wed 28/06/2017

New Music Features

theartsdesk at the Istanbul Music Festival: East and West in perfect balance

david Nice

The time is out of joint for Turkey at the moment, but it’s still a country equally split between those looking to the west for the culture of ideas and the more conservative element which at least needs its voice respected. They co-exist peacefully in a great cosmopolitan city like Istanbul, which recently joined Ankara and Izmir in rejecting increased powers for its leader.

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theartsdesk at The Hospital Club

theartsdesk

The Arts Desk is delighted to announce a new partnership with The Hospital Club in Covent Garden. There are plenty of private members club in central London, but The Hospital Club is uniquely a creative hub with its own television studio, gallery and performance space, which for certain events are open to non-members.

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Jazz FM Awards 2017

peter Quinn

Hosted by Jazz FM presenter, Jez Nelson, an impressively varied mix of UK and international artists from the worlds of jazz, blues and soul were honoured at the fourth Jazz FM Awards on Tuesday night.

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Decade Zero, Dave Maric, Phronesis, Engines Orchestra - preview

Matthew Wright

Decade Zero is a new commission from acclaimed contemporary classical composer Dave Maric, receiving its world premiere this weekend at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival.

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French Touch, Red Gallery

kieron Tyler

Un Voyage Á Travers Dans Le Paysage Électronique Français, the French subtitle, goes further. French Touch is the first exhibition to celebrate and dig into France’s electronic music heritage: exploring the lineage which laid the ground for the world-wide success of Daft Punk.

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Listed: How I Do Love Thee

theartsdesk

Love is in the air. Today, men and women and boys and girls will be pondering how to say it with roses and cards and candlelit dinners: those three words that contain multitudes. As the old strip cartoon never quite got round to saying, love is... the human condition, which is why a good quantity of the culture we review on this site has to do with it. To help you get into the mood for romancing, we have asked our...

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theartsdesk in Reykjavík: Iceland Airwaves 2016

kieron Tyler

On the final night of Iceland Airwaves 2016, Polly Jean Harvey and her band are ranged in a line just inside the edge of the stage constructed inside Valshöllin, a sports hall south of Reykjavík’s city centre. The festival’s five days have climaxed with a diamond-hard performance drawing heavily on this year’s Hope Six Demolition Project album.

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Leonard Cohen: Turning the Darkness Into Beauty

mark Kidel

Leonard Cohen, who has died at 82, was one of those artists born with a wisdom and maturity that cut deep into the baby-boomer youth culture of his times. He provided the perfect antidote to the innocent optimism of the 1960s, a vision shot through with world-weariness, melancholy and humour.  Those who dismissed him as a purveyor of bed-sit self pity missed the point, hooked as they were on hedonism, and blind to the ever-present horrors and recurring tragedy of the world.

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Half a century of the Roundhouse

Marcus Davey

We've got a lot to celebrate in 2016: 50 years since the Roundhouse became an arts centre and 10 years of transforming young lives through creativity. In celebration of this momentous year we embarked on a journey of discovery to uncover the stories from train-enthusiast accounts of our humble beginnings to real-life high-wire love stories, from week-long raves in the 1990s to politically-charged spoken word in the 2000s.

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theartsdesk Q&A: Musician Agnes Obel

kieron Tyler

Agnes Obel’s new album Citizen of Glass is released next week. Conceptually underpinned by a fascination with the German idea of the gläserner menschen or gläserner bürger – the glass citizen – its ten compositions examine privacy, the nature of what is hidden, why it is concealed and question how much self-exposure is needed, whether in day-to-day life or as fuel for an artist. The glass citizen is one for whom everything is apparent.

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On the road with Bob Dylan: the mother of all rockumentaries

mark Kidel

Dont Look Back is the Ur-rockumentary, the template for hundreds of hand-held rock tour films, a source of inspiration as well as a model to aspire to.

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First Person: Nico Muhly on music for two pianos

Nico Muhly

Writing for two pianos is something that – until last year – I had not attempted. I was contacted by Katya Apekisheva and Charles Owen, two pianists who have performed as a duo for many years, asking me to compose a duet for them to perform at the inaugural London Piano Festival. I met Charles back in 2014 when he performed my pieces A Hudson Cycle and Fast Stuff in New York.

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10 Questions for Pianist Morten Schantz

Matthew Wright

Pianist Morten Schantz has been a prominent and pioneering figure on first the Danish, then international jazz and fusion scene for more than a decade. With saxophonist Marius Neset and drummer Anton Eger, also members of his new trio, he founded ground-breaking quintet JazzKamikaze in 2005, playing an exhilarating fusion of jazz, rock, funk and hip hop.

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theartsdesk at The Green Man Festival

Martin Longley

The Green Man Festival is blessed by the expansive beauty of the Brecon Beacons, but this year, it was not blessed by the pagan rain deities. For two out of its four days, the downpour dominated, but the positive news was that this only created a very thin layer of mud, situated at strategic intersection points.

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theartsdesk Q&A: Musician/DJ Mark Hawkins aka Marquis Hawkes

joe Muggs

This is not a standard dance music story. Marquis Hawkes is one of the club music success stories of the past couple of years – since the first release in 2012 on Glasgow's revered Dixon Avenue Basement Jams, there've been many 12" club hits on multiple connoisseurs' labels, and his album Social Housing on the Fabric club's Houndstooth label has soundtracked many people's summer this year, with the artist all the while remaining anonymous.

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Soulful Islamic passion: the Najmuddin Saifuddin group

peter Culshaw

Qawwali music is amongst the most soulful, passionate music in the world. Many people have discovered it through the legendary Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, who was one the greatest singers of the last half century. Seeing him perform at an early WOMAD was a revelation - he was scheduled to perform for 90 minutes and kept singing for hours. No-one seemed to leave the tent to catch the headliners.

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theartsdesk at the Montreal Jazz Festival

Martin Longley

The Montréal International Jazz Festival's 37th edition presented its accustomed surfeit of gigs, covering the complete range from concert hall spectaculars to small club sessions. A large part of this, the globe's biggest jazzfest, is the massive-scale freebie shows on various outdoor stages. The festival completely takes over Montréal's downtown centre, which just happens to be this French-speaking city’s cultural area.

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theartsdesk in the Faroe Islands: G! Festival 2016

kieron Tyler

Familiar words pepper the lead item on the 9am radio news: "Brexit", "Theresa May", "Boris Johnson". Yet the bulletin is delivered in the first language of the 49,000-population Faroe Islands. The self-governing region of Denmark may be a remote cluster of 18 North Atlantic islands, but the Britain-watching contagion has spread to a place which has never been a member of the EU. Denmark is. The Faroes aren't.

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A salute to Dave Swarbrick's singing

graham Fuller

When folk rock’s demon fiddler Dave Swarbrick died at 75 on 3 June, it was barely noticed that Real Gone Music released Fairport Convention’s Live in Finland 1971 the same day. Featuring the lineup of Swarbrick, Dave Mattacks (drums), Simon Nicol (guitar), and Dave Pegg (bass), which performed at the annual Ruisrock festival that 22 August, the disc features seven songs played with such force and briskness you’d think they wanted to get the hell away from the Archipelago Sea.

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Seasick Steve – A Myth Unravels

Matthew Wright

Life and art have generally had a troubled relationship. In the case of former hobo and punk-blues singer Seasick Steve, however, it all seemed so simple. When he sang "Dog House Boogie" on his extraordinary Hootenanny debut nearly a decade ago, it was his grit and authenticity, even more than his musical skills – though the two go hand-in-hand – that the audience fell in love with.

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2016 Parliamentary Jazz Awards

peter Quinn

Compered by Jazzwise magazine’s gregarious editor-in-chief, Jon Newey, the winners of this year's Parliamentary Jazz Awards were announced last night in the Terrace Pavilion at the House of Commons.

Now in their twelfth year, the Awards, organised by the All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group (APPJAG) and sponsored by the music licensing company PPL, are one of the most important dates in the UK jazz calendar.

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Jazz FM Awards 2016

peter Quinn

A diverse mix of musicians from the worlds of jazz, blues, soul and beyond were honoured at the third Jazz FM Awards on Tuesday night, which took place in the 1920s art-deco setting of London’s Bloomsbury Ballroom.

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theartsdesk at the Savannah Music Festival, Georgia

Martin Longley

The name of the Savannah Music Festival might sound somewhat vague in these days of specialist events, but this is an (almost) three-week sonic orgy which treats all styles equally, blending classical beside bluegrass, jazz next to African, and country side-by-side with the blues. Multiple venues are used, some more than others. All of them are within easy walking distance, around the centre of this historically-attuned southern States city.

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Prince, 1958-2016

joe Muggs

Prince Rogers Nelson was the most gloriously disruptive presence in popular culture from the very start to the very end. Everything about him was off kilter and wrong: it's not for nothing that the first major biography of him was called The Imp of the Perverse. His songs were full of deranged filth, skewed social comment with a conspiratarian edge, had a very individualist take on Jehovah's Witness spirituality and mysticism, and all manner of personal cyphers and in-jokes....

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theartsdesk in Estonia: Tallinn Music Week 2016

kieron Tyler

“If we want to keep this free and democratic Europe of ours free and democratic, we must enlist ourselves, our skills and our commitment to liberty and justice. The problems we face are too great to simply say let the politicians do it.

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theartsdesk at WOMADelaide

Martin Longley

Since its UK debut in 1982, the WOMAD festival (World Of Music, Arts & Dance) followed its uncertain first steps and early threat of bankruptcy with a swift consolidation and expansion. By the time its first decade had passed, WOMAD was busy spreading around the globe, spawning alternative manifestations in Spain, Italy, New Zealand and the UAE.

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theartsdesk at Tectonics Festival, Adelaide

Martin Longley

The Tectonics festival concept began in Iceland, 2012, created by the Israeli conductor Ilan Volkov. Although, loosely speaking, it’s concerned with a modern classical programme, there’s a peculiar aspect to Volkov’s orientation that lends a special quality.

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10 Questions for Musician Tad Doyle

Guy Oddy

Tad Doyle was the mainman in grunge first-wavers Tad, who helped to put Seattle firmly on the rock’n’roll map in the late ‘80s with such fine discs as God’s Balls, Salt Lick and 8-Way Santa.

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James Burns – Let’s Go To Hell: Scattered Memories of the Butthole Surfers

Guy Oddy

During the ‘80s there was no US rock band that hoisted its freak flag higher than the Butthole Surfers, and certainly none that put out albums of the stature of Locust Abortion Technician and Hairway to Steven in such quick succession.

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Brighton Festival 2016 Launches with Guest Director Laurie Anderson

thomas H Green

The Brighton Festival 2016, which explodes into life again this year on Saturday May 7, has revealed its programme.

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theartsdesk in Groningen: Uniting Europe with Music

kieron Tyler

The nature of Europe, its administration, institutions and its porousness are hot topics. Sectors of Britain’s media and political class hyperventilate over trumped-up concerns while real issues which are just about impossible to address remain unresolved. In this climate, the European Border Breakers Awards are ripe for misinterpretation.

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David Bowie: Unforgettable and Unrepeatable

theartsdesk

If each man's death diminishes us, we're all about a foot shorter today. When Elvis Presley died, his manager Colonel Tom Parker said "this won't change anything!", and he promptly set about ensuring his client's immortality by turning him into a production line of merchandise and memorabilia. This won't happen to David Bowie, because he had already seized control of his own myth.

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David Bowie, 1947-2016

joe Muggs

He knew.

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Goodbye, Lemmy Kilmister 1945-2015

thomas H Green

Motörhead played loud rock ’n’ roll. Now, like The Ramones, they are gone. They burned with unbelievable vigour from the mid-Seventies until earlier this year, when the wheels started to fall off Lemmy’s wagon. His health suddenly gave way – as was clear at this year’s Glastonbury Festival – and now, as one of his greatest songs roared with rabid conviction and a cheeky wink, he has finally been killed by death.

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theartsfest 2015 - Sunday

theartsdesk

So, the first day's done. We awake, bleary-eyed and emerge from our tents and survey the scene. No matter how bad it looks for our immediate future health, the clouds are sure to clear before the inaugural beer and opening bands. The quality continues as we run through the very best we've seen this year to create the best bespoke festival we can imagine given theartsdesk's collective gig-going this year.

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theartsfest 2015 - Saturday

theartsdesk

The festival market is one that has, like much of Britain, become oversaturated of late. Here at theartsdesk however, we feel that there’s room for one more as long as it’s of the highest possible quality. Here, then, is our line-up, a dream festival pulled together from our writers’ highlights of the past year.

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Adele at the BBC, BBC One

adam Sweeting

As you all know by now, Friday is D-Day for Adele's new album 25, and part of the all-media Adelathon is Friday night's show on BBC One, Adele at the BBC. It's a mix of live performances and taped sequences linked together by chunks of interview with Graham Norton, and makes the perfect relaunch package for the reclusive superstar. It opens, aptly enough, with her performing "Rolling in the Deep".

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theartsdesk in Reykjavík: Iceland Airwaves 2015

kieron Tyler

The attack is relentless. Its power pummels like a gale. The 2015 model Mercury Rev begin their set at Iceland Airwaves as they meant to finish. Never has this band been so forceful, so kinetic. Yet their trademark balance of filmic drama and delicate melody was not sacrificed during this convincing revitalisation. On stage at Reykjavík’s Harpa concert hall on the festival's second day, Mercury Rev set a bar so high it sowed seeds suggesting nothing could top this.

