Mar(k): Travel, Hiking, and "Doing Good"

musings on our life of travel and volunteering

Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Why difficult listening is music to my ears – and why the Australia Council must continue

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The past ten days have been a pleasurable, and sometimes challenging aural journey.  I was the lucky recipient of a double pass to Tura Music’s Totally Huge New Music Festival.  It has been fantastic, and I am very grateful for the opportunity presented in the past ten days to hear some innovative, contemporary music from some amazing artists.

The music was sometimes challenging

The music was sometimes challenging

Musical genres often cross over between one another, and it is sometimes a blurry distinction between one musical form and its neighbour.  And it is safe to say that Mark and I are pretty “open eared” when it comes to difficult listening (thank you, RTR FM for giving artists a chance to be played and heard – we particularly love your Difficult Listening program, as well as Giant Steps).  We love modern jazz, and avant grade stuff really floats our boat.  (NB:  best musical week of our lives was the week long extravaganza that John Zorn played last year in Adelaide for the Adelaide Festival).  But “new” music, or “nu” music, as it is sometimes called, is a cross over genre for us.   Sometimes classically influences, sometimes jazz, and sometimes just cutting edge weirdness.  We like it!

Anyhow, with the New Music Festival now behind us, we can reflect on some highlights.  There were some challenging pieces:  Cat Hope was tearing it up on electric bass at Jimmy’s Den on a few nights  (my ears are still bleeding).  Vocalist Alice Hui-Sheng Chang was very cutting edge (me thinks the Denmark Festival of Voice is in for a bit of a shock)!  And we got to enjoy some of the local jazz talent who we know very well, in the trio of Fatin / Reid / Winton.

Enjoying the Young Composers Night was certainly a highlight – never before had we heard a saxophone orchestra.  We liked being challenged by Alamos Betty in a performance that was reminiscent of punk, and used found objects to assist in the music making mayhem.  And then there was the cube-cum-instrument experience of hearing a cardboard box as a percussive sound.  Loved it.

Using the humble cardboard box as a music instrument at the Young Composers Night

Using the humble cardboard box as a music instrument at the Young Composers Night

For sheer virtuosity, we loved the piano brilliance of Zubin Kanga, as well as the exceptional closing program which featured percussionist Claire Edwardes, Louise Devenish and Ashley Smith (whose clarinet playing inspires me to perhaps one day pick up this instrument myself).

A highlight was the piano wizardry of Zubin Kanga

A highlight was the piano wizardry of Zubin Kanga

This wonderfully curated festival has only highlighted to us the importance of keeping the cultural vibrancy of Australian musicians going.  Something that is in jeopardy due to the recent announcements by our myopic government, and its proposal to divert funds away from the Australia Council (an independent funding body), and into the grip of the Minister of the Arts (a self-proclaimed man who likes his music straight ahead, good for the masses, with no discordant notes to be heard).  As one of the artists mentioned, putting the funding of music into the Minsiter’s hands would be like giving the Minister of Sport the right to choose our Olympic team.  Not really a place we want to be going.  Must sign off now – I am off to write to my local MP about why this is such a bad idea.

I hope you click on some of the hotlinks above, and have a listen to some of these fabulous artists.   ABC Classic FM also recorded a lot of the festival events, which will get this great music out to more people, via pod cast and broadcast.  Now THAT is music to my ears.


Written by Mar(k)

May 24, 2015 at 9:39 pm

Sharing Ideas @ TEDxPerth

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During breaks, the conversations continued out in the courtyard where Q&A sessions were held

During breaks, the conversations continued out in the courtyard where Q&A sessions were held

Hopefully some of our readers already know all about the wonderful TED initiative.   These Ideas Worth Spreading have been going on since 1984, and over 1500 videos are available here free to charge to peruse.  They cover a wide range of topics, emanating from the original TED nucleus of Technology, Entertainment and Design.  This past weekend Mar(k) had the opportunity to attend the TEDxPerth talks, which were truly inspiring!

TEDx encouraged us to meet new people, and the people I met at the coffee breaks and over lunch, and even sitting next to me in sessions were interesting and amazingly diverse.   Here is a sample:

  • Brodie, who runs Spacecubed, an innovative place where people can collaborate on ideas.
  • Two women (Renae and her boss – the Marketing Manager) for the Art Gallery of WA
  • Martin, a lawyer who immigrated from Hong Kong as a child, and is also the Secretary of the Chung Wah Association in Perth.  His long association with this great organisation goes back to his childhood, when he remembered teaching some of the older Chinese folks English.
  • A student who has her masters in Anthropology but is now going back to get her masters in Law.
  • A lady who was passionate about sustainable living, growing broad beans and raising chooks in suburban Perth.

