAS @ 1:36 pm

Rest in silence, Syd Kitchen, the legend

Old men with grey ponytails, who speak of Joni Mitchell and Emmylou Harris in reverential tones, who know all the lyrics to “The Times They Are a-Changin” and see it’s as relevant today as it was in 1963 – they know who Syd Kitchen was. The rest of you, read on in wonder.

For a fair number of South African music fans, the enduring memory of Syd Kitchen, who died in Durban from lung cancer on Tuesday, will be his performances at Splashy Fen each year since that music festival first surfaced in 1990.

For me, it’s of Syd and his brother Pete, along with whichever other musicians happened to make it out to Umhlanga Rocks, playing folk music in our lounge, a reel-to-reel recorder turning in the centre of the room.

Back-dropped by a wall of albums collected by my music journalist dad, Owen Coetzer, and surrounded by the low-slung, dark wood furniture of the era, Syd and Pete would perform the material that had earned them a reputation as songwriters to be envied, even at a time (the early 70s) when pretty terrific singer-songwriters spilled out of Durban and other cities at a steady rate.

If this sounds like a snapshot out of hippiedom, it was. At least sort of.

keep reading this article here: http://www.thedailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2011-03-24-rest-in-silence-syd-kitchen-the-legend

March 21, 2011

The ghosts wish to remember: johan thom Interviewed by Petra Zemljič (2010)

Filed under: art,johan thom — ABRAXAS @ 2:24 pm

Interview with Petra Zemljič for Vecer, 29 November 2010, Slovenia:

PZ: The majority of your work has been created in public environments ranging from urban spaces, cities, public parks and so forth. You seem to be inspired by everyday life in South Africa. What is life like in South Africa? What is life like for artists in South Africa?

JT: I am interested in everyday life for a number of reasons. On one hand within the ordinary practices that shape everyday life there is a lot that should not be taken for granted at all. We can say there is invisible information – this includes larger ideological narratives that shape our lives but also how we use, transform and re-shape these narratives within the intimacies of our daily lives. So there is a form of tension that I like to explore.

Life in South Africa varies greatly: for some it is excellent, for most it is a struggle exactly because they are poor, have little education and/ or skills that are considered useful by our
contemporary (global) society.
It is the same for artists: a select few are very successful but most artists realize that we do not have institutional, state support for our work. And, even though there are a few good commercial galleries, they cannot really serve the needs of the entire art community. But South African artists are fairly pro-active. Perhaps this related to our recent turbulent political past: People realize that direct action can (still) make a difference. So despite the odds there is a strong contemporary art community where people constantly make their own opportunities to show work and/or engage with it critically.

PZ: How do you understand the concept of art? Could you tell us something about your approach to the kinds of questions and answers that artistic practice generates?

JT: Art is always about surplus value for me. In that sense it is non-representational activity where one investigates and even creates new possibilities. So it’s about the attempt to look beyond what is already in existence. This is not about making ‘progress’ in an old avante garde sense. Art is more about acknowledging that things are constantly changing and we do not know what they may become or what exactly they are doing.

PZ: A mixture between the personal and the societal seems characteristic of your work. How does the restless past mark your practice? How are personal, social and ideological considerations balanced and/or interwoven in your work?

JT: I have a difficult relationship with the past because I see how it is always changing too. As you suggest the past is ‘restless’. Despite the simple fact that we know that the past is always ideologically manipulated, there is a real sense in which it is a creative space too. For example, a less one-sided approach to the past may allow us to accept one another in the present – like we saw with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in South Africa. Despite its many flaws the TRC created a space where the victims of political crime in South Africa could openly speak about their experiences under apartheid and come face to face with the perpetrators.
This was a creative moment in our country’s recent history, because in so doing, it changed our otherwise complacent relationship with time and space. Basically it suggested that things are never simply over and done with.
In this sense the past is like a ghost that haunts us. It seems out of place in the present, like it does not properly belong there. But in order to attend this ghost one must look not at what it was, but what it is now – how it enacts certain relationships between individuals, spaces and so on. What this ghost wants is not to belong to the world of the living again, but for the living to change their relationship with it. The immediate problem with this is that there is never only one ghost. Anyway, the real point is that these ghosts do not require being put to rest or even that they only complicate our lives, but more that they remind us to be creative and open-minded about other things and people we may not understand or take for granted.

In my own work I try to think not about the many ghosts that haunt it as much as I want to create a different experience of time and space. This always highly personal but by working with tactile elements that engage the bodily senses and by using fairly universal themes such as death, these experiences are opened up to a larger viewing audience.

PZ: In the year 2012, when Maribor is the European Capital of Culture, you will be cooperating with Slovenian artists to create a performance. Could you tell us more about this project? For example, who are the people you will be working with and what do you plan to do?

JT: At present I am busy conceptualizing the final work so it’s difficult to tell you exactly what it will be. But I do know that I want to produce a work in which a larger group of people form something like an organic, rhythmic machine: there will be a set series of actions involving approximately 10 people. These actions will be repeated in sequence over the course of a number of hours – so it will be a durational work involving precisely scripted actions. What interests me is how this cycle of events can slowly generate something else. For example, previously I worked with two people and through the course of four hours we moved a few hundred kilograms of broken glass by repeating some actions that appeared to be totally unrelated. In this way the body becomes a mechanism or even a conduit through which other forces are constantly moving.

As for the participants, I thought it would be great to work with younger artists, students and perhaps even members of the public that are interested in performance art. But its important that not all of them are visual artists – some will be musicians, others perhaps lawyers or even nurses. In this way it must be a little bit like a laboratory where different people are all working on their own ideas whilst something else is happening. This ‘something else’ is not bigger or more important than all of them but it is happening nonetheless.

first published here: http://johanthom.com/writtenbiocv/interviews/interview-with-petra-zemljic-2010/

March 19, 2011

204. Undressing My Mother – Ken Wardrop

Filed under: film as subversive art — ABRAXAS @ 2:11 am

Do you have someone you trust to discuss your ideas with?

With a short, you show it to your friends or your family and then you show it in film festivals, but at that stage, obviously, the editing is finished, it’s beyond your grasp. You never get a chance to show it to an audience (as is the case for a feature with a so-called sample audience) and perhaps change your film as a response to what people have told you and how they reacted. My friends won’t want to hurt my feelings, and they’ll say that it’s good when they don’t think it is.

Don’t real friends tell you what they think?

Real friends do…Well, yes!… In that case, I’m lacking real friends! Andrew Freedman, he is the one person I can rely on. But then, Andrew asks other people [their opinions about my films] and then he feeds me with that kind of information, so that’s good, too.

During my four years at the Irish National Film School in Dun Laoghaire, I directed six films and co-directed one with Andrew. I have to say that every film is as much his as he has produced and edited seven films, so it has been a massive part of the whole thing.

Here is a telling story about how we took out part of the last shot of Undressing My Mother.

We were at the Hamburg Film Festival. After the screening, there was a questions and answers session. People started to debate the issue about the last shot: some said it was fantastic. Others said it was not needed!

The ending was then like this:

My mother puts back on her clothes and walks out of the room. She has this moment and she looks back and the camera reveals the whole crew. It was done very poetically, very sensitively, it was not done “in your face” as if saying something like: “Now, I break the mould, here!” But for some people, that was too much, they would explain: “I didn’t want to know that, I wanted it to be left there and have my thoughts as the credits roll and think about what I’ve just seen!”

I thought: “Oh, let’s just get rid of it so that the controversy, the argument has no chance to exist!” I didn’t care to keep that ending because for me the question was: “How am I going to have the biggest impact with this film?” By impact, I mean the emotional impact on the audience.

Well, after that cut was made, nobody has ever objected to the ending, no one has ever said: “Well, I would have liked to see more.” That was my decision as a film-maker. I love to get to that part of filmmaking, that stage of not being precious. When you are editing, you are so bloody precious, and you can’t see things! So you leave them to rest for a month and you come back and you think: “Oh, my God! What the hell was I doing?!”

And this same thing has just happened to me on a project I was doing for Channel Four’s ‘Three Minute Wonders’ [broadcast in late January 2007]. I had done the interview and then I went straight into editing for the next two days (that is a constraint when working for Channel Four). I didn’t have the space [to think], I was still very emotional. That film is about a guy who was paralysed at the age of 25 and all he has now to connect himself with his girlfriend is his kissing. I cried after the editing because I had an emotional connection with this guy and I wish I could do something for him; I felt for him. But it doesn’t come across in the film. I’m sure I could have a stronger piece! I think he wouldn’t have had a problem if I had taken the film further. I was too emotionally connected.

What is your relationship to or with reality?

Oh, with reality? As a film-maker, I enjoy twisting reality. As a documentary film-maker, I think we all twist reality. I think we propose a reality that suits our films. I mean we hope to put across an unbiased opinion thing. To be honest, I have never made a documentary that had a bias to it. My films are very simple…

The essential thing that struck me about the three minute-long documentary I have just finished was that it was a false reality. That young man – and this is something true because he will read this – told me about the beauty of the kiss and what it meant to him. But the reality behind the story is that he would really say this: “This is fucking horrendously bad! I am 25 years of age, I broke my neck and all I have is kissing. I want to feel a woman’s breasts, I want, you know… I want sex!”

So that was the reality behind the story.

But I created a false reality for the sake of him and of his brother. And that really upsets me! It’s not the type of thing I want to be doing! And I suppose that with Undressing My Mother, it’s sort of the same, in a sense. Only that my family believes that the story with my Mum is honest.

Two years after Undressing My Mother was finished, my sister said to me: “This is not reality, Ken!” And I am like: “What window are you looking through? Because I believe (and my mother was present during this argument) that this is how Mother feels about her body.” My sister, in her 40′s, could not believe that Mother has this sense of happiness. Well, she is a woman, she is her mother’s daughter, whereas I am her son so I can see it differently. I see that if my Mum was that bothered about the size or shape of her body, she would be able to do something to change it. But she is happy. She is happy because her husband was sexually happy with a larger body and this is what made her happy. I am not stringing anybody along with that story, I am not pretending because it is exactly what my mother gave me and that’s what I believe to be the fact. Because I asked every question. I had a six hour-talk with my Mum to get this five-minute film! [Ken's mother, Ethel's voice is heard as a voice-over in the film].

How did you approach your mother to get this long conversation?

