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February 26 2014

Jamaican Dancehall Deported from Dominica

“You're not welcome here”. That's the message the Dominican government is sending to Jamaican dancehall artiste Tommy Lee (real name Leroy Russell), who has been prevented from entering the island, where he was scheduled to host a concert. Lee is known for his Gothic Dancehall style, which bases itself on dark subject matter. The move is the latest of several high profile immigration controversies in the Caribbean, several of which have involved Jamaican citizens. In this instance, the issues of censorship and free speech were also being widely debated on social media.

According to the Dominican authorities, Tommy Lee was considered a security threat:

‘Pursuant to advice received, government had concerns for public safety. The decision to deny entry was intended as a preemptive action and also to provide an opportunity to exhaust all efforts to clarify information received,’ the statement said.

Many religious leaders were opposed to Lee's performance, citing what they considered to be dangerous lyrics:

The Dominica Association of Evangelical Churches (DAEC) had been calling for a boycott of the concert here, featuring Sparta, whom it claims glorifies Satan during his performances.

A spokesman for the group, Bishop Michael Daniel, speaking on the state-owned DBS radio Monday, said he was pleased that the concert did not occur as had been planned.

He said while the churches played no role in the detention of Sparta, their prayers had been answered. 

On Instagram, Lee himself posted video of his supporters in Dominica outside the police station:

Some Dominicans tweeted to show that they did not support their government's actions:

Tyrone Christopher argued that Tommy Lee's rights must be protected, whether you like his music or not:

Some Twitter users referred to the controversial Shanique Myrie case and the Caribbean Court of Justice's involvement:

On the other hand, some netizens seemed glad that Tommy Lee was denied entry:

This Twitter user was amazed – and a tad amused – that the Dominican government was getting criticized for banning Tommy Lee…

…while these were bemused by the government's justification for their action:

Some argued that Tommy Lee was ultimately to blame for his deportation:

Others were confused as to how Tommy Lee was allowed to leave Jamaica in the first place – and why he would want to go to Dominica knowing that protests against his concert were already happening:

February 25 2014

Jamaicans Make Do with Fake Verdict in Vybz Kartel Trial

The satirical website FakeJamaica shares fictitious breaking news about the Vybz Kartel murder trial:

The Jury returned a verdict of not guilty. The…defendant’s lawyer Tom Tavares-Finson…based a significant portion of the defense’s case on the idea that Adijah Palmer cannot be held responsible for anything that his musical persona does.

Reposted bydarksideofthemoon darksideofthemoon

February 21 2014

Jamaicans Waiting to See if #WorldBoss is Found Innocent or Guilty

Jamaicans – and dancehall music fans – have been anticipating the long-awaited verdict in the Vybz Kartel murder trial. Two days ago, blogger Annie Paul posted this Facebook status update:

Massive roadblocks, crowds milling round downtown Kingston in anticipation of ‪#‎KartelMurderTrial‬ verdict (which may not even be delivered today)

Journalist Emily Crooks, who blogs here, wrote a first-hand account that supported Paul's update:

Its (sic) February 19, 2014.

There is animation and anxiety in the 200 metre space around the Supreme Court on King Street in downtown Kingston. In courtroom number 2, Vybz Kartel sits in the dock with his co-accused as prosecutor Jeremy Taylor prepares to rubbish the closing argument of defence attorney, Tom Tavares Finson who acts for Kartel. The case has been going on since November 20, 2013 – we are nearing the end. The stakes are high. Security is tight as I have never seen it before.

Downtown is on edge. The precise reason is not known to many.

There are whispers that the police had intelligence overnight.

Her post went on to give an account of the day's court proceedings:

Court is about to resume its morning session. The eleven member panel of jurors takes seat in the box. The judge arrives. Jury is again asked to leave. Christian Tavares Finson [the lead attorney's son] wishes to address the court in the absence of the jury. Something weighs heavily on him. In the normal course of a trial, I do not report matters that transpire in the absence of the jury but these matters are later repeated in their presence hence my reporting of Christian’s burden that weighed him down.

He stands and says to the judge – I am very distressed to see the approach the police have taken this morning – extra police personnel who have descend on the building.

Judge – are you privy to intel the police has – is the judge’s almost impatient reply.

Christian – I am not My Lord but this scenario that bothers me – media representatives have identification, lawyers have identification, workers have to provide identification cards but jurors have to disclose that they are jurors to get unto the Supreme Court complex and that is very irregular and dangerous. Additionally, the family of the accused have been prevented from entering the building. There is no indication as to the reason this is so. I do no know that there is any order from this court.

Soon after that, Crooks reported, the members of the jury were called back inside and Kartel's lead attorney, Tom Tavares Finson, again rasied the matter – this time in the presence of the jury:

At the end of the session, the judge calls the superintendent and says ‘I have been made to understand that members of public some related to the family of accused have been denied entry. I don’t know the reason if any. What I will say is that every Jamaican citizen has a right to the court unless security forces have some reason that could interfere with the rule of court. I wish for you to bear that in mind. I can’t give any instructions as I don’t know what your intelligence is. But I ask you to consider the rights of the citizens regarding access to court. I wish for you to bear that in mind’.

Mr Tavares Finson is later to announce to the court that during lunch he had discussions two police personnel – Superintendent Pinnock and Ellis who reported there was ‘a breakdown in communication and I accept what they have said’.

Judge – do you believe if you had gone to them before the matter would have been dealt with

Tom – No My Lord because it was because of what transpired in court why they came to me.

On Twitter, @Pseud_O_Nym said:

As it turned out, the verdict was not delivered on February 19; the nation is still in limbo, but tweeting while they wait. Late yesterday, @Lacey_World noted:

Emily Crooks later updated the legal timeline:

There were tweets that shared links to Vybz Kartel's full statement to the court

…and tweets that focused on the strategy of the prosecution:

Emily Crooks, who has been religiously using social media to inform netizens about trial developments, tweeted the following updates about a half hour ago:

About ten minutes later, she posted the first closing speech of the trial on her blog, explaining:

These are my verbatim notes, as I able to capture, of the closing speech of Kartel’s attorney, Tom Tavares Finson. Kartel having called witnesses to give evidence on his behalf is the first to make a closing address to the jury. The address of the legal team for Kartel is followed by the address of the prosecutor, Jeremy Taylor.

