From the London Daily Mail:
All the songs DO sound the same: Modern pop is louder, less varied, and uses less chords than classic albums of 50s and 60s
From the London Daily Mail:
All the songs DO sound the same: Modern pop is louder, less varied, and uses less chords than classic albums of 50s and 60s
It may be bloody, and we shudder at the words “impure blood,” but damn, it’s really singable!
Here’s Parisians supporters of François Hollande singing it to celebrate his capture of the presidency 5 May in the Place de la Bastille:
Born 100 years ago today, here’s Woody Guthrie singing his most memorable song:
And while we’re at it, how about some other performances of that most memorable of Woody’s tunes?
Here’s Tom Morello and Ben Harper, singing at an Occupy LA rally in March:
Renée Zellweger offers her own version from the film My Own Love Song:
This one, recorded in May, features Steve Earle, Berkeley’s own Wavy Gravy, Peter Rowan, Jim Lauderdale, and Nina Gerber, performing at the Rio Theater in Santa Cruz:
And here’s Bruce Springsteen with his own rendition:
From Spain, an Earth Day al fresco bilingual offering:
Billy Bragg rewrites the words to give the song a British twist:
Finally, a 1976 rendition by Pete Seeger, Judy Collins, Arlo Guthrie [Woody’s son] and Fred Hellerman, with an introduction by Studs Terkel:
A reader commented yesterday that’s we’ve been neglected life’s lighter side, so here are some of videos to brighten your day.
First — with a H/T to Moussequetaire — some remarkable musical artistry with Usman Riaz and Preston Reed.
The TED Fellow plays onstage at TEDGlobal 2012 — followed by a jawdropping solo from the master of percussive guitar, Preston Reed. And watch these two guitarists take on a very spur-of-the-moment improv.
According to Open Culture, Riaz, a native of Karachi, “began playing classical piano at 6, then took up the guitar at 16.” TED reports that Riaz, 21, “learned to play by watching his heroes on YouTube.” Here, via Open Culture, is another video of Riaz performing “Fire Fly,” a 2010 composition available for download here.
And here’s Riaz performing “The Waves,” a work in progress for his other instrument:
How to Cuddle with an Elephant Seal
A remarkable scene of an unbidden encounter between two species:
This one’s rather enigmatic, since we’ve been unable to find the original post. From the titles we learn it was captured in Cold Harbor on South Georgia, a British possession 800 miles southeast of the Falkland Islands and chillingly close to Anarctica.
And, yes, we know that it’s best for the critters to keep them apart from people, but the animal’s sheer curiosity and delight in discovering the alien visitor is a reminder of a phenomenon often reported by early European visits to what would become the United States, when many critters had not yet learned to fear the pale and largely hairless bipeds who would later do them so much harm.
We’ve written a lot about Spanish banks, and Banco Sabadell is one of the biggest. But we’ve got to say we loved the way they celebrated their 130th birthday this year. And judging by their expressions, so did the folks who stumbled across this marvelous flashmob performance outside the branch’s home branch where the only thing “ode” to the bank was joy:
Their program notes:
On the 130th anniversary of the founding of Banco Sabadell we wanted to pay homage to our city by means of the campaign “Som Sabadell” (We are Sabadell) . This is the flashmob that we arranged as a final culmination with the participation of 100 people from the Vallès Symphony Orchestra, the Lieder, Amics de l’Òpera and Coral Belles Arts choirs.
H/T to Moussequetaire.
The prodigy is Julio Silpitucla of Ciudad de Merlo in Argentina, and his skill and elan are simply breathtaking.
The videos were recorded two years ago when he was 11.
One of our favorite melodies, “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” [Memories of the Alhambra] by Francisco Tárrega:
“Alfonsina y el Mar” by Ariel Ramírez and Félix Luna:
“Asturias [Leyenda]” by Isaac Albéniz:
“Entre Dos Aguas” by Paco de Lucia:
And for something not so completely different, a remarkable rendition of Brazilian composer Zequinha de Abreu’s “Tico-Tico no Fubá” by The Duo Siqueira Lima, composed of Uruguayan Cecilia Siqueira and Brazilian Fernando de Lima, performed at the University of Florida three years ago.
