‘Earthly Tapes 01’ – review

Smooth chant, Southern Cone mysticism, relaxing Brazilian groove – what more could you need to guide you through lockdown.

Earthly Measures are easing the claustrophobia of the time with their debut release Earthly Tapes 01.

It is the first in a compilation series, and, as all corners of the globe have been affected by the pandemic, fittingly the sounds on the record come from Ecuador, Brazil and Argentina, with two songs from the Anglo-Saxon world of Dreems and Ben Michael.

Ecuador’s Joaquín Cornejo, a producer and DJ based in Berlin, kicks off with his Latin American folklore inspirations, chants and soft vocals from Wabi Sabi in “Komorebi”. A nature-based start, as the song title is a Japanese word meaning the interplay between light and leaves when the sun shines through trees.

Janax Pacha, the stage name of actor Gabriel Epstein, offers us pipes, percussion, and drums in “Ama- Zona” which is another play on words and another song title calling to mind the natural world.

The next artist goes by a nom de plume as well – Ibu Selva. His latest EP Ecocide only came out on 25 March this year, and it takes aim at  commerce and exploitation. “Taperendy”, the song he’s contributed to Earthly Tapes 01, alludes to Ava Tape Rendy’i, the spiritual leader from the Teykue indigenous lands in Mato Grosso do Sul.

We stay in Brazil for “Outra Metropole”, from Carrot Green. Known for his versatility as an artist, switching between acid house, techno and disco. He is equally at home here, with a hypnotic blend of swirling rhythms and chill beats.

The last two tracks give an insight from the Australian Dreems and the Briton Ben Michael. Dreems’ “Flat Earth” has more attitude about it, with spoken word punching through and more edge to his composition than some of the other tracks, which have a stronger focus on green space and environmental energy.

Finally, “Until Now”, from Ben Michael, breaks through the six-minute mark, rounding off the compilation in a relaxed way, with simple beats and bright echoes, ringing from end to end.

This review first appeared on Sounds and Colours

‘Canción sin Nombre – review

Canción Sin Nombre (Song Without a Name) is a black-and-white crime thriller laced with sadness as it charts a fictional path based on the very real disaster of child trafficking in 1980s Peru.

It is set against the backdrop of Peru’s modernisation and development but also the government’s ongoing fight with the terrorists of the Shining Path group.

With this beautiful, austere picture, Melina León became the first Peruvian director to have a film at the Cannes festival, where it played last year.

The storyline follows Georgina, a 20-year-old indigenous woman, who gives birth at a clinic which had advertised apparent support services for expectant mothers.

This clinic is anything but a warm, safe space for young, vulnerable mothers and it becomes clear soon on that Georgina’s baby has not been taken to ‘hospital’ as she is told, but instead has been abducted.

Pedro is a journalist at La Reforma newspaper and picks up the story, telling Georgina he is determined to uncover the truth and beginning a journey into the dark world of illegal adoption.

Tragically, child trafficking rings continue to exist in many corners of the world and, as Pedro finds out, these outfits are powerful, dangerous criminal organizations whose tentacles often reach into the worlds of politics, law and business.

Canción Sin Nombre plays out in a 4:3 aspect ratio that enhances the retro feel of televisions at that time, backed up by the cars, telephones and dress of 80s Peru.

The potatoes that Georgina sells on the street or the wooden shack where she lives with the baby’s father, Leo, are enhanced and given a beauty by Melina León that is normally not apparent in such basic staples of modesty and poverty.

The director places emphasis on the vivacity of a community celebration as well as the aridity of the steep, salty coastline; drawing a picture of simple pleasures and daily hardships for people eking out livings in the dusty townlands outside Lima. The barren landscape contrasts with the sweaty scenes in Iquitos, in Peru’s northern Amazon region, where Pedro and his photographer travel as his investigation into the missing children deepens.

Sidebar social commentary complements the main plot illustrating the myriad public pressures and societal problems forty years ago in Peru, such as the suspicion and secrecy surrounding gay relationships and domestic terrorism.

Some of these issues continue to this day; others have been overcome, but the reminders serve as signposts showing us the rocky roads that Latin American nations have been along in the 20th century.