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Jazz Central - London... or Odessa?

peter Culshaw

For an art form that has been quite often written off over the last half century, Jazz seems in extraordinarily rude health. Today sees the opening of the biggest ever EFG London Jazz Festival featuring scores of venues and hundreds of groups throughout the capital.

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RIP musician and producer Allen Toussaint

joe Muggs

Allen Toussaint, who died last night aged 77, apparently just minutes after coming off stage in Madrid, was the soul of New Orleans. Irma Thomas, The Neville Brothers, Dr Longhair, The Meters, and of course the Nighttripper himself Dr John: all of them benefitted from his magic touch, whether as producer, arranger, songwriter or pianist of enormous talent.

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'We want you guys to do the video in the nude'

Travis Barker

We  had an awesome producer, Jerry Finn, who was just a few years older than us. Jerry was usually wearing a Replacements T-shirt and Vans sneakers. He had worked with Green Day, Jawbreaker, and a bunch of bands on Epitaph Records, including Rancid and Pennywise. Jerry wasn’t some asshole rolling up to the studio in a Bentley - he was one of us. He could be honest with us, and we would listen to him, which is really important.

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theartsdesk in Paris: Peregrinations on the Pigalle

kieron Tyler

Sometimes appearances can be deceptive. The frontman on stage looks as generic it gets. His scruffy beard, retro specs, baseball hat, shapeless jeans and the bulging outline of a mobile phone stuffed in his trouser pocket don’t add up to suggest that his band Tahiti Boy & the Palmtree Family are going to be anything distinctive. But the studied casualness belies what actually takes place musically. This is exceptional.

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CD Special: Bob Dylan, The Cutting Edge 1965–1966

tim Cumming

Can you have too much of a good thing? I ponder this as I scroll through the 109 watermarked MP3s of Bob Dylan’s recording sessions spanning 13 January 1965 to 16 February 1966, for Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde.

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theartsdesk in Hamburg: Reeperbahn Festival 2015

kieron Tyler

An encounter with Hamburg’s Reeperbahn is akin to assimilation into a real-life kaleidoscope where bright lights, mass revellers and shills touting bars, night clubs or strip joints combine in a single multi-sense overload. The tumultuous thoroughfare is dedicated to excess.

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An Open Book: Laurent Garnier

thomas H Green

Laurent Garnier, 49, is a key figure in the development of French electronic dance music. A DJ at the Haçienda in Manchester just as house music began to explode in 1987, he went on to helm nights at the Rex Club in Paris in the Nineties. These became a vital hub around which French dance music coalesced. Garnier went on to be a successful producer and live performer, releasing multiple albums, many for his own F Communications label.

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theartsdesk at the Chicago Jazz Festival

Martin Longley

The Chicago Jazz Festival is a freebie extravaganza, held over the Labor Day holiday weekend, its massive crowds welcomed by the looming chromium jelly bean that is sculptor Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate. Onward into Millennium Park, right on the shore of Lake Michigan, there are a pair of long tents for the afternoon sets, with alternating bands ensuring constant musical motion.

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theartsdesk at Green Man 2015

Barney Harsent

Sunday. Brecon Beacons. Very early in the morning. I am woken, as I have been every 20 minutes or so since falling asleep, by water dripping on my head. So far, I’ve been able to ignore it, the pain of sitting upright outweighing the inconvenience of a wet head by a factor I can’t begin to fathom. Now, however, the hangover has lifted slightly and the need to piss is so painful I can no longer ignore it.

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theartsdesk in New York: Folk City

markie Robson-Scott

If you liked the Coen Brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis, with its Dave Van Ronk-esque hero in Greenwich Village in 1961, you'll enjoy the new exhibition Folk City: New York and the Folk Music Revival, a celebration of NYC as the centre of folk music from its beginnings in the Thirties and Forties to its heyday in the Fifties and Sixties.

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Hot August Night: The Beatles at Shea Stadium

james Woodall

Half a century ago today, on a warm August Sunday night in New York, The Beatles played a 30-minute concert in a baseball field. Home to the New York Mets the venue was called the William A Shea Municipal Stadium and had opened in spring 1964.

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theartsdesk at Wilderness Festival 2015

Matthew Wright

You wake up with the multimedia traces of a Björk gig dancing across your eyes and the flavours of soft-shell crab and pomegranate playing across your tongue. The cluster of high-end dining establishments is denser than in Mayfair, yet the scenery in which they’re set - rolling parkland scattered with bunting-strewn marquees - looks more like the stage of a medieval battle re-enactment than the scene of the gourmand or connoisseur.

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Cilla Black, 1943-2015

adam Sweeting

The term "beloved entertainer" might have been coined with Cilla Black in mind. Her career trajectory, from a working-class Irish Catholic background in Liverpool's Scotland Road through pop stardom under the auspices of Beatles manager Brian Epstein, and thence to mainstream TV and nearly 20 years as hostess of LWT's Blind Date and Surprise Surprise, was a classic fable of determined self-betterment.

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theartsdesk in Tuscany: Musical landscapes

alexandra Coghlan

“Treeless and shrubless but for some tufts of broom, these corrugated ridges formed a lunar landscape, pale and inhuman.” Lushly green and densely planted, today the view out over Tuscany’s Val d’Orcia is unrecognisable as the blasted landscape first witnessed by author Iris Origo in 1923.

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theartsdesk at Førdefestivalen: Music and the midnight sun

tim Cumming

The first thing that strikes you at 3am is the light, that strange disembodied glow of Norway’s midsummer midnight sun casting its rays over a landscape soaked in fantasy proportions –  sheer glacial drops of greenstone, sweet-water fjords cutting deep into the land, the forests of spruce and pine desending from steep mountainous peaks to the meadow grasses of the valley below.

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theartsdesk at Love Supreme: Van Morrison & Dianne Reeves

Matthew Wright

Love Supreme, now in its third year, feels like the best of both worlds. Set in the spectacularly rolling scenery of Glynde Place, outside Lewes, it’s only a champagne cork’s flight from Glyndebourne opera house, and if you’re not camping you can share the train home with the penguin-suited picnickers. Yet the format and layout are every bit greenfield rock festival, albeit – how posh is this – with flushing toilets.

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theartsdesk in Orkney: St Magnus Festival

David Kettle

Ebb of Winter felt about right. It’s one of Peter Maxwell Davies’s most recent works, a yearning for the brightness and warmth of spring at the end of an Orcadian winter, written in 2013 for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s 40th anniversary.

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Ornette Coleman (1930-2015), Jazz Liberator

Matthew Wright

Like John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, who died this week, was both a defining and divisive figure in jazz history.

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Arise, Sir Van, Sir Lenny and Sir Kevin. Dame who?

jasper Rees

If the honours system is used to award deserving individuals, its other job is to provide an aspirational marker for the country as a whole. This, it tells us twice a year, is who we want to be: inclusive, non-sexist, colour-blind. From the look of the awards dished out in the arts for the Queen’s birthday honours list, in the summer of 2015 it looks very much as if we want to be a society which favours male privilege. Don’t hold the front page.

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Jazz FM Awards 2015

peter Quinn

Hosted by self-confessed jazz nut John Thomson, a.k.a. The Fast Show's “Jazz Club” presenter Louis Balfour, the winners of this year's Jazz FM Awards were announced on Wednesday evening in the atmospheric setting of the Great Halls at Vinopolis.

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theartsdesk in Fes: Has the magic gone?

peter Culshaw

More than anywhere else, the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music has been the place where I have gone annually for most of the last 20 years to retune my ears, to find inspiration and connections, and to discover new international music. For fans, it was always more than a mere music festival; there was a visionary, idealistic element.

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theartsdesk in Bergen 1: Jazz in a sardine factory

kieron Tyler

Reggie Watts has a few things to say about Norway. In Bergen to play Natjazz, the annual jazz festival, he’s concerned about the local predilection for fish soup. Be careful, he warns, it can be dangerously hot. Then there are trolls and the Norwegian crispbread knekkebrød, which is especially impressive as it can keep fillings dry. Sandwiches can be eaten in the rain – and it rains in Bergen. A lot. Watts is fascinated by the countryside cabins Norwegians take off to in the summer...

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Does anyone know the way to blockbuster?

jasper Rees

There’s a lot of Seventies revivalism in the ether. Fleetwood Mac are back as a famous five after many years asunder. 10cc have on at the Albert Hall, although one astutely remarked that they really should have been billed 2.5cc. In When Pop Ruled My Life, the recent BBC Four documentary about fandom, it was lear that the Bay City Rollers are still very much a going concern. And this week it was announced that three titans of glamrock would stomp once again on British boards.

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Sticky Fingers: unzipped

tim Cumming

Sticky Fingers is the Stones’ defining album, a record that preserves the band in all its ragged, outlaw rock'n'roll glory. It captured them, too, between worlds of their own making, as the exploratory Sixties solidified into the excessive Seventies, Mick Jagger turned left into the first-class jet-set life, and Keith Richards turned the other way, into an image-defining drug addiction, scoring his mythos as permanently as a prison tattoo.

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BB King: 'I play the way I'm feeling'

Elaine Lipworth

B B King was the greatest blues guitarist of the age. Many contemporary rockers credit him as a formidable inspiration, from Mick Jagger to Eric Clapton to Bono. But when I met him in 2006, the then 83-year-old musician had a different perspective on his ability. "I don't think it's true," he says with a shrug. "A lot of kids tease me when they see me, they start to bow. I'm not trying to stop them. I think I'm a pretty good musician, I don't think I'm the best, that's all. I just do what I...

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10 Questions for Musician Squarepusher

thomas H Green

Squarepusher, AKA Tom Jenkinson (b. 1975) is a groundbreaking electronic musician. Growing up in Essex, he first came to prominence in the mid-Nineties alongside Aphex Twin, with whom he worked extensively, amid a milieu of post-rave experimentalists exploring the wilder fringes of club-based sounds. Signing to Warp Records in 1995 he has maintained a position at the forefront of electronica, releasing 16 albums, the latest being Damogen Furies.

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Cheikh Lô: Dreadlocked Islamic Funk

peter Culshaw

Cheikh Lô , the much loved Senegalese singer, is back with new recordings for the first time in five years with a three track EP trailing a new album in June, and theartsdesk has an early look at his new video for the lead track “Degg Gui” (see below).

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2015 Parliamentary Jazz Awards

peter Quinn

Compered by the velvet-toned broadcaster Moira Stuart, the winners of this year's Parliamentary Jazz Awards were announced last night in a packed Terrace Pavillion at the House of Commons.

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Extract: I've Always Kept a Unicorn: The Biography of Sandy Denny

Mick Houghton

Sandy Denny was well known within the folk world by 1968 (writes Kieron Tyler). Although the recordings were as-yet unreleased, in July 1967 she had recorded with The Strawbs. She featured on two albums which were in the shops in August 1967: Alex Campbell and His Friends, and Sandy and Johnny, made with Johnny Silvo. Early the next year, she was contemplating her next move.

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Steve Strange, 1959-2015

Bruce Dessau

The death of Steve Strange, aged 55, was both a surprise and not a surprise to me. His adult life in and out of the spotlight had been something of an unpredictable rollercoaster ride where anything could happen.

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theartsdesk in Aalborg: Northern Winter Beat 2015

kieron Tyler

It’s the kind of care-worn venue that’s obviously seen some history. The walls are plastered with handbills for uncompromising bands like Billy Childish’s The Headcoats and America’s God Bullies. Some nosing reveals that it opened in 1983 and Green Day played here in 1993 while paving the way to conquering the world. 1000FRYD – “tusanfrid” if you’re Danish – is low-ceilinged, narrow, tiny and has a stage which would struggle to hold a band with more than five members.

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PJ Harvey: Recording in Progress, Artangel at Somerset House

mark Kidel

Artangel continues to instigate extraordinary events in extraordinary places. Over the past two decades and more, directors Michael Morris and James Lingwood have helped generate major and ground-breaking work by Rachel Whiteread, Brian Eno, Laurie Anderson, Roni Horn, Jeremy Deller, Steve McQueen, Matthew Barney, Gregor Schneider, Francis Alÿs and many others. It's a long list.

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The Story of The Beatles' Last Song

james Woodall

Summer was nigh. In May 1969 the Lennons bought Tittenhurst Park, an 85-acre estate in the same stockbroker belt as John’s first Beatles home, Kenwood. It needed work and a while would pass before they moved in. At EMI, John and Yoko busied themselves with their resistible third LP, The Wedding Album. Heroin intake was vigorous.

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Best of 2014: World Music

peter Culshaw

The most extraordinary bunch of global musicians I met this year were the groups who were singing on the barricades during the Ukrainian Revolution on the Maidan Square, foremost among them the all-female Dakh Daughters, who describe themselves as "freak cabaret". The video below is well worth a look as they sing in front of massed ranks of police and army to an exhilarated crowd (the music comes in after five minutes):

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Ian McLagan, 1945-2014

kieron Tyler

The news that keyboard player Ian McLagan had died of a stroke at 2:39pm today at a hospital in his adopted home of Austin, Texas is tremendously sad. McLagan outlived his former Small Faces bandmates Ronnie Lane and Steve Marriott, and it seemed as though he would be around forever. Drummer Kenney Jones is the only Small Faces member left with us.

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Sci-Fi Week: Space Rock

kieron Tyler

In 1971, the British rock group UFO released their second album. Titled One Hour Space Rock, its cover bore the subtitle Flying and, yes, images of UFOs in the form of flying saucers and a bald, naked and pink humanoid with claw-like fingernails. Musically, although the album had its freaky sections and sported the lengthy tracks "Star Storm" and "Flying", what was on offer was mostly day-to-day blues-rock.

