Reporting: Russia banned from global sport for four years

I reported on the news that shook the Russian sporting world, following the ruling from the World Anti-Doping Agency to impose wide-ranging sanctions for doping data manipulation

RADIO

https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/2018726154/russia-banned-from-major-sporting-events-by-world-anti-doping-agency

ONLINE

https://news.cgtn.com/news/2019-12-10/Russia-will-appeal-WADA-ban-officials–MjdvV4HcJy/index.html

Reporting: How does Russia decipher US policy on Syria?

After abruptly pulling U.S. troops who protected Kurdish fighters, President Donald Trump has identified oil protection as the new goal in Syria.  Moscow-based correspondent, Ross Cullen, says Russia’s frustration is growing over Trump’s policy reversal in Syria.

https://news.cgtn.com/news/2019-10-26/Russia-s-Syria-frustration-growing-with-Trump-s-policy-reversal-L6RSzgD972/index.html

Mateo Kingman’s ‘Astro’ – review

Soft electro chords, stellar echoes, playfulness and cosmic beats form the spine of Mateo Kingman’s second album, Astro.

The record opens with “Umbral” (‘beginning’ or ‘threshold’, in English) and it feels as though this is more of a natural dawn, a sunrise, rather than simply the first track of an album.

“Lucero” (‘star’ in English) calls to mind the auroras of the northern and southern hemispheres and floats and reflects along, as opposed to mundanely following a set, three-minute form. He focuses on drifting music, considering spirituality and greater themes, of how music and the wider universe understand and inform each other.

Three singles have been released from the album, “Tejidos” (‘textures’, in English), “Religar” (‘re-bind’ or ‘re-tie’) and “Último Aliento” (‘last breath’). In the video for “Tejidos”, we get a sense of the serpentine, other-worldly, mesmerising cosmic flow that emanates from much of the album.

The protection of and connection with the environment is critical for Kingman, who promotes the celebration of indigenous peoples in his home country, Ecuador.

In his social media and now also in this new release he drives links to the rich variety of Ecuadorian nature, from the swells of the Pacific, through the 6,000m peaks of the Andes, to the mystery and interconnectedness of the Amazon.

But it is not all celestial contemplation.

There is a pleasing drop three minutes deep in “Astro”, there is the urban riff and hip-hop of “IO”, and the chilled electro of “Religar”.

It is a playful, beautiful album that seems to strive for more than the banalities of regular ‘cosmic intrigue’ records.

A good summary comes from Kingman himself, whose description of “Tejidos” could be expanded to describe the whole album. He says it is “a dialogue between the traveller and the snakes/vehicles of the universe”.

Reporting: Moscow’s pro-opposition protests

In August 2019, I reported live from an unsanctioned pro-opposition protest in Moscow.

The demonstrations took place throughout the summer on consecutive weekends in support of anti-government candidates in Moscow’s local city elections. The candidates had been barred from running for allegedly supplying false signatures on their application forms. The opposition say the move was an underhand method by the Kremlin of removing potentially disruptive anti-government candidates from the ballot paper.

TRT World news article: https://www.trtworld.com/europe/russian-police-detain-hundreds-during-fresh-protest-in-moscow-28739

Jardin’s ‘Maqui de Hierro’ – review

The re-released record from Peruvian duo Jardín is better described as a scientific experiment in musical form.

The themes of hypnosis, confusion and sonic discovery run through this album like an electrical current. Stressful, at times perplexing; it is a fascinating aural test.

The issues of nature are present – the complexity of the natural world? The horror reality of nature versus the fairytale elements? The title Maqui de Hierro literally means ‘hands of iron’ [maqui is the Quechua word for ‘hands’]. But larger topics are present, too, and it feels at times as though you move with the artists away from Earth, exploring deeper realms.

The song titles increase the sense of mystery surrounding this percussion-heavy and split-bit repetition, with swirling, darkened names such as “Serpientes de Humo” and “Perfume de Ceniza”.

Maqui de Hierro is not a regular dinner party soundtrack, serving better those looking to re-discover experimental sounds from Peru. The album was originally released on cassette and it is pleasing to see music from nearly 15 years ago repurposed for a new audience.

This article first appeared in Sounds and Colours

Paying up

Enormous donations follow the gutting of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris

The sight of the spire of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris toppling into the burning body of the 850-year-old building live on TV was haunting.

The fire spread quickly, shocking Parisians gathering on the bridges over the River Seine that surrounded the island on which the cathedral stands.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, spoke of how part of the heart of every French man and woman was burning.

It seemed that the very historic consciousness of France was alight.

The old, rich families of France were quick to respond with pens poised above chequebooks to support the restoration of Notre Dame.

The Kering luxury group, home to brands such as Gucci and Balenciaga, pledged $113m. L’Oreal offered $226m. Disney, who produced the 1996 film ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’, pledged $5m. Others joined in, with oil giant Total also giving $113m.

But eyebrows have been raised at these huge sums of money.

Paris is a city with more than 3,000 people sleeping on the streets, according to the French capital’s own census on homelessness.

Could this fund for the cathedral provide more shelters, more hot food and drink, more help to them to get back on their feet?

And what about trying to improve the quality of life and the life chances of children growing up in the underdeveloped corners of French cities?

There must be money to restore Notre Dame: it is one of the world’s top visitor attractions with historical connections to nations across the globe.

But there are also other causes to fight for.

Art has been destroyed and literature burnt throughout human civilisation and the destruction of ideas and imagination is a real threat to human culture.

But a civilised humanity requires a focus on humans themselves, as well as the culture they create.

Notre Dame has been damaged before, being bombed in the First World War, and there is an ambition among the authorities in Paris to try to rebuild it in time for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in the city.