Oh what the heck, one more from the duo. This time on two guitars.
“Chaccone in G Minor” by George Frideric Handel:
The elections are over, and for a change of pace, a mysterious delight, via The Presurfer — the greatest-ever wedding celebration, from Moscow:
While it’s billed as a flashmob, we can’t say for sure that it was, and there’s no description at all on the YouTube post.
And whenever we think of that song, we can’t help but think of this dance, from one of our favorite comedies:
We begin with a headline from The Independent:
Alexis Tsipras: He’s got the euro in his hands
Roughly 10 million Greeks are eligible vote in the world’s most closely watched election tomorrow.
Polls close at 7 p.m. by local time [9 a.m. in Berkeley], with initial results reported at 9:30 and semi-final results at 11.
We can safely safe that never have so many been so focused on an election in one of Europe’s smaller countries.
But what of the likely result?
From Keep Talking Greece:
Finally, silence! The elections campaign officially concluded Friday midnight. No more shouting and screaming politicians debating on our TV screens. No more stress and fear mongering artificial dilemmas. Finally, silence! Greek voters may rise from their couches and seek some activities or contemplate on the future of the country.
Political parties may try a last attempt to convince some undecided voters here and there. It looks as if the crucial judgement will be in the hands of these undecided voters.
Publication of public opinion polls have been banned for the last two weeks, however parties have massively received the results of daily rolling polls. Secret polls, we call them here.
Even though they are not published, Greek media report of an unprecedented head-to-head race between pro-bailout conservative Nea Dimocratia and anti-bailout left-wing SYRIZA.
The party that emerges first gets the 50-seats Bonus, even with a difference of one single vote.
Media speak ff rates around 30% for the first party and a difference of maximum +/-2.5% to the second party, in some rolling polls even less.
However it seems no party can get the absolute majority of 44%.
Apocalypse next week?
Consider the remarks of a well-known British-born Harvard historian, reported by Thomas Mucha of GlobalPost:
Harvard professor Niall Ferguson said a terrifying thing Friday in an interview with Bloomberg TV.
“If there’s going to be a Lehman moment in the crisis it’s going to be next week. This is the financial equivalent of the Cuban Missile Crisis. And the missile is really a bank run, which ultimately even the Germans can’t be completely immune to,” Ferguson said.
The Harvard historian was referring to Sunday’s election in Greece, which could dictate 1) the future of the euro zone, 2) the very idea of European unity, 3) the health of the $17 trillion EU economy, and 4) the stability of the world’s economy, including the global financial system.
The video’s here.
G20 leaders await morning-after summit
Guess we know what they’ll be talking about.
From Don Lee of the Los Angeles Times:
Leaders of the world’s biggest economies are facing pressure to take decisive action to quell the Eurozone crisis at a summit meeting starting Monday, even as they tamp down expectations and brace for Greece to cause more turmoil.
Amid widespread anxiety over the Greek parliamentary vote Sunday, the Group of 20 leaders, representing nations that account for nearly 90% of the world economy, will gather for a two-day summit in Los Cabos, Mexico.
Expectations are about as low as ever for aG-20 summit. What can this self-appointed steering committee for the global economy do?
“Nothing! The G-20 cannot take any real decisions” on the Eurozone problem, said Mario Baldassarri, chairman of Italy’s Senate Finance Committee, in a telephone interview. “They cannot take a decision that has to be made in Europe.”
Even the agenda looks uncertain. Everybody is waiting to see what happens the day before in Greece, a country that makes up less than 0.5% of the global economy. Greeks will cast ballots for what is widely seen as a referendum on whether their debt-stricken country remains in the Eurozone or leaves the 17-nation, single-currency union.
