Innocent prisoner Shaker Aamer still in Guantanamo


This music video says about itself:

3 August 2013

PJ Harvey has released a song to highlight the ongoing detention of the last British resident held inside the US prison at Guantánamo Bay.

The track, called Shaker Aamer was recorded by the Mercury prizewinning songwriter to help maintain pressure to have the 46-year-old, whose family live in south London, released back to Britain.

Aamer has been detained in Guantánamo for more than 11 years, despite being cleared for release in 2007, and remains imprisoned without charge or trial. He has a British wife and his four children — the youngest of whom he has never met — were all born in Britain. They live in Tooting, south London.

The British government has stated repeatedly that it wants him back in the UK and last week, under escalating international pressure, the US announced it is to restart transfers from the prison. Concerns remain, however, that Aamer might be forcibly sent to Saudi Arabia and imprisoned there instead of being reunited with his family in the UK.

Shaker Aamer

No water for three days.
I cannot sleep, or stay awake.

Four months hunger strike.
Am I dead, or am I alive?

With metal tubes we are force fed.
I honestly wish I was dead.

Strapped in the restraining chair.
Shaker Aamer, your friend.

In camp 5, eleven years.
Never Charged. Six years cleared.

They took away my one note pad,
and they refused to give it back.

I can’t think straight, I write, then stop.
Your friend, Shaker Aamer. Lost.

The guards just do what they’re told,
the doctors just do what they’re told.

Like an old car I’m rusting away.
Your friend, Shaker, Guantanamo Bay.

Don’t forget.

© 2013 Hothead Music Ltd.

By Jeremy Corbyn in Britain:

In 2001 Shaker Aamer and his family were happily living in Afghanistan. He was working on building girls’ schools and improving education.

September 2001 came, and with it war on Afghanistan waged by an enormous international coalition and many others.

The US offered enormous sums of money to anyone in Afghanistan who could bring in any foreign nationals who were deemed to be supporters of the Taliban. Shaker was a victim of this, and was sold by various bounty hunters and eventually ended up in Bagram base in Kabul where he was brutally treated, and then sometime later found himself in Guantanamo Bay.

He has never been charged with any offence and never been through any judicial process. He has now been in custody for 14 years.

He has a Saudi passport, but his wife and children are all British and he has permanent residence in Britain. He was cleared for release by the George Bush administration and later re-cleared for release by the Barack Obama presidency, but is still not able to return to his family.

In Guantanamo Bay there have been protests, hunger strikes and a worldwide campaign — 15 British prisoners in Guantanamo Bay have been returned home but Shaker remains in custody.

This issue has been raised by the wonderful Save Shaker Aamer campaign who have been marching, meeting, protesting and demonstrating outside Parliament for a long time and they deserve enormous credit.

Earlier this year John McDonnell formed an all-party parliamentary Shaker Aamer group which immediately attracted 40 MPs of all parties and in March placed a resolution before the House of Commons calling for his return to Britain.

This was agreed by the House of Commons. The Prime Minister has taken the issue up directly with President Obama, and William Hague also raised the subject with his counterpart, Hilary Clinton, when he was foreign secretary.

Early this week I was part of a delegation with two conservative MPs — Andrew Mitchell and David Davis — and one Labour colleague, Andy Slaughter, to lobby the US Senate on the case.

During meetings with Senators John McCain, Dianne Feinstein, Joe Manchin, Patrick Leahy and Dick Durbin, as well as in discussions with the State Department and the Senate Armed Services Committee we demanded Shaker’s release from Guantanamo Bay.

It’s past time this legal void should be closed, and Shaker allowed to return to Britain.

Without campaigning by ordinary people for justice for Shaker, there would never have been a resolution passed by the House of Commons to visit the Senate. It shows the value of protest.

Lavinia Meijer, Carel Kraayenhof concert report


In this 26 April 2015 Dutch TV video, Dutch harp player Lavinia Meijer is interviewed; and plays Clair de lune, by Claude Debussy.

And in this music video, Dutch bandoneon player Carel Kraayenhof and his group play one of Kraayenhof’s compositions, Desconcierto.

Lavinia Meijer and Carel Kraayenhof met two years ago, in Carré theatre in Amsterdam. They decided they would like to do concerts together. Bandoneon and harp is a unique combination.

On 22 May 2015, they played together in the Hooglandse Kerk, Saint Pancras church, in Leiden. This is a big late medieval Gothic church. Very many people had come for the concert. Some people had to stand.

First, Meijer and Kraayenhof played Enrique Granados Campiña, #5 of 12 danzas españolas.

Then, a milonga by Jorge Cardoso from Argentina. In this and other Argentine music, Ms Meijer’s harp played a role somewhat similar to guitars in Argentine musical tradition.

Then, Nata blanca, by Kraayenhof himself. The title means ‘White nose'; because Kraayenhof’s cat has a white nose.

Then, La puñalada, by Uruguyan composer Pintín Castellanos.

