Northern Nostalgia

It’s a difficult world at the moment. There is a pervasive bleakness that is impossible to deny and it would be easy to sink under the overwhelm and hopelessness that characterises the times in which we find ourselves. What does an individual do in times like these?

In our Philosophy in Public Spaces group (you can find out about us here: https://pipsgy.wordpress.com/) we regularly conclude our discussions with Voltaire, and the conclusion of Candide that we should cultivate our own garden. This doesn’t mean turning your back on others and ignoring the troubles of the world; it means focusing on that over which you have some control, finding the place where you can have agency and impact.

At one time, I was an avid consumer of MSN and was easily drawn into the drama of the daily news agenda that is determined and decided for us. Having given up on MSN, withdrawn from watching television and listening to the radio, life is quieter. It is not less well-informed, just informed differently. I would rather listen to the wind and the blackbird singing than to the superficial propaganda from the relentless news cycle that tells us what to think and feel.

In spite of withdrawing from regular television, I like to watch good stories on a screen and for those stories to take me to another time and place, when the world was different. Presently, my favourite place to go and find a meaningful story away from here and now is in Cicily, Alasaka, the early 90s. I am taking a slow and joyful amble through Northern Exposure, a place where community matters, where people live in synch with the natural world and where being in the true sense of the word is explored and celebrated. I often find myself in tears at the end of an episode because something profound and beautiful about our existence has been shared. A recent episode I watched featured Chris in his artistic persona planning to fling a cow from a giant catapult. Because of the show’s moral centre, a cow was never truly at risk of such an horrific death but I was disturbed at the thought. Chris eventually flung Maggie’s fire damaged piano and the scene was beautiful. The conclusion was that the act of flinging was more important than the object being flung. This has stayed with me. I’ve thought about my own propensity to hold on to things, to not release them. I could do with a giant catapult to do some flinging. Or maybe, I could just mentally fling and release some of the stuff that is long overdue flinging.

There is, of course, nostalgia attached to watching a show that first aired thirty years ago. It is not current. It is not a work of our times. The nineties feel like they were better times than now; in truth they probably weren’t. But spending time out of now through the medium of a good story is a restorative activity.

Cicily, Alaska, as presented in the show provides a different model of how to live well, in community. The natural world is respected, the indigenous community is respected and people find ways through their troubles and adversity to a greater understanding of themselves and others. It seems to me that therein lies a simple recipe for a contented life. I hope we can find a way to make this a reality where we find ourselves now.

Light

In times of darkness where fear and uncertainty are endemic, it might seem naive to focus on the light and to search for ways to let it in.  However, whether it’s naive or not, it’s clear to me that sitting in the dark and letting it overwhelm me is something I have to resist.  I have experienced many dark days of late  – as have we all – and at times it has felt like despair is the only rational response to the tumultuous horror show out there.  

I can’t do very much about the out there that is the catastrophic failure of this appalling government or the terrible behaviour and practices of systems and organisations, including the media, that add to the sum of human misery.

What I can do something about is the in here, my interior life, my own moral centre and practice of how I choose to live.  There are days when I am so enraged I want nothing more than to burn down Valhalla and everything in it. Sometimes I am so engulfed by outrage I can barely speak and inevitably I internalise the pain and make myself ill and upset. The person that suffers because of this, is me. 

I am working on a way of being in the world that looks to let the light in wherever and whenever possible. It’s easy for me to turn to the dark, to anger and distress and to become lost in shadow and torment until I am so depressed I can barely function. 

Over the past five years I have worked hard to turn my face to the light and to not venture into the darkness. And it’s really hard to do and I don’t always succeed. These past five years have been the time of the greatest adventures and the greatest challenges of my fifty-four years on this planet. I have navigated more storms and traumas than I care to remember. But I have also discovered true friendship, love, camaraderie and a sense of purpose. This is in no small part down to our Philosophy in Public Spaces group where we share our sense  of injustice and our outrage and positively explore how to respond through rigorous philosophical inquiry. Additionally I have work that produces positivity and a strong sense of community. I have also learnt who my friends are; and although that sounds like a cliché, it has been one of the most significant learnings of my life. 