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CD Special: The Basement Tapes Complete

tim Cumming

Earlier this year, bobdylan.com posted “Full Moon & Empty Arms”, a song associated with Sinatra and the popular music of America before rock'n'roll. Dylan’s new version seemed to presage an album of tunes of similar vintage titled Shadows in the Night, featuring the likes of “Melancholy Baby”, “On a Little Street in Singapore” and “Stormy Weather”.

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Annie Lennox: The Jazz Singer

peter Culshaw

Annie Lennox is a far more fascinating artist than she’s often given credit for. Perhaps because she has been around for decades (she’s now 59) and hasn’t self-destructed like her friend Amy Winehouse or gone into exile for ages like Kate Bush, or Patti Smith, she has less of a fierce mystique and feels more a familiar part of the landscape.

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Robert Wyatt: Different Every Time

Marcus O'Dair

As the presenter of a regular music podcast for a national newspaper, I used to be in the happy position of interviewing one or two artists of my choice per month, provided they were signed to an independent label. So when Domino released a Robert Wyatt box set in 2008, I spent a glorious afternoon with Robert and his wife and creative partner Alfie, in their Lincolnshire garden. I enjoyed myself so much, in fact, that I set out to find an excuse to do it again.

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RIP Stephen Samuel Gordon aka The Spaceape

joe Muggs

It has been announced by the Hyperdub label that Stephen Samuel Gordon, better known as The Spaceape, vocalist, poet and live performer, passed away peacefully after a 5 year struggle with a rare form of cancer.

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theartsdesk Q&A: Singer-songwriter Vashti Bunyan

joe Muggs

The story of Vashti Bunyan is a compelling one.

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First Person: From Insolence to Defiance

Paul Simmonds

Not that long ago, certainly when I was old enough to know better, I managed to get myself mugged by a gang of teenage street girls down by Lisbon docks. I had been following a long chain of beer and whisky  glasses from the end of one bar to the front of the next  and was quite drunk in that careless, carefree, foolhardy way.

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theartsdesk in Helsinki: Niubi Festival

kieron Tyler

Tulegur Gangzi describes his music as “Mongolian grunge” and “nomad rock.” Thrashing at an acoustic guitar, the Inner-Mongolian troubadour is singing in the khomei style, the throat-singing which sounds part-gargle, drone and chant – or all three at once. His approach to the guitar is just as remarkable.

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theartsdesk in Budapest: Sziget to City

tim Cumming

In Budapest, when your building turns a century old, you’re invited to be part of Budapest 100, a city-wide birthday celebration-cum-open-house invitation. It’s a direct way of experiencing the applied, lived-in artistry of the city, past and present.

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10 Questions for singer Laura Mvula

russ Coffey

Laura Mvula, despite her exotic-sounding name, is a quintessentially British artist. Not just because of where she comes from – Birmingham – but also how she stays humble and understated while dripping with talent. Her story is equally endearing. Mvula was working as a receptionist when her debut, Sing to the Moon, was released.

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theartsdesk at the Port Eliot Festival

Mark Hudson

Remember when festivals were only about what they were ostensibly about? When, say, Reading offered nothing beyond hard rock bar disgusting toilets, overpriced hamburgers and the prospect of a punch-up. When literary festivals dealt only in, well, literature. Nowadays, the average music festival offers all the amenities of a small city, not just music, but shopping, comedy, ballet and every form of spiritual and bodily therapy.

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theartsdesk in the Faroes: Disco and Dried Fish

kieron Tyler

“Tonight, in the Faroe Islands, we’re going to find the greatest dancer.” It’s not an exhortation which often rings out. It could even be a first time The Faroes have been invited to demonstrate their disco prowess. Sister Sledge are on stage and about to launch into their 1979 Chic-produced world-wide smash “He’s the Greatest Dancer”.

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theartsdesk at Latitude: Lily Allen/Haim

Katie Colombus

The only bad thing about Latitude is a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out). Some proper planning is advised - or a quick purchase of the Latitude App, if you're lucky enough to get reception over the weekend - to weigh up clashes and work out routes through the forest and up and down the undulating landscape of Henham Park, Suffolk.

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theartsdesk at Latitude: Damon Albarn/Booker T Jones

Matthew Wright

Booker T Jones seduced, his delivery a river of molasses, his beaming smile so suave it was difficult to believe he was, actually, singing the blues. Damon Albarn coaxed, like a well-meaning dad who’s taken his kids on a rainy picnic (a thunderstorm engulfed the end of his set) and wants them, in spite of everything, to have a good time. Lily Allen flounced and stropped; Kelis shook her booty, looking, in a gleaming golden dress, like a queen bee instructing the drones.

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theartsdesk in Fes: A world music festival that's a beacon of tolerance

peter Culshaw

You are or maybe wish you were at Glastonbury this weekend. Not me. I last went six years ago and it’s just too big for me. And you need about four different passes to get backstage should you have a good or a bad reason to get there. Too bureaucratic. However, I was, as ever, more than glad to be at the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music, which is more human in scale, sociable and, at times, transcendent. This year was the 20th edition.

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theartsdesk at The Inntöne Jazz Festival

Matthew Wright

New Orleans. New York. Kansas City. Chicago. These are the places where the soul of jazz breathes free. In London, you’d head to Soho. Dalston, or Camden; none of these places have a blade of grass to share between them. Jazz must be one of the most determinedly urban genres of music. Even rap these days has flirted with country music. (Look up Spearhead’s entertaining “Wayfaring Stranger” if you don’t believe me.)

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theartsdesk in Aarhus: SPOT Festival 2014

kieron Tyler

At last night’s Eurovision Song Contest, host country Denmark submitted “Cliché Love Song”, a weedy Bruno Mars-a-like designed to ensure they did not win for a second year running. It came ninth. While understandable that Danish national broadcaster DR would try to duck the expense of staging the extravaganza in Copenhagen again in 2015, they could have displayed some imagination by choosing an entrant that was certainly not a winner but had some worth.

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theartsdesk in Cabo Verde: Sodade, Slaves and Syncopation

peter Culshaw

My preconceived and somewhat misguided idea of the Cabo Verde islands (the official name for Cape Verde these days) was that they were basically a hotter version of the Canaries, with a spare and volcanic landscape that, being a Creole culture in the middle of nowhere, produced a few remarkably wistful singers, most famously the great Cesaria Evora.

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theartsdesk Q&A: Singer Sonja Kristina

graham Fuller

The March release of North Star, Curved Air's first studio album for 38 years, was no small triumph for vocalist Sonja Kristina and drummer Florian Pilkington-Miksa. Surging yet deliquescent, it echoes here and there the eldritch mood of the three sumptuous LPs they and original core members Francis Monkman and Darryl Way recorded at the height of the progressive rock era.

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Listed: Hauschka's Abandoned Cities

theartsdesk

Hauschka is a musician and composer from Düsseldorf, performing in what has been dubbed a "post-classical" vein, although he also has many fans in the electronica scene. His new album Abandoned City, written and performed almost entirely on a treated piano, was inspired by the idea of cities that are no longer, or never were, inhabited. It is full of approriately elegiac beauty. Here he introduces the different cities with a paragraph about each.


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Interview: Karol Conka - a shiny new rap star from Brazil

peter Culshaw

Three years ago Karol Conka was a receptionist. Since then she had made a living from her music and, with the launch of her first international album Batukfreak, (“Beat-freak”, more or less) is making waves internationally. But that doesn’t tell you the punch her music has or her style (when I meet her, she’s wearing cute Japanese shoes, dyed short blonde hair, super-colourful jacket).

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theartsdesk in Estonia: Freedom and Music Thrive in the Shadow of Putin’s Russia

kieron Tyler

“Art, real art, is a denial of the status quo. A tradition that values the role of the individual.” Speaking in Estonia’s capital for the opening of Tallinn Music Week, the Baltic country’s President Toomas Hendrik Ilves is referring to what’s just over his shoulder. Freedom is on his mind.

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Frankie Knuckles, 1955-2014

joe Muggs

It's rare that you can trace a genre to one man. But house music is well documented: “house” originally simply meant the music played at the Warehouse club, by one Frankie Knuckles, who died yesterday in Chicago from diabetes-related complications.

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News Exclusive: Tina Turner records with Led Zeppelin

thomas H Green

Tina Turner has recorded an album of American blues and folk classics, as well as one original song, with the remaining members of Led Zeppelin. theartsdesk can exclusively reveal that the 74-year-old pop star and soul-funk legend met Led Zep guitarist Jimmy Page through her husband, the German music executive Erwin Bach, and that recording took place last November near her home in Küsnacht, Switzerland.

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Miles Davis: Live at Fillmore East

tim Cumming

It’s strange to think that music recorded 45 years ago in what was once an old Yiddish theatre turned rock 'n' roll palace on the Lower East Side in the summer of 1970 – a few months before Jimi Hendrix’s death, as war raged in Vietnam and riots in the US – still sounds way ahead of our time, let alone the time in which it was made.

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10 Questions for musician Burnt Friedman - with video exclusive

joe Muggs

Bernd “Burnt” Friedman is one of the most relentlessly questing of experimental musicians. In over 30 years of making music and 25 years of releasing it, he has specialised in researching ancient, hypermodern and as-yet-undiscovered methods of soundmaking, including traditional and home-built instruments and the application of high-tech methodologies to established forms from around the world, in particular jazz, western club sounds, and African and Japanese styles.

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theartsdesk in the Shetlands: Seasick Vikings

Thembi Mutch

“Would we be able to prosecute the Vikings today, should we? I mean are there parallels between what the Nazis did by plundering art and gold, or what the German soldiers did who raped Norwegian women when they occupied Norway?” Silke Roeploeg might perhaps fit the Viking caricature: tall, blonde, physically fit, ruddy weathered cheeks, and smart.  She is however German, and a lecturer on the Highland and Islands Nordic studies, which includes a component on Vikings.

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Pete Seeger: 1919-2014

peter Culshaw

Pete Seeger has had a vast number of tributes since he died aged 94 on Monday. That might seem surprising for an artist whose real heyday was over 50 years ago. Part of the reason no doubt was the dignified and steadfast aura of a man of the people and heartfelt activist.

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Video Exclusive: Judith Owen's Ebb & Flow

russ Coffey

Judith Owen has form for hanging around with the hairiest of musicians. Her husband is, of course, one Harry Shearer AKA Spinal Tap’s Derek Smalls. Lately, however, Owen has been hanging out with a trio, who, although as hirsute as Smalls, prefer their music a little more on the smooth side.

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Extract: Cher - Strong Enough

Josiah Howard

Cher was the multi-platform performer of her day, a singer, TV personality, cabaret artist, and Oscar-winning actress. She came up as the initially teenage half of pop duo Sonny & Cher (pictured below left) in the mid-Sixties with her partner (and later husband) Sonny Bono, hitting the charts with megahit "I Got You, Babe". The pair went on to helm a successful TV show in the early Seventies but when they split up Cher was given her own self-titled variety show in 1975...

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Phil Everly, Rock'n'Roll Original: 1939-2014

thomas H Green

With the passing of Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers yesterday, aged 74, rock’n’roll loses half of one of its greatest original pairings. With his brother Don he meshed the close harmonies of country acts such as the Louvin Brothers with the poppy rock’n’roll of fellow southern boy Buddy Holly, a close friend with whom they toured regularly.

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New Music 2013: A Death-Defying Industry

theartsdesk

2013 was the year that Thom Yorke, somewhat tautologically, referred to the music business as “a dying corpse”, and Justin Bieber's manager Scooter Braun claimed that same business “doesn't exist any more.” This was slightly odd, given that it was one of the liveliest years in recent memory, with mainstream and underground pulsating with debate over big issues and big releases, and – for all the technological and multimedia proliferation which prompted Yorke and Braun's hyperbole – the...

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World Music 2013: A Quiet Storm

peter Culshaw

Not a year in which big names came through, and many on the list below are actually quite introverted and low-key, but none the worse for that. Among numerous global musical gems this year were the following:

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Listed: The 12 Derangements of Christmas

theartsdesk

We at The Arts Desk are as fond as the next person of swans-a-swimming, partridges and pear-trees, not to mention gold rings, but be honest: 'tis already the season to be jolly sick and tired of all those knee-jerk compilations of Slade, sleighbells and Celine Dion's "O Holy Night". Without wishing to audition for the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, it’s time to admit that not everything made in the name of Christmas is of the highest artistic merit.

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theartsdesk in Rennes: 35th Trans Musicales Festival

kieron Tyler

White noise saturates the air. At mind-melting volume, it shifts through the aural spectrum to settle on the bass end. A voice begins yelling angry-sounding gobbets. The words are unintelligible. The stage is in darkness. Gradually, it becomes possible to make out the source of this impassioned diatribe. It’s a non-descript, white, bespectacled young man in a T-shirt. This nerdy fellow stops for a moment. So does the accompanying noise.

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Listed: The 10 Most Tasteless Album Covers

theartsdesk

OK, R Kelly is gross. We knew that. The number of deeply creepy and abusive acts he's been accused of beggars belief (just Google if you want grotty details, it's all on Wikipedia). The fact that he continues happily along his way with wealth and public adoration fully intact must make him feel invincible

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Britney Spears (1998-Now): The Video Special

thomas H Green

With her Britney Jean album about to hit the shops we take a look back over the video career of Britney Spears, a pop star who has remained in the limelight for an astounding 15 years. It's a journey that's taken her from adolescent sex kitten to 32-year-old sex cat but, despite many dismissing her output as empty fluff, I'd argue there's a rich story to be told, reflecting the paradoxical nature of the woman herself and changes in the pop culture around her.

