Johnny Clegg and Savuka at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, 7 August 2005

Posted in Blogcritics Entry, Music on August 12th 2005 by Randy Reichardt

.: .: Last weekend, I participated in my 14th consequtive Edmonton Folk Music Festival as a volunteer. I was blessed with the opportunity to work with one of my musical heroes, Johnny Clegg. Clegg and Sipho Mchunu formed the seminal South African band Juluka in the late 1970s. Their song, “Scatterlings of Africa”, is an all-time favorite.

Clegg and his band rocked the festival during the Sunday (Aug 7) 2:00 pm mainstage show, and later in the evening, at the after-festival party. At the party, I planted myself in front of the stage, a few feet away from Johnny, and danced to his music for 75 delirious, joyful minutes. For both shows, Johnny and the current version of Savuka played a tight, melodic and joyful show, showcasing many of Juluka and Savuka well-known songs, and mixing in many different dance steps, which I assume were based on Zulu tradition in many cases.

I was thrilled when I learned Clegg was playing our festival. He is one of those artists I have always wanted to watch in performance, and to have experienced such an amazing show twice in less than twelve hours was a gift from God. I don’t know how else to describe it.

Johnny Clegg and Sipho Mchunu defied apartheid authority in their early musical collaborative days in South Africa. Because Clegg was white and Mchunu black, they were subject to police harrassment, threats, and abuse. The continuing development of their unique sound, which led to the formation of their band, Juluka (Zulu for “sweat”), was in defiance of the cultural segregation laws at the time. With their music largely ignored in their home country, they played live performances on the street and at private functions. Word of mouth continued to spread, and Juluka’s reputation grew, eventually leading to a record contract, and international recognition. Further details are available on the biography page on this site.

What makes Clegg’s music so appealing to me is his ability to mix traditional Zulu musical structure (about which I know next to nothing, frankly) and Western melodies and rhythms. He also mixes Zulu and English lyrics. Regardless of how he does it, it is music that radiates and bleeds celebration and joy in the midst of world that can be terrifying and unforgiving.

Clegg and Savuka (“We have risen”) are in the midst of an extensive world tour. If you get the chance, see his show, you will not be disappointed, and if you are new to his music, you will experience a sound that you have not heard before, pure auditory pleasure. I’m still smiling.

Here is the set list from the party, which mirrored the 2:00 pm afternoon show as well:

  1. Jongosi
  2. Take My Heart Away
  3. Africa
  4. Giyani
  5. I Call Your Name (Ngibiza Igama Lakho)
  6. Tatazela
  7. Malonjeni
  8. Kilimanjaro
  9. Great Heart
  10. Scatterlings of Africa
  11. Cruel Crazy Beautiful World
  12. Asimbonanga (Mandela)
  13. Dela (I Know Why The Dog Howls At The Moon)

At the party, we wouldn’t stop clapping until the band returned for an encore. I did not catch the name of that song. At the party performance, he added one extra song, between Great Heart and Scatterlings.

Mention must be made of his excellent band, the current Savuka lineup, featuring Brendan Ross on sax and keyboards, Mandisa Dlanga on vocals, Concord Nkabinde on bass, Andy Innes on guitar and mandolin, and Barry Van Zyl on drums.

In February, 2005, Johnny held a braai (barbeque) at his home for as many surviving people that played for him in his career as could make the event. This photo features members of Juluka and Savuka throughout the years. An extensive discography is available here, and includes albums, singles, DVDs, books/press, lyrics, songs index, discs index, and more.

Thank you, Johnny, thank you again. 🙂

Also posted to Blogcritics.

Fahrenheit 9/11

Posted in Blogcritics Entry, Film on June 26th 2004 by Randy Reichardt

:: I saw Fahrenheit 9/11 last night at the local stadium-seat theatre complex. I went to the 9:50 show, having bought a ticket earlier in the day. The show was sold out. I can’t remember the last time a documentary received such a wide release, and then proceeded to sell out on its first night in Canadian theatres. I look forward to reading the weekend US movie grosses. The film has already broken single-day records in at two NYC theatres. One East Villlage theatre showed the film every 45 minutes, and then decided to show it all night long.