Initially it was a joke. I said: “Look, I’m doing this graduate film, I’d love to have this bohemian mother who is into the arts and watches movies.” She is a country woman, you know, she was laughing and said:”You know, Ken, I could be!” And then, I asked her: “I’m thinking of doing this project – we were laughing over a glass of wine – Would you go naked for me? Because I love your modesty.”

She’s always been very open with her body around her sons, she never locked the toilet-door. I was always aware of my Mum’s physicality. Of her breasts. It was never a shock if I walked in and she was naked. There might have been this little giggle. She is a very cuddly, affectionate, bosomy person. I just said to her: “I just think it would be lovely if I could explore this. The fact that you feel that way.” And obviously my Dad passing away the year before, I said to her: “We could explore this together, maybe discover things.” And so it was a very combined effort. We talked.

And in the end, I got a slightly different film than I had anticipated because I had thought we would go more towards specific parts of her body. And here we were, talking about how she felt since my Dad had gone! And about her whole sexuality! We explored loads of areas. My Mum is such a rich person who gives so much, and there is a real honesty in her being! She’s been through a lot of tough times, simple tough times, but tough to her because she is an emotional character and sees great things in silly things. She had a very bad trauma when she was a child. She has a great outlook on life because her childhood was so bad, and then, as a woman, she got lucky because she met a man she loved. Then everything improved in her life, it went all rosy.

So she didn’t enjoy love in her childhood, perhaps, but when she found your father, she found a nurturing love?

It was a nourishment. Something that clicked. They were childhood sweet-hearts: they met when they were 14, so it was one of those huge bonds! She was married at 17. She’s never known any other man but she’s been very happy.

The reason I’m saying all this is that I could have taken this documentary in so many other ways!

When I was making the film, I also saw this as a great opportunity to have six precious hours recorded with my Mum’s voice and story. That was a major part of me doing this film because I was grieving the loss of my Dad. I had nothing left from him. All I had were photographs…And I thought to myself: “Now I am a film-maker, what a great thing to have, this ability to record the people you love! And I am not going to waste this, I’m going to do it!” In these six hours there is a lot of rambling, all right, and I knew it’d have to be. But I also knew that out of all that would come great moments! So we went from her childhood all the way up and we had a great chat. These six hours, I will treasure them for the rest of my life! Behind these six hours, there was my thought-process of getting my Mum onto tape, to have for the rest of my life! We don’t collect memories enough, you know! Well, I don’t. The reality of it is that as a filmmaker, you need to be more aware of those around you. You forget.

How do you define reality, then? This has yet to be clarified, perhaps…

Reality is the truth. The great thing about the truth is like an honesty. It comes across in film-making and it’s pretty straight-forward. You can watch a film and you know this is absolute genuine stuff and it’s not through my editing process or whatever. It’s genuine sitting and seeing. We can all create stories and mow them to suit ourselves. But honesty is a different thing. It’s very hard to cut around that. So reality for me is…If we take the story about the kissing gentleman, I can cut that film into something that is evocative and adds meaning. But the truth is that this was never there! So, it is not a strong film because I never asked the honest question behind it! Why? Because I was too scared. The representation of reality, it’s the toughest question to ask a documentary film-maker, isn’t it?You can say that it’s all a pack of lies as soon as you start to edit something. But I strongly believe that truth comes through.

Now, as a film-maker, I have evidence of both: with my Mum’s film, I have the truth. And with the kiss film, I know it is not a representation of the truth, because the truth is a place I couldn’t go to, because of that question I didn’t ask.

How did you prepare Undressing My Mother? Did you write a script?

I had these six hours of my Mum’s voice. I had a vague idea on how to stucture all that. I knew what the opening shot would be. I knew the film would open with a song for my Mum because that first shot would have a little bit of her body in it. And I knew what the ending would be, I knew it would have the pan across her body with the moving light. Those pictures came from the voice-over. But for most of the shots, I didn’t know exactly, so it was quite a tough editing. I stepped back and I had to make sure it would not be made in bad taste. Nobody would have seen the film if it had had bad visuals. I got very lucky on all the levels because when you are in college you are working with very little money, you know you can’t do much with sound. The cinematographer did a great job because he got it right. There are no special effects done in post-production, We knew we wanted it to fall to black. We knew the space we would be filming in: the attic of the farmhouse where I grew up! It felt perfectly right to shoot the film in my Mum’s attic, because, you know, we speak of “the attic of the soul.”

In shot No 14, we see your Mother’s body partly reflected in a vertical mirror. There is a chair by a window. What we see of the room shows signs of dereliction.

I didn’t mean it to be a metaphor. I thought the attic would fit the drama, it would be a dramatic space. I guess, in a sense I knew it would suit the ageing body of my mother. But I did merge it with contemporary stuff.

We shot, and two days later, I was in the edit. I had to go away. I was thinking: “Oh, my God, I can’t see my mother like this!” It was a big moment in a son’s life to tell your mother: “Ok, Mum, now drop your pants!”

Can you tell me about the shooting crew and experience?

It was a four day shoot. The crew was amazing, they all bonded. There were four of us. The chap who was the cinematographer, we actually went to secondary school together!

Michael Lavelle?

Yes, Michael. He lived with me in London and went home to study at the Irish Film School. At that time, I was not interested at all in film. It’s bizarre, then, that he ended up shooting my film.

There was also Kristin [Brook-Larsen], producer and sound person (she was the reason why I was making films). And Kate [McCullough], the other cinematographer, who is lovely and would have met Mum while I was in college.

Kristin’s boyfriend was on holidays, he was training to be a doctor. But he also had been a chef. So he cooked amazing food for all of us. My Mum could not wait for lunch, it was great!

[On arrival.] we were all a bit like: “Ooh, ah, er”. She was like: “Oh, here we go!”; matter-of-fact. After two minutes, everybody felt relaxed because my Mum made fun of it, she lightened it. And then, she fell asleep. She started snoring. We all started laughing. And we did the whole “front” of my Mum’s body. But it wasn’t right [for her dignity] so we didn’t use it in the edit.

You must have been told hundreds of times that the film is never voyeuristic, always respectful…

It all comes from the fact that my Mum throws light on the situation, and that’s the power of the edit.

In the film, we go from behind the screen [shot 1] to immediately the feet shot [shot 2]. And then it goes straight into the body shots where she expresses everything. It gets everything out of the way. And my Mum makes fun of, she has a joke. People are laughing with her as opposed to laughing at her. We can relax with her (…) All the shots are connected [through] the voice-over, but you can see how she walks. We can see how she walks. It’s kind of [her saying]: “Oh, God, I’d better get over there!” It’s her natural way of living. When she says:”I’ve got a big bottom”, she laughs with it. It’s my Mum’s ability to out-laugh things. We were very fortunate she gave it to us. If she was not like that, we wouldn’t have been able to make the film.(…) That film is only as good as my mother was going to be as a character. My Mum and I are very close.

What does bring up your interest in a character?

As a film-maker, I’m always interested in hearing people talking, telling their stories. A lot of Irish play a game. They have a sense of story-telling anyway, but not all of them have an honest approach to their stories. What interests me is to hear an honest voice. There are film-makers [here in Ireland] who can’t get the truth because people don’t want to share the truth, they are afraid of what people [relatives and acquaintances, neighbours] will think. In Ireland, people are too connected with one another. It seems to me that the film culture in Denmark is honest: that Dogma-touch.

I’m more interested in human stories of realities that are alive. And for that to happen, I got to be connected with the character. By connected, I mean just at a simple level, there is a bond between us, I have something to share with them, you know, I am interested in their story and they are interested in me and we can share in this experience.

If your mother had not been so generous, you wouldn’t have had any film, would you?

Absolutely! when we were talking about the possibility to make a film, she asked me: “Would it help you?” I said: “Yes, greatly!” And she said: “Well, let’s do it, then, if it will help you. I’ll do it.” I don’t think she realised then what it meant. And afterwards, it helped her. I got a lot of awards, but that’s not the point. It’s helped her because she’s done this. She did it for herself, too! There are not many people in her position in life, as a farmer’s wife I mean, who have done something like that! She has a problem showing the film to her friends. She’d say they would not understand. And I’d say: “But that’s not the point! You did it, and now you are really proud.” I know she is proud of it, I know it! It helped her! The conversations brought things up. People were willing to ask her things about my Dad. It opened things up, I think, in our family. For my younger brother, it was a lesson. Initially it was good for me, yes. It did help me.

[Once the film was edited] I showed it to her. I was confident it was good enough for everybody to see. She agreed. [The only public screening she went to] was the Cork Film Festival 2004.

I went to consult the Cork Film Festival website on which the names of the selected films are listed. You know, it’s a big day for the NFS’ students to check if their films have been chosen to be in the Cork Film Festival because it is [in Ireland] our première short film festival and we all aspire to get our films shown in there. And I got very excited: not only had I one, but all seven films had been selected! That was so exciting for me and my colleague [Andrew Freedman] since we had made them all together! A few days later, I think, Mick Hannigan [the Cork Film Festival's Director] rang me and said: “Look, we were thinking of showing all of your films together in a special programme because we never had seven films sent in by the same director on the same year.” I said that it would be a great opportunity. And then, he said to me:”If there is one film that is your favourite to enter into the the national and international competitions, which one it would be?” I said that, obviously, it would be Undressing My Mother, my graduate piece.

My mother saw the genuine reaction of the audience. They loved it! That was a defining moment. She relaxed, then. That was enough for her to know it was genuine. She’s never accepted to travel to festivals with the film. She’d say:”Oh, for God’s sake, I don’t fit in, I wouldn’t be bothered!” And when I would be telling her I had won that big award with the film, she just would not care!

As for my brothers, after a first cringing: “Oh, we can’t watch this!” they loved the film. But, you know, they are real farmers. [In rural culture] you never really discuss things. They’d watched the film and they would answer my “did you like it?” question with a short “Yeah.” The conversation would not go further. You’d move onto some other topic.

The last shot, shot No 21, is a long tracking shot, camera gliding from left to right alongside Ethel’s reclining nudity on her bed. And the light moves in an opposite direction…

It lasts a minute or so… I wish I could take the credit for that shot. That was a suggestion made by a lecturer at Dun Laoghaire’s National Film School: to use a light and to pan across it! I thought: “Let’s introduce a track at the same time” so that we got a tracking shot and a light going in the opposite direction.

For the opening shot, we had to come up, the cinematographer and I, with an idea. The night before the shoot, we thought: “Let’s have Ethel behind a screen.”

How do you work with your music? Were some pieces accompanying you during the preparatory stages or was the music done at a later stage?

