Pygmy Music: A Video

My good friend Antony sent me this fascinating clip. Cameroonian musician Francis Bebey is playing a one-note flute, explaining how it served as both entertainment and a form of musical communication for pigmy tribes in Africa.

To bring it up to date, he is accompanied by another musician using a modern drum and bass machine.

It is a magical sound, full of history and culture.

Guest Post: Leon Stevens

Today’s featured blogger is writer, artist, blogger, and composer, Leon Stevens. Here is his short bio, and links to his work and social media. His guest post is the text of a newsletter he sent out to his subscibers. Please visit his blog to connect with Leon, or to read more about his varied work.

Leon Stevens is a blogger, composer, artist, and an author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures, Journeys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar and The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories.

https://www.linesbyleon.com

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Why I Write

I want to thank you for taking part in my writing journey. Writers write to share their ideas, visions, and emotions, and I hope that you find my weekly rambles entertaining. I write in a lot of different styles, which may or may not be the best way to keep a readership.

I think about it this way: My writing is like a box of—(I’ll stop there to avoid copyright infringement). But it is. You know the one, that assorted box that you get at Christmas, the one with the candy map. You always go after your favorites, but sometimes you take a little nibble of the one with the chocolate squiggle. Maybe you discover that you like it, or perhaps it makes you glad you didn’t buy a whole box of strawberry creams.

What was the first thing that I wrote that wasn’t part of a school assignment? Probably a song lyric, but I always scrapped it because I was never happy with the result. When I decided to pursue classical guitar studies, I began to compose, letting the music provide the emotion instead of words. I wrote many pieces, some I wrote down, still others I forgot. I recorded some, but it never came out polished. I make too many mistakes, I can never play as close to perfection as I want, I get nervous performing in front of people or a microphone, so it takes a lot of takes to get something that I am OK with. The first piece that I wrote is called Riviera Galliard, which is an homage to the Renaissance composer, John Dowland. I hope that I can record it and share it with you. There is my incentive.

I wrote a few others in the same style before turning to acoustic guitar after hearing the Canadian guitarist, Don Ross. Unfortunately, most of those pieces have been lost. Either I can’t find the scores that I wrote down, or my memory decided that I didn’t need to know those anymore. I can still dig up little snippets, but it is like reading a corner ripped out of a book.

Fast forward to my poetic journey. I ventured back into lyric writing to make sense of a difficult situation. The poems followed as some of the unused ideas became short poetic pieces. Most of my poetry is short and not too complicated. As one reader put it:

“Lines by Leon is an eclectic mix of poetry and thoughtful, personal reflection. The ideas are straightforward with an understandable simplicity. “

I wanted people to reflect on the poems and seek connections without having to try to interpret deep philosophical meanings or search for hidden underlying messages.

During my poetic journey, I started to sketch images that came to me. Some of these images evoked ideas that became my short, short stories-one or two paragraphs that tell part of a story that leaves the rest to your imagination. Some of my stories became longer, but still without conclusion, similar to waking from a dream and lying in bed thinking, what the…?

Enter science fiction: My forever favorite. If you have read my blog post, Returning to Roots (and I hope that you have), you will know that my father introduced me to this genre. We would watch science fiction T.V. shows, and he would read me stories. It was only natural that I would turn to this topic as my writing developed. I was able to cross my styles when I wrote a series of post-apocalyptic poems that are featured in my next book, The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories.

I also want to keep a sense of humor in my writing. Some of my poems and stories will hopefully make you chuckle or smile. My blogs and newsletters give me a chance to poke fun at things, be cynical at current events, and showcase my odd sense of humor.

Some writers stick to the same formula, and their readers stick with them, which is perfectly understandable. A successful author wrote that to be successful, you have to write what your audience wants. I do want to entertain readers, but I’m not trying to make everybody happy. I’m trying to make myself happy, by hopefully providing material that can be enjoyed by others.

If you are here for my poetry, fear not, I continue to write and still have pages to revise. It took me three years to get to my first book, and I promise that it won’t take another three for the next. For my sci-fi fans, I am proud to share my short stories, which could not have happened if it wasn’t for my father. Let’s all gather to share the love of the written word—no matter the style.