Then, three compositions by Astor Piazzolla: Burdel; Café; and Nightclub.

Concert Meijer-Kraayenhof, 22 May 2015

This cell phone photo was taken while Nightclub was played.

Then, a harp solo by Lavinia Meijer: Clair de lune, by Debussy.

Kraayenhof returned to the stage, to join in playing Il postino, by Luis Bacalov. This is music from the film of the same name; about the exile of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda in Italy.

Then, Kraayenhof’s Desconcierto.

Then, Anselmo Aieta‘s Palomita blanca.

Then, Kraayenhof’s own work again: So many partings.

Finally, Mariano Mores, Taquito militar.

As the audience clapped enthusiastically, there was an encore: Lo que vendrá, by Astor Piazzolla.

In this video, two guitarists play Lo que vendrá.

As I left the church, five swifts flying together over a roof, calling.

British band Stornoway and birds


This music video from England is called Between The Saltmarsh and the Sea, Stornoway, Relevant Records, Cambridge, 18th Apr 2015. Record Store Day and Bonxie release week.

This is a collection of Stornoway music videos.

From BirdLife:

Stornoway sing with their senses in tune with the natural world

By Ade Long, Tue, 19/05/2015 – 15:26

Stornoway – not the town on the Island of Lewis in Scotland but the band – have released their 3rd album Bonxie to critical acclaim and rave reviews of their live shows. Their front man Brian Briggs popped by the BirdLife office in Cambridge to talk about its creation and how his song writing is inspired by the sights and sounds of nature and wild places.

The band’s roots began at Oxford University where Brian went on to make a doctoral thesis on habitat management of waterbirds at wetland sites around London.

Q: What ways have you used birds in Bonxie, your latest album?

BB: “Well, indirectly as a source of inspiration really. I’ve got a birds background or, more generally, a nature conservation background, and moved to South Wales for the writing of this album, The Gower is a stunning area and surrounded by sea and marsh and lots of birds. The landscape and the outdoors have been a big inspiration on the song writing.

We wanted to immerse people as much as possible into the atmosphere and the feelings that inspired the songs. We realised that by using some field recordings chosen specifically for the songs, that we could heighten that atmosphere even more and help bring the outside inside and immerse our listener in those original feelings and inspirations.”

Q: For songs like Between the Saltmarsh and the Sea you start with the Brent Geese and the song ends with the calls of Redshank, tell me about some of the other species you’ve used?

BB: “We’ve tried to match within reason the birds to the settings of the song. So Between the Saltmarsh and the Sea uses a relationship between the sea and the tides and the saltmarsh where I live as a relationship between two lovers, so the sea comes in and out and it’s like a With or Without You scenario, but replacing Bono with a saltmarsh [laughs].

On other songs we’ve tried to do that as well, we’ve got a song called Lost Youth which is set in the mountain uplands initially, so the song starts up with skylarks singing and the sound of a Red Grouse, a weird chuckly song. In the middle of the song there’s a slightly more mysterious middle eight section where we’ve brought in a Snipe and you can hear a it drumming with its slightly eerie sound. It was a lot of fun going through the possible different bird species and trying to match them up with the songs.”

Q: Are you able to use the bird and other sounds in the live shows at all?

BB: “We are! I’ve had fun choosing some atmospheric field recordings for the shows to play on a nice big PA system. For our show at Cambridge, We had a reasonably local recording of a bittern booming on a busy marsh at Minsmere, the RSPB reserve.

And we’re using a whole lot besides. We’ve got loons, we’ve got Lapwings, we’ve got the wading birds and Brent Geese, a pod of Humpback Whales recorded in Alaska.”

Q: You’ve suggested that children should have the opportunity to learn about sounds of nature at school?

BB: “I feel that from my own experience. I did learn a blackbird song at school because our biology teacher took us out for a couple of lessons to listen to the blackbirds singing in the local neighbourhood and to map their locations when we saw them sing. After a few trips we could map their territories.

Through my first job after university I learnt some bird songs in the woods where I was working, and that massively heightened the enjoyment I got from being outside and being in nature because it’s like a new dimension to it. I think most people don’t really notice the birdsong because our lives are so busy and we hear so much background noise generally with traffic and so on. I think by learning a few songs and being able to walk outside and say, oh there’s a blackbird singing, there’s a song thrush, you can feel a lot more connected to both the outside world and to the natural world. That’s an important thing to feel in order to value it and to want to protect it. I wrote about the idea of children learning some birdsong at school as a way of reconnecting the next generation with the natural world.”

Q: Are there particular issues or aspects of conservation that really get you going?

BB: “The major environmental issues make me pretty nervous for the future to be honest. My personal interests are in ecology and habitat management, but I think the bigger ones relating to human influence on the wider planet like climate change are the more scary ones.

There’s obviously great work of organisations like BirdLife and its Partners such as the RSPB. But there’s so much more of a wider attitude change needed really in the general public if things are going to change fast. One interesting thing is the internet and its power to accelerate change in people’s attitudes. That gives me a bit of hope in that it’s easier for people to change the way they think when news and attitudes can spread faster. But it is a bit of a scary time I think.”