I don’t listen to a lot of music so I draw on a composer. His name is Denis Cloughessy, he is Irish. Denis is happy – unlike most composers – to hear my working music. So I give him a piece of music, and I tell him that this is how I’d like it to be. For Undressing My Mother, I gave him some Satie, some Lizst, and some Shostakovich [as a guide to compose] something similar in pace or in mood. Not necessarily the same instruments. He works to my cut. I’m quite precise with the pace: 5 seconds here, 10 seconds there. Unless he has a very valid argument as to why not to, or a better suggestion. I’m open-minded.

I’d meet him very briefly. He goes and comes back with ideas, Then I just say what I like. Then he goes off and comes back, and that’s it!

Denis and I don’t talk much. I don’t really know if he likes my films. He never says. He is a man of little words but of a lot of music! I really enjoy working with him. Hopefully, he’ll do my feature-film.

Your feature film?

I’m still scared shitless – if I can use that word – of the whole business and I guess there are some people who come out and have all the confidence to just go and get it, and do it, but I want to be confident in my story or in my filmmaking before I go and get it. And I haven’t had that yet. This has nothing to do with Andrew Freedman because he is ready as a producer; he wants to go after the big thing. While I am still a little less confident in my own ability as a film-maker to really take the bull by the horns. I don’t want to get it wrong for the first time out. I want to just take my time and just make sure it’s right. Having said that, I’ll probably rush it and it’ll be a disaster! This is the year, I have to give it a go!

Now Andrew is concentrating much more on the producing. As a consequence, there is almost no involvement of his in the editing [of any of my new work]. So I am trying to find a new editor. You want to make sure you are on the same wavelength with your editor. The next big thing for me is therefore to find an editor to make the feature film with!

But what you’ve made has been appreciated and recognised!

Well, that’s the danger, isn’t it? Complacency can set in. As a film-maker, I think, your strengths lie in the acknowledgement of your weaknesses. I am coming to terms with my own weaknesses, realising: “All right, you are never going to be great at this, so don’t do this, it doesn’t suit you.” So a lot of stories I have been developing in my head might be off the mark because going towards that direction of films I like may not be what I am actually good at making.

Is there anything you would like to add?

No, I think you’ve got enough there for a novel!

Irish Film Institute, Dublin
11 January 2007

this interview first appeared here: http://pov.imv.au.dk/Issue_23/section_2/artc2A.html

noel murray on “beyond ultra-violence: uneasy listening by merzbow”

The japanese noise sculptor merzbow is one of the most respected figures in contemporary avant-garde music, but you wouldn’t know it from watching this pretentious and thoroughly unpleasant documentary. adhering to the frustrating tenets of “open form” docs, director aryan kaganof offers little in the way of biographical or contextual information about his subject. instead, beyond ultraviolence consists of merzbow free-associating about the comforts of noise while the filmmaker tries out a predictable assortment of lenses and filters, zooms and pans, and razzle-dazzle editing tricks–all of which obscure the footage and make the popularity of merzbow’s cds and performances all the more confounding. granted, some of the artist’s ruminations are intriguing. but when the film suddenly strays into a stomach-turning 20-minute presentation of his obsession with bondage porn and “suicide videos,” the lack of connective tissue becomes downright infuriating. surely kaganof intends to recreate the disconcerting, assaultive effect of his subject’s art. but the approach is bafflingly lazy (why all those long takes of tokyo streets shot from a moving vehicle?)–and bad journalism to boot.

this review first appeared here: http://www.cinematurkey.com/beyond-ultra-violence-uneasy-listening-by-merzbow-1998.html

March 18, 2011

World premiere of Neo Muyanga’s debut as writer of Memory of how it feels at the Baxter during February and March

Filed under: music,natalie mason — ABRAXAS @ 8:53 am

The world premiere of well-known music artist and composer Neo Muyanga’s Memory of how it feels, currently showing at the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio and running until 19 March, has already received great media and audience acclaim.

The Cape Argus and Die Burger gave the production 4 stars. Theresa Smith from Argus Tonight enthused that ‘the music and movement leaves one energized,’ while WhatsOnInCapeTown.com added that “… each individual performer, from the pianist to the opera singer to the dancers, gave a superb performance” and Yoursoapbox.co.za simply said, “The music, composed for the show by Muyanga, is incredible.”

Other social media reviewers agreed. The Marie-Clairvoyant blog described the production as “an amazing piece”, Between 10and5.com praised the show, calling it “A real little gem, and ought not to be missed!” and BizCommunity.com said “I do know that the memory of the show has stayed with me, and it feels good.”

Not only is this Muyanga’s debut as a writer, he has also composed the music for the production as well as being the musical director. Ina Wichterich-Mogane makes her directorial debut and doubles up as choreographer with Patrick Curtis responsible for lighting design.

The dynamic cast comprises 2007 Fleur du Cap Best Actress winner Chuma Sopotela and the multi-talented Apollo Ntshoko as narrators with Andile Vellem from Remix Dance Company as dancer. The eight-piece chamber orchestra, made up of disparate musicians who are working together for the first time, is made up of Galina Juritz (violin), Thandi Ntuli (piano), Candice Martin (violin), Benjamin Jephta (bass), Anna Telford (soprano), Natalie Mason (viola) and Nicola du Toit (cello), and with Muyanga (conducting and on tenor).

Inspired by the traditional Zulu practice of exchanging beads encoded with secret messages between lovers, Memory of how it feels gently weaves together three tonal short stories, using elements of myth and folklore from Uganda, Egypt and ancient Sumeria. Narration, dance and chamber music (which combines classical and traditional music) are craftily strung together to create a work which reflects both romantic and platonic new love. The chamber orchestra is tuned to assimilate the modes, harmonies and patterns of a Zulu love letter and deliberately defines a fresh vocabulary for how we can look and play new classical music in South Africa today.

“The music is played on conventional instruments but the players’ technique has been adapted, taking from both the classical and traditional styles,” explains Muyanga, who continuously strives to create new realities and experiences with his work.

Memory of how it feels runs at Baxter Golden Arrow Studio until 19 March at 6.30pm or 8.15pm nightly. Ticket prices are R120 (Tuesdays to Thursdays) and R130 (Fridays and Saturdays). Booking is through Computicket on 083 915 8000, online at www.computicket.co.za or at any Shoprite Checkers outlet countrywide. For discounted block, schools or corporate bookings, charities and fundraisers, contact Sharon on 021 680 3962 or Carmen on 021 680 3993 during office hours.

March 17, 2011

kain – the blue guerilla

Filed under: kain,music — ABRAXAS @ 9:03 pm


This solo album by Gylan Kain, one of the original Last Poets — before the group recorded for Douglas Records — is a study in angry poetics, performance art, and killer presentation. Recorded and issued in the early ’70s, The Blue Guerrilla is a freestyle set before such a thing was even a dream. Kain’s one pissed-off cat, raging not only against the usual necessary concerns, but also against the stereotypes in his own community. Free jazz-funk grooves on guitars, electric violins, a slew of drums, and ghostly keyboards accompany his gorgeous and disturbing ranting that is far from pointless. From the opening ritual scarification of “I Ain’t Black,” with it’s free jazz approach and over-the-top screaming, to the poignant indictment of “Harlem Preacher,” to “Black Satin Amazon” and “Constipated Monkey,” Kain is a hipster without a country, a street poet without an audience, an activist without sympathy. And rather than succumb and stylize his thang to get his message across, he becomes angrier, slyer, slicker, less forgiving, and more insightful. Music is placed here not as accompaniment, but as a framework for Kain to place his poetry in a context of the African-American oral tradition and the Living Theatre. And he gives no quarter. This man makes the Last Poets he left behind sound like schoolboys trying to sound pissed off. Kain would make Gil Scott-Heron run away for fear of being exposed as the effete he became before he turned into an out-and-out drug addict. There aren’t any other records like this; this is the sound of the apocalypse, one that Amiri Baraka predicted and celebrated. Come to The System of Dante’s Hell as narrated by Kain. Sit down, listen all the way though if you can; wake up. There’s a riot goin’ on.

Review from Allmusic Guide by Thom Jurek

The album, to say the least, is an intense listening experience performed by a cat who must be one intense individual. Jurek does a decent job of capturing the essence of Kain’s one solo album. The music and words fit in with what his former Last Poets crew were doing at the time, although with more attention paid to musical arrangements – ranging from free jazz on the opening tracks to a cooler West Coast feel for much of the remaining album (though cooler here is only a relative term – the music has an edge to it).

To me the highlight of the album is the final track, “Look Out for the Blue Guerrilla.” The tune starts out with a basic keyboard-bass-drum backing that has that hazy weed-smoke-filled room vibe to it as Kain drops these philosophical rhymes that build in intensity and religious imagery, with a travel-logue that sounds like Kain’s been channeling HST as he was writing Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, or Oscar Zeta Acosta’s Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo. Certainly, the song, like Thompson’s and Acosta’s books, captures the rotten core of the “American Dream” – in Kain’s case, laying out a vision of an America with machine guns on every corner, and ending with a climax in which Kain and crew shout a warning to “Look Out For The Blue Guerrilla!”

If you can dig on some Amiri Baraka-inspired second generation beat poetry, that takes on issues of racism and oppression that are every bit as topical today as they were back in 1971, this album’s for you. Last Poets fans should dig this. I’ve heard his work described as “Holy Roller Existential Blues” and “Poetic Aggression”. That’s as good a description as any.

Gylan Kain has kept busy since his falling out with the Last Poets and the recording of The Blue Guerrilla as a playwright, multimedia collaborations with Z’ev, and of course performing his poetry both solo and with musical backing. He’s most recently appeared with jazz/hip-hop/fusion artists Electric Barbarian since 2003, appearing on their 2004 album él. and Minirock from the Sun. Some press reviews from the Electric Barbarian website:

JAZZTIMES March 18, 2005 – Larry Appelbaum
Dutch Jazz Meeting
“Friday night began with a sound collective called Electric Barbarian, with electric bassist and leader Floris Vermeulen, and featuring a headphone-wearing trumpeter who kept one hand on his mixer, a turntablist named Grazzhoppa and a drummer prone to mock bodybuilder poses. After an opening instrumental with washes of sound and a pseudo tribal beat, Gylan Kain, one of the founding members of the Last Poets, wailed and ranted his piece about “My Niggaz” with textured accompaniment. At one point he came out into the audience and recited in the face of an audience member who was moved to get up and leave, but not before Kain followed the poor man up the aisle. “Kicking Mickey Mouse in his house”, indeed.”


