I arrived in Zambia only a few days after the news of President Sata’s death. While international media focused on the fact that Sata’s temporary successor was Vice President Guy Scott, a white man, this obviously didn’t come as much surprise to most Zambians. What I found more interesting than the political gossip following Sata’s death was that only gospel music was permitted to be played in public places until the mourning period was officially declared over.
On my first Friday in Lusaka I accompanied some friends to a club called Hollywood City. I had actually been to Hollywood City during my visit to Zambia the previous year and although the club looked the same as before, there were far fewer people.
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In early November, I went to an open mic for local poets at an Abu Dhabi venue called The Space. It was the fourth event in a new Rooftop Rhythms series for Arabic poetry, organized by Rooftops founder Dorian “Paul D” Rogers.
The event featured about fifteen poets, who combined elements of Arabic poetry with spoken word. They were multilingual UAE residents from a variety of Arab backgrounds—Palestinian, Lebanese, Emirati, and Sudanese. Many were regulars at Rooftop events but usually performed in English. They reminded the audience of this since the connotations of writing poetry differ from one language to another. Arabic poetry is associated with mastery of Classical Arabic and a deep knowledge of the Arabic literary heritage, while spoken word favors poetic prowess that is grounded in lived experience. But the audience was open-minded, receptive to hearing Arabic poetry in a variety of dialects, registers, and styles. The evening had a warm, familial vibe, with listeners snapping fingers supportively from their bean bag chairs.
Poets and friends at The Space in Abu Dhabi. Photo Farah Bushnaq.
Sharing the vision of the community-led arts and music festival Saga Fest, which will have its pilot launch on the 23 and 24 of May 2015.
I had the chance to share the vision of Saga Fest at October’s Arts & Audiences conference, a convergence of Nordic arts and culture leaders with a bend toward social and environmental justice.
Here is the slide deck I used at the conference:
Oléna Simon performed tracks from her solo project at September’s GRASSROOTS with Fannar Ásgrímsson on beats and production.
The two of them, along with Jónas Thór Guðmundsson, are also a part of a three-piece music group called Asonat. Although they consider themselves an Icelandic group, they’re very much international: Jónas is living in Estonia, Fannar Ásgrímsson is in Iceland and French vocalist Oléna Simon plans to move to Japan.
Though, Jonas says, “Despite this constant moving around, we are in total synchronization toward how the music should be.”
Their new album “Connection,” was released at the end of September, and has been well received by the press. The record landed on the number 1 spot at WRAS Radio 88.5FM in Atlanta and Nordic Playlist rated it as one of “10 Unmissable New Nordic Albums” alongside Ásgeir’s “In The Silence” (Iceland) and Love To’s “Queen of the Clouds” (Sweden).
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Hello from Harare, Zimbabwe! In just a few days I will be heading over to Zambia where I will begin my Fulbright-mtvU project. I will be exploring how young people assert individual and collective identities through participation in music culture on the Copperbelt in Zambia.
I have been in Harare, Zimbabwe since early September thanks to funding I received as a recipient of the NYU Gallatin Dean’s Award for Graduating Seniors. This is my third time visiting Zimbabwe and working with Magamba Cultural Activist Network, an organization that creates and promotes alternative media. Most notably, I have assisted with the organization of their annual music and arts festival “Shoko.” While in previous years I was unable to attend the festival because the dates conflicted with my classes at NYU, I was finally able to attend this year as a graduate. It was amazing to be able to attend the vibrant and diverse festival as well as reunite with many close friends and colleagues!
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