Do you find history tedious, uninspiring, dry?
Fret not, you are not alone.
Luckily Ethel the Confessor feels your pain and has written, just for you, a quick and easy run-down of some of the big scary moments that happened in those far off days of yore.
(I should warn you now, some of them are rude – Ethel has strong opinions.)
Then you can go and face the pub quiz or your child’s homework with your head held high.
If you want to know the basics of how one king got through six queens, now you can in words we can all understand.
If you want to know the basics of why this bit of paper is so famous , now you can in words we can all understand.
If you want to know the basics of what happened to kill half the population of Europe, now you can in words we can all understand.
If you want to know the basics of what happened in 1066, now you can in words we can all understand.
The 1970s was a tough decade for everyone. Misogyny, homophobia and racism were the norm. There was no such thing as ‘Health and Safety’ or ‘Child Protection’ and bullying was the accepted form of natural selection. A nation still recovering from World War 2 (a mere 30 years earlier) was struggling to find its identity and importance on the world stage, post empire. And of course, nuclear war was imminent. Paranoia was rife albeit from the Soviet threat and the new threat of thousands upon thousands of immigrants from Asia and the Caribbean flooding the country with their weird food and funny foreign ways. Fueled by Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech, the far right in the form of the National Front reared their disgusting heads creating fear and division amongst fragile new communities across the land. Not a great time for a small bespectacled brown boy to be making his way in the world!
However, September 1975 was the time for 8 year old Roger to make the transition from safe cuddly Wordsworth First School, under the protection of the feisty Jose Cavalo, to the large, unpredictable and scary world of Foundry Lane Middle. Stories of elephants as pets would no longer cut it and despite having an older sister already in situ, the fear was palpable and I knew it would not take long for the bullies to find me. I needed something to give me an edge, to stand out for different reasons and above all, to command some respect. Many young people these days find gangs, weapons and dangerous older role models for the exact same reasons that I was struggling with but these, mercifully, were not available to me and I know had they been, this is the path I would have chosen.
No, something else presented itself to me. The mysterious case children.
What were these strange wooden cases that children were carrying back and forth from school everyday that created an aura of mystique, respect and class and above all, how could I get hold of one? Not your modern trendy gig bags but old fashioned wooden coffins that occasionally gave away their secret by their shape. Is that a violin, a guitar perhaps? My parents reaction to my announcement of wanting to play an instrument was simple. “You gave up playing the recorder, what makes you think playing the trumpet would be any different?” My reasons were not musical at the time but this decision came to shape my life for ever.
The nature of music making means that there are many opportunities for making a complete fool of yourself in front of a lot of people. One particular event that stands out in my mind is the end of year concert at Hailsham Community College, Sussex, England in July 1998.
As the visiting brass teacher and band director, I was due to conduct the College band at the opening of the concert which was a showcase of the year’s musical achievements and annual prize giving ceremony. In attendance at this year’s celebration were the usual school dignitaries, guests and the Mayor as well as many hundreds of parents and children.
As a busy peripatetic teacher, I had been rushing around all day from school to school and had hardly anytime for myself. Having arrived in Hailsham with plenty of time, checked in with the band and Director of Music, I still had fifteen spare, precious minutes for a long needed trip to the toilet! So, off I go to the staff room, on the top floor, locate the men’s room at the far end, find a clean cubicle and breathe a sigh of relief. Not one minute into my activity, I hear the terminal ‘clunk’ of a door being locked. The toilet door! After a few moments of disbelief, I begin calling out “Hello, hello, I’m in here!” To no avail. I am locked in the toilet on the top floor of a remote part of a huge Community College five minutes before curtain up.
The over zealous caretaker had decided to get a head start on his evening’s shutting down routine and I was on the inside, trapped.
A small window was my only option and route of escape, so after prizing it open, I managed to squeeze my six foot frame through the unfeasibly small orifice only to find myself on the roof of the main hall some fifty feet above ground level. A quick scout around found a skylight looking directly down and into the concert hall where my band and the audience were waiting patiently for the arrival of the conductor. Me! Over the PA, I heard the chilling words, “Please welcome our brass teacher and band director, Roger Moisan” Audience applaud and I do not walk on to the stage because I am on the roof!