Kwadratuur.be August 2, 2004 – Koen van Meel
“These songs are solidly driven on a simple harmonious basis and are underlayed by Floris Vermeulen’s melodious bass, which gives the whole thing soul.” (…) “Vocal contributions are laid on top of this instrumental foundation. Kain is especially fascinating. His poems are visual, difficult to pin down in the beginning, but are delivered as pure spoken word, with a flow which most MCs can only dream of.”

Gylan Kain is in my opinion one of those writers and artists who deserves far more recognition than he’s received. The recorded material he’s contributed to Electric Barbarian’s albums this decade (along with accounts of his performances at their gigs) has certainly been tantalizing. Given the dearth of recorded material available by Gylan Kain, that he’s had any influence on the subsequent direction of underground rap is a minor miracle. Some of the more direct evidence comes from KMD’s magnum opus, Bl_ck B_st_rds (maybe one of these days I’ll re-up that one). In the meantime, “look out for the Blue Guerrilla.”

first published here

last respects: martin of holland

Filed under: just good friends — ABRAXAS @ 12:19 am

Hello All


Sadly I have to send this email to all internet contacts of MARTIN of HOLLAND (Martin van de Logt).

It’s most likely Martin will not be around much longer.

The brain-tumor is growing fast and Martin has chosen to not have it treated.

Although it’s hard, we can only respect his wishes.

A prognosis on how much time he still has cannot be given.

He has left the hospital, and is now at home, with excellent 24 hour care

and loads of visits from close friends and neighbours.


For the moment he’s still pretty clear, but increasingly forgetting things.

Also his vision nerves seem to be strained, so he’s hardly able to read text anymore, even with font size at maximum on his pc, he’s exhausted by reading within seconds.

Horny images are the only thing he appreciates as always, (maybe even more).


Martin has himself chosen to set in motion the procedure to obtain permission

for the euthanasia through palliative sedation procedure,

legal in NL when friends, family and 2 physicians provide consent 

That only comes into view though, when things becomes too hard for him and there’s no prospect of any fun anymore,

which at this time is still far from the case. He still comes out of bed, enjoys eating, music, company,

but sadly no more reading and hardly any writing to his online fanbase,

although he may still attempt that when he feels up to it.

If we get the time and space I may work with him on a final grumpy message . . .


That’s it for the moment.

He leaves external communication to Richard and myself,

and is not looking for get-well messages, as , levelheaded and cynical as he is, it’s too late for that.


Monday I spent a whole afternoon selecting funeral/cremation music with him.

When that day comes around he would like that to be shared by everyone who is part of his online communities.


I will also forward updates on his condition through my weblog, at

but not too frequently and only on request of martin himself. He wants the information to remain space for the moment

as he’s highly irritated by obligatory get-well wishes, as everybody who knows closely him may appreciate.


Richard (importfries@gmail.com )

March 14, 2011

stephanus muller on the bow project

Filed under: music,stephanus muller — ABRAXAS @ 3:29 pm

Ladies and Gentlemen, this afternoon you are attending an auspicious occasion. And its significance is marked by the relatively small number of people present here. No media coverage, no purpose-built CD launching stadium, no fan-walk, no ministers cutting ribbons, no giant vuvuzela mounted on top of the building to blast its B flats in celebration of all of the above. When we look at the CD of the Bow Project that is being launched today, we see in contrast an almost empty South African landscape framed by thorn trees and the foot of a mountain. And when we open it, we find two CD¹s: The first a succession of 13 string quartets, intimate musical ruminations on the music of the second CD, that of Nofinishi Dywili, who died in 2002 at the age of 83.

Who was Nofinishi Dywili? Dave Dargie¹s essay in the CD booklet answers this question in many ways: a famous Xhosa uhadi player, a composer, a song leader, a representative of the genius of Xhosa bow music, one of a myriad of Xhosa creators of music down the centuries. We honour her memory this afternoon.

Dargie¹s recordings of Nofinishi date from 1980, and continue intermittently until 2002. Music researchers in South Africa have therefore known about this remarkable music for at least three decades. But it has mostly been the object of the ethnomusicological gaze and the archive, and perhaps for some the musical and linguistic links of nostalgia and memory to a rural past that has all but disappeared. It is therefore remarkable that this recording project is being launched at Stellenbosch University today, where this music has left none of these footprints. And this is important to realize in reflecting on the meaning of the Bow Project.

During the past decade, different noteworthy Western-based compositional approaches have been taken with regard to exceptional female performer-composers of indigenous South African music. One, in 2001, involved the collaboration of Hans Huyssen and Madosini, resulting in the now frequently performed work The Songs of Madosini. Another, Haya, Mntwan¹Omkhulu: Songs of Princess Magogo KaDinizulu, happened barely a year later, the result of collaboration between Peter Klatzow, Mzilikazi Khumalo and Princess Magogo. Thus the Bow Project must be understood as part of a broader, uncoordinated but undeniably consensual desire and interest in creating bridges between what has often been perceived as different musical universes. From the CD liner notes, I quote Michael Blake on the inception of the Bow Project:

The Bow Project was conceived under the auspices of NewMusicSA (the South African section of the ISCM) in 1999. Its aim was to give up to twenty composers an opportunity to study, reimagine, and recompose music from one of the greatest musical traditions in our country: the solo song self-accompanied by one-string bow, as recorded by the great Xhosa bow player of our time, Mrs Nofinishi Dywili. I saw the medium of the string quartet as providing a perfect bridge between the world of traditional bow music and the world of new classical music.

Now, the construction of musical bridges is a highly technical matter, and in South Africa a symbolically explosive one. It is as if we recognize in these efforts more than what they can ever possibly be: solutions to existential crises. How does building musical bridges relate to who we are and how we live? How does building relate to dwelling? Heidegger answers this question by reflecting on the nature of the bridge:

The bridge Š does not just connect banks that are already there. The banks emerge as banks only as the bridge crosses the stream. The bridge designedly causes them to lie across from each other. One side is set off against the other by the bridge. [The bridge] brings stream and bank and land into each other¹s neighbourhood. The bridge gathers the earth as landscape around the stream. Thus it guides and attends the stream through the meadows Š The bridge lets the stream run its course and at the same time grants their way to mortals so that they may come and go from shore to shore.

The bridge gathers the earth as landscape around the stream. The bridge grants their way to mortals so that they may come and go from shore to shore.

So how does the Bow Project concretize dwelling and building musically? On a collective level, I would say that it does this by conceiving of building musical bridges not primarily as an institutionally privileged way of being, without discounting the potential of institutions also to function as places of dwelling and places of preservation. We find that, of the fourteen composers whose work can be heard on this CD, the minority are academically institutionalized and some are used to compose in genres profoundly unconnected to the string quartet as an academic gold standard of compositional technique, much as the majority of composers approaching this project would have done so from an unconnected position with regard to Nofinishi and her music. Thus I would venture to say that the Bow Project is less an exemplar of a future compositional direction, than of a collectively embodied orientation towards another way of musical being or being musical in our country.

It is fascinating to consider commonalities in the sound of these bridges that take us from shore to shore. I hear in this music structures of episodic unfolding, inimical to narrative structure, teleological structure and mostly to closed structure, of which Theo Herbst¹s Umhala Wasetywaleni, Wat maak jy?¹, is a radical and endlessly contradictory example . Episodic unfolding here is a structural approach that relies heavily on the patterning of repetitive material, most frequently rhythmic material, but often also characteristic textures and planned vertical simultaneities. Consequently tonality is neither a driver in most of these processes of unfolding, nor a central concern thereof. Language and direct melodic references are present ­ language particularly in Sazi Dlamini and Jürgen Bräuninger¹s Jiwé¹ and melodic tributes to Nofinishi in Paul Hanmer¹s Ntwazana¹ and Kristian Blak¹s String Quartet No 5. But language and melody are guests whose arrival delight precisely because they don¹t outstay their welcome. In Martin Scherzinger¹s exceptional My friend, the Ugly One¹, the melody is structurally put to work without confining it to representative purposes, eventually effectively bridging Ngqoko village and eighteenth century Vienna. With the exception of sustained chordal textures in Julia Raynham¹s Latshon¹ilanga¹ and less prevalently in Lloyd Prince¹s Lines¹, these musical bridges are lightweight, airy structures, spaced-out textures, uncannily so in Aryan Kaganof¹s suspended Anahat¹, a remix of Michael Blake¹s String Quartet No 3.

This brings me to Michael Blake, whose own quartet on this CD is dedicated to Kevin Volans and is nicknamed by the composer, Nofinishi¹. It is a non-sentimental but moving homage of glittering concentration and succintness. Looking at Michael¹s score, I saw that it was composed in Hout Bay in 2009. We have recently experienced in the Hangberg Uprising in Hout Bay the reality that South Africa is a country deeply divided and in denial about the crisis it is in. In this CD project we are launching today, and in an exemplary way in this beautiful work, comes a bridge that gathers that piece of earth, and our piece of earth, as soundscape. It proposes in spirit and in sound ways of moving from shore to shore. The implications are broadly social and human, but what we celebrate today in this building is also the recognition of what musical dwelling at a university could be. In this respect the project and the music is nothing short of visionary. I therefore congratulate Michael with a milestone achievement, and I thank him and NewMusicSA for gracing our department by bringing the Bow Project to Stellenbosch in this manner.

206. Life – Artavazd Peleshian

Filed under: film as subversive art — ABRAXAS @ 4:34 am

The filmmaker works with his images as if they were a musical score. Around a central theme, he orchestrates variations and modulations that create an impression of a flood of private images arriving from beyond the frame. Pelechian is making a name for himself as a montage filmmaker who tends to inscribe in his works the movement of the world and history. His films are odes, even symphonies that speak about humanity, nature and the cosmos. Man is often seen contending with a strong, encompassing nature that guides, transports and protects him. Pelechian speaks to us about humility and our connection with time. Artavazd Pelechian has been practicing a method of film construction he refers to as «distance montage» since the 60s, in films using either found footage, Our Century or original material, The Seasons. In the early 90s, Pelechian made two spiritual films which are among his simplest and most beautiful productions: The End (1991) and Life (1992), Pelechian’s first colour film. Where The End looks towards death, Life is about a birth, consisting mainly of views of a young woman’s face in the throes of labour, her heaving body in its hospital room seen as a changing landscape. Two shifts take place: the child is born and the camera shows us this new life; then, in a final shot that re-orders the entire film in retrospect (like the final shot of Pelechian’s earlier portrait of peasant life, The Seasons), we see mother and child, faces side-by-side perhaps a year later, mirrors of one another save for the difference in age.

