Music

Lyrical warrior: K'Naan

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Rapper K'Naan spoke to Colin Smith about growing up in Somalia and using beats against US foreign policy

Your sound is very different from the mainstream hip-hop or rap music around at the moment. In particular you use a lot of African rhythms and instruments on your backing tracks.

It's a sound that just came naturally. You could have asked me how come I speak Somali half the time. Music is a direct and honest expression and extension of who you are. Having spent half my life in Africa and the other half in North America what could I do that is honest? That's my sound. It's a fusion of the two worlds. And I couldn't help but create it just like that.

'The People Need Jazz'

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Soweto Kinch is one of the most versatile and exciting musicians to hit the British jazz scene in recent years. He talked to Pete Jackson and Martin Smith about his latest album.

Last summer the MOBO (Music of Black Origin) Academy announced that it was going to drop its best jazz artist award. When the awards ceremony took place in September ten musicians held a musical protest outside the venue. One of them was 28 year old Soweto Kinch.

Born in London to parents from Barbados and Jamaica, Soweto is creating a unique sound, one which blends his two musical loves - jazz and hip-hop.

These Songs of Freedom

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In the 1960s, blues and folk singer Julius Lester put his voice at the disposal of the US civil rights movement. He talked to Yuri Prasad about how music and politics mixed.

The year 1965 was a tumultuous one for the civil rights movement. In Selma, Alabama, marchers were brutally attacked by police with clubs, whips and tear gas on a day that was dubbed "Bloody Sunday". In Watts - the overwhelmingly black suburb of Los Angeles - anger at racism, poverty and police harassment exploded into one of the biggest riots the US had ever seen. The movement also lost one of its most radical leaders when Malcolm X was assassinated as he addressed a public meeting.

The Sound of a Soviet Tragedy

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Russian composer Dimitri Shostakovich was born 100 years ago. Simon Behrman looks at the music of an artist whose life was intertwined with the fate of the 1917 revolution.

The failure of the Russian Revolution of 1917 to live up to the hope it promised was the greatest tragedy of the last century. Its effects were felt not just in the politics and subsequent history of the 20th century but also in the art and culture that surrounded it. Dimitri Shostakovich occupied a central position in these events, and more than any other composer his music explores the hopes and tragedy of this period of history.

Out of the Closet

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Pop music historian Jon Savage spoke to Noel Halifax about his new collection of gay pop music from the 1960s to the 1980s.

A few years ago I compiled a record called England's Dreaming to accompany a book I had written about punk. I enjoyed doing that so much that I approached the record company with an idea of releasing a compilation of weird old gay records.

Bulletins from a War Zone

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A revival in politically conscious reggae is finding a global audience, says Adeola Johnson.

Musical mythology has it that there has been no conscious Jamaican reggae since the early 1980s. Radical prime minister Norman Manley's economic reform programme had been brought to a halt by the International Monetary Fund and the CIA. Bob Marley intervened in the 1980 election to quell the violent gang rivalries of Manley and his opposition challenger Edward Seaga, and for a moment it seemed that reggae could succeed where politicians failed.

Locked Out

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Every generation has its youth movement, whether it is the psychedelic 1960s, punk in the 1970s, New Wave in the 1980s or dance music in the 1990s. Grime is a current social phenomenon in London and elsewhere in Britain.

A whole generation of young people from a part of society normally invisible to the mainstream, unless labelled as "hoodies" or "gangs", have aspirations to be MCs, producers and DJs.

Return of the Jazz Radicals

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Peter Segal welcomes new releases from old masters.

Tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins released a series of outstanding LPs in the 1950s and 1960s that established him as one of the outstanding jazz musicians of the period. Born in Harlem in 1930, Rollins overcame drug problems and Imprisonment to develop one of the most distinctive saxophone sounds in jazz. While not generally perceived as radical (he rarely gets mentioned in the same bracket as John Coltrane, Archie Shepp, Miles Davis, etc), he released The Freedom Suite in the 1950s, which was a landmark political statement by a jazz artist demanding black emancipation.

Retro Swagger

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Review of 'You Could Have It So Much Better' by Franz Ferdinand

It used to be quite fashionable for bands to take an 'eclectic' approach to music - here's our punk song, this is an acoustic number, we wrote this one listening to Pink Floyd, etc. It was part of the post-grunge/post-Britpop slump. Albums were more about artists' record collections than the artists themselves.

The current crop of bands seem to have a much healthier attitude, being outward looking and musically passionate. Franz Ferdinand are one of the most successful of the new crop.

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