The German voice, always dominant
Germany’s in a desperate struggle to preserve its continental financial hegemony, and with the Bundesbank calling the shots, Germany finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble sounds the usual refrain: We must have order!
The price, of course, is surrender of national autonomy to Brussels, where the key decisions would be made in the interests of maintaining the unsustainable and exponentially expanding of government debt owed to private finance.
From Michael Birnbaum of the Washington Post:
Schaeuble, 69, a key ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, is one of the most powerful voices shaping Europe’s response to its economic crisis. For him, the European Union is not simply a pocketbook convenience but a project to avoid bloodshed. And through this crisis, he says, the bonds that tie Europe’s countries together can become even stronger.
With Spain and Italy on the brink of needing full-scale rescues and Greece in open rebellion against the painful austerity diktats that came as a condition of its two bailouts, Germany is pushing for unprecedented steps to transfer sovereign power to the European Union in exchange for sharing the burdens of borrowing and spending. Germany — Europe’s most powerful economy — would shoulder much of the burden of any such arrangement, and Schaeuble may be his country’s most passionate proponent of doing so.
“We will do whatever it takes to defend the euro,” Schaeuble, 69, said in an interview in the Reichstag, the home to Germany’s parliament that is itself a symbol of the tribulations of Europe’s 20th century history. Russian graffiti covers many of its interior walls, left by troops who held the building in the waning days of World War II, and the building stands just feet away from the reach of the Iron Curtain.
“If the crisis is severe, you will converge onto the solution faster. That’s the opportunity that lies in every crisis,” Schaeuble said, as staffers and parliamentarians preoccupied with Europe’s ailments bustled through the Reichstag’s vast halls. “Europe is complex, the decision-making as so often in democracies is not always swift, but that’s better than the old way of settling things here, by going to war with one another. . . . If needed, we can act very quickly.”
Another warning from another money lord
This time the Prime Minister of Luxembourg in his role as the head of the Eurogroup, the council of eurozone’s finance ministers.
From Michael Shields of Reuters:
Eurogroup head Jean-Claude Juncker warned Greeks not to turn their backs on the euro, saying in a newspaper interview that a win by anti-bailout radical leftists in a vote on Sunday would have “unforeseeable” consequences for the monetary union.
The radical leftist SYRIZA party is racing neck-and-neck with the conservative New Democracy party ahead of the election, which could decide if Greece stays in the euro zone and spread turmoil across global financial markets.
SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras is threatening to tear up the punishing terms of the 130 billion euro bailout that is keeping Greece from bankruptcy.
“If the radical left wins – which cannot be ruled out – the consequences for the currency union are unforeseeable,” Juncker, Continue reading
Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson, the blind virtuoso of flat-pickin’ guitar, died yesterday at his farm house in the Blue Ridge Mountains following a fall.
Growing up in a small Kansas farm town in the 1950s , we often listened Watson’s music, and we still have a very soft spot in our heart for the feelings it evokes.
The Washington Post’s Terence McArdle writes:
In a career that spanned seven decades, Mr. Watson influenced such diverse musicians as Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, Clarence White of the Byrds, the innovative acoustic picker Leo Kottke and bluegrass multi-instrumentalist Ricky Skaggs.
“He is single-handedly responsible for the extraordinary increase in acoustic flat-picking and finger-picking guitar performance,” the late Ralph Rinzler, an influential folklorist who first recorded Mr. Watson in the early 1960s, once wrote. “His flat-picking style has no precedent in earlier country music history.”
And now, for the music. . .
House Of The Rising Sun
Steel Guitar Rag
St. James Infirmary
And here’s Doc with “Deep River Blues,” explaining his technique for the Smithsonian Institution:
With the European elections over and the heated rhetoric dying down, it’s time for an aural change of pace.