My creative life has also been central to my battle with the darkness. My work explores the dark and the power of light. In the poems for Requiem, which I wrote in 2018/19, my focus was on the international conflict that was so destructive over a hundred years and more and which remains an ever-present threat through the power of the industrial military complex. The piece concludes with this simple prayer:

Let there be rest. Let there be peace.

Let bloodshed, war and violence cease.

Let us seek with all courage that which is right,

When darkness falls, let us search for light. 

I look back on the experience of writing and touring Requiem, of performing with The Alan Barnes Octet as being one of the best and most fulfilling creative experiences I have had. I remember it with great love and hope that one day I might get to do it again. 

The Alan Barnes Octet and Josie Moon: Requiem

In this time of enormous darkness, of creeping tyranny and oppression, of vacuity, corruption and sleaze it’s important to keep searching for the light, to not give in, to not let the dark win.  It’s hard as hell, relentless and exhausting.Unlike the dark, which isolates us and makes us feel alone and afraid, the light casts warmth and brightness. It allows us to find each other and join hands. 

Peace, Josie 

Umm Kulthum: Enta Omri

Umm Kulthum was born Fāṭima ʾIbrāhīm es-Sayyid el-Beltāǧī on 31 December 1898, or 4 May 1904. Birth registaration was not enforced in Egypt at that time. She died 3rd February 1975. She was a singer, songwriter, and film actress working between the 1920s and the 1970s. She was given the honorific title Kawkab al-Shar meaning Star of the East.

Umm Kulthum was renowned and admired for her vocal ability and style. She sold over 80 million records worldwide, making her one of best-selling singers of all time from the Arab World. In her native Egypt she is regarded as a national icon and has been dubbed the voice of Egypt and the fourth pyramid

Part of my reason for undertaking this Listening to Women project was to ensure I explored music beyond my usual ranges of taste and experience. Music from different cultures and traditions is much more readily available now than when I was growing up and discovering music for myself in my teens. In the 70s and 80s I was listening to music via Radio 1, Top of the Pops and whatever my parents were playing – which to my good fortune was curiously eclectic, ranging from Chris Barber to Earth, Wind and Fire to Tammy Wynette. The latter will always have a place in my heart.

My tastes have expanded over my life but have been firmly western for the most part. Furthermore, I have realised that I was listening to a lot of men, with women being in the minority of artists that I regularly turned to. This lack of balance is a reflection of the wider culture and the sheer dominance of male voices, musicians, producers in the music industry. I am making a deliberate and concerted effort to address these imbalances and to seek out work by women, not only in music but in every field.

Listening to Umm Kulthum has been a beautiful experience. Her voice is complex, with range and depth that has a profound emotional impact. She has been lauded by fellow artists, as diverse as Bob Dylan and Maria Callas and it is clear why. Her voice reaches in and demands a response. I listen and find myself emotionally engaged in her music, committed to it, following her voice note by note. She sings in a language I don’t speak but her music transcends that. I have looked at lyrical translations but of course in English the words do not have the same resonance. I decided not to worry too much about that and to focus on the sound, the emotion, the sheer beauty of her work.

Umm Kulthum was politically engaged and post the revolution in Egypt in 1952 she became persona non grata for a while. Her music was banned from airplay. Nasser insisted that she be restored to her prominent position and even timed his broadcasts to not interfere with her performances on the radio. She became friends with Nasser – who is of course a problematic figure. Her story illustrates yet again that politically engaged artists can and often do face danger in countries and regimes where their work is considered a threat to power.

Listen for yourself and prepare to be captivated:

Buffy Sainte-Marie: It’s My Way

It’s My Way! is the first album by folk singer Buffy Sainte- Marie, released in April 1964 by Vanguard Records. It is a seminal folk album, marking the beginning of an extraordinary career for an extraordinary artist. The album is both scathing and topical, examining the plight of indigenous Americans and critiquing war in the album’s most famous and enduring song, The Universal Soldier.

