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The Times They Are A-Changin’ – fifty years on

The Guardian, 22 February, 2014 Fifty years ago this month, the 22 year old Bob Dylan released his third album, The Times They Are A-Changin, the acme and as it turned out the end of his “protest” period. Dylan renounced this genre so quickly, and took his fans on such a giddy journey afterwards, that… Read more

My fantasy career (or why there is no such thing as world music)

LEVEL PLAYING FIELD The Hindu, 23 January In another life, I’d like to have been an ethnomusicologist. It would have been a wonderfully open-ended excuse to discover new music, to travel and imbibe foreign cultures at close range. As an academic discipline ethnomusicology began as a western study of non-western music, but in recent decades… Read more

Not pop as we know it: flamenco and the quest for authenticity

CONTENDING FOR THE LIVING Red Pepper, Feb-March 2010 This article has appeared in a revised form on The Guardian’s Comment is free website. Flamenco is a name widely known but a music little understood, at least beyond its Andalusian heartland. Forget about Hollywood images of flounces and castanets. Even the bravura solo guitarists and dance… Read more

Dissent and rock n roll on the far side of fifty

LEVEL PLAYING FIELD The Hindu, 4 November Two remarkable works of contemporary American art have lightened my load in recent weeks. Both are the products of dissident white men in their fifties, deeply versed in their song-writing craft, steeped in American musical traditions and at the same time driven by opposition to current American policies,… Read more

A rasika’s tribute

LEVEL PLAYING FIELD The Hindu, 17 December HERE I am in London and the December season is underway in Chennai. To the unconverted, Carnatic music is staid, forbiddingly technical, repetitive, elitist. And some of its devotees do seem determined to live up the stereotype, preoccupied with tradition, treating the music like a zone of purity,… Read more

A non-believer’s guide to divine music

Do you have to be religious to understand sacred music? Comment is free, The Guardian, 15 May I was with a group of westerners attending a a concert of Carnatic music – south India’s classical music – in Chennai. An affluent looking middle aged man in the row in front of us turned and smiled. He… Read more

Heart and soul

The Guardian, December 31 Review: Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke by Peter Guralnick (Little, Brown) If Sam Cooke had created nothing but the posthumously released “A Change Is Gonna Come”, the first masterpiece of socially conscious soul and one of the shining artistic legacies of the civil rights movement, he would still be… Read more

The passions of Woody Guthrie

The Guardian, February 2005 ‘Ramblin’ Man: The Life and Times of Woody Guthrie’ by Ed Cray, Norton, £18.99 Review by Mike Marqusee Had Woody Guthrie not been cremated, his spirit surely would have erupted from the grave in the early hours of 3rd November, as Republicans celebrating Bush’s re-election in Washington bellowed out his anthem,… Read more

Steve Earle: rockin’ more than the vote

Red Pepper, November 2004 From movie theatres to music arenas, popular culture is proving a major battleground in the presidential election. Bruce Springsteen, the Dixie Chicks and Pearl Jam have been touring the swing states and ‘rockin’ the vote’. The gigs are packed but there’s a debate about just what effect any of it has…. Read more