The Smith's Journal - November 2004

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Network operational

Cool! Yesterday's resolution to get on with it and set up my computers has led to two machines being rebuilt and added to the network. I've also finally tested the Belkin OmniView SE KVM switch that John gave me which works well, and so my music computer will live quietly in a cupboard on the opposite side of the studio, via a 10m-long KVM cable. I have also been running up and downstairs trying to sort out what cable lengths I need to connect microphones and ethernet between the two rooms. I also spent ages battling with another old 486 trying to get it onto the network, but I suspect trouble with its ISA card :-(

Next I need to learn about SSH so that I can get these machines chatting to each other.


U.S. Election

A sad day for the world. As much as I told myself not to care, I was pretty disturbed by the result of the U.S. election (I mean, what does a president have to do to get voted out?). The whole mass media freak show and campaign mud-slinging was quite disgusting, and took the supposed leading nation of the free world to new lows. People are questioning the validity of the result, as there are many issues with the electronic voting system. I wore my Tack>>Head T-shirt today as Liberty wept. Hmmm, this division of America makes this seem even more serious.

We are the bad guys

Then I heard a Radio 4 programme called "The Return Of The Buddha" about the British Invasion of Tibet in 1904 and our army's massacre of Tibetans, who, when faced with machine guns, just walked away and were savagely slaughtered. I cried lots at the state the of world today - we are the bad guys after all :-(

I shall endeavour to begin to put things right with some spiritual heavy artillery of my own...


Judgement Day

Today I dusted down the old manuscripts of my (unfinished) symphonic poem Judgement Day, which I've not worked on for years now, and played through it on the piano... [*powerful piano shivers medieval timbers*...] Wow - I'd forgotten how dark and intense this music is; it's quite remarkable that it could be silent for all these years, lying dormant until now. As a result of tears of remembrance, I have resolved to complete it when I can transfer the score onto computer, even if just to terrify George Bush back into the hellhole he came from.


New power source

Positively exploding with creative energy, I can barely type fast enough... I seem to have tapped into a new power source, namely the physical body of George Bush himself, which I am steadily consuming cell by cell, by will-power alone. (Maybe that's how Jon Ronson managed to be interviewed simultaneously on different programmes on Radio 3 and 4 tonight!) George's every evil move just inspires me to go further in positive directions of light and love (Newton's Third Law of Motion = action and reaction are equal and opposite). And it's not just me; I suddenly find myself joining various groups of like-minded souls to strive for a better world. Deep discussions with friends have made me realise that while Bu$h may have achieved a temporary victory for the Dark Side by tricking the public into supporting his War On Of Terror, the tidal wave of world opinion will put things right again.

Space wars

Not content with waging wars on Earth, America's latest battlefield is space. Nice.

UPDATE: OK America, we forgive you ;-)


Software patent meeting

Today I received a letter from Lord Sainsbury of Turville (!), inviting me to a meeting about software patents at the DTI in London next month.

Planetary conjunctions

This day marks the first of a series of planetary conjunctions, where the Moon occults first Jupiter, then Venus tomorrow, and Mars on Thursday, ending up as a New Moon in Scorpio on Friday, before occulting Mercury on Sunday! Look out!

Tarkovsky retrospective

While polishing the links on my website, I wandered over to Nostalghia, an awesome site about the work of Andrei Tarkovsky, the greatest film-maker of all time. The link was still there, but a silent voice just suggested I check out their News page, just in case there might be any cinema showings. What joy to discover that there will be a Tarkovsky retrospective at the NFT in March 2005, showing all of his films :-)

March 2005


A tribute to one of the great poets of world cinema. A fiercely independent artist, Tarkovsky crafted hauntingly beautiful films which have an enduring fascination. Highlights in this retrospective include NFT extended runs of Solaris and Stalker, both in new prints, plus a BFI book on Andrei Rublev.

F a n t a s t i c !!! I shall be booking time off work and tickets for every film. Anyone else coming with me into The Zone...?

UPDATE: in case those NFT links die, I just put up a page all about Tarkovsky.


Tufnell Park Church

Off into London on a reconnaissance and diplomacy mission with Ian, to an abandoned church in Tufnell Park that he'd visited recently. Local people there have converted this huge abandoned building into a community theatre and meeting place. They cook fine food and hold events there, for donations, with help and useful gifts welcomed. There are moves in progress to evict them, as a Nigerian Church is trying to buy the place, but from what I've heard, the powers that be are quite content to just let them stay there, at least for a while, as it is clearly a Good Thing for the community.