Buffy Sainte-Marie is an indigenous American-Canadian musician, educator, artist and activist. Blacklisted by American radio stations during the 1970s, her music has nevertheless endured. She has managed to successfully cross over from folk protest music to mainstream success, winning an Oscar in 1982 for the song Up Where We Belong which was the iconic song performed by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes in the film An officer and a Gentleman.

It was Donovan’s version of The Universal Soldier that was the first protest song I heard. It led me to Dylan and Masters of War when I was about fourteen and both songs continue to move me. It is Buffy Sainte-Marie’s version that I prefer to Donovan’s these days as her authenticity and originality touches me deeply.

The album sounds current. The vocal is strong and powerful, particularly on the track Ananias which is the one I have listened to most during my weeks of listening to and appreciating this album. Buffy Sainte-Marie has a voice as distinct and powerful as her contemporaries, Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell. Although widely known and highly respected she is arguably not the international household name that she deserves to be, most likely due to her heritage and the racist misogyny that too often undermines women’s careers.

Buffy Sainte-Marie has a string of awards and credits to her name that indicate her power, relevance and artistry. She has remained a life-long advocate and activist for the rights of indigenous peoples. She has the gravitas and grace of a true elder, a woman who rightly commands great respect and who stands up to multiple listenings.

Shadow Kingdom: Bob Dylan, July 2021

Shadow Kingdom: Bob Dylan

Live Stream Event – July 2021

From the opener When I Paint My Masterpiece to closer Baby Blue Bob Dylan gives us a mesmerising fifty-minute glimpse into his Shadow Kingdom, over which he presides, elusive as ever, wearing the masks of jester, crooner, mage and poet simultaneously; only occasionally allowing us to see his true, astonishing face in close up.

Bob Dylan at eighty is the artist of our age, Nobel Laureate and weaver of worlds. In Shadow Kingdom across thirteen songs, he creates a mood and atmosphere that linger long after the show ends.

Shadow Kingdom is subtitled The Early Songs of Bob Dylan. The set list is drawn mainly from the period 1965 – 1967 with a couple of early 70s inclusions.  The stand-out song in terms of period is the 1989 What Was It You Wanted? from Oh Mercy; arguably Dylan’s finest 80s album. It sticks out in a set that otherwise represents that late 60s purple period when Dylan was producing brilliant album after brilliant album.  Perhaps Dylan is asking us to reflect on what is wanted from him, both now and back in the later 60s when he hit his stride with the tour de force that begins with the snarls and growls of Bringing It all Back Home and ends with the thin wild mercury of Blonde on Blonde

Shadow Kingdom is filmed in soft monochrome tones, directed by Alma Har’el and shot in Santa Monica over seven days. It perhaps defies any expectations that the audience might have had before seeing it.  What was it we wanted; a concert movie? A live set? Whatever it was we wanted, what we got was a beautiful surprise. The band is stripped back, the black and white sets are curious and mercurial Dylan is diction-perfect.  

There is a distinct Lynchian vibe in the settings; this band would not have been out of place at The Roadhouse in Twin Peaks. The interplay of shadow and light, the ubiquitous cigarette smoke are tropes that are familiar to those who know the Lynchverse. But with Lynch, it is always the darkness that dominates. In Dylan’s Shadow Kingdom, the light is equally important. There are even visual jokes.  Two hard staring tough mamas flank Dylan as he croons I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight; one even flicks lint from the shoulder of his jacket. During The Wicked Messenger, the lead guitar player is wheeled into shot three times to play the riff.  There is humour at work.  There is also compassion. Queen Jane is no longer approximately, and the song is more reconciliatory than accusatory. Forever Young drips with love – imagine having that written for you as a kid? Tom Thumb does not sound as pissed off as he was in 1966; perhaps he and Juarez have come to terms with each other after all this time.  To Be Alone With You gets a re-write, reminding us that the bard can do as he likes with his own words; he doesn’t have to please anybody but himself.