160. Tôkyô nagaremono / Tokyo Drifter (Suzuki Seijun 1966 JAP)

Filed under: film,rené veenstra — ABRAXAS @ 4:27 am

Famously fired from Nikkatsu Studios for his delirious and eccentric cinematic crafting, Seijun Suzuki is a director like no other. In the 1960’s he was responsible for an unending string of dazzling B-movies the likes of which are not likely to be duplicated anytime soon. His films feature an amazing use of studio sets, often bordering on the baroque and the surreal in their flashy use of color and striking arrangements. Although most of his film’s dealt with the ingredients of trashy pulp fiction — seedy nightclubs, lonely hitmen, and disillusioned prostitutes — Suzuki’s mannerist approach to these stories repeatedly deviated so far from the norm, that they are best placed in the realm of ‘art cinema’. Style can transcend even the harshest budget limitations, and all one need do is look at one inventive frame from Suzuki’s florid ‘Scope compositions’ to understand this. Now 84 years young, Suzuki is still at the top of his game. His latest film, the free-form musical Princess Raccoon screened out-of-competition at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival where it enchanted audiences with a wild mix of ballet, opera, rap music, and salsa dancing. His eclectic style continues to endure. – Adam Lemke

March 10, 2011

mareli stolp

Filed under: dimitri voudouris,kaganof short films — ABRAXAS @ 8:59 am

music composed by dimitri voudouris

The White Anti-Racist is an Oxymoron

Filed under: andile mngxitama,politics — ABRAXAS @ 8:54 am

An Open Letter to “White Anti-Racists”

By Kil Ja Kim

I received an annoying e-mail about white people and their struggle to do anti-racist work. I keep reading and hearing white people talk about their struggle to do anti-racist organizing, and frankly it gets on my nerves. So I am writing this open letter to white people who engage in any activist work that involves or affects non-whites. Given that the US social structure is founded on white supremacy, and that there is a global order in which white supremacy and European domination are at large, I would challenge any white person to figure out what movement or action they can get involved in that will not involve or affect non-white people.

That said, I want to begin with what has become a realization for me through the help of different politically conscious friends. There is NO SUCH THING AS A WHITE ANTI-RACIST. The term itself, “white anti-racist” is an oxymoron. In the following, I will explain why. Then, I will begin to detail how this impacts non-white people in organizing work specifically, along with how it affects non-white people generally.

First, one must realize that whiteness is a structure of domination. As such, there is nothing redeemable or reformed about whiteness. Intellectuals, scholars and activists, especially those who are non-white, have drawn our attention to this for years. For example, people such as Malcolm X, W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey, Barbara Smith, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Ida B. Wells, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Frank Wilderson, Kwame Ture and Charles V. Hamilton, and many, many others who are perhaps less famous, have articulated the relationship between whiteness and domination.

Further, early on people such as Douglass and DuBois began to outline how whiteness is a social and political construct that emphasizes the domination, authority, and perceived humanity of those who are racialized as white. They, along with many other non-white writers and orators, have pointed to the fact that it was the bodies who were able to be racialized as “white” were viewed as rational, authoritative, and deserving. Additionally, and believe me, this is no small thing, white people are viewed as human. What this means is that when white people suffer, as some who are poor/female/queer do, they nevertheless are able to have some measure of sympathy for their plight simply because they are white and their marginalization is considered an emergency, crisis or an issue to be concerned about.

Moreover, even when white people have been oppressed by various dimensions of classism, homophobia and heterosexism, they have been able to opt for what DuBois, in his monograph Black Reconstruction brilliantly called “the psychological wage of whiteness.” That is, whites who are marginalized could find comfort, even if psychological, in the fact that they were not non-white. They could revel in the fact that they could be taken as white in opposition to non-white groups. The desire for this wage of whiteness was also what drove many white people, albeit marginalized, to engage in organized violence against non-whites.

Of course, legal cases such as the Dred Scott Decision along with many different naturalization cases involving Asian individuals, has helped to encode a state-sanctioned definition of whiteness. But there are other ways in which white people are racialized as white by the state. They are not stopped while driving as much as non-white people. Their homes and businesses are not raided and searched as much by police officers, INS or License and Inspections (L&I). White people’s bodies are not tracked and locked up in prisons, detention centers, juvenile systems, detention halls in classrooms, and “special education” classes as much as those of non-white people. White people’s bodies are generally not the site of fear, repulsion, violent desire, or hatred.

Now some might point out to me that white people are followed, tracked and harassed by the police. This is true. White women experience state-sanctioned discrimination. Queer whites are the subject of homophobia, whether by individuals or by the state through laws and police violence. Some activist whites are harassed by the police. White people who play rap music and wear gear are stopped by cops. Poor whites can be criminalized by the state, especially around welfare issues. What I want to point out is that, while I do not condone police violence and harassment, there is a way in which white people will not be viewed as inherently criminal or suspect unless they are perceived as doing something that breaks particular norms. Further, the breaking of particular class and sexuality “norms” is highly racialized, meaning that it is generally when white people engage in acts that appear to the state not appropriately “white” that they are subject to state violence. In other words, white people experience state violence when their bodies engage in acts normally considered deviant and inherent in non-white people.

Other racial groups, particularly Blacks and Native Americans, are considered inherently criminal no matter what they do, what their sexual identity is or what they wear. Further, it has always struck me as interesting that there are white people who will attempt to wear what will signify “Blackness,” whether it is dreadlocks (which, in my opinion, should be cut off from every white person’s head), “gear,” or Black masks at rallies. There is a sick way in which white people want to emulate that which is considered “badass” about a certain existential position of Blackness at the same time they do not want the burden of living as a non-white person. Further, it really strikes me as fucked up the way in which white people will go to rallies and taunt the police with Black masks in order to bring on police pressure. What does it mean when whites strategically use Blackness to bring on police violence? Now I know that somewhere there is a dreadlocked, smelly white anarchist who is reading this message and who is angry at me for not understanding the logic of the Black masks and its roots in anarchism. But I would challenge these people to consider how they are reproducing violence towards Blackness in their attempts to taunt and challenge the police in their efforts.

Now back to my point that white anti-racism is an oxymoron. Whiteness is a social and political construct rooted in white supremacy. Drawing from the work of Frank Wilderson, I understand white supremacy as a structure and system of beliefs rooted in European and US imperialism in which certain racialized bodies (non-white) are selected for premature negation whether through cultural, physical, psychological genocide, containment or other forms of social death. White supremacy is at the heart of the US social system and civil society. In short, white supremacy is not just a series of practices or privilege, but a larger social structure and system of domination that overly-values and rewards those who are racialized as white. The rest of us are constructed as undeserving to be considered human, although there is significant variation within non-white populations of how our bodies are encoded, treated and (de)valued.

Now, for one to claim whiteness, one also is invested in white supremacy. Whiteness itself is a political term that emerged among European white ethnics in the US. Some who used the term white were those who were part of the dominant social structure, such as the slave owning class, which included many of the US “founding fathers.” Others were European ethnics, many of them reviled, who chose to cast their lot with whiteness rather than that with those who had been determined as non-white. In short, anyone who claims to be white, even a white anti-racist, is identifying with a history of European imperialism and racism transported and further developed into the US.

However, this does not mean that white people who go around saying dumb things such as “I am not white! I am a human being!” or, “I left whiteness and joined the human race,” or my favorite, “I hate white people! They’re stupid!” are not structurally white. Remember, whiteness is a structure of domination embedded in our social relations, institutions, discourses, and practices. Don’t tell me you’re not white but then when we go out in the street and the police don’t bother you or people don’t ask you if you’re a prostitute, or people don’t follow you and touch you at will, act like that does not make a difference in our lives. Basically, you can’t talk, merely “unlearn” or think through whiteness, as all of these annoying trainings for white people to “unlearn” racism will have you think.

Rather, white people need to be willing to have their very social position, their very relationship of domination, their very authority, their very being…let go, perhaps even destroyed. I know this might sound scary, but that is really not my concern. I am not interested in making white people, even those so-called good-hearted anti-racist whites, comfortable about their position in struggles that shape my life in ways that it will never shape theirs.

Indeed, white people could take another lesson from DuBois. I recently finished the biography of John Brown written by DuBois. The biography was less of a biography and more of an interpretation by DuBois about the now-legendary white abolitionist. Now while John Brown’s practice was problematic in many ways—he still had to be in control and he had fucked-up views that Blacks were still enslaved because they were too “servile” (a white supremacist sentiment)—what I took from Brown’s life was that he realized that moral persuasion alone would not solve racial problems. That is, whites cannot talk or just think through whiteness and structures of white supremacy. They must be committed to either picking up arms for other people (and only firing when the people tell them so), dying for other people, or just getting out of the way. In short, they must be willing to do what the people most affected and marginalized by a situation tell them to do.

Now I am sure that right now there are some white people saying that non-white people cannot understand what is going on, that we do not have the critical analysis to figure stuff out, or that we have fucked up ideas. This is just white supremacist bullshit because it is rooted in the idea that non-white people have not interpreted our experiences and cannot run things ourselves. It is also highly elitist because it assumes that only those who have adequate access to institutional and educational resources (whites) are able to understand reality. It also assumes that there are not internal conversations within and between our communities—which I do not think white people need to be privy to or participate in—in which non-white people struggle over these contradictions, debate about our own visions for society and how to go about achieving them. In short, this perspective by whites that non-white people cannot be in control of our own destinies is rooted in a paternally-racist approach to non-white people.

Further, it is also rooted in the idea that white people are not racist or do not benefit from racism. Rather, white people at meetings will often discuss how they feel “silenced” by non-whites, or that they are being “put in their place.” Let me make one thing clear: it is impossible for a non-white person to put a white person in her place. This is not to say that non-white people cannot have a sexist or homophobic attitude towards a white person. But to say, or even hint at that as a “WHITE” person someone is being put in one’s place–whoever says this just needs to shut the fuck up because that is some bull. It is impossible for whiteness to be put in one’s place, because that is a part of whiteness, the ability to take up space and feel a prerogative to do so.