Panic kicked in and I decided I had to get down some how, so after a bit of roof hopping from level to level, I managed to get low enough to be able to slide down and drop on to a dumpster, leg it around the front of the building, into the hall, pick up my baton and start the band. We played well and all seemed ok until my chat with the mayor after the show. “Roger, do you realise you have what seems to be a tyre track mark all the way up your trousers and jacket?” It was the summer and my concert attire was a beige Chino suit (it was the 90s) and those in the know are aware that schools use non-setting, thick black paint to prevent the most athletic kids from climbing onto the roof. I had performed, with my back to the crowd, looking like a victim from a Road Runner cartoon!
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You can now study with Debdeep Misra online or in residence. This is a fantastic opportunity to learn the art of Indian Classical Singing with an authentic highly qualified musician of note.
Born in 1993, Debdeep Misra the grandson of legendary vocalist Pandit Bishnu Sebak Misra of Benaras gharana(piyari gharana) loved music enough to start listening, appreciating and learning at a very tender age of four under the guidance of his mother smt. Banani Misra-one of the desciples of Pt. A.kanan and Vidushi Girija Devi and his father who is disciple of pt. Mani lal Nag.
Few years later,Debdeep’s formal training started under Pt. Tushar Dutta.
Since 2006,Debdeep is under the tutelage of veteran vocalist Pt. Aniruddha Bhattacharya
Debdeep has given quite a few recitals organised by connaisseurs in various places like Westbengal,Kolkata,Mumbai,Delhi,Ranchi,Varanasi where he featured among the stalwarts of classical music. Inspired by Swami Vivekananda,Debdeep worked hard and got the chance in Ramakrishna Mission Vivekanada Vidyamandir Malda.
• Debdeep is awarded with “GIRIDHARI RATNA SAMMAN” in 2017 by Puravai sannskreetikala vikaashkendra Kolkata.
• He has got “ PANDIT TRIMBAKRAO JANORIKAR SASHTRIYA GAYAN ” award by Gaanwardhan Pune in 2017.
Achievement and Degree:
• In 2004,got enlisted within top ten from all over India in Ravi kichlu golden talent contest.
• In 2016,secured 2nd place in all India music competition organised by Vistar.
• Debdeep has earned “Sangeet Prabhakar” degree from Prayag sangeet samiti of Allahabad.
• He has earned “Sangeet Bisharad” degree from Prachin Kala Kendra of Chandigarh.
• Along with classical music,Debdeep has completed his masters in physics.
Few Noted performances:
1. India Habitat Centre – New Delhi-2017
2. Concert organized by swar sadhna samiti – Mumbai-2017
3. Subah – e-benaras -Varanasi -2017
4. Kala vithika Apurva pratibha mahotsav – ICCR Kolkata-2017
5. Concert in Bhowanipore sangeet sammelani – Kolkata-2017
6. Concert organized by Admires of tagore,shyamoli–Ranchi-2017
7. Ustad Abu daud sangeet sammelan –Malda-2016
8. Concert organized by Sur Archana group– Nazrul mancha kolkata-2016
9. Pandit Bishnu sebak Misra sangeet sammelan-Malda-2015,2008
10. Concert organized by sangeetam-Malda- 2003,2004
• Hindusthan 5-3-2017- “Morning started with raga lalit”. Varanasi,at assi ghat in subah-e-banaras,Debdeep embellish the stage with raga lalit.
The Arban Method (La grande méthode complète de cornet à piston et de saxhorn par Arban) is a complete pedagogical method for students of trumpet, cornet, and other brass instruments. The original edition was published by Jean-Baptiste Arban sometime before 1859 and is currently in print. It contains hundreds of exercises, ranging in difficulty. The method begins with basic exercises and progresses to very advanced compositions, including the famous arrangement of Carnival of Venice.
Below you will find three of the main sections of the Arban which you can download for free totally legally.
