More than a Muslim musical

11 03 2010

“I’m the author of this piece, but not the writer” – Victoria Brittain’s name is on the byline of the new theatre piece Waiting, but she’s the first to point out that it’s actually a wholly collaborative effort.

This weekend the lives of five refugee women will be given a spotlight at the Southbank Centre. These women’s husbands have been in Guantanamo Bay or detained in Belmarsh Prison without trial for suspected links with terrorism. Their cultural backgrounds vary from Senegal to Jordan, Palestine to the English Midlands. Their stories as women, wives, mothers placed in such a position are yet to be told.

Waiting aims to give a unique perspective on the war on terror. Victoria Brittain has spent years speaking with real women about their experiences, hearing how their lives were blast into turmoil in a hostile post-9/11 world. She’s collected these conversations, and what will be presented on the stage in the intimate Purcell Room is a powerful amalgam of these voices, I’m sure.

With the unconventional perspective comes the unconventional medium. Rather than just speaking the words, the women will also sing of their experiences. There’s an original score written by Jessica Dannheisser with cellos to accompany the vocals.

If you really think about it, where else are you likely to see such an expression from such a viewpoint before? There are loads of documentaries, each with their unique take on various post-9/11 perspectives. This one, however, is as yet unearthed. And I think the verbatim music theatre genre will serve to bring out the poignancy of the women’s words, uprooting their voices from the dark underbelly of female Muslim experience in Britain, forcing people to stop, look and listen.

There are just a handful of tickets left for the Saturday night performance at the Southbank Centre, and if you can make it, I would urge you to do so!

Here’s all the info you’ll need:

Waiting by Victoria Brittain
Date: Friday 12 March – Saturday 13 March 2010
Time: 7.45pm on both nights
Price: £15
Click here to book.

After each performance, Victoria Brittain will chair a debate discussing the issues raised during the evening. The panels include Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, Gareth Peirce, Manjinder Virk, Riz Ahmed, Salma Yacob, Vanessa Redgrave and Moazzam Begg.

Watch this excellent promotional mini-documentary to find out a bit more


Findufountain gets Uplifted

9 03 2010

You may remember waaay back in the day (in other words, Jan 2010) when I directed your faithful eyes to the Uplift Magazine website.

Sarah, the editor of this illustrious online magazine, gave me the opportunity to write about the Tongues on Fire Asian film festival as part of the International Women’s Day features for Uplift. Check out the feature here.

Click click click away! And I urge you all to check out all the other fascinating articles and features on the website for fresh female perspectives on just about everything.

Big thank you to Sarah for letting me do a piece for one of my favourite online magazines!

Don’t forget to follow Uplift on Twitter, Facebook and MySpace.

Celebrate International Women’s Day with Paraiso!

9 03 2010

Some of you may know I’m part of the Paraiso School of Samba, London’s most authentic Brazilian Rio-style samba school.

(Here’s a picture of me and my fellow sambistas playing the part last Christmas:)

This year we’re celebrating International Women’s Day with the Lambeth Council presenting an all-female bateria (drum ensemble). We’ll be resurrecting the spirit of Rio’s carnival, only just laid to rest a couple of weeks ago,and bringing the party to the streets of Brixton. There’s no doubt we’re gonna be making the loudest sound there with our drums!

Here’s a little snippet from the Lambeth Council Website to give you an idea of what else you can get up to:

We have a range of activities on offer including free therapies, demonstrations, children’s corner, fashion and jewellery, sewing, employment, education and financial advice, dance and poetry and much, much more.

Motivational seminars
You can also attend one of three motivational seminars offering practical tips on:

  • ‘How to reorder your life’
  • ‘Feel the fear – do it anyway’
  • ‘How to make your money matter’.

Come and show your support, have a little boogie, and check out all the other activities going down at the Lambeth Town Hall this Saturday 13 March from midday til 4pm.

Stars step up against Asian Network closure

8 03 2010

The recent announcements that BBC radio stations 6 Music and the Asian Network are facing closure have caused quite a stir among the listening public.

Although the BBC are trying to justify the closures (just a small part of a massive slash in spending), I doubt there are many people who will let this happen without a fight or few.

The BBC Asian Network for me has not only been a way of connecting with British-Asian culture around the whole country, but I’ve been able to share new and old music with peers who would normally never be exposed to it. (See my earlier post on Nihal as an example). As a radio station for British-Asians, and on an intellectual level, the Asian Network is unparalleled.

This weekend, the Guardian published a letter addressed to the BBC Trust urging them to reconsider the closure of the Asian Network, describing it as “a retrograde step”. It’s been signed by some of the biggest Asian names in Britain today and the list goes on for a bloody while, too!

I just hope they take stock of the points made in the letter along with the tremendous amount of backing behind the online radio station and reconsider the closure. Otherwise there’ll be a gaping hole of cultural expression in media and music for Asians nation-wide.

It’s not patronising, it’s normalising. Fool!

8 03 2010

Last month Boris Johnson slashed funding for Black History Month. He already cancelled the Rise Festival last year. And now Africa Day. And he’s cut funding for Jewish events and St Patrick’s Day. There are probably tonnes more on the way.

Yet somehow he thinks that he can justify spending what has now hit a running total of £100,000 (that’s right my friend, one muf*ckin’ hundred G’s) on USA Day.