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Analogue - Rock Portraits by Tom Sheehan, Lomography Gallery Store East

adam Sweeting

I've known rock photographer Tom Sheehan since we worked together at the Melody Maker in the 1980s, but even I didn't know that his stellar career stretches back "almost 40 years", or so it says in the programme notes for his new exhibition, Analogue, at the Lomography Gallery Store East in Spitalfields.

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theartsdesk in Reykjavík: Iceland Airwaves 2013

kieron Tyler

Kraftwerk closing a festival is a big deal. It’s an even bigger honour when the seminal German outfit reconfigure their set to acknowledge where they’re playing. Last Sunday, Kraftwerk performed the rarely heard “Airwaves”, from 1975’s Radioactivity album, within the honeycomb-windowed Harpa concert hall. They were paying tribute to Iceland Airwaves, the remarkable festival which was drawing to a close

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Listed: The Best of Joni Mitchell

theartsdesk

Of all the rock pantheon, Joni is the one who has evaded definition and over-determination better than anyone.

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Mystery Dance: On filming Elvis Costello

mark Kidel

Making a film about an artist with the phenomenal range and creative effervescence of someone like Elvis Costello was never going to be easy. There have been over 30 albums since he started out in 1977, hundreds of songs, many of which are as brilliant as anything written in the last 50 years, and a series of collaborations with artists including Paul McCartney, Burt Bacharach, Bill Frisell, Chet Baker, the Brodsky Quartet, Emmylou Harris, T-Bone Burnett and many others.

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Lou Reed, High Priest of Rock: 1942-2013

peter Culshaw

We had heard he was ill, and had a recent liver transplant, but then he always seemed to be off colour. When Lester Bangs interviewed him in 1973 for Let It Rock he seemed ill then. When Bangs met him he had just had his greatest hit album Transformer, and seemed to be immediately blowing his new-found fame. Bangs talked of a “vaguely unpleasant fat man” who said  "I can create a vibe without saying anything, just by being in the room." 

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theartsdesk in Amsterdam: Club Culture Overdose

joe Muggs

The thought of attending a dance music conference in Amsterdam frankly gave me the creeping horrors. I'd never been to Amsterdam Dance Event before, and the combination of DJ egos, business hustling and relentless partying through hundreds of club venues in a renownedly liberal city presented so many opportunities for both boredom and complete catastrophe, it just seemed like a fool's errand. But this, of course, wasn't fair.

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Listed: Linda Thompson's Top 10 Traditional Songs

tim Cumming

"I’m up to my ass in traditional songs," Linda Thompson says in the extensive Q&A published today on theartsdesk. When she talked to me she also discussed her early adventures in traditional folk music. "I was already interested in folk singing in Glasgow," she said. "Great people like Archie Fisher.

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Extract: George Harrison - Behind the Locked Door

Graeme Thomson

Following the completion of the White Album, and the conclusion of recording sessions in Los Angeles with new Apple signing Jackie Lomax, in late November 1968 George Harrison and his wife Pattie Boyd departed for Woodstock in upstate New York. They were heading for Bob Dylan country.

Harrison had first fallen for Dylan early in 1964. The Beatles had played his second album,...

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Tubular Bells: The Mike Oldfield Story, BBC Four

mark Kidel

Tubular Bells stands alone in the history of late 20th-century music: a rock album without vocals. But it turns out as well to have been a kind of one-hit wonder for multi-instrumentalist and composer Mike Oldfield. The piece apparently came out of the blue – at least that is how it felt in 1973, when Virgin Records adventurously made it their first-ever LP release.

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theartsdesk in Oslo: Pushing folk’s frontiers

kieron Tyler

Four days in Norway’s capital attending Folkelarm, the festival of Nordic folk music, raises the perennial and always knotty question of how far music can move beyond the traditional yet still be labelled as folk? With the charming and reassuringly old-fashioned accordion- and string-driven dance band the P. A. Røstads Orkester there’s no such problem.

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Flatshare with Bowie: what happened next

Mary Finnigan

Forty four years ago David Bowie was living in the spare room of the suburban flat I shared with my two young children. He was broke and I was only occasionally employed – so we started a Sunday night folk club in the Three Tuns pub in Beckenham High Street – for fun and so he could pay me some rent.

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theartsdesk in Russia: WOMAD Pyatigorsk

Simon Broughton

“Some say that I come from Russia / Some think that I come from Africa / But I'm so exotic, I'm so erotic / 'Cos I come from the Planet Paprika...”  

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Darbar Festival: The ancient art of Dhrupad

peter Culshaw

This is a key weekend for lovers of Indian classical music or the merely sonically adventurous – the Darbar Festival in the Southbank has some of the most extraordinary practioners of the art from both the Carnatic (South Indian) and Hindustani (North Indian) traditions.The most fascinating aspect may be the presence of some really ancient styles notably Dhrupad.

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Listed: The 20 best movie songs

graham Fuller

Seeing and hearing A Field in England's Richard Glover sing "Baloo, My Boy" while in bedraggled character reminded me of the power often exerted by songs explicitly or implicitly germane to a movie's narrative.

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theartsdesk in Katowice: On tour at Tauron Nowa Muzyka Festival

Caspar Gomez

Day 1

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Another Self Portrait: Bob's buffed up for Bootleg Series Volume 10

tim Cumming

No songwriter casts a deeper shadow than Bob Dylan does, and since the first three volumes of the Bootleg Series came in 1991, his shadow career – now reaching Volume Ten with Another Self Portrait – continues to prove as compelling as the official releases. While the latter are set in stone, the Bootleg Series is more like a basement excavation, digging into the softer darker clays of epochal concerts, wildly alternate versions, and almost willfully lost treasures.

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Bob Dylan: Portrait of the Artist

Graeme Thomson

Next Monday Bob Dylan releases Another Self Portrait (1969-1971), the tenth volume of his Bootleg Series which casts new light on one of his most maligned records, 1970's Self Portrait. Two days beforehand a selection of his pastel portraits will go on display at the National Portrait Gallery. (Both events, naturally, will be reviewed on theartsdesk.) At 72, popular music's most mercurial character is still throwing curveballs.

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theartsdesk in Bodø: a World of Music inside the Arctic Circle

kieron Tyler

“Rock ‘n’ roll was invented in Bodø about 1922,” declares Elvis Costello before kicking into “A Slow Drag With Josephine”. “Then it crept down to Trondheim,” he continues. “Then the squares in Oslo got it about 1952.” Up here, 25km inside the Arctic Circle, it actually seems possible that anything could have developed without the outside world noticing. On the tip of a finger of land between two mountain-fringed fjords, the city of Bodø doesn’t need to shout its identity.

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Obituary: Singer-songwriter JJ Cale

jasper Rees

“JJ Cale will be onstage in three minutes.” With the house lights still full on, an old cove with tatty, silvering hair and an open untucked-in puce shirt shuffled about onstage, tinkering with equipment, before picking up a guitar and leaning into a flavoursome sliver of Okie-smoked boogie. Either JJ Cale didn’t give two hoots for the convention of the big entry, or he was enjoying a joke about his anonymity. Probably both.

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Interview: Grant Hart on Science, the Devil and Death

Matt Parker

In both a personal and literary sense, Grant Hart has been to hell and back. While the 52-year-old Minnesotan is still best known as the drummer and songwriting contributor behind legendary US punk band Hüsker Dü, his fourth solo album, The Argument, is a bold adaptation of John Milton's Paradise Lost that could finally see him recognised as an artist in his own right. And it's about time.

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theartsdesk in Mozambique: Maputo Stories

Thembi Mutch

The capital of Mozambique pulls no punches. Parked at the old airport among sheaves of wild grass are old MiG fighter planes, as sculpturally beautiful as the massive monument made from decommissioned weapons a few hundred metres away. The new airport, a multi-million pound effort completed last year with significant Chinese help, has Dom Perignon champagne for $230 a bottle. That’s twice the national annual wage. 

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Listed: International pop-disco hits

peter Culshaw

As someone detached from pop music (more a world, classical, jazz kind of guy) I conducted an unscientific experiment during the past few months to try and discover what the really big tunes out there were. Travelling in Paris, Mumbai, Morocco and elsewhere, I found songs that have gone global in a massive way. I kept hearing them everywhere – in clubs, by the hotel pool, in bars and taxis, blaring out of shops.

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Listed: Pop tributes to pop icons

Fisun Güner

Leonard Cohen sang, somewhat indiscreetly, about Janis Joplin “giving head” on his unmade bed, Bob Dylan penned a song to his hero Woody Guthrie, and Don McLean famously sang “the day the music died” about Buddy Holly. The list of pop tributes to pop icons – whether the subject is a distant hero, a dead lover or a good friend – is long.

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theartsdesk in Saint Louis, Missouri: A Boxing Opera

Adrian Dannatt

The Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has been sometimes dubbed the "Glyndebourne of America" due to the charming garden picnics enjoyed by patrons during the sizzling Missouri summer season. But that title also suggests the company's daring international programming. Since 1976 Opera Theatre has hosted 22 world premieres and 23 American premieres, almost certainly the highest percentage of new work of any American company.

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theartsdesk in Røros, Norway: Fiddles and Slag Heaps

kieron Tyler

It’s just before midnight on Friday. A few hundred couples circle the floor of a school gym. On stage, violinists play a rhythmic music which cycles repetitively. Coloured with sad, minor notes, it sounds like a stately ancestor to bluegrass. Hands joined, the couples raise their arms above their heads. The woman spins. Breaking the link, the man suddenly bobs downwards, hops up and spreads his arms apart in a come-hither gesture. His partner’s raised hands say no.

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'The Rolling Stones of Morocco' - Nass El Ghiwane's music of protest

tim Cumming

Fly into Morocco on Royal Air Maroc, and as in-flight entertainment on the overhead screens you’re treated to Charlie Chaplin shorts from the 1910s, still sharp as a tack, the little guy goosing authority, the law, the rich, the powerful. The Little Tramp must remain a figure with resonance in Morocco: the base of operations for legendary band Nass El Ghiwane was the back room of a tailor’s shop in Casablanca dominated by a poster of Chaplin.

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theartsdesk in Fes: Patti Smith and the Sufis

peter Culshaw

“The boy looked at Johnny – he was surrounded by white and blue tiles, in the medina.” Patti Smith was improvising on her classic album Horses in her first, compelling, gig in Morocco. Smith has a history of Moroccan connections: she knew the Tangier-based writer Paul Bowles and plugged into that pre-punk Beat generation, but there were some raised eyebrows as to what exactly she was doing at a “sacred” music festival.

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theartsdesk in Agadir: Berbers Rising

peter Culshaw

“It’s a good way of letting of steam,” said Reda Allali, the lead signer from Morocco’s leading rock band Hoba Hoba Spirit, referring to the the Timitar Festival.

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10 Questions for The Duckworth Lewis Method

adam Sweeting

It's four years almost to the day since The Duckworth Lewis Method released their first album, a whimsical batch of songs about the myths and mysteries of cricket. It earned them a kind of nichey notoriety among cricket fans and was an eccentric treat for devotees of the duo behind the project, The Divine Comedy's mastermind Neil Hannon and Thomas Walsh of Dublin-based pop band Pugwash.

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The Orb Exclusive: Thomas Fehlmann DJ mix and Alex Paterson interview

joe Muggs

If anyone in British music still deserves that rinsed-to-death term "maverick" it is Battersea-born "Dr" Alex Paterson. From roadie for postpunk industrialists Killing Joke in the early Eighties, he went on to work as an A&R then - originally collaborating with The KLF's Jimmy Cauty - formed The Orb in the heat of the acid house explosion to bring the world "ambient house". 

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Video Exclusive: Tunng

theartsdesk

Almost a decade on from their debut album, Tunng’s founding folktronic ethos no longer carries the shock of the new, but the sprawling and vaguely mystical collective continue to make ever more beautiful and interesting sounds. Turbines, their fifth album, is released on Full Time Hobby next Monday. To get in the mood, readers of theartsdesk can catch a world exclusive eyeful of the video for their new single “The Village”. Let us know what you think.

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Frozen Gold: Iain (M) Banks, 1954-2013

jasper Rees

Iain Banks, who has died at the age of 59 only two months after revealing that he was suffering from terminal cancer, was a leading purveyor of contemporary fiction. Iain M Banks was eminent in the field of science fiction. Iain "Spanks The Plank" Banks, however, was less well known as the composer of about 60 rock songs from the palaeolithic period, 1972-75.

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theartsdesk in Bradford: Bollywood Carmen Live

jasper Rees

“My generation all were steeped in Bollywood.” Meera Syal, Wolverhampton born and bred, is recalling the cinematic influences of her youth. “It was our major link to India and was much more current than trying to make a phone call. You did feel that, though you were so far away, you were watching the same movies as your cousins.”

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Extract: Mariachi, Machetes, Meths - Manu Chao in Mexico

peter Culshaw

Lake Chapalá begins just south of Guadalajara in the state of Jalisco. In case there’s any doubt we’re in Mexico, a mariachi band are propositioning the families who stroll along the waterfront and doing good business in their silver tunics and red cummerbunds. A shoeshine boy with his box and brush is pointing hopefully at dusty footwear, and another boy is selling hammocks. Couples are sweetly holding hands on their Sunday-morning paseo. It’s a tranquil scene.