Closing arguments will continue on Monday and if the judge is right, by mid-week Jamaicans will know whether or not their self-appointed #WorldBoss has been declared innocent or guilty.

February 20 2014

Jamaica: Breakespeare & Bob Marley

Inspired by Cindy Breakspeare's recent lecture on Bob Marley, Annie Paul republishes a 2007 interview she did with her, in which Breakspeare discusses her youth, her Jamaican-ness and of course, meeting Bob.

February 19 2014

Independent Music from Puerto Rico That Will Define 2014

Imagen

Image “Mapa Glitch” courtesy of Puerto Rico Indie

[All links lead to Spanish language pages.]

They say that when times get rough, the music gets better, so today we're bringing you good news for your ears, hips, and feet. While 2014 may well be a year of great challenges for Puerto Ricans, the country's independent music scene shines with an energy and excitement that are not only tangible, but contagious.

In the same week that one of our most beloved veteran musicians succeeded in raising thousands of dollars via crowdfunding for the production of his new album, another is hanging out with the Shakiras and Enrique Iglesiases of the world on the iTunes Store best-seller lists. But that's not all: La Macha Colón will travel to Sweden to play with Los Okapi; vinyls of Macabeo‘s albums are being released in Spain and Germany; and the lineup for Austin Psych Fest includes Fantasmes among the best groups in the genre. The good news just keeps coming, and Moody's doesn't suspect a thing.

Years of growth – slow but continuous, against wind and sea – have resulted in this fertile period for the indie music scene, marked by constant record releases and weekends packed with events. The truth is that in the five years that I've been writing about our artists, it hadn't occurred to me to write an article like this before, if it even would have been possible. But the volume and quality of work you'll hear in 2014 deserve it. The world is already listening to us. It's time to spread the word in Puerto Rico.


AJ DávilaTerror Amor
February 18th

AJ Dávila, bassist and main composer of Dávila 666, is back with a masterpiece of pop sucio, full of attitude, energy, and catchy choruses. His album features an impressive list of guest artists, from Fofe Abreu (Circo, Fofe y Los Fetiches) to Alex Anwandter of Chile and our favorite Cadillac, Sergio Rotman (Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, El Siempreterno).

Terror Amor will be released on February 18th by Nacional Records, one of the most influential Latin music labels in the United States. Judging by the critical response to the album, AJ can expect a year full of success – and increased attention to the independent music coming out of our country.


Campo-FormioHere comes… Campo-Formio!
March 15th

After releasing four EPs on their own label, Dead Mofongo Records, this impressive trio of musicians polishes their sound to perfection with their eagerly anticipated debut album. On Here comes… Campo-Formio!, the group shows off their encyclopediac knowledge of the history of rock, expertly blending an infinite spectrum of musical influences from Puerto Rican punk to surf, prog, and post-punk in the same song.

Campo-Formio also stands out by virtue of the attention to detail that goes into their releases, this time producing a colored double vinyl limited edition. One might call it overkill for Puerto Rico to offer another new jewel of Ibero-American rock, less than a month after Terror Amor – but I would call us all very lucky.


Alegría Rampante
Summer 2014

Charasmatic singer-songwriter and performer Eduardo Alegria threw himself into the challenge of creating a new musical identity after the breakup of his former group, Superaquello, one of the most influential and important bands in the history of Puerto Rican rock. The result, Alegría Rampante, debuted in 2011 and took form before our eyes on the stage of La Respuesta via the ambitious and magical conceptual concert series “desde el Hotel Puercoespín.”

The group has been releasing various singles online in past years, but only now are they preparing to complete their debut album, produced with Nicolás Linares at Little Big Audio. To help achieve their goals, Los Rampantes launched a crowdfunding campaign that will serve as a pre-sale for the album.


Check out the rest of the year's most-anticipated releases at Puerto Rico Indie.

February 16 2014

5 Music Blogs about China's Underground Music Scene

Despite China’s strict censorship, there’s an emerging group of Chinese musicians working outside government-controlled media channels, striving to form an independent voice through musical expression in China.

We’ve picked the Top 5 music blogs to help you understand more about China’s underground music scene.

China Music Radar

Maintained by Beijing and Shanghai-based promotion company Split Works, China Music Radar is a blog about the music scene and related trends in China, from independent musicians to mainstream artists. It’s also a resource for the latest news and updates about China’s music industry. At the conclusion of 2013, Radar says:

In 2013, venues were full to bursting (of shows, not audiences), from big city arenas down to slightly smaller (but still very big) dive bars.  Festivals new and old, continued to take hold across the country, while new streaming services from Baidu, Tencent and the now Alibaba-owned Xiami became viable listening alternatives.

 

Pangbianr

Literally meaning “aside”, Pangbianr is a bilingual platform for exploring the culture of making music in China with the mission of promoting underground Chinese music and building relationships between musicians and artists within China and abroad. The blog introduces emerging music from Beijing and other parts of China via streaming audio, video, reviews and interviews with independent Chinese musicians.

Logo of the music blog: Pangbianr

Logo of the music blog Pangbianr, which means “aside” 

Different from other blogs, pangbianr also organizes music performances, film screenings and discussions at various live music venues and art galleries around Beijing. They also work with musicians to distribute CDs, DVDs and books.

 

Beijingdaze

Beijingdaze is another important resource about underground music in China with updated CD reviews and gig reviews. One of the most important features of the blog is that the blogger translates some of the Chinese lyrics into English.

 

MOGO

MOGO is an online music video platform focusing on emerging young Chinese musicians and artists. It features video interviews with independent musicians and artists.

 

Wu Jie

Founded in March 2009, Wu Jie is a comprehensive music network about original music from China and abroad.

With the mission of promoting “the voice being ignored and the less popular and mainstream artists,” the website shares updated music news, CD reviews, videos, podcasts and interviews with independent musicians. It's also a great channel for Chinese youth to understand western musicians and music. 

