‘There are very strong formulas’: Footy songwriters offer their advice on what the Tasmanian theme should sound like

As the countdown continues towards the Tasmanian Devils joining the AFL in 2028, answers to the questions surrounding this much-anticipated new team are gradually trickling in.

We now know where the team will play, what colours it will wear, and who its CEO will be

But one question that remains could be one of the more challenging to answer.

What will they sing?

Crafting a club theme song is a minefield of creative decision-making for whoever chooses to accept it, not least because you have 18 other songs, which a hyper-partisan fanbase is waiting with baited breath to compare it to.

ABC Sport asked two artists who recently took on the challenge what they thought a Tasmanian club theme song should have.

‘What the hell is this?’

The AFL’s most recent club theme song is also among its most recognisable.

Greater Western Sydney’s tune is the first in a minor key, which creator Harry Angus said is what gives it that Eastern European feel.

But he said in other ways, the Giants song sticks closely to tradition.

“Because my background is in old-time Jazz and brass instruments, I have a real interest in that early era of recorded music, and I knew how to arrange it and record it in a way that slotted in with some of the classic team songs,” Angus told ABC Sport.

“All the old VFL club songs come from ragtime hits, so that’s what I brought to it.

“That would be my advice to the Tassie (club song) songwriter — there are very strong formulas, so as long as it fits that formula it kind of feels right.”

Collingwood and Carlton’s songs were written by players in the early 20th century, while Fitzroy player Bill Stephen used the French national anthem as the basis for his club’s song in 1952.

AFL club song census:

– Six are in the key of G major

– Nine are based off early-20th century tunes

– Four have brass hooks before the words begin

– Two have banjo in them

– Three are power ballads

– One has a key change mid-song

Input from the Giants’ first playing group was also crucial to the success of Angus’ song, and he said their advice was informed by the experience of fellow expansion side Gold Coast.

“When the Suns finally won a game, they didn’t know the song very well, and they kind of weren’t prepared to give it that rousing post-game chorus down in the rooms,” he said.

“I met with the players and the coaching staff and they were pretty keen that when they won a game, they’d be able to belt it out.”

Harry James Angus wrote the GWS club theme song drawing on player feedback and his expertise in early 20th century Jazz and ragtime.

Angus said the Giants requested words in the song that they could shout. This is how the syncopated “we will never surrender” line near the end came to be, a line he famously plucked from Winston Churchill.

“I think it was (then-Giants assistant coach) Mark Williams who said we needed a ‘yellow and black’ moment, like in the Richmond song when the whole crowd yells it,” Angus said.

“Kevin Sheedy also had a number of interesting things to say about it. He wanted the song to be based on Road to Gundagai, which is the most common football song that hasn’t been used in the AFL. But we ran out of time.

“To their credit when they did win a game, (GWS players) absolutely smashed it out of the park. You’d think they’d been singing the song for a hundred years.

“A lot of people when it first came out thought ‘what the hell is this?’, but after a while everyone got what I was trying to do.” 

The creative process

It is also common for alterations to be made to existing club songs or unofficial club songs to sit alongside the offical ones. 

The “premiership’s a cakewalk” briefly disappeared from Collingwood’s song in the 80s, while Geelong introduced “the Cat Attack” in the 90s to sit alongside We Are Geelong.

In 2011, Fremantle cast off the last vestiges of the Russian folk tune its song is built on, and St Kilda has flirted with “I do like to be beside the seaside”, and a Mike Brady original.

The Lions did away entirely with the lyrics and tune of the Brisbane Bears’ “Dare to be the Bear” after the merger with Fitzroy.

Most recently, West Coast reworked its team song, enlisting local songwriter and lifelong fan Ian Berney to create some verses around the “We’re Flying High” chorus.

Berney remembers fondly the Eagles’ first premiership when he was five, and the feeling of excitement that he might meet Chris Mainwaring every time he went to his local takeaway.

The song was just as much a part of his childhood.

A man with dark blonde hair and a moustache smiles into a webcam. He has a yellow and black shirt.

Perth songwriter and bassist Ian Berney added female voices and an Indigenous pneumonic when he reworked the West Coast Eagles song in 2020.(ABC Sport: Alexander Darling)

“The original version of the West Coast theme song had the theme of ‘you’ve taken all our players for years’. It was a big ‘stick it’ to the east coast clubs saying, ‘now we’ve got our own club and we’re gonna show you how it’s done’,” he said.

“It’s really fun, and (I was) trying to reconnect that feeling.”

The Eagles also asked Berney to include the recently built stadium and the distances the team has to travel to play its east coast matches.

“When we say we’re proud of our isolation, that is kind of West Coast winning their four premierships in a relatively short span of time, and we’ve had to cross the nation every time to do it,” he said.

Berney was also inspired by a different sport in what he came up with — specifically the Australian cricket teams’ renditions of Under the Southern Cross I Stand by Banjo Patterson.

“I really liked that visceral sound that the players had, so we built a chant out of the verses which the club kicks off with now if they win,” he said.

A fan’s touch

In recent months, Tasmanians have been making the case that one of their own should write the Devils’ song.

It’s a call that makes sense to Angus, who hopes the finished product sounds like it’s been around for 100 years.

“I think it would be awesome to see an Indigenous Tasmanian musician write the song,” he said.

“It would be super cool for the song to pay tribute to the cultural history that already exists in Tasmanian football, and maybe it will be drawn from an older club song.”

Berney said the fact he’s an Eagles supporter made all the difference to the lyrics he’s proud of.

“The line about ‘the colours that we share are the West Coast sky’. I didn’t think about that growing up, that blue and yellow as a reflection of the sun going down over the seas, which is a very different experience (compared to) the east coast of Australia,” he said.

“So I wanted to put that into the lyrics, because they had the foresight to make those the colours of the Eagles.”

[Tasmanian Devils photo]

What is a club song meant to achieve?

Whoever writes Tasmania’s song will also use history to draw on as Berney did for the Eagles. The state has been playing Australian rules since the 1860s, with unique native animals, landmarks and a list of football alumni that speaks for itself.

Berney expects that whatever the Tasmanian Devils are given to sing when they win, it will have a “love and hate” element.

“If you do a masterpiece that’s great, but it’s all just fun and about trying to bring people together,” he said.

While Berney’s song references the club’s history, Angus’ song is itself part of GWS history.

The song had its moment in the sun leading up to the Giants playing the 2019 Grand Final, popping up in memes and internet remixes.

“I wish I could talk to as many journalists as I do when the Giants get into a final as when I release new music,” Angus said.

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But the most special feedback has come from the club itself.

“I’ve had people from the club come back to me and talk about how much the whole idea of ‘Never Surrender’ — which they requested — has become part of the club’s architecture and their psychological approach to the game,” he said.

“I don’t really know how I got there, I just did it, but it made sense in the end.”

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Venice Biennale titled ‘Foreigners Everywhere’ gives voice to outsiders

Outsider, queer and Indigenous artists are getting an overdue platform at the 60th Venice Biennale contemporary art exhibition that opened Saturday.

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Brazilian curator Adriano Pedrosa’s main show, which accompanies 88 national pavilions for the seven-month run, is strong on figurative painting, with fewer installations than recent editions. A preponderance of artists are from the Global South, long overlooked by the mainstream art world circuits. Many are dead. Frida Kahlo, for example, is making her first appearance at the Venice Biennale. Her 1949 painting “Diego and I” hangs alongside one by her husband and fellow artist, Diego Rivera.

Despite their lower numbers, living artists have “a much stronger physical presence in the exhibition,” Pedrosa said, with each either showing one large-scale work, or a collection of smaller works. The vast majority are making their Venice Biennale debut.

Visitors to the two main venues, the Giardini and the Arsenale, will be greeted by a neon sign by the conceptual art cooperative Claire Fontaine with the exhibition’s title: “Stranieri Ovunque — Foreigners Everywhere.” A total of 60 in different languages hang throughout the venues.

When taken in the context of global conflicts and hardening borders, the title seems a provocation against intransigent governments — at the very least a prod to consider our shared humanity. Through artists with underrepresented perspectives, the exhibition address themes of migration and the nature of diaspora as well as indigeneity and the role of craft.

“Foreigners everywhere, the expression has many meanings,’’ Pedrosa said. “One could say that wherever you go, wherever you are, you are always surrounded by foreigners. … And then in a more personal, perhaps psychoanalytic subjective dimension, wherever you go, you are also a foreigner, deep down inside.”

“Refugee, the foreigner, the queer, the outsider and the Indigenous, these are the … subjects of interest in the exhibition,” he said.

Some highlights from the Venice Biennale, which runs through Nov. 26:

GEOPOLITICS AT THE BIENNALE

Facing the threat of protests, the Israel Pavilion stayed closed after the artist and curators refused to open until there is a cease-fire in Gaza and the Israeli hostages taken by Hamas -led militants are released.

Ukraine is making its second Biennale art appearance as a country under invasion; soft diplomacy aimed at keeping the world focused on the war. Russia has not appeared at the Biennale since the Ukraine invasion began, but this time its historic 110-year-old building in the Giardini is on loan to Bolivia.

For a short time during this week’s previews, a printed sign hung on the Accademia Bridge labelling Iran a “murderous terrorist regime,” declaring “the Iranian people want freedom & peace.” The venue for the Iranian pavilion was nearby, but there was no sign of activity. The Biennale said it would open Sunday — two days after the departure from Italy of Group of Seven foreign ministers who warned Iran of sanctions for escalating violence against Israel.