The bar setting for half of the set features a cast of characters from another time; the late 40s, early 50s. They seem to be an ensemble of outsiders, cast in a dignified light, noble, enigmatic and strange.  A louche, drunk girl lounges against the back of the stage. Unlikely couples dance together, reminding us of a time when dancing with strangers was not a danger to health. Dylan delivers his poetry and music with intensity and gesticulation that add to the gravitas of his performance to a largely indifferent audience. Even stranger than a broken down roadside bar, semi–derelict with a  cast of characters looking for a novel, is the room with the black and white chequered floor, where light and shadow create a dream-like space and where without the audience, all eyes are on Dylan and his musicians.  

Dylan holds the space across liminalities. The setting, the audience are out of time. The past and present collide through the poetry and the music, through Dylan’s presence, his voice, which is rough and rich. His band play behind face masks; the clear and present danger of our times reflected in their inscrutable, hidden faces. They play stripped back Americana, without drums. They are consummate players providing acres of space for Dylan’s words to cast their spells.

The audience is without masks They smoke endless cigarettes, are proximate to each other. Over this out of time kingdom of shadows and light, Dylan presides; his words the laws of the place, his face, grave and wise, etched with the lines of a life richly lived.

Dylan has given us other rich gifts during the period of the pandemic. His seventeen-minute opus Murder Most Foul was released on March 27, 2020 as a single.  It is a moving and troubling work that examines the murder of John F Kennedy through an inquiry into the impact of traumatic events on the culture.  It was followed by the release of Rough and Rowdy Ways on June 19th 2020, Dylan’s 39th studio album. The album is undoubtedly one of his finest.

Hopefully Shadow Kingdom is a beginning and not an end and Dylan might treat us to his later songs or a filmic setting of Rough and Rowdy Ways. However, it’s best not to live in hope; Dylan will do what he wants, as he should. That’s what makes him the artist he is

Set List Details:

1.           When I Paint My Masterpiece:  1971 – Bob Dylan and the Band                                   

2.           Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine:  1966 – Blonde on Blonde                            

3.           Queen Jane Approximately:  1966 – Highway 61                                   

4.           I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight:  1967 – John Wesley Harding                                    

5.           Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues:  1966  – Highway 61                                 

6.           Tombstone Blues:  1966 – Highway 61                                        

7.           To Be Alone with You:  1969 – Nashville Skyline                                    

8.           What Was It You Wanted:  1989 – Oh Mercy                            

9.           Forever Young:  1973 –Planet Waves                             

10.        Pledging My Time:  1966 – Blonde on Blonde                                         

11.        The Wicked Messenger:  1967 – John Wesley Harding                                       

12.        Watching the River Flow:  1971 – Single with Leon Rusell   

13.        It’s All Over Now Baby Blue:  1965 – Bringing It All Back Home         

Personnel

Bob Dylan – vocals, guitar, harmonica

Alex Burke

Buck Meek

Shahzad Ismaily

Janie Cowan

Joshua Crumbly

Shadow Kingdom: Bob Dylan, July 2021

Shadow Kingdom: Bob Dylan

Live Stream Event – July 2021

From the opener When I Paint My Masterpiece to closer Baby Blue Bob Dylan gives us a mesmerising fifty-minute glimpse into his Shadow Kingdom, over which he presides, elusive as ever, wearing the masks of jester, crooner, mage and poet simultaneously; only occasionally allowing us to see his true, astonishing face in close up.

Bob Dylan at eighty is the artist of our age, Nobel Laureate and weaver of worlds. In Shadow Kingdom across thirteen songs, he creates a mood and atmosphere that linger long after the show ends.