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theartsdesk at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival

nick Hasted

Cheltenham is the Dubai of the Cotswolds: a modestly populated town of 100,000 with sufficient wealth and influence to attract disproportionately lavish art and sport to its genteel Georgian streets every summer. Its jazz festival, in its 18th year, has the added advantage of a founder (Jim Smith) and artistic director (Tony Dudley-Evans) with real love and commitment for the music.

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Who was Dorothy Squires?

Johnny Tudor

Very few young people know her name today, but Dorothy Squires was the singing sensation of the Fifties and Sixties, and even 30 years ago this talented but difficult star was a regular feature of the headlines thanks to offstage dramas and scandals. But who was the real Dorothy Squires? I first remember meeting Dorothy Squires, as she renamed herself, when I was only three years old.

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Clandestino: In Search of Manu Chao

peter Culshaw

Manu Chao isn’t exactly a household name in the UK. In much of Latin America and Europe, however, he’s an iconic figure who is probably the closest thing to Bob Marley there is, a symbol of hope for the dispossessed. He’s a somewhat elusive figure, a wandering artist who for years never had his own place, a mobile phone or a watch, forever on the move, addicted to travel. In the title song of his 1998 multi-million selling classic Clandestino he sings of how “to run is my destiny...

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The Eagles at Sundance - History in the Making

adam Sweeting

The Eagles recorded their first two albums in London in the early Seventies, though they couldn't have imagined they'd be back 40 years later to present their new documentary, History of the Eagles Part One, at Sundance London. There is, as you may have surmised, also a Part Two, which is available in the DVD and Blu-ray package that goes on sale on Monday 29 April.

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PUNK+ - Sheila Rock's portraits from the frontline

theartsdesk

The historians of punk are in full flow. Jon Savage's book England's Dreaming and the BBC Four's documentary series Punk Britannia have documented much of what needs to be said. But punk was as much a visual statement of intent as a musical one, which is why a new book of photographs by Sheila Rock is such a welcome addition to the punk library.

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theartsdesk in India: Endangered classical music, and aerialist dancers

peter Culshaw

I hadn’t been through Mumbai (although lots of people there still call it Bombay) for a while – I once Iived in a beach house here for several months in Juhu while working on a fairly insane project with, among others, Boy George, Bollywood playback goddess Asha Bhohle, and the brilliant film composer RD Burman called the West India Company.

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Audio Exclusive: Green Gartside Sings Nick Drake

theartsdesk

One of the great British singer-songwriters of the past half-century, Nick Drake is the subject of a new tribute album, Way to Blue, released next Monday on Navigator Records. A companion piece to the concerts staged worldwide over the last four years, the artists involved include Teddy Thompson, Vashti Bunyan, Robyn Hitchcock, Lisa Hannigan, Scott Matthews and Danny Thompson.

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theartsdesk in Lahore: Music, mysticism and fistfights

Sam Mills

On Wednesday I will strap on a guitar and take the stage at the Royal Festival Hall for the opening night of this year's Alchemy Festival. I am the musical director and happy accompanist to a line-up of spectacularly talented musicians, all with roots in different parts of the Indian subcontinent. As I write, visas are being stamped and air tickets finalised for 11 musicians flying in from India and Pakistan.

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Interview: Stephan Micus, the world's largest one-man band

Simon Broughton

"Multi-instrumentalist" is a catch-all phrase that usually means somebody who plays flute, clarinet, sax and perhaps a bit of guitar. When it comes to Stephan Micus, he’s a multi-instrumentalist of an altogether different calibre. He plays hundreds of instruments – he doesn’t know how many – which he’s collected and commissioned from all over the world.

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theartsdesk in New Zealand: WOMAD Taranaki

Garth Cartwright

I've been to countless UK Womads yet have never before made it WOMAD Taranaki. Which is almost something to be ashamed about considering I'm a Kiwi. But this expat is never in the South Pacific mid-March. Until, that is, this year. The 11th New Zealand Womad is held in the small city of New Plymouth in Taranaki, a gorgeous West Coast hump in the central North Island.

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theartsdesk Q&A: Musician Sinéad O'Connor

peter Culshaw

The first thing to say about Sinéad O’Connor is that she has a voice like pure, running water and is a fabulous singer. She radiates a rare integrity and is unusually honest (often that gets her into a lot of trouble).

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theartsdesk in Zanzibar: The Nightingale Still Sings

Thembi Mutch

A crowd of men and younger women in full burkahs gathers, bewildered by the sight: an African woman, in West African “Mumu” (khaftan) and a covered head, playing Ghazals (Islamic calls to prayer). Accompanied by an acoustic guitar, a clear voice, sitting on a café terrazza, Nawal transports us: until it is broken. “How dare you use the name of Allah in a song?!” cries out a dishevelled street vendor, visibly upset. “But you use keyboards in your praise of Allah” she retorts calmly.

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Farewell Kenny Ball, 1930-2013

kieron Tyler

The death today at age 82 of trumpeter Kenny Ball makes him the first of the big three chart regulars of Britain’s trad jazz boom to pass away. Both Acker Bilk and Chris Barber are still with us. It’s easily forgotten, but trad actually was bigger than The Beatles. In January 1963, just as the Liverpool quartet were issuing their second single, “Please Please Me”, Ball was on a sell-out bill at north London’s massive Alexandra Palace.

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10 Questions for Suede's Brett Anderson & Mat Osman

Bruce Dessau

Suede, led by the arrestingly beautiful Brett Anderson, was one of the finest bands to come out of the UK in the first half of the 1990s. Their eponymous debut album, released in 1992, won the Mercury Music Prize.

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The Dark Side of the Moon: Prog’s Gleaming Peak

graham Fuller

Let us go now to a foreign country. To the foreboding concrete tunnels and rooms of an RAF early-warning facility under the Sussex Downs in the early summer of 1973.The Lower Sixth has somehow procured the space for an epic late-night party. Cheap beer and cheaper cider is drunk. Cigarettes are smoked, self-consciously. Flared jeans and cheesecloth shirts are worn under Afghan coats, not with panache.

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Manchester International Festival 2013 Preview

peter Culshaw

Yesterday Kenneth Branagh was thanking Manchester – saying that he felt he had “come of age” the previous time he had performed Shakespeare in the city 25 years ago, the audience being so “generous, quick-witted and lively".

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The Dark Side of the Moon: Clare Torry's Great Gig in the Sky

kieron Tyler

The Dark Side of the Moon and Frankie Howerd’s Roman-era television farce Up Pompeii! aren’t as unlikely bedfellows as it first seems. The link comes from Clare Torry, whose voice opened the show each week. She also provided the unrestrained vocal on The Dark Side of the Moon’s Rick Wright-penned “The Great Gig in the Sky.”

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The Dark Side of the Moon: The Dark Side of the Rainbow

Caspar Gomez

Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour once commented that whoever had the idea of synchronizing the 1939 Hollywood classic The Wizard of Oz (with the sound turned down) to his own band’s The Dark Side of the Moon was “some guy with too much time on his hands”. The hippy culture of the Seventies contained many who fitted that description, as well as multiple baggies of what they then called “pot” to help.

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The Dark Side of the Moon: Dub Side of the Moon

joe Muggs

There's a lot about stoner culture that smacks of earnestness, and The Dark Side of the Moon has been at the heart of a good deal of that. The number of long, dreary, late-night conversations that must have taken place over “doobs” and “munchies” about its themes of life, death, madness, desperation and all the rest doesn't even bear thinking about.

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The Dark Side of the Moon: the Amazon Surf version

peter Culshaw

There are numerous tribute versions of The Dark Side of the Moon, by everybody from jazzers to electronica merchants, but the Amazon Surf version must be the most esoteric. Amazon Surf music is one of the more curious music phenomenona I've stumbled on.

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The Dark Side of the Moon: A Counterblast

Mark Hudson

In March 1973, John Lennon was 33. Elvis was 38. There was barely a musician, in the sense we understand it, over 40. No one with a mortgage – or hardly anyone – was into rock’n’roll. The Dark Side of the Moon changed all that. It made rock middle-aged.

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The Dark Side of the Moon: Introducing Prog

james Woodall

In 1973 certain world events carved themselves, a bit like the faces on Mount Rushmore, deep into the landscape of the late 20th century. No sooner had Richard Nixon begun to end the Vietnam War than Watergate broke. In the autumn Allende was overthrown by Pinochet in Chile; Egypt and Syria’s attack on Israel ignited the Yom Kippur war. A global oil crisis was to leave western economies strapped.

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‘Every woman in the building wanted a bit of his arse': Kevin Ayers, 1944-2013

theartsdesk

Whenever the words English and whimsy come together in relation to rock, writes Mark Hudson, the name Kevin Ayers is invariably invoked – not least by Ayers himself. The notably erratic, but gifted singer-songwriter and Soft Machine founder was hardly on the face of it notably English, having spent much of his childhood in Malaysia and most of his adult life lounging by the Mediterranean.

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Interview: Bassekou Kouyaté, Mali maestro

peter Culshaw

A couple of weeks ago on BBC’s Question Time one of the pundits airily commented that until recently no-one in the audience would have heard of Bamako, the capital of Mali. That wouldn’t be the case were there any world music fans there – for them, the country (perhaps only with Cuba as a rival) has the strongest and most renowned music heritage anywhere.

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Art Rock: The best and worst songs about artists

Fisun Güner

That ultimate art rocker David Bowie is 66 today. The Victoria & Albert Museum is opening with a major survey of Bowie the style icon this spring. What’s more, he’s just released a new single, with an album following in March. Fittingly, for an art school idol, he once wrote a song about his favourite artist Andy Warhol (“Andy Warhol looks a scream / Hang him on my wall / Andy Warhol, Silver Screen / Can't tell them apart at all”).

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Neither God nor Devil: The long dance between Technology and Music

peter Culshaw

David Byrne's new book How Music Works has once again brought to the fore the ever thorny debate about the relationship between technology and music. The dance between the two is being conducted at an ever more frenetic pace, and seems likely to continue to do so throughout 2013.  

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Global Music: The Best of 2012

peter Culshaw

For years there have been pundits predicting that just as our high street restaurants and football teams represent a much more globalised world, surely pop music would follow suit. Fifteen years ago my local high street had a Wimpy Bar, a curry house and a wine bar – now we have Vietnamese, Turkish, Keralan and Mexican eateries to name a few – and the street is much better for it.

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Lives in Music #4: The Book of Drugs by Mike Doughty

Lisa-Marie Ferla

Such is the warts and all nature of the rock star biography that something as personal as the addiction memoir has become almost passé. Lucky then that Mike Doughty – one-time frontman of cult 90s alt-rockers Soul Coughing turned eclectic solo artist – didn't write an ordinary addiction memoir.

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Lives in Music #3: Who Am I by Pete Townshend

peter Culshaw

Pete Townshend was always the most literate of stars, not merely a rock icon but someone who believed in Art with a capital A – he even ran his own publishing company and had an editing job in the 1980s with Faber and Faber, where he made friends with writing giants like Ted Hughes (he adapted his Iron Man) and William Golding, who he used to go boating with. Lucky Pete - except, he never thinks so, and beats himself up for not appreciating his good fortune.

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Thank You for the Days: Remembering Kirsty MacColl

Graeme Thomson

On December 18, 2000, Kirsty MacColl was killed after being struck by a motorboat while scuba diving with her two sons in Cozumel, Mexico. The tragic, criminal circumstances of her death – the boat was speeding in a restricted area – and subsequent fight for justice have tended to overshadow the fact that her unique, witty, deceptively emotional pop manoeuvres have been much missed.

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Remembering Ravi Shankar, 1920-2012

mark Kidel

While living in Bombay in the late 1940s, betrayed by a business partner and his first marriage in the midst of painful implosion, Ravi Shankar decided to commit suicide. At the eleventh hour, a holy man, who happened to be passing by, knocked on his door asking for water. The man told Shankar that he was aware of his fateful decision. This wasn’t, he went on, the right time to be renouncing life.

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Dave Brubeck, 1920-2012

Graeme Thomson

In 2009 I interviewed Jamie Cullum about Dave Brubeck, who has died today just a day before his 92nd birthday. What follows are Cullum's recollections of falling in love with Brubeck's music, and later knowing and working with a jazz legend.

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Stone Free: Andrew Loog Oldham

kieron Tyler

The return of The Rolling Stones to the world stage is headline news, but the man who put them there in the first place has decided to reveal the tricks of being an impresario, the hustler that can make or break a band.

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theartsdesk in Konya: Into the Mystic

peter Culshaw

Next month, as has been the case for centuries, lovers of the poet and mystic Jalaluludin Rumi (known simply as Mevlana - The Master - in Turkey, Iran and Persia) will come together to celebrate the day of his passing, on the 17th of December 1273. Thousands gather for a week commemorating what Rumi called his “marriage to eternity” with a grand ceremony of whirling dervishes.

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Interview: Tigran

peter Culshaw

Tigran Hamasyan is a brilliant jazz pianist who is clearly on the rise – for one thing, like many a star before him, he has dropped his surname, and is now, according to his latest record The Fable, simply Tigran. When I meet him in London, he tells me one reason he became addicted to the acoustic piano as a child was that there were so many blackouts in his native Gyumri in Armenia, and it was something he could play by candlelight.

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Interview: 10 Questions for Dave Stewart

adam Sweeting

Sunderland-born Dave Stewart has embraced the life of a wandering troubadour virtually since he was born. He had a record deal with folk-rockers Longdancer at the start of the Seventies, though he didn't start to enjoy commercial success until the end of the decade, when he was with The Tourists. They're possibly best remembered for their cover of the Dusty Springfield hit "I Only Want To Be With You", but more importantly, it was the band which brought Stewart together with Annie Lennox.