GOLDEN LIONS

The Golden Lion for best national pavilion went to Australia for Archie Moore’s installation “kith and kin,” tracing his own Aboriginal relations over 65,000 years. It’s written in chalk on the pavilion’s dark walls and ceiling and took months to complete. The Mataaho Collective from New Zealand won the Golden Lion for the best participant in Pedrosa’s main show, for their installation inspired by Maori weaving that crisscrosses the gallery space, casting a pattern of shadows and interrogating interconnectedness.

LGBTQ+ ARTISTS

As a queer artist born in South Korea and working in Los Angeles, Kang Seung Lee said he identified with Pedrosa’s “invitation to look at our lives as foreigners, but also visitors to this world.”

His installation, “Untitled (Constellations),” which considers the artists who died in the AIDS epidemic through a collection of objects, is in dialogue with spare paper-on-canvas works by British artist Romany Eveleigh, who died in 2020. “The works speak to each other, an intergenerational conversation, of course,’’ said Lee, 45, whose works have been shown in international exhibitions, including Documenta 15. This is his first Venice Biennale.

Nearby, transsexual Brazilian artist Manauara Clandestina presented her video “Migranta,” which speaks about her family’s story of migration. “It’s so strong, because I can hear my daddy’s voice,’’ she said. Clandestina, who hails from the Amazon city of Manaus, embraced Pedrosa during a press preview marking her Venice debut. She said she continues to work in Brazil despite discrimination and violence against transgender people.

NEWER NATIONAL PARTICIPANTS

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The Giardini hosts 29 national pavilions representing some of the oldest participating nations, like the United States, Germany, France and Britain. More recent additions show either in the nearby Arsenale, or choose a venue farther afield, like Nigeria did this year in Venice’s Dorsoduro district.

The Nigerian Pavilion, in a long-disused building with raw brick walls that exude potential, houses an exhibition that spans mediums — including figurative art, installation, sculpture, sound art, film art and augmented reality — by artists living in the diaspora and in their homeland.

“These different relationships to the country allow for a very unique and different perspectives of Nigeria,’’ said curator Aindrea Emelife. “I think that it’s quite interesting to consider how leaving a space creates a nostalgia for what hasn’t been and allows an artist to imagine an alternative continuation to that. The exhibition is about nostalgia, but it’s also about criticality.”

The eight-artist Biennale exhibition “Nigeria Imaginary” will travel to the Museum of West African Art in Benin City, Nigeria, where Emelife is curator, which will give it “a new context and a new sense of relevancy,’’ she said.

BREAKTHROUGHS

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Ghana-born British artist John Akomfrah created eight multimedia film- and sound-based works for the British Pavilion that looks at what it is to be “living as a figure of difference” in the U.K. Images of water are a connecting device, representing memory.

“In the main, I’m trying to tease out something about collective memory, the things that have informed a culture, British culture let’s say, over the last 50 years,’’ Akomfrah told The Associated Press. “As you go further in, you realize we’re going further back. We end up going to the 16th century. So it’s an interrogation of 500 years of British life.”

Considering the question of equity in the art world, Akomfrah indicated the adjacent French Pavilion — where French-Caribbean artist Julien Creuzet created an immersive exhibition — and the Canadian Pavilion on the other side, featuring an exhibition examining the historic importance of seed beads by Kapwani Kiwanga, who is in Paris.

“I mean, this feels like a very significant moment for artists of color,’’ said Akomfrah, who participated in the Ghana Pavilion in 2019. “Because I’m in the British Pavilion. Next to me is the French one, with an artist, Julien, who I love a lot, of African origin. And then next to me is a Canadian pavilion that has a biracial artist, again, with African heritage.

“So that’s certainly not happened before, that three major pavilions have artists of color inhabiting, occupied, making work in them. And that feels like a breakthrough,” he said.

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UKRAINE

The Ukrainian Pavilion engaged ordinary Ukrainians to collaborate with artists on work that documents how they are experiencing, and in some ways adapting to the Russian invasion.

The artistic projects include silent video portraits of European actors styled by Ukrainians displaced by the war to represent an “ideal” refugee. In another, neurodiverse young adults show their linguistic flexibility in incorporating a new reality where niceties like “quiet night” have a whole new meaning. And a film installation has become a sort of archive, taken from social media channels that once chronicled pre-invasion pastimes but that turned their attention to documenting the war.

Co-curator Max Gorbatskyi said it was important for Ukraine to be present at the Biennale to assert its distinctiveness from Russian culture, but also to use the venue to keep the wider world’s attention.

“We wanted to look at stories of real people,’’ he said. “There was no way we were going to show some abstract paintings, maybe beautiful and interesting, but which only pose questions in the art discourse. Instead, we wanted to bring real people together with artists in a non-hierarchical way to tell their stories.”

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COLLATERAL EVENTS

Greek American George Petrides’ installation “Hellenic Heads” outside of Venice’s Church of Saint George of the Greeks and the Museum of Icons is among the many collateral events that spill over into the city.

Petrides’ created six oversized busts, each inspired by a significant period of Greek history, using family members as models. His mother, in turquoise blue, is in the classical style and his daughter represents the future in a golden hue. To withstand the weather, Petrides recreated an earlier series but this time from recycled plastic, using a digital sculpting software and a 3D printer, reworking details from hand.

“This space is unique. We have the Museum of Icons here, which is one of the most spectacular collections of icons in the world. We have a church started while Michelangelo was still alive, which any sculptor finds interesting. But further, this particular quarter is the Greek quarter,’’ he said, noting an influx after Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in 1453.

Across the city, at the base of the Accademia Bridge, the Qatar Museum’s installation “Your Ghosts Are Mine” presents clips of feature films and video art from the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia organized thematically and exploring issues such as migration, conflict and exile. Films will be screened in their entirety four days a week.

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“These different thematics tell a story about all the congruences and the parallels that exist among filmmakers that may have never met or are from different parts of the global south,’’ said assistant curator and filmmaker Majid Al-Remaihi. “Some films were the first from their countries to premiere in Cannes or make it to the O

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Racist attacks on pop star Aya Nakamura test France’s ability to shine at Paris Olympics

Rumours that French pop star Aya Nakamara may sing at the opening ceremony of the Paris Olympics have triggered a flurry of attacks from the French far right, questioning the host country’s ability to appreciate the globally acclaimed talent emerging from its neglected suburbs with large immigrant populations.

With the Paris Olympics still months away, the host country has already won gold in a category it truly owns: divisive racial controversy with “made in France” flair.  

That’s how public broadcaster France Inter summed up a row over unconfirmed rumours that Aya Nakamura would perform an Édith Piaf song during the Games’ opening ceremony in front of a crowd of 300,000 gathered along the River Seine

Nakamura, 28, has become a global superstar for hits like “Djadja”, which has close to a billion streams on YouTube alone. On the international stage, she is the most popular French female singer since Piaf sang “La vie en rose”, a rare case of a French artist whose songs reach well beyond the Francophone world.  

She is also the proud face of the neglected banlieues (suburbs) of Paris, which have produced many of France’s best-known icons of music and sport – and which will soon host the Olympic Village. 


On paper, tapping her for the curtain-raiser of “the biggest show on earth” is a no-brainer. 

But the mere suggestion triggered a vitriolic response from members of France’s ascendant far right, for whom Nakamura is unfit to represent France. Their sometimes racist arguments have in turn prompted outrage and bafflement, leading government ministers to wade into a debate that has had precious little to do with music. 

“If this were about music, we wouldn’t even have a debate – Nakamura is France’s biggest pop star, full stop,” said Olivier Cachin, a prominent music journalist who was among the first to speak out on social media in defence of the singer.  

“But it’s not about music. It’s about the colour of her skin,” he added. “It’s racism, pure and simple.”  

‘You can be racist but not deaf’ 

The controversy follows media reports that Nakamura discussed performing a song by Piaf during a meeting with President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysée Palace last month – though neither party has confirmed the rumour.  

On Saturday, a small extremist group known as the “Natives” hung a banner on the banks of the Seine that read: “No way, Aya. This is Paris, not the Bamako market” – a reference to Nakamura’s birth in Mali‘s capital. 

The next day, the singer’s name was booed at a campaign rally for the far-right Reconquête party of Eric Zemmour, the former pundit and presidential candidate who has been convicted of inciting racial hatred. In a bizarre rant, Zemmour claimed “future babies (…) don’t vote for rap, nor for lambada, nor for Aya Nakamura: they vote for Mozart!” 

Right-wing pundits posing as music critics appeared on news programmes and chat shows to mock the singer’s unorthodox spelling and slang-infused lyrics, stripped of her distinctive rhythm and vibe, while the Senate’s conservative head Gérard Larcher took offence at her use of the sexually explicit slang term “catchana” (“doggy style”) – in the land of Serge Gainsbourg, of all places. 


Nakamura has responded to the vitriol, writing on social media: “You can be racist but not deaf… That’s what hurts you! I’m becoming a number 1 state subject in debates… but what do I really owe you? Nada.” 

The singer was backed by the Olympics’ organising committee, which said it was “shocked by the racist attacks” levelled at “the most listened-to French artist in the world”.        

Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra also expressed her support on social media, telling Nakamura she had the people’s backing, while Culture Minister Rachida Dati raised the matter in the French National Assembly, warning that “attacking someone purely on racist grounds (…) is unacceptable; it’s an offence”. 

On Friday, Paris prosecutors said they were investigating allegations of racist attacks against the pop star following a complaint filed by the anti-racism advocacy group Licra.

For Whites only 

For Karim Hammou and Marie Sonnette-Manouguian, co-authors of a book charting 40 years of hip-hop music in France, Nakamura’s elevation to a “state subject” is part of a concerted strategy of exploiting cultural events to serve the far right’s reactionary, identity politics. 