The story of how the Illuminati first ended up in a rap song is a lot like your average Illuminati conspiracy: There’s a byzantine plot and a shifting cast of somewhat famous characters with varying allegiances and interests. The genesis of the lyrics quoted above, from the 1995 remix to LL Cool J’s “I Shot Ya,” involves a beef between Tupac and that song’s featured artist, Keith Murray; Murray’s subsequent beef with Mobb Deep’s Prodigy; and a notable cameo from a 15-year-old Foxy Brown. The particulars aren’t especially important. What is important is that line, from Prodigy, that everyone remembers. It was the first time the Illuminati was mentioned prominently on wax, nestled in the middle of a needlessly complex series of beefs.“Illuminati want my mind, soul, and my body.”
It was the beginning of an entirely new school of thought in hip-hop, one as intelligent and informed as it was suspicious and paranoid. Prodigy was referring to the Illuminati conspiracy theory: the idea that there’s a network of shadowy, powerful individuals bent on controlling society by rebuilding it as a “New World Order” under a totalitarian worldwide government. Around the same time, CeeLo Green made reference to it on “Cell Therapy,” claiming, “Traces of the New World Order/Time is getting shorter if we don’t get prepared/People it’s gon’ be a slaughter.” Mentions of the Illuminati in hip-hop quickly spiked from there: Jay Z sampled Prodigy’s line from “I Shot Ya” for “D’Evils” on his 1996 debut Reasonable Doubt, sparking rumors that persist to this day that he is associated with the organization; U-God encouraged listeners to “get your shit together before the fuckin’ Illuminati hit” in 1997 on Wu-Tang Clan’s “Impossible.”Rap’s Illuminati talk wasn’t just a one-time fad, however. The fervor died down a bit, right up until 2008, when Prodigy published an open letter he’d written in jail to URB magazine, alleging that his old rival Jay Z “promotes the lifestyle of the beast.” Hip-hop culture—the innovator of so many popular fashions, styles, and sounds—rarely sees trends with such extended lifelines. And as usual, this trend among rappers has crossed over to pop culture in a big way.
Today, the Illuminati theory is as relevant as ever, often used as a way to justify the continued success of artists—Jay Z, Beyoncé, Eminem, Lady Gaga, Kanye West—who are accused of being puppets of this mysterious web of faceless figureheads. There’s an endless stream of books, podcasts, and blogs examining the Illuminati’s use of media and entertainment to carry out its agenda, and there are innumerable YouTube videos about the Illuminati with millions of views. The Illuminati is always somehow part of the conversation when a celebrity like Whitney Houston or, more recently, Prince passes away prematurely. Its signifiers—triangles, covered eyes, devil’s horns—are consistently evoked in music videos and press photos.
What’s so perplexing about the Illuminati theory and its continued life is that it’s just that: a theory. Despite the term’s prominence in hip-hop and pop culture, there is no proof that the Illuminati still exists, and not a single artist has admitted to being affiliated with it. Then why, for more than two decades, has the existence of an unconfirmed secret society been consistently connected to the music industry? Why do the rumors refuse to go away?
Secret societies have existed for centuries, and at one point, the Illuminati was real. In 1776, a German professor named Adam Weishaupt founded the Bavarian Illuminati, also known as the Order of the Illuminati, as a response to the Roman Catholic Church’s power over philosophical and scientific thought. Weishaupt aimed to recruit from within the Freemasons—a secret society that still openly exists today—to disseminate ideas of the Enlightenment. Over the course of the next decade or so he accrued an estimated 2,500 members, according to Michael Barkin’s A Culture of Conspiracy.
Though the Bavarian Illuminati disbanded by 1787 and seemingly remained inactive in the centuries that followed, rumors of its existence continued into the 20th century. They surged when President George H.W. Bush, in a 1991 speech marking the end of the Cold War, mentioned forming a “New World Order.” Some interpreted the speech as a sign that the Illuminati had been reconstituted, or had never left.