In addition, the idea that white people are being put into their place relies on the neo-conservative view of reverse racism that has characterized the backlash against non-whites, especially Blacks, in the post-civil rights era. So when you say these types of things you are actually helping to reproduce a neo-conservative racial rhetoric that relies on the myth of the “threatened” and “displaced” white person.

Additionally, white activism, especially white anti-racism, is predicated on an economy of gratitude. We non-whites are supposed to be grateful that a white person is willing to work with non-white people. We are supposed to be grateful that you actually want to work with us and that you give us your resources. I would like to know why you have those resources and others do not? And don’t assume that just because I have to ask you for resources that it does not hurt me, pain me even. Don’t assume that when you come into the space, that doesn’t bother me. Don’t assume that when you talk first, talk the most, and talk the most often, that this doesn’t hurt me. Don’t assume that when I see you get the attention and accolades and the book deals and the speaking engagements that this does not hurt me (because you profit off of pain).

And don’t assume that when I see how grateful non-white people are to you for being there, for being a “good white” person that this doesn’t hurt me. And don’t assume that when non-white people chastise me because I think your presence is unnecessary that it does not hurt me. And don’t assume that when I see you attach yourself to the “sensible” non-white person who condones your behavior that this does not infuriate me. Because all of these things remind me of how powerless non-white people are in relation to white people. All of these gestures that you do reminds me of how grateful we are supposed to be towards you because you actually (or supposedly) care about what is happening to us. I am a bit resentful of economies of gratitude.

Moreover, this structure of white supremacy known as white anti-racism also impacts the larger social world because it still makes white people the most valued people. Non-white people are forced to feel dependent and grateful to white people who will actually interact with us. We are made to feel that we are inferior, incapable, and that we really do need white people. And the sad thing is, that given all of the resources that whiteness has and that white people get and control through white supremacy, there is an element of material truth in all of this, I am afraid. But white people need to think of how their activism reproduces the actual structure of white supremacy some—not all whites activists—profess to be about challenging. This structure of white supremacy is not just in activist spaces, it actually touches upon and impinges on the lives of non-white people who may not be activists (in your sense) or who do not interact with you in activist worlds.

But consider what your presence means in a community that you decide to set up your community garden in, or your bookstore in, or your meeting space in, or have your march in. What does it mean when you decide that you want to be “with” the oppressed and you end up displacing them? Just because you walk around with your dreadlocks, or decide that you will not wear expensive clothes, or that you want to march in someone’s neighborhood does not mean that your whiteness doesn’t displace people in the spaces you decide to put yourself in. How do you help to bring more forms of authority and control in a neighborhood, whether through increased rent and housing costs, more policing, or just the ways in which your white bodies can make people feel, as Wilderson brilliantly asks, “squatters in somebody else’s project?”

So what does this mean for the future of white anti-racists? This might mean to figure out ways in which whiteness needs to die as a social structure and as an identity in which you organize your anti-racist work. What this looks like in practice may not be so clear but I will attempt to give some suggestions here. First, don’t call us, we’ll call you. If we need your resources, we will contact you. But don’t show up, flaunt your power in our faces and then get angry when we resent the fact that you have so many resources we don’t and that we are not grateful for this arrangement. And don’t get mad because you can’t make decisions in the process. Why do you need to? Second, stop speaking for us. We can talk for ourselves. Third, stop trying to point out internal contradictions in our communities, we know what they are, we are struggling around them, and I really don’t know how white people can be helpful to non-whites to clear these up. Fourth, don’t ever say some shit to me about how you feel silenced, marginalized, discriminated against, or put in your place as a white person. Period. Fifth, stop calling me sister. I will tell you when you are family. Finally, start thinking of what it would mean, in terms of actual structured social arrangements, for whiteness and white identity—even the white antiracist kind (because there really is no redeemable or reformed white identity)—to be destroyed.

In conclusion, I want to say to anyone who thinks that this is too academic or abstract, I write as a non-white person, meaning that from my body, my person, I experience white supremacy. I draw from the analyses of non-white people, many who were or are engaged in various struggles of activism, but most importantly who tried/are trying to speak out and stay alive. They did not or do not get accolades from many for speaking out but instead experience(d) constant threats to their lives for just existing and doing the work that they did or do. Finally, I want to know when a discussion of whiteness, white supremacy and domination became seen as abstract and not rooted in the everyday concrete reality that we experience?

first published here: http://www.nathanielturner.com/whiteantiracistsopenletter.htm

March 8, 2011


Filed under: kaganof,kaganof short films — ABRAXAS @ 1:18 pm

for more info check out the sa music research blog: http://samusicresearch.wordpress.com/

March 5, 2011

The King James Bible’s language lessons

Filed under: poetry — ABRAXAS @ 8:40 am

by Linton Kwesi Johnson

Given Jamaica’s murder rate, one of the highest in the world, “the spiritual wickedness in high and low places” that Bob Marley opposed in song, it is hard to believe that Jamaicans are a deeply spiritual people with Christian values inculcated through the King James Bible. This book, a most effective tool of colonisation, was the only one in my illiterate grandmother’s house when I was a child in Jamaica. She would have me read it to her from time to time, and I got to like the language of the Old Testament and the Psalms in particular, her favourite book. That was my first real introduction to written verse. I was seven years old and could recite some Psalms from memory, having learnt them at Sunday school in the Baptist church of which my grandmother was a member. So it’s not at all surprising that my verse has some biblical references.

Jamaican popular music, from ska to dance hall, is replete with quotations from the King James Bible: “Why boasteth thyself / o evil men” (Bob Marley); “I pray thee / why do the heathen rage and the people imagine a vain thing?” (Big Youth); “Deliver me, o my God, from my enemies” (Yabby U and the Prophets) – the list is endless. The King James Bible is not just a holy book in Jamaica. It is an important aspect of the very fabric of Jamaican oral culture. Used with dexterity and wit, biblical sayings are very powerful tools in the rhetoric of everyday discourse, and a rich repository of metaphor, simile, aphorism and imagery.

Linton Kwesi Johnson is a poet.

the music documentaries of aryan kaganof

Filed under: kaganof short films — ABRAXAS @ 8:35 am

TECHNO: SPACE AND FLOW IN THE RADICAL FRAME (Netherlands, 1995, 16mm, 50min)
This work explores the effects of computers on dance music, specifically the Detroit and Berlin techno scene of the early nineties. Interviewed are David Toop, Ken Ishii, Chris Bohn, Oval, Pete Namlook, Scanner, Thomas Fehlman. Music is by Stockhausen, Can, Neu, Joey Beltram, Sun Electric etc. The film was a sub-cultural phenomenon in Germany and was bootlegged as a white-cover vhs at the time. It was released in Japan by the legendary Uplink label and sold more than 50 000 copies there.

SIGNAL TO NOISE (Japan, 1997, super8mm, 9min)
Starring Masami Akita (Merzbow) and Djeff Babcock (acéphale). A rigorous research into the difference between “signal” and noise which ends with the assertion by Roland Barthes that “art is without noise”. music by Gore Beyond Necropsy & Merzbow. This work had its premiere at the Sonic Acts Festival in Amsterdam and was broadcast on Dutch television by the VPRO.

This portrait of the godfather of electronic noise, Masami Akita, takes its structure from Kurt Schwitters’ “Merzbau”, literally a “junk building”. Akita explains “if music is sex then noise is its pornography”. This documentary had its premiere at the Rotterdam Film Festival in 1999 and has been screened at various festivals across the world but never officially released as a dvd.

MONDO ROXY: NO OTHER DRUGS REQUIRED (Netherlands, 1998, 58min, DV)
World premiere at the Molodist Festival in Kiev, Ukraine. A portrait of the Roxy Club in Amsterdam before it burned down. The Roxy was the temple of House music in Europe. The documentary contextualizes this temple in an apocalyptic fin-de-siecle period of declining Western power. Music by Zero Kama, Charles Manson and many others.

NOSTALGIA FOR THE FUTURE (Netherlands, 2000, 20min, DV)
This work was the first of the RE:MIX series and had its world premiere during the International Film Festival Rotterdam as part of the SONIC FRAGMENTS project, where Kaganof delivered his manifesto THE POETICS OF DIGITAL FRAGMENTATION. Music is by Merzbow, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Michel Weisviz, DJ Spooky, Squarepusher and rachels. Job Ter Burg is the re-editor and the image samples come from Frank Scheffer, Ian Kerkhof, Rob Schroder and Joost Rekveld.

THE SEVEN LAST WORDS OF JESUS CHRIST (Netherlands, 2001, 8min, DVcam)
This was part of the second re-mix project entitled SONIC GENETICS which was premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, the work starred Gabrielle Provaas and was edited at various laboratories over a period of 12 months utilising samples of imagery by Micha Klein, Rob Schroder, Joost Rekveld and Miriam Kruishoop and music by Gyorgy Kurtag, Dick Tuinder, Friedrich Nietzsche and Handel

WESTERN4.33 (Namibia, 2002, 32min, 35mm.)
Official selection Berlinale Forum 2004, Winner First prize 12th African Film Festival Milan 2002, Best Documentary 1st Africa & Islands Film Festival 2002 director of photography Wiro Felix, sound design Jane Snijders, editor C.R. Mandala, music Rodriguez, Sun Ra, Alec Empire, John Cage, La Monte Young, Virgins, Friedrich Nietzsche, Robert Schumann produced by Wiro Felix for Mandala Films written & directed by Aryan Kaganof WESTERN 4.33 is an experimental documentary which deals with the German concentration camp on Shark Island, near Luderitz, where thousands of indigenous Herero people were incarcerated from 1905 to 1908. The jury report described the film as “A reflection recorded in physical pain and in the memory, where images and sounds, the photography and editing, combine to build up a great sensorial and political experience, for a new way of observing and experiencing the relationship with time and space.”

SHARP SHARP! THE KWAITO STORY (South Africa, 2003, 26min, DVCam)
director of photography Wiro Felix, editor C.R. Mandala, sound recordist Hens van Rooij, sound design The Dark Magus, produced by Wiro Felix for Mandala Films, written & directed by Aryan Kaganof, featuring interviews with Zola, Kabelo, Mdu, Oscar, Mzambiya, Mzekezeke, Don Laka, Lindelani Mkhize, Mandoza and Arthur and music by TKZee, BOP and other kwaito greats. This documentary was made for Dutch television and sold to the SABC for repeated broadcasts.

