Les Negresses Vertes in Beirut

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Ladies and Gentlmen, welcome to Beirut, December 1991

We were not prepared for anything like this at all.  I bear witness.

French band Les Negresses Vertes were about to release, or had just released their Famille Nombreuse album. The management, comprised of Assad & Jacques organized a concert at venue within the American University of Beirut. How do you say, ‘hostilities between factions had ceased’?  The eighteen year long uncivil war had come to pass, and this was to be the first performance by a ‘Western’ band in the country since the first bullet took a life.  I was the band’s UK Press Representative at the time, and the NME’s Stuart Bailie, photographer Steve Pyke and the Observer’s Philip Sweeney agreed to cover the venture.  At some point I ignored a directive from the Virgin boss Ken Berry: As the company’s insurance would not cover me or any of the personnel in a ‘conflict zone’, I was not to go.  “Sorry, didn’t get the message Ken.”  This was a unique opportunity not to be missed.

For most of us on the trip, it was our first proper real time facing a bullet and rocket scared city and it’s population.  The sheer destruction encompasses you full 360°.  It is painful to see what some will do to others.  People sacrificed regardless of postcode. People, families, and those strangers no longer, lived among the rumble, dust, bomb-induced craters in the streets, passing through militia checkpoints.

“This is the place where Terry Waite was taken hostage.” said our guide, pointing to a nondescript pavement by the road along the coast as the bus took us to Martyr’s Square.  Several of the windows on our bus were penetrated by bullets. What happened the previous occupants of these seats?  On my return to the city several years later, I was informed that the owner of the hotel we we stayed at first time around, was “taken outside and shot, boom, dead.”  Silence for a moment.

My colleague at Virgin France, top AnR person, Maya Masseboeuf is Lebanese, she was on the trip as well, and I recall, as we entered the airport there was a portrait of Syrian’s President Assad, not the current one, his dad, hanging proudly.  “Hey Maya, what is his portrait doing there?” I said a bit too loud for her liking. “Not now.”  I was learning.

During a day trip we came upon a block of flats across the road, the fourth and top floor was totally destroyed, concrete and steel hanging precariously, no surprises would it tumble right there and then.  Maya had family living in that building.  It was Maya that sent the link to the TV report, thank you.

The concert itself hit a cruising altitude of several thousand feet, those in attendance onstage, the audience, everybody unified to celebrate the a richness that had been kidnapped, separated, tortured, abused, murdered, sent into exile and so on.

The relevance of this period in time and what is unfolding right now could not be underestimated.

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Négresses vertes á Beyrouth – French TV Report

The Special AKA ‘War Crimes’

Total Destruction: DJ Scud & Nomex

 

 

Observer’s Photos of the Week

The Observer newspaper displays some of the best examples of photojournalism captured this week. From Bahrain, where demonstrations are continuing; Street performers in Sevilla pulling some crazy ´How they do that´ stunts; Kraftwerk performing at the Montreaux Jazz Festival and the home of 115.000 Syrians at the Za’atari refugee camp near the Jordanian city of Mafraq, five miles from the border with Syria.

A Bahraini protestor holds a Molotov cocktail during clashes with police

A Humpback whale jumps in the surface of the Pacific Ocean in Colombia

Women in traditional Sevillana dresses walk by street performers in Malaga

An aerial view of the Zaatari refugee camp near Mafraq, Jordan

Kraftwerk performs at the 47th Montreux Jazz Festival

The full gallery is viewable here

The Sonic Experience – Paul Morley interviews Jah Wobble

“Dub is music from another constellation.  When playing it’s like being in contact with a star many many years away, and that is where you come from.”

UK journalist Paul Morley looks at dubstep, what is is, where it’s going (who knows), and speaks with Ikonika, Darkstar, Magnetic Man the group made up of pioneers Skream, Benga and Artwork.  Morley also goes to one of the roots, former P.i.L. bassist Jah Wobble.  As you may know, while being the former, he is still present, putting out at least two albums in the last three years, collaborating with Chinese and Japanese musicians.  In this interview with Morley, Wobble talks about his bass beginnings, cheap heroin infested sqauts with Keith Levine, Sid Vicious, playing the bass against the headboard of a bed and checking out the resonance.  Can, Stockhausen, the German approach of needing to find out why things function, Miles Davis and tons more. Wobble Interview runs 50 minutes.

Also check out Dangerous Minds’ recent post on Jah Wobble, centered around his ‘Betrayal’ album.  Now I know why the album was called so.  I just started hanging around the radio station at York University in Toronto when I was introduced to this album back in 1980. Blueberry Hill was the track, ‘kin ell!