It makes sense that hip-hop would gravitate toward such a conspiracy theory. The black community has plenty of reasons to be distrustful of the government; many so-called conspiracies have, in time, turned out to be true. For example, in 1932, the U.S. Public Health Service conducted the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male, which involved 399 black men with syphilis. The “study” lasted 40 years before a special panel intervened — the afflicted men were never informed that they had syphilis and were never given penicillin. A $10 million out-of-court settlement followed in 1974. In another infamous incident, the Church Committee, a U.S. senate commission, confirmed that the FBI’s COINTELPRO initiative carried out illegal operations to interfere with, spy on and systematically disrupt the Black Panthers and many Civil Rights organizations.
Rob Brotherton, an adjunct assistant professor at Barnard College and author of Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe in Conspiracy Theories, explains that these real-life government conspiracies targeting black people planted the seeds for Illuminati theory’s popularity today. “Hip-hop served as this [soapbox] for people to talk about issues that were relevant to them, things like discrimination, poverty, the criminal justice system, which are often seemingly slanted against African-Americans,” says Brotherton, who chooses to be “professionally agnostic” about his belief in the Illuminati. “It’s a short leap to go from noticing some kind of injustice to thinking about whether there’s something behind it. Hip-hop was just a good candidate to revive this myth.”
“IT’S A SHORT LEAP TO GO FROM NOTICING SOME KIND OF INJUSTICE TO THINKING ABOUT WHETHER THERE’S SOMETHING BEHIND IT.” —ROB BROTHERTON
But why would the Illuminati target hip-hop, as rappers like Prodigy claim? The theory goes that the Illuminati recruits musicians as puppets in an attempt to influence the masses by sending hidden messages through their work. Prodigy, who started studying conspiracy theories as a high school freshman in 1989, explains that this powerful group of individuals looks to entertainment because it’s the easiest way to tap into the public’s individual energies and control them. “It’s not just about hip-hop—it’s about the entire music industry,” he says. “They’re fucking with people’s senses, their sexual energies, mental energies. They know how to manipulate the chakras in your body and set them shits off, turn them on and turn them off. If you study that type of stuff, metaphysics and all that stuff, you’ll see it’s very real.”Prodigy, now 41, however, is quick to dissociate the term “Illuminati” from modern-day networks of secretive elites, which could go by any name but uphold similar maleficent beliefs. He says it extends beyond any singular group—there are many entities conspiring to manipulate the masses for their own benefit. “It’s not all the Illuminati doing this,” he continues. “It’s a company trying to make a few millions of dollars, controlling people’s senses, emotions, and shit like that. It’s definitely happening. It’s happening in hip-hop. It might not be as deep as people think. Sometimes, the record company [is] driving sales up, making videos more sexual. They’re just trying to make a dollar. Or sometimes, it could be deep as you think. You never know. But you can’t put everything in the same box. You’ve got to really know how to separate facts from theory and fiction. You can’t just blame everything on the fucking Illuminati.”
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Identifying Illuminati symbols is the nuts and bolts of conspiracy theorists. They claim that puppets of the Illuminati tend to evoke a handful of recurring poses and images, such as the Eye of Horus, the Egyptian symbol for the all-seeing eye (featured in Katy Perry’s video for “Dark Horse,” set in ancient Egypt). Another go-to is the pyramid: In gematria, an Assyro-Babylonian-Greek code tied to Judaism, its three sides represent the spirit realm (Jay Z throwing up his signature Roc sign, a diamond made with your hands, is one of theorists’ favorites). Then there’s the number of the beast, which refers to 666, represented by making an “OK” symbol with your hand (Beyoncé does this reference to her hometown of Houston). And don’t forget devil horns, in which you make a clenched fist and then stick out your index and pinky fingers (both Eminem and Barack Obama have been photographed making this gesture).
