If you’re trying to tell the pulse of a country, listen to its artistes By Benjamin Rukwengye

In his last book, There was a Country, Chinua Achebe, chronicles his experience of the Biafra war. Talking about the role of art in the context of a society’s needs, he says, “There is a moral obligation, I think, not to ally oneself with power against the powerless.” It is as if to say the privilege of talent comes with...

Ravi Shankar, godfather of world music, a century after his birth

One hundred years after the birth of sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar, his meditative reinvention of Indian classical raga music has particular resonance during the corona crisis. The loneliness that many experience during the corona crisis is a feeling that was often shared by Indian sitar legend Ravi Shankar. “I have received so much love, but my loneliness has not disappeared,” said the musician in 1977. “Somehow I got it by inheritance, and I’m carrying it all the time in my life.” Perhaps Shankar’s lonesome spirit explains, 100 years after his birth, why his music has a special relevance in this...

Coronavirus in the Middle East: Creativity to help knows no bounds

From mounting death tolls in Italy and the US to fractured responses to the global crisis, there is no shortage of tragedy across the globe. But even in such darkness, people have a way of bringing out the best of humanity. In the Middle East, people across the region have launched personal initiatives to help their communities deal with the...

Lara Downes Explores the Many Resonances in Roots Music

Lara Downes | Credit: Max Barrett In liner notes for her new album, Some of These Days, pianist Lara Downes expresses the 14-track CD’s origins and significance. A line in an African-American spiritual, “Welcome Table,” provides the album’s title and the final track is an adaptation by Downes of the composition by African-American composer Florence Price (1887–1953). Following a pull quote from the refrain,...

Bay Area Musical Luminaries Plan a Tribute to Hamza El Din

Hamza El Din | Credit: John Werner There were so many right reasons why the tribute to the late Nubian musician Hamza El Din, at San Francisco’s Presidio Theatre, was planned for March 21. “It’s on the weekend of World Water Day,” notes the producer of the event, Mina Girgis, who’s also the founder of the Nile Project and a fellow at UC Berkeley’s Othering and...

How painter Jacob Lawrence reframed early American history with ‘Struggle’By Jared Bowen, WGBH

Sources: PBS Amid the McCarthy hearings and the launch of the civil rights movement in the 1950s, painter Jacob Lawrence, the most famous black artist of his era, sought to reframe early American history the way he saw it. His ensuing work, the sprawling series “Struggle,” has been reassembled for a national tour, stopping first at Massachusetts’ Peabody Essex Museum....

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