Music

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.

He is Something Else!

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Ornette Coleman celebrated his 75th birthday by playing a series of concerts in England recently. Peter Segal looks at his life and work.

'This was the missing link between playing totally free, without any givens, and playing bebop, with steady changes and steady times. Ornette struck fear into the heart of the average world-famous jazzman, because nothing would be the same again' - Paul Bley, jazz pianist.

Globe Surfing

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Review of 'Philtre' by Nitin Sawhney

When Nitin Sawhney released his debut album Spirit Dance in 1993 'Asian underground' was, well, underground. Much of Britain's music press was about to be overrun with a bout of 'retro-obsession'. 'Indie-pop' and 'cool Britannia' were dawning and Sawhney's boundary-defying tunes didn't really fit the NME's remit. Asian and 'cool' didn't really go together back then.

Times Square It is a-Changing

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Review of 'Where the Humans Eat' by Willy Mason

My 17 year old daughter said to me one day a few weeks ago, 'Listen to this Mum, I think you'll like it'. So I listened to this song through one ear phone of her pink mini ipod (she insisted on this description!) while she listened to the other one. She was right, I was listening to a young voice singing contemporary poetry of protest, and it was fresh original and challenging. The song was 'Oxygen' by Willy Mason.

'We can be stronger than bombs if you're singing along and you know you really believe...'

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