The speakers were all first rate, and inspiring.

From musical performances to talks about complementary therapy for cancer patients, sustainable communities, and dealing with refugees in a humane way – it was a great day out.

Shake shake shake, shake your bootie….

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Feet stamping with jingles added to the lively beat of the drummers

One of the truly fabulous experiences in Ghana is undoubtedly witnessing a cultural demonstration of dancing and drumming.  We had this opportunity recently in a village that forms part of peri-urban Tamale.  The drummers were drumming, the booties were shaking, and the feet were stamping.  It was great!

Things took a decided turn for the worse when the demonstration finished, and the “visitors” were expected to have a go themselves!   In order to look the part, we were assisted into the belt like apparatus with pom poms.  These must shake when your bootie does, for maximum effect.  Antia and I had a go, and it was good fun. But we certainly paled in comparison when it was Mark’s turn.  He was a natural!  Not much bootie to shake, but he gave it a stellar effort;  much to the riotous amusement of the women and children assembled.  No doubt they are still chuckling when they think about it!   Certainly I do!   : )

Mark was the cause of much merriment amongst the local women!

It is much tougher than it looks!  It is very exhausting, and we were doubly impressed by the dancer below, who has started young, but no doubt he has a long and exciting career ahead of himself as a traditional Dagomba dancer.

Starting young, this small fry was strutting his stuff - fantastic!

Written by Mar(k)

September 4, 2010 at 1:29 pm

The Importance of the Chieftancy

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dignitaries wait for the arrival of the Vice President at the TENI launch

One of the things that is immediately apparent here is how important the chieftancy structure is to Ghanaian life.  The respect that is accorded to the chief and his sub-chiefs is immense.  When one goes to “communities”, it is customary, respectful and necessary to greet the chief before any business gets done.  One of the ways of showing respect to the chief, at least here in the Northern Region, is to bow slightly, as you can see from this drummer who is kneeling as he drums to show respect.

The drummer at the front is paying his respect to the chief by kneeling or crouching down

At a recent opening of an educational project that VSO is involved in, the Vice President of  Ghana officially launched the TENI project (Tackling Education Needs Inclusively).

the Vice President of Ghana opened the TENI project

It was a great demonstration of the blend of political power through the VP and the traditional respect of the chieftans.

Traditional  Ghanaian dancers were called upon to dance and entertain the masses as we waited for the Vice President to arrive.  In addition, the loud speakers broadcast the “praise singers”,

Praise singers - their job is to literally sing the praises of the chief

who sing the praises of the head chief.  It was very loud, and went on for a long time!   But the respect afforded the chief was also very apparent.

at important events everyone puts on their best outfits -all the men looked great in their smocks

Written by Mar(k)

July 6, 2010 at 10:14 am

Great Ghanaian Grooves

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Recently we headed down to Accra to cheer on the band that fellow volunteer Anthony is involved with;  Tanga Culture.  It was a great night – dubbed the “Ghana New Music Festival”; which aims to encourage traditional music from all the different regions of this fabulous country.

It was great to finally get a taste of the diverse and wonderful music that Ghana has to offer.  Many booties were shaking as eight different groups strutted their stuff on stage.

Regrettably, Anthony did not actually get to perform with Bolgatanga based TangaCulture on the actual night.  Despite his attendance during the gigs that won them spots in the Upper East Region and the Northern Region(s), he was “disqualified” from competing in the national finals, as he was not Ghanaian.  Nonetheless, the volunteers were out in force, supporting TangaCulture and enjoying a lovely evening outdoors at the Alliance Francaise venue.

Tangaculture represented the 3 northern regions, singing in Fra Fra

We were surprised and impressed with how quickly they turned each group around.  Each band was given 4 songs to perform in 15 minutes.  The scoring system, as it was explained to us, was complex in the extreme.  However, additional entertainment was provided while all the groups waited expectantly for the results to be tabulated.

This lady had a great set of.... lungs!

The winning group was jubilant, as they are now going to be off for a tour which will include Tanzania.  A fun night was had by all, and we were tucked up in bed by 2 am, which was impressive given the late start of the event!

If you want to read about this event from Anthony’s perspective (group member of Tanga Culture), you should click here.

Written by Mar(k)

June 18, 2010 at 9:43 am