First, Arthur Rubenstein serves up Johannes Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, with Bernard Haitink conducting the Concertgebouw Orchestra:
Next, Yefim Bronfman plays Camille Saint-Saëns’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, with Kurt Sanderling conducting the Berlin Philharmonic:
Finally, an unusual performance by that greatest of pianists, Glenn Gould, of compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach, beginning with a few seconds of the contrapunctual of the The Art of the Fugue, followed by the Partita No. 4 in D major, two fugues and a prelude from Die Wohltemperierten Klavier, and closing with another selection from The Art of the Fugue:
Two stories of note today, one from France and the other Brussels.
Beauty pageant idiocy in Paris
While we question when whole notion of “beauty pageants,” the following tale exemplifies how the trivial can be turned into a platform for something else entirely
From Rosie Collyer of Radio France Internationale:
Ultra-nationalists from the group New France protested outside the first ever Miss Black France beauty pageant in Paris on Saturday. They were demanding a white-only version of the competition.
Riot police were called to contain a potentially volatile situation between ultra-nationalists demonstrators and spectators of Miss Black France. A group of some 30 members of Nouvelle France, or New France chanted slogans and held a banner, which read: When will there be a Miss White France?
The group has a “nationalist” agenda but does not align itself with the Front National political party of Marine Le Pen, which won over 20 per cent of the vote in the first round of the presidential elections. A group member, who asked to remain anonymous, told RFI:
“France should be for French people. Why should Asians and Africans come here and have more rights than us? This is why we are demanding a Miss White France,” he said.
Yeah. Franc should be for French people. But that raises the question of who is French?
Lots of French people have ancestors who came from different places [ancient Greeks and Romans, Carthaginians, Basques, Huns. . .well you get the idea]. And when you get right down to it, we’re all Africans anyway if you go back far enough.
So we suspect what the buffoon really means is “France should be for white people.”
And the Roma win a major court victory
Before we get to the hard news. First we’ll bring you some remarkable videos.
The Roma [the largest of the peoples grouped together under the “Gypsy” label], have their own anthem, Dzelem Dzelem [I traveled, I traveled], set to a traditional melody with words by Žarko Jovanović and adopted at the first World Romani Congress in 1971.
The 1949 lyrics are set against the background of the Porajmos, “the devouring,” the Nazi effort which targeted the Roma, Sinti, and Sorb peoples for extermination along with Europe’s Jews.
Hence the lines referring to the black-clad minion’s of Heinrich Himmler’s SS:
I once had a great family,
The Black Legions murdered them
We offer three versions.
The first, recorded two years ago, is performed by Macedonian Roma artist Esma Redzepova:
Our second version, recorded in 2009, is by Serbian Romani singer Jelena Marković:
Finally, a rendition by the children of the Gandhi School Choir of Pecs, Hungary:
And now for the court victory
From Deutsche Welle’s Sonya Angelica Diehn:
The European Court of Human Rights ruled that evicting Roma from an established community outside of Sofia, Bulgaria, would violate the right to life. Amnesty International called it a “landmark judgment.”
The Strasbourg-based rights court issued the ruling last week in favor Continue reading
Born 79 years ago today [10 days too late?] and still going strong, and still smokin’.
Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain:
Always on my Mind:
Roll Me Up and Smoke When I Die:
We’ll begin with a video of an amazing performance in Oslo yesterday, where 40,000 Norwegians braved the rain and cold to sing the Pete Seeger song so deeply despised by mass murdered Anders Behring Breivik:
From the Norwegian Culture vlog:
Oslo, April 26 2012: What started out as an initiative to gather a few dozens of people to sing the song Anders Behring Breivik told in court that he disliked the most, turned out to become a gathering of 40 000 people.
The song is the Norwegian version of Pete Seeger’s “My Rainbow Race,” rewritten in Norwegian and released in the early 1970s by singer/songwriter Lillebjørn Nilsen who is the lead in this recording from the Norwegian Broadcasting corporation (NRK).
This extremely well known and popular song was sung by the crowd at the Youngstorget square before they all walked to the court building, still singing, laying down roses outside while court was still in session.
More on the event from Deutsche Presse-Agentur’s Lennart Simonsson:
The “rose rally” in central Oslo was a private initiative by two women who used social media to organize the event.
