A silence song


Jeruzalemkerk, Brugge

So much silence stretching above me
Around me too
Has it deafened me
Has it closed my ears
Has the silence itself brought about this rapture
Between silence and sound
Between the cry and the cull
If man raises one voice
I’ll raise two then
One for loss
One for losing
One for death
And one for birth

He may hang bloody torn on this tree of moss
Though my grimace will cut my grin
I’ll rise triumphant
I’ll rise triumphing
You won’t catch me
I fly unseen through the wind of the worlds
Missiles cut space spearing the starlight
Masking the moon
Wide of the march

Give me two reasons to stay here
Lost light, lost love
Smudge the tracks and smother the traces
Of the fires of your fear

Near the
Under the
Beside the
Beyond the flowers
Then further still
The children lie in silent space
The wind shivers through
Their corn burnt hair

Silence immaculate
If they move from silence to sound
Will the world shudder
Will my heart stop
In a cave
In a maze
Spring slides
Through my sadness
And my winter

The stars have frozen into space
The stars have molten into space

The children wait
Flowers around burnish their hair
With brazen gold and heart-red rose
If i move then i shall stop
How have the sightless fallen
I shall take a knife to your heart
I’ll take a knife to your heart
I’ll, i’ll take a knife to your, to your heart
And London bridge no long longer remains
Christ’s face refracted through
The sky then breaks up into
Different shapes

A silence song, from: Thunder Perfect Mind (1992) by Current 93.

in memoriam joseph shabalala

Het Parool van 24-03-2003, Pagina 9, Kunst, Recensie
Zang als scherpe zwarte bijl

Vanavond in Carré: de Zuid-Afrikaanse groep Ladysmith Black Mambazo, die eind jaren tachtig wereldberoemd werd door de samenwerking met Paul Simon. Het verhaal begint eerder.

MEER DAN veertig jaar geleden richtte zanger Joseph Shabalala in Ladysmith, Zuid-Afrika de a-capellagroep Ladysmith Black Mambazo op. Black Mambazo (‘zwarte bijl’) staat voor de kracht van de snijdende vocale stijl, die de Zoeloes ontwikkelden: iscathamiya. Sindsdien zijn er in de groep slechts enkele personele wisselingen geweest, maar nog steeds behoren zes van de tien leden tot de familie Shabalala.

‘Het duurde heel lang voordat een platenmaatschappij ons wilde opnemen,’ zegt Shabalala. ‘A-capellazang werd destijds als ‘commercieel niet lonend’ beschouwd, dus pas in 1973 konden we voor het eerst een volledige elpee opnemen.’ De groep kreeg er, met 25.000 verkochte exemplaren, de eerste gouden plaat in Afrika voor. Een voorbode voor het succes dat zou volgen.

In 1987 werd Ladysmith Black Mambazo wereldberoemd, toen Paul Simon de zangers vroeg mee te zingen op zijn album Graceland. ‘In februari 1985 kwam Paul Simon naar Zuid-Afrika. Iedereen in Zuid-Afrika luisterde in die tijd naar Simons live-plaat met Art Garfunkel, opgenomen in Central Park in New York. Al snel bleek dat deze Amerikaanse ster op zoek was naar ons. Het eerste contact verliep heel gemoedelijk, al hadden we geen idee wat hij precies wilde. Later dat jaar nodigde hij ons uit in Londen te komen opnemen – in de Abbey Road-studio, die ik alleen van The Beatles kende! Ik had hem allerlei elpees van ons meegegeven en thuis had hij ons nummer Homeless bewerkt.’

Met wereldwijd zeven miljoen verkochte exemplaren werd Graceland voor veel mensen de introductie tot Afrikaanse muziek. In Zuid-Afrika zelf zorgde de groep voor het behoud van de iscathamiya. Tegenwoordig doceert Shabalala aan de universiteit van Natal aan jongere generaties de finesses van deze zangstijl. ‘In Ladysmith wemelt het van de jonge groepen die onze positie zouden kunnen overnemen,’ lacht Shabalala. ‘Er is zoveel talent daar!’

