Sara Baras………..the worlds greatest dancer

There are a few occasions in life when you know you have just seen, heard and experienced something rather special. My first Mahler 2, Janaceks “Jenufa”, Sam and Dave and the Stax Soul Tour, Dave Holland Group and The Hilliard Ensemble with Jan Gabarek  are a few of those occasions that come to mind.

Last week  I was in Madrid and prior to leaving the UK I had booked seats at a concert by Sara Baras an internationally known flamenco dancer but, I have to confess someone I had never heard of.

The PR for the concert went as follows “Sara Baras will lead a company of 15 performers in Voces, Suite Flamenca, a hugely entertaining show that captures all the drama and passion of flamenco. Celebrated for her brilliant footwork and captivating stage presence, Sara Baras has become internationally famous in a career that has spanned over 20 years and earned her dozens of prestigious awards. Set to thrilling live music, and with a truly spectacular free-form finale, Voces, Suite Flamenca is the perfect showcase for Baras’s huge talent.”

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Well, I went along to the theatre not really knowing what to expect but hoping for an evenings memorable entertainment.

I emerged just under two hours later in a state of euphoria at what I had just seen and heard. The singing of traditional flamenco songs (think Gypsy Kings but with REAL passion), guitar and percussion playing of exceptional standards and the phenomenal dancing of the group who support Ms Baras.

When we come to Ms Baras all superlatives go out of the window as I am sure they have been used before. This woman is a genius, she communicates with her audience through the sheer passion of her dancing and one solo routine was breathtaking in its creativity and physical virtuosity. I had never seen anything like it before and I doubt if I ever will again. She is the greatest dancer I have ever seen.

What was also wonderful was that throughout the evening members of the audience shouted approval and encouragement during her dancing and her response was a smile and accepting gestures with her arms……………can you imagine the uproar that would ensue if someone did this at a ballet performance?

If Ms Baras is performing anywhere in the vicinity of where you live then I urge you to go and see one of the wolds great artists. As a taster I am posting a video containing extracts from the show “Voces” that I saw in Madrid.

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Little Richard………comes to Manchester in 1963

In 1963 I was fifteen years old and just getting into my stride with pop music. There was little opportunity to listen to pop music as the BBC rigidly controlled the airwaves and looked down on popular music with considerable distaste. The best we could aspire to in those days was “Family Favourites” on the radio (on Sunday dinner time, thats midday for those who live in the south), which would very occasionally play something “new”. Most of the time it was music requested by families (many in the forces) and was of the 30s, 40,s and occasionally 50s eras.

In 1963 the Beatles had begun to make waives and not long after the “beat boom” exploded with bands pouring out of many major cities, but particularly Liverpool.

Many of the British bands had been influenced by American R&B, country blues and gospel music (It was Bonnie Raitt who said “it took the British pop groups to introduce us to our own folk music” and when the Stones appeared on the Shindig TV show in America, so the story goes, they insisted that one of their heroes, Chester Burnett aka Howlin Wolf opened for them).

Gradually the music scene expanded and more artists began to visit the UK to tour, and in 1963 Granada TV booked Little Richard to do a full half hour show in front of a live audience and backed by the excellent Sounds Incorporated band. Recorded in Manchester, November 1963 when Little Richard was invited into the Granada TV studios to tape this special while headlining a UK tour featuring, amongst others The Everly Brothers and a virtually unknown band at the time called The Rolling Stones.

I can remember sitting down in front of a small black and white Ferguson 14inch TV and watching this show and after the 40 minute programme finished just sitting there trying to take in what I had just seen. This was sheer excitement and showmanship that we had never seen, allied to the musical ability and total exuberance of the performance. It was so unlike anything that we had seen from British groups or single artists.

The performance is raw and earthy but oh, what a performance. The whole concert is on YouTube but I have selected what I consider the outstanding song from that set “Whole Lotta Shakin Goin on”

No wonder many parents at the time were somewhat shocked at the performance…………but we teenagers loved it.

 

 

 

 

 

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Amazon…….pat on the back for customer service

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I am the first to complain when customer service is not up to scratch and I thought yesterday that I would have to do battle with Amazon regarding a camera case that I had ordered.

It arrived on the date specified but when I opened the box it contained the camera bad but was missing the carrying strap and the pouch from inside the bag. I immediately went onto the Amazon website to try and contact them regarding a replacement. I have to say that the site is not the easiest to navigate around (my business colleague who orders regularly from them agrees) but eventually I found the page that invited me to “press here” for someone to ring me immediately, or an alternative button which says “ring me in 5 minutes”.

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I pressed the “immediately button” and before I could get out of my chair the telephone rang and it was a young lady from an Amazon call centre. I explained the situation (and the fact I was going on holiday in the next few days and needed an immediate replacement) and the young lady apologised for the inconvenience and asked if i could give her a couple of minutes to try and sort things out.

After a few minutes she came back and asked if I would return the case I had been sent (they e-mailed me  pre-paid sticker for the package) and she would arrange for a new complete case to be delivered to me the following day with no charge for the express delivery.

Well I can say that the case arrived at the appointed time and date and I am now very happy customer. So thank you Amazon, and in particular the young lady who signed her e-mail Rea M, you not only met, but exceeded this customers expectation.

