African American folk singer Rhiannon Giddens, new album


This music video from the USA says about itself:

Americana Music Festival 2015 | Rhiannon Giddens “Waterboy”

Rhiannon Giddens performs at the 2015 Americana Music Festival in Nashville.

By Hiram Lee in the USA:

On the Freedom Highway with Rhiannon Giddens

15 April 2017

There are few singers today as powerful as Rhiannon Giddens, and fewer still with so commanding a stage presence. Born February 21, 1977 in Greensboro, North Carolina, Giddens first made a name for herself as a member of the folk revival group Carolina Chocolate Drops. In addition to her singing, Giddens is an accomplished violinist and banjoist.

Giddens’ 2015 solo album Tomorrow is My Turn was among the best of that year and featured a striking version of the traditional folk song “Waterboy,” often associated with the late folksinger Odetta (1930-2008). Her latest album, Freedom Highway, will almost certainly be counted among the best of this year.

Giddens wrote nine of Freedom Highway’s 12 songs. In these, she reveals a deep feeling for her fellow human beings, as well as a seriousness about history. Moreover, there is nothing, not one note, on this album that feels self-involved or trivial. That, alone, is something remarkable given the current state of both popular and “indie” or “alternative” music.

Accompanying Giddens’ originals are strong versions of “The Angels Laid Him Away,” by blues singer Mississippi John Hurt, and two songs associated with the Civil Rights movement: “Freedom Highway” by the Staples Singers, and “Birmingham Sunday” by Richard Fariña. The latter concerns the 1963 bombing by the Ku Klux Klan of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama which left four little girls dead.

Perhaps the most haunting of the many haunting songs on Freedom Highway is “At the Purchaser’s Option.”

This music video is called At The Purchaser’s Option – Rhiannon Giddens at Augusta Vocal Week 2016.

It was inspired by Giddens’ discovery of an advertisement from the 1830s announcing the sale of a young female slave. The ad mentions, in passing, that the woman has a nine-month-old child who is also available “at the purchaser’s option.” Giddens’ puts herself in the woman’s shoes and sings movingly of her suffering: “Day by day I work the line/Every minute overtime/Fingers nimble, fingers quick/My fingers bleed to make you rich”.

Returning to modern day, “Better Get It Right The First Time,” sees Giddens turn her attention to police killings of innocent youth. She sings: “Young man was a good man/Did you stand your ground/Young man was a good man/Is that why they took you down/Young man was a good man/Or did you run that day/Young man was a good man/Baby, they shot you anyway”.

The instrumentation and arrangements employed by Giddens throughout seamlessly blend a wide variety of influences. On many songs, the grooves of R&B meld with the growling, muted trumpets of 1920s jazz, while old-time Appalachian banjos thump out their always-mournful melodies.

Giddens’ banjo playing has none of the biting twang commonly associated with the instrument today. It has a thick, full sound. She uses slides to great effect in her phrasing. It’s perfect for the flirtatious “Hey Bébé” which resides somewhere between jazz, folk and blues music.

This 2017 music video is called Rhiannon Giddens – Hey Bébé. It says about itself:

“This song was inspired by listening to a whole lot of early Creole music star Amédé Ardoin. I only had one verse when I went to record Freedom Highway with Dirk Powell down in Louisiana — he helped me finish the lyrics and here we are! The bass, drums, and stand-up bass were recorded all in one room … and Alphonso Horne added his genius trumpet to it all, as well as Desireé Champagne on rubboard. Dedicated to the Zydeco dance at O’Darby’s pub in Carencro, LA, and Leroy Thomas and his band.” — Rhiannon

The Hiram Lee article continues:

Freedom Highway and Tomorrow is My Turn before it are a step forward for Giddens. They are superior to her work with the Carolina Chocolate Drops, however interesting that effort was at times.

Folk music is easy to do wrong. A dull, pedagogical tone creeps into the work of many revivalists. The importance of certain songs is explained and then they are performed in such a way that one never feels this importance in the music itself. They become museum pieces. This is often combined with a silly sentimentality for the “simple lives” of “pure” folk. Period dress and exaggerated “folk” accents are adopted and exploited. It feels like acting, and bad acting at that.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops were by no means the worst offenders in this regard, but neither were they entirely immune to it. Giddens appears to have broken free of many of these limitations. She retains her folk roots while singing and performing in a way that feels very much alive and relevant, both traditional and modern.