Shadow Kingdom is subtitled The Early Songs of Bob Dylan. The set list is drawn mainly from the period 1965 – 1967 with a couple of early 70s inclusions.  The stand-out song in terms of period is the 1989 What Was It You Wanted? from Oh Mercy; arguably Dylan’s finest 80s album. It sticks out in a set that otherwise represents that late 60s purple period when Dylan was producing brilliant album after brilliant album.  Perhaps Dylan is asking us to reflect on what is wanted from him, both now and back in the later 60s when he hit his stride with the tour de force that begins with the snarls and growls of Bringing It all Back Home and ends with the thin wild mercury of Blonde on Blonde

Shadow Kingdom is filmed in soft monochrome tones, directed by Alma Har’el and shot in Santa Monica over seven days. It perhaps defies any expectations that the audience might have had before seeing it.  What was it we wanted; a concert movie? A live set? Whatever it was we wanted, what we got was a beautiful surprise. The band is stripped back, the black and white sets are curious and mercurial Dylan is diction-perfect.  

There is a distinct Lynchian vibe in the settings; this band would not have been out of place at The Roadhouse in Twin Peaks. The interplay of shadow and light, the ubiquitous cigarette smoke are tropes that are familiar to those who know the Lynchverse. But with Lynch, it is always the darkness that dominates. In Dylan’s Shadow Kingdom, the light is equally important. There are even visual jokes.  Two hard staring tough mamas flank Dylan as he croons I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight; one even flicks lint from the shoulder of his jacket. During The Wicked Messenger, the lead guitar player is wheeled into shot three times to play the riff.  There is humour at work.  There is also compassion. Queen Jane is no longer approximately, and the song is more reconciliatory than accusatory. Forever Young drips with love – imagine having that written for you as a kid? Tom Thumb does not sound as pissed off as he was in 1966; perhaps he and Juarez have come to terms with each other after all this time.  To Be Alone With You gets a re-write, reminding us that the bard can do as he likes with his own words; he doesn’t have to please anybody but himself.

The bar setting for half of the set features a cast of characters from another time; the late 40s, early 50s. They seem to be an ensemble of outsiders, cast in a dignified light, noble, enigmatic and strange.  A louche, drunk girl lounges against the back of the stage. Unlikely couples dance together, reminding us of a time when dancing with strangers was not a danger to health. Dylan delivers his poetry and music with intensity and gesticulation that add to the gravitas of his performance to a largely indifferent audience. Even stranger than a broken down roadside bar, semi–derelict with a  cast of characters looking for a novel, is the room with the black and white chequered floor, where light and shadow create a dream-like space and where without the audience, all eyes are on Dylan and his musicians.  

Dylan holds the space across liminalities. The setting, the audience are out of time. The past and present collide through the poetry and the music, through Dylan’s presence, his voice, which is rough and rich. His band play behind face masks; the clear and present danger of our times reflected in their inscrutable, hidden faces. They play stripped back Americana, without drums. They are consummate players providing acres of space for Dylan’s words to cast their spells.

The audience is without masks They smoke endless cigarettes, are proximate to each other. Over this out of time kingdom of shadows and light, Dylan presides; his words the laws of the place, his face, grave and wise, etched with the lines of a life richly lived.

Dylan has given us other rich gifts during the period of the pandemic. His seventeen-minute opus Murder Most Foul was released on March 27, 2020 as a single.  It is a moving and troubling work that examines the murder of John F Kennedy through an inquiry into the impact of traumatic events on the culture.  It was followed by the release of Rough and Rowdy Ways on June 19th 2020, Dylan’s 39th studio album. The album is undoubtedly one of his finest.

