Speaking of Anrundhati Roy… This is a clip from a documentary I saw a short while back, which is quite good. There are several clips available; I’m posting what I think is the best one.
As described at the We web site:
We is a fast-paced 64 minute documentary that covers the world politics of power, war, corporations, deception and exploitation.
It visualizes the words of Arundhati Roy, specifically her famous Come September speech, where she spoke on such things as the war on terror, corporate globalization, justice and the growing civil unrest.
It’s witty, moving, alarming and quite a lesson in modern history.
We is almost in the style of a continuous music video. The music used sets the pace and serves as wonderful background for the words of Ms. Roy and images of humanity in the world we all live in today.
[Note from December 2018, nearly eleven years after I wrote this post: I am glad to see that people are still finding it on searches, etc. I have written a few more posts about Kerala, including quite a few references to the Kerala People’s Arts Club and the film Ningalenne Communistakki. My knowledge about arts and film from this state has advanced, as it most certainly has with regard to the rest of India. But my opinions expressed in this post have not changed. I do think, however, that it might be useful to add a few short amendments, now that a decade has passed. In fact I promised to do so in a recent post, but that was at the end of October. I am finally getting to that promise on December 15! And I may add a little more here and there as time goes on.]
I haven’t mentioned this before, but if and when I ever make my trip to India, I’d like my first stop to be Kerala, a state in southern India that’s fascinated me for a while. Some people might wonder what’s so interesting about Kerala? (especially if you are from Kerala, no doubt). Well, I can think of a few things:
1. The social systems – Years ago, I was very interested in social-political “models” around the world. (I suppose I should have become some kind of academic, but that didn’t happen – oh, well.) And I read a bunch of stuff about the social systems in Kerala; i.e., how in this state there developed a kind of decentralized, democratic socialism that didn’t exist in much of the world. The first, and most interesting, thing that I learned about regarding Kerala was the famously egalitarian bidi rolling coops, as discussed in a paper from Drs. Richard W. Franke and Barbara H. Chasin, which I first saw at an event in 1997 called the Socialist Scholars Conference. (Although – incidentally – I hope that nobody reaches any conclusions about me based on the fact that I went to an event with that name. I can assure all the readers out there that I am not a scholar!) I’ve been meaning to get back to Franke and Chasin’s work, because it still looks very interesting to me. I also read a book called Kerala: The Development Experience, edited by Govinda Parayil. This book dicusses, very informatively, how and why (to quote the back cover) “Kerala’s 30 million people” who “may not have experienced rapid growth in GDP” had nonetheless “for the past several decades, achieved a remarkable social record in terms of adult lieracy, infant mortality, life expectancy, stabilizing population growth, and narrowing gender and spatial gaps.” I’ve heard that some of Kerala’s economically egalitarian tendencies have been challenged in more recent years, due to pressures of globalization. Additionally, there are some fairly negative things about the place, such as the old caste system (dramatized extensively in the novel I that I’m listing next) and communal violence (which might be on the upswing). But its recent history still probably makes for a very interesting study, at least for those of us interested in such things. In any event, I’d love to hear more sometime regarding these social systems and how they’re functioning in Kerala these days.
[Note a decade later: Kerala seems to be holding up pretty well against the right-wing onslaught that has taken place in India since the election of Modi. The Communists have been pretty successful lately, and especially in light of the other choices, I am rooting for them. Communal violence has remained at a relative minimum, and many of the social indicators remain higher in Kerala than anywhere else in India. Kerala still has the highest life expectancy at birth and the lowest infant mortality of any state in India. It continues to have the highest literacy rate as well.]
2. The God of Small Things – I’ve always thought Arundhati Roy’s novel was her best work (at least that I’ve read). I mean, all the power to her in fighting the good fight in her political writings, but I wish she’d finish that next novel arleady…
[Note from December 2018: Well, she finally finished and published that second novel, about a decade later (and 20 years after The God of Small Things). The new novel is called The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. Unfortunately, I don’t like it as much. In fact, I couldn’t get through it. From the small amount I read, I found it to be a bit too rambling and I thought it could have used a lot more structure. And, of course, the focus is a bit different, and that part doesn’t appeal to me as much, either. (Though I am sure that if I continued to read it, I would agree with much of the politics, at least.) All that having been said, I still think she is an admirable writer and would still credit her with influencing my interest in Kerala.]
3. Scenery – This nice video below (made by someone calling herself Ukiahhaiku, aka Elizabeth from Sweden) shows some of the beautiful scenery of the place. (By the way, I stumbled upon it because it was also (somewhat deceptively) called The God of Small Things.) I’ve seen films and videos made in Kerala before, and the place always looks so beautiful (though it must be awfully hot there sometimes).
4. Padmini – Kerala’s pride, as I understand – she was quite something, wasn’t she?
[Note written some years later: This is a later copy of the original video that I had put on this post. I have included others over time because the original disappeared, but I have found it again. Of course, it is a Tamil video, and it might be more appropriate to include a Malayalam video instead, but I’m happy to keep this one because it’s so great!]
[Note from December 2018: Of course, as people who’ve read this blog know, I haven’t ignored the other Travancore Sisters, either. They were all great. But I still consider Padmini to be the greatest (as I think a lot of people do).]
There is a very interesting review of Cheb i Sabbah’s new album, Devotion, at Ethnotechno. A couple of excerpts here:
Devotion, like the record of this name, is concerned with participating in the Self. What should also be expressed, as has been with all of Sabbah’s work, is the necessity of evolution in these art forms. Hence while these eight songs are based on traditional, indigenous songs and ideas, he has made the presentation of the music completely unique . . . .