“The pattern is always the same: far-right leaders voice outrage on social media, until the controversy is picked up by a larger audience in the media and the mainstream right,” they said in written remarks to FRANCE 24. 

Rappers and R&B singers are routinely used as scapegoats in debates that go well beyond them,” they added. “The real question being raised here is that of the participation of people of immigrant background (…) in French culture and in enriching its language and modes of expression.” 

If Nakamura were White, there would be no such debate, added Bettina Ghio, who has written several books on the language of French rap, the country’s most popular musical genre – but one that has long been frowned upon by politicians and the musical establishment.  

“The far right cannot bear the idea that non-white people of immigrant descent can represent France on the international stage – let alone sing from the repertoire of White artists,” she explained. 

Ghio cited the case of Youssoupha, a French rapper of Congolese descent, who suffered similar attacks when his song “Ecris mon nom en bleu” (“Write my name in blue”) was chosen as the unofficial anthem of the French national team at the men’s Euro 2021 football tournament. 

“The Nakamura controversy should not be isolated from past incidents in which the far right has taken aim at artists and athletes based on the colour of their skin,” she said, pointing to the frequent slurs levelled at the racially diverse French squads that won the football World Cups in 1998 and 2018.  

Lilian Thuram, the Caribbean-born former international who was part of the Black, Blanc, Beur (Black, White, Arab) squad of 1998, spoke in defence of Nakamura in an interview with France Info radio on Tuesday. 

“When people say she’s not fit to represent France, I know exactly what criteria they have in mind because the same arguments were used against me,” said the retired player, an outspoken campaigner against racism in France. He said the question of whether Nakamura should perform at the Olympics was being presented the wrong way. 

“If you ask people whether the most popular French artist in the world should perform at the Olympics, a majority would say ‘yes’,” he added. “Like it or not, she’s the best. And that’s why she should represent France.” 

A cosmopolitan mix 

Thuram noted that Nakamura was often mistakenly labelled a rapper, a habit he attributed to racial and class-based prejudice. 

“Why do people think she’s a rapper? Because she’s Black,” he said. “It’s as if we were discussing some random artist from the suburbs and not France’s biggest star. It’s insulting.” 

Nakamura’s music mixes R&B with the highly danceable rhythms of Afrobeat and Carribean Zouk. But right-wing criticism of her work sometimes echoes the prejudice aimed at France’s thriving rap scene, a driver of vociferous social criticism for the past three decades. 


“The far right cannot stand the criticism of France’s colonial history voiced by rappers,” said Ghio. “Zemmour has made hateful comments on television about rap, describing it as a subculture for illiterates … that wrecks the French language.” 

Zemmour’s deputy Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, the niece of rival far-right leader Marine Le Pen, made similar comments on Tuesday, stating on BFMTV that, “Aya Nakamura does not sing in French. She does not represent French culture and elegance.” 

Such claims are “preposterous”, said Cachin, for whom the pop star “simply speaks today’s French, rich in slang and expressions, and does so very well.” He added: “Other more mainstream artists do this as well, without attracting the same kind of scrutiny.” 

Nakamura, whose real last name is Danioko, sings in French, but her lyrics borrow heavily from argot, the French slang, as well as English, Arabic and Bambara, the Malian language spoken by her parents. Her cosmopolitan mix is inspired by her upbringing in a family of griots, Malian poets steeped in music. 

The term “Djadja”, from her breakthrough hit, refers to a liar who boasts about sleeping with her. It has become a rallying cry for female campaigners against sexism and sexist violence. “Pookie”, the title of another hugely popular song, comes from the French slang term poucave, meaning a snitch. 


“Her songs bring vitality to the French language, because there’s a lot of research into sounds and rhythms, and adopting new terms that are popular with youths, particularly in the suburbs,” said Ghio. She drew a parallel with prominent rappers PNL, who experiment with accents, placing them elsewhere in words to generate new sounds. 

“To ignore their work is to consider French as a dead language that hasn’t changed one bit over the past 40 years,” Ghio said, adding that she looked forward to hearing Nakamura experiment with Piaf’s repertoire. 

Piaf in the banlieue 

The scion of poverty-stricken street performers, Piaf was also once derided for her unorthodox style and frequent use of slang terms that postwar elites frowned upon. 

“Popular music has always been attacked by bourgeois commentators and self-styled guardians of proper French language,” said Hammou and Sonnette-Manouguian. “In her day, Piaf was frequently criticised for her performances, her physique and her morals,” they added, denouncing attempts to create a “false opposition” between the legendary 20th century singer and Nakamura. 

Piaf has long been revered in the urban music scene of the Paris suburbs, sung by rapper JoeyStarr and remixed in Matthieu Kassovitz’s seminal film “La Haine”. Associating her with Nakamura would be a chance to link the past and present of French popular music, said Ghio, “from the working-class, bohemian Paris of Piaf to today’s post-colonial banlieues with their African diaspora”. 

Echoing that theme, the left-leaning daily Libération spoke of “building bridges between generations” and a chance to demonstrate “France’s gratitude towards artists that contribute to its global clout, be they from Montmartre or Aulnay-sous-Bois (a poorer suburb north of Paris)”. 


Aya Nakamura at Paris Fashion Week on February 29, 2024. © Miguel Médina, AFP

Nakamura’s position as a target of racist, sexist and class-based attacks has made her the unwitting champion of causes she never claimed to carry. 

The pop star, whose playful songs touch on relationships, flirting and female friendships, has consistently steered clear of politics. She has previously declined to describe herself as feminist, suggesting such a label would sound “fake”.  

But she has also proved her mettle in facing down a torrent of abuse throughout her still-burgeoning career. 

“When you’re a non-White woman in a patriarchal society shaped by its colonial past, you need to find the words to defend yourself,” said Binetou Sylla, producer and owner of Syllart Records, pointing at Nakamura’s social media post this week. 

“It’s possibly the first time she uses the word ‘racist’ in a tweet,” Sylla observed. “But she had no choice.”  

The music producer stressed Nakamura’s bold personality, adding: “She’s unapologetic, with a loudmouth, provocative side that is also very French – and which further winds up her racist critics.” The racist campaign against Nakamura has now made it imperative that she performs at the opening ceremony, Sylla said.  

“If Aya steps aside, if she doesn’t open the Games, it will be France’s loss. That much is certain,” Libération argued, describing Nakamura as a rare “element of French soft power in a pop culture dominated by English and Spanish.” 

A curtain-raiser without Nakamura would also mean handing a victory to the far right, added Cachin. 

“Of course she has to perform now,” he said. “Whether she sings from her own repertoire or from Piaf’s or (Charles) Aznavour’s or all of them at once, it doesn’t really matter. Either way, she’ll be in her right.” 



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Badshah marks his maiden innings in hospitality sector; invests in three brands Sago Spice Symphony, Seville and Sidera : Bollywood News – Bollywood Hungama

While illustrious rapper and hip-hop mogul Badshah is known the world over for his anthemic records and elite collaborations, his inner circle also know him for being an impeccable host and entertainer in his time, which has now translated through a first-of-its-kind world-class multi-brand food and beverage venture. A culinary connoisseur at heart; the 39-year-old rapper, and entrepreneur t is gearing up to mark his maiden innings in the hospitality industry with the launch of three brands- Sago Spice Symphony, Seville and Sidera in partnership with Babita Puri Gupta and Udayveer Gupta.

Badshah marks his maiden innings in hospitality sector; invests in three brands Sago Spice Symphony, Seville and Sidera

Located in the heart of Chandigarh; the upscale neighbourhood of Sector-26, the aesthetically constructed spanking new venture is inspired by the principles of community, pluralism and identity and aspires to serve as a sumptuous indulgence for the city’s epicureans. A 9,000 sq. ft. expanse is sculpted into three culinary masterpieces- an invitingly earthy indoor dining space presented in the form of an Indian fine dining restaurant ‘Sago Spice Symphony’, a basement Pan-Asian cocktail bar ‘Sidera’ and an atmospheric Continental Lebanese restaurant and lounge ‘Seville’. Sago implying tapioca pearls, pays a sublime poetic ode to authentic Indian food from different corners of the country and exhibits a congenial vibe that makes it a diner’s delight for the entire family with elements of earthy warm palettes, terracotta pottery, cream floral upholstery, glazed tiles, gold and marble accents coupled with natural stonework.

Seville which draws inspiration from a Spanish city imbibes colonial designs, full of cultural richness, eclectic luxury and exuding sophistication. The venue embraces a timeless-yet-chic style with an illuminated open-to-sky roof, rustic wooden chandeliers dangling from the tall ceiling, mosaic flooring and wooden carved wall murals accentuating the neutral color palettes. The standout element of the venue is the elongated bar counter made of handcrafted ripple natural stone cladding.

Sidera referencing the constellations and stars in Latin, is spruced up with luxe leather furnishing, electric statement LED lighting, textured walls highlighted with fluorescent abstract wall accents, dune-shaped arched ceiling with LUMOSX glow in the dark stars and a backlit marble and onyx bar, to cater to a lively and sensorial after-hours experience for young audiences.

Promising chefs from various regions of India have been onboarded to helm the kitchen with an immersive menu that marries modernity with tradition and spans across Indian, Lebanese, Continental and Pan-Asian fare. The eclectic menu prides itself in the luxurious utilization of homemade sauces, freshly grounded spices and flavourful condiments. Sago includes signature dishes such as ‘Sona Murgh Kebab’, ‘Lagan Ka Murgh’, ‘Sago Dal Makhni, ‘Chupa Rustam Beetroot Kebab’ while chef recommendations at Sidera include ‘Asparagus Philadelphia Roll’, ‘Stuffed Lotus Stem Fritters’ and Seville comprises distinctive specialities like ‘Chicken Krapow Bowl’, ‘Edamame Truffle Rice & Burnt Garlic Sauce’ and ‘Wild Mushroom With Cream Cheese Dimsum’.