Outside Tufnell Park Church | Tufnell Park Church tower | 'We Are All One' | In the round church at Tufnell Park | Inside Tufnell Park Church | An End To War - Other Worlds R Possible |

I took these photos of the place, a very large round church that I'd guess is Victorian/Edwardian, with a tower that stands separate from the main building. We were let in and welcomed by a charismatic guy called Snake (dressed in top hat and tails and a Hi Vis jacket ;-) when he saw Ian's familiar face. We had a look around the outbuildings, which feature a lively cafe/bar area, toilets, office, and a Buddhist meditation room up in the tower. On entering the main church, we were immediately ambushed by a bunch of cute kids, declaring: "YOU'RE IT!", and running away in all directions. After a brief reminder of the rules, there followed some frantic minutes of dashing about, until I gave up, unable to catch them all. The inside of this vast building was a huge round dome, supported by pillars at the edge forming a large octagon about 20m across and probably just as high. Huge backdrops linked the pillars with colourful painted slogans such as "AN END TO WAR - OTHER WORLDS R POSSIBLE" and "WE ARE ALL ONE", behind which were other dark recesses of the building with pues for a congregation long gone. A large stage welcomed us. We went back to chat to some of the people, and fetched our drums, setting them up in the church for a jam. We played for an hour or so, revelling in the massive acoustic that brought much sound from our two drums.

[UPDATE: Alas, on 2005-10-11, I heard from a friend who had "received an SOS email saying that cops and bailiffs had turned up at St. George's Church. I zoomed down there on my motorbike but it was all over. Everyone turfed out, big fence put up with threatening notices, loads of Nigerians."]

Meet Immanuel Oladunni

Then we left and headed up to our old haunt, Jackson's Lane Community Centre, for a pre-arranged meeting with Immanuel Oladunni, the brother of our old drum teacher David who returned to Nigeria when his father died to take over the priesthood. It was wonderful to meet someone who I instantly recognised; he looked just like David might after a few years of body-building. We talked for a while about stuff, including that David is coming back to England in December! [UPDATE: Alas, David missed this opportunity.] Immanuel said that he and Ade Wallace are still running the drum classes there at Jackson's Lane on Thursday nights (where we had originally learned), so we agreed to come down again this week. Ian then asked if he wanted to come and play some drums back at the church, to which he heartily agreed, longing to celebrate the start of the weekend. Ian and I had earlier debated the danger of doing this, considering the fact that the church-dwellers were threatened with eviction by a Nigerian Church, and here we were bringing in a man whose brother is a Nigerian minister... But some things are just destined to be, and our need to play outweighed any concerns to avoid altering events that were beyond our control anyway...

In the car, Immanuel played us his demo tape, featuring a serious Afrobeat band, with himself on tenor sax, as well as some live recordings from a gig in Ghana. Back at the church, there was little activity. This is the sort of place where nothing happens unless you do it yourself. We introduced Immanuel, who immediately spied Angel's saxophone beside the piano. She is learning to play, and so he gave her an impromptu lesson, and blew us away with some fine playing. Then brother David phoned from Nigeria, so he talked to him while we helped out in the kitchen for a bit and donated to the cause, before going into the church to play.

Some guys turned up with a sound system and turntables, ready for a party that had been arranged for the night. Two other bands were also supposed to be coming, but didn't show up, neither did the expected crowds of revellers necessary to heat up this huge and chilly place. After a burst of drum'n'bass from the DJ's, Immanuel, Ian and I started playing some of Brother David's old songs to the tiny audience. Immanuel sized up my tubanos and took to them instantly, playing with the combined grace and dexterity of his brother fused with the dynamic energy of Fats Ramoba Mogoboya. WOW! Fire burst from our hands and ravaged the place. Magickal powers were at work, aided no doubt by the serious planetary conjunctions above us. After a rendition of David's song "Anye-e-e-e-eh Wa Wa Wa" ('Welcome'), I remarked to the crowd how honoured I felt to be able to play music with someone I had only met hours ago, yet with such a connection. He later repaid the complement by telling everyone how happy he was to see white guys like us that can really play African drums, having studied for years. He then went into a long speech about the politics of Nigeria, seizing the microphone like a true orator, Fela-stylee. Possibly some of the finer details of his descriptions of Yoruba, Ibo and Hausa culture were lost on us, but his magnetic personality carried us through. We ended with a spirited burst of Molefe Pheto's music, solos galore and hands buzzing.

A fabulous night, with the Moon-Mercury conjunction opening up new channels of communication.