After Brian departs I’m eager to listen to Bonxie again, with fresh insight from its creator.

I think the song “Sing with our senses” says it all about the importance of nature and as a personal allegory for how the band have written the songs on Bonxie.

We go into the forest, and we open our minds and are senses
In the shadows around us, there’s an easier way to connect us
To the spin of the earth, to the stir of the wild inside us

And this is the world that we belong to
And these are the senses that we find it through
And this is the music they exist to sing to
The way to the feeling we can all escape to

It takes only a single listen of Bonxie to recognise that immersing yourself in nature is the perfect habitat for writing beautiful music.

English folk singer Ewan MacColl remembered


This music video from England says about itself:

Ewan MacCollDirty Old Town

The original and best with Peggy Seeger (MacColl’s wife)

Photographs of Salford in 1950s and 60s – the original ‘Dirty Old Town’ where MacColl grew up.

By Karl Dallas in England:

Monday 18th May 2015

Ewan MacColl: His Life, His Words, His Music Peel Hall University of Salford 3/5

SALFORD is the “dirty old town” where James Miller — the folksinger better known as Ewan MacColl — was born in January 1915 and it was the scene of this joint celebratory event by the University of Salford and the Working Class Movement Library.

In a packed hall, four readers and a solo singer took the audience through his life and work, in which extracts from his somewhat sanitised autobiography were interspersed with just a few songs.

It was a rather prosaic event, with no drama and precious little of the great man of the theatre’s histrionic impact upon British culture. One could’t help wondering what the Theatre Workshop founder might have made of it.

Of course, MacColl was such a polymath that anyone would be hard put to it to cover his life adequately. “There are quite large bits of his life that we have had to leave out,” the show’s producer Royston Futter said in his introduction. “The first run-through of all the material we wanted to present would have had you struggling to catch the last bus, despite our afternoon start.”

There were the expected songs — Dirty Old Town, Tim Evans, Manchester Rambler, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, — and songs from the radio ballads — Freeborn Man, Hot Asphalt, Shoals of Herring, Come Me Little Son — and his elegiac 1986 farewell The Joy of Living, recorded in only three years before his death. But this was a programme of readings interspersed with the songs, rather than songs with interpretive prose.

What did come across was Ewan’s love of the landscape, echoed in the words of that lovely, final song:
“Take me to some high place of heather, rock and ling,
Scatter my dust and ashes, feed me to the wind,
So that I will be part of all you see, the air you are breathing.
I’ll be part of the curlew‘s cry and the soaring hawk,
The blue milk wort and the sundew hung with diamonds,
I’ll be riding the gentle wind that blows through your hair,
Reminding you how we shared
In the joy of living.”

This great poet of industrial Salford was also at one with the countryside around his dirty old birth town.

This music video says about itself:

Joy Of Living – Ewan MacColl

This is one of MacColl’s last songs and his farewell to the world. In it, a dying hiker says goodbye to all he holds dear: the hills, his wife and his children (Black And White – The Definitive Collection, trk#20, 1993, Green Linnet Records, Nashville, Tennessee); and (Black And White – The Definitive Collection, trk#18, 2000, Cooking Vinyl Records, London, UK).

Ferguson and Baltimore in new Solange Knowles song


This 10 May 2015 music video from the USA is called PrinceBaltimore (with lyrics).

From Entertainment Weekly in the USA:

Solange Knowles addresses Ferguson and Baltimore in new song

by Dana Rose Falcone

Solange Knowles premiered her latest song, “Rise,” Thursday night at a Los Angeles stop of Bessie’s 81 Theatre Tour. The track was inspired by the unrest in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri, following the deaths of young black men in police custody.

Beyoncé’s younger sister isn’t the only artist to turn the turmoil in Baltimore and Ferguson into powerful lyrics. Prince wrote “Baltimore” about the protests and chaos that erupted in Maryland as a result of 25-year-old Freddie Gray’s April 19 death … . He debuted the track, which also mentions Michael Brown and Eric Garner, at his Rally 4 Peace concert last weekend.

There is no word yet whether “Rise” will appear on Knowles’ next album. HBO’s Bessie, a biopic of blues singer Bessie Smith, premieres Saturday at 8 p.m.

Beyoncé And Jay Z ‘Wired Thousands Of Dollars In Bail Money To Ferguson And Baltimore Protesters': here.

A grand jury has indicted six Baltimore officers on a range of charges after the State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby presented her department’s investigation into the death of Freddie Gray. In a press conference Thursday, Mosby announced that the grand jury charged all six officers in connection to Gray’s death. Officers Edward Nero, Garrett Miller, Caesar Goodson, William Porter, and Sgt. Alicia White and Lt. Brian Rice were handed down a slew of charges ranging from misdemeanor negligent assault and misconduct to involuntary manslaughter, intentional assault, and murder: here.