Unlike many folk revivalists (and occasionally her bandmates) Giddens does not pretend to be less sophisticated than she is. And why should she?

Pistol shrimp named after Pink Floyd band


This video says about itself:

12 April 2017

A new species of shrimp has been named after Pink Floyd thanks to a pact between prog rock-loving scientists.

The Synalpheus pinkfloydi uses its large pink claw to create a noise so loud it can kill small fish.

The team behind the discovery vowed years ago if it ever found a new pink shrimp it would “honour” the rockers.

Sammy De Grave, head of research at Oxford University Museum of National History, said he has been a fan of the band since he was a teenager.

He said: “I have been listening to Floyd since The Wall was released in 1979, when I was 14 years old.

“The description of this new species of pistol shrimp was the perfect opportunity to finally give a nod to my favourite band.

“We are all Pink Floyd fans, and we always said if we would find a pink one, a new species of pink shrimp, we would name it after Pink Floyd.”

The pistol, or snapping shrimp, has an ability to generate sonic energy by closing their enlarged claw at rapid speed.

It can reach 210 decibels – louder than your average rock concert – and results in one of the loudest sounds in the ocean.

The description of the species, found off the Pacific coast of Panama, has been published in the Zootaxa journal and was co-authored with the Universidade Federal de Goiás in Brazil, and Seattle University in the US.

Source: here.

From the University of Oxford in England:

Rock giants Pink Floyd honoured in naming of newly discovered, bright pink pistol shrimp

April 12, 2017

Summary: A fuchsia pink-clawed species of pistol shrimp, discovered on the Pacific coast of Panama, has been given the ultimate rock and roll name in recognition of the discoverers’ favorite rock band Pink Floyd.

A strikingly bright pink-clawed species of pistol shrimp, discovered on the Pacific coast of Panama, has been given the ultimate rock and roll name in recognition of the discoverers’ favourite rock band — Pink Floyd.

The conspicuously coloured pistol shrimp has been named as Synalpheus pinkfloydi in the scientific description of the species, published in Zootaxa journal.

Just like all good rock bands, pistol shrimps, or snapping shrimps, have an ability to generate substantial amounts of sonic energy. By closing its enlarged claw at rapid speed the shrimp creates a high-pressure cavitation bubble, the implosion of which results in one of the loudest sounds in the ocean — strong enough to stun or even kill a small fish.

Combined with its distinct, almost glowing-pink snapping claw, Synalpheus pinkfloydi is aptly named by the report’s authors, Arthur Anker of the Universidade Federal de Goiás in Brazil, Kristin Hultgren of Seattle University in the USA, and Sammy De Grave, of Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

De Grave has been a life-long Pink Floyd fan and has been waiting for the opportunity to name the right new species after the band.

“I have been listening to Floyd since The Wall was released in 1979, when I was 14 years old. I’ve seen them play live several times since, including the Hyde Park reunion gig for Live8 in 2005. The description of this new species of pistol shrimp was the perfect opportunity to finally give a nod to my favourite band,” he says.

Arthur Anker, the report’s lead author, says: “I often play Pink Floyd as background music while I’m working, but now the band and my work have been happily combined in the scientific literature.”

Synalpheus pinkfloydi is not the only pistol shrimp with such a lurid claw. It’s closely-related and similar-looking sister species, Synalpheus antillensis, scientifically described in 1909, is found in the western Atlantic, including the Caribbean side of Panama. But the authors of the new paper found that the two species show considerable genetic divergence, granting S. pinkfloydi a new species status and its very own rock and roll name.

Animals feature frequently in the Floyd back-catalogue. Indeed, the 1977 album Animals includes tracks titled Dogs, Sheep, and a suite of music dedicated to pigs. Then there’s Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict from 1969’s Ummagumma. In fact, other biologists have already named a damselfly after that album: Umma gumma, in the family Calopterygidae. However, until today there have been no crustacean names known to honour the band.

Surinamese musician Clarence Breeveld, RIP


This 2012 music video shows Surinamese singer and guitarist Clarence Breeveld playing his song Ala Presi.

Clarence Breeveld, who played kaseko and other music styles, died yesterday in Houten in the Netherlands. He was 68 years of age.

The Clash’s first album, forty years ago


This video shows the Clash playing live in Munich, Germany in 1977.