Als een ‘Ellington of voices’ arrangeert Shabalala de stemmen in zijn groep. Bescheiden: ‘Ik schrijf inderdaad alle partijen. Maar dat komt simpelweg doordat vanaf het begin iedereen naar mij keek om te zien wat we zouden gaan doen.’ Inspiratie ontleent Shabalala aan de Zoeloe-traditie, gospelgroepen zoals The Golden Gate Quartet, maar ook aan mbaqanga, de opzwepende popmuziek die ontstond in de townships.* ‘Die diepe bassen van de mbaqanga-groepen transformeer ik tot zangpartijen.’

Shabalala overleefde de Apartheid, maar verloor in 1991 een familielid en vorig jaar zijn vrouw door politiegeweld. Toch straalt hij behalve wijsheid een blijmoedige spiritualiteit uit. ‘In de hoogtijdagen van de apartheid had Ladysmith Black Mambazo veel te maken met allerlei onduidelijke types, die ons na concerten het hemd van het lijf vroegen. Later bleken dat allemaal infiltranten van de veiligheidsdienst geweest te zijn, die teleurgesteld aan hun meerderen moesten rapporteren dat het ‘die jongens van Black Mambazo’ alleen om het zingen te doen is.’

Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Congratulations South Africa – the ultimate collection (Wrasse Records/LC Music).

*Een moderne mbaqanga-klassieker die in iedere serieuze muziekcollectie thuishoort is het schitterende album Urban Zulu (1999) van wijlen Busi Mhlongo.

Copyright: Jaïr Tchong


Salif Keita has so many great songs, but this one in particular never seizes to move me deeply. Laban is from his album M’Bemba, recorded in Mali (2004). Check out the gorgeous spatial acoustics of this recording, like its predecessor Moffou (2002) it symbolizes Keita’s glorious return to acoustic grandeur instead of the afropop approach which makes his eighties and nineties output a bit dated. Some of his albums suffer from that bleak, poppy sound, but Moffou and M’Bemba must be in everyone’s Salif Keita collection. I do hope he selects some of these songs next tuesday (June 25th, 2019), when he plays the Koninklijk Theater Carré in Amsterdam (20.00 hrs). Tickets can be bought ici.

een kerkdienst voor de filmkunst*


Orwa Nyrabia, artistic director of IDFA, explains the how and why

Dziga Vertov’s Anniversary of the Revolution (1918) was long lost, but thanks to Nikolai Izvolov, IDFA could screen a glorious full version of this epic film – perhaps the first documentary film in world history. Bass Sambeek (Cinesonic) made it happen with a live soundtrack, provided by Kate NV – electronics, Anna Azernikova – soprano, Victoria Dmitrieva – piano, Anastasia Kozlova – violin, Varvara Tishina – soprano, Rodolfo Ravissant – accordeon and the Russian Chamber Choir, conducted by Anna Azernikova.

*”Een kerkdienst voor de filmkunst”(“A church service for the art of cinema”), my colleague SK dubbed this wonderful, wonderful night.


The Ex

the ex tumult 1983

The Ex, Tumult, 1983

Some bands are beyond the usual spectrum. The Ex I consider to be one of these unique bands, the expression ‘hors categorie’ was made up for them. They defy any categorisation (that lazy habit of the music industry) and keep on moving towards unknown territory. And it isn’t nostalgia working here, please no. Without a doubt, there is no band which I saw so many times, under such totally different circumstances like The Ex. The first LP I bought was Hands Up! You’re Free! from 1988, which still sounds very good. UK radio legend John Peel knew where to look for genuine sounds.

Later on, I fell in love with the double lp Joggers and Smoggers (1989), which is a podcast avant la lettre, an audio summer walk through Amsterdam, at the end of the eighties. With amazing sound attacks, ranging from inspired poet Dorpsoudste de Jong, via impro legends Ab Baars and Wolter Wierbos, to Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore, all adding to the unique atmosphere of that album.

In 1991 they released the gorgeous album Scrabbling at the lock, with the late NYC celloplayer Tom Cora in an outstanding performance. Hidegen fujnak a szelek from that album even became somewhat of a dancefloor hit – well, at least in the seedy alternative places I used to dance my gothic dance back in the day.

The very same year (to be precise: june 29th, 1991) The Ex lured me into the old Bimhuis (at Oude Schans), for the very first time actually. That night I was all nerves, travelling all the way from Nuenen, Brabant to attend the first collaboration The Ex did with improv jazz musicians like Han Bennink, Ab Baars and Wolter Wierbos. The VHS of this wonderful night captures the spirit of that night quite nice. It is no exaggeration to put it like this: thanks to The Ex I discovered both The Bimhuis and the splendor of improv music.