GARE ITSHEBENG (South Africa, 2003, 6min, super8mm)
director of photography Wiro Felix this short film is a musical poem by Lefifi Tladi set to portraits of kwaito stars, including Mandoza, Mdu, Nhlanhla, Mzekezeke and DJ Fresh. woprld premiere was at the birthday party of Hymphatic Thabs held at the Bohemian, Johannesburg in early 2005

BANTU CONTINUA UHURU NIHILISMUS (South Africa, July 2003, 25min, DV)
choreography by Moeketsi Koena and Nita Liem, an afro avant dance piece starring Moshe Maboe, Thokozane Mthiyane with original music by Ramon Dos Santos and poetry by Lefifi Tladi, world premiere was during the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown.

DIABELLI VARIATION XXXIII (South Africa, 17 July 2003, 5min, DV)
This short film is a collaboration with Nicola Deane – who was director of photography – in the VIRGINS series, music by Beethoven played by Anatol Ugorski.

A SACRIFICE (South Africa, 2003, 13min19sec, 16mm/DVcam)
A re-mix of the experimental classic CORRIDOR (1970) by Standish Lawder, with music by Jaques Casteréde and Geez n Gosh. world premiere was at the National Arts festival in Grahamstown.

REVERIE (South Africa, 2004, 11min, dv)
A collaboration with the South African composer Dr. Michael Blake.

KRAFTMUSICHALL (“Nique ta mere!”) (France-South Africa, 2004, 10min, 16mm/DV)
This radikal re-mix of The Dead Man 2: Return Of The Dead Man was commissioned by the French industrial music outfit Tempsion and had its world premiere in Paris in March 2004. It was released as part of the RECTIFIER DVD/CD package in early 2005 on the LEtrange Sonotheque label (MAL013).

A PERFECT DAY (South Africa, 1994-2004, super8mm, 5min)
This short was shot on the first day of the first democratic elections held in South Africa. It was edited to commemorate the tenth anniversary of democracy in South Africa. World premiere was during the late Brett Kebble Awards.

AT LAST I AM FREE (Netherlands-South Africa, 1995-2004, 5min, 16mm)
director of photography Joost Van Gelder, music Mike Westbrook Orchestra and the Sogenaamd Linksradikales Blaasorches

A WILLING SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF (South Africa, june 2004, dv, 3min)
The music is by South African sound artist James Webb, the image from a dungeon in Paris.

REICH DANCE REDEMPTION (South Africa, september 2004, dv, 7min30sec)
World premiere at Momo Gallery in Johannesburg on tuesday 28/9/2004 music by Alec Empire, text from the novel BLACKHEART by Lesego Rampolokeng who also supplies the vocals.

HERMAN HESSE, FLYING (South Africa, June 2005, DV, 4min13sec )
A re-edit of images shot by Sagi Groner with music written by William Bolcomb and played by Tomoko Mukaiyama.

IMAGINE (South Africa, 2005, 10min, 35mm)
World premiere at the New Melville Theatre in Johannesburg on monday 27 June 2005 re-mixed and re-edited by Aryan Kaganof from a short fiilm (Imagine) written & directed by Eran Tahor. starring Keren Tahor, Mark Diamond, Stacy Sacks and Wendy Sarria. music composed by Frederic Rzewski and played by Tomoko Mukaiyama. This short experimental music film was recently screened in The Hague in the Netherlands as part of the Big 5 festival of South African culture.

MICHAEL BLAKE UNTITLED (South Africa, 2005, 12 min, DV)
World premiere at Wits University Amphitheatre on Monday 26/9/2005 A portrait of an untitled composition by contemporary composer, Michael Blake. The portrait follows pianist Jill Richards and clarinettist Robert Pickup as they rehearse the fiendishly difficult composition and ends after the premiere performance of a work that Blake describes as “my most minimalist work”.

GIANT STEPS (South Africa, 2005, 52min, DVCam)
World premiere at the Mamelodi Community Centre 25/9/2005, first broadcast SABC1 3/10/2005 director of photography AK Thembeka, sound recordist Basiami Bitsang Segolo, editor C.R. Mandala, final mix JA Assagai, produced by Michelle Wheatley & Ziyanda Ngcaba for Reflex Motion Pictures-NFVF-SABC, written & directed by Geoff Mphakati & Aryan Kaganof; featuring music & poetry by Lefifi Tladi, Lesego Rampolokeng, Kgafela oa Magogodi, Afurakan, Mac Manaka, Johnny Mbizo Dyani, Zim Ngqawana, Don Laka & Motlhabane Mashiangwako.
more info here:


UNYAZI OF THE BUSHVELD (South Africa, 2007, dv, 45min)
The first electronic music festival held in Africa was documented. Featuring Zim Ngqawana, Halim El-Dabh, Matthew Ostrowski, Louis Moholo, George Lewis, Kalahari Surfers, Pops Mohamed, Carlo Mombeli, Michael Blake, Lukas Ligeti, Francisco Lopez, Dimitri Voudouris and many others!
more info is here:


CLICK HERE TO UNSUBSCRIBE (South Africa, 2008, 35mm, 35min)
“Click here to unsubscribe”, Aryan Kaganof’s latest short film, commemorates the revolutionary values of May ’68, 40 years on. This outstanding film had its world premiere in Johannesburg on March 15th 2008, a few days after its author settled in Sweden. We were very proud to see our name in the acknowledgements at the end as we’ve always emphasised the cinematographic legacy of Guy Debord, one of this resurrection’s spiritual leaders, in Kaganof’s work. The film starts with a quotation from Debord dating back to 1956 about cinematographic cut-ups, which were also essential to our latest film. Kaganof has re-invented the cut-up technique for this film, transforming the “random” aspect of the editing into an area of reflection and synthesis.
more info is here:


SMS SUGAR MAN (South Africa, 2008, 3G, 80min)
The first full length feature film to be shot on mobile phone cameras, this work has an original music score by South African composer Dr. Michael Blake as well as songs by Zim Ngqawana, Samson Mnisi and Nouvelle Vague.
more info is here:


BLUE NOTES FOR BRA’ GEOFF (South Africa, 2009, dv, 50min)
Music critic Gwen Ansell has described this documentary as “the most complete4 example caught on film of SA’s other jazz identity: the one that explores harmonic inspirations freed from the constraints of the I-IV-V mbaqanga chords, to create South African new music.”
for more information see here:


THE EXHIBITION OF VANDALISM (South Africa, 2010, dv, 47min)
more info is here:


A portrait of one of South Africa’s unsung heroes of song.
More information is here:


March 2, 2011

Digital Dirt – On the Raw, Rough Works of Aryan Kaganof

Filed under: anton krueger,kaganof,kaganof short films — ABRAXAS @ 9:59 pm


Anton Krueger

Aryan Kaganof works in the widest range of media imaginable – text (poetry, prose, philosophy, blog); fine art (etching, painting, photography, performance); music (blues, noise music, dub); and, predominantly, in film (feature, documentary, experimental.)

As a film maker, Kaganof considers himself to be principally an editor; remixing and splicing together cultural artefacts from the detritus of the overproduced late 20th century. His pieces could be described as dirty on at least two levels – the subject matter is often crude, vulgar, offensive, sometimes involving incest, sadomasochism, suicide, urination and vomiting. Also (since most of his creations are entirely self produced in quick bursts of energy) the technical quality of his work is often rough and somewhat underproduced, i.e. “dirty” in the sense Peter Brook uses the adjective to define the Rough Theatre. The latter has lead to a sometimes less refined product; and yet, there is certainly a case to be made for the necessity of roughage as a source of fibre in any artistic diet hoping to combat the belly- ache of white bread commercialism.

With reference to the other pivotal keyword of this colloquium, “Synthetic”, Kaganof has been on the forefront of the digital revolution in cinema. He was the first film maker in the world to boost a digital feature film on video up to 35 mm – (Naar de Klote / Wasted [1996]); a process he then took to Japan when he made the first Japanese digital feature – Shabondama Elegy (1999). Kaganof also made the world’s first cell phone feature film boosted up for screening, SMS Sugar Man (2007). It seems paradoxical that despite his manifestos on digital production – what could be more synthetic than numbers? – his themes still favour sensuality, and bodies bursting out of the confines of the great synthetic synthesizer of social mores.

In this paper I’d like to consider how these two opposite elements play off each other in Kaganof’s works. Drawing on a range of examples, I would like to focus chiefly on his role as the editor of digital dirt.

This paper will be presented at:
Colloquium: Synthetic Dirt
Rhodes University Fine Art Department
16, 17 April, 2011
Conveners: Ashraf Jamal and Rat Western

Anton Krueger has published in a range of genres; including criticism, poetry, prose and drama. He teaches in the Department of Drama, Rhodes University.

February 26, 2011

The Portrait of A Lady

Filed under: kaganof short films — ABRAXAS @ 1:37 pm

A filmic condensation of the novel by Henry James starring Delphine Seyrig.
Image by Sacha Vierney from L’Annee Dernier a Marienbad
Music composed and performed by Sarah Jane Mary Hills

February 24, 2011

ak47 film festival @woordfees, stellenbosch

Filed under: kaganof,kaganof short films — ABRAXAS @ 9:18 am

This film festival is comprised of a selection of films by filmmaker, writer and artist, Aryan Kaganof and focuses on the role of music in his work.

As part of the Woordfees, the Documentation Centre for Music situated at the music department, University of Stellenbosch, will showcase twenty-one of Kaganof’s short- and full-length films including documentaries on music genres such as kwaito, jazz and blues as well as films that …explore the interaction between music, image and text.

The festival has been curated by Lizabé Lambrechts. The festival will be taking place 7, 9, 11 March in Stellenbosch, 5 Ryneveld Restaurant, and 8, 10 March in Kayamandi, AmaZink Eatery.