The deeper you look, the more you’ll find. You could go so far as to decode Blue Ivy’s name—some believe it’s an acronym for “Born Living Under Evil, Illuminati’s Very Youngest”—and that wouldn’t be the most outlandish theory. “It’s so easy to do, and it’s satisfying when you can find some symbol that seems to be hidden away,” explains Brotherton. In psychology, this is referred to as “confirmation bias.” “Once you start looking for it, it’s incredibly easy to find, especially when the supposed symbols are fairly generic. Things like evil eyes or covered eyes, a circle around the eye, pyramids—they’re everywhere. Once we find them, it’s easy to incorporate them into the belief system to say, ‘Look, I’ve found a plot.’”
Lecrae, an independent rapper who has won two Grammys and scored a Billboard 200 chart-topper with his 2014 album Anomaly, is just one of many MCs and singers who has been accused of invoking Illuminati imagery in his videos. It happened to him twice, after triangles appeared in his visuals for singles “Manolo” and “Sideways.”
“I can’t smile without somebody claiming it’s symbolic, so it doesn’t matter what I do at this point in time,” he says with a laugh. “I think about it after the fact. Like, here we go, there’s a triangle behind me. But it’s just shapes. That means every trigonometry class is the Illuminati. Every optometrist that makes you cover your eye when you go for an eye exam is Illuminati. Some of this stuff is outlandish to me.”
But, he continues, “I believe in secret societies. I joined a fraternity. There are all sorts of secret connections and relationships that go on. I just think there are people in power, and people in power can make decisions.”
Some theorists see specific uses of imagery as too spot-on to be coincidental. In his book, Sacrifice: Magic Behind the Mic, a deep dive into hip-hop’s connection to the Illuminati that investigates blood sacrifices, Isaac Weishaupt (a pseudonym inspired by the original Illuminati founder) refers to the Bohemian Grove, a California campground that hosts powerful and affluent men each year and boasts alumni like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Its mascot is a representation of the ancient Greek deity Athena: an owl, the exact one that Drake uses as his logo for his label OVO Sound. At each Grove gathering, the men perform a ritual called the Cremation of Care, a mock sacrifice to a statue of the owl. Illuminati conspiracists put this organization in the crosshairs for idolatry and Satanism.
“IT’S THE EXACT SAME LOGO OF THIS OWL THAT DRAKE BE USING. THAT’S KIND OF STRANGE TO ME. WHY HE TAKE THAT OWL, THE EXACT SAME ONE, THE EXACT SAME LOGO?” —PRODIGY
“They claim it’s a mock sacrifice or whatever. There’s a whole bunch of fuckery going on over there,” Prodigy says of Bohemia Grove. “It’s the exact same logo of this owl that this motherfucker Drake be using. That’s kind of strange to me. Why he take that owl, the exact same one, the exact same logo? I’m not saying Drake is a part of something. All I’m saying is, you want to know some weird fucking shit? Check that shit out. That whole group of people with the owl shit and just doing all this fuck shit in this world, they’re the worst people on the face of the planet. Fuck all of them and anybody that’s down with them. People need to make a petition to find out what the fuck [Drake] is using that owl for.”
But for every allegation of Illuminati, there’s a rapper or musician disavowing the rumors. Beyoncé recently shut the conspiracy theorists down on “Formation,” sneering, “Y’all haters corny with that Illuminati mess.” In 2011, Kanye addressed rumors that he was an Illuminati puppet during a freestyle at New York City’s Blue Note Jazz Club. “A black man interested in art, speaking from the heart and playing my part/And all this Illuminati talk, like my first single wasn’t ‘Jesus Walks,’” he rapped.
It wasn’t the last time he addressed the conspiratorial chatter. “I heard a comment—a joke—about the Tidal press conference being an Illuminati moment,” he wrote in a Paper magazine cover story, referring to the string of A-list artists who gathered to launch the streaming service in March 2015. “If there was actually an Illuminati, it would be more like the energy companies. Not celebrities that gave their life to music and who are pinpointed as decoys for people who really run the world. I’m tired of people pinpointing musicians as the Illuminati. That’s ridiculous…. Fuck all of this sensationalism. We gave you our lives. We gave you our hearts. We gave you our opinions!”