By Mark Perryman in Britain:

Celebrating the politics of punk

Tuesday 4th April 2017

Next Saturday marks the 40th anniversary of The Clash’s debut album. MARK PERRYMAN reports on a notable event to mark it

FOR most people, the birth of punk happened on or around 1976 with the November release that year of the Sex Pistols’ Anarchy in the UK. Music and movement were catapulted into the “filth and fury” headlines via the band’s expletive-strewn Bill Grundy TV interview.

The Pistols and the rest were key to the detonation of a youthful mood of revolt alongside the not entirely dissimilar The Damned, Manchester’s Buzzcocks and the more trad-rock Stranglers. Giving the boy bands a run for their money, The Slits pushed perhaps hardest at punk’s musical boundaries, their Typical Girls track quite unlike what the others were recording.

But it was The Clash who more than anyone symbolised the punk and politics mix, showcased on their debut album The Clash, released 40 years ago on April 8, 1977.

Its 14 tracks, played at furious speed, were two-minute classics. Boredom with the US, hate, war, non-existent career opportunities and an angry demand for a riot of their own all featured. And there was an inspired cover version, backed by a pitch perfect reggae beat played slow, of Junior Murvin and Lee “Scratch” Perry’s Police and Thieves, with the lyrics almost spoken rather than sung.

The album cover shows the youthful threesome of Strummer, Jones and Simonon in their artfully stencilled shirts and jackets that were to become their signature stage wear uniform completed by the obligatory skinny jeans, white socks and black DMs.

The print quality is purposely poor to add a degree of authenticity that this band hardly needed. But it was the back cover, a scene from the 1976 Notting Hill carnival riots with the Met’s boys in blue, that’s the more telling. It shows them in hot pursuit of black youth who are retreating and regrouping under the Westway flyover in west London.

It was that reality in ’76 that inspired The Clash’s anthemic White Riot and the lines: “White riot! I wanna riot. White riot! A riot of my own!”’ At the time the National Front’s streetfighting racist army was laying waste wherever they marched. Their leaders John Tyndall and Martin Webster were pretty much household names and the NF was getting an indecently high enough number of votes to suggest an electoral breakthrough might be a possibility.

The potential for White Riot to be misinterpreted then — and now too — is obvious. But the band’s intent couldn’t be clearer.

Living and recording in and around the Westway, they embraced the changes the local community had undergone since the 1950s. Caribbean music, food and fashions were as much a part of who The Clash were as rock’n’roll, Sunday roast and safety pins.

It was a spirit of Black defiance that they sought to share, not oppose: “All the power is in the hands/Of people rich enough to buy it,/While we walk the streets/Too chicken to even try it./And everybody does what they’re told to/And everybody eats supermarket soul food!”

A year after the album’s release, The Clash headlined the first Rock against Racism carnival in London’s Victoria Park.

The dayglo politics of this musical culture of resistance fitted perfectly with the agitprop look and lyrics of the band, as it did with Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex’s punk feminism, Tom Robinson with his liberatory number Sing If You’re Glad to be Gay and Birmingham’s Steel Pulse’s Handsworth Revolution.

This wasn’t just a line-up that commercial promoters in ’78 would die for, it was a platform to challenge prejudice both without and within that we could dance to, or jump about to.

Of course, like all successful musicians, The Clash became celebrities and the venues became bigger and bigger. But, through force of circumstance, the band bailed out before they reached U2’s overblown proportions or outstayed their musical welcome like the Rolling Stones.

1977 is a moment to look back to and remember but not to fossilise, that would be the antithesis of everything The Clash represented or, as the final track from the album put it: “I don’t want to hear about what the rich are doing, I don’t want to go where the rich are going.”

Garageland. That’s where they came from and never entirely left either. Its why more than anything else the ’77 Clash still matter four decades on and to mark the 40th anniversary there’ll be a night of live music like no other at London’s Rich Mix on April 8, hosted by RMT and supported by the FBU.

The album will be played in both the original 1977-era Clash style and a 2017 remix on a bill that mixes bands, solo performers, discussion and spoken word. Syd Shelton’s incredible photography of ’77 punk and the rise of Rock against Racism is on show and among the artists appearing are 48 Thrills with Steve North, Dream Nails, Emily Harrison, Sean McGowan, Nia Wyn, Joe Solo, Captain Ska, Attila the Stockbroker and Comrade X.

