Exactly in August 2009, legendary Nigerian drummer Tony Allen, who created the Afrobeat along with his old bandmate Fela Kuti, and I had our first historical meeting in Paris, France. I had flown in from Shanghai, China, to meet with him for an informal encounter. Despite our heavy working schedules and limited time, the meeting lasted for about two hours. During the discussions, I asked him several questions about his professional musical career and life. In fact, he was extremely passionate and enthusiastic talking with me, and to remember him here are a few excerpts:
When did you begin your musical career and who are your favorite musicians?
My career started at the age of 20. In fact, I was hired by Sir Victor Olaiya to play claves with his highlife band, “the Cool Cats” and was able to fill the drum-set chair when the former Cool Cats drummer left the band. I also played with Agu Norris and the Heatwaves, the Nigerian Messengers and the Melody Makers.
In 1964, I joined Fela’s ‘Koola Lobitos’ and stayed with Fela for 15 years. When I was learning to play I’d check out LPs and magazine tutorials by Gene Krupa, Art Blakey and Max Roach, Guy Warren was also an influence. Of course, I was also a fan of Elvin Jones, Tony Williams and Bernard Purdie.
I was asked to name my dream band to play with, and I chose: Oumou Sangare and Salif Keita on vocals, Bootsy Collins on bass, George Benson on guitar, Wayne Shorter on sax, Joe Zawinul on keys, Don Cherry on trumpet, and with a line-up like that I’d have to be the drummer!
What was the motivation behind your chose profession?
My parents were…not keen. Back then, musicians were more or less thought of as beggars, or worse. But I just put it in front of them. I was an electrical technician, but I wanted to make a change. My mother was never happy about it, but my father, who was an amateur musician, eventually agreed.
How is this profession influencing or shaping your own social life?
It has had a profound effect. Our albums with Afrika 70 either provoked or described a series of increasingly brutal attacks by the Nigerian army and police. Fela and his immediate family bore the brunt of this long and shameful catalogue of assaults, trumped up charges and jailings, and I myself was jailed on one occasion. With Fela it was like being at university, and you don’t run away from education. We learnt so much by not being cowards.
When I left Fela’s band that had a big effect on my life. Lagos was too small for me and Fela. It was a small place, and I wanted room to take off without causing competition, I eventually chose Paris partly because the British immigration people were giving me difficulties, but also because African music was more happening then in Paris than in London, and my record company at the time was in France. It was the only place I felt I could exercise my knowledge. The only place to make a living. Being a musician, the line between work and social life is, often blurred doing what I do for a living is what I do for enjoyment.
There seems to be some truthfulness in your career. Which songs spiritually appeal most to you personally when on stage?
Absolutely, as a musician and an artist you have to be true to yourself. Different songs appeal to me more at different times and under different circumstances, it can depend on who you’re playing with, where you’re playing and how the audience respond to what you’re playing. Playing music is very spiritual but I won’t say that one thing I do is more spiritual than another as I try to invest all in everything that I do.
Of what importance are the messages you convey through your songs to our society, in your interpretation?
Afrobeat has always been about the struggle, then and now. Fela was right about everything, especially the messages in all his songs. Everything he sang about is still happening. Nigeria’s not getting any better. It’s all misadministration and corruption, survival of the fittest. Lagos is a complete mother ****** of a place. These messages we send to the government, they never listen to them. The people wait for an effect, but there’s no effect. These guys do nothing. Afrobeat is rebellious music. We have to keep shouting.
Do you mind talking about your experiences (both positive and negative) in previous European tours?
Laughs! I don’t mind at all but this is a big question that I’m not sure how to answer. The fact is that the good experiences overwhelmingly outweigh the bad, which is why I’m still out on tour at nearly 70 years old. As long as people want to come and see me play, I’ll play.
How do you usually visualize your audience during musical performances?