Drumming session

More drumming at Michael's Folly with Ian, Rob, Fabrizia, Jane and Ruth. We really turned a corner today, and took things to a new dimension of sheer joy :-) After some practice of Guinean and Gambian rhythms, we started playing some games. This began with the Gambian pattern rearranged for various body parts. Then we sat in a small circle, with hands on the floor interweaved with those of our neighbours', and tried to play rhythms moving around the mix-match of hands. This naturally led to an arc, and then a circle, of drums, with each drum having two different people's hands on it, and the rhythm going around the circle. Variations involved leaving rests instead of notes, to create a changing web of tones. The total hilarity every time someone went wrong (frequently!) led to hysterical laughter interspersed with intense concentration. This was such fun that it went on for an hour, as we really discovered our collective inner child. Moments like these are truly special, and we left a closer, stronger unit.

Jazz At The Fairway

Afterwards Rob and I went to meet Dennis at Jazz At The Fairway at Panshanger Golf Complex in Welwyn Garden City, to see the Damon Brown / Doug Rainey Quintet. Their fine flugelhorn and guitar were underpinned by the cool double bass of Dave Green and energetic young drummer Steve Brown, with guest tenor saxophonist John Miles adding some lovely liquid playing. Besides some elegant solos, a highlight for me was their stunning rendition of Dexter Gordon's "Love For Sale", an infectious bass line with upbeat brushed drum groove, over which Damon and Doug poured some dreamy flugelhorn and rippling guitar work. Had they called for "any percussionists in the house?", we had congas and djembe waiting...


Tina's birthday party

Went to a pub near South Mimms called Old Guinee (ideal for us drum freaks!) for Tina's birthday party, and met her colleagues and college friends. Later a convoy of cars weaved through the village of Ridge to the farm where she lives, and we all climbed the ladder into her cosy loft above the stables: a cool place! I felt quite at home with all the beams and triangular roof, and set to playing some djembe along with the music. She had laid on an amazing spread of home-cooked food for the guests, and demonstrated some poi and yoga. I hope we didn't disturb the horses below, who could be heard occasionally chatting amongst themselves.


Drum class with Ade at Jackson's Lane

Drum class at Jackson's Lane with Tina and Ian. This was quite a homecoming for Ian and I, who used to attend regularly from about 1993-1997, and it was a great moment when our old teacher Ade walked in and still recognised us after all this time. Playing music with him again was even better :-) David's brother Immanuel Oladunni also came and laid down some slick conga patterns on my tubanos. One forgets what a great laugh these guys are to be around - their warmth and humour is infectious. The rain outside was soon forgotten as we got the sun seriously shining inside, and Ade gave some wonderfully colourful descriptions of musical culture in Africa. Although there were only ten of us in the class, the vibe was great and we (re)learned some patterns including yankadi, kpanlogo and a joyous Susu song. Of course, as is traditional, we spent the journey home trying desperately to remember the various patterns as they slipped from memory... Ah well, I guess we'll be back next week for more!


Two coats colder

Offley proves that it really is "Two Coats Colder" up here on the hills, as the snow that fell last night has lingered all day in shaded places - a really icy day despite the sunshine. My house is getting really cold now as winter draws in... "You're wearing how many pairs of trousers?" :-)

Salsa Natyam perform at Hitchin Ethnic Minority Forum

Fabrizia invited me to play congas to accompany her and Rob's Salsa Natyam dance performance in the evening at Hitchin Ethnic Minority Forum. While setting up, I got mistaken for the sound engineer, and so gladly accepted the task for the other bands on that evening, having to wing it somewhat with little time to soundcheck and distinct lack of vast digital desk with total recall to make life easy. A big posse of Indian dhol drummers woke the place up, playing in the dining hall next door where food was being served. First up on stage was an all-acoustic steel band, then a sitar trio accompanied by tabla (tricky to mic up without feedback), then some Egyptian dancers. Next Fabrizia gave an entrancing Bharatanatyam performance accompanied by Neil on tabla and Rob on electronics, before four of her students dazzled us with a fine quartet dance piece. Finally Rob and Bizia danced their mixture of Salsa and Bharatanatyam that we'd done before at Rhythms Of The World, this time to CD with Neil on guiro and me on congas plus foot-operated 2:3 clave. Highlight of the night for me was a guitarist called Andrea who played next, for whom I quickly rigged a pair of microphones for her guitar and wonderful voice. In the chaos, I neglected to notice I'd plugged her guitar's direct output into the mixer's Insert instead of Input, so the first song had very quiet guitar until I figured it out (!). Of course, a professional would never mention such things... It was good to hear someone with such a powerful voice and excellent technique, who had written some good original songs; I hope we meet again. Last up was a hip-hop crew of boy+girl rappers and two dhol drummers, a test for my mics as I pushed the levels to the max.

Packing up later, we wandered outside to find the dhol drummers playing in the frozen street, rhythms echoing off B & Q's warehouse wall.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Licence © The right to copy is left with the user copyleft Malcolm Smith 2004-11-01 - last updated 2005-07-27