’77 Clash Night is at Rich Mix, Bethnal Green Road, London E1, with a 6pm start. Tickets, price £9.99, are available from philosophyfootball.com or call (01255) 552-412 to reserve.

Why do birds sing?


This video from Cornwall says about itself:

17 September 2014

Robin Birds Chirping and Singing – Beautiful Video, Bird Song and Nature Sounds in HD – The National Bird of Great Britain

In a recent poll the robin was voted Britain’s Favourite.

Video Produced by Paul Dinning – Wildlife in Cornwall

From BirdLife:

Why do birds sing?

3 Mar 2017

By Lipu & Alice Paone

When we talk about birdsong, we cannot simply refer to a single “voice”. It is a great chorus of complex sounds, it is a real language in itself. The dry “teak” of a sparrow, the plaintive “gheck gheck gheck” of a woodpecker, the shrill “chirrip” of a lark – each sound has its own purpose and is used in very specific circumstances. For birdwatchers, learning how to ‘decode’ the secret language of birds is a great way to identify different species and to better understand their behaviour.

The language of birds

Just as vowels and consonants provide the foundation for our words and sentences, birds produce a series of calls, songs and melodies in a ‘language’ so nuanced it could rival our very own alphabet! This is all thanks to a special vocal organ called the syrinx – the size of a pea, it sits at the junction of the trachea and the bronchi in the lungs. Its structure – which varies with each species – makes such different songs and sounds possible. Each sound has a different purpose and this, in turn, makes it possible for birds to communicate with each other in different circumstances.

The warning calls

These involve sharp and penetrating sounds – warning signals used by birds whenever they feel threatened and want to warn companions of danger. They are usually short sounds strong enough to be heard at great distances. The same sound is often used by predatory birds as part of their attack.

The cries for help

“Mom Mom Mom!” Just as children call for their mother with arms outstretched, small birds emit little moans and chirps to attract their mother’s attention, often flapping their wings for good measure. The call intensity is low, but it can still be clearly perceived in the vicinity of a nest. Small birds frequently continue to use these calls after leaving the nest too – because mom is always mom!

The contact calls

“Hey, are you all right?” Contact calls for birds are more or less the equivalent of us making sure a friend is ok. They use contact calls when they travel in flocks, want to call each other or even just share news about a good food source. These calls are characterised by moderately strong chirps, similar to a “hum” but not as penetrating as the warning calls.

The mid-flight calls

We have business calls – the ones where you use a more formal tone because etiquette demands it. Similarly, birds have specific calls that are only used during flight – and, interestingly, these are the most accurate calls to go by when trying to identify different species. These sounds are highly musical, especially when they announce the passage of flocks during migration season.

Why do birds sing at dawn?

The singing of birds in the morning signals a pleasant awakening. But why do birds usually showcase their vocal talents at this time of the day? The answer comes down to simple “vanity”: it is so they appear to be fit and healthy. Birds mainly feed during the day, so the early morning – when they are unfed and hungry – is when they are weakest. Singing at dawn is a technique used by males to prove their health and vigour to potential partners. No wonder: the singing is strictly linked to the birds’ “love life” and it is important throughout every stage of the relationship, from courtship to nest.

When the song becomes music

The lark’s morning song is not the only melody to have inspired poets and composers. Sweet birdsong has always touched the heart of man, inspiring verses and immortal music. Grieg, Ravel and Prokofiev, amongst others – have been so fascinated by the melody of blackbirds, nightingales and doves that they have turned their calls into music.

This classical music video is called Vivaldi – Flute concert Il Gardellino [The Goldfinch] – Dóra Seres + DRUO.

Vivaldi composed the famous “Goldfinch” concert while Girolamo Frescobaldi’s “Capriccio sopra Cucho” is a testament to the charms of the cuckoo. Beethoven famously incorporated imitations of the nightingale and quail – performed by flute and oboe respectively – in the second movement of the “Pastoral Symphony No. 6″. And Wagner notably included the song “The bird in the woods” in his opera ‘Siegfried’.

How you can learn to recognise birds by their song

Of course, the best way to learn how to recognise birds by their song is to go out into the great outdoors and simply listen to the most beautiful music ever made. The chorus that you can hear in a forest or a national park is a true symphony, especially for those able to grasp the nuances. For starters, it can be useful to have a handbook that – together with maps and photographs of the different species – explains the different vocal characteristics. But rest assured, with a little bit of practice and patience, anyone can unlock the secret of birdsong.