Hopefully Shadow Kingdom is a beginning and not an end and Dylan might treat us to his later songs or a filmic setting of Rough and Rowdy Ways. However, it’s best not to live in hope; Dylan will do what he wants, as he should. That’s what makes him the artist he is

Set List Details:

1.           When I Paint My Masterpiece:  1971 – Bob Dylan and the Band                                   

2.           Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine:  1966 – Blonde on Blonde                            

3.           Queen Jane Approximately:  1966 – Highway 61                                   

4.           I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight:  1967 – John Wesley Harding                                    

5.           Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues:  1966  – Highway 61                                 

6.           Tombstone Blues:  1966 – Highway 61                                        

7.           To Be Alone with You:  1969 – Nashville Skyline                                    

8.           What Was It You Wanted:  1989 – Oh Mercy                            

9.           Forever Young:  1973 –Planet Waves                             

10.        Pledging My Time:  1966 – Blonde on Blonde                                         

11.        The Wicked Messenger:  1967 – John Wesley Harding                                       

12.        Watching the River Flow:  1971 – Single with Leon Rusell   

13.        It’s All Over Now Baby Blue:  1965 – Bringing It All Back Home         

Personnel

Bob Dylan – vocals, guitar, harmonica

Alex Burke

Buck Meek

Shahzad Ismaily

Janie Cowan

Joshua Crumbly

Buffy Sainte-Marie: It’s My Way

It’s My Way! is the first album by folk singer Buffy Sainte- Marie, released in April 1964 by Vanguard Records. It is a seminal folk album, marking the beginning of an extraordinary career for an extraordinary artist. The album is both scathing and topical, examining the plight of indigenous Americans and critiquing war in the album’s most famous and enduring song, The Universal Soldier.

Buffy Sainte-Marie is an indigenous American-Canadian musician, educator, artist and activist. Blacklisted by American radio stations during the 1970s, her music has nevertheless endured. She has managed to successfully cross over from folk protest music to mainstream success, winning an Oscar in 1982 for the song Up Where We Belong which was the iconic song performed by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes in the film An officer and a Gentleman.

It was Donovan’s version of The Universal Soldier that was the first protest song I heard. It led me to Dylan and Masters of War when I was about fourteen and both songs continue to move me. It is Buffy Sainte-Marie’s version that I prefer to Donovan’s these days as her authenticity and originality touches me deeply.

The album sounds current. The vocal is strong and powerful, particularly on the track Ananias which is the one I have listened to most during my weeks of listening to and appreciating this album. Buffy Sainte-Marie has a voice as distinct and powerful as her contemporaries, Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell. Although widely known and highly respected she is arguably not the international household name that she deserves to be, most likely due to her heritage and the racist misogyny that too often undermines women’s careers.

Buffy Sainte-Marie has a string of awards and credits to her name that indicate her power, relevance and artistry. She has remained a life-long advocate and activist for the rights of indigenous peoples. She has the gravitas and grace of a true elder, a woman who rightly commands great respect and who stands up to multiple listenings.

Umm Kulthum: Enta Omri

Umm Kulthum was born Fāṭima ʾIbrāhīm es-Sayyid el-Beltāǧī on 31 December 1898, or 4 May 1904. Birth registaration was not enforced in Egypt at that time. She died 3rd February 1975. She was a singer, songwriter, and film actress working between the 1920s and the 1970s. She was given the honorific title Kawkab al-Shar meaning Star of the East.

Umm Kulthum was renowned and admired for her vocal ability and style. She sold over 80 million records worldwide, making her one of best-selling singers of all time from the Arab World. In her native Egypt she is regarded as a national icon and has been dubbed the voice of Egypt and the fourth pyramid

Part of my reason for undertaking this Listening to Women project was to ensure I explored music beyond my usual ranges of taste and experience. Music from different cultures and traditions is much more readily available now than when I was growing up and discovering music for myself in my teens. In the 70s and 80s I was listening to music via Radio 1, Top of the Pops and whatever my parents were playing – which to my good fortune was curiously eclectic, ranging from Chris Barber to Earth, Wind and Fire to Tammy Wynette. The latter will always have a place in my heart.

My tastes have expanded over my life but have been firmly western for the most part. Furthermore, I have realised that I was listening to a lot of men, with women being in the minority of artists that I regularly turned to. This lack of balance is a reflection of the wider culture and the sheer dominance of male voices, musicians, producers in the music industry. I am making a deliberate and concerted effort to address these imbalances and to seek out work by women, not only in music but in every field.