The music hitmaker enlists dishes such as ‘Classic Mapo Tofu’, ‘Moroccan Chicken’, ‘Classic Yaki Udon Noodles’, ‘The Gourmet’, ‘Dal Khushk Awadhi’, ‘Multani Bhuna Paneer’ and ‘Bhutani Makai Palak’ as his favorite top picks on the menu. The craft cocktail menu is a modern and experimental reincarnation of classic cocktails, and will include multi-dimensional concoctions. Sago signature blends include ‘Grecian Glaze’, ‘Basil & Lychee Spritzer’, ‘Spicy Love’ and ‘Clarified New York Sour’ while Seville enlists ‘The Greek Door’, ‘Blue Sea’, ‘Santorin Secret’, ‘Mediterranean Mirage’, ‘Hellen’, ‘Ladybug’, ‘Forbidden Spiced Fruit’ and ‘Queen & Tonic’ as its specialities. On the other hand, Sidera classics include ‘Temple Run’, ‘Green Velvet’, ‘Flower Power’, ‘Paradise Found’ and ‘Roses In Bloom’.

Interestingly, the rapper has a drink named after him called ‘Badshahi’ which is a blend of milk, rose, gulkand, fresh cream, rim with edible gold flakes and also tops his favorites list. In addition, patrons can also look forward to sampling an intoxicating range of confections and delectable desserts such as Turkish Delight , Tiramisu, Hare matar ka halwa and Vanilla Cheesecake with seasonal strawberry compote which will make for a dazzling finish to a hearty meal.

Badshah states, “My love for gastronomy has been a long-standing one and one of my biggest passions after music is food. I’m extremely excited to embark on this brand-new journey and spearhead it from a city that has given me so much and made me who I am today. The brand’s vision is to indulge culinary aficionados seeking an out-of-the-ordinary gastronomical experience. Traditionally homegrown at its core, but globally experimentative in spirit, the offering is poised to be rich, deep and varied as we aim to blend tradition with modernity.”

Udayveer Gupta states, “Spearheading a one-of-its-kind but culturally ubiquitous business that amalgamates gourmet, culture and music has been a longstanding vision of mine which finally comes to fruition now. I hope to elevate the cultural exposure I have garnered over the years of travelling around the world through this new venture and present world class cuisine and a unique dining experience for our patrons.”

Badshah who is the 4th most followed Indian artist on Spotify has previously invested in a Mumbai-based nightclub Dragonfly as well as produced Punjabi films and launched a Punjab-based music channel. Additionally, he is also the founder of a clothing line called BADFIT.

ALSO READ: Rapper Badshah recalls receiving a special gift from Shah Rukh Khan; says, “I got a message from sir with a photo of…”

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Michael Douglas to receive the Satyajit Ray Lifetime Achievement Award; Catherine Zeta-Jones, Salman Khan, Karan Johar and others to attend IFFI 2023 : Bollywood News – Bollywood Hungama

The 54th edition of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) will be hosted in Goa from November 20th to 28th. While more than 250 films are being showcased across the various sections of the festival, all eyes are set on the gala opening ceremony being hosted on November 20th at Shamaprasad Indoor Stadium, Panaji, Goa. The opening ceremony is headlined by Shahid Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit along with Shriya Saran, Nushratt Bharucha, Pankaj Tripathi, Shantanu Moitra, Shreya Ghoshal and Sukhwinder Singh, while the ceremony is being hosted by Aparshakti Khurrana and Karishma Tanna.

Michael Douglas to receive the Satyajit Ray Lifetime Achievement Award; Catherine Zeta-Jones, Salman Khan, Karan Johar and others to attend IFFI 2023

Several dignitaries are expected to be present, along with eminent personalities from Indian cinema, including Sunny Deol, Vijay Sethupathi, Sara Ali Khan, Karan Johar, at the 54th IFFI opening ceremony, recognized as one of the biggest film and cultural extravaganzas in the world. Viacom Media Pvt. Ltd. is the exclusive media and broadcasting partner of the opening and closing ceremonies for the second consecutive year and will broadcast the ceremonies on India’s leading general entertainment channel COLORS and its OTT platform JioCinema. The star-studded ceremonies are produced by Wizcraft Entertainment Agency, the country’s leading producers of live events.

Speaking about IFFI, Hon’ble Union Minister of Information & Broadcasting and Youth Affairs and Sports, Shri Anurag Singh Thakur said, “IFFI has been growing every year thanks to the passion of our filmmakers from across the country and the collaboration that we have been able to forge with the directors and producers from across the world. As we take forward Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of strengthening India’s global position across all sectors, cinema, arts and culture can empower our youth to foray into the world stage with stories that are global in essence and local at heart. Indeed, IFFI has become the perfect platform for establishing collaborations, joint productions and cutting-edge technology.”

Says, Shri Apurva Chandra, Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, “The Indian media and entertainment industry has been growing at an average of 20 per cent annually over the last three years with a special focus on original stories for a global audience and use of state-of-the-art technology. This year, IFFI received a record number of 2926 entries from 105 countries, three times more than last year. While working along with the country’s film industry, our team’s efforts are aimed at pushing the boundaries to make the festival bigger and better with every new edition.”

Kevin Vaz, CEO – Broadcast Entertainment, Viacom18 said, “The world’s largest democracy is a fertile breeding ground for stories that cut across social, political, economic, and geographical boundaries. As the country’s foremost storytellers and entertainers, we believe it is our duty to take every story to its audience and every audience to their story. It is with this belief that we are partnering with IFFI for the second year in a row. This partnership aims to celebrate and unite cultures across the country and entertain, educate and empower the world in the ethos of India.”

This year, IFFI has invited Indian actors and filmmakers to promote their upcoming films at the opening gala. Karan Johar and Sara Ali Khan with the team of Ae Watan Mere Watan will unveil the first look of the drama-thriller. Sukhwinder Singh will sing the film’s inspiring title track during the showcase. The film chronicles the journey of Usha Mehta who during the 1942 Quit India Movement started an underground radio station, Congress Radio, which for a few months broadcast uncensored and even banned news.

Pankaj Tripathi, Shantanu Moitra, Shreya Ghoshal and Taba Chake will step into the spotlight to introduce the crime-thriller Kadak Singh directed by National Award winner, Director Aniruddha Roy Choudhary. The film captures the story of AK Shrivastav, an officer in the Department of Financial Crimes who while battling retrograde amnesia exposes the truth behind a Chit Fund Scam. Actor Pankaj Tripathi maintains, “The IFFI festival has always offered a platform for inspiring stories and storytellers who unmask corruption and clean the system, thereby inspiring and empowering us.”

Vijay Sethupathi would unveil the trailer of the black comedy Gandhi Talks, a silent film in a present-day setting revolving around four characters, played by Vijay Sethupathi, Arvind Swami, Siddharth Jadhav and Aditi Rao Hydari.

For its star acts, IFFI has roped in Madhuri Dixit to recreate a medley of her chartbusters. “Cinema has given me so much, it’s time to give something back in return. What better way to do so than through song and dance which is integral to not just Indian cinema, but Indian culture as well,” asserts the Bollywood diva. Madhuri Dixit was recognised as the Indian Film Personality of the Year at last year’s edition of the festival.

Shahid Kapoor will set the stage on fire with his superhit parade. “Doing great work comes naturally when you’re passionate about what you do. And performing in front of a live audience is something I’ve truly loved ever since I can remember… Thanks to IFFI I get to do that one more time in Goa on November 20th. See you there!” he says.

The naach-gaana continues with Nushrratt Bharuccha and IFFI celebrating ‘The India Story’. While RRR’sNaatu Naatu” brings back Oscar glory, Pushpa’sSami Sami” represents the growing popularity of South Indian cinema. “Jhoome Jo Pathaan” and Jawan’sNot Ramaiya Vastavaiya” celebrate the resurrection of Hindi cinema while 83’s “Jeetega Jeetega” celebrates Chandrayaan 3’s successful landing and India’s Asian Games wins.

From rustic celebrations to classy soirees and regional fiestas, Shriya Saran shows us how India parties with the Tamil song “Allegra Allegra”, the Kannada chartbuster “Ra Ra Rakkamma”, the Malayalam hit “Kalapakkarra”, “Boss Party” from the Telugu film Waltair Veeraya and “Show Me The Thumka” from Bollywood’s Tu Jhooti Main Makkaar.

The celebrations will continue over a week. Shri Prithul Kumar, Festival Director- IFFI (Jt. Secretary (Films) & MD/NFDC) informs, “This IFFI will have 13 World Premieres, 18 International Premieres, 62 Asia Premieres and 89 India Premieres. These films, which transcend all borders and cultures, represent the best of Indian and world cinema. This carries forward the compelling obligation to continue the legacy of showcasing cinematic excellence at the 54th IFFI. The Festival Team is working tirelessly to make sure that the participants enjoy the outstanding films, engage in thought-provoking discussions and leave with memories that will last a lifetime”

The festival would be graced by Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Salman Khan, Vidya Balan, Ayushmann Khurrana, Anupam Kher, Vicky Kaushal, Siddharth Malhotra, Aditi Rao Hydari, AR Rahman, Shreya Ghoshal, Shantanu Moitra, Sukhwinder Singh, Amit Trivedi, among celebrated filmmakers. The closing ceremony will be headlined by Ayushmann Khurrana and renowned music composer Amit Trivedi. Ayushmann will deliver an energetic performance and will pay tribute to Michael Douglas, the recipient of the Satyajit Ray Lifetime Achievement Award. Amit Trivedi will curate a special rendition of the Sounds of Bharat, alongside a medley of his superhit songs.