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Purple Horizon, Lavender Field, The Netherlands

Stunning photograph from fellow blogger Vacay Pics…………………

Vacay Pics

Purple Horizon, Lavender Field, The Netherlands

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Saudi Arabian football team deliver incredible insult to Australian hosts!

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There are times when I despair at the attitude of muslims to non muslims and the culture of western countries. They will be the first to demand that WE respect THEIR culture but seem at times incapable of reciprocating. At the start of the recent Australia v Saudi Arabia football match in Australia the Saudi players ignored the minutes silence at the start of the match, held to pay respect to the London killings and in particular the fact that two of those who lost their lives were Australian nationals

Saudi Arabian football bosses have since issued an “unreserved” apology after their players failed to properly observe a minute’s silence in honour of London terror attack victims at the World Cup qualifier against the Socceroos in Adelaide.

When the stadium announcer called for a minute’s silence to honour the victims of last weekend’s attack, including Australian women Kirsty Boden and Sara Zelenak, the Socceroos on the field lined up at the centre circle with arms on their teammates’ shoulders.

Their opponents from Saudi Arabia, however, spread out to various parts of the field in formation, with some players appearing to mill around. The Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) said it “deeply regrets and unreservedly apologises for any offence caused” by the players’ actions.

Some islam apologists have claimed that it is not in Saudi culture to stand in silence to pay respect like we do in the west, however, there have been a number of occasions in arabic countries (e.g. UAE, Quatar) where teams have observed a minutes silence.

One can only draw the conclusion that this was a deliberate act to offend their hosts and demonstrate that the followers of the islamic cult have no respect at all for those who do not subscribe to their venal ideology.

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Scott Walker…………a wondrous voice

During a recent bout of redecorating the house (not by me I might add) I had to move all my CDs and store all 800 of them, into boxes for safekeeping. This was an onerous task and one I had been trying to avoid but the painter phoned me and said he would be coming to start work in a couple of days……….so I could no longer put off the task.

So one morning I began taking CDs off the storage shelves and carefully placing them in cardboard boxes. It was quite remarkable what I discovered in my collection, CDs I had bought and then never played, stuff I had bought on my trips to Vilnius and Copenhagen (remember the Jazz CDs we bought here Mike?) and not to mention Tel Aviv (that was one hell of a record shop).

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One of the CDs I came across was “The Best of Scott Walker and the Walker Brothers” which I think was released about 2006. I decided to give it a listen and realised what a fabulous voice Scott Walker has and how well the performances of various songs have stood the test of time.

One of the most enigmatic figures in rock history, Scott Walker exited the Walker Brothers in 1967 to launch a hugely successful solo career in Britain with a unique blend of orchestrated, almost MOR arrangements with idiosyncratic and morose lyrics. At the height of psychedelia, Walker openly looked to crooners like Sinatra, Jack Jones, and Tony Bennett for inspiration, and to Jacques Brel for much of his material.

None of those balladeers, however, would have sung about the oddball subjects — prostitutes, transvestites, suicidal brooders, plagues, and Joseph Stalin — that populated Walker’s songs. His first four albums hit the Top Ten in the U.K. — his second, in fact, reached number one in 1968, in the midst of the hippie era. By the time of 1969’s Scott 4, the singer was writing all of his material.

Although this was perhaps his finest album, it was a commercial disappointment, and unfortunately discouraged him from relying entirely upon his own material on subsequent releases. After a long period of hibernation, he emerged with an album in 1984, Climate of Hunter, which drew critical raves for a minimalistic, trance-like ambience that showed him keeping abreast of cutting-edge ’80s rock trends. This notoriously reclusive figure, who has rarely been interviewed or even seen in public since his days of stardom, emerged from hibernation in 1995 with a new album, Tilt.

Since then he has released a couple of avant garde albums “The Drift” and “Bish Bosch”, both demanding listening but if you have worked your way through something like Captain Beefhearts “Trout Mask Replica” you will find them difficult, but ultimately rewarding listening.

My focus for this little blog is his work with the Walker Brothers and early solo career and I have chosen what I consider to be the best track they ever laid down, namely “No Regrets”………..listen and marvel at his voice.

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Did feminism cause obesity?

Another interesting blog from my friend Mike, although I tend to favour the theory that rather than feminism causing obesity, it is people shovelling too much food down their throats that is the cause!

Mike the Psych's Blog

Yes according Rosie Boycott, a senior food policy advisor to the Mayor of London and founder of feminist magazine Spare Rib.

She said “there is now a lost generation of people who rely on fast food and processed dinners“.

Speaking at the Hay Festival of Literature she said encouraging women to go out to work rather than become housewives resulted in everyone giving up cooking.. “I said “don’t cook …. you’ll get ahead” We lost it. Schools gave up cooking. Everyone gave up cooking.”

(The obesity crisis has ) certainly been fuelled by the fact that women work and that we have allowed this huge change to happenSocieties change, women start working, and the fast food and takeaways arrive“.

Cooking was seen as drudgery by feminists and has been blamed before for the spread of fast-food chains although it is…

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