There are many more vivid memories: The Ex performing with contemporary dance maestro Wim Vandekeybus’ dance troupe in Nijmegen’s classy De Vereeniging. The Ex curating a spectacular night in the old WORM (in Delfshaven, before they moved to innacity Rotterdam), with Ethiopian giants like saxophoneplayer Getatchew Mekurya and singer Mohammed ‘Jimmy’ Mohammed. The Ex performing with Alex D’Electrique in a gigantic former wharf. The Ex with Mekurya & Guests in The Melkweg. Last year they again surprised me in OCCII with all new material, abstract and glorious, enriched with Congolese sounds.

Again, The Ex cherrypicked an excellent line up of kindred musical spirits for this sunday in Amsterdam. From 19:00 hrs on, a festival in the Paradiso. With a.o. King Ayisoba from Ghana, Han Bennink, Oscar Jan Hoogland, Gummbah, Brader Musiki & Kaja Draksler Octet. Around 70 artists in one night..

Main Hall: MC Tijdelijke Toon / DJ Meda
19:30 – Drumband Hallelujah Makkum feat. ZEA & Kosten Koper
20:00 – Vincenzo Castellana
20:30 – Kaja Draksler Octet
21:15 – Zewditu Yohannes, Endris Hassen & Misale Legesse
22:00 – Brader Musiki
22:45 – The Ex

Upstairs: MC / DJ Richard James Foster
20:00 – Anne-James Chaton & Andy Moor
20:40 – Katherina Bornefeld & George Hadow
20:55 – Lena Hessels
21:15 – Terrie Hessels & Ken Vandermark
21:45 – Gummbah & Leonard Bedaux Cinema
22:25 – Kristoffer Alberts & Han Bennink
23:40 – Massicot

21:00 – Oscar Jan Hoogland / Practical Music
21:45 – Diego Armando DJ
22:15 – H 0 W R A H
23:00 – Diego Armando DJ
00:15 – Bazooka
01:00 – DJ Meda

Music for mallet instruments, voices and organ (Steve Reich, 1973)

Just came across this fantastic version of Steve Reich’s Music for mallet instruments, voices and organ (1973), by ensemble Alarm will Sound. I can vividly imagine this music to sound during the creation of a universe – or two.

Great interview (in Dutch, Groene Amsterdammer, 1985) by Frits van der Waa here.

Byrne interviews Byrne

In an attempt to bypass promotional interviews for the movie Stop Making Sense (1984), Byrne decided to interview himself. Besides being outrageously funny performing as several interviewer types, Byrne as interviewee excels as usual with some razorsharp observations like ‘music is very physical, and often the body understands it before the head’. Hence the legendary big suit: to make his head smaller! I cheered out loud at home watching this, when Byrne states that ‘the better the singer’s voice, the harder it is to believe what they are saying’. The lovesong he sings to a lamp is ofcourse this gem, a personal favourite.

all anxieties tranquilized

Network (Sidney Lumet, 1976. Met: Faye Dunaway, Peter Finch, William Holden, scenario: Paddy Chayefsky).

Arthur Jensen: You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won’t have it! Is that clear? You think you’ve merely stopped a business deal. That is not the case! The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now they must put it back! It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity! It is ecological balance! You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multivariate, multinational dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds, and shekels. It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic and subatomic and galactic structure of things today! And YOU have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and YOU… WILL… ATONE! Am I getting through to you, Mr. Beale? You get up on your little twenty-one inch screen and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM, and ITT, and AT&T, and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today. What do you think the Russians talk about in their councils of state, Karl Marx? They get out their linear programming charts, statistical decision theories, minimax solutions, and compute the price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments, just like we do. We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable bylaws of business. The world is a business, Mr. Beale. It has been since man crawled out of the slime. And our children will live, Mr. Beale, to see that… perfect world… in which there’s no war or famine, oppression or brutality. One vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock. All necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused. And I have chosen you, Mr. Beale, to preach this evangel.

Howard Beale: Why me?

Arthur Jensen: Because you’re on television, dummy. Sixty million people watch you every night of the week, Monday through Friday.

Howard Beale: I have seen the face of God.

Arthur Jensen: You just might be right, Mr. Beale.