There will be a specially curated performance by the ‘Harmony of the Pines’ orchestra of the Himachal Pradesh police arousing nationalistic fervour. At the closing ceremony, several awards and special honours will be presented for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor (Male) and (Female), ‘Special Jury Award’, ‘Best Web Series on an OTT Platform’, ‘Indian Film Personality of the Year’, ICFT UNESCO Gandhi Medal.

The opening ceremony on November 20th and the closing ceremony on November 28th will begin with a red carpet hosted by Karan Chhabra and Nashpreet Kaur. The showcase that follows will celebrate our icons and the rise of popular South Indian cinema in pan-India and global markets. The lively performances featuring different dance styles, set to popular film songs, underline the festival’s theme of ‘India through the movies’, showcasing the unity and diversity of our culture.

ALSO READ: Tiger 3 fan event: Salman Khan ‘kisses’ Emraan Hashmi; brings the house down

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In Israel, Tribe of Nova festival survivors seek solace in trance music culture

From our special correspondent in Israel – The Tribe of Nova was the first time one of the world’s most famous psychedelic trance (or psytrance) festivals took place in Israel. It turned out to be the country’s worst terror attack. For psytrance music followers, the time for therapy to prevent post-traumatic stress disorder has come.

“It was the most amazing minute of my life. All my people were there. The sky was beautiful. The birds were beautiful in the sky. The music, everything was so amazing. I felt like the whole world has a way for salvation. And then it happened. So this is what makes it horrible. Because it was the most beautiful moment,” psychotherapist and clinical social worker Einat Haimovich tells FRANCE 24.

Since the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, Haimovich has been listening to the survivors of the Tribe of Nova music festival. She has heard stories like this a lot. Far too many.

Read more‘We survived by playing dead’: Hamas attack turned Israeli rave into nightmare

Some 260 people were killed and dozens more kidnapped among the 3,500 or so who had flocked from all over the world to celebrate the values of “free love and free spirit, preservation of the environment, appreciation of natural values” promoted by the festival. “Many people that I spoke to said it was the best party they have ever been in,” Haimovich says.

“[Everything was] sunny and beautiful. [Everything was about] friendship and love … [and] in a minute [’s time] … dark[ness] came into our lives,” she adds.

The social worker was due to travel to Greece that day to celebrate her 50th birthday.

Einat Haimovich has opened a shelter for survivors to help them ground themselves in reality. © Assiya Hamza, FRANCE 24

Instead, Haimovich, along with her partner Iftach Shahar created a place to welcome members of their psychedelic trance music community.

“I [originally] built this place for Dhamma (editor’s note: Buddha’s doctrine) teaching and meditation,” Shahar says.

“[But] after we understood the situation here in Israel … we opened it especially for the people that came back from the festival. But we are open for everybody. We are not making any selection. Anyone that feels that he needs to talk and needs a big hug. We are here to hug him … be with them for a while and cry with them and maybe laugh with them,” he says.

The refuge, located in a moshav, a cooperative farmers’ village south of Tel Aviv, was ready in less than 10 days. The set-up is simple but welcoming: a large wooden terrace, second-hand furniture, an open-plan kitchen and, behind it, a room entirely dedicated to meditation. Everthing is set against soothing background music made up of the metallic jingling of wind chimes.

‘Hippies in our souls’

“I think that the trance community here started in after the first intifada in Israel (editor’s note: 1987-1993),” Haimovich says.

“After that we all felt like we need to bring our free spirit, to bring our love, to bring the idea of peace. We [are] all like hippies in our souls even though we had to fight in the war,” she says.

Since then, Israel’s psytrance music scene has grown massive. The Tribe of Nova was the first Israeli edition of the Brazilian psytrance festival Universo Paralello, one of the best known in the world. But it became the worst terror attack in Israel’s history.

Iftach Shahar has been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder for 25 years.
Iftach Shahar has been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder for 25 years. © Assiya Hamza, FRANCE 24

Apart from the volunteers, the place Haimovich and Shahar created is for the moment depressingly empty.

“We just opened yesterday. So people still don’t know about this place,” Shahar says, noting that only six people came the previous day.

“I believe that next week … people will start coming,” he adds.

Like other Israeli therapists, Haimovich began talking to victims through Zen Zones, groups set up to help people whose psychedelic journeys were not going as planned.

“It was there they [were] sending us their name and we’re calling them and we start talking to them … Many therapists in Israel start[ed] talking to them on the phone to help overcome the trauma through grounding, breathing … talking about the guilt, the fear, [and] everything that they’ve been through in that horrible day,” Haimovich says.

The nightmare had lasted during 12 hours for the victims, Haimovich adds.

Soon it became clear that the victims needed a place.

“Not for therapy but to be together, to sit down, to eat something, to drink coffee, to do some art, to paint, to play music … to get back to their lives, to what they knew of themselves before,” she says.

“The idea is that the people who need therapy … long-term therapy, will go to therapy, and they can come here just to be themselves,” Haimovich says.

Every day, five to 10 people, all volunteers, will take turns to welcome them. Each with his or her own tools and techniques. Among them, dance therapist Tal Weiss Sade explains her methods.

Tal Weiss Sade uses her ocean drum on October 19, 2023.
Tal Weiss Sade uses her ocean drum on October 19, 2023. © Assiya Hamza, FRANCE 24

“My perspective is always the body,” she says, kneeling in the meditation room.

“In trauma the body is quick to speak and we need a lot of … grounding,” Weiss Sade says, adding that she uses Tibetan bowls, ocean drums and sand-filled cushions that she places on the body.

“That heavy touch [is] very relaxing … like an ocean … [which helps] lower our anxiety levels,” she says.

Tibetan bowls installed in the meditation room on October 19, 2023.
Tibetan bowls installed in the meditation room on October 19, 2023. © Assiya Hamza, FRANCE 24

Weiss Sade readily admits that helping the survivors allowed her to breathe a little. To escape the four walls of her home, where she lives with her daughters.

“This is … what’s so beautiful in Israel. The civilians, the communities here are amazing,” Haimovich says.

“Everybody … volunteers to do something … [Even though] the country is not really working … the people working here are amazing … We hold a hope that something good will happen in Israel after this terrible, terrible thing that happened here,” she says.

Read moreEx-soldiers shift from protesting to providing aid to people – and pets – in southern Israel

Shahar meanwhile hopes to help the festivalgoers who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“You know [the series] Fauda (editor’s note: an Israeli television series about a special forces unit going undercover among the Arab population)? I was in Gaza streets walking dressed as a woman. The fighting there was very bad at the time… In half a year, nine guys from my unit died and me and my friends in the unit killed hundreds,” Shahar recalls, suddenly seized by a rush of emotion.

“So I came out of the army with very strong PTSD … and it took 25 years to understand how to deal with my PTSD,” he says.

Saved by psychedelic therapies

Shahar says he went through 25 years of wandering accompanied by alcohol and drugs.

“After a while, I understood that it’s either I choose death [or] I choose life … slowly I started recovering and then Buddhism and meditation came in and [I started] working with psychedelics and medicine. And slowly, slowly I started to, to touch my traumas and deal with them. And today I can say that I’m okay, but I’m not cured,” Shahar says.

Recounting his first psychedelic trip, Shahar says he had had to take 10 grams of hallucinogenic mushrooms for it to work, whereas today he only needs “2 grams [and] I’m like in heaven”.

Shahar says he saw himself in a cradle at a year-and-a-half old.

“I was crying, crying, crying, crying and nobody came to me and then I looked at that baby and … it’s the same feeling that I’m feeling now. It was depression. And I went to that baby … and I hugged him and I said, everything will be okay and sorry. And the day after I woke up … no [more] depression like a miracle,” he says.

Shahar then began taking other psychedelics such as LSD, and managed to deal with army-related traumas.

“I froze, you know, and people like were hurt and I couldn’t do anything. And then I started to understand that all these years of drinking and taking drugs and running away, because I forgot that situation,” he says.

Considered 60-percent disabled by the Israeli army due to PTSD, Shahar admits that he has been going through a difficult time since the Hamas attack.

“I built this place for people who I know are going through hell.”

Read moreIsrael’s Negev Bedouins, forgotten victims of the Hamas attack, rally to provide aid

Shahar is convinced that many of the survivors of the attack are in the limbo he was in 25 years ago.

“They are now sitting in their homes and smoking weed like crazy or maybe trying to work with themselves with psychedelics, which is very bad because you need people who know how to work and how to take you through the trip … So yeah, we need to take them by the ear and bring them here,” he says.

Haimovich, however, warns that she will not be using any psychedelic therapy.

“It’s not legal here. So we’re just doing the preparation and the integration,” she says.

The psychologist then recalls that many festivalgoers were on drugs and in a state of ecstasy when the attack began.

“Some of them ran, hid, helped other people to hide … not moving for six hours. They really are heroes. It is amazing to hear the stories. They found power in the most terrible moments of their lives, to talk to their moms and to tell them thank you,” she says.

Haimovich does not hesitate for a second when asked whether the psytrance scene, firmly established in Israel for decades, can survive such a trauma.

“We believe that all of us are one and this is what’s happening in these parties … People died while doing this [so] we must continue the legacy that they left us. This is the legacy of love and peace,” she says.

This article is a translation of the original in French.

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M Jayachandran on awards songs singers and journey in Malayalam film music industry

Surrounded by framed handwritten lyrics by renowned Malayalam lyricists, it is easy to talk music in composer M Jayachandran’s aesthetically designed office at his home in Thiruvananthapuram. With nine Kerala State Film awards for the best music director and one for the best singer (male) in his 28-year journey in Malayalam cinema, Jayachandran is certainly on song. A trained Carnatic singer and performer, Jayachandran’s passion for music and his songs have been a gamechanger in Malayalam film music.