I almost forgot. When I get reviews like this:

It makes me happy and lets me know that I am on the right path.

-Leon

Significant Songs (79)

Reblogging a post from 2015 about a very old song that I love so much. Apologies to those who have seen it previously.
I was thinking about this song today, and it is in my head.

beetleypete

Pennies From Heaven

This song originated as the feature track from the 1936 film of the same name. Originally sung by Bing Crosby in that film, it was later recorded by almost every famous singer since. The list of those who covered the song is too long to write here, but it includes Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, and Sarah Vaughan. For me, this is best heard sung by a ‘crooner’, and the sadness underlying the central message of hope comes over well if it is recorded in a somewhat plaintive tone.

In 1978, the BBC produced a landmark television series of the same title, written by Dennis Potter, and starring Bob Hoskins, Cheryl Campbell, and Gemma Craven. The song featured heavily of course, and the version used was by Arthur Tracy. This was also made into a -best forgotten- Hollywood film adapted by and starring Steve Martin. The TV series…

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Jamiroquai: It’s Happening Again

Back in 2016, I published a post about the British music group, Jamiroquai.

https://beetleypete.com/2016/09/04/whatever-happened-to-jamiroquai/

It was rather a niche subject, but I thought it might be of interest to other British fans of that band. I had little idea then that it would become something of a blogging phenomenon, and spawn many more posts on the subject. Regular readers are probably stifling a yawn right now, thinking ‘Oh no, not that again!’

Since that day, it has stayed as the most-read post on this blog, by far. It even leads the regularly-read ‘About’ page by more than 1,000 views.

As of this morning, that post is still proudly holding top spot, with 5,014 views in four years.

But why am I mentioning it again? (I hear you cry…)

It always has at least one view every day, sometimes as many as six. Since that avalanche of views four years ago it has slowed to a trickle, but it is always there in the stats.

Then I noticed this, number five in the most-read posts since last Sunday.

Whatever happened to?: Jamiroquai
108 views

Could it be happening again?

Significant Songs (4)

I am reblogging this 2014 post because other than Jude and Sarah, hardly anyone has ever seen it. I still love this record!

beetleypete

Woman Trouble

In the year 2000, I was 48 years old. I had just moved to Camden, and was living alone, for the first time in ages. I had a new car, and like many tracks featured in this series, I heard a record on the radio in that car, that I had had not heard before. I couldn’t keep still in my seat, and found myself jiggling around, oblivious to strange stares from other drivers, in the heavy traffic leading out to Brent Cross. I didn’t really catch the name of the song, as I was too busy humming along to it, and car-dancing like a fool, to listen to the announcement at the end. I wanted to listen to it again, straight away, and felt empty when it had ended.

I had to endure the embarrassment of going into a record shop in Central London the next day…

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Music Production: Marc Urselli

For anyone interested in the production and record engineering side of music, here’s a good interview with Marc Urselli.

Here, There, Everywhere: Behind the Scenes with Marc Urselli

‘Marc Urselli is in demand.

To date, he’s wrapped up 3 Grammy Award wins and 6 nominations. Marc’s portfolio includes work with artists such as U2, Foo Fighters, Nick Cave, Lou Reed, Sting, Keith Richards, Kesha, Jeff Beck, Les Paul, Buddy Guy, Luther Vandross, Børns, The Black Crowes, and a plethora of other artists spread across the rock, pop, metal, jazz, experimental, avant garde, new music, urban, electronica and classical music arenas’.

A Life In Music: Roland Kemp

One of my greatest and oldest friends is Roland Kemp. Photographer, video artist, and musician, he has spent most of his life in one band or another. The first time I met him when I was just 17, it was when a friend took me to see his band play in a small hall in Eltham, South London.

Over fifty-one years ago.

His latest project is this song, called ‘The New Blues’. This is right up my street musically, and comes with an excellent video showcasing the female vocalist, Molly Alro, and many images relevant to the lyrics. If you enjoyed it, please give the video a ‘Like’ on You Tube.