In fact, what is true of “Jai Bhavani” is what separates all of Sabbah’s work in Indian music: Turn up the bass and drums, keep the melodic aspects (flutes, strings) woven within the texture of rhythm, and cap it off with some of the most beautiful vocals around. Hence the hypnotic rhythm created both by the drums and Rana Singh’s voice on “Koi Bole Ram Ram.” What Sabbah has done in his forty-four year career in turntablism is understand how to bridge numerous things, generations and cultures topping that list. Taking Singh’s lyrics about the essence underlying divine names, he moves it from a ritual gathering to a dance floor (another form of ritual gathering, really). Music that was important for one culture’s mythology becomes relevant to the world . . . .
Throughout his nine-year career on Six Degrees, Sabbah has redefined the way we experience the folk music of India, Pakistan, Morocco and Algeria. He has brought it up to date for a technologically-inclined, digitally-consumed Western audience without sacrificing an iota of integrity. That is, he has made the very notion of devotion sonically relevant to people who would have otherwise never happened to experience the rich traditions of these cultures. As the title aptly suggests, every one of these sixty-two minutes is filled with devotion. Regardless of the form you may or may not subscribe to, the essence is right here.
Along with the review, Ethnotechno were good enough to post Cheb’s new YouTube clip – a nice snippet of interview and good (albeit brief) concert footage:
As I’ve said before, this is my blog about music (and dancing and movies), which I have chosen for the most part to separate from blogging that I’ve done about politics. I’ll bring in the political commentary once in a while but most often when there is a connection to music or the culture surrounding it. I’ve made that choice for various reasons, no need to go into all of it now. But many of the music blogs in my blogroll choose to mix overt political campaigning with their music reviews. And especially when they start to indulge in electioneering, I feel a need to distance myself. So, a brief political statement here…
Unlike several of the bloggers in my blogroll, I don not support Barack Obama. Generally, I don’t see any significant differences in policies or political approach between him and his chief rival, Hillary Clinton. I know that he is sponsored by some pretty big corporate bigwigs, and I believe that he ultimately supports their interests, just like Hillary (and most any other “viable” candidate). And I don’t think any politician is going to bring about big changes just because he utters the word “change” a hundred times an hour.
I also think that Obama’s talk about bringing people together, everybody working together(?), is kind of silly. The U.S. today is experiencing much bigger class divisions than it has in a long, long time. We’re in an economic tailspin, and a lot of working people are going to be losing their steady sources of income (I know that first-hand – though the source that I just lost was really only a relatively steady one, without any health benefits – also an increasing tendency in the present U.S. economy). Additionally, we are in a situation in which fewer and fewer people are controling a drastically increasing share of the wealth. So, we’ve got ever-greater economic/class conflict to contend with, even if people don’t want to acknowledge it. And, on top of that, we’ve got a world situation increasingly rife with conflict, much of it due to imperialism, which is directly related to those economic tendencies and disparities as they exist globally.
In such a situation, anybody pushing the idea that everybody can work together is working counter to any hopes for genuine change. (Plus, as far as Obama is concerned, does he show any real desire to change these tendencies? I certainly don’t see it.)
I’m not voting in the primaries here in New York City, in part because I didn’t register in time. I’ve moved a lot recently (due to my own housing troubles) and I dropped out of the Democratic Party for real after the presidential primaries of 2004 (though I’d kept my membership for a long time for strictly “strategic” reasons relating to short-term issues, or to register protest), so getting myself back into that party would have taken some effort which just didn’t seem worth it to me most of the time. Back in 2004, I voted in the primaries for Dennis Kucinich, but this time around, I think that doing that would amount to an even bigger waste of time. I voted for Nader in the election of 2004. In 2000, I stayed home from the polls, but I was extremely politically active that year (and for another year-plus on either side), mostly in relation to the “anti-globalization” protests, where I soaked in lots of tear gas while physically registering my opposition to certain world financial institutions and their “free trade” agreements. (How did I “physically register” my opposition? Well, it’s not as exciting as it may sound… Mostly it was just walking or running within groups in certain places, or joining some people in blocking a street. But even that’s a big step up in terms of political activity from going to pull a lever in the voting booth, especially given the real (non) choice that we always have.)
Generally, I don’t think that in the U.S. any major change is going to come through a presidential election. (Of course, those who know me or some of my writings elsewhere know that this is obvious. But I thought I’d just make that clear for some of my friends in the world of music blogging…) I sometimes do think that it might help to support a political campaign from someone who at least brings up certain issues, if only to provoke a larger number of people to talk and think about them. This is why I voted for Nader in 2004 and also in 1996, and it’s why, if someone put a gun to my head and said “You must select one of the big three democratic candidates right now,” I would probably pick Edwards, just because he’s saying certain things. (Though I don’t think his deeds have really supported much of his rhetoric, and he’s supported some pretty horrible stuff in the Senate, just like most of the others.) However, I don’t think that simply getting anybody elected to the presidential office – especially considering which candidates anyone could possibly get elected right now – is going to cause any big changes by itself.
I also can’t think of a presidential candidate whom I could support fully (I even had big reservations about Ralph Nader) unless we could somehow resurrect the corpse of Eugene Debs. And even there, I’d have some theoretical differences, as I would be a bit to the left of him. But that’s not material to be discussed here…
The only way any change is going to come about is through a mass movement from the grassroots, maybe from some new kind of labor movement (certainly not via today’s trade union hierarchies), from movements and actions pertaining to issues such as healthcare and housing, and from activity in the streets.
Anyway, to all my blogging friends out there who are raving about Barack Obama, I just wanted to say, while I’m certainly not going to drop your blog because of it, I feel compelled to make it clear that I am not supporting the same “cause.”