I am very pleased to have had the chance to play at many festivals abroad. The foreign people know all about social and political upheaval, so even though our cultures and heritage are completely different, they feel the power of Afrobeat and confirm my belief that music is the great healer in the world. It was a long musical trip, there is no way back but well worth it. You just don’t have to return, I have to move forward!
Many people think going into musical world is just to make quick money. What is your reaction to this?
Ha! Most musicians are struggling musicians only a small minority make serious money, musicians all around the world play for the love of it, to express themselves creatively and for the interaction with the audience. A lucky few might make millions but you can’t judge everyone else on that basis, lawyers, accountants, bankers, those guys make the serious money. Also, those motivated by money don’t make as good music, if your inspiration isn’t true, then it shines through in music.
Would you have opted out of stage if you were offered an alternative job? Not all, as I said earlier, I had job which I left in order to be a musician, that wa almost 50 years ago and I am still in it. I think I made the right decision.
If you could have lunch with anyone, real or fictional, alive or dead, who would it be and what is the first thing you would ask him or her?
It’s impossible to pick one single person, there are loved ones that would be great to see one more time, but musically the most obvious person would be Fela Kuti, and I’d ask him if he’s happy with what’s happened to the music that we created together.
What are your goals for the coming years?
I want to keep on doing what I do, improving and doing new things. I’m very happy with my band and our new album, we can do great things together. I’m very fortunate that I get the opportunities to work with all manner of artists doing different and interesting projects, long may it continue.
Music is my mission. I never get satisfied and I’m still learning from others. The musical world is very spiritual, and I don’t think there’s an end to it. The best legacy is your professional work and leaving an indelible mark on the minds of people.
Additional information: Agence France Press (AFP) wrote that Allen was the drummer and musical director of Fela Kuti’s band Africa ‘70 in the 1960s and 1970s. During that time, the pair created afrobeat, combining West African musical styles such as highlife and Fuji music with American imports jazz and funk. Afrobeat went on to become one of the totemic genres of 20th century African music.
Over Allen’s thrilling beat, Fela laid out his revolutionary and pan-African message, which led him to become one of the abiding icons of the struggle for freedom across the continent. Allen and Fela recorded around 40 albums together in Africa ‘70, before parting ways after a mythic 26-year collaboration. Such was the hole that Allen left in his band, Fela needed four drummers to replace him.
Allen taught himself to play drums from the age of 18, drawing inspiration from American jazz greats Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker as well as contemporary African music. He remained hugely influential and beloved by generations of musicians.
British musician and producer Brian Eno has called Allen “perhaps the greatest drummer who ever lived.” Allen was the drummer in the supergroup The Good, the Bad & the Queen, also featuring Blur singer Damon Albarn and The Clash bassist Paul Simonon, which released its second album in 2018. Tony Allen died suddenly at the age of 79 in the Paris suburb Courbevoie, France.
Useful Tips On How To Commission An Artist
Tips for Commissioning a Piece of Art
For centuries, people have been commissioning artists to create a piece that has special meaning for them, something to hang in their house, or a piece that communicates a message that the owner wants to express.
If you are one of these people, and you want a portrait or a piece of London canvas art, there are a few things you need to remember when commissioning a work of art.
The first thing you need to do is, have a concise list of what you want the piece to look like and include; do you like art deco, or do you want something more classic? Unless the artist, and you, are ok with the artist using their imagination, it is on you to have the idea.
You can be as specific or as vague as you want, but the artist will need some direction when it comes to the style, elements, colour palette, etc.
It doesn’t matter how much you love an artist or even how much you are willing to pay; some artists won’t accept your commission. This could be due to several reasons, such as a tight timeframe, the artist not feeling like they could do the work justice, or any other reasons.
What you need to remember is to not fight them on it. If they don’t think they can do it, ask if they may know someone who can or if it would be better to contact them later in the month or year.
Regarding the price, it is typically frowned upon to haggle. You are asking them to spend their time and use their immense skill and talent to create a piece for you; through years of working and mastering their craft, they know how valuable said time and skill is worth.
