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Archive for December, 2009

Geoffrey Oryema – Land of Anaka

Exile is Ugandan artist Geoffrey Oryema’s debut album. It was produced by Brian Eno at Real World Studios and released in 1990. Exile designates Oryema himself who had to escape his country after his father was assassinated in 1977, during the rule of Idi Amin. Many of the songs contain nostalgia about the land and the people Oryema had to leave. Peter Gabriel provides backing vocals for tracks 2 and 4. David Bottrill was co-producer and played the percussion. Geoffrey Oryema is from Uganda, the source of his musical roots. His work, however, has been inspired by a myriad of styles – a fully realised absorption of Western pop, African traditions and the creative need to define a very personal musical identity.

Anaka is the place Geoffrey’s father was born, and where he was also laid to rest. The lyrics echo a time lost and the heartache the destruction in the 70’s caused.
Every night, as a child in Kampala, Geoffrey Oryema would sit by his father’s side and listen to him playing the nanga, a seven-string harp. He was lucky enough to grow up absorbing both the folk music of his culture through traditional routes, and western techniques through his schooling. His father was a minister in Idi Amin’s goverment and the family’s position in Uganda’s ruling class proved disastrous. Geoffrey was twenty-four in February 1977 when his father was secretly assassinated.

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(Video hosted on Youtube)
Geoffrey Oryema – Land of Anaka

ryema was born in Soroti, to the east of Uganda. His family were immersed in the country’s traditional cultures. Oryema, for instance, was encouraged by his father to play the nanga (a seven-string harp) and he also travelled around Uganda with his mother, a director of the national dance company The Heartbeat of Africa. Other members of the Oryema family were story-tellers, poets and musicians. “I was struck by the musical disease at the age of seven,” he says.

As he entered his teens, Oryema learned how to play the guitar, flute and lukeme (a metal thumb-piano). He also began to write songs. It was inevitable that Oryema’s life would be involved in the arts and, in the early Seventies, he enrolled in Uganda’s Drama School of Academy.

His career aspiration was to become an actor – an ambition developed by founding an African drama company, Theatre Ltd. He also wrote stage pieces which mixed traditional African theatre with the avant garde Method techniques pioneered by Stanislavski and Grotowski. The result was a very original ‘theatre of the absurd’, embellished by African tribal sounds and improvisation. It was, perhaps, the first expression of Oryema’s ability to experiment with disparate cultures.

By the mid-Seventies, however, the political climate in Uganda was bleak. Oryema’s father was Idi Amin’s Minister of Land and Water Resources – an important role in the government. Amin’s rising tyranny, however, eliminated all political opponents and in February 1977 Oryema’s father was killed in a suspicious car crash. Geoffrey Oryema left his native country by crossing the border into Kenya. From there he travelled to France, where Oryema has lived in exile ever since.

Paris is the European centre of African culture. Oryema spent years playing gigs and experimenting with the huge diversity of musical styles at the heart of the city’s club culture. In 1989 Thomas Brooman, one of the founders of WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance), came to Paris in search of new talent. The visit resulted in an invitation for Oryema to appear at one of the WOMAD festivals.

The following year was crucial in Oryema’s career. The WOMAD connection introduced Oryema to the Real World label, for whom he recorded his debut album ‘Exile’ (CDRW14). He also performed at the Nelson Mandela tribute concert at Wembley. ‘Exile’ was produced by Brian Eno; it also included contributions from Peter Gabriel on backing vocals and keyboards, and David Rhodes (one of the mainstays of Gabriel’s band) on guitar. The album, based on Oryema’s experiences as a youth in Uganda, brought immediate critical and public acclaim, establishing his reputation as a significant African singer-songwriter.

His second album for Real World, ‘Beat The Border’ (CDRW37), brought together a team of talented and experienced collaborators. One of the cornerstones is the French guitarist Jean-Pierre Alarcen. He wrote the music for ‘Hard Labour’ and co-composed ‘The River’, ‘Market Day’, ‘Lapwony’, ‘Umoja’ and ‘Payira Wind’. ‘Beat The Border’ was produced by Bob Ezrin and David Bottrill – the former (among whose credits are albums by Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd, Paul Simon and Alice Cooper) also co-composed ‘The River’, now remixed as a single by Brian Eno. Bottrill, Peter Gabriel’s long-standing engineer and now a producer in his own right, was responsible for seven of the album’s ten tracks.