February 14 2014

Trinidad and Tobago: The Soca Kings Play Songs of Anti-Love

According to the advertisements, the headliner at this evening's “Ladies Night Out” Valentine's Day concert in Port of Spain, Trinidad, is soca music star Bunji Garlin, but that may be more a marketing ploy than anything else. Garlin is the current golden boy of Trinidad and Tobago's music scene, in the wake of winning Soul Train and MTV Iggy awards for his 2013 hit song, “Differentology“. The concert's actual moral centre, if you will, is the American R&B crooner Peabo Bryson, who made a name for himself in the 1980s with ballads like “If Ever You're In My Arms Again”, “Tonight I Celebrate My Love”, and the theme song from Disney's “Beauty and the Beast”. Unlike Bryson, the other performers in the lineup—all soca artists—will have to dig deep into their repertoires to find a song extolling the kind of values Valentine's Day represents. The performer needing to make the least effort might well be Mr. Killa, a singer from Grenada whose song this year is a tribute to plus-size women called “Rolly Polly Girls“.

It could be argued that this is all Valentine's Day's own fault, for falling in the middle of the festival nearest and dearest to the Trinidadian heart. Trinidad and Tobago's Carnival, arguably the world's pre-eminent pre-Lenten festival after the one in Brazil, is a season when conventional morality takes a back seat to spontaneous expressions of the kind of behaviour frowned upon by clerics and other supposed gatekeepers of the human soul.

In the last century, there were only 23 years in which Valentine's Day did not fall within the Carnival season. This year, the two days of Carnival proper are March 3rd and 4th, but since the week after Christmas the country has been swept up in the euphoria of the festival. Against the backdrop of an spiralling crime rate (in this nation of 1.4 million there've been over 60 homicides since the beginning of 2014), people are partying like it’s business as usual. Except for world wars (the festival was put on hold between 1942-45) and epidemics (polio, back in 1972), nothing stops the Carnival.

This evening, many Trinidadians will observe Valentine's Day the way others do throughout the world: flowers will be sent and received and restaurants will likely be filled this evening with dining couples. But come February 15, the rules of Carnival will prevail once more. And Carnival rules and Valentine's Day values are about as incompatible as an Aries and a Capricorn.

During the first two or three months of any year, in addition to partying hard and drinking more than is good for them, Trinidadians will often find themselves dancing in suggestive fashion—or “wining”, as that style of dance is known—with women and men to whom they have no particular, or long-standing, romantic attachment. Or sometimes no attachment at all: as Farmer Nappy sang last year, “Nothing [ain't] wrong with…wining on a stranger.” Not all of these interactions are innocent, but contrary to appearances, and as hard as this is for my close friend's European boyfriend to understand, much of the time it's really just about dancing. 

The music form driving these dancefloor antics is soca, the modern-day successor to calypso. During the Carnival season, soca is the soundtrack to the lives of large swaths of the population, blaring from radios and car sound systems and towering stacks of speaker boxes at a never-ending series of parties and spreading the gospel of slackness.

“I come out to live my life/ drink a rum and live my life/I'm the happiest man alive,” sings Machel Montano on “Happiest Man Alive“, an anthem which neatly sums up one aspect of the Carnival ethos. At parties, deejays will often mix Montano's song with Skinny Fabulous’ “Behaving The Worst“, with which it shares a rhythm track. In one of the hits of 2012, singer KI gave voice to an important male fantasy in the ultimate anti-love song, “Single Forever“, which enumerated the virtues of being unattached. 

With lyrics like the above, it's obvious that soca and Carnival have the potential to wreak havoc on intimate relationships, especially among those inexperienced in the workings of the culture. During the Carnival season, cling tightly to the notion—or appearance— of monogamy at your peril. Some savvy couples negotiate a set of ground rules stating roughly that during the carnival season (almost) anything goes, provided life reverts to normal on Ash Wednesday. 

For, as everyone knows, the perpetrator of Carnival-induced behaviours isn't him or herself to blame: in the world according to soca human beings are powerless in the face of infectious rhythms, gyrating bodies and rum. 

This year there's any number of songs placing the blame on the oppressive power of the bassline, or a woman's gyrating buttocks (known in current soca parlance as a “bumper”), the sight of which instantly drains the average male of free will. “When de riddim hit you you does get on wassy for true,” sings Machel Montano (“wassy” being a catch-all for a range of slack behaviours) on “Shameless”. “That bumper is too real,” cries a helpless Kerwin du Bois on “Too Real”. “I wanna wine but it lookin’ dangerous/And I just want to grind on you.” 

Soca's closest approximation to a love song this year may well be Cassi's “Man in Yuh House“, in which the persona expresses a desire to be elevated from the status of “horner man” to official lover: “I want to be the man in your house, and not the horner man/I want to take you out/Just like a normal man/Tonight I not hiding/I out in the open/For your man to see.” A lovely sentiment, but it's still not likely to make anyone's Valentine's Day playlist. 

Georgia Popplewell (@georgiap) (is a writer and media producer from Trinidad and Tobago, and Managing Director of Global Voices.

Carnival Love Songs From the Caribbean

The celebration of Valentine's Day in many Caribbean territories is usually overshadowed by Carnival, so the Global Voices Caribbean team thought it might be fun to marry the two concepts – pun intended. A few of us have chosen our favourite soca love songs, along with a few lines as to why we think they're appropriate for V-Day…

Our new author Jason Nathu‘s pick is “Flirt” by Farmer Nappy:

The lyrics perfectly capture the unspoken Carnival rule that it's okay to “‘tief a wine” – parlance that means all dancing in the spirit of the festival is fair game…because it's only for a moment and all in good fun:

There's no reason to take off the wedding ring
This is the season for the wining
The only thing you could make me take off tonight is meh shirt
‘Cause all I wanna do is flirt…with no strings attached
When ah hold on, ah go wine like dat
That sweet wok nah bother me
It doh make me guilty…

Jason explains:

In Trinidad and Tobago, there is a popular song that says ‘A little wine (dance) never hurt nobody'. To me that's something that's uniquely Trinidadian, that we can enjoy each other's company and flirt good-naturedly.

Author Matthew Hunte, who hails from St. Lucia and is known for his dry wit, says:

I think Valentine's Day is treacly and saccharine so this is the obvious choice…

Baron‘s This Soca is for You epitomizes the poetic Valentine's Day sentiment, which is made even richer – or more predictable, depending on where you stand on the sentimentality tolerance scale – by the singer's melodic vocals, which slip off his tongue as slowly and as sweetly as molasses:

From the moment I saw you I know we were meant to be
From then on to this day there's no regrets
There's no-one else in this world to spend this life with me
So to you, I pay all my respects
God bless the day that I found you, baby
With you by my side and your love to guide me
Honey, baby, doux doux…this soca is for you

Of course, I had to put in my two cents’ worth – and because Jason already covered flirtation and Matt made his case for romantic love – I thought I'd go for love of Carnival – and nothing says that for me like David Rudder's ode to Calypso music:

Can you hear a distant drum bouncing on the laughter of a melody?
And does the rhythm tell you ‘come, come, come, come'?
Does your spirit do a dance to this symphony?
Does it tell you that your heart is afire?
And does it tell you that your pain is a liar?
Does it wash away all your unlovely?
Well, are you ready for a brand new discovery?
Calypso, calypso, calypso music…

Isn't that what love – at least the highest form of it – is supposed to do? It's meant to be transformative, to make you better, more joyous, to bring you closer to who you really are. In the Caribbean, our love of Carnival gets us pretty close. Happy St. Valentine's Day!