The full program is as follows


- REVERIE (12min) music composed by Michael Blake and performed by Jill Richards
- SMS SUGAR MAN (80min) music composed by Michael Blake
- AT LAST I AM FREE (5min)

Tuesday 8 March: THE BODY POLITIC

- A PERFECT DAY (3min),
- SHARP SHARP! The Kwaito story (25min) music by Arthur, Mdu, TKZee, Zola, Mzambiya and many others
- GIANT STEPS (52min) music composed and performed by Johnny Mbizo Dyani and Lefifi Tladi

Wednesday, 9 March: VIRULENT NIHILISM

- SIGNAL TO NOISE (9min) music composed and performed by Merzbow
- KRAFTMUSICHALL (10min) music composed and performed by Tempsion
- HERMAN HESSE, FLYING (5min) music composed by William Bolcomb and performed by Tomoko Mukaiyama
- THE EXHIBITION OF VANDALIZIM (47min) music composed and performed by Zim Ngqawana and Kyle Shepherd

Thursday, 10 March: LAMENTATIONS

- BLUE NOTES FOR BRA’ GEOFF (60min) music composed and performed by Vusi Mahlasela, Zim Ngqawana, Thabo Mashishi and many other SA jazz legends
- WESTERN 4.33 (32min)music composed and performed by Alec Empire, Terry Riley Sun Ra, John Cage and many others


- THE LEGENDARY SYD KITCHEN IN “G-STRING BLUES” (32min) music composed by Aryan Kaganof and performed by Syd Kitchen
- CLICK HERE TO UNSUSBSCRIBE (32min) music composed by Joel Assaizky and performed by AFRICAN NOISE FOUNDATION

For Bookings call Computicket at (021) 8097473

February 22, 2011

An Open Letter to the Free State MEC: Arts and Culture

Filed under: art,music,politics — ABRAXAS @ 11:24 am

by Sipho Mnyakeni on Saturday, 19 February 2011 at 05:01

The Honourable MEC Kgothule

This message is prompted by a report in THE WEEKLY that your office is in a process of granting a funding of R3 million to one Mahoota and Pepsi to establish a “state of the art recording studio” in the Free State. The report comes amidst years of lament by Free State artists that there seems to be a lack of interest in their well being and prosperity. Headlining in terms of events and recognition for an audience with your department seems to be reserved for artists coming from outside the Free State. Innumerable chronicles can be related of how FS artist were sidelined, mistreated and exploited in favour of GP artists.

A case in point: For the celebrations of Freedom Day in 2009, my company SMILE MUSIC was invited to perform in Welkom at the celebrations. Even though we were invited, we were forced o park outsde the stadium )public parking) and had to carry our instruments into the stadium like amateurs. When we were called to statge to perform we did one acapela freedom song an dthen as we were about to begin our repertoir we were told we must wait until the “dignitaries” have left the stage before we can make ‘noise’ with musical instruments. Just after we left the stage CHOMEE was called onto the stage, in the presence of dignitaries and she made NOISE and the dignitaries were dancing. Apparently the only Noise allowed was one from Johannesburg. What is amazing is that we had prepared a repertoire of songs celebrating freedom and tributing Olver Tambo and were were kicked off stage to make way for someone who is singing about “JIVER SEXY”.

It is common knowledge that for events like MACUFE, etc. international artists and the so -called national artists are paid IN ADVANCE for their performances because they will not come unless they have been paid in full. However for the FS based artists payment can be delayed up to years, in some cases. As I pen this letter, some artists have not yet been paid for the performances of MACUFE 2010.

About 2 years ago, in celebration of JUNE 16, a lot of money (i have the figures) was paid to one BENJAMIN DUBE to do a Live Recording incorporating Free State Artists. The less said about that project the better. The quality fo the production was poor, by large FS Artists were cameo role players in the project and reports are that the choir memebrs were not even paid for their role in the failed project but the moeny did LEAVE the FS to go to JHB. The bone of contention with this is that the money given to Dube could have beeen used to stage a FS show featuring local choirs (like the FS Gospel Choir) who are doing all in their power to create a FS brand of Gospel that could compete with the Joyous Celebrations of this world. That should could get a crowd puller as a guest at R40 000.00 whle the rest of th emoney would have benefitted FS directly and will be used in the FS to raise the GDP of the FS.

All these happen in the backdrop of many of us sending numerous proposals that would empower us (as FS based artists) and also empowering others in our sphere of influence. My point is there is a tendency to undermine local performers for Joburg based artists. Some of them, granted have their roots in the Free State but they ply their trade in JHB and only come to teh FS to collect cheques that we (as the Free State) gladly give them as we are awed by their presence – a kind of celebrity struck pose.

Recently, a ‘workshop’ was organized for FS artists and indications from locals is that it was a waste iof expenditure, the infamous 65 DJs event seems to be nothing but a state sponsored platform for alcoholising of young people with beneficiaries being from JHB.

It is in that background that the report is adding insult to the injury FS artists have been living with. If the government in the Free State will not help mainstream the peripheral industry in the FS, who will? The state of Poetry ni the FS being in permanent developmental mode can be blamed on the lack of support from government that is not ashamed to pay thousands to GP based poets when they want to appear artistic, yet ignoring the RICH talent latent in the province.

One would hope that teh government can note the exodus of FS artists to gauteng and atempt a “Keep them Here” campaign that will ensure that artists who choose to ply trade in teh FS are not disadvantaged for that choice.

The FS is rich enough to BRAND itself as the Center of Entertainment and the Arts. The world class facilities in Bleomfontein remain unsused because there is no money available to entice great directors like Kingdom Moshuenyane to stay here, so they left for Pretoria. Potential arts bombs are stuck in slave wage jobs because their art is not benefiting them financially,as a result there is a perception that FS is not yet ready to take center stage. I think we are. With such a great list of artist who are accomplshed internationally with roots in the FS it should be clear that this province can stand on its own compete with GP and KZN in making itself the center.

Sir, this is a situation reversable and this letter is a request for your office to show that you can turn it around. I will go on to LIST 6 things, I believe you can do with the R3 million as I believe it will be a wasted expediture to pump it into some state of the art recording facility.

1. There are over 10 good studios in the Free State that could do with support to upgrade and be better resourced. That will not cost R3 million but will benefit far more people than the mooted project.

2. There are artists in the FS who are perpetually upcoming because of lacking marketing muscle to break into the national stage. They could do with a marketing drive led by their government in the same way Kwa Zulu Natal recalled their Artist to begin a DURBAN Sound that has swept the whole country.

3. Even when the KZN government decided to have a central state of teh art PRODUCTION House they gave it to KZN artists. Your department could invest into teh PACOFS studio and hire professional engineers and producers to focus on Free State Sound with partnerships with SABC (Lesedi) to mainstream a free state sound.

4. The money could be used to fund Free State young people who will embark on career in ARts from ENgineers, Producers, Musicians, Multi Media, etc. Such receipient scould be assigned to come back and empower the Free State rtists with the skills they had to (again) create a FS based sound.

5. Each year funding oppportunities seem shrinking because artists request funds fomr the FS Arts Council only to be told there are NO FUNDS. This money could be invested i that structure and teh sctructure empowered to FUND wholly FS products that will be monitored for quality and assisted to get a national stage. Perhaps with such a move, my DEAR OLIVER TAMBO Project can get some light of Day.

6. Finally, the money could be used to establish a vibrant ARTS CAMPUS in the Free State where talented kids could go to be nurtured in their chosen disciplinens.

I am sure, Sir, my colleagues in the Arts industry can add a thousand more useful ideas to use that money. I know its a job of the people surrounding you but it seems for some reason they are not giving you useful ideas on running the Arts landscape.

This letter is written from a heart genuinely concerned with the Arts landscape ni the FS and I hope it is received in the same spirit. It is on teh asumption that the Weekly Report is true, even if it s not an opportubnity has been created for us to voice a lot of ills in the FS Arts Sectr. Please HEED us.

This is by no mens underplaying the various successes of the FS Government in oepning doors, the point is we can do more and the Mahoota Like transactions are not helping.

Sipho Mnyakeni (in my personal capacity)


Email: sipho@siphom.com

Stacy Hardy on Julius eastman

Filed under: music,stacy hardy,stephanus muller — ABRAXAS @ 8:54 am

a performance lecture by stacy hardy, accompanied by dj boeta g (graeme arendse) playing music by julius eastman. the performance took place at 4pm on monday 21 february in the fismer hall at stellenbosch university’s department of music. the performance took place in the context of the colloquia series organised by associate professor stephanus muller.

February 19, 2011

I hope so

Filed under: danila botha,poetry — ABRAXAS @ 12:23 pm

You sat on my bed your back against the wall

I sat on your lap

I noticed your eyes

brown with shades of olive green, long eye lashes

I thought, they’re a perfect mix of color, thick like acrylic paint seamlessly mixed with a paintbrush

I like your lips

Your taste in music

Your gentlemanly ways

your hesitation your need to ask my permission

the way you can be gentle but fun

taking parts of me with small careful bites

keeping a little mystery, teasing me

I warn you, I said, I like things my way, I’m difficult

I like a challenge, you answered

And I smiled, good answer, I thought, but I wonder if you mean it

If we will get to know each other like each other, keep seeing each other

if we’ll be good to each other

keep having fun keep being honest with each other

If we’ll keep our promise not to hurt each other

I hope so you seem sweet enough

February 10, 2011

harvey stapleton

Filed under: just good friends — ABRAXAS @ 2:52 pm

I met Harvey Stapleton in 1979 when he was working at a shop called Keogh Coins in Durban. I used to work there in the stamp department. Harvey worked mainly buying and selling gold coins, Krugerrands etc. He rode a motorbike and always had wild long hair. He had a great sense of humour and we shared music tastes. He loved jazzy, sophisticated sounds and I remember very clearly when Steely Dan’s GAUCHO album was released Harvey came into the shop with immense delight brandishing the album. We used to argue a lot about the value of lyrics in music – he was a great believer in the idea that lyrics did not mean a thing and the words only had value because they held the melody line together.

He was very verbally gifted and we would enjoy playing with people’s names, making acronyms out of sentences etc. He always used to call a beer a reeb and so forth. It was from Harvey that I learned the joy of calling people by their name pronounced backwards – my girlfriend at the time thus became “Haras”.

When I left South Africa to avoid being conscripted into the apartheid army Harvey gave me a lift to the airport. He was a very supportive friend. The photo you see on the blog was taken at the airport, I was flying from Durban to Joburg and from there out the country into exile. I did not see Harvey again until 1993 a full ten years later. At that time he had opened a gold coin business of his own and was operating out of the first floor of a building in Smith street, Durban. I visited him then and we talked a lot about the condition of the not yet new South Africa, he said to me “This country is going down the tubes.”

That was the last time I saw Harvey. I remember him as somebody who did not have to agree with you in order to support you. That’s real friendship. He passed away 15 years ago today.

Aryan Kaganof

ps. I remember him so well singing this verse from Gaucho, he really loved that album and this song in particular:

Who is the gaucho amigo
Why is he standing
In your spangled leather poncho
And your elevator shoes
Bodacious cowboys
Such as your friend
Will never be welcome here

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