Currently working on the score of Otta, Resul Pookutty’s maiden directorial film, Jayachandran’s zest for music is as fresh as it was 28 years ago when the engineer-turned-musician made his debut as a composer in Chanda (1995).

Says Jayachandran, “I have composed for over 140 films in 28 years. That has been my biggest award. An award is a reminder to be more dedicated to my work.”

His latest award is for his songs in Ayesha and the period film Pathonpatham Noottandu, films set in two different periods, geographical locations and with very different themes.

If Pathonpatham… is about the warrior Velayudha Panicker who lived in the 19th century in Travancore, Ayesha, set in West Asia, is about a deep bond between two women who did not even have a common language to communicate.

A wall in M Jayachandran’s study has been adorned with framed handwritten lyrics by lyricists like Gireesh Puthenchery and Rafeeq Ahamed.


 

A wall in M Jayachandran’s study has been adorned with framed handwritten lyrics by lyricists like Gireesh Puthenchery and Rafeeq Ahamed.
 
| Photo Credit:
Aswin V N

Agreeing that  it was a challenge to work on both the films at around the same time, Jayachandran says that for the period film, he had to understand the music of those times. “Malayalam language was more inclined towards Manipravalam (a mix of Sanskrit and Malayalam used during the medieval period in Kerala) then and the music may have been influenced a lot by Carnatic music. At the same time, I had to create something that a listener of today can enjoy.”

For Ayesha, he tuned in to his interest in Arabic and world music. “We recorded in Istanbul; The Czech Symphony played a part for one of the compositions in the film and we also recorded in Dubai. The work  involved a lot of research in West Asian music. I worked for nearly a year on the music of Ayesha.”

Versatile composer

According to him, versatility should be a music director’s calling card. “Even in our nature, we find so many contradictions, so many versions of the same person. A versatile music composer’s job is to do justice to all those shades of life.”

His effort, he says, is to try and improve with every song. “I don’t take much time to compose music in genres I am confident about. But to do that in areas that I am not confident about with the same ease is when I become versatile.” One has to listen a lot, including world music, and be open to new ideas to be able to cater to directors and listeners, irrespective of age, place and language, he adds.

Jayachandran believes he wins an award each time he is able to meet a film director’s expectations and brief for a song situation. “I believe in destiny. At the same time, it’s a person’s hard work, dedication and, most important, perseverance that helps him meet his destiny. Perseverance means one has crossed many hurdles and that one has fallen and then got up to start walking again.”

Tuning in

Initially, he found it difficult to compose in spaces that were not his comfort zones.  For his first film, he was allotted a room in Jaya Auditorium in Kozhikode. “I would sit in that closed room, an alien space for me, not clear about what I was going to do. I took about 10 to 15 days to compose two songs. But now, I can compose a song even while travelling.”

Jayachandran insists a composition is not made, it happens. “When a film director explains a song situation, I try to understand what he wants from me and I try to give him my version with my signature on it. I pray that the composition evokes in the director the feeling of ‘this is what I want.’ That is bliss for me. Awards come after that.”

Asserting that the best artistic creations are born in moments of tranquillity, he adds that a composer’s lived experiences, good and bad, will certainly inform and shape his music.

Music director M Jayachandran 
| Photo Credit:
Aswin V N

“For instance, while scoring the music for ‘Amma mazha kaar…’ in Madambi, I drew inspiration from my deep bond with my mother. I felt it was about my mother.”

However, a composer cannot have the luxury of letting his mood dictate his work. He believes the trick is to leave behind the baggage of mundane worries at home while stepping out for work. “Sometimes, when you are feeling euphoric, you may have to compose for a melancholic scene in the film. While scoring the music, you might slip into that mood and there might be a hangover.”

There were times when a background score, used with variations during different situations in a film, starts playing on a loop in his head. “Even three to four months later, it might keep reappearing in my mind. I pray for it to be erased from my mind. But then I realise even that is a blessing. It is only where there is that feeling, that one realises the value of a peaceful state of mind.”

Striking a chord

The versatile music composer has the rare distinction of winning a State award for the best singer in a film that also won him the award for the best music director. Tracing the evolution of that song ‘Melle…’ in the film Nottam, he recalls that the protagonist is a talented Koodiayattam artiste who lives in his own world, leading his life at his own pace.

Veteran P Jayachandran had recorded the song. “Till then Nottam’s director Sasi Parvaoor had been resonating with the track I had recorded in my voice. When he heard Jayaettan’s song, he felt that my version was more emotionally in sync with the character and the situation. There was a confusion since Jayaettan being senior and a wonderful singer at that had left his stamp on the number. But then Sasi sir decided go along with my track.”

M Jayachandran with the national award he won for the songs in Ennu Ninte Moideen.

M Jayachandran with the national award he won for the songs in Ennu Ninte Moideen.
| Photo Credit:
SREEJITH R KUMAR

Nevertheless, he asserts that he has no regrets about not being a singer. A seasoned Carnatic vocalist, Jayachandran explains that Carnatic music, one of the oldest music traditions “is so pristine and beautiful that it has to be approached with respect, dedication,  constant practice and meditation.”

“If you can’t do that, it is best not to perform Carnatic concerts. So now, I try not to give Carnatic concerts although I get many invitations. Moreover, to make a mark in this field, one must develop a bani (an artist’s distinctive style). That never happened in my case. Perhaps, it happens in my music compositions.”

I listen to…

I never listen to my songs. I listen to Madan Mohan, RD Burman, SD Burman, MS Viswanthan-Ramamoorthy…there are several musicians I follow. I am a big fan of Ilaiyaraaja sir. He is someone who rewrote the sound of Indian music. Till he came on to the scene, we had never heard that kind of music. It is the same with AR Rahman as well, another pioneer.

In Malayalam, I listen to my guru Devarajan Master, Dakshinamoorthy Swami, Babuikka (MS Baburaj), K Raghavan Master, Ravindran Master, Johnson, MK Arjunan… the list is long. I am also an avid listener of Western classical music and orchestral score of greats such as John Williams, James Horner and Hans Zimmer.”

He is reluctant to sing for movies as well, even when there are directors who try to persuade him for his emotional connect to the song that might be missing in the singer’s voice. “I am very happy where I am. A singer has many limitations. Jayachandran, the singer, is not good!” he says with a smile.

A song for a singer

He firmly believes that each song has a singer since “a song is an entity in which the vocal is an important part. It is through the singer’s voice that the import of the lyrics will be conveyed. Should it be mellow? Or aggressive, restrained or sung with an open throat?” ‘

He realised the importance of the song-singer connect while working on Kamal’s Celluloid, set in the twenties of the last century. “I knew we did not need the kind of voice we hear now, cultured, accent-neutral.  This was a period when mics were not on the scene. Singers like Kitappa had to sing loudly to ensure that people in the last row were able to hear the song. I wanted a singer with an open mind, without any prejudices about how a song should be sung. That is how I came across Vaikom Vijayalakshmi.”

“Of the talents I have seen, Viji is one of the best, worldwide. How many people know that? That is why I got her and Sreeram to sing the song. They elevated the song to new heights.”

Food for thought

I was and am a gourmand. During the pandemic, I got to spend more time at home. I began to pay attention to my health. Now, I follow dietary restrictions. Having the right food at the right time and to be detached from certain kinds of food are important. I am fond of biryani and parathas. Now, I have biryani once in a month and parathas almost never. It is true that we are what we eat. Yesudas (KJ Yesudas) sir had mentioned that long ago. I did not grasp the significance of it then. But now, I understand what he meant.

Ten years from now, where does Jayachandran see himself?  

“I would like to be a guiding light for young composers, musicians. Of the several songs I have made, more than 50 remain, which I hope will stand the test of time. But I want to make completely new songs. I would like to get song situations that will help me create these songs I have in mind.”

Considering his success in the Malayalam film music industry, why has he not worked in other language films? “I would have loved to work in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada. I am also confident that I would be able to bring in my own signatured music. However, the fact is that I have not been given a chance. Perhaps it might happen in the future if there is someone who feels that my music will sync with their cinema.”

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Paris joins celebration of Irish language’s renaissance as it marks 50 years in EU

The Irish Cultural Centre in Paris held a ‘Festival of Ideas’ event from June 15 to June 17 to join in the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Ireland joining the European Union on January 1, 1973. The final day’s activities consisted of panel discussions and concerts celebrating all things Irish, from the Irish language to traditional music and cuisine.

Located in Paris’s 5th arrondissement (district), the Irish Cultural Centre (ICC) was inaugurated in 2002 on the site of a former Roman Catholic educational establishment for Irish students, with even a small chapel on the site. The names of the different dioceses throughout the island of Ireland can also still be seen when wandering through the open courtyard, which had rows of chairs set up in front of a stage for Sunday’s big events.

The courtyard of the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris, France on June 17, 2023. © Mariamne Everett

From June 15 to June 17, the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris held its “inaugural” Festival of Ideas to celebrate Ireland’s relationship with the European Union (EU), “enable our public to engage with contemporary Ireland and to discover current preoccupations such as the renaissance of the Irish language” said Nora Hickey M’Sichili, the centre’s director.

Celebration of the Irish language

The Irish language featured heavily in many of the panel discussions.

The official language of Ireland along with English, the Irish language has undergone a long journey within the EU. When Ireland first joined the EU on January 1, 1973, Irish was listed as a treaty language. However, it eventually gained full official and working status on January 1, 2022, putting it on par with the EU’s 23 other official languages.