Some artists play into the conspiracies, possibly to further a sense of mystique. In the making-the-video clip for the heavily Illuminati-imaged visuals for “Run This Town,” Jay Z was spotted wearing a sweatshirt brandishing the phrase “Do What Thou Wilt,” the official dictum of the Ordo Templi Orientis and Aleister Crowley, an occultist who founded the philosophical religion Thelema and believed himself to be a prophet at the turn of the 20th century.
The Illuminati’s continued existence will probably never be proven or disproven. But the fact that the rumors refuse to die points to a sense that people feel increasingly powerless in the face of rapid societal change, increasing inequality and continued injustices against minorities and poor people. It’s human nature to find a scapegoat for your problems, especially when they seem so insurmountable. If it isn’t the Illuminati behind it all, it’s certainly somebody.
“It doesn’t even matter who they are,” says Prodigy. “These people are so powerful we don’t know who the fuck they are. They’ll never let their identity be known. Money means nothing to them. It’s about power and control. It’s that old fight for your soul, against good versus evil. It’s a power trip thing. They want power and they feed off of power. If you do the research, you’ll see that something is happening. Somebody is in control of it.”
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In her new book, Good Booty, music critic Ann Powers embarks on a wide-ranging history of pop music in America. The title, she says, was inspired by Little Richard’s 1955 hit “Tutti Frutti.”
“In the song we all know it’s ‘Tutti frutti, oh Rudy,’ ” Powers explains. “But in the original version, which Little Richard first sang … it was ‘good booty.’ And the lyrics were very, very dirty, frankly. They were all about greasy, sexy, exciting encounters; something you couldn’t play on the radio.”
Powers’ book, which is subtitled “Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul in American Music” looks at more than a century of music as a lens through which to explore American views on sex, race and spirituality.
“Body and soul are inseparable …” she says. “And I think music is that connective tissue that reminds us that all of our experiences, even transcendent experiences, are generated in our bodies.”
On how Little Richard inspired the book title
Little Richard is arguably, or perhaps inarguably, the founding father of rock ‘n’ roll. I mean, I talk about Elvis, I talk about Buddy Holly, other rock ‘n’ roll icons from that same time period. But as far as the style and the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll, I can’t think of a better embodiment than Little Richard. I mean, this is a guy who … gave us a new language to talk about — what we feel in our bodies that we don’t always have other ways to discuss.
On the affect rhythm has on our bodies
One thing I discovered while researching this book was there’s a term called “entrainment” and it’s a term that has to do with the nervous system and how certain things outside of our bodies can actually affect our bodies and kind of change our nervous system cycles; the way our heart beats … the way … our nerves feel and music has that power. …
All music is rooted in rhythm, but particularly American music, which is defined by an African foundation and an African diaspora foundation. And so the rhythms that came through the Middle Passage, through the Caribbean to the states, which we still hear today, in you know, the music of Beyoncé, the music of the Top 40 in general. Those rhythms move our body in a particular way and help us kind of feel the things that we don’t name.
On music and sex
[It’s] a cliché to say that popular music and particularly rock ‘n’ roll is about sex or is, you know, motivated by sex, sexual feelings. But I wanted to go deeper. … I wanted to go beyond just that kind of clichéd statement. Oh yeah, of course, this is “dirty music” or whatever and really think about how, in every era from the 19th century to the present, the particular anxieties of the time and the possibilities of that time were reflected in and shaped by music.
So, for example, in the ’50s, the teenager was this new phenomenon and you know, this newly named phase of life teenage life. And people were very worried about young kids experimenting sexually, so the music reflected that. The music also guided kids through their early attempts to be erotic beings. Now kids are living on the Internet, we’re all living on the Internet. So I talk about how artists like Britney Spears with their very processed voices kind of embody virtual reality and a cyborgian way of being that reflects what’s happening erotically in cyberspace.
On music and race
Ann Powers is NPR Music’s critic and correspondent. You can read more of her work on The Record blog.
Lucent Vignette Photography/HarperCollins
In the origins of the recording industry, black and white recordings were segregated by race and, of course, this is a key aspect of the story. I say early in the book that there is absolutely no way to talk about American music — or frankly America in any way — without discussing the oppression of African-Americans, the enslavement of Africans. …
All of those things are just foundational in our culture and especially in music because, really music was the lifeline, the conveyor, for African Diaspora culture to live on as enslaved Africans became African-Americans … through the Jim Crow era into the 20th century, into the era of civil rights and into our present day.
Music is the carrier of legacies and it’s also a place in which cultures mix … sometimes through appropriation and theft, sometimes through genuine collaboration. And I wanted to look at all of that stuff. It can be hard to talk about, but I think it’s super important.
On using music as a guide through history
I think every era poses different challenges and limits and also offers different possibilities. … Right now we’re in such an incredibly challenging time in terms of relating to each other across lines of identity and recognizing oppression and some of the most intense realities of our own history. I think music can guide us through that history in a very deep way, including the history of race relations and particularly relations between African-Americans and white people in this country.
Certainly issues of appropriation arise. … But what I think is that music reflects the best of us coming together but also has offered a way for communities to preserve their own traditions and legacies and to speak to each other through those legacies.
So music … I’m not saying it’s utopian. I really don’t believe that and I’m not saying that it’s all about liberation. I think it’s important to recognize that in music we share our ugliest emotions as well as our most beautiful emotions.
Elizabeth Baker and Janaya Williams produced and edited the audio of this interview. Maquita Peters adapted it for the Web.
The 1973 Chilean coup d’état was a watershed event in both the history of Chile and the Cold War. What followed was an extended period of social and political unrest between the center-right dominated Congress of Chile and the elected socialist President Salvador Allende, as well as economic warfare ordered by US President Richard Nixon. Allende was overthrown by the armed forces and national police. All hell broke out in Chile which meant a much needed diversion and reprieve for me. This horrendous up-rising allowed the Cavalo family to seek asylum in the UK and most importantly of all, the addition of another scared, small, brown boy to Wordsworth First School. I was off the hook!
Jose could run and I mean really run and he could fight like his life depended on the outcome which it had, back home. However, Jose could not speak a word of English. Now, I had never been any further than Devon at this point and the only Spanish I knew was Sombrero so the obvious answer was to put us together ‘cos we were both a bit odd. To my delight, in 1974-75, Wordsworth First School belonged to Jose and I. As it turned out, my new found ally could provide the necessary muscle and I the brains to ensure both our safety, domination of the playground, dressing up corner
and Mrs Goodwin’s undivided attention.
Sadly, all good things come to an end and by the Autumn it was clear that Jose and I would not be going to the same Middle school in the September of ’75. In fact, after a glorious summer of playing out doors when all the white children had to hide from the sun, I only saw Jose briefly again as teenagers when it was clear his life had taken a very different path to mine and he was entwined with grief, pain, miss-understanding and crime. The last I knew of Jose’s life was from the local newspaper. “18 year old Jose Cavalo paralysed from the neck down after crashing a stolen car.”
Music is that medium of communication which provides a way by which people can share emotions, intentions, and meanings. Music can exert powerful physical and behavioural effects which can produce deep emotions within us. It can generate a sense of peace and happiness within a person. Music be it vocal or instrumental has a deep impact on the human body.
Playing an instrument is a way to express and communicate our thoughts and feelings. In Indian music where ragas are the whole and soul of the music, Indian musical instruments conveyed the essence of raga without the use of lyrics. The beauty of Indian music is that it is an unusual combination of technique, structure and improvisation. So, even the person playing some instrument can communicate a lot of things to the audience through its playing of a particular instrument. Every instrumentalist, specially in India has a distinct style of playing the notes.
Some instruments like sarangi and violin are considered to be the closest to the vocals of a singer. Instruments like flute and sehnnai have effectively communicated the sweetness and richness of a particular raaga or the song. If one listens to Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia or Ustaad Bismillah Khan, its sure one won’t miss the vocals. Their instruments are sufficient to take the audience into a journey of melody and peace.
In Indian Music concerts specially in instrumental music concerts, I will regard the audience as the “consumers.” The quality of performance is dependent on the quality of the audience participation in this manner. It is definitely a two-way communication, where the performer and the audience share a symbiotic and mutually beneficial relationship. That is why, I regarded audience as the consumers. The instrumentalist attracts more audience then a vocal musician because in vocal music their is a barrier of language. For example- a person who does not understand Hindi may not be interested in Indian Vocal Music but that person may be interested in instrumental music because it does not include any language. When our Indian instrumentalists tour different countries for the concerts, its not just they go and play a particular raga but its like communicating the Indian culture through their instruments.
To conclude, instrument playing is an effective way of communicating one’s emotions and thoughts to the audience.If one listens to Ustaad Amjad Ali Khan’s Raag Malhar one could feel the pouring of rains beside him/her. Its not just the case with Ustaad Amjad Ali Khan’s sarod but if one listens to anyone of that level one can get the true feel and essence of the raga/song.
If you’re reading this article for answers, I don’t have any. I’m simply writing about goals I’ve had musically and how they were achieved. The definition of success has several iterations. The one I like the most is “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” Using this, success can be whatever your heart desires at any level. This makes sense to me.
Many times, when we set goals, we go big. I’ve done this so often it’s not even funny. The main problem I have with this is when I try and take on the world, I set myself up for failure, as there are too many components that need to be achieved for success. By breaking the big picture down into smaller goals, the mark for success is easier to accomplish. I’m not saying the task itself will be easy, but better than taking on the whole. This approach can be useful in life as well.
When I first started playing guitar, the only goal I had was to play on stage. At the age of 14 my aspirations were not about getting better as a musician, I didn’t have the mental capacity to think that way. It was to follow in the footsteps of my guitar heroes. In 1987, at the age of 19, I achieved this goal, playing in a cover band. I’m 49 now and still remember it vividly.
First off, I was terrified. Playing in front of people?! Not the place for an introvert. However, the music started and I got lost in what I was playing. I had never dealt with stage monitors or doing sound checks. I was amazed at how “quiet” it was on stage compared to being in front of the blasting PA. We did a very heavy cover of BTO’s “Taking Care of Business.” There weren’t many people at the show, maybe 20-30. However, I remember the drinks on the tables near the stage shaking, like an earthquake. That was one of the coolest things I had ever seen. However, even though I had achieved my goal of playing on stage, it didn’t feel right.
Fast forward a few decades to the age of 47. My first gig with an original band. I wasn’t an introvert anymore having gotten used to lecturing all over the country in my previous career. However, I was jumping up and down, trying to subdue the anxiety and butterflies in my stomach. Even though I had been on stage before, it was not at this high a level. I was lucky that I considered my bandmates friends and there was comfort in that knowledge. They were all seasoned professional musicians having played their instruments even longer than I. We hit the stage and played without a problem. In fact, the owner of the club approached us after and was amazed to find out we had only been together for two weeks. He said we played as if we’d been together for years.
I did feel a measure of success from that show. Actually, every time we play, even at practice, there is success. However, my dream/goal wasn’t truly realized until this past June. We were playing a benefit concert for ovarian cancer. My mom had died from this disease and I had decided to use the first guitar I ever owned for the show. It was surreal playing my 1984 Aria Pro II ZZ Deluxe that I bought when I was 16. I got off stage and my heart was pounding, my head was in a fog, I had to walk it off. I was nearly crying from the emotion running through my system. That was the moment I had dreamed about when I was 14. Many in attendance told me they saw something special happen on stage that night, truly inspirational.
I still have musical goals. I want to get better as a musician, not just a guitarist. I’d like to get back in the studio to record a full-length album; play on a big stage with a famous act; and so on. All of these goals need to be broken up into simple components to become achievable. It will happen in time with proper planning and support.
Success is a state of mind. To me it’s not about the money or being adored by millions, we’re not, yet. One of my biggest successes is realizing every time I pick up the guitar and play, I’m doing something very rare in this world. Not many people can do what we musicians do. When I put down the guitar after practice or a gig, etc. and realize I’m doing something very unique and fulfilling – that is success.