Lyrically Evocative (30)

In 2004, I heard a song by the British band, Keane. It was called ‘Somewhere Only We Know’. I liked it a lot, but not enough to buy the album it came from as some of the other tracks did not appeal. Many years later, the song was covered by Lily Allen, to be used as the soundtrack for the John Lewis Christmas TV advert, in 2013.

Her plaintive vocals touched my heart, and for me they lifted the song to a new level.

Earlier this morning, I commented about her version on another blog post, and listening to the song once again, it made me remember just how relevant the lyrics are to me.

Here are those lyrics.

I walked across an empty land
I knew the pathway like the back of my hand
I felt the earth beneath my feet
Sat by the river and it made me complete
Oh, simple thing, where have you gone?
I’m getting old and I need something to rely on
So, tell me when you’re gonna let me in
I’m getting tired and I need somewhere to begin
I came across a fallen tree
I felt the branches of it looking at me
Is this the place we used to love?
Is this the place that I’ve been dreaming of?
Oh, simple thing, where have you gone?
I’m getting old and I need something to rely on
So, tell me when you’re gonna let me in
I’m getting tired and I need somewhere to begin
And if you have a minute, why don’t we go?
Talk about it somewhere only we know
This could be the end of everything
So, why don’t we go?
Somewhere only we know
Somewhere only we know
Oh, simple thing, where have you gone?
I’m getting old and I need something to rely on
So, tell me when you’re gonna let me in
I’m getting tired and I need somewhere to begin
And if you have a minute, why don’t we go?
Talk about it somewhere only we know
This could be the end of everything
So, why don’t we go?
So, why don’t we go?
This could be the end of everything
So, why don’t we go?
Somewhere only we know
Somewhere only we know
Somewhere only we know

Source: Musixmatch
Songwriters: Rice Oxley Timothy James / Hughes Richard David / Chaplin Thomas Oliver
Somewhere Only We Know lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Mgb Ltd.

And here is Lily’s version, with the animated TV ad.

Music, and Writing

I am one of those people that does not like distractions when I am writing. Other than Ollie snoring beside my desk, I like to write in silence.

However, many writers not only enjoy listening to music as they write, they draw inspiration from it for scenes in their books.

Here is an article that explains how one writer channels music to add creativity to her work.

How Music Influences Writing

The Pop Stars Moonlighting Blogathon 2020

Here is my entry in this month’s blogathon, hosted by https://weegiemidget.wordpress.com/
Gill has picked the theme of well-known music artists in acting roles, and I have chosen David Bowie.

This is actually a two-for-one post, as the film co-stars Ryuichi Sakamoto. He also composed the music for the soundtrack, and is a famous musician in his native Japan. To add a third musician to the mix, the theme song from the film, ‘Forbidden Colours’, was sung by David Sylvian.

As a lifelong fan of the music of David Bowie, I eagerly watched all of his acting roles too. When this film came out in 1983, I went to see it at a cinema in London.
***Plot spoilers included***

The story is set during WW2, in a Japanese prisoner of war camp for allied captives. As well as the two stars, we are treated to some excellent supporting actors, including Takeshi Kitano, Tom Conti, and Jack Thompson.

Soon after Major Celliers (Bowie) arrives at the camp, the commandant Captain Yonoi (Sakamoto) develops a fixation on him. Meanwhile, Celliers has become close to the senior British officer, Colonel Lawrence, (Conti) and soon develops a reputation as a troublemaker, and one of the spokesman for the poor conditions that the prisoners have to endure. Despite Celliers outward defiance and rebellious attitude, Yonoi fails to punish him, and it becomes obvious that he has an overwhelming crush on the attractive prisoner. This alarms the Japanese guards, and one urges his commander to kill Celliers, rather than face the shame of discovery.

But Yonoi is unable to do that, and is eventually replaced because of his lack of leadership. His successor is aware of what transpired between Celliers and Yonoi, and immediately informs the prisoner that he can expect no mercy from him. To punish him for disgracing his colleague, Celliers is buried up to his neck in sand, and left to die.

This film is beautifully shot, and the location convincing. As befits a film starring two international recording artists, the soundtrack is simply perfect, and so appropriate for the mood. Both the leads deliver excellent peformances, alongside those supporting actors who are always completely reliable.

Thirty-seven years later, it is still as powerful and interesting as it was in 1983.