This is sad, sad news for all Londoners, no matter what their race or heritage. If things carry on like this, there’ll be no celebration of the diversity that makes this city and country what it is! And the idiots who argue that events like Black History Month are patronising for the ‘black youth’ of today are only exposing their ignorance by pooling the ‘black youth’ into one homogenous group.

These events serve not only to celebrate diverse cultures, but to share and learn. To allow us to better understand our neighbours and expand our own experiences.  It’s necessary to have these events to break down the stereotypes so strongly upheld by media and sensationalist reporting.

Boris, sort it out mate. And the Americans are coming here to get away from the USA, not to have more of it!

Probably Boris' worst nightmare...

(Picture provided by leafar)

“It’s always important to remember your roots”

12 02 2010

The name “Die Antwoord” has been making barely-visible tremors on the landscape of my facebook news feeds for a few days now. I decided to check out some of the videos posted by my facebook mates and do a bit o’ web-diggin’.

What I’ve found so far has got me seriously excited. Die Antwoord are a South African rap crew made up of Ninja, Yo-Landi Vi$$er and the man behind the beats, DJ Hi-Tek (not to be mistaken with the mighty DJ Hi-Tek, American hip-hop producer, one half of Reflection Eternal with Talib Kweli).

With no exaggeration, they are unlike anything I’ve ever come across. While they’re certainly one of the most bizarre-looking ensembles to recently grace the online music sphere (check out Ninja’s tattoos and high-top, Yo-Landi’s sky-high fringe, dyed blonde by professionals because according to her, “it’s always important to remember your roots”, Hi-Tek’s way of, errr, just looking like a fat lazy guy dreaming about a double cheeseburger), there’s no doubt that they’re causing a stir…

The main rapper, Ninja, drops insolent flows in a thick South African accent, while the catchy hooks, sung in Yo-Landi’s genuinely high-pitched voice, stick around in your head even hours after listening. DJ Hi-Tek has provided the goods in a profound way. I defy anyone to sit still without at least bumping their heads if not more to these tracks.

There’s much to be learned from Die Antwoord. Least of all, the meaning of Zef, which is explained by the two vocalists of the group here. Click and watch it. It’s actually hilarious!

Beyond that, there’s a fierce, almost violent loyalty to the varied and diverse influences that make up South African culture, adn ultimately, that make them them. Die Antwoord embrace their Cape Town heritage and are determined to bring it forth for the whole world to see.

Now I urge you to head to their website and check out their album $o$ which will be on sale soon I believe. Read their “20 Fund Facts about Die Antwoord” too. And then try to decypher their Cape Town slang.

Here are some more videos:

This review at Tilt Magazine is also pretty good.

There’s loads more to be seen and heard on the ‘interwebs’. Just google ‘ em and watch the next 3 hours disappear in a haze of Die Antwoord oblivion.

It’s some next-level shit.

If you like words

8 02 2010

The most awesome proprietors of the revolutionary Writer’s Block (see blogroll to the right, yo) are putting on their first show of the decade! And you should come along for these reasons:

  1. You are guaranteed to see/hear the most inspiring and talented acts this century, whether they’re poets, musicians, film-makers, graffiti artists, the DJ or the most charming compere, Tracy D.
  2. The bar, Juno, serves fantastic food.
  3. Because I said so. Obviously!

But seriously. I first got into spoken word and performance poetry while studying in NYC where I frequented the ultra-quirky Bowery Poetry Club. Their regular Tuesday open mic night, the Urbana Poetry Slam featured some of the MOST blindingly talented wordsmiths I had ever come across. Every time I went, I left the buzzing atmosphere with goosebumps, and probably fancying one of the poets for I am, indeed, a sucker for a well-articulated mofo.

I came back to London desperate to witness the same level of overly inspiring, vibrant and unique showcasing of talent. Of course poetry is around in many forms and personas in the city, but I had yet to experience the bumpin’, audience-participatory, almost-party vibe that the Bowery had offered.

My poetry-prayers were answered in the form of Writer’s Block. After failing to successfully make it down to the Shoreditch location a few times, I eventually reached it in June of last year and was completely blown away! With the warm June sun shining outside (yeah, remember when the sunshine was actually HOT?) the bar was packed and after each act, there was a buzzing consensus that we had all just witnessed some of the rawest and genuine talent to come from this fledgling, ‘lost’ generation in the past few years.

And although never exactly the same, subsequent Writers Block events have always featured the same high level of talent from already-established as well as up-and-coming artists. And with people from all kinds of backgrounds, the stories they bring to the stage are always infallibly varied and fascinating. There’s bound to be something that grabs your attention by the collars, comes right close up to its face and lays on a gigantic smacker, leaving you enamoured, if only for a sweet minute.

If that’s not enough to persuade you, then check out the review of the September 2009 Writer’s Block on the Bookfreeq blog here. (If you take a quick glance at the blogroll you’ll see her freeqy self perched among other very cool links!).

I’ll now present to you, as always, all the finely-scented details in a neat little parcel pour toi:

Writer’s Block “Passion” Show
Date: Thursday Feb 11th 2010
Time: 8pm onwards (but I’d advise getting there early as it gets packed fairly quickly)
Location: Juno, 134-135 Shoreditch High Street, London, E1 6JE
Price: £5

If you want to stalk Writer’s Block (they won’t mind):

See you there fellow wordlovers!