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Interview: 10 Questions for Rebecca Ferguson

Lisa-Marie Ferla

Pop music has always been a cynical business. And yet, sometimes, I like to imagine an alternative universe somewhere before Simon Cowell made his millions and the reality television behemoth become the industry that it has become. The televised singing contest was just that: a true contest, a chance at fame for the shy unknown who may never have been "discovered" otherwise.

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Interview: 10 Questions for Natasha Khan

russ Coffey

Natasha “Bat for Lashes” Khan is a 32-year-old indie singer-songwriter who, mysteriously, often gets compared to Florence Welch. But unlike Welch’s sledgehammer Eighties-pop Khan makes subtle and rather magical albums with connoisseur appeal. Today she releases her third album in six years. Her previous Fur and Gold (2006) and Two Suns (2009) have also drawn comparisons with PJ Harvey, Björk and Siouxie Sioux, and that's still a stretch (if less so than Florence).

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theartsdesk at Africa Express: Bound for Glory

Andy Morgan

The carriage swayed violently, sending a bottle of Perroni sliding across the Formica table top and into the quick hand of Malian guitarist Afel Bocoum. As we sped along, the sun sent flecks of light up the walls, across the ceiling, along the luggage racks and back down over assorted musicians who were sleeping, lounging, talking or playing music together in small groups.

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theartsdesk at the End of the Road Festival

bella Todd

“There’re a lot of turds out there, ladies and gentlemen. But they’re not one of them.” It’s Friday afternoon in Larmer Tree Gardens, a wood-rimmed, laurel-trimmed, urn-decorated corner of Dorset, and thank yous are coming thick and fast for Bella Union, the indie label Simon Raymonde founded in 1997 with fellow Cocteau Twin Robin Guthrie.

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Walk On By: Hal David, 1921–2012

kieron Tyler

The death of lyricist Hal David at 91 is a sad reminder that the golden age of a uniquely American approach to songwriting is getting further and further away. The Bacharach and David brand will last, as will classic songs like “Anyone Who Had a Heart”, “Don’t Make Me Over”, “Magic Moments”, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on my Head, “The Look of Love” and “Walk On By”.

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Michael Kiwanuka video exclusive

theartsdesk

Back in March theartsdesk reviewed the much anticipated debut album by 24-year-old Londoner Michael Kiwanuka, winner of the BBC’s Sound of 2012 poll and a man possessed of a voice not so much to be reckoned with as unconditionally surrendered to.

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WOMAD 2012, Charlton Park

Peter Culshaw A

You know, as someone tweeted, that the acid has kicked in when you see Prince Harry wearing a duck’s hat backstage, writes Peter Culshaw. For every newcomer like Harry or Channel 4’s Jon Snow, who raved about it, there were as many others others for whom WOMAD is an essential part of the British “summer” (although this year they were lucky with the weather). Now 30, which makes it an institution, the Peter Gabriel inspired Festival is a pretty well-oiled machine by now.

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theartsdesk at the Porretta Soul Music Festival

Garth Cartwright

Way up in the mountains of northern Italy sits a small spa town called Porretta Terme. For many visitors it is the resort’s healing waters that brings them here. Yet for others it is the healing music – once a year the Porretta Soul Music Festival is held across the second to last weekend in July. Here veterans of American soul music take the stage, often performing their only European show of the year (and, sometimes, many years).

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theartsdesk at the Latitude Festival 2012: Squeeze, Squelch

Steve Clarkson

As a giggling toddler posed for a photograph next to a pink sheep, a man in a Barbour jacket moaned about losing his garlic-crusher. On the lake, smitten newlyweds enjoyed a gondola ride, while, somewhere else, an elderly couple watched a show so moving it made them cry. Yes, this could have happened in one place only – the leafy surroundings of Henham Park, near Southwold in Suffolk, at Latitude Festival.

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theartsdesk in Fes: Bjork among the Gnawas

peter Culshaw

Wandering through the winding alleyways of the Medina, there was Bjork dressed in a dazzling blue dress and hat and listening to a Gnawa group with its dull, thudding bass and metal castanets. She was here to perform at the Fes Festival of Sacred Music, although the presence of Bjork suggests at times the notion of sacred may be a bit blurred. She has anyway said that her favourite singer is the wonderful Sufi singer Abida Parveen, and spent several days exploring the city.

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theartsdesk in La Réunion: Safiko Festival

Garth Cartwright

Some people go on holiday to relax on a beach. Others to trek through a glorious landscape. Or to explore magnificent architecture/extravagant nightclubs. Myself, well, I’m a musical tourist. Which often means I’m in rather blighted states. I’ve spent more time in Mississippi than New York, regularly returned to Romania yet barely know France. So when the offer came to attend a musical festival in La Réunion I didn’t have to think twice.

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London 2012: Peace One Day, Derry-Londonderry

Natalie Shaw

The minister for culture Ed Vaizey has said that London 2012 isn't just about London, but showcasing Britain to the world. This may be true in the simple geographical spread of events leading up to the Olympic Games, but in Derry-Londonderry's case, it ís equally about instilling a sense of civic pride. In 1991, Irish poet and playwright Seamus Heaney adapted Sophocles' Philoctetes as The Cure at Troy.

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Exclusive First Listen: Mala In Cuba

joe Muggs

It's a nervous beginning. This is the first ever presentation of the first proper album by one of the lynchpins of British underground music, and the soundsystem isn't right. Record label personnel and friends are flung across Paris to requisition new loudspeakers, while the invited audience drinks mojitos. After all this, it would be deeply embarrassing if the record turned out to be bad.

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The Arts Desk Radio Show 4

joe Muggs

So here it is, our fourth show of new, rare, exclusive and peculiar music - as ever recorded at Red Bull Studios with Brendon Harding ably manning the machines.

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Extract: The Stone Roses - War and Peace

theartsdesk

There is film footage of those opening magical, transformative moments: of Brown intoning, “The time, the time is now. Do it now, do it now.” Film, however, could not capture the effect the band’s arrival had on the mood of the crowd; it was a jaw-dropping biblical reaction, of relief, amazement, worship and unadulterated joy. “It was like a massive pilgrimage to witness,” said Roddy McKenna, the man who had been instrumental in signing the band to Jive/Zomba.

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R.U.T.A.: Polish punks with fiddles

Simon Broughton

With the yelling and posturing, R.U.T.A. are clearly a punk band, but it’s like no punk band you’ve ever heard before. The lyrics are in Polish, for one thing, and there are no guitars, but Middle Eastern lutes, archaic fiddles and a battery of percussion. They only formed last year, but already R.U.T.A. – a jokey acronym for the Movement of Utopia, Transcendence and Anarchy - have stirred up controversy.

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Interview: Melody Gardot, Mysterious Traveller

adam Sweeting

It was already apparent from Melody Gardot's last album, My One and Only Thrill, that she harboured a more than passing infatuation with the music of Brazil and Latin America. "I love Brazilian music, it's one of my favourite genres," she said at the time. "I love the Stan Getz bossa nova years, I love Getz/Giberto, Jobim, Caetano Veloso... "

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The Arts Desk Radio Show 3

joe Muggs

After a double set of live studio guests in our last show, it's just Joe and Peter this time, and thus a lot more music and discussion. Our intrepid explorers ponder whether there's anything new under the sun, looking at new-sounding folk and old-sounding electronica, angry British hip hop, Swedish jazz-punk, Mexican boutique hotels, murder blues and Crowley-referencing ambient music. 

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Interview: 10 Questions for Russell Watson

adam Sweeting

A Salford lad who used to work as a bolt-cutter by day and sing in working men's clubs at night, Russell Watson started out in showbiz by singing popular hits by Elvis Presley, Neil Diamond or Simon & Garfunkel alongside a few belters from famous musicals. One night the patron of the Wigan Road Working Men's Club suggested he should have a go at Puccini's "Nessun Dorma".

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George Harrison: Something in the Vaults

Graeme Thomson

My, what strange and wondrous treasures await the record producer given exclusive access to the private vaults of a Beatle. He will, for instance, find entire radio programmes preserved on multi-track tape, and recordings of F1 cars roaring past at some unspecified race track. He will stumble upon a humbled Fab being given his very first sitar lesson by Ravi Shankar, and be privy to a brief musical moment beamed in across the decades from a room at the Jaipur Palace Hotel.

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Levon Helm: 1940-2012

Graeme Thomson

Levon Helm, who died yesterday from cancer at the age of 71, was not only the drummer in The Band, one of the load-bearing beams of American roots rock. He was also an astonishingly soulful singer, whether as lead or harmony, with a voice that seemed to imbue everything he sang with an unfussy yet absolute truth, as inescapable and essential as the earth.

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theartsdesk at the Laugharne Weekend

Dylan Moore

The Laugharne Weekend has become a fixture in the crowded calendar of festivals that now punctuates not just high days and holidays but the whole six months that make up British Summer Time. Carving a niche for itself as a halfway house between literature and music, Laugharne’s success is built on two key factors.

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theartsdesk at the Busara Festival: Africa's long song of defiance

Thembi Mutch

The 18th-century Omani fort in Zanzibar is silhouetted against a clear African night. Nneka, a bird-like Nigerian female artist in shabby leggings, is hammering out “Vagabonds in Power” on an open-air stage inside the fort, just metres from a sea of entranced faces. The song is a poke at Africa’s leaders, specifically their part in the Niger Delta mismanagement and related death and corruption scandals.

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Gavin Bryars on The Sinking of the Titanic

peter Culshaw

You may be feeling Titanic fatigue by now, the last straw being the so-so Julian Fellowes TV romp which heads, as Adam Sweeting points out elsewhere, “an epidemic of TV programmes” this week.

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theartsdesk in Estonia: Tallinn Music Week

kieron Tyler

It began with a warning. Opening the fourth Tallinn Music Week, Estonia’s President Toomas Hendrik Ilves cautioned, “In a free society, it’s risk-free. In an un-free society, it’s not risk-free. It’s not all fun.” From behind a hotel conference room lectern, he then began rolling a video of Russia’s Pussy Riot being arrested in Moscow a few days earlier. Not everyone can make their point, make their music, choose how they want to get it across.

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Popcorn and Polymorphia: Jonny Greenwood meets Penderecki

adam Sweeting

Krzysztof Penderecki's Polymorphia for 48 string instruments dates back to 1962, and still stands as one of the grand milestones of the avant-garde. It epitomised the Polish composer's technique of "timbre organisation", in which the plucking and bowing of strings was merely a small part of an astounding array of effects.

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theASHtray: Homeland, Kings of Leon, and we need to talk about Aïda

ASH Smyth

So Homeland is here, and mid-ranking-CIA-operative Claire Danes is chasing Marine-Sergeant-and-possible-al-Qaeda-double-agent Damian Lewis all over the shop (but really only in their heads, so far), and neither of them is getting anywhere fast, so Claire goes home for a kip and sticks on some relaxing music, and would you Adam ‘n’ Eve it? – another bloody jazz nerd!

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theartsdesk in Oslo: by:Larm Festival 2012 and the Nordic Music Prize

kieron Tyler

Although the four days of Norway’s 15th by:Larm Festival were dominated by the presentation of the second annual Nordic Music Prize, there were plenty of other distractions: a sobering tour of Norwegian black metal’s infamous sites, a talk by legendary Nigerian drummer Tony Allen, what felt like millions of shows in millions of venues, and weather confounding all expectations of what Oslo ought to be like in February.

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Carolina Chocolate Drops: Leaving Eden and Moving On

kieron Tyler

Something falls with a clatter from one of Dom Flemons’s pockets. The Carolina Chocolate Drops’s banjo player, guitarist and all-round picker and plucker has a lot of pockets. Earlier, he’d produced a pipe from one, a tobacco pouch and tuning pipes from others, but what has just dropped on the table are his bones. His musical bones. The ones whose rhythms are rarely far from the heart of his band. “You never know when you’re going to need them,” he says. “Sometimes you just get bored."

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theASHtray: Whitney, bin men, and the NPG's 'incautious' acquisitions

ASH Smyth

Right, out with it: who else had their Valentine’s dinner-out ruined by 36 consecutive requests for Whitney Houston? Not even the entire back-catalogue, either: just “(And I-ee-I-ee-) I…”, over and over.

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Whitney Houston: The Legacy of an R&B Diva

Paul McGee

Of the many statements and tributes coming from peers and fans following the death of Whitney Houston last Saturday, perhaps the most unlikely of all was the one from the website of Diamanda Galás. One mightn't have imagined the most fiercely uncompromising singer of her (or any other) generation rushing to the defence of someone widely seen as the patron saint of the just-add-water divas of The X Factor age.

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theASHtray: Beyoncé, 'Bond', and Eddie Redmayne's lips

ASH Smyth

So, Birdsong is over, and for all the arts-crit ink spilled upon it I am still none the wiser vis-à-vis my three main points of concern. First: it is a truth universally acknowledged (I asked around) that the most memorable episode in the Faulks novel was the one about the blowjob. This scene was not so much absent from the TV version as, er... cunningly re-gendered. Why?!

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John Martyn: Three-Year Wake

Graeme Thomson

Exactly three years ago, late in the morning of 29 January, 2009, the news began to circulate that John Martyn had died at the age of 60. I spent the following 24 hours or so talking to many of his cronies to help assemble a tribute feature for a music magazine. Chris Blackwell, the man who had signed him to Island in 1967, had just stepped off a plane in Jamaica. He sounded fuzzy and uncertain. He knew Martyn was dead but needed details. “What happened, I haven’t heard?” he asked.