“Language is political and to be an Irish speaker is political,” said Irish language activist Aodán Mac Séafraidh, encapsulating the sentiment of many of the panellists discussing the politicisation of the Irish language on Sunday. Each speaker clearly had their own relationship with the Irish language and it “was interesting to hear all these varied ideas about the Irish language outside of an academic setting”, said Sean Ryan, a communications professor at ISCOM. This festival also “reflects this wider need of people to exchange ideas and be open to ones that differ from their own”, said Ryan.

Speaking at the Festival of Ideas event, (from left to right) Professor of Social and Political Philosophy Helder de Schutter, Irish language activist Aodán Mac Séafraidh and mediator William Howard at the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris, France on June 17, 2023.
Speaking at the Festival of Ideas event, (from left to right) Professor of Social and Political Philosophy Helder de Schutter, Irish language activist Aodán Mac Séafraidh and mediator William Howard at the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris, France on June 17, 2023. © Mariamne Everett

Mac Séafraidh is a member of the language and culture project Turas at the charity East Belfast Mission, located in a traditionally Protestant area of Belfast. Turas (which means journey or pilgrimage in both Irish and Scots Gaelic) is “an Irish language project which aims to connect people from Protestant communities to their own history with the Irish language”.

Increase in Irish spoken

For years, said Mac Séafraidh, the Irish language was associated with Irish republicanism, but it can now be used as “a vehicle for reconciliation” between the nationalist and unionist communities in Northern Ireland. Banned several times throughout the island of Ireland’s history, the UK introduced the Identity and Language Act on May 31, 2022, officially recognising the status of the Irish language for the first time in Northern Ireland.

In recent years, the Irish language has become more widely spoken across the island of Ireland. According to the latest census data from the Irish Central Statistics Office, the number of people who said that they could speak Irish increased by 6% between 2016 and 2022 to 1,873,997 (out of a population nearing 6 million). The latest census data from Northern Ireland shows that the number of people who said they could speak Irish rose from 10.65% in 2011 to 12.45% in 2021 (out of a population nearing 2 million), while the number of people who said they spoke it as their main language rose from 4,164 in 2011 to 6,000 in 2021.

The Irish language is not only experiencing “a renaissance” in Ireland, but also in France. In addition to holding events and concerts, the ICC offers Irish language courses from levels A1 to B2. During a concert by Irish singer Jack L on Sunday, William Howard, one of the event’s organisers, said that when he “started teaching Irish at the ICC in September 2021, it was quite easy for people to sign up to take classes. However, there are now waiting lists for all four classes. The students are mostly Irish and French, but we also get a small number from other nationalities”.

Members of An Gaeltacht-sur-Seine enjoy a picnic at lunchtime during the Festival of Ideas event at the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris, France on June 17, 2023.
Members of An Gaeltacht-sur-Seine enjoy a picnic at lunchtime during the Festival of Ideas event at the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris, France on June 17, 2023. © Mariamne Everett

At lunchtime, in between bites of sausage and colcannon (mashed potatoes mixed with cabbage), Irish and French visitors alike had the opportunity to chat with members of An Gaeltacht-Sur-Seine, a group that meets once a month to speak Irish. The Festival of Ideas is “a nice occasion to meet new people and Irish people. It makes me proud to see French people wanting to learn about Irish culture”, said member Linda Moloney in French, respecting the group’s rule to only speak in Irish (and in French only when necessary) on Sunday.

Ireland and the EU

“I think it is a great idea to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ireland joining the European Union. Some people at the time were against joining the EU, they were even scared that Irish people would leave Ireland. But we’ve only had benefits from EU membership, from cultural to economic and being less dependent on the UK,” said An Gaeltacht-Sur-Seine member Philomena Begley. This sentiment was echoed in a panel discussion after lunch by Irish journalist and broadcaster Dearbhail McDonald, who said that “joining the EU lessened our dependence on the UK and also had economic and social benefits, especially for women and girls”. For instance, EU legislation led to the abolition of the Marriage Bar act, which had mandated that women resign from their jobs once they had gotten married, in 1973.

McDonald continues: “When we joined the European Union, we were a poor country that received over €40 billion in EU funds between 1973 and 2018.” Times have changed since then. Between 2018 and 2020, Ireland contributed €377 million in average net contributions. Despite being more prosperous now thanks to high-tech industry and global exports, the EU continues to greatly support Ireland. As recently as December 12, 2022, the European Commission approved a €1.2 billion scheme to support Irish companies affected by the war in Ukraine.

Priest Aidan Troy poses with attendees of the Festival of Ideas event at the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris, France on June 17, 2023.
Priest Aidan Troy poses with attendees of the Festival of Ideas event at the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris, France on June 17, 2023. © Mariamne Everett

The repercussions from Brexit and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in particular have seen Ireland grapple with its historic policy of neutrality now that it plays a bigger role in the EU, said McDonald. Soon after establishing itself as an independent republic in 1937, Ireland adopted a policy of neutrality when World War II began as a means of both countering the potential threat from Germany and resisting the historical imperial power of the UK. An Irish Times poll published on Saturday revealed that 61% of voters favoured the state’s current model of military neutrality, while only 26% said they would like to see it change. On the other hand, 55% of voters supported “significantly increasing Ireland’s military capacity” to defend airspace and territorial waters, while a majority of other voters said they were in favour of seeking help from other countries for the country’s defence needs. This poll came as the Irish government prepares to hold a series of public discussions about the future of Ireland’s neutrality and defence policy next week. McDonald finished the panel discussion by pondering Ireland’s future within the EU: “What does Ireland’s future in the EU look like, given that it values its neutrality but also wants to increase defence spending and show support for Ukraine [in its war against Russia]?”

Ireland also celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement this year on April 10. This political deal was signed by the British and Irish governments, and Northern Ireland’s major political parties on April 10, 1998. It is credited with bringing an end to most of the violence associated with The Troubles, a sectarian conflict that began in the late 1960s between the overwhelmingly Protestant unionists, or loyalists, who wanted the region to remain part of the UK, and the overwhelmingly Catholic nationalists, or republicans, who wished to see Northern Ireland become part of the Republic of Ireland. The final panel on Sunday was a discussion between McDonald and Aidan Troy, a priest who received death threats in June 2001 while he was stationed in Ardoyne, Belfast for accompanying Catholic parents and children along loyalist parts of Belfast every day for three months. He said that he had accompanied these parents and children on their way to school in the hopes of protecting them, as they were being harassed by some loyalists living in the area. This incident clearly demonstrated that “The Troubles didn’t end with a stroke of a pen”, said McDonald. Troy said that the biggest lesson he learnt from his time in Belfast was that “there’s only two things you can do when you’re confronted with violence, you can either demonise your enemy or you can talk to them”.

A celebration of Irish culture

The final events of the day featured musical performances by indie-folk singer and songwriter Inni-K as well as Séamus and Caoimhe Uí Fhlatharta, a duo from Connemara (a region of Co. Galway, in western Ireland). Both acts performed traditional Irish music using traditional Irish instruments, including the bodhrán (a frame drum), blended with Sean-nós singing, which is generally unaccompanied traditional Irish singing performed in the Irish language. In between songs, Seamus Uí Fhlatharta told the crowd that he loved “having the opportunity to play around with a genre [Sean-nós singing] that is generally quite rigid. This is what this festival is all about”!

Connemara duo Séamus and Caoimhe Uí Fhlatharta peform traditional music and song in their mother tongue of Irish at the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris, France on June 17, 2023.
Connemara duo Séamus and Caoimhe Uí Fhlatharta peform traditional music and song in their mother tongue of Irish at the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris, France on June 17, 2023. © Mariamne Everett

Even at the end of a day where events had been interrupted by heavy rain more than once, which necessitated a quick change of venue, the festival’s attendees seemed happy overall and overjoyed at having spent the day listening to different panels and musicians, immersing themselves in Irish culture and meeting members of the Irish community. “In my opinion, there hasn’t been so much excitement, creativity and joy in being Irish since the 1996 ‘L’imaginaire Irlandais’ [Irish Imagination] festival in France! The unbridled joy we’ve felt over the past 3 days has brought me back to my youth in Ireland,” said Patricia Killeen, one of the leaders of Le Cercle Littéraire Irlandais (The Irish Literary Circle) and a freelance writer. “I hope that the ICC will be there, with its rich cultural agenda, and lovely ambiance of welcome and inclusion, for our children, and their children’s children, for the French to explore” and remain “a cultural and community haven for Irish people living in Paris,” concluded Killeen.

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Harry Belafonte, legendary singer, actor and political activist, dies aged 96

Harry Belafonte, a singer, songwriter and groundbreaking actor who started his entertainment career belting “Day O” in his 1950s hit song “Banana Boat” before turning to political activism, has died at the age of 96, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

The cause of Belafonte’s death was congestive heart failure, his longtime spokesperson Ken Sunshine told the Times.

Attempts by Reuters to reach Sunshine were not immediately successful.

As a Black leading man who explored racial themes in 1950s movies, Belafonte would later move on to working with his friend Martin Luther King Jr. during the U.S. civil rights movement in the early 1960s. He became the driving force behind the celebrity-studded, famine-fighting hit song “We Are the World” in the 1980s.

Belafonte once said he was in a constant state of rebellion that was driven by anger.

“I’ve got to be a part of whatever the rebellion is that tries to change all this,” he told the New York Times in 2001. “The anger is a necessary fuel. Rebellion is healthy.”

Belafonte was born in New York City’s borough of Manhattan but spent his early childhood in his family’s native Jamaica. Handsome and suave, he came to be known as the “King of Calypso” early in his career. He was the first Black person allowed to perform in many plush nightspots and also had racial breakthroughs in movies at a time when segregation prevailed in much of the United States.