Lill Hjonnevag told NRK television it was necessary to “reclaim the song,” which is well-known among Norwegian children, and which Breivik had attacked in his testimony as an example of “Marxist indoctrination.”
The crowd then walked from Oslo’s central Youngstorget square to the court, where they placed roses around the building.
Christine Bar, another organizer of the Oslo gathering, told NRK she had been left “speechless” by the turnout, which was far higher than the 5,000 that had been expected to attend.
Musician Lillebjorn Nilsen, who translated Seeger’s text into Norwegian, led the 40,000-strong crowd and conveyed a greeting from 93-year-old Seeger.
Labor Party youth wing leader Eskil Pedersen its members had often sang Seeger’s song at Utoya island. When survivors returned to the island in August, they sang “My Rainbow Race” once more as they walked from the quay.
So much for the good news. Now for the latest from the dark side, including some xenophobic pandering by the French Socialist [sic] presidential candidate.
Rise of French right worries eurocrats:
The third place finish of the National Front’s Marine Le Pen in the first round of the French presidential election has the European Union rightly worried.
European Union ministers meeting 23 April in Luxembourg said they were concerned over the rise of French nationalist party in Sunday’s presidential elections.
Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn blamed incumbent French President Nicolas Sarkozy for the success of far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in France‘s elections.
“If I were the president of the [French] Republic, I would ask myself why one out of five people in France are now voting for the National Front,” Asselborn said before the start of an EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg.
Socialist candidate François Hollande pipped Sarkozy in Sunday’s 10-candidate first round by 28.6% to 27.2%, but National Front leader Le Pen stole the show, surging to 17.9%, the biggest tally a far-right candidate has ever managed.
Her performance mirrored advances across the continent by anti-establishment Eurosceptic populists from Amsterdam and Vienna to Helsinki as the eurozone’s grinding debt crisis deepens anger over government spending cuts and unemployment.
The unpopular Sarkozy now faces a difficult balancing act to attract both the far-right and centrist voters he needs to stay in office.
Returning to the campaign trail yesterday (23 April), Sarkozy hammered home promises to toughen border controls, tighten security on the streets and keep industrial jobs in France – signature issues for Le Pen at a time of anger over immigration, violent crime and unemployment running at a 12-year high.
“National Front voters must be respected,” Sarkozy told reporters as he left his campaign headquarters in Paris. “They voiced their view. It was a vote of suffering, a crisis vote. Why insult them? I have heard Mr Hollande criticising them.”
EU Council chief joins the warning chorus
The fight to keep Europe’s borders open is meeting strong resistance from both Germany and France, which are seeking changes to the Schengen Treaty to allow them to close their borders for 30-day periods.
And both Sarkozy and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi mounted ethnic cleansing operations against Roma [“gypsies”] and Sarko has expelled members of the Travelers community as well.
From Valentina Pop of EUobserver:
EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy has spoken out against the “winds of populism” threatening freedom of movement in the Union – a swipe at anti-immigrant discourse in French elections and on the Dutch political scene.
“It is the duty of each government to make sure that no-one – no member of any group or any minority – is treated as a second-class citizen. Regrettably, the winds of populism are affecting a key achievement of European integration: the free movement of persons within our borders,” he said in a speech in the Romanian parliament on Wednesday (25 April).
Keeping the EU’s inner borders open was a “sign of civilisation,” the EU official noted.
“In that space, there is no room for stigmatisation of foreigners, as happens in certain countries nowadays,” he added.
Sarko licks Le Pen’s boots
The metaphor’s not ours, but comes from a blog of telecaster France 24:
Under pressure, and desperate to renew his lease for the Elysee Presidential palace, Sarkozy has chosen one clear, it must seem the only, way forward: Start licking the boots of National Front (FN) candidate Marine Le Pen.
Yes, Le Pen and the glorious 18% support she won in the first round of the presidential race. Yes, the National Front, France’s far-right party, which despite its new blonde window dressing, remains a shop run by Nazi collaboration apologists, royalists and unabashed xenophobes.