You must also know that you need to accept the price, and you can also get a quote for the work if you have enough details of what you want the piece to look like and include. Lastly, art is also more expensive than you may think, even if the piece is small or not as “detailed” as other work.
Once an artist gets a week or two into creating your piece, you are going to struggle to get them to change anything; and if you do, there is a very good chance the price is going to go up, or you will need to pay for a new commission completely.
This is why it is essential to know exactly what you want, what style and paint the artist must use, the size of the work etc., before a pencil or paintbrush even touches the canvas.
While many artists are highly talented and skilled, you need to accept that there may be some elements or styles that they aren’t masters of; maybe they can make incredible backdrops but struggle with faces, or they’re brilliant with people and not with animals.
While this may be more common with younger, less experienced artists, do your due diligence and find out if there are any aspects they aren’t completely confident with, and adjust them.
Another thing you need to be prepared for is the timeframe or the price to change. Artists can give you rough ideas for when they can finish a piece, but they are still humans with lives, and you never know what could happen that might slow them down.
The price can also change if they discover that your piece needs a specialised tool or expensive paint they didn’t have. While some may not charge you for this, others may.
It is essential to stay in contact with the artist while they are working on your piece. It would be best if you weren’t asking for updates every hour on the hour, but a weekly update to find out the progress or any problems helps keep the process running smoothly.
This also ensures that there are no surprises when reveal day comes, as you would already be aware of and signed off on any changes or alterations.
As mentioned, most artists who take commissions are incredibly talented and skilled, but they aren’t miracle workers. You must know that there are potentially things that aren’t possible, or at least not possible, within the parameters you provide; not everyone can do a Sistine Chapel or Jackson Pollock.
While artists can do and create a lot, it is essential to remember that there are limitations and that not everything you can imagine is possible.
Finally, you need to always be patient. There is a reason great tattoos take 20 or 30 hours or why growing the perfect garden may take a few years; awe-inspiring art takes much more time than you may think.
Even if you get given a timeline, it is still important to wait until the artist is fully satisfied with the work. This also means that you can’t rush the artist if you decide that you want the piece earlier than the agreed-upon finishing time.
Europe’s major tourist sites battle climate change to survive
Climate change is destroying heritage sites across Europe and globally. Ancient historical landmarks could disappear completely unless swift action is taken to protect them from environmental damage, researchers are warning.
Climate change is destroying heritage sites across Europe and globally. Ancient historical landmarks could disappear completely unless swift action is taken to protect them from environmental damage, researchers are warning.
Future generations may never get to explore streets conquered by medieval knights in Greece, city quarters built by the Islamic empire in Spain, 10th century cliff-top castles in Slovakia and many other historical wonders in Europe.
Floods and rising temperatures are already damaging ancient buildings, said Angelos Amditis, project coordinator of a project called HYPERION which is helping major sites in Greece, Italy, Spain and Norway, adapt to the impacts of climate change.
‘If we don’t act fast, if we don’t allocate the right resources and knowledge, and … create a common alliance to address the climate change issues, we will pay very dearly,’ he said.
‘We may (completely) lose well-known landmarks in Europe and globally … our children may not have a chance to see them except on video,’ said Dr Amditis, who is director of Research and Development in the Athens-based Institute of Communication and Computer Systems (ICCS).
The HYPERION project is developing tools for mapping out the risks and helping local authorities find the most cost-effective ways to reduce the vulnerability of historical sites.
Mapping the risks includes assessing the structure and condition of buildings and monuments and installing sensors to monitor the ongoing impacts of climate change and other threats to the sites.
The project also uses data from Europe’s Copernicus satellites to map the areas at risk and gather climate data.
What can make conservation work particularly complex is that different buildings on a single site were often constructed in different eras and using different materials. Each building must therefore be individually assessed, and may need different forms of protection.
For example, early builders in Venice often re-used stones and other bits of buildings found locally. As the city became wealthier, it began importing fresh materials which were better quality, and are proving more resistant to the impacts of rising tides and floods.
