Friday, 25 June 2010

27 – Make A Change.


Someone said to me you’ve got to strike a balance, so here I am trying to do that. If you’re feeling more fun and frivolous right now, that’s okay, just come back later. But please do come back.

I’m asking you for a few minutes here. Not as many as 27 minutes, probably less then half of that. I ask you to put aside whatever you are doing and to take just a little time to read this. It is something important to me. I hope that you find it important to you too.

As a child growing up near Hull, the birthplace of William Wilberforce, I was at an early age made aware of the horrors inflicted upon millions during the years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. In 1807 Wilberforce finally won his crusade to end Britain’s role in this barbaric trade, and in 2007 events took place to commemorate the abolition of slavery here in the UK. Change takes time, but this eventually led to the International Slavery Convention of 1927, outlawing slavery throughout the world. What happened is a shameful time in history, where millions suffered unimaginable torment. But what I put here does not concern that. Though detestable, this history is the past, it cannot be altered.

It is now 2009. Though not laden onto sailing ships in chains and sold in open markets like cattle, the trafficking still goes on. Indeed, today the problem is worse than ever.

Throughout the world, at this very moment as you are now reading this, there are 27 million slaves existing in a living hell throughout the world.

You read that correctly. Today. Now. Twenty-seven million.


That is more than twice the number of slaves seized from Africa in the entire four centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

I’m not talking of those in poverty, the estimated 2 billion people who live on the equivalent of less than £2 a day.

“The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization, when men ate each other because they had not yet learned to take food from the soil or to consume the abundant animal life around them. The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

That great leader of civil rights was of course correct, but in this world of million-pound bonuses and bank bail-outs I doubt we’ll be eradicating the imbalance any day soon. What I’m talking about are the 27 million people in slavery.

By slavery, I mean someone who is forced to work without any pay, under the threat, and most often treatment, of violence, unable to walk away from the suffering they endure.

To acknowledge that debt bondage, forced labour and imprisoned prostitution flourish around the globe is one disturbing fact, even harder to believe that pure chattel slavery still exits – where a person is the property of another – for life, bought and sold, traded and inherited, branded and bred. They work in factories, in fields, in homes, in mines, in brothels… everywhere. Were you yourself so inclined, you could buy a slave TODAY for as little as £5. This small sum would add to the traffickers coffers, who collectively made around £20 billion last year. Indeed, the profit is so large that slavery has now become the second-largest illegal international trade, topped only by illicit arms dealing.

If this doesn’t yet shock you or trouble you, perhaps this will. Half of these 27 million are under the age of eighteen. They are children. Robbed forever of any true childhood.

I’ll apologise now if the following disturbs you further, but it is the best way to hit home. Think of a child you know, that you love. Really think of them. Of how much you love them. Of their innocence, their freedom.

Now imagine if that child you love so dearly had to swap places with one of these:

The 5 year old camel-jockey in the United Arab Emirates, fed only bread and water to keep his weight down. Abused by his captors, his injuries or death of little consequence, for he can be easily replaced by one of the thousands of others who share his fate.

The 12 year old girl who is kept in a cage under a brothel with several others, brought out as and when a man wishes to use her, like the ten who have already and the thirty more who also will that day before she has the fleeting escape of a few hours haunted sleep.

The 10 year old boy trained to kill in the name of ‘holy war’, his spirit broken, his mind brainwashed as he is forced to beat and shoot dead his own mother and grandparents

People sometimes say to me this is a far-off problem that is not our concern. India, Thailand, Sudan, Uganda, Burma…exotic places far from our reach? We cannot use the argument that because these places are far away we can do nothing. Nor can we think of slavery as something that only happens “over there”, wherever “there” may be. It is everywhere. An estimated 5,000 child slaves exist in appalling circumstances right here in the UK.

If you are now thinking “what can I do?” – I’ll let an abolitionist, David Batstone, answer you.

“I believe in the power of individuals to change the world. Social movements take root and blossom when enough individuals take personal action. When you tell yourself that there is nothing that you can do to arrest the global slave trade, you underestimate your own potential and abandon hope for those trapped in captivity.”

Slavery affects every one of us, we are all complicit in the trade and abuse, and we must educate ourselves to ensure that each time we make a purchase we are not unwittingly fuelling the exploitation. A surprising number of retailers source their products at a cheap cost that inflicts suffering upon millions. That beautifully-embroidered top or cushion or rug may seem such a bargain, but would we see it as such with the awareness that it is stained with the suffering of a child? In fact every time we go to the high street or supermarket we are potentially fuelling this boom in human trafficking and slavery – in which the greatest victims are children.

Do you like chocolate? More than 40% of the world’s cocoa supply comes from the Ivory Coast, where thousands of young boys are forced to work on the plantations that harvest the cocoa bean. Tricked, or sold into slavery at an average cost of about fifteen pounds each, these innocent children are barely fed, beaten and whipped regularly and often punished by having their feet cut off or being forced to drink their own urine. Most do not even know what chocolate tastes like, even though they have worked to the bone to produce it. Many major chocolate manufacturers have been guilty in using this tainted cocoa, including many of our most favoured brands.

But they are not alone in their inhumanity.

So, I implore you to try, as I am, to discover what products and industries have direct or indirect links to cheap profit made from unvalued life. Those who seek power also seek profit, so the best we can do is deny them this. As global citizens we need to say ‘no’ to products made with forced labour; to do no business with those countries that engage in slavery-like practices; and to press our government to act against slaving nations.

It is the right of every person to be born in freedom and live in liberty. It is the duty of every person to fight injustice and oppression.

One day, I hope, no single being will suffer in hardship, and every mouth will feed and every head will rest in comfort, and joy and peace will dominate our world. That is a dream far beyond our lifetime. However, we CAN and we MUST take the steps closer to this ideal, by ensuring that humanity once and for all brings an end to slavery, and that it truly becomes something of the past.

There is no doubt that this most illicit trade of human life cannot be stopped without a mass movement. That means that each and every-one of us has to make a stand say ‘NO’ to the sale and slavery of children, women and men, and see complete abolition become a reality.

I’m an abolitionist – are you?

Thank you. You gave me less then 27 minutes. Hopefully we can work together to make 27 million slaves our past, instead of a terrible fact in the present.


(first published July 2009)


Having a quick glance across the MSN homepage this morning, en route to my email, I came across this:

“To promote the forthcoming re-launch of Wispa Gold, Cadbury’s has created a one-off version of the snack housed within a real-gold wrapper.”

A single chocolate bar, priced at £961.48p ($1,635). Sure, it is a publicity stunt, set to get people talking, as I myself am now doing, but it set me to thinking about the expense of chocolate.

There are delicacies such as ‘Chocopologie by Knipschildt’ , selling at around £1,528 ($2,600) per pound. If that is a little too much for you to spend indulging in this sensual experience, you could just purchase a single dark truffle for about £146 ($250).

If still above ones price range however, why not go for ‘Delafee’, who sprinkle their chocolates with flakes of edible 24-karat gold to add that extra sparkle, and a snip at around a quarter of the price of those above.

Or how about the very popular Godiva “G” Collection, at a very modest £70 ($120).

Regardless of our budget, most of us know that the difference in taste between one of these or similar against the mass-produced ‘synthochoc’ that we find in every supermarket and corner shop, just as a sommelier knows the difference between a single note bottle of plonk and a vintage Bordeaux. Should you be wanting a match to help wash down that truffle, you could purchase a tasty case of Haut Brion Blanc for around £2,800 ($1645 ).

But let’s bring this all back down to earth. What I’m really wishing to highlight here is the price of those more famous brands, the everyday ones we all know. Cadbury’s, Nestle, Hershey, Mars et al. Much cheaper they are indeed, but what really is the cost?

Let me take you to Cote d’Ivorie (Ivory Coast) of West Africa. This area is the leading exporter of cocoa beans to the world market. It is here that we find approximately 15,000 boys, aged from between 8 to 16 who are slaves, working in the most horrendous conditions imaginable. No, I’m not talking 1709, I’m talking 2009.

And just to keep you up on prices, one of those boys costs around £17 ($30), approximately 8 of those truffles I mentioned earlier: or instead of buying the special Wispa Gold, you could purchase 56 slave boys of your very own. Then have them beaten and broken as they beat and break the cocoa bean in preparation for a tasty treat – one they themselves will never know the taste of.

Kit-Kat, Mars Bar, M&M’s… Next time you tuck into that favoured sweet that so brings you happiness and pleasure, think for a moment of the innocent that toiled in painful hardship so you could indulge at decadent lesiure. I’m hitting you in the face with this because I need to. We have to make a change. The joy in one part of the world should not be the cause of misery in another, for different as we are nation to nation, we truly are connected, if you believe by nothing else then certainly by trade.

Who is to blame? Well, understandably there are several parties who are implicated in this problem. First there is the country’s own government and farmers. And there are us, the consumers who unknowingly buy the products (though you can no longer plead ignorance having just read this.) Then there are the American or European chocolate manufacturers, those behemoth multi-million organizations, who, unlike their customers, DO know where the cocoa they source is coming from. And who do nothing.

I find it a bizarre world we live in that is appalled by wearing fur and that asks for dolphin-free tuna, but not slave-free chocolate. Can you really ever eat these again? Of course, nothing is ever simple and so a boycott, as great as it would be in damaging the billions of profits made, and so would hurt them where most, would undoubtedly have darker negative effects. It is our voices that need to be heard. Tell them to stop.

Admittedly, Cadbury’s have been making steps in the right direction, and I commend them for this, although I still do not think it is enough.

Hershey Foods Corp., the largest chocolate-maker in the U.S.A. said it was “shocked” and “deeply concerned” that its products, such as Hershey’s Kisses, Nuggets, Hershey chocolate bars and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, were made with cocoa produced by child slaves. Clearly they were very shocked, and so very deeply concerned, because that was back in 2001. Eight years on and little change.

Along with others I’ve mentioned – like Mars and Nestle (and they are not alone) – they still blatantly, shamelessly give us their candy stained with the sweat and the tears and the blood of thousands of innocent children.

Think about that.

Really think about it. That is the price of chocolate.

Now, go and have a break, have a kit-kat; and as you snap that crisp chocolate biscuit in half – think of the nine year old boy slave who helped make it, having his feet chopped off for trying to run away.


Then bang the drum.

Break the silence instead.

For further reading:


Wherever you stand on the artist herself, her music in the past or that which has now just been released, I doubt it can be denied that this is the biggest comeback of the year within the field of popular music. I refer to Whitney Houston and her new album ‘I Look To You’. Though it is perhaps best said, as famously uttered by Norma Desmond in ‘Sunset Boulevard’, this is less of a comeback “it’s a return”. Something Ms.Houston references, with LL Cool touch, in the last soldier girl track ‘Salute’“Don’t call this a comeback, I’ve been here for years.”

Before I go any further, let me establish a couple of points. Firstly, I’m not intending to pick into her tumultuous private life these past few years; I think we are all pretty much aware of that and I shall leave it to others to keep delving into, if they so wish. Secondly, I’m not going to defend her stance in the industry, or her role as a performer; you like her or you don’t and that is, as with all music and art, a solely personal matter of individual taste. Not everyone who admires Rembrandt likes Van Gogh, and may well despise Picasso.

I, for one, though by no means alone, was excited about this ‘return’, and I will happily say it has ticked the boxes for me. I like a defiant survivor, and I would say that the fact she has even come to make another album at all is nothing short of a true victory, and I applaud her on this alone.

The arrival of this long-awaited album kicks off with the first official single, the Alicia Keyes/Swizz Beatz ‘Million Dollar Bill’. Opening up with a great sample from the fantastic Loleatta Holloway’s ‘We’re Getting Stronger’ from the Salsoul stable gives it an excellent pedigree, and with an old-school R&B feel immediately lifts the mood, whilst clearly showing with her distinctive timing and phrasing that yes, this Dame can still cut it.

What of that almost-legendary voice? Has it changed? Yes, it undeniably has, but I don’t think anyone could have really expected it not to have done; to refer to her crystal purity and vocal acrobatics of of the early years is pointless. So now we have a delivery decidedly more husky, but as a fan of those smoky jazz divas of yesteryear such as Julie London, I find this no bad thing. Indeed, I feel it lends this new material an extra weight, especially with knowledge of where she has been. This is the voice of a woman who has lived, has been through the mill, and is now standing tall again, confidence assured.

Yes, there are plenty of naysayers out there, and that is fine, but what must always be remembered is that music is there to touch us. It can be the march of the drum, a funky bass-line, an accomplished riff, a beautiful melody; and it can be the power of the word. As I have said before, music to me, as well as my groove-filled orchestration to fun, is my solace and my prayer. It can move me to tears, inspire me to look higher and push on in life just that little bit stronger. Both the title track ‘I Look To You’ by R Kelly and the Diane Warren penned ‘I Didn’t Know My Own Strength’ serve to do that, and alone make this CD what I hoped it would be – a triumph over adversity. That is classic Whitney. The lyrics within this album do, of course resound with relevance to her journey these past few years, but they also speak, as any song can, to our own selves too.

Is this album my hit of the year? My musical taste is too varied for any to manage that singular position I feel. I’m not her number one fan, but a fan I am, because this diva has always provided a role in life in what I jokingly call ‘Whitney Moments’, accompanying specific times – namely the fresh bruise of a breaking-heart, or that much needed pushing through to the other side. Call me a foolish optimist, but I believe we must always do our best to look for joy and inspiration in our oft-troubled lives, and whatever gives each of us faith must be grabbed and cherished at every opportunity. To look back to the start of the year, and a monumental election, I paraphrase one man and ask what is wrong in holding within each of us “the audacity of hope”?

Whitney Houston, like other soulful vocalists giving us their latest this year; such as India Arie, Terry Dexter, Mica Paris and Laura Izibor (a brilliant debut), is singing that tune, and that, I believe, is no bad thing, be it generic or otherwise. For me, this is a most welcome return.

I shall leave it to the lady herself for the final word. In a recent interview, she paid an emotional tribute to Clive Davis, the mentor who first put her on the global map, and who persuaded her that this was her next best step. “Those years when we were apart, I was lost,” Houston said. “But now I’m home, where I belong.”

(first published September 2009)


Most of us love the good comeback of a diva, and I have to say I stand tall on that with this chanteuse very much indeed. There isn’t a dramatically dark story of drink and drugs standing as a precursor to this particular return to music (though her story is not without its own tragedy), but it is a most welcome return to form nonetheless.

My awareness of it came a few months ago when I heard a track on the radio, a delicious upbeat retro sounding ‘Baby Come Back Now’ and instantly hooked as I was, I thought with eagerness “who is that delivering those soaring vocals?”, only to discover at the end of play that it was none other than Mica Paris.

To the uninitiated, Mica was undoubtedly one of the leading lights on the UK soul scene, launching in 1988 at the age of 17 with her accomplished debut, giving us hits like ‘My One Temptation’ and a cover of the classic ‘Where Is The Love’. Several more successful albums followed, providing part of many people’s soundtrack to life.

Then she seemed to disappear off the radar, at least musically, only to resurface as a television presenter, which is perhaps all that a younger generation will know her for. Of course, they may also remember her as the motivating public voice of the anti-gun crime initiative ‘Operation Trident’, which she took up after the devastating murder of her brother in 2001.

Well I’m hoping now they will discover more, namely that which is her first love, not only with this accomplished new album aptly named ‘Born Again’, her first in seven years, but also by reaching back further into her back catalogue, as I myself am doing once again.

But to the now, and ‘Born Again’. Produced by the legendary Brian Rawling (who most recently gave us the number-one worldwide smash ‘Broken Strings’with Nelly Furtado and James Morrison, who also wrote the album’s first release, the aforementioned ‘Baby Come Back Now’ ), what stands here is a mature and wonderfully soulful collection.

It is difficult to find out a stand-out track here, simply because there are too many. I’m totally hooked on ‘The Hardest Thing’ (and there are some fantastic remixes out there too), probably because it is very personal to my own journey of late and which I’ve been playing daily. This is matched with the up-tempo Rhianna penned ‘Breathless’, which with promise of dance-floor stomp further sets this album out as one of great diversity.

Ballad first comes to the fore in the title track, where she delivers a hauntingly beautiful vocal lifted by sweeping strings, and on hearing this I’d defy anyone with a broken heart not to hope that love can one day return, or in the cover of Keyshia Cole’s ‘I Remember’ and hearing the spiritual cry of ‘Stay’ not find a fall of tears.

Isn’t it great when you just discover a song that speaks your heart: as someone once said put it “music is what feelings sound like”. These are accompanied further with a great acoustic revival of ‘My One Temptation’, and a live rendition of ‘Summertime’, in which she is more than able to hold up against all those legends who have delivered it before. Oh, can this woman sing!

Also worth a mention is ‘Hold On’ where, with a full return to her gospel roots, she gives us inspiration to ride on through and rise on up. As is my wont, I’m shouting a big ‘Hallelujah’ to that.

Growing in appreciation with each consecutive listen, I have little doubt this album is going to keep gaining much air-play within my own circle, and I urge you to do the same. It has been said this is the album of her career, and I can’t argue that. I love many artists, but it is great to discover (or rather, rediscover) a home-grown talent like this lady. This is a real accomplishment.

Welcome back Mica – you’ve been missed.

(first published September 8th 2009)


She’s back! Not that she has been any place but right here, consistent and ever-growing, into what The Sunday Times rightly called “Simply Britain’s best female soul singer”. Perseverance keeps honour bright and so yes, she is back, and with a vengeance. Ladies and Gentleman, I give you the beautiful, the gracious and the sensational Ms. Beverley Knight.

It will come as little or no surprise that I am, and have been for some time, an ardent admirer of this woman. Ever since her first album ‘The B Funk’ back in the nineties I was sitting up and taking notice, though it was the 1999 remix of‘Made It Back’ that solidified my attention. That track became, and still remains (like subsequent others) an anthem of bold self-proclamation for me, and was the signature tune during my own West-End debut. She became that magic thing, an artist who is a comforting friend and an uplifting inspiration – and has remained so with me for the past decade.

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing her live four times now, ranging from an intimate acoustic set to her ripping the roof off at the Royal Albert Hall (which she is set to repeat in the spring next year). Though she has a vocal ability that, in my mind, has never been given the full credit it deserves, it is here on the stage that Beverley really knocks others into the shade, showing she can cut it as well in the studio as she can in the flesh, if not better only because she is held with less constraint to fly. The fact that she is always teamed with thee best musicians and three of the most gifted backing singers around – this says much. As she herself quotes right at the start of the sleeve notes on this, her sixth album “No man is an island” – she clearly selects well, many of her ‘A Team’ have been with her for years.

I’ve also had the honour of meeting her in person a few times, only to be smitten over completely by her modest grace and sweet unassuming warmth: a diva in the purest sense, class every step of the way. That is worth a mention, because though a stand-off un-touch with reality has never stood in the way of talent, when an ounce of it doesn’t exist, I believe the artist is all the better for it.

From her impressive back catalogue there stand for me a clutch of perennial standards, probably too numerous to mention, and this piece I now write is not here to be a complete retrospective, for fear of becoming a thesis. Suffice to say; if you have yet to discover what came before, I’m hoping what has come now will impel you to do so.

Here it is then: ‘100%’. I’ve been looking forward to this for numerous reasons. The most obvious being, of course, that it is a new album by one Beverley Knight, and waiting any length of time at all was simply too long. Since that wonderful old-school Nashville trip in ‘Music City Soul’, I’d had only the Haji & Emanuel re-visit of ‘The Pressure’ by Sounds of Blackness (joined by the man from her accomplished support trio, the powerful and very velvet Bryan Chambers) to pick up as new. Incidentally, I didn’t think this classic could be matched and polished by anyone, even this winning team, so it was great to be proved wrong.

Also I was yearning for it because, having caught her again at this summer’s iTunes festival at The Roundhouse, I’d been given a glimpse of what was coming with this release: I needed the ‘Soul Survivor’. But there was more: I knew this latest album was coming from Beverley as a complete ‘100%’. No limitation breathed upon her from studio executives. No constraint, or push diminished by any lack of support and faith. Here was a woman, at last, in full hold of the reigns – her career and her artistry unshackled.

It is a thrill to know this. It is an even bigger thrill to hear it. In my (fully-deserved) effluent praise I’ve already made this piece too long for me to start now reviewing each and every track (thirteen in all, though I’m kind of hoping for a deluxe edition soon: some boys just don’t know when they’ve had enough!) However, some rightly justify a special mention.

First then, to the middle of the album, and ‘Soul Survivor’: from the very first seconds of the lilting piano I was there, but this is one of those pieces that just grows and grows, complete with soaring gospel-chorus backing. An anthem that is undeniably an instant classic, lifting like say Queen or Foreigner did at their best. Not that I’m saying it is of that ilk, but I trust you’ll know what I mean upon listening. Then, to top it, from verse two, wait… though not needed still has to be loved for it, and so taking this even higher, she is joined by none other than Chaka Khan. Chaka (I’d swear but my Mum will read this) Khan! Two of the most accomplished female vocalists – together! This song stands as a testimony to both women (yes Beverley, you are the ‘soul survivor’, and do I shout praise for that), thus it so becomes a mantra for us all. I’m left at the finish begging, on my knees, for more, hoping I find an eight-minute remix that does further justice soon.

But we are not left lacking with the immediate, as Beverley kicks right on forward with the self-affirming power of a broken heart in ‘Turned To Stone’, only to then balance it with the subsequent soaring softness of ‘Bare’.

Square Peg’ follows that, and here, for every one of us who knows this as we do, I simply holler “Thank You!”

Let me now skip back to the beginning, and the first single release ‘Beautiful Night’. A song of fleeting love is no less still a love song full of truth; and how this gospel encapsulates all of that is the magic that only maturity can sing, touched as it is by a haunting electro instrumentation, which serves in taking it to a whole other level.

This then is kick-ass followed by the night-out starter of ‘Breakout’; and here we get Beverley singing the foxy independence that is just perfect for every foxy independent! ‘Take your place, and start the show…’ Well so you are, Ms. Knight, so you are; now watch a multitude hear and follow your charge. But, which is just another reason why this is a real whole tale, whilst running through with the dominant truth of ‘In Your Shoes’, when the music changes so does the dance, so we get all that is ‘100%’, and all you could hope for, that covers the entire gamut, becomes complete. As with any great artist, Beverley draws from her own heart – it is the quickest route in reaching that of others.

I could go on, and on, do what I said I wouldn’t, so I’ll finish this here, imploring you with considerable might to go and get ‘100%’ for yourself.

This album sings with attitude, with tenderness, with survival. On the first listen, as much as I’ve enjoyed all that has come before in previous work, I feel that, for me, this is her best album to date: contemporary, assured, enriching and soulful. Held in high esteem by a loyal legion of fans, peers and modern music legends (Prince, Chaka, Stevie Wonder to name but three), success has certainly not eluded her these past fifteen years; however, I sometimes feel she has not garnered all that is deserved, so hope that many more will now stand up, take heed, listen and give a roaring chorus of approval. Beverley Knight is a national treasure, and her ascendant is only set to rise higher. And one final note: nothing to do with the music, but it has to be said; as sound, as image – Lady, you are looking seriously HOT!

(first published September 1oth 2009)

NB My recent reviews of Mica Paris and Whitney Houston follow on directly from here, should you so wish to read those too.


I’ve been meaning to, wishing to write a new entry to this blog, but work and exhaustion thereof have given me such little time of late.

Strange perhaps, but it was also because I’d had no free space in which to indulge in my passion for music, to write about that. Then suddenly I came to this realization (obvious, though I had been blind to it) that just because my last three entries were album reviews, it did not mean that was what my blog had to now be about. In fact Giles, your blog can be about ANYTHING. That was the whole point behind calling it ‘Giles World’.

I noted various things.

1) I’d got myself caught in yet another form of the insidious writer’s block.

2) I’d been hyperfocusing, as is my wont (I’ll go into explaining this on another occasion).

3) Individual freedom in thought comes with a simple gear shift.

So, after saying to myself this blog would never be a place for my free-flow rambling, I’m now going to allow it to be, in part at least, just that, even if it serves nobody but me. I just need to write. What I write is less important, although I realize it may also be of less interest. However, in order to keep some semblance of check, I shall attempt to keep these posts on the leash as best I can.

Last night I was on the tube (thankfully not a daily occurrence) when I saw one of those ‘Poems On The Underground’.

“Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer utters itself.”

The simple beauty and truth of this struck a chord. I’m not a prolific reader of poetry, though perhaps I’ve recently been re-tuned onto that frequency by my friend Trojan. (He’s like a ray of cyber-sunshine, check him out at: )

Anyway, I share this poem with you now:


Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer
utters itself. So, a woman will lift
her head from the sieve of her hands and stare
at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift.

Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth
enters our hearts, that small familiar pain;
then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth
in the distant Latin chanting of a train.

Pray for us now. Grade 1 piano scales
console the lodger looking out across
a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls
a child’s name as though they named their loss.

Darkness outside. Inside, the radio’s prayer -
Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.

Carol Ann Duffy

This litany flows, and perhaps only baffles a little on the last line with those unfamiliar words. Well, these are areas of sea from the shipping forecast issued by the Meteorological Service, broadcast by BBC Radio Four; for some, a very soothing late-night audio version of hot milk.

This poem is now with me, hence I give it to you.

Sometimes they last, sometimes they fade, but such moments like this are, as and when they come, little epiphanies, if we so choose to see them. I certainly ‘heard my youth in the distant Latin chanting of a train’. Those dreams, those hopes and ambitions; individual as they are to each of us; we need not have them clatter further away down the track. Perhaps all we need is a signal change.


Let me start by saying that, though well aware and indeed wanting full albums of material of the thus above titled for quite some considerable length of time, I’d never got around to doing so. Finally, upon the release of the Hed Kandi ‘Disco Heaven’ compilation 2009 in early October, I did. That album gave me‘Sitting On Top Of The World’, all the prompt I needed.

I went for the newest, the ‘REMIX’ album. First, it gave me twenty-plus tracks; but I also knew if a remix hit well I’d go back to the original, so this would serve as a generous taster. Furthermore, these were previously only available on vinyl, which to me said ‘gift to aficionado’. If you only know disc and mp3, you are missing something – vinyl lives on like pen to paper. Like a photocopy of some great writer’s own hand, if you cannot play vinyl, it is still worth sourcing from those who can. I digress.

I waited longer than I normally have to for a cd in the UK to arrive through the post, even giving me doubt I had actually placed the order, but arrive it eventually did. The wait had, I suppose, only increased my interest, so in through the door and straight on it went.

Positive, indifferent or negative were my thoughts? Well, if you’ve read me before you’ll know I really only like one ballpark in the world of art. I’ll kill any remaining suspense by saying: when was the last time I devoured twenty-six new tracks in full upon the first listen? I’m not sure if I ever have.

So, ‘Joey Negro & The Sunburst Band: The Remixes’. This collection kicks right in with the finest pedigree, giving the perfection of ‘Sitting On Top Of The World’. Lush, rich orchestration leads with lifting strings into a harmonised soaring vocal; rightfully the signature tune to all that is to come, establishing outright where what you now have is fully expecting to take you.

Next up, straight into a rocking spiritual, unabashed with its bold faith, as ‘He Is’ brings us right to today in a gospel cacophony of childhood purity, twirling organ, pulsing drum and original Star Trek travel. So good that to one who follows no religion, here I do: that is music for you. And so the case is put forth, proved, closed and won; and just two tracks in.

I shall continue with my evaluation in a moment, but first, a bit of background. ‘Joey Negro’ is a moniker of one Dave Lee, who has long established his career as dj and producer; the latter under various guises for a decade or more, the former only he could tell. To the best of my knowledge, like many djs, he is not a man who plays instruments. This by no means makes him or others less of a musician: indeed, I believe it often gives a highly tuned ear that surpasses most, allowing instant recognition of the best in each individual strand and how to place it as a whole. It certainly led him to this, amongst others; a place which on listening speaks for itself.

In the last few years Joey Negro & The Sunburst Band have been at the very forefront of creating new the sound of decades gone, whilst combining it with what has come since, and thus proving it is as current and lasting as ever. With three albums under their belt, this release is a remixed selection taken from those. And what a choice of choice it is.

Here I go. I will now throw my gauntlet down, blazing and brazen, in saying that I challenge any great disco, soul, acid-jazz, funk, house lover of the last three decades not to find at least one treasured stallion piece in the rich variety of this noble stable. For me, there are simply too many to choose from to name such a one.

However, we have to start somewhere, so out of those one too many to mention, let me pick up where I left off and on to track three; ‘Everyday’ (COOL MILLION RETR-O-MATIC MIX). Though ageless, at least one generation will find this a total gift. This is the purest slice of a certain genius vibe in the eighties as any great tune of that ilk could be, and in doing so not only stands as is, but alone shows that here is a musical creator who was there when the wave originally hit, knows what coursed through his veins then can course through all now, and so carries on surfing upon that crest, like only the best can.

Onto then ‘Our Lives Are Shaped’ (GRANT NELSON MIX), which carries this signature of the 80’s straight on, though undoubtedly brings it to that which is equally on point to the now. Musically and rhythmically superb, it also serves to give a simple and pure truth in the vocal. Trust me when I say you’ll know, if you’ve learnt anything along your life journey, exactly what I mean on that last point when you listen.

The fifth track, ‘Journey To The Sun’ (DENNIS FERRER MIX) steps up and over into a different gear. Here now we step into a new realm, deeper and more orienteered to a club/dance setting. This is the first I’d skip; not because I don’t like it, far from, simply because that this takes me to a place that though I’d enjoy, I’m not ready for yet. This for me is later. Though one must remember that this is not a mix, it is a selection, so one need not follow what has been set in succession as if delivered by a high priest of the decks. In reflection, I do believe it could be that nonetheless. That in itself smacks of genius in chosen art to me.

I’m not going to go on and list and describe each track, a further twenty one in fact: this would probably both bore you and tire me. Though Pete Simpson, Taka Boom et al – can you sing! Yes, when the sax drifts in as if asked to top what has already come on ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Ok’… when the delicious funk of ‘Free Bass’ kicks boldly straight to the fore, allowing for stomp or lie-back in equal measure… as I hear the comforting confirmation of Maiya James in ‘I Know You Care’… the on the button brilliance of ‘Moving With The Shakers’ (and I’ve not even touched on to CD 2, which I SO could)… Suffice to say, a golden journey of beat, instrument, lyric, vocal and re-touched mix awaits you.

You will have most probably got by now that I think this nothing short of a new classic within my library of musicality. I can not praise it enough, that is given. Upon my very first listen (which is when I wrote this) I began building up a list of those I have to get it to, knowing it will strike with them too.

Trying, though no doubt failing, to remain even a little detached for at least one fleeting moment, I add this. For me, in my mind, what grabs the most (as much as individual tracks do) is the whole; here is a cannon of work that to every seasoned clubber, be they a member of the congregation participator or a true guru dj, holds at least one gem that is gleaming and perfectly polished for a particular point within their own musical odyssey. This is dance now, but equally and boldly holding all that led to it being here. When getting up, the best music to move you hits in the very core, almost offering uncountable ways to follow it; I believe that lives here. As said, this is boogie, disco, soul, funk, house – blended to a level that were it food no Michelen star could justify. Please feel free to come back if you think me wrong, though with assurance I don’t think you will. Of course, I know well that musical taste and the particular within that is wholly personal; though I’d be hard-pressed to think of an unmixed selection that possesses such consistency in feeding head and heart and feet in unison, I know that couldn’t be the same for all. Just buy it. Then play it. Now, maybe you can defy it. Maybe. It’s possible.

Me? I’m saying you’ll get up and dance.

(first published in 2009)


In Bagdad, Iraq, currently under construction, is the largest U.S. embassy in the world.

When completed, it will be six times larger than the United Nations, and the same size as Vatican City.

Apt perhaps, in a country where a war was waged so as to introduce freedom and democracy?

Yet many of the workers used to build this huge effigy to peace and liberty are slaves; taken from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, Egypt, Turkey, and the Philippines.

Despite many claims, the situation only really came to light when twelve villagers from Nepal, whilst being trafficked to the U.S. base in Iraq, were kidnapped and executed by insurgents. A report by the Pentagon, concluded that “doing business in this way” was common in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the 21st Century, despite all the rhetoric and hyperbole, no matter who is fighting who, war is the same it has always been. Don’t believe any different.

Should you wish to know more, please buy:

‘The Slave Next Door’

In this riveting book, authors and authorities on modern day slavery Kevin Bales and Ron Soodalter expose the disturbing phenomenon of human trafficking and slavery that exists now in the United States.


Martin H. Fischer, physician and writer, once put: “Minorities are the stars of the firmament; majorities, the darkness in which they float.”

I read this recently in nodding agreement, whilst also acknowledging that, though in my heart and soul I do feel and have always felt akin to the former as opposed to the latter, I’ve felt far from standing tall as such. Perhaps I am indeed a shining celestial creation, yet the dull void has all too often threatened to overwhelm, to consume my light like a black hole.

Is this simply a denial, a blind hopeful stubbornness on my part; or is it that my energies, as disrupted and dissipated as they may be, instinctively pull me towards a better, more rightful way of being? I wonder if this question passes through others as often as it does me, and if they too know the truth in what the 19th Century writer Alfred de Musset was most correct in saying:

“How glorious it is – and also how painful – to be an exception.”

I have, I don’t think, ever really conformed. There was a time when I wished to do so, but it was against my very being I believe, and so any attempt was failed at with the aplomb one would wish could only be equalled in brilliance. As much as I may once have yearned to ‘belong’, I inherently knew that the customs of tribe are not the law of nature.

Am I an eccentric? Perhaps. Or, as Dame Edith Sitwell put, perhaps “I am not eccentric. It’s just that I am more alive than most people. I am an electric eel set in a pond of goldfish.”

Well, it is indeed time to become electrified, to ignite, to fly as a phoenix. You see, I think I’ve got my moxy mojo back. So 2010, look out… G is a-coming!

Blessings and riches to you all.


There is that short sentence long with us: Rome was not built in a day.

The full blossoming of any individual, in any walk of life, though perhaps seemingly more evident in those of artistic inclinations, sees this ring true.

I’m going to aim in making such growth to fruition an aspect of my blog.

I first take last night as a fine example.

So to ‘Century’, a members club on Shaftsbury Avenue, in the heart of London’s West End; a place, and the people I’ve met there, or rather have grown to know more, will be a tale in itself, of which I hope to come to another time.

For now:

February the 4th, 2010.

An artist is launching her debut exhibition, the culmination of months of creative hard-work born from snippets of her life’s journey thus far. Both in the dedication of creation, and the sheer almighty step to make it public, sweat must surely have crossed her brow. Though sometimes derided, I know well the torment and blood that pours from any who give like this; the anguished, languished pain of self, when presenting your creation out, it is a birth of sorts. No? Why deny it? Everyone, in some way, is moved by art. A painting, a sculpture, a film, music. To paraphrase, art is life and life is art.

Maria Escribano has experienced that which many of us know, but is often more heightened by those blessed with evident outward beauty such as she; trapped between who we are and who the world sees us as, the true voice silenced by others and, indeed, ourselves. In her show of pieces that in their very existence shout of focused accomplishment and most competent skill, she tells a uniquely personal, and by its very nature therefore, a widely universal tale.

What follows here is not necessarily what she is saying. Who but the artist themselves knows that? It is only the stories told to me upon my first encounter with what she has now given.

A young woman who others saw as an exotic performer, say a stripper, or simply a subject of lust; a role she herself may have played up to with aplomb, all the while yearning to be seen as what she truly felt she was: the perfection of innocence in spirit as portrayed by the spinning ballerina in a small girl’s jewellery box.

The unwitting if voracious vamp who runs from one tryst to another, looking for love in all the wrong places, accepting the falsehood found in some passing ecstasy to placate the longing for meaning.

A soul battling with the roles she was expected to fill, the ones wished her, and the one she knows from the deepest recess is more her truth. A wearer of masks: in a world where we all wear them, trusting one day that the right mask will transcend to become the face itself. If not yet there, I believe she is closer to it now.

I shall not try to describe the physical aspect of her work in too much detail. For me, that would only serve to detract from the effect one should hopefully get upon viewing it for oneself, as I did. I like to believe you will, be it now or some time in the future. And I say that with the personal honesty of one who, at least in the realms of ‘modern art’, truly, for only the second time, felt in admiration of the talent before me whilst also – more importantly – a true connection to it.

I did not know what to expect, how she would portray inner demons and the screams of self yearning to be heard; nor should you. However, if you are taken with her creativity, expression and overwhelming honesty of self as I was, even by a tenth of what I was – am still, then what she brings us her will speak volumes to you also. I say this as one who heard the very same music in one piece before the next piece where she conjured it up.

Yes, I am blessed most recently to know something of her as a person, but that as is can be even more daunting. What do you say if you don’t like what you see, if you just don’t ‘get it’? All I can say is; I do. And it is for this; in her talent and gift, in her true ability as an artist to go into herself through her own troubles and so speak to us all, in her humble and beautiful proclamation that our demons can then become our angels… it is here I am saying ‘Thank You’.

And finally, to Maria herself, but also as message to us all – Rome was indeed not built in a day, but built it was.

An Empire.

You can, have, will forever be that.

An Empire of your own making.

So be just that. Be Empirical.

(first published February 5th 2010)


One of my favourite books is the collection of quotes by François de la Rochefoucauld (who, should you be interested, I detail a little following this entry), and one of my favourite quotes within being:

“The only thing constant in life is change”.

Like most maxims, this is most true, and it has been most vividly shown to me of late. Which is why I write this now, in the hope that I will not forget.

Just over a week ago, I was in despair. My finances were abysmal; I was sure to be facing imminent eviction from my little studio in W1 where I had lived for the past four years. This despair led me to the local council office, pleading for assistance, which came in the form of a leaflet on Shelter, the charity for homeless people.

What was I to do? I had and did work hard to put a roof over my head, and I paid my taxes. Now, in my hour of need, the future seemed desperately suffused with clouds of gloom as grey as the winter sky above me. Could my plea not be heard?

Well, another phrase came into play it seems, so put by Max Ehrmann:

“Whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the Universe is unfolding as it should…”

For this was Friday. One day later, I received an unexpected call with an incredible offer, and just over a week later my circumstances were remarkably different. So to today, where I have just had a lunch in the Hoxton Grill, in celebration of my new joy and liberty found by now residing just in my own flat, here in the very urban, very hip London postcode of E2.

Going from a studio to a flat is quite a leap, and I’m not sure quite when I’ll get used to having so much space compared to what I had before, but I’m thoroughly thankful for the simple adventure of walking the hallway to pass from bedroom to bathroom to kitchen to living room (just in itself the same sized space as my entire living quarters these past few years.).

Furthermore, I’d always wanted to live in this part of London. I’m a man of extremes, and when it comes to living I desire either the peace of solitude found best in the middle of nature, or else at the heart of a bustling city environment. Here on my door step now are some of my favourite places in the capital, such as the fascinating markets of Spitafields and Columbia Road, along with historic journeys to be had in the Geffreye Museum, and others yet to be discovered. A new chapter of my life in Londinium has truly begun.

For your further interest:

François de la Rochefoucauld, or to give him his full title, François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld, Prince de Marcillac, was born in Paris in 1613, and he was a leading exponent of the Maxime.

Born at a time when the royal court was oscillating between aiding the nobility and threatening it, he was considered an exemplar of the accomplished 17th-Century nobleman, though in 1650 he dropped the title of Prince de Marcillac, perhaps a wise move given the climate of impending revolution the country was coming under. Wit, repartee and the swordmanship of words were an important aspect of life in the higher echelons of society; a persons standing could be swiftly elevated or equally destroyed by a few choice words: the fall of Madame… in ‘Dangerous Liasons’, one of my favourite films, gives a fine illustration of this.

It was in 1665 that he first anonymously published the Maximes, swiftly establishing his position among the men of letters of the time.

The majority of what is contained consist of just two or three lines, and hardly any exceed half a page. The view of human conduct they describe has been summed up by the words “everything is reducible to the motive of self-interest.”

But this is somewhat unfair. La Rochefoucauld reflects on the conduct and motives of both himself and people in general.

His Maximes represent the mature thoughts of a man deeply versed in the business and pleasures of the world, and are possessed of an extraordinarily fine and acute intellect. There is no spite in them, nor is there any boasting or gloating, but their literary value even surpasses this ethical soundness. For brevity, clarity, fullness of meaning and point, La Rochefoucauld has no rival.

His Maximes never become platitudes, nor yet dark sayings. His theories on human nature concern self-interest and self-love, the passions and the emotions, love, conversation and sincerity (and the lack of it), and as with all great writing, are as relevant today as they were when written over three hundred years ago.

I give you now just a small selection, of some seven hundred in all.

La passion fait souvent un fou du plus habile homme, et rend souvent les plus sots habiles.

Passion often renders the most clever man a fool, and even sometimes renders the most foolish man clever.

Il y a dans le coeur humain une génération perpétuelle de passions, en sorte que la ruine de l’une est presque toujours l’établissement d’une autre.

In the human heart there is a perpetual generation of passions, such that the ruin of one is almost always the foundation of another.

Il ne faut pas s’offenser que les autres nous cachent la vérité, puisque nous nous la cachons si souvent à nous-mêmes.

We should not be upset that others hide the truth from us, when we hide it so often from ourselves.

La philosophie triomphe aisément des maux passés et des maux à venir. Mais les maux présents triomphent d’elle.

Philosophy triumphs easily over past and future evils; but present evils triumph over it.

Il faut de plus grandes vertus pour soutenir la bonne fortune que la mauvaise.

We need greater virtues to sustain good than evil fortune.

Si nous n’avions point de défauts, nous ne prendrions pas tant de plaisir à en remarquer dans les autres.

If we had no faults, we should not take so much pleasure in noting those of others.

Nous promettons selon nos espérances, et nous tenons selon nos craintes.

We promise according to our hopes; we fulfill according to our fears.

On n’est jamais si heureux ni si malheureux qu’on s’imagine.

One is never so happy or so unhappy as one fancies.

La bonne grâce est au corps ce que le bon sens est à l’esprit.

What grace is to the body, good sense is to the mind.

Il n’y a qu’une sorte d’amour, mais il y en a mille différentes copies.

There is only one kind of love, but there are a thousand different versions.

Il est plus honteux de se défier de ses amis que d’en être trompé.

It is more disgraceful to distrust than to be deceived by our friends.

On aime mieux dire du mal de soi-même que de n’en point parler.

We would rather speak ill of ourselves than not talk about ourselves at all.

Il y a des reproches qui louent et des louanges qui médisent.

Some condemnations praise; some praise damns.

Le refus des louanges est un désir d’être loué deux fois.

The refusal of praise is only the wish to be praised twice.

Il vaut mieux employer notre esprit à supporter les infortunes qui nous arrivent qu’à prévoir celles qui nous peuvent arriver.

It is better to set one’s mind to bearing the misfortunes that are happening than to think of those that may happen.

Il y a des gens niais qui se connaissent et qui emploient habilement leur niaiserie.

There are foolish people who recognize their foolishness and use it skillfully.

En vieillissant on devient plus fou et plus sage.

As we age, we become crazier and wiser.

Dans toutes les professions chacun affecte une mine et un extérieur pour paraître ce qu’il veut qu’on le croie. Ainsi on peut dire que le monde n’est composé que de mines.

In all professions we affect a part and an appearance to seem what we wish to be. Thus the world is merely composed of actors.

L’absence diminue les médiocres passions, et augmente les grandes, comme le vent éteint les bougies et allume le feu.

Absence extinguishes small passions and increases great ones, as the wind will blow out a candle, and fan a fire.

On pardonne tant que l’on aime.

We pardon to the extent that we love.

Les esprits médiocres condamnent d’ordinaire tout ce qui passe leur portée.

Mediocre minds usually dismiss anything which reaches beyond their own understanding.

Les querelles ne dureraient pas longtemps, si le tort n’était que d’un côté.

Quarrels would not last long if the fault were only on one side.

Il faut écouter ceux qui parlent, si on veut en être écouté.

One must listen if one wishes to be listened to.

Il faut gouverner la fortune comme la santé: en jouir quand elle est bonne, prendre patience quand elle est mauvaise.

Luck must be dealt with like health: enjoy it when it is good, be patient when it is bad.

En amour, celui qui est guéri le premier est toujours le mieux guéri.

In love, the first healed is the best healed.

Il n’y a que les personnes qui ont de la fermeté qui puissent avoir une véritable douceur.

Only firm people can be truly soft.

Ceux qui ont eu de grandes passions se trouvent toute leur vie heureux, et malheureux, d’en être guéris.

Those who have had great passions are happy all their lives and would be unhappy to have been cured of them.

La Rochefoucauld died in the city of his birth, aged 66, on the 17th of March 1680, of gout. As some of my creative writing would testify, I’m greatly indebted to him that he left us with his words.

(first published March 2010)