In the widely viewed television program “Words and Actions” on French public television on Thursday, Sarkozy denied any marriage with Marine Le Pen. “I will forge no alliance with Mrs. Le Pen. No National Front minister [in a future cabinet]. It’s crystal clear.”
And he’s right! Why take on a National Front minister in your future government if you are already taking your campaign cues directly from FN headquarters?
The “socialist” pays Le Pen tribute
Hollande, the Socialist-in-name-only who seems likely to beat Sarko in next week’s runoff, is paying Le Pen homage, as reported by Chinese news agency Xinhua:
French Socialist Party presidential candidate Francois Hollande vowed on Friday to cut flows of immigrants seeking for jobs in France.
Speaking to RTL radio, the presidential election frontrunner said limiting economic immigration was “indispensable” and indicated Continue reading
It’s time for another compendium of songs by perhaps the greatest balladeer to emerge from the 1960′s, Phil Ochs, an artist whose songs are even more meaningful today than when he sang them during the course of his all-too-brief lifetime.
We’ll begin with an early song about globalization and its impacts, “United Fruit”:
And a song that’s as true today as ever, “Cops of the World”:
We’ll smash down your doors, we don’t bother to knock
We’ve done it before, so why all the shock
We’re the biggest and the toughest kids on the block
And we’re the Cops of the World, boys
We’re the Cops of the World
And when we butchered your sons, boys
When we butchered your sons
Have a stick of our gum, boys
Have a stick of our bubble gum
We own half the world, oh say can you see
And the name for our profits is democracy
So, like it or not, you will have to be free
‘Cause we’re the Cops of the World, boys
We’re the Cops of the World
And a ballad from his album All the News That’s Fit to Sing, “Talking Cuban Crisis” about the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis that brought the world to the bring on nuclear war:
Here’s one of the great anti-war songs of the 1960′s “I Ain’t a Marching Anymore”:
Another great anti-war song, “What Are You Fighting For?”:
MORE AFTER THE JUMP! Continue reading
For the International Space Station, a NASA video of the glories of Planet Earth, with some phenomenal auroral images, set to music. Pop it up to full screen:
This video features a series of time lapse sequences photographed by the Expedition 30 crew aboard the International Space Station. Set to the song “Walking in the Air,” by Howard Blake, the video takes viewers around the world, through auroras, and over dazzling lightning displays. The sequences are as follows:
:01 — Stars over southern United States
:08 — US west coast to Canada
:21 — Central Europe to the Middle East
:36 — Aurora Australis over the Indian Ocean
:54 — Storms over Africa
1:08 — Central United States
1:20 — Midwest United States
1:33 — United Kingdom to Baltic Sea
1:46 — Moonset
1:55 — Northern United States to Eastern Canada
2:12 — Aurora Australis over the Indian Ocean
2:32 — Comet Lovejoy
2:53 — Aurora Borealis over Hudson Bay
3:06 — United Kingdom to Central Europe
We’re walking in the air
We’re floating in the moonlit sky
The people far below are sleeping as we fly
I’m holding very tight
I’m riding in the midnight blue
I’m finding I can fly so high above with you
Far across the world
The villages go by like dreams
The rivers and the hills
The forests and the streams
Children gaze open mouth
Taken by surprise
Nobody down below believes their eyes
We’re surffing in the air
We’re swimming in the frozen sky
We’re drifting over icy
Mountain floating by
Suddenly swooping low on an ocean deep
Arousing of a mighty monster from its sleep
We’re walking in the air
We’re floating in the midnight sky
And everyone who sees us greets us as we fly
Berkeley’s Country Joe McDonald and the Fish at Woodstock with a 4/20 anthem:
Sixty some years ago, Paris gave birth to the Theatre of the Absurd, the staged embodiment of Albert Camus’ contention that life is, at it’s core, meaningless. One of its exponents was another famous Parisian, Jean Paul Sartre, who praised the absurdist plays of Jean Genet, declaring “Good is only an illusion. Evil is a Nothingness which arises upon the ruins of Good.”