Chinese Singletons Snatch Up Cinema Seats to Sabotage Valentine's Day Dates

Every year before Valentine's Day, a mischievous online group known as the “Damn Lovers” has mobilized its members to buy odd-numbered movie tickets in a bid to ruin the romance for couples who want to sit together.

This year, they finally succeeded in occupying every other seat in at least one cinema in Shanghai during the Valentine's Day primetime movie screening.

In China, Valentine's Day is rather special this year as it overlaps with Lantern Festival, or Yuan Xiao Jie, a festival which debuted during the Qin Dynasty around 200 BC during which single people would hung around in the streets under the lantern light with the hope of finding love.

The story about single netizens occupied Valentine's Day theatre prime time show was reported by local newspapers. Image circulated widely online. (via ChinaSMACK)

The story about single netizens occupying alternating seats in a movie theater during a Valentine's Day primetime show was reported by local newspapers. Image circulated widely online. (via ChinaSMACK)

As singles in recent years gained more visibility and power via the Internet and the modern invention Singles Day, a collective of singles called “Damn Lovers” (情侶去死去死團)or “Damn Love” (戀愛去死去死團)emerged among Chinese communities in China and Taiwan in 2005. The group belongs to the Kuso Internet culture, which relishes campy or outrageous content. According to Chinese Wikipedia:

去死去死團號稱「對抗『戀愛資本主義』社會風氣」,以「破壞浪漫氣氛」為目的。許多民眾以為它是社會上的激進運動團體,但去死團的多數活動只是以一種戲謔方式,用KUSO、搞笑和幽默的風格表達單身的孤單,亦有人藉此表示單身也可以很快樂,並且反對「商業化」的慶祝方式。在各種節日,譬如聖誕節或情人節,可提供一種有別於浪漫過節的消遣管道。
參與去死團活動的人被稱為奉行去死去死團精神或死死精神、死死主義。創團宗旨是:「我們獨善其身,為的是要渡化那些誤入歧途的情侶們。」

The Damn Love group claimed that they wanted to resist the culture of ‘love capitalism’ by ruining the ‘romantic atmosphere'. While some may think that it is a radical organization, but most of its activities are just for fun in the [Japanese] Kuso style to give a platform to the lonely feelings of singles. Some members want to broadcast the message that you can be single and happy or that they are against commercial styles of celebration. Thus, they want to create an alternative way of celebrating festivals such as the Valentine's Day and the Christmas. Members who participate in Damn Love activities have to uphold the spirit of ‘to be damned’ or ‘damnism'. The mission of the group is: ‘we are singles and devoted to save those who are trapped in relationships”.

In the past few years, the group usually spread their messages online using darkly humorous cartoons and stories. For example, the song, “Wish all the lovers turned out to be long lost brothers and sisters” by band “Good Sister” was a big hit last year's Valentine's Day:

The song takes reference from a modern Chinese play, “Lei Yu” meaning thunderstorm to curse Valentine's Day. The tragic love story of “Thunderstorm” depicts two lovers who have overcome family pressure to be together but who turn out to be long lost brother and sister. The first half of the song's lyrics goes:

今天是2月14,傳說中的情人節
滿大街的男男女女,都要在今天晚上過節。
平時買的玫瑰花是兩塊錢一朵
今天晚上要翻上十倍,姑娘還是樂歪了嘴
今天是2月14,傳說中的情人節
我打算回家一個人呆著,沒事看書吃泡面
可有個傻B在QQ問我,你怎麼還是一個人
我忍不住地對他喊出這樣親切的慰問
(祝天下所有的情侶都是失散多年的兄妹
祝你今天晚上的電影院和餐館,全都沒座位
祝天下所有的情侶都是失散多年的兄妹
不管是莫泰如家7天漢庭,全都訂不到床位

Today is February 14, the legendary Valentine's Day
Boys and girls in the streets are enjoying the festival
A rose costs about 2 yuan on an ordinary day
Today it is 10 times more expensive, but the girls still wear such a happy smile on their faces.
Today is February 14, the legendary Valentine's Day
My plan is to go home, read and eat instant noodles
But a f**king [instant messaging] QQ user asks me why I am alone
I can't help but send him this warm regard:
I wish all the lovers in the world are long lost brothers and sisters
I wish all the cinemas, restaurants are full tonight
I wish all the lovers in the world are long lost brothers and sisters
And all the beds in [hotels] Mo Tai, Home Inn, 7-days, Han Ting are occupied.

For 2014, single netizens decided to move beyond spoofs into action. So far, they have been successful in occupying one cinema in Shanghai. According to Shanghai Morning Post (via ChinaSMACK), one of the organizers of the occupation said that many of those who participated did so wanting to meet new friends, hoping to turn a “prank” into a “blind date”.

Of course, the lovers are also fighting back. Many are saying that they are happy to share just one seat.

Rap Musicians Take on Guinea-Bissau's Drug Trafficking Problem

Rapper NB on the balcony of Rádio Jovem (Youth Radio) during the interactive radio program ‘frees’. Photo shared by Buala (CC BY-NC-SA 2.5)

A longer version of this article, written by Miguel de Barros and Patrícia Godinho Gomes, was originally published on web portal Buala with the title Percepções e contestações: leituras a partir das narrativas sobre o narcotráfico na música Rap da Guiné-Bissau (Perceptions and demands: Readings from narratives on narcotrafficking in the rap music of Guinea-Bissau) on January 24, 2014.

The problem of drug trafficking in Guinea-Bissau has been gaining visibility in the African country, thanks to rap musicians who are waging a war of words against the illicit trade. “Narco-rap”, as it is called, is building resistance to drug trafficking in an innovative way by giving a voice to the people fighting against it.  

In the beginning of the new millennium, illegal cocaine trafficking reached global proportions, not only by infiltrating the traditional markets such as the United States and Latin America, but also in Western Europe, Russia and more recently some countries on the West African coast, which have become countries of transit for drug cartels.

Guinea-Bissau is one of the poorest countries in the world and lacks the capacity to control its territory, making the narcotrafficking phenomenon there and the subregion of West Africa not only a matter of lack of development, but also a security problem (see a special mention of Guinea-Bissau in the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime reports from 2007 and 2008 [PDF]).


Song “Relatório” (Report) by MC Mário, Patche di Rima and Dom Pina

Beyond the highly publicized American intervention [en] against drug trafficking in Guinea-Bissau and the subregion, it is important to understand the internal mechanisms of resistance that are being adopted and what effects they are having at the national level.

For example, “non-institutionalized” youth from lower social classes are protagonists in the fight against the trade, denouncing it in rap performances broadcast on the radio and in concert. Narco-rap is an artistic medium through which the rappers give commentary, criticize those in power and challenge prevailing social (dis)order, combining cultural emancipation with the exercise of political and democratic participation.

Take a look at the lyrics of a handful of narco-rap songs written in kriol, or Creole, the lingua franca of Guinea-Bissau, with translations in English.

Drug trafficking, condemned

The lyrics of “Culpadus” (Guilty) by Torres Gémeos (2008) condemn narcotrafficking:

droga tchiga Guiné i djumblintinu senariu/Nhu alferis ku nhu kabu/Tudu pasa sedu bida empresariu (…)
Amadu ki chefi di izersitu/Iooode/I ka fasi nin 2 dia ki tchiga la/Iooode/I mata Djokin i subi la
Ku asasinatu ku aumenta/korupson ganha forsa
I ta troka mindjer suma ropa/I tene kumbu té na Eropa
Nunde ki sai ku es manga di kusas?/no ka sibi! 

Drugs arrived in Guinea and shuffled our scenario
Mr. Lieutenant and Mr. Private
All became businessmen
Amadu is the chief of the army/Iooode
It hasn’t even been two days since he got there/Iooode
He killed Joaquim and climbed up there
With the increasing murders
Corruption gained power
He changes women as if changing clothes
He even has money in Europe
Where did he get all that?
We don’t know!

Exploring the narcotrafficking route 

The song “Bo obi mas” (Listen again) by Baloberos (2008) travels the geographies of drug trafficking:

Guiné-Bissau nason di trafico? Tráfico
kil ku na bin bai pa Spanha? Tráfico
kil ku ta bin di Colombia? Tráfico
Mira ermanos, la fuerza armada transportando la cocaína en quantidad
haciendo negócios com nuestros ermanos de Colombia
(…) bo obi es sistema di pesa coca: kilograma, decagrama, hectograma, graaama 

Guinea-Bissau, nation of trafficking? Trafficking
the one that goes to Spain? Trafficking
the one that usually comes from Colombia? Trafficking
Look brothers, the armed forces carrying a large quantity of cocaine
doing business with our brothers in Colombia
(…) listen to this system of weighing coke: kilogram, decagram, hectogram, graaam [sic]

Calling for protest

In “Kaminhu sukuru” (Dark way) by FBMJ (2008), a call is made to the people of Guinea-Bissau:

Marca di Avion 515 tisi medicamentu pa tudu duentis
i guineensis ka na duensi mas
bardadi n`fia, Guiné i terá nunde ku pekadur ta garandi ora ki misti, di manera ki misti, tudu ta dipindi 
bardi n`fia, Guine i tera nunde ku po ta sibi riba di santchu mbes di santchu sibi na po
Ma i ka sigridu ku nha kabesa na ramasa i ni i ka kudadi
i sibidu kuma i ten djintis na Guine ora ku e misti pa tchuba tchubi, tchuba ta tchubi
ora ku é mista pa sol iardi, sol ta ratcha

An airplane branded 515 brought medicine for all the patients
and Guineans will never again become ill (…)
truth I believe, Guinea is a land where people are mature when they want to be, how they want to be, but everything is relative
truth I believe, Guinea is the land where the trees climb monkeys instead of the latter climbing trees!
But it is not a secret that I am throwing up nor that it is worrying
It's known there are people in Guinea that when they want it to rain, it happens
when they want the sun to shine, it happens

Expressing uneasiness

The song “Contra” (Against) by Cientistas Realistas (2007) regrets the state of the “narco-state”:

Cartaz de Cientistas Realistas.

Poster for Cientistas Realistas

notícia di tera obidu ate na rádios internacionais
fidjus di Guine ta ianda npinadu é ka ta ossa ianda nin alsa rostu
tera i ka purmeru, ma anos pekaduris i restu
na diaspora no ta sta tristi suma kil ku tene disgostu
pais sta desorganizadu, corupson sta generalizadu, aparelho di no stadu aos torna un sistema di corupson
dinheru ku no djunta passa na sbanjadu a toa i grande orgulho, fama(!)
Guine-Bissau i narcotráfico
djintis di stadu na pratica di negócios ilegais
e na fasi crimes organizadu ma faladu na nomi di stadu
es tudu anos i contra
narcostadu puera lanta
tudu mundo misti sai nês coba

news from the land was heard even on international radio
sons of Guinea-Bissau are crestfallen without the guts to raise their faces
the country is not prioritized, people come last
in the diaspora we get used to being sad as if we were heartbroken
the country is disorganized, generalized corruption, the apparatus of state turned into a system of corruption
our money is now being wasted for nothing, great pride, fame!
Guinea-Bissau is a narco-state
people of the state practicing illegal businesses
carrying out organized crime, but let’s say in the name of the state
all this we are against,
narco-state raised dust
everyone wants to leave this hole

Calling for action

The song “Kaminhus” (Paths) by As One (2012) takes on a tone of indignation as well as gives a call to action:

No leis apedrejado
cheio de lacunas
li ki Guine-Bissau pa kin ku ka sibi
li ku traficantes ta dadu privilegio mas di ki pursoris di universidade
juro li te purcu ta pudu gravata i bistidu fatu
katchuris si é mata é ta dadu caru tipo incentivo
tipo se presente pa é continua mata
guineensis i sta na hora di no kunsa nota
no disa pa tras tudu ke ku na tudjinu avança…

Our laws stoned
full of holes
this is Guinea-Bissau for those who don't know
this is where the traffickers are given more privileges than college professors
I swear pigs wear ties and suits here
when they kill the dogs, they receive cars as an incentive
as a gift to keep killing
Guineans, it is time we start to notice
let’s leave behind everything that does not allow us to move forward…

Radios have been (and still are) an extremely important medium in Guinean daily life. Rappers, through their creative narratives, aim to spread the word [fr] in the freest way possible about those who are profiting from trafficking. They use radio as an opportunity to denounce via their music the various aspects of the illicit trade.

This trend proves the need to question the label of “narco-state”, keeping in mind that the living of a large majority of the Guinean population is not based on the drug business. 

Young rappers have opened up new pathways for reflection on the position of youth, the dispute over the management of “public affairs” and the emergence of new political actors in the public arena of a country in development.

February 13 2014

February 10 2014

INFOGRAPHIC: Pursuit of Happiness in Africa

Happiness Value Index for the African Continent via Afrigraphique CC-NC-2.0

Happiness Value Index for the African Continent via Afrigraphique CC-NC-2.0


The Afrographique blog mapped the happiness index for the African continent. Topping the ranking are Angola and Mauritius who hold the same happiness index as Albania and Russia, respectively. In related news, the Pharell’ single “Happy” has been used by dancers around the world to celebrate the new year 2014. All the videos are compiled at the blog We are Happy from . Below are the videos from Antanannarivo, Madagascar:

and Cotonou, Benin:

February 08 2014

What Do the Streets Sound Like in Spain?

el sonido de las calles

“The sound of the streets”

What do the streets sound like? This questions opens “The sound of the streets” [es], a documentary that portrays the work and life philosophy of five street musicians — Manuel Marcos, El Terraza de Jeréz, Pedro Queque Romero, Little Boy Kike, including two singers, and a group, Los Milchakas, who work outdoors.

Produced by BuenaWille [es] – a space that promotes cultural projects – the documentary was released in May 2013 under a Creative Commons license. As a nonprofit, its goal is to promote street music and expose these musicians’ testimonies to the public. 

“I play for the love of music and because of necessity,” says Abdul Yabbar, singer and guitarist on the streets of Granada, who after losing his job saw no other option but to use his talent to “get by.” The film's protagonists live and offer their art in southern Spain, where the weather is warm and the people are more receptive, according to them. Most of them report the most positive aspects of their work, but also talk about the difficulties that come with this lifestyle, like the indifference of pedestrians, low tolerance from authorities, economic insecurity, and even complaints from neighbors that sometimes go as far as throwing objects and food at them because they consider them annoying, which is what happened to Abdul. 

Here is the complete documentary [es]: 

There are also people who appreciate musicians who try to enliven the streets. A YouTube user posted a video from a group called Milchakas, which appears in the documentary, getting over 7,000 visits. The following comment is in the description: 

This wonderful group in Granada, Spain brings so much joy and happiness to the constant stream of tourists and locals that pass them on the way to Alhambra or perhaps, Sacromonte. Their music is a blend of Spanish, reggae and a few other styles.

These artists are united by their talent and love for music, but most dream of promoting themselves, gaining visibility, and being able to play in bars. The streets are not easy and working in them seems increasingly difficult. This is how it is, for example, in the Spanish capital where the Madrid City Council has restricted their job. Whoever wants to play in the streets of the capital must pass an audition to have a license that authorizes them to work in the Central District. Artistic street activities that have passed the test still face a series of restrictions [es] on schedules, distance between each musician, width of the streets where they are permitted to play, and the level of noise pollution, among others. 

These new measures have generated criticisms, above from the artists. One video in particular in which two musicians criticize the impositions of the city council. Both the media and social networks have embraced the humorous and critical video that already has had over 350,000 views on YouTube [es]:

Here is a snippet of the song starring a group that called itself the Potato Omelette Band: 

Ay mi Madrid, pobre ciudad mía, que quitan artistas para poner policías, tú que eras toda alegría, ahora gris color ceniza, no hay mejor jurado que el de la gorra, a veces no hay nada, a veces te forras …pobre músico que no se ha vendido, esta ciudad no es para artistas.

Oh my Madrid, my poor city that removes artists to be replaced with police, you who used to be all joy now are the color of gray ash, there is no better jury than the one in the cap, sometimes there is nothing, sometimes you make a killing… poor musician that has not sold himself, this city is not for artists. 

February 07 2014

Caribbean: Discrimination is Discrimination

Groundation Grenada has partnered with Trinidad-based artist Joshua Lu “to create a visual campaign to draw analogies between sexual orientation/gender identity discrimination and other forms of discrimination.” Check out the first few installations in the campaign, here.

A Riot Within Pussy Riot?

boohoo

Since their release from jail late last year Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina, members of the feminist punk collective Pussy Riot, have gone on a worldwide publicity tour, visiting countries in Asia and Europe. At the time of their release they had announced that their new goal is the fight for human rights, specifically the rights of Russian prisoners — political or otherwise. Last night, Feb 5, as part of this tour they appeared at an Amnesty International-organized concert in New York.

According to [ru] journalist Anton Krasovsky (who himself was at once point persecuted for his sexual orientation) the concert wouldn't have been possible without the help of Russian billionaire and erstwhile presidential candidate Mikhail Prokhorov and his sister Irina. During their segment the Pussy Riot girls spoke about human rights abuses in Russia, and educated the audience about the Bolotnaya Square case, which many view as political in nature:

We are in New York, and there are 15,000 more people who know about the #BolotnoeCase. Starting today. And yes, we believe in caring

While in New York they also met US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, who called them “brave troublemakers” in a tweet, and appeared on the Colbert Report. (The founder of the nationalist online publication Sputnik & Pogrom pointed out [ru] that they were probably the first guest Colbert interviewed through an interpreter.)

Unfortunately, all of this publicity may have ruffled a few feathers back home. The day after the concert, other, anonymous members of Pussy Riot (the reader will remember that although 3 persons were arrested, at least 5 women were involved in the punk performance in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior) made a statement on their LiveJournal page, pussy-riot.livejournal.com [ru]. In this statement [ru] they proclaimed that Tolokonnikova and Alekhina are no longer members of Pussy Riot, because their human-rights activism is necessarily in opposition to the violent disruption at the heart of of the Pussy Riot method:

Мы очень рады освобождению Маши и Нади. [...] К сожалению для нас, они настолько увлеклись проблемами в российских тюрьмах, что начисто забыли о стремлениях и идеалах нашей группы: феминизм, сепаратистское сопротивление, борьба против авторитаризма и культа личности [...] Правозащитная деятельность не может позволить себе критику норм и правил, лежащих в основе устройства современного патриархального общества, потому что она является институциональной частью этого общества [...]

We are very happy Masha and Nadya were released. [...] Unfortunately for us, they are so concentrated on the problem of Russian prisons, that they forgot about the goals and ideals of our group: feminism, separatist insurgence, struggle against authoritarianism and the cult of personality [...] Human rights activism can't criticize norms and rules that are at the base of the modern patriarchal society, because it is an institutionalized part of this society [...]

They also criticized the Amnesty International concert, which billed Tolokonnikova and Alekhina's involvement as the first legal performance of Pussy Riot. “Pussy Riot doesn't do legal performances” — say the anonymous members. In fact, the whole idea is inimical to the concept of punk protest. They also stressed anonymity as an integral part of the Pussy Riot image, so it is unclear if Ekaterina Samutsevich, who previously had a falling out with Tolokonnikova and Alekhina when she took a plea bargain [Global Voices report] for early release, is still part of the collective.

Is this an attempt to hijack a worldwide, popular brand? Or, perhaps, Pussy Riot is indeed larger than its two most famous members. In any case, the group behind the statement is unequivocal:

Раз уж теперь мы оказались с Надей и Машей по разные стороны баррикад, разъедините нас. Запомните, мы больше не Надя и Маша, они – больше не Pussy Riot.

Since we are now on opposite sides of the barricades with Nadya and Masha, separate us. Remember, we are no longer Nadya and Masha, they are no longer Pussy Riot.

February 05 2014

Youth Orchestra ‘Jafraa’ a Bright Spot in War-Torn Syria

1455988_762600453756599_40165774_n

Jafraa Band. Source: Jafraa Facebook page. Used under CC BY 2.0

Shakespeare once said, “If music be the food of love, play on.” But what if this “food of love” risks the player's life? This is case for the young musicians who make up the Jafraa orchestra at the Palestinian returnees camp in Homs, Syria.

Led by music teacher and children's coach Amer Shanati, the band counts 45 to 55 children from ages seven to 17 years. Though music is often described as the language of the world, it pays a heavy price in war-torn Syria to survive. Most of their “relatively expensive” instruments are either borrowed or donated due to the poverty of the residents of the camp. Their music is a welcome distraction from the noise of bombardment and fighting that takes place outside besieged Homs.

Jafraa is 100 per cent dependent on social media to broadcast their performances as Syria lacks any kind of public musical activities since the government prohibited musical productions at the provincial and state levels. Shanati mainly uses Jafraa.Music on YouTube and Jafraa.homs on Facebook to post the band's work and to show the world that beyond the horror in Syria, there are still talented people who deserve not to be forgotten in the chaos. 

In the few emails that I exchanged with Shanati, he expressed his enthusiasm and pride for Jafraa, which performs “committed art”, a term that in Syria means the music of classic singers and musicians who enriched the Arab world's musical culture for generations, like Mohamed Abdel WahabFairuzUmm Kulthum, and Wadih El Safi, among many others. These young players are making magnificent efforts to underscore their talent by playing the 1969 classic song by Um Kulthum “Alf Leila wa Leila” (One Thousand and One Nights):

Shanati introduces the band on Facebook page as follows [ar]:

فرقة_جفرا_للفن_الملتزم فرقة موسيقية غير تابعة أو مموّلة من أي جهة حكومية أو مؤسسة من مؤسسات المجتمع المدني أو جمعية
أو مشروع على اختلاف انتماءاتهم..
فرقة جفرا أُسّستْ منذ عام 2007 بجهودٍ ذاتية متواضعة لتغني اللحن والفن الأصيل
تتألف من مجموعة كبيرة من الأطفال و الشباب يقوم الأستاذ “عـــــامر شناتي” بتدريبهم في غرفة صغيرة في مخيم العائدين/حمص/سوريا.

ولكل من هؤلاء الأطفال حلمه في الحياة العملية سيجتهد ويدرس لتحقيقه , ولكن ستبقى جفرا هي ركنهم الدافئ والخاص يحلقّون مـن خلاله في فضاء اللحن الأصيل والكلمة الملتزمة لينثروا عبرهما معاني الحب والسلام والجمال لكل من حولهم ..

وعليه تقبل فرقة جفرا للفن الملتزم فقط تبرعات و إحياء حفلات برعاية أشخاص أو مؤسسات لغايات إنسانية و ثقافية أخلاقية بحته
دون أي شــــــــروط تُفرض على الفرقة …

The Jafraa band of “committed art” is an orchestra which is not affiliated nor funded by any party, civil community institution, association or any other project.

The Jafraa band was established in 2007 with modest intentions to perform melodies and original art. It consists of a large group of children and young people led by Amer Shanati, a music teacher who trains them in a small room in the returnees camp in Homs, Syria.

Each of these children has a dream for his future; however, Jafraa will remain their warm and private corner from which they fly into space, with melody and committed music to spread the meaning of love, peace and beauty around them.

1237572_705711542778824_102092182_n

Jafraa Band. Source: Jafraa Facebook page. Used under CC BY 2.0

The Jafraa band accepts only donations and concerts sponsored by people or institutions for humanitarian and cultural purposes, purely without any conditions imposed on the band.

The band takes its name from a famous poem about a pretty young Palestinian girl named Jafraa (or Jafra) who captured a poet's heart. Despite uncertainty around the story, generations considered Jafraa an icon of beauty and love in the Palestinian culture from which Shanati and many of his little heroes are descended. 

Answering a few questions about how Jafraa is operating, Shanati responded modestly:

I use social media to ease the delivery of the voice of children to the world where is no media coverage exist in our neighborhood. Our followers reactions are significant, give us hope and we feel happy to know that they are waiting every new video we upload.

Nevertheless financial aid is very tiny, but it is important, even though I know the reason of material lack and extreme poverty. We are still looking for more funds so that we can own our musical and audio equipment and become more independent with a spacious room to accommodate a larger number of children. We are suffering from the slow Internet connections and power outages which complicate our communications and hamper our future plans; however, we aim to continue despite the difficulties.