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2011: The Rave Returns

joe Muggs

Against all the odds, I find myself going into 2012 with a strong sense of optimism. And the reason? I am a born-again rave zealot. I saw it at Outlook Festival in Croatia, I saw it at Sónar in Barcelona, and I saw it at the Big Chill where I was running a stage; participatory, constructive, creative partying, where the crowds go not just to be entertained but to plug into something bigger, to be part of something.

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2011: King Lear, Breaking Bad and Afro-Futurism

peter Culshaw

The Mayans say 2012 is The End, so this may be the very last round-up of the year. I saw possibly the best Shakespeare I’ve ever seen – a chamber version of King Lear at the Donmar Theatre directed by Michael Grandage with Derek Jacobi as the mad old King, presenting a perfectly credible mix of vanity, vulnerability, craziness and tenderness.

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2011: Ladies With Ukuleles and Blockbusters With Bite

howard Male

2011 was an excellent year for highly original music from female musicians, two of whom brandished ukuleles yet found quite different ways of using them.

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theartsdesk Christmas Quiz

ismene Brown

You're going to test your stomach and sweet temper to the maximum today - test your brain and memory too with our monster quiz about the arts covered by theartsdesk in 2011. Every artform is represented here in 12 dozen questions. Settle down between courses, films and presents and see how many you and your near and dear can do.

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theartsdesk Christmas Quiz - Answers

theartsdesk

Here are the answers to our monster Christmas arts quiz of 12 dozen questions on the year past, as seen by theartsdesk writers. There are clues in all the questions in the main quiz page. If you don't want to know the answers just yet till you've grappled with them, close this page now.

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Christmas on theartsdesk: Brainteasers, Bran Tub, and the Best of 2011

theartsdesk

Any day now most of us will be hunkering down and for the most part drawing a curtain about the world outside. Before that happens, we’d like to tell you about theartsdesk’s plans for Christmas and the New Year.

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Cesaria Evora, 1941-2011

peter Culshaw

Cesaria Evora was one of the great singers, her lived-in voice and poignant, heart-wrenching music affecting nearly all who heard it. She had been in poor health after a heart attack in 2008 and a stroke last year, and died on the island of São Vicente in Cape Verde where she was born. I had the honour and pleasure of meeting her in Lisbon in 2001, on the occasion of the release of one of her best albums, São Vicente Di Longe.

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theartsdesk in Doha: Vangelis at Katara Amphitheatre

adam Sweeting

If you need music for a ceremonial occasion, Greek composer Vangelis is your man. He has, after all, even had a small planet named after him, and in 2001, NASA used his piece Mythodea as the theme for its Mars Odyssey mission. The following year, FIFA hired Vangelis to concoct the official anthem for the 2002 World Cup. In 2004, he draped aural grandiosity across Oliver Stone's implausible Alexander.  

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Unfinished Business: Writing Songs With the Dead

Graeme Thomson

Creative time travel is very much in vogue. For musicians especially, it appears that death is not so much The End as an opportunity to extend the possibilities of the franchise. Early in 2012, American alt-country type Jay Farrar and My Morning Jacket’s Jim James will release New Multitudes, an (excellent) album of new songs based on some of the thousands of unrecorded lyrics left by Woody Guthrie after his death in 1967.

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DVDs for Christmas: New Music

theartsdesk

Whether it's via the Disc of the Day column or our eclectic mix of overnight live reviews, on theartsdesk we try to traverse as much of the world of New Music as we possibly can. As Christmas swings around we consider it our duty to help guide readers through the thicket of music DVDs.

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theartsdesk in Rennes: 33rd Trans Musicales Festival

kieron Tyler

Glass crunches underfoot. It’s been raining constantly, but the odour reveals that a fair amount of what's in the cobbled street's central gutter is urine. Everyone appears to be drunk. The French equivalent of crusties aren’t content with one dog-on-string. Some have four. During the annual Trans Musicales festival, Saturday night in and around the Place St-Anne of Brittany’s capital Rennes is a keep-you-on-your-toes experience.

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Catherine Ringer: Life After Les Rita Mitsouko

kieron Tyler

Asked what attracted her to the music of South America, Catherine Ringer says, “C’est comme ça. Boom-ta-ta-boom, ta-ta-boom, ta-ta-boom-da boom, boom-da-da-boom.” She begins singing. “Boom-da-boom-da-boom, doo-doo-da-doo. It’s the rhythm of rock'n’roll,” she concludes. Ringer still exudes the spontaneity that defined Les Rita Mitsouko, whose first French hit, "Marcia Baïla", was fuelled by Latin rhythms.

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theartsdesk in Bucharest: The Paris of the East?

peter Culshaw

The tourist bumf talks a lot about Bucharest being “Little Paris”. If you squint while walking down the grand boulevards, you see what they mean. The crumbling Byzantine churches, the Belle Époque restaurants, the odd palatial Beaux-Arts town houses among the brutalist blocks all evoke Paris. They even have their own Arc de Triomphe and Odéon Theatre here, built on Parisian models.

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theartsdesk in Khartoum: English folk songs in Sudan

tim Cumming

I’m stood in the dusk in front of the tomb of Sheikh Hamid al-Nil as the sun sets on Khartoum, reddening in the exhaust-filled air as it deflates over a receding jumble of low-rise blocks spreading down the banks of the Nile and out towards Tuti Island, where the waters of the Blue and White Nile meet. This is no quaint, picturesque view, though you do feel you're in some ancient theatre of humanity when you land in Khartoum.

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Tubular Bells, The Charles Hazlewood All Stars, St George's Bristol

mark Kidel

Tubular Bells, the first half of which is being currently revived as a live piece in the UK, sold between 15 and 17 million units worldwide. Quite apart from the work’s innocence being co-opted and made spooky in William Friedkin's The Exorcist, there was something about Mike Oldfield’s first stab at quasi-symphonic rock which seduced the music-consuming public.

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Interview: Ana Moura on being Prince and Mick Jagger's protégé

peter Culshaw

My most rock’n’roll moment of the last year was probably travelling 120 miles an hour on the wrong side of the road in a black Mercedes as part of Prince’s police convoy on the way out of Lisbon to the Super-Rock Festival where the diminutive star was headlining. The traffic was completely jammed on the way to the concert and it was the only way to get there on time.

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Interview: Tinariwen, Poets in New York

Andy Morgan

All was quiet in room 509 when I turned up with my bottle of Jura whisky. Tinariwen’s sound engineer, Jaja, was watching a vampire movie on TV. Elaga, their rhythm guitarist, was sitting at a small, darkly varnished table eating pasta from a Styrofoam carton. Said the percussionist was lying on his bed, delving through the archive of photos and recordings on his LG mobile, keeping his own counsel as he usually does. 

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theartsdesk in Reykjavík: Iceland Airwaves 2011

kieron Tyler

Iceland is remote. Strategic too. Vikings stopped off there on the way to North America. It hosted the Reagan-Gorbachev summit 25 years ago. On the anniversary, visitors from America, Canada and across continental Europe are in Reykjavík for the 13th annual Iceland Airwaves. Over its five days the festival brings an extraordinary range of music to Iceland’s capital. Three years on from the country’s financial meltdown, Iceland remains strategic. Culturally strategic.

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Interview: Peter Gabriel

peter Culshaw

One of the problems with Peter Gabriel’s back catalogue for me, I tell him, as he is reclining in an office at EMI in London, is the sounds - some of them really are very dated. Gabriel would often pioneer a sound like the reverse-gated drum sound - others would imitate, it becomes trendy, over-used, and then hugely unfashionable.

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theartsdesk in Oslo: FolkeLarm Festival

kieron Tyler

It’s almost dark. Frescoes depicting the cycle of life are barely visible. They could be shadows. Waves of sound pulse through the mausoleum of Norwegian artist Emanuel Vigeland. Fiddle player Nils Økland is feeding the 15-second delay with peals that reverberate around the space, folding back into themselves. It’s a spooky, unforgettable introduction to FolkeLarm, Oslo’s annual festival of Nordic folk music.

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Bert Jansch: 1943-2011

Graeme Thomson

The great folk guitarist Bert Jansch died early this morning, aged 67. Whether as a prime mover in London's 1960s folk scene, or as part of pioneering folk-jazzers Pentangle, or as a songwriter and solo artist, his influence on everyone from Paul Simon, Donovan, Led Zeppelin and Neil Young to, later, Johnny Marr, Graham Coxon and Beth Orton is simply immeasurable.

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Zun Zun Egui: New Indie Band of the Year?

mark Kidel

In the generation of twentysomething rock musicians bottle-fed on world music, the Bristol band Zun Zun Egui really stand out. They make some of the most exciting music to have emerged in the last 12 months.

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Interview: 10 Questions for The Pierces

Graeme Thomson

Formed in 2000 by thirtysomething sisters Catherine and Allison Pierce, Alabaman duo The Pierces have spent over a decade flitting from style to style and label to label, the nuggets of critical acclaim heavily outweighed by public indifference. Everything finally clicked, however, with their fourth album, You & I, which entered the UK charts at number four earlier this year.

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theartsdesk in Brasilia: Music from the Melting Pot

joe Muggs

I know nothing about Brazil, I have come to realise. A Sergio Mendes album here, a Gilles Peterson compilation there, a blurred memory of catching City of God on Film4 once – these do not add up to even the beginnings of insight into a country big and diverse enough to be more like a continent in its own right.

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theartsdesk Debate: The Art of Performance

ismene Brown

To celebrate theartsdesk's second birthday on Friday, we held a panel discussion on The Art of Performance at Kings Place, London, in the Kings Place Festival.

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Opinion: Is The X Factor back for good?

jasper Rees

And so it begins again. Earlier this summer I attended what has become a regular British ritual, exactly like Wimbledon and Henley, the Chelsea Flower Show and Ascot, with only one or two small discrepancies.

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ELF. Eales, Lee, Findon. Piano, Horn and... Flute?

jasper Rees

Some things just don’t seem to belong in a pairing. The flute and the French horn both have their distinct sonic personality. It wouldn’t be going out on a limb to suggest that the average listener tends to lean towards one or the other. Even Mozart wrote for the horn out of love but trotted out his flute compositions for money. But opposites can and do attract and so it once more proves in a new recording featuring the horn and the flute and, discreetly chaperoning the pair of them, the...

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Joe Arroyo, 1955-2011

Sue Steward

News about the death of Colombia's greatest salsa singer, Joe Arroyo, has sent shock waves through the salsa world and fan bases internationally, and it brought in streams of digital messages.

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Riot music: we should have listened harder

joe Muggs

I'm not claiming some major prescience or insight here. I am as guilty as anyone of dipping into the music of the sink estates for a small dose of frisson then returning to art and music that confirm my own worldview. But maybe, just maybe, if we had all paid more attention to what was being said by young British men and women from those estates over the last decade, the events of the past few days might not have come as such a horrific surprise. After all, French rappers had been explicitly...

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Interview: Bombay Bicycle Club

russ Coffey

If Bombay Bicycle Club had been born on America’s West Coast, their music would no doubt soon be all over the soundtrack of the next big teen drama. All the ingredients are there: the artiness, the phlegmatic cool, and the tunes that form a natural soundtrack to people’s lives. That’s Bombay Bicycle Club, the band. The individuals, however, are refreshingly normal. They are more like a bunch of guys you might meet in a student union. At Jack and Ed’s digs in central London,...

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theartsdesk at Camp Bestival, Lulworth Castle

joe Muggs Weekend boutique festivals like Camp Bestival have become part of the fabric of British life

“Huxley! Electra!” called a plummy mummy to a couple of dawdling children. “Hurry up or you'll miss the BMX display!” Thursday night and Camp Bestival was, to a rather comical degree, looking like a playground for slightly funky middle-class families. Not that I was complaining – with an 18-month-old not so much in tow as leading the charge, I was extremely grateful for the regimented, relatively quiet campsite and the untold entertainments and comforts that CB provides. This was my...

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Opinion: Why are we so ghoulishly obsessed with self-destruction?

Paul McGee

By and large, Adele Adkins chooses to avoid the limelight, and therefore little is known of either her personal life or her indulgences, whatever they may be. The spectacular success of 21 suggests that her audience couldn't care less either way, which I think is quite telling. Compare and contrast, on the other hand, with the shambles formerly known as Amy Winehouse.

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theartsdesk in La Rochelle: Francofolies

kieron Tyler

The French national holiday of 14 July might be marked by parades and fly-pasts in Paris, but here on the Atlantic coast it’s the central date for Francofolies, the annual festival dedicated to French music. La Rochelle hosted its first Francofolies in 1985. Twenty-six years on, the festival remains the premier showcase for Francophone music.

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theartsdesk in Copenhagen: The Copenhagen Jazz Festival

peter Quinn A game of two halves at the Opera House: The Keith Jarrett Trio

“In jazz music you have the freedom, you have the expression. You have the visceral and you have the intellectual. Everything can be expressed through jazz, and is expressed through jazz and through the medium of improvisation. This is the highest form of being able to create music.” Speaking at the opening press conference of this year's Copenhagen Jazz Festival, that definition of jazz from the 80-year-old saxophone colossus Sonny Rollins seems as self-contained and eloquent as any other I...

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theartsdesk in New Orleans: How the City Got its Groove Back

peter Culshaw

New Orleans, that most musical city, is back, back, back, everyone told me. The tourist board said that visitor numbers are over eight million again, back to levels before “The Storm” as they refer to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina here.