This is a film that might not be attractive to the casual movie-goer because it sits comfortably in two specific categories: for students of Peru who have a knowledge of the country’s stories that ferment in the background and for fans of arthouse, black-and-white cinema and artistic story-telling.

This review first appeared on Sounds and Colours


Controversial pension reform bill is approved in France

My report for CGTN Europe online

The controversial pension reform bill in France, which has brought tens of thousands of people out in protests for the past seven weeks, has been approved by the cabinet.

The controversial pension reform bill in France, which has brought tens of thousands of people out in protests for the past seven weeks, has been approved by the cabinet.

It will now go to the committee stage in parliament before MPs get their chance to debate the proposals from the middle of next month.

The social security minister, Agnes Buzyn, said: “It’s clear that the rebuilding of the pension system is socially and democratically essential.

“This new universal system aims to create equality for all the French and all generations, to simplify and clarify, and to put in place a system controlled by democratic decisions allowing it to be responsibly managed.”

The meeting took place as tens of thousands of people were gathering in the center of Paris as well as many other French cities for another day of mass demonstrations against the pension reforms.

However, these hardcore opponents are increasingly a minority, with polls showing that a majority of the French think ministers struck a reasonable compromise.

The police were out in heavy numbers in Paris on Friday as the approved route for the march wound through much of the historic center of the French capital, leaving many tourists bemused as the demonstrators filed along the cobbled avenues past the Louvre museum.

Despite the venerable setting on the banks of the Seine river, many of the protesters repeated the same simple message – that their determination to continue to protest has not been dimmed.

Veronique, a teacher, told CGTN: “We are not going to change our position, because we believe in our demands, we believe in our message. We are still coming out here in the street even though it is cold and we’ve been here protesting for a long time now.”

Georges, who works on the Paris metro, said: “People in the street are sick and tired because this government doesn’t want to listen. President Macron travels and gives lessons abroad but he should be more concerned about his people in France.”

Despite the pressure being brought by the unions, the bill will now go to parliament, where President Macron’s party has a big majority.

But demonstrators say they will continue to head to the streets in defiance of the government, with one union saying they are already drawing up plans for three more days of nationwide demonstrations starting next week.

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





One step forward for Russian rugby

The Rugby World Cup has come to an end. How did Russia get on?

The Bears exited at the pool stage after playing in only their second world cup finals (their debut in this tournament was in 2011).

However, they could not improve on their showing eight years ago – then they scored 57 points, ran in eight tries and landed a losing bonus point against the United States.

This time around things were much tougher.

They played in the tournament curtain-raiser against Japan and did cross the line after only five minutes, setting a new record for the fastest try scored in an opening match of a Rugby World Cup.

But they would go on to score only another 14 points in total (and no more tries) after this.

19 points from four games is very poor return.

I went to all three of then team’s warm-up matches in Moscow and got to know some of the squad during their summer preparations ahead of the tournament.

They won the first match, against a combined XV from the best of the Russia domestic league (minus those called up to the national squad).

But they went down easily in the other two games, against English Championship side Jersey Reds at the small Slava ground and versus Pro12’s Connacht at the much bigger Dinamo Moscow stadium.

And then when it came to the tournament proper, four defeats.

They came up against Ireland again (and captain Vasily Artemyev, in the selfie above, knows a lot of the Irish after going to secondary school in Dublin), as well as Scotland and the hosts Japan, and Russia lost those games, as was unfortunately expected.

They would have had the Samoa game labelled as the one opportunity for some possible points but lost that as well.

Despite the disappointing showing in Japan, there are already plans from Russia to explore a bid for the 2027 men’s world cup.

In 2014, Russia staged the 2014 Winter Olympics and last year, the country showed that it could handle another of the planet’s biggest showpieces: the men’s football world cup.

Could it do the same with rugby?

The game is returning to France, one of the sport’s key markets, for the 2023 event.

After that, would the game’s global leaders take a punt on another nascent market?

Japan is far more established in comparison with Russia, and 2019 was seen as a tentative (and overdue) move into a new market.

Argentina has not staged a World Cup and there is an unwritten rule that world cups swing between the two hemispheres.

After Japan 2019 and France 2023, the calls for another southern tournament from players in Argentina, South Africa and the trans-Tasman giants of Australia and New Zealand will be hard to resist.

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.