Our work is a message to show that we insist on living our lives, although it seems impossible, and despite the restricted potential for growth we need to show to the world our talents to help us grow instead of being defeated.

I dream of developing this band to a higher level of fine musicians and of finding more talent to help the children overcome the recent crisis that has affected them psychologically.

Back to Shakespeare's quote: “If music be the food of love, play on / Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting / The appetite may sicken, and so die.”

It's doubtful that he was talking about physical death. I wish all talent of the world better circumstances than those of the little Syrians in the Jafraa band, who give hope, a tiny light at the end of Syria's dark bloody tunnel.

February 04 2014

Talking with the Director of Calle 13′s Video Filmed in Palestine

The blog “Diseñando en Puerto Rico” (Designing in Puerto Rico) interviews [es] film director Kacho López Mari. Among many other musical videos, López Mari directed the most recent video of the Puerto Rican hip hop duo Calle 13, “Multi_Viral,” shot in Palestine. The lyrics are the product of a collaboration with Wikileaks’ Julian Assange.

 

Exploring Puerto Rican Music

Musician Luis Amed Irizarry [es] explores various Puerto Rican musical genres in this column [es] for the digital publication 80 Grados. 

Tweeting the Vybz Kartel Trial & Telling Jamaican Stories

The Vybz Kartel murder trial continues to capture the attention of Jamaican netizens. Annie Paul of Active Voice “finally made it” to the trial last week, and provided some valuable context:

Jamaican DJ Kartel and his four co-accused are charged with the murder of Clive Williams aka Lizard, an associate who apparently borrowed two guns from the DJ and was subsequently unable to return them. It is alleged that in retaliation he was murdered by the DJ and his accomplices. In an unprecedented move Kartel and company have been held without bail for two and a half years, while rumours have swirled that the Police had incontrovertible evidence of Lizard’s murder at the hands of Kartel and his friends. The evidence was said to be in the form of text messages, voice messages and videos found on cell phones belonging to the DJ that were taken into custody by the Police when he was arrested on 29 September 2011. There was also a series of text messages sent by Lizard Williams to his girlfriend saying that he feared for his life and begging her to inform the police.

She admitted that some observers are sceptical of such evidence. On Twitter, for instance, Peter Dean Rickards suggested:

However, Paul also said:

Quite a few people have made up their minds that the entertainer is guilty of the crimes he’s accused of. So much for the accused being considered innocent until proven guilty.

Which is exactly why she wanted to attend the trial “live and direct” herself. She described her experience in compelling detail:

I thoroughly enjoyed being in court [last Wednesday] to witness Pierre Rodgers (co-accused Sean Storm’s attorney) systematically pick apart Detective Sergeant Patrick Linton’s testimony. Linton is the former head of the Cybercrimes Unit who downloaded and presented the evidence collected from Kartel’s phones. While waiting for a legal friend to arrive to take me into Courtroom 2 where the Kartel trial was scheduled, I bucked up Supreme Court Judge Bryan Sykes who assured me that I needed no such escort, having a right as a member of the public to attend the trial. That may be true in theory, but in reality entry wasn’t easy.

Had I not been escorted by a legal heavyweight the four heavy set plainclothes policemen outside the courtroom who interrogated us while barring entry would have intimidated me enough to make me leave. Having finally breached the hallowed theatre of justice I was surprised at how small the courtroom was, and intimate; i found myself seated about six feet away from Kartel and within spitting distance of the jury. The DJ wore a shocking pink shirt and orange tie and held a matching orange handkerchief that he occasionally squeezed or twisted in his hands.

I don’t know if there were any other members of the public there, the seats were mostly taken up by plain clothes policeman nattily dressed in suits with different coloured ties and lawyers in their John Crow like robes.

The rest of Paul's post compiles a selection of tweets “from the account of the person tweeting on behalf of Vybz Kartel, followed by some of @Emilynationwide and Legatus Maximus’s tweets capturing some of the action”:

Legatus A. Maximus’ tweets dealt primarily with the debate over the digital evidence:

Cucumber Juice, meanwhile, was still ruminating on the lessons inherent in the trial:

Remember Tivoli, May 2010? That story, a defining moment in Jamaican history, was and still is being told by Mattathias Schwartz. We don’t even have a barrage of songs about Tivoli. It’s like we’ve locked the events of May 2010 away in some deep dark recess of our collective consciousness, fearful of really looking at what happened and what it may say about us.

Remember the first Jamaican Bobsleigh team? That story was ultimately told by Disney. Right now there is a lot of goodwill and focus on the 2014 two-man Bobsleigh team from Jamaica and much of it is framed around Cool Runnings.

Then, only last week someone wondered out loud on Twitter whether and when there’d be a movie about Adidja Palmer’s current trial. I hope that there is! To repeat: There is so much rich detail in the charges that were brought against Mr. Palmer. The ins and outs of this trial would make any screenwriter happy, and somehow I think that Mr. Palmer would be a willing collaborator.

I raise this issue of telling our stories within the context of the Kartel trial because I expect that many Jamaicans simply want Mr. Palmer to disappear from the Jamaican news cycle. He should be banished to furtive verandah and cocktail party chatter, nothing more. They’d probably hope for less. That strikes me as hopelessly superficial (that is, of course, unless you’re the victim’s family and friends). It also raises the question I think of what or who is respectable enough to be claimed as Jamaican.

To her, the good, the bad and the ugly are inextricably interwoven into the concept of Jamaican identity:

Our history and current happenings are not always palatable but they are ours, and, together, they weave together the tapestry of our society and influence our collective consciousness. Face it, talk about it, deal with it. These things are all Jamaican and a part of Jamaica. I wonder if it is that given all the pressures of a still young independent nation whether it is that we’ve implicitly decided that we cannot afford the luxury of fully exploring our experiences and history. There is no time and no space. Life is so challenging for many and surviving is the ongoing concern. Somehow that strikes me as unhealthy at worst and a missed opportunity at best. We’re neglecting our chances to identify, define, celebrate, explore, and examine the themes that comprise Jamaican identity and what it means to be Jamaican.

Why aren’t we telling our stories?

Jamaica: Third World Front Man Dies of Cancer

Jamaican View notes that Bunny Rugs, leader of the reggae band Third World, has passed away after a long battle with cancer.

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