Listening to Umm Kulthum has been a beautiful experience. Her voice is complex, with range and depth that has a profound emotional impact. She has been lauded by fellow artists, as diverse as Bob Dylan and Maria Callas and it is clear why. Her voice reaches in and demands a response. I listen and find myself emotionally engaged in her music, committed to it, following her voice note by note. She sings in a language I don’t speak but her music transcends that. I have looked at lyrical translations but of course in English the words do not have the same resonance. I decided not to worry too much about that and to focus on the sound, the emotion, the sheer beauty of her work.

Umm Kulthum was politically engaged and post the revolution in Egypt in 1952 she became persona non grata for a while. Her music was banned from airplay. Nasser insisted that she be restored to her prominent position and even timed his broadcasts to not interfere with her performances on the radio. She became friends with Nasser – who is of course a problematic figure. Her story illustrates yet again that politically engaged artists can and often do face danger in countries and regimes where their work is considered a threat to power.

Listen for yourself and prepare to be captivated: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9wW8QIeBi4

Diamanda Galas: The Litanies of Satan

The Litanies of Satan is the debut album by American avant-garde artist Diamanda Galás, released in the UK  by Y Records in 1982; it was released in the USA in 1989.

The text for “The Litanies of Satan” is taken from a section of Les Fleurs du Mal by Charles Baudelaire. According to the album notes the work “devotes itself to the emeraldine perversity of the life struggle in Hell.”

I have nothing but admiration for Diamanda Galas and her ferocious commitment to using her art to speak up for victims, whether that be victims of the Aids crisis, political injustice or war crimes. She is utterly unique and uncompromising in her presentation of her work. The energy and passion of it is indisputable.

I have been listening to her work for the past couple of weeks and considering her artistic courage and absolute refusal to produce within the narrow parameters of what is so wearyingly expected of women. She is bold and brave.

I found her work deeply upsetting and a difficult listen. I don’t know if I can go back to it. I am pleased to have heard it and to have spent some time with it but It has disturbed me greatly. Perhaps that is a good thing.

Mercedes Sosa: Mercedes Sosa en Argentina

Mercedes Sosa en Argentina is a double album by Argentine singer Mercedes Sosa. It was recorded live at the Teatro Opera de Buenos Aires in February 1982 and released on the Philips label. The concert and recording marked Sosa’s return to Argentina after three years in exile.

Described as the driving force behind the nueva canción movement, singer Mercedes Sosa was born and raised in Tucumán, Argentina. She began her career as a performer at 15 after winning a radio hosted competition. The nueva canción movement was a political movement of protest music that spread across Argentina and Chile during the 1960s. The movement was attacked as part of the 1973 CIA-sponsored coup which overthrew democratically elected Chilean President Salvador Allende.

Because of her repertoire of songs championing human rights and democracy, Sosa was treated as a serious threat by the military regime which came to power in Argentina. In 1975 she was harassed and arrested during a live performance. Audience members were also arrested and imprisoned. Death threats followed and she left Argentina in 1979, and she lived in exile in Paris and Madrid for three years, before returning to Argentina in triumph in 1982.

Over her long career, Sosa collaborated with artists as diverse as Joan Baez, Pata Negra and Luciano Pavarotti. She was loved and admired across Latin America and lived a life of extraordinary musicianship, political principle and engagement in human rights and other causes.

Here she is performing one of her signature songs, Gracias a la Vida with Joan Baez: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMuTXcf3-6A

Mercedes en Argentina is a remarkable and moving listen. Her voice is extraordinarily rich and textured, exuding humanity, compassion and integrity. Listening to it led me to the equally powerful Misa Criolla, composed by Ariel Ramirez in 1964. This was one of the first non-Latin masses, written in the vernacular. It is a mass composed using folk and traditional instruments alongside soloists and choirs. Ramirez recorded with Sosa in 1999. It is a beautiful and haunting work and can be heard here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJPZXSpxBkE