Martin Smith

Freedom Music

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Martin Smith talks to Denys Baptiste about his new album, the civil rights movement and the struggle for freedom and justice today.

Denys Baptiste is a saxophone player from west London. His first album, Be Where You Are, was nominated for a Mercury Music Prize and won a Music of Black Origin (Mobo) award. His wonderful new album Let Freedom Ring! is a tribute to Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement.

What were your musical influences when you were growing up?

The Wildcats are Back

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The victorious postal strike has put unofficial action back on the agenda, writes Martin Smith. Postal workers describe their success.

'Your world has turned upside down, and if you strike it will turn upside down again.' So warned Royal Mail chairman Allan Leighton, shortly after post workers narrowly rejected a national strike ballot over pay. The post workers' world has not turned upside down - but Leighton's surely has. An unofficial strike by over 35,000 workers has produced one of the biggest victories the British trade union movement has seen in over 20 years.

John Coltrane: All That Jazz

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Martin Smith explores jazz, racism and resistance through the life of a legend.

John Coltrane was one of the most important musicians of the 20th century. His saxophone playing revolutionised jazz music not once, not twice, but three times. Today, 35 years after his death, Coltrane remains more popular than he was when he was alive. Almost every modern jazz player has fallen under his spell. Yet his creative spirit reaches beyond the world of jazz. Rock band Audioslave cite Coltrane as a major influence. Hip-hop artists like Mos Def and Talib Kwali, and drum & bass DJs, have borrowed heavily from the Coltrane back catalogue.

Proud to be Awkward

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There is a golden opportunity for the trade union movement to revitalise itself, and rebuilding grassroots networks is the key.

On the day of the 2 million strong Stop the War Coalition demonstration, one union general secretary went around his delegation recording the names of the young activists who were marching. These, he claims, are the future of the union - the next generation of reps. There is no doubting the impact the anti-war movement has had on the trade union movement. Millions of trade unionists were inspired and involved in this mass movement. Inspired by the school students' strikes, at least 360 workplaces took part in unofficial action on the day war broke out.

Lurking in the Shadows

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Review of 'Reefer Madness', Eric Schlosser, Penguin £10.99

When I was young I would happily sit listening to my nan's accounts of life in west London during the Second World War. Inevitably the discussion would move on to the question of rationing and the black market. She would recount how it was possible to buy anything - from meat, chocolate, cigarettes and the obligatory 'nylons' - from the spivs and black market racketeers. That was then. But how much have things really changed? Are the jeans you got down the market really Calvin Klein's? Have you paid the duty on your fags and what about the eighth tucked away in your bottom drawer?

Art for Our Sake

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Review of 'Artists on the Left', Andrew Hemingway, Yale University Press £35

In the heart of San Francisco's city district can be found the popular tourist attraction Coit Tower. Lifts take you to the top, from which you get a magnificent bird's-eye view of the bay. Once a week, for a few brief hours, the stairwell is open to the public. Inside is an Aladdin's cave full of some of the finest murals in America. Inspired by the famous Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, artists like Clifford Wright, Bernard Zakheim and Victor Arnautoff have created a stunning series of wall paintings depicting life in the US.

Players and Fighters

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Review of 'Laissez-Passer', director Bertrand Tavernier

The French Resistance is a subject that film-makers have returned to time and time again. The vast majority of these films present either romanticised versions, typified by the recent blockbuster 'Charlotte Gray', or glossy sitcom 'Allo, Allo' types. There is no danger of either with Bertrand Tavernier's wonderful new film 'Laissez-Passer' ('Safe Conduct').

Dinosaurs Have Some Backbone

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Trade unionists are beginning to flex their muscles.

Once again trade unions are hitting the headlines. But no longer do journalists write about the death of the British trade union movement. Now all the talk is of the left winning union elections, trade union demonstrations and one-day strikes. Two key issues are fuelling this revival of class struggle at the moment. By far the most important is pay.

The Jubilee: No Future in England's Dream

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Punk was the perfect antidote to the 1977 jubilee, because it stuck two fingers up to the establishment.

By now you are probably sick of the hype surrounding the queen's golden jubilee. Even before the royal beano began, newspaper columnists talked of a country united. Many have evoked the celebrations that took place during the queen's silver jubilee in 1977. But the country was never united. One 7-inch single helped piss on the queen's parade.

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