Moore is facing a barrage of criticism, and is responding to some of it with Fahrenheit 9/11 Facts. Christopher Hitchens, for example, spares him no quarter. Then again, others aren’t sparing Hitchens much, either. Chris Parry, of Hollywood Bitchslap, rips Hitchens’ comments apart piece by piece.
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Day I Forgot – Pete Yorn

Posted in Blogcritics Entry, Music on June 22nd 2004 by Randy Reichardt

:: :: It’s been over a year since Day I Forgot, Pete Yorn ‘s second album, was released. It’s a recording I’ve come upon only in the past few months, and it was worth the wait. The follow up to musicforthemorningafter, it is more than a worthy sophomore effort. Rarely does an album grab me after a few listenings, and not let go. It is my favorite album of 2004 so far, even though it’s a 2003 release.

Yorn writes about the fragile nature of relationships, hanging out at 7-11, searching for simple joys, and wondering what to do next. For me, however, a good melody always trumps the lyrics. So many of the songs on this album have superb, understated melodies that resonate for long periods of time. Music is always in my head, and of late, many of the tunes on this album have elbowed their way into my mind.

Day I Forgot has another quality that drew me in the more I listened to it. It has what I can only describe as “cool song parts”. The web site, retrocrush, recently posted a entry called “The 50 Coolest Song Parts“. As subjective as it gets, the 50 choices are often good ones, highlighting that certain moment that grabs you and makes the song memorable. It could be the lyric, the voicing, the instrumentation, or a combination of the above at that moment – it could last for a second, or for half a minute.
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Two About Kubrick

Posted in Blogcritics Entry, Film, Reviews on December 16th 2003 by Randy Reichardt

:: I’ve been meaning for some time to make mention of two reviews I wrote recently for Blogcritics.com. Both reviews have Stanley Kubrick as their subject.

The first book is Moonwatcher’s Memoir: A Diary of 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Dan Richter, the actor and mime who played Moonwatcher in the movie. What was special for me was that I e-mailed the review to Dan, who in turn e-mailed me back with a few comments, as well as permission to add to the review his notes about how the voices were recorded for the 18-minute Dawn of Man sequence, which opens the movie. The review is here.

The second book is Stanley Kubrick: A Life In Pictures, a gorgeous coffee-table book, assembled with much love and care by his wife, Christiane. I borrowed the book from another library in the country, and spent two weeks examining it in detail. If you are a Kubrick fan, it is a book that belongs in your library. The review is here.

Midway: The Boomers’ new album

Posted in Blogcritics Entry, Reviews on April 23rd 2003 by Randy Reichardt

From Blogcritics.org: Ian Thomas is one of my favorite Canadian songwriters, ever. He burst onto the Canadian scene in 1973 with the tune, “Painted Ladies“, and has remained a fixture ever since, albeit somewhat quietly at times. Thomas’s regional hit single, “I’ll Do You Right“, from his 1984 album Riders on Dark Horses, is my favorite singalong-in-the-car song, and a brilliant love song as well.
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Spirited Away

Posted in Blogcritics Entry, Film, Reviews on April 5th 2003 by Randy Reichardt

Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi) is the recent full-length Academy award-winning animated feature from legendary Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki, creator of the critically acclaimed Kiki’s Delivery Service, and Princess Mononoke. It tells the story of a little girl named Chihiro, who enters what appears to be a deserted theme park with her parents after they become lost while driving to their new home in a new city. While her parents take a break to eat, she wanders off and is discovered by a boy named Haku, who tells her she must leave the area. She runs back to her parents, only to discover that they are still eating, and have morphed into giant pigs. Thus begins an adventure that features the some of the oddest characters and weirdest twists I’ve ever seen in a full-length cartoon.
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