In “Island in the Sun” in 1954 his character entertained notions of a relationship with a white woman played by Joan Fontaine, which reportedly triggered threats to burn down theaters in the American South. In 1959’s “Odds Against Tomorrow” Belafonte played a bank robber with a racist partner.

In the 1960s he campaigned with King, and in the 1980s, he worked to end apartheid in South Africa and coordinated Nelson Mandela‘s first visit to the United States.

‘We are the world’

Belafonte traveled the world as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, in 1987 and later started an AIDS foundation. In 2014 he received an Academy Award for his humanitarian work.

Belafonte provided the impetus for “We Are the World,” the 1985 all-star musical collaboration that raised money for famine relief in Ethiopia. After seeing a grim news report on the famine, he wanted to do something similar to the fund-raising song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by the British supergroup Band Aid a year earlier.

“We Are the World” featured superstars such as Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles and Diana Ross and raised millions of dollars.

“A lot of people say to me, ‘When as an artist did you decide to become an activist?'” Belafonte said in a National Public Radio interview in 2011. “I say to them, ‘I was long an activist before I became an artist.'”

Even in his late 80s, Belafonte was still speaking out on race and income equality and urging President Barack Obama to do more to help the poor. He was a co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington held the day after Donald Trump was inaugurated as president in January 2017.

Belafonte’s politics made headlines in January 2006 during a trip to Venezuela when he called President George W. Bush “the greatest terrorist in the world.” That same month he compared the U.S. Homeland Security Department to the Gestapo of Nazi Germany.

An anthology of his music was released to mark Belafonte’s 90th birthday on March 1, 2017. A few weeks before the launch, Belafonte told Rolling Stone magazine that singing was a way for him to express injustices in the world.

“It gave me a chance to make political commentary, to make social statements, to talk about things that I found that were unpleasant – and things that I found that were inspiring,” he said.

Born Harold George Bellanfanti in New York’s Harlem neighborhood, he moved to Jamaica before returning to New York to attend high school.

He had described his father an abusive drunk who abandoned him and his mother, leaving Belafonte with a longing for a stable family. He drew strength from his mother, an uneducated domestic worker, who instilled the activist spirit in him.

“We were instructed to never capitulate, to never yield, to always resist oppression,” Belafonte told Yes! magazine.

Joining the resistance

During World War Two, those principles led him to join the Navy, which also provided stability after he dropped out of high school.

“The Navy came as a place of relief for me,” Belafonte told Yes! “… But I was also driven by the belief that Hitler had to be defeated … My commitment sustained itself after the war. Wherever I found resistance to oppression, whether in Africa, in Latin America, certainly here in America in the South, I joined that resistance.”

After the Navy, Belafonte worked as a janitor in an apartment building and as a stagehand at the American Negro Theater before getting roles and studying with Marlon Brando and Sidney Poitier, another pioneering Black actor who would become a close friend.

He also appeared on Broadway in “Almanac,” winning a Tony Award, and in the movie “Carmen Jones” in 1954.

Belafonte’s third album, “Calypso,” became the first by a single performer to sell more than 1 million copies. “Banana Boat,” a song about Caribbean dock workers with its resounding call of “Day O,” made him a star. Surgery to remove a node on his vocal cords in the ’60s, however, reduced his voice to a raspy whisper.

In 1959, he began producing films and teamed with Poitier to produce “Buck and the Preacher” and “Uptown Saturday Night.” In 1984, he produced “Beat Street,” one of the first movies about break-dancing and hip-hop culture.

Belafonte was the first Black performer to win a major Emmy in 1960 with his appearance on a television variety special. He also won Grammy Awards in 1960 and 1965 and received a lifetime achievement Grammy in 2000 but voiced frustration at the limits on Black artists in show business. In 1994, Belafonte was awarded the National Medal of Arts.

Belafonte was married three times. He and his first wife Marguerite Byrd had two children, including actress-model Shari Belafonte. He also had two children with second wife Julia Robinson, a former dancer.

(REUTERS)

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Singspirations, a Tiruchi-based choir group, gears for an international show

After a successful debut in a programme organised by Distinguished Concerts International New York City (DCINY) to showcase the English oratorio ‘Messiah’ at the Carnegie Hall in 2019, Tiruchi-based gospel choir group Singspirations is off to the United States again this year, to perform the music of American composer and conductor Eric Whitacre in a black tie event on April 17.

“We are one of 11 groups invited to be part of ‘The Music of Eric Whitacre’ concert programme, and the news is still sinking in,” says B. Jonath Backia Seelan, the conductor of Singspirations. “The fact that Eric Whitacre himself will be conducting us, has heightened our expectations and nervousness.”

Singspirations was formed in 2005 as a mixed voice choir of over 70 singers, from the age of 12 and upwards. Jonath, who was a chorister and organist for 20 years at St. Thomas Church in Srivilliputtur, gave up his job in the insurance sector to become a full-time music teacher and conductor of the Singspirations in Tiruchi.

The group is part of a growing number of Western music choirs in Tamil Nadu’s smaller cities, where amateur singers get a platform to perform both sacred Christian and secular music.

“Individual choir groups have been active in Tamil Nadu for nearly 25 years. I grew up listening to the Chennai-based Lutheran Men’s Voice choir (founded by Prabhu G.J Dorairaj in 1975). But unlike today, where the Internet has made it easier for people to showcase their musical talent to a wider audience, they were not very well-known in public,” says Jonath.

A learning curve

The upcoming concert, where Singspirations will present ninesongs, will be nerve-wracking, admits Jonath, because of the formidable oeuvre of the Grammy-winning composer. Currently a visiting composer at Pembroke College in Cambridge, Eric recently completed his second term as artist-in-residence with the Los Angeles Master Chorale. His long-form work ‘The Sacred Veil’ (2018), a reflective composition on love, life and loss, has been lauded for its spiritual sensitivity, and will be part of the April 17 programme.

Eric’s style is described as ‘aleatoric’ (where certain liberties are taken with regard to the sequencing and repetition of parts) and ‘indeterminate’ (when some aspects of a musical work are left open to chance or to the interpreter’s free choice).

Its very novelty was rather intimidating for Singspirations at first.
“We were not very familiar with Eric’s music before we got the invitation from DCINY to audition, because it was so different to the classical music we were used to,” says Jonath.

Understanding how to present the composer’s work was a learning curve in itself. “It was chaotic and quite mixed up for a while. But slowly fell into place beautifully. Now we have to see how we fare in front of an international audience, under the composer’s baton,” says Jonath.

The team sent a recording of Eric Whitacre’s ‘The Seal Lullaby’ (based on Rudyard Kipling’s book The White Seal) as their audition sample.

“The entire concert was done without music, so we had to memorise the lyrics. The organisers wanted to see how singers use the score, with and without sheet music. When you know the lyrics well, you will sing more confidently, and even experiment frequently,” says Jonath.

Innovative approach to music

Due to visa constraints, only 13 team members will be part of the New York programme this time. The Tiruchi contingent will be rehearsing at the church of St. Paul the Apostle in New York on April 15 and 16, ahead of the Monday evening presentation.

Amrita Kaviri, one of the younger members, knows she will have major fangirl moments when she meets Eric Whitacre in person. “I can’t wait to sing in front of him. I have actually been following his music for a while.”

Says Latina Sharon Nivatha, who has been with Singspirations for over 12 years, “There is an undeniable bond you create when travelling with your choir. Participating in international concerts makes us feel that we are well-suited for this than we thought,”

Singer Hannah Pushpa Paulraj will be listening closely to the harmony. “As a choir, we work together many times, so we know how our team members’ voices sound. But this time we are going to be singing with strangers, and for this kind of singing, you need to observe the singer of the other parts also. It will be interesting to see how the diverse voices come together,” she says.

The global exposure has changed many things intrinsically for the choir group, says Jonath. “It has helped Singspirations to grow, with a contemporary and innovative approach to music.”

Members of the Coimbatore Chamber Chorale
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Pushing the boundaries of sacred music

Western music groups in Tamil Nadu’s smaller cities have been widening their repertoire from traditional Christian compositions to secular songs.

“Since the choir tradition is so closely linked to the church, invariably most groups end up performing the same kind of songs, around Christmas or Easter. Anything new tends to raise eyebrows,” says Faith Ragland, founder and artistic director of Coimbatore Chamber Chorale.
Singspirations decided to opt out of Christmas season performances completely. “It was getting difficult for choristers with different groups to coordinate. And we were beginning to sound repetitive. Having an independent schedule allows us more creative freedom. We can choose the causes we want to work with,” says B. Jonath Backia Seelan.
Collaborations with other groups, both within India and abroad are helpful too.
Faith Ragland conducts assignments with Kuwait Chamber Chorale, an expatriate choir that collaborates with foreign orchestras, and also works with maestro Vijay Upadhyaya, who conducts the Vienna University Choir and Orchestra. A team from CCC will be travelling to Vienna this June to participate in their programmes. “These projects keep us updated with trends in music,” he says.
Besides this, he is also planning to mentor Western music groups in Tirunelveli and Thoothukudi through workshops later this year.
Stepping away from sacred music will be inevitable, though the process may take time, says Christopher Sherwood, former choirmaster and academic of American College, who conducts the Madurai Choristers. 
“We recently performed ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ from the movie The Wizard of Oz and ‘My favourite Things’ from The Sound of Music at a recent college event. I have also taught choir groups in Madurai secular songs like ‘Sound of Silence’ and ‘Moonlight and Roses’, but we don’t get too many opportunities to perform them. Even sacred music is changing. Many traditional hymns are no longer heard, even in the West. As a musician one should adapt to the changing times,” Christopher says.

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