And in Norway’s Viking town of Tønsberg, buildings were constructed over several centuries, and made with different types of wood or stone. Local temperatures are rising, and affecting each building material differently, said Dr Amditis.
Many monuments and sites are made more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change because they are already suffering damage from pollution, earthquakes or other hazards.
So, to boost their resilience to climate change, they need to be restored and protected from all the hazards they face, said Dr Amditis.
For example, Greece’s beautiful city of Rhodes is hit by frequent heatwaves, earthquakes and flooding. But its medieval buildings also need protection from damage caused by heavy delivery lorries. This could involve finding a less harmful way to transport goods to the local population, said Dr Amditis. The HYPERION project is not involved in this aspect of the city’s resilience planning.
Authorities must involve local communities when planning ways to protect heritage, said Daniel Lückerath, project coordinator of a project called ARCH.
‘The danger is that they will not like the solution you provide and then they might not use the historic area anymore,’ said Dr Lückerath, who is a project manager at Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Intelligent Analysis and Information Systems (IAIS).
‘People are what make historic areas … what give those areas value,’ he said. Without them, ‘you would just have a ghost town,’ he added.
Like HYPERION, the ARCH project is developing tools for authorities to assess and protect their local heritage. ARCH is co-designing these with authorities in Slovakia’s ancient capital Bratislava, the Italian village of Camerino, Valencia in Spain and Germany’s harbour-city, Hamburg.
Sometimes there is a difficult trade-off between protecting heritage and allowing new developments which benefit the local community. For example, Hamburg recently carried out major dredging work to allow larger container ships to reach its port.
This work, combined with climate change, is changing the water levels in the city’s 19th century warehouse district which is a World Heritage Site, said Dr Lückerath. This change in water levels could weaken the foundations of the old warehouses so they will need ongoing monitoring, he said.
Major heritage sites are not the only ones that need to be preserved. ‘Any site in danger is a problem for the communities living there,’ said Aitziber Egusquiza, coordinator of the SHELTER project which is developing risk assessment, early warning systems and conservation tools for communities, including those with few financial and technical resources.
In some cases, local authorities do not monitor the impacts of climate change and other risks, lack information about the age and state of their local heritage, and lack the political will to protect it. As a consequence, communities living near some of Europe’s most exposed sites are not necessarily aware of their vulnerability, making it very difficult to conserve them.
‘That worries me,’ said Egusquiza, who is senior researcher at Tecnalia, an independent research and technology organisation in Spain.
It is important to convince the leadership to invest in conserving these sites, especially as they bring tourism and jobs – both of which will be lost if that heritage is lost, said Egusquiza.
‘We need to put more numbers on what will be lost if we don’t act,’ he said, referring to projections about economic impacts on local communities.
The tools developed by SHELTER, ARCH and HYPERION projects will be tested by the cities and communities which helped design them, and then trialed in other regions to see if they can be replicated in different situations. Ultimately, the aim is to help all communities protect their heritage.
But with Europe and other regions facing the combined crises of the COVID-19 pandemic, war in Ukraine, and rising cost of living, it is easy for leaders to push preserving cultural heritage down the list of priorities, said Dr Amditis.
‘It is a very expensive and time-consuming exercise, but it is worth the time and the resources. If you lose even one site, it’s a big loss for humanity,’ he added.
The research in this article was funded by the EU. This article was originally published in Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation Magazine.
The Evil Russian on American Screens: Stranger Things Season Four Short Review
After the collapse of communism in Russia a few years ago, the frequency of propaganda through the media carried out by the United States that presents Russians as evil, ruthless, and very cruel was expected to decrease. This alleged decline is because the United States’ attention has been diverted to many Arab and Middle Eastern countries after the 9/11 incident. However, these American filmmakers have retained the depiction of Russians as “the bad one” in their film masterpieces, whether for merit or business reasons.
Maybe it’s not just a hobby or a business, but as a form of counter-resistance from the West to a series of events and political steps taken by the Russian side during that period to the present day. Russia, which often shows the power and absoluteness of its government—even though it has taken the form of a communist state—wants to show its identity as a true geopolitical enemy of the United States. As if invited to return nostalgia, the Russian government now feels more like a reincarnation of the Soviet era.