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theartsdesk in Montréal: Les Francofolies de Montréal

kieron Tyler

Montréal natives The Arcade Fire sing in English. Yet 65 percent of the Québec city’s population have French as their first language. Les FrancoFolies de Montréal is Francophone Canada’s annual celebration of non-Anglo Saxon music. This year, big draws include French visitors Jeanne Moreau and Etienne Daho performing Jean Genet’s Le condamné à mort with musical accompaniment.

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theartsdesk in Fes: The Festival and the Moroccan Spring

peter Culshaw

Strange portents – the weather is always dry and baking hot this time of year in Fes. This time it was like winter, with lashing rain and thunder for the first few days of the Fes Festival. But then things are strange in general here; events are moving fast throughout the Maghreb. The first day I was there saw a demonstration of thousands in Rabat, and a smaller one in Fes. By the last day a new constitution had been posted online, with the King renouncing some of his powers.

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theartsdesk in Aarhus: SPOT Festival 2011

kieron Tyler

On the Jutland coast, Aarhus is Denmark’s second largest city after capital Copenhagen. Its attractive continental atmosphere is amplified by the presence of this week’s temporary population, which includes visitors from Britain, Estonia, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the US and the other Nordic countries. They’re here for SPOT, Denmark’s annual festival showcasing homegrown music. It’s a good moment as electro-popper Oh Land is making significant waves in the States.

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Opinion: Who says music isn’t good any more?

kieron Tyler

The former Bee Gee Robin Gibb unveiled a plaque at the London home of Dusty Springfield a couple of weeks ago. At the ceremony he commented, “There’s been no one to match her. This includes the United States as well – they can’t come close to her. Today they just pose as singers.” Last October, Sir Elton John was at it too: “Songwriters today are pretty awful, which is why everything sounds the same. Contemporary pop isn’t very inspiring." Come off it, you two, great new music is out there....

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Reinventing the Record: Strange New Formats of the Digital Age

joe Muggs

While rumours of the album's demise may well have been premature, the digital age certainly does present increasing challenges when it comes to getting punters to keep and treasure music. Of course, really it all went wrong with the CD: those irritating plastic cases with hinges and catches guaranteed to snap off and get hoovered up, the booklets you have to squint to read, the discs that slide under car seats or behind radiators.

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Opinion: Time to say goodbye to the label 'World Music'

howard Male

Although the phrase “world music” was first coined by American ethnomusicologist Robert Brown in the 1960s, it didn’t become a brand, as it were, until 1987, when a bunch of London-based DJs, musicians and record company folk (including the late Charlie Gillett) met in an Islington pub and landed on the idea of putting all this foreign music under one commercially viable umbrella.

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theartsdesk in Tallinn: Music Week in the European City of Culture

kieron Tyler

It’s an important year for Estonia. The Baltic nation celebrates 20 years of independence from Russia. Capital city Tallinn is European Capital of Culture for 2011. It’s also 10 years since their Eurovision win. theartsdesk is here for Tallinn Music Week, the third annual celebration of the country’s music. Integral to the national fabric, music was fundamental to the independence movement: the move to split from Russia was dubbed “The Singing Revolution”.

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Opinion: RIP Sound Quality?

kieron Tyler

We all know people who listen to their music from iTunes, aren’t fussed with CDs and use their computer as the sole source for their listening. They’re listening to MP3s, the file format developed for portable players. But MP3s are compressed files with less data than those on a CD. Why listen to this fast-food version of music at home? Do so and it’s a nail in the coffin of sound quality.

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theartsdesk in Kinshasa: The Making of Benda Bilili!

Andy Morgan

Benda Bilili! is in some ways very Hollywood – the story of a dream of stardom which comes true despite incredible odds. On the other hand, the subject matter of a group of homeless paraplegic musicians in a band called Staff Benda Bilili (which means something like “looking beyond appearances”) in one of the most dangerous cities in the world – Kinshasa – is hardly Tinsel Town.

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Interview: The Unthanks

russ Coffey

Misery may be folk music’s stock-in-trade but no one does it quite like the British. Maybe it’s part of our heritage. We are a nation, after all, that has not only invented a drink called bitter but have a brand called Doom Bar. And within the UK, there’s one particular volume of folk music that is unparalleled in its bleakness. It’s called the Northumbrian Minstrelsy, and it’s the first place Rachel Unthank, of critically acclaimed folk group The Unthanks, goes to look for new songs to...

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Opinion: Noise annoys – will venues ever sort out their sound?

Bruce Dessau

Last month I thought I'd gone deaf. After decades of standing too close to the loudspeakers I'd finally got my comeuppance and my ears had given up the ghost.

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theartsdesk in Oslo: by:Larm Festival 2011 and the Nordic Music Prize

kieron Tyler

Oslo’s annual by:Larm festival celebrates Nordic music. Over the three days, just under 180 acts play Norway's capital: 142 are Norwegian, 15 are Swedish, with single figures each for Iceland, Denmark, Finland and even Greenland. Time presses, and hard choices have to be made about what to see. This year, by:Larm also hosted the inaugural Nordic Music Prize, awarded to Iceland’s Jõnsi, for his recent album Go.

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Opinion: Can we please kill off the guitar as cultural icon now?

thomas H Green

There's been a lot of waffle lately about rock'n'roll being dead.

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theartsdesk in New York: A Dirty Weekend with the New York Dolls and a Jazz Princess

peter Culshaw

I didn't realise how much I liked dirt. Especially New York dirt. I was going to do a rant about boutique designer hotels, which seem ubiquitous in Manhattan. Major case in point: the Gramercy Park Hotel, where I used to stay in the Nineties and Noughties. It was independent, a bit scruffy, with a great bar full of artists and rock'n'roll types and other degenerates, a perfect location and cost about a hundred dollars a night.

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theartsdesk in Madrid: Nuevo Flamenco Comes of Age

peter Culshaw Miguel Poveda, one of the nuevo flamenco performers appearing at Sadler's Wells Flamenco Festival

I am far from the first - and in very good company - to worry about the over-commercialisation of flamenco. As far back as in 1922 Manuel de Falla and Federico Garcia Lorca, respectively Spain’s greatest composer and poet of the time, decided to organise a singing competition in Granada in which only singers from the villages were allowed to enter. The polished, preening urban stars of the Café Cantantes were ineligible. My resistance to the genre was partly to do with the Gypsy Kings,...

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Opinion: Iggy's adverts are so very, very wrong

thomas H Green

The idea of "selling out" has clung to popular music, and indeed most art forms, for a long, long time. In our postmodern techno-consumerist society it's an increasingly outdated and irrelevant concept. The book Faking It: The Quest for Authenticity in Popular Music by Hugh Barker and Yuval Taylor shrewdly takes the whole notion of selling out to pieces, from the blues of the early 20th century to Moby's deconstruction of those blues decades later. Or rather, it simply points out...

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Interview: Andy Gill, Gang of Four

russ Coffey Gang of Four: Not banging the socialist drum

Nashville is much more than the Grand Ol’ Opry, big hairdos and rhinestones, and I was looking for something beyond the occasionally enjoyable...

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Interview: Andy Serkis on playing Ian Dury

jasper Rees

The career of Andy Serkis tends to point in one direction: darkness visible. Onstage, more recently on screen, he has inhabited a series of characters for whom violence is second nature. His Bill Sikes was utterly deranged, though a pussycat next to his Ian Brady in Longford (pictured below), whose ghastly charisma he seemed intuitively to understand. Serkis’s performance-captured Gollum gave global audiences the creeps.

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Electronica 2000-9: Back to the Grass Roots

joe Muggs

The received opinion is that the music of the 2000s has been characterised by fragmentation, discontinuity, faddishness and a lack of coherent identity.

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Music Business 2000-9: The Medium, the Message

Robert Sandall

The point at which the, ah, Noughties revealed themselves to me as a decade in search of more than just a decent name arrived when Sky News' showbiz gofer phoned up to ask me to come on and blah about this exciting new band that everybody was talking about, Arctic Monkeys.

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Pop Music 2000-9: The Triumph of the Noughty Girls

peter Culshaw

The girls have produced the best pop of the Noughties: Kylie’s “Can’t get you out of my Head”, Missy Elliot's “Get Ur Freak On”, Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love”, Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab”, Duffy’s “Warwick Avenue” and Lady Gaga's "PokerFace" were just way better and more innovative pop music than that produced by the legion of blokey indie types (with a few honourable exceptions, like the Arctic...

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Don't Mention the RBS in Edinburgh

Graeme Thomson

It was a month before Christmas and I was watching venerable folkies the Battlefield Band at Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall. Halfway through their set they played “Robber Barons”, a new song about the nefarious medieval practice of German feudal lords charging exorbitant tolls on traffic travelling on the Rhine; as the verses mounted, it moved – seamlessly, like all good folk songs – to expose the habits of the unscrupulous bankers of the early 21st century.

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Garifuna Blues: Aurelio Martinez and Andy Palacio

peter Culshaw Aurelio Martinez (right) with mentor Youssou N'Dour

The new album of Honduran singer Aurelio Martinez hasn’t got a title yet, or a record label, and will probably come out next year. But already there’s enough buzz about him and it for his UK debut to bring out the great and good from the world music scene. Editors, PRs, DJs, record company types, promoters and journalists were out in force on a rainy December night last Friday in the decidedly un-fiesta-like atmosphere of Islington’s Union Chapel.

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PBS6: launch of Geordie supergroup

Alice Vincent Getting to know you: first rehearsal of Geordie folk pioneers PBS6

Common assumptions about the folk scene in Newcastle would conjure up images of regulars at busker’s night in the pubs around Ouseburn valley. Not so far from the truth, perhaps. But a new project started by Will Lang, who happens to be a tutor at Newcastle Universit, is revitalising the North-East’s traditional association with the genre. PBS6, a supergroup - if you will - of young, exuberant musicians from backgrounds varying from jazz to Irish accordion mastery, are launching their new tour...

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Thea Gilmore Rediscovers Christmas

adam Sweeting

As Bob Dylan has reminded us recently, The Christmas Album is one of those music industry traditions more likely to deserve an ignominious burial rather than praise. Fortunately, Thea Gilmore has galloped to the rescue with Strange Communion, an artfully shaped collection of songs that shines flickering light into the mystical roots of the Yuletide season.

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The Moon and Tom Waits

howard Male

This week sees the much antipicated release of the Tom Waits live album Glitter and Doom - which almost rhymes with moon. Much has been written about the seismic change in Tom Waits’ music that occurred around 1983 with Swordfishtrombones. Before that date Waits was just a bar-room blues kind of guy: double bass, brushed snare, and fumbled piano were the accessible backdrop to songs of unfulfilled love and drowned Saturday nights. This Tom was always hunched over the...

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Brett Dennen, interview

adam Sweeting

Astonishingly tall and surmounted by a luxuriant clump of dramatic red hair, Brett Dennen couldn't be mistaken for any other singer-songwriter. It's possible to detect any number of musical echoes in his songs - Neil Young, Dylan, Paul Simon - but thanks to his huskily soulful voice and a gift for conveying complicated sentiments in a resonant phrase, he manages to stand apart from the crowd here too.

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The Seckerson Tapes: Nigel Richards

Edward Seckerson

Edward Seckerson talks to actor/singer Nigel Richards about his new album A Shining Truth - a handsome compendium of 14 hitherto unrecorded musical theatre songs by major talents as Howard Goodall, Adam Guettel, Michael John LaChiusa, Conor Mitchell, Richard Taylor, and others no less significant. Musical Theatre aficionados will recall Nigel's unforgettable performance in the title role of Adam Guettel's masterpiece Floyd Collins at London's Bridewell Theatre and will...

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The Seckerson Tapes: Jamie Bernstein on Leonard Bernstein

Edward Seckerson

theartsdesk.com presents The Seckerson Tapes, a series of live and uncut audio interviews from acclaimed broadcaster Edward Seckerson. We start with Jamie Bernstein - Leonard Bernstein's eldest daughter - who has been in London launching the year-long Bernstein Project at the South Bank. Seckerson, a long-standing Bernstein devotee and disciple, sat down for a frank and open discussion about exactly who her "dad" was.

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Magma, Barbican, the Cosmos

peter Culshaw

I am not that objective about Magma. For one thing, when I saw them as a 16-year-old in the Seventies the intensity of the band caused me to have an out-of-body experience, something that has happened neither before or since. It’s the kind of thing you remember. It’s hard to formulate balanced critical opinions when you are floating up near the ceiling, looking down on your body. I met the leader and creative visionary behind the band, Christian Vander, a couple of weeks before last night’s...

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Mott The Hoople Reunion Interview

Robert Sandall

Reputations, it seems, can grow in ways that elude even their owners. When the original five members of Mott The Hoople finally decided to re-form, 35 years after they drifted apart, they booked two shows at the Hammersmith Apollo in October and crossed their fingers. According to their 70-year-old vocalist Ian Hunter, “we realised if we were ever going to do it, it was now or never, but we still thought we’d be lucky to fill the second night.”...

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Tom Russell's Juarez Journal

Tom Russell

To mark the release of Tom Russell's superb new album Blood and Candle Smoke this week,  the cowboy singer-songwriter reports on his trip earlier this month to the Mexican city of Juarez, one of the most dangerous cities in the world, just over the border from where he lives in El Paso, Texas.

"Down below El Paso lies Juarez, / Mexico is different, like the travel poster says…"
Burt Bacharach and Bob Hilliard, "Mexican Divorce"

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