‘Night To Night’ (CDRW58) is Geoffrey Oryema’s third album for Real World, in which he sings primarily in French and English with a passion and understanding that can only come from experience. The album brings together a team of talented and experienced collaborators: Daniel Lanois, Lokua Kanza, Nicolas Fiszman and Jean-Pierre Alarcen. All play a part in producing the album as well as performing on it. The end result consists of wonderful melodies, musicianship and lyrics with real meaning and substance.

The powerful roots of Oryema’s African heritage now have a more subtle influence on his music. The songs are now more universal, invariably expressed in his second language of English and influenced by Alarcen’s pop-rock roots. Through it all, however, Oryema’s music signals a unique talent whose musical identity has been established away from the confines of simple categorisation.

Land of Anaka
Geoffrey Oryema
Album: Exile
Geoffrey Oryema – lead vocals
Brian Eno – Yamaha DX7 and CS80, piano, vocals
Richard Evans – tin whistle, Peter Gabriel – backing vocals.
Release date: June 29, 1992
Real World Studios, England (Womad production)
Carol 2313-2 , Producer: Brian Enos
Co-producer: David Bottrill, Asst. engineer: Richard Blair

*Booklet notes: Sung in Acoli and Swahili languages of
Geoffrey Oryema primarily spoken by the Acholi people
of the districts of Gulu, Kitgum and Pader region in northern Uganda (Acholiland). Swahili is a language of African (Bantu) origin.

In this land of Anaka
They called us Payira
In this land of Anaka
They called us Payira

*Obiga lead me in this darkness
Show me the way
Obiga take me to a place
Where I can see light

(Obiga lead me in this darkness)
Show me the way
(Obiga lead me in this darkness)
Show me the way

In this land of Anaka
They called us Payira
In this land of Anaka
They called us Payira

Obiga lead me in this darkness
Show me the way
Obiga lead me in this darkness
Show me the way

(Obiga lead me in this darkness)
Show me the way
(Obiga take me home, take me home)
Obiga lead me in this darkness
Show me the way

In this land of Anaka
We had hope in Obiga
In this land of Anaka
We had hope in Obiga

We had hopes, we had dreams
Of a clear green land
In place of the family house
Dead sand, dead sand

(Obiga lead me in this darkness)
Show me the way
(Obiga take me home)
Show me the way

Obiga is no more
We are left in disarray
(Obiga take me home)
The clan of Anaka, pillar


*obiga – ‘meek and yielding’ is one definition.
and also may be of a religious one, that by
speaking by the life, divine sufferings, teaching
and death of Jesus, Son of God, one will always have
infinite help and inspiration making retribution with glory……

St. Lawrence – Stairway to the Sea

In this spectacular feature-length documentary, oceanographer Jacques Cousteau and an NFB crew sail up the St. Lawrence River to the Great Lakes on board the specially equipped vessel, the Calypso. They explore the countryside from their helicopter and plumb the depths of the waters in their diving saucer. They encounter shipwrecks, the Manicouagan power dam, Niagara Falls, the locks of the St. Lawrence Seaway and an underwater chase with caribou.

A Song for Tibet

ommander Cousteau and his Calypso team explore the St-Lawrence River and the Great Lakes of Canada. They make some evaluation of what happened to this great water system in the last 400 years of intensive human occupation.St. Lawrence: Stairway to the Sea more Runtime:96 min Country:Canada / France / West Germany Language:French Color:Color Sound Mix:Mono Filming Locations:Gulf of St. Lawrence, Québec, Canada

Jacques-Yves was born in Saint-Andre-de-Dubzac, France, to Daniel and Elizabeth Cousteau on June 11, 1910. Cousteau always loved the water and in his early teens, he became interested in machines. At the age of 11, Cousteau built a model crane and at 13, he built a battery-operated car. Also in his early teens, Cousteau