The spirit of Camus and his theatrical exmplars is very much alive today in French politics, exemplified in a viral music video, “Prends le pouvoir sur moi Jean-Luc Mélenchon.”
The real story behind the video is classically absurdist. It’s not a creation of the campaign of Mélenchon,
It is, in fact, simply a public relations stunt.
From Radio France Internationale:
A pop video featuring a blonde Swedish woman imploring firebrand leftist French presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon to “take power over me”, which went viral on the internet, is a media hoax.
“You are a musician who plays music on me,” sings 24-year-old ‘Victoire Passage’ in the video that has been seen over 500,000 times on YouTube and sparked a quest to find out her identity.
A press release said Passage “fell in love” with Mélenchon after watching a television reportage about the Communist-backed candidate when he called to “retake the Bastille” at a rally in March.
On Friday, the conservative and widely-read Le Figaro newspaper published a story revealing the singer’s identity as Rebecca Carlborn, a Swedish singer who “wants to be like Paris Hilton.”
But public relations company Passage Pietons told the French news agency that the video was in fact just to celebrate the company’s seventh birthday.
“The campaign was sad, boring, we wanted to bring in something fresh,” said Frederic Lambert, one of Passage Pietons’ two bosses.
The new Paris Hilton?
Camus, we suspect, would’ve loved it and Sartre would’ve smiled.
We’ve reported repeatedly on the plight of Europe’s Roma, Sinti, and Traveler peoples — collectively often called Gypsies.
Both the governments of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi relied on whipping up anti-Roma sentiment to distract voters from their roles in creating the economic woes sweeping their countries.
And we have especially disturbing reports from Germany and Eastern Europe, while we close with some of the finest musicianship you’ll ever hear.
Pandering to the political base
While Berlusconi is gone, Sarkozy remains committed to xenophobia, targeting both Muslims and the Roma. Most recently, he’s declared that “we have too many foreigners,” a bit of baiting that plays well with his conservative base.
So would Sarkozy’s leading rival in the upcoming presidential election mean better times for the Roma?
Antoine Lerougetel of World Socialist Web Site reported on the stark reality on 24 February:
In a February 12 interview on Canal Plus TV, François Hollande, Socialist Party candidate for president in the upcoming elections, proposed as a “solution” to the presence in France of Roma European Union (EU) citizens “the creation of camps … to accommodate them”.
The association of a “solution” in relation to specific racial groups with special camps can only bring to mind the period of Nazi rule in Europe, during which not only Jews and homosexuals, but also Roma and gypsies were rounded up and sent to extermination camps. This was not lost on many French people.
Hollande called for the establishment of “European rules to avoid our experiencing this constant to and fro [of the Roma]. Let there be camps that we can decide on, that is, to avoid these people settling just anywhere … [to] enable these people to go back to Romania … and not then return to France”.
Put more concretely, the Roma would be rounded up, and after their improvised encampments were broken up, they would be sent back to Romania, the same policy the present right-wing government of President Nicolas Sarkozy is pursuing.
International Roma Day riots
Sunday was International Roma Day, an annual event created in 1990 and recognized by an increasing number of governments around the globe.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even had her own announcement to mark Friday’s events.
But in Belgrade, the day was just another excuse for violence by the Serbian racist right.
International Roma Day coincided with racist clashes in Belgrade over the relocation of Roma from a shanty town in central Belgrade to state-sponsored container camp in a suburb.
Residents of suburban Resnik protested over the relocation of Roma to their community, where they would live in containers provided by the government. Local authorities said that if the government doesn’t drop the plans, they would organise a blockade of a nearby railway.
Serbian police said 12 officers and two protestors were hurt in the clashes in Resnik on 8 April. About 20 protestors were arrested by police who were guarding the construction site.
Belgrade Mayor Dragan Đilas called the protest “racist”. “The same law applies for all and there will be no negotiations between Belgrade and the citizens of Resnik who refuse the relocation of Roma in their community,” he was quoted as saying.
As protests occurred in Resnik, celebrations were held to mark International Roma Day, organised by the Serbian Parliament in Belgrade.
Deputy Prime Minister Božidar Đelic’, who is also coordinator of the Decade of Roma Inclusion, said the government had decided to remove shanty towns from the capital and provide residents with new accommodation.
Germany’s sentiment recalls a bitter past
For Europe’s Roma and Sinti peoples, being targets of murderous violence has a long history.
But nothing compares to the campaign launched by Hitler’s Germany, a program of systematized slaughter in parallel with the Nazi murder campaign against Jews and the mentally ill.
While the Holocaust against Jews is widely remembered, that’s not the case with what the Roma call O Porrajmos, the devouring. Yet the intent was the same, to annihilate people from the face of a continent.
And while prejudice against Jews is widely and rightly condemned in Germany, rebuked whenever it appears, such is not the case with hatred expressed against the Sinti and Roma — an attitude still prevalent among a large minority of the German population.
From Deutsche Welle’s Andrea Grunau:
According to polls conducted by conflict researcher Wilhelm Heitmeyer, some 44 percent of the German population believe that Sinti and Roma have a tendency to criminal conduct. Four out of 10 say it is a problem for them to have Sinti and Roma nearby. And yet, say Heitmeyer and other researchers, the respondents are not likely to know any members of the minority they dislike so much.
That’s typical for what scientists call antiziganism, or anti-Romanyism. It is an attitude not based on individual experience, says Berlin political scientist Markus End, but on projections by the surrounding population. “You can have antiziganist beliefs without ever having had any personal contact with people who you perceive as being ‘gypsies.’ ” For centuries, Sinti and Roma have been stereotyped as homeless, lazy, or criminal, clichés repeated by the media today.
The German government’s anti-discrimination agency admits that “racist slogans against Sinti and Roma are still common in Germany.” Jugendschutz.net, an initiative lobbying for the protection of children’s rights online, has analyzed antiziganism on the internet and found that often, platforms like Facebook and YouTube are used to spread racist rants and murder threats.
German rightwing extremists actively agitate against Romanis online. Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner, says he is particularly worried about a neo-Nazi forum where members openly call for a “special treatment” for Romanis. This term was used by the Nazis to conceal their real intention of murdering minorities.
And Roma Buzz has more on Germany’s Roma and Sinti population, including a surprising number:
There are an estimated 120,000 Sinti and Roma in Germany, with some 70,000 of them having the German passport. This makes them the largest ethnic minority group in the country.
Sinti and Roma are originally from Northwest-India. Some 600 to 800 years ago, they migrated to Europe in groups. The Sinti, a sub-group of the Romanis, came to German-speaking regions, to what is today Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The groups who moved to eastern and southeastern Europe call themselves Romani and came to Germany about a hundred years ago.
For centuries, Sinti and Roma were victims of persecution, which culminated under Nazi rule, when more than 500,000 people were Continue reading
A remarkable and inspiring story of the power of music from BBC’s Imagine.
The program notes:
The remarkable accomplishment of a great humanist, José Antonio Abreu, who dedicated his life to set up the ‘Sistema’ in 1975, an extraordinary music and social project which has been running in Venezuela in an attempt to transform the lives of the nations poorest children.
It has been using classical music to tackle the social problems of a country where 60% of the population live below the poverty line. By offering free instruments and tuition through a network of after-school centres all over the country, the Sistema has kept thousands of children away from the drugs, alcohol and gang-related violence of the streets and has led to the creation of 30 professional orchestras in a country that had only 2 before it started. Currently, 275,000 children attend the Sistemas schools and many of them play in one of the 125 youth orchestras.
At the pinnacle of the system stands the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela under its music director Gustavo Dudamel who is himself a product of the Sistema and is also the musical director for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.