Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Este Mundo

by Rupa & The April Fishes

Until a couple months ago, I never heard of Rupa & The April Fishes. Quite by chance, I came across Por la Frontera and loved it so much that I simply had to get the album. And buy a few copies more for my friends.

Many things in Este Mundo — the trilinguality, the sound of the cello, that feel of cabaret / circus / Gypsy caravan — reminded me of Lhasa’s The Living Road. But The Fishes got the sound, joy and nostalgia of their own.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Multiscale guitars

by Luca Canteri

Every self-respecting Spanish island should have a luthier. On Fuerteventura, we are lucky to have Luca Canteri. His speciality are steel-string acoustic guitars, although I know he also made a timple. Luca’s guitars were the first (and so far the last) multiscale instruments I ever held in my hands.

My first visual impression was that of dizziness. You’re expecting the frets to be parallel, and when they ain’t, you suspect something is wrong with the floor or overall geometry of the room.



I tried two of Luca’s creations, the Grand Concert Multiscale (a) and “The ParLou” (b), the latter looking a bit like a 19th-century guitar. I have to say that steel-string guitar is not exactly my thing, I feel more comfortable with a classical. For example, the neck is a bit narrow for my hands. But once you get used to the idea of fanned frets, it actually feels more natural for a left hand. (Because it is.) I liked the sound. Clear trebles, surprisingly — especially for The ParLou — loud and deep bass.

The only side-effect of my experience is that now I am convinced that I really need one of these.

More photos of acoustic guitar @ Shutterstock.

Friday, 10 May 2013


by Sevara Nazarkhan

Although I knew of Sevara Nazarkhan (from Songlines, for example), it was not until last month that I had a chance to sit lay down and listen. The thing is, my brother sent me another pile of music CDs — mostly jazz, plus three albums of Sevara. To my own surprise, I liked Sen more than two other, more “traditional” albums. (Disclaimer: I am not an expert in Uzbek music, traditional or otherwise, I just read the credits. Most of the music on Yol Bolsin and Tortadur is credited as “traditional”. All but two songs on Sen are composed by Sevara.) My favourite tracks are Kunlarim Sensiz (East meets Kraftwerk!) and reggae-flavoured Ne Kechar. Sevara has a beautiful voice (check out her live version of Erkalab) and she brought some truly top-notch musicians to this album. Oh, and Peter Gabriel’s got to play the bass line on Bu Sevgi. What else do you want?

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

In the Company of Cheerful Ladies

by Alexander McCall Smith

The head of No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency does not get to solve many mysteries in this book. It’s not that she is going on vacations. In fact, a bit too much is happening. Thankfully, Mma Makutsi and Mma Ramotswe’s new employee are doing excellent detective work of their own, while our traditionally built heroine confronts her past.

Mma Ramotswe liked to walk in her garden in the evening, taking care to move slowly and with firm tread; those whose crept about at night risked stepping on a snake if they were not careful, as snakes move out of our way only if they feel vibrations in the ground. A light person — a person of non-traditional build, for example — was at far greater risk of being bitten by a snake for that very reason. That was another argument, of course, for maintaining traditional build — consideration for snakes, and safety too.

Mma Ramotswe was well aware of the difficulties now faced by traditionally built people, particularly by traditionally built ladies. There was a time in Botswana when nobody paid much attention to thin people — indeed thin people might sometimes simply not be seen at all, as they could so easily be looked past. If a thin person stood against a background of acacia trees and grass, then might he not either merge into the background or be thought to be a stick or even a shadow? This was never a danger with a traditionally built person; such a person would stand in the landscape with the same prominence and authority as a baobab tree.

There was no doubt in Mma Ramotswe’s mind that Botswana had to get back to the values which had always sustained the country and which had made it by far the best country in Africa. There were many of these values, including respect for age — for the grandmothers who knew so much and had seen so much hardship — and respect for those who were traditionally built. It was all very well being a modern society, but the advent of prosperity and the growth of the towns was a poisoned cup from which one should drink with the greatest caution. One might have all the things which the modern world offered, but what was the use of these if they destroyed all that gave you strength and courage and pride in yourself and your country? Mma Ramotswe was horrified when she read of people being described in the newspapers as consumers. That was a horrible, horrible word, which sounded rather too like cucumber, a vegetable for which she had little time. People were not just greedy consumers, grabbing everything that came their way, nor were they cucumbers for that matter; they were Batswana, they were people!

Saturday, 4 May 2013

The Griffin and Sabine Trilogy

by Nick Bantock

Many years ago, without knowing anything about its author, I bought this extraordinary book in Oxfam. Extraordinary — not only because it has a word “extraordinary” on it. Anyone who holds it in her / his hands should realise absurdness of sentiment that the paper book has no future. In my view, this is the proper way to publish an epistolary novel. Griffin & Sabine: a beautiful reminder to use the snail mail once in a while.

So — you’ve been making love to me ten thousand miles away — how tantalizing. It accounts for the extreme potency of those drawings. I’ll have to find a way to return the affection. Remember to be gentle with yourself.
In retrospect, I’m not even sure he knew where I wanted to go. It’s difficult to be exact in pidgin.
Puck, the well-known wizard & changer of things, including himself, has had his wand stolen by the dreaded lugs. Puck sets off in pursuit, with his sidekick, Fin. However, without his wand, his spells only half-work, & he & Fin end up as a semi-banana-boat, heading downstream to recapture the wand.