The depiction of Russians as criminals on the screen of the United States is the most concrete and decisive manifestation of the Soviet Union’s communist regime, which is all associated with being antagonistic and full of oppression. The above is still relevant today for most Americans that Russians tend to be scary and have bad intentions. The reason is that the Russian government, which Vladimir Putin currently leads, gives the impression of being hard, fierce, and scary. The ex-KGB, Vladimir Putin, has been heavily criticized for his policies during his time in power. Putin has been criticized for his big ambitions to expand his country’s geopolitical capacity to defend himself against future NATO attacks. The 2014 annexation of Crimea evidences this ambition—it did not stop there—Putin showed a fierce side of himself by supporting the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria until the invasion of Ukraine in early 2022.
The portray of Russian citizens as cruel and terrible antagonists has been produced in many American films, such as in the movie John Wick—whose dog was killed by Russian criminals. Not only that, but the American series also took part in projecting this. Call it Stranger Things. Regarding the depiction of Russia as “the bad one” and America as “the good and superhero,” the author will discuss the sub-plot of saving Jim Hopper in the fourth season of Stranger Things which was just released on 27 May 2022 and 1 July 2022 then.
In this fourth season, the depiction of the Stranger Things story is divided into several settings, one of which is the story of Jim Hopper being a prisoner of Russia. This Jim Hopper sub-plot shows the audience the horrors of Russia’s prisons. This plot presents the impressions of prisoners being treated harshly like slaves who deserve to die and several scenes showing the violence of the prison guards on Jim while being interrogated about his friend Joyce Byer in the third season of Stranger Things. The highlight of the depiction of the Russian character as a party with bad intentions is to reveal research on the terrible monster “Demogorgon” in Stranger Things that have appeared since its first season. We can assume that the Russians are deliberately keeping the monster for later testing. This little depiction is enough to allow the audience to be furious. Jim Hopper, who unexpectedly managed to escape from a Russian prison, suddenly wanted to crush the Demogorgons instead of escaping and flying to America when the opportunity was at hand. Through this, The Duffer Brothers seem to give the impression that the bad and unwanted things in the future tend to be caused by Russia, while America comes to save the world.
Still around the story of Jim’s rescue and attempted escape as a Russian prisoner, the character of Yuri Ismaylov—an airplane pilot from Russia—played by actor Nikola Djuricko also received quite a bit of attention. The reason is, that Yuri’s character is described as a braggart and a con artist who causes Jim to have difficulty escaping many times. Again, the Russians are illustrated as the wrong side and the source of trouble.
There are several analyses related to the reasons for the American film embedding the Russian side as an antagonist. One is America’s desire to maintain a superior image to its geopolitical opponents. America has so far maintained its desires and ambitions due to the old story of the great ideological feud in the past Cold War era—between communists and liberals. From this old story, the depiction of good and bad in American films is still felt today.
However, apart from the reasons above, which emphasize the ideological war and show off between the two sides, it is also possible that these films were made in the context of business interests. To be precise, American Screens don’t want to get out of their comfort zone. The success of films portraying the Russian character as cunning, cruel, and full of intrigue gave American filmmakers an exhilarating feeling. For example, American films entitled The Equalizer, Atomic Blonde, and Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol managed to make big money. For this reason, maintaining the image of Russia’s antagonist can be said to be done for smooth business.
Now, the question is, how long will America place its geopolitical enemy as a villain in its cinematic masterpieces? The answer to the question above is the same as asking a question about how long America and Russia will be enemies and show off against each other in the eyes of the world. Our job as film lovers is to sit back and chew popcorn on a comfortable sofa. Eliminate the bad stereotypes brought by the media because the truth is that the media are not always right and often exaggerate problems. Truly, people are different from government, may be we will have many unexpected things in common. So, release endless hatred.
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