Rewinding the tape
MPs crowded into the House of Commons this week to discuss the dreadful Afghan situation. There was no attempt at social distancing and the cameras revealed that many of the MPs declined to wear face masks. The people who should be setting a good example once again set a bad one, seemingly unwilling to make even the smallest effort in these treacherous times. Try to be a better person than our politicians.
The news from Afghanistan is deeply troubling and makes our own hardships seem less important. Our image of Afghanistan was always coloured by our news coverage which only ever showed battlefields and broken-down bullet-ridden rural buildings and rarely talked about the lives, hopes, and aspirations of the Afghani people themselves. A good barometer of how much had changed in the country over the last twenty years was the emergence of a liberal pop music culture, with the best known Afghani band being Kabul Dreams. I'm not sure if this song is called "Seasons of the year" or "Seasoning", but either way it is probably not what you expected.
Did you spot the Afghan flag on the guitar strap? The members of Kabul Dreams are all from refugee families who had fled Afghanistan during the Taliban era of the 1990s but later returned to live in Kabul. They are fortunate. They decided to relocate to LA in 2013 so that they could reach a wider market with their music. Today's teenagers in Kabul will probably never enjoy such freedoms.
People the world over
Music proves again and again that our similarities are much greater than our differences, and our own culture becomes richer by embracing other cultures. Want to sample some African zumba culture? Here is a song called "Bundele" which I believe translates as "Dance", performed on Oxford Street in central London of all places:
The artist behind that song, Awilo Longomba, is a drummer from Democratic Republic of Congo, Central Africa, the country which we used to call Zaire. Longomba now lives in London. The dancer in that video, Ezinne Asinugo, is originally from Nigeria, West Africa, but has lived in the UK since an early age, and has a degree in Accounting and Management. She is an exceptional dancer and is the "E" in CEO Dancers, a trio which featured on Britain's Got Talent a few years ago. She also performed on stage with Rihanna at the Brit Awards.
The demise of CDs
Sainsbury has become the latest retailer to end CD and DVD sales in its stores, saying they just don't sell enough anymore to justify the shelf space. For so many years, short-play vinyl was the only option for the music industry, but over a short period we saw first the vinyl albums and then along came the cassette tape and changed everything. Suddenly you could carry music around with you. Who remembers when tapes came in sizes such as C30, C60, and C90? If you remember that, you probably remember Bow Wow Wow as well, and their distinctive tribal drumming style which draws on the "Burundi Beat" culture of East Africa and the Zulu drumming styles of South Africa.
CDs brought digital quality to music, but according to global statistics from the music industry for last year's sales, CDs and DVDs are on the way out. CD sales once used to account for over 90% of music sales, but last year it was below 5%, and ownership of CD players is also falling dramatically. With high-speed broadband becoming the norm, downloads are also on the decline and streaming now rules the roost. Streaming and pay-per-song means people cherry-pick their tracks, so sad to say the demise of CDs probably also means the demise of albums and the musical diversity made possible by the album format. It also puts yet more pressures on record shops like Oxford's Truck Store.
Gigs continue to be thin on the ground, but slowly the situation is improving. Please continue to keep yourself safe. Even if you have been double-vaccinated, remember to take precautions, wear masks on buses, take advantage of the hand gel dispensers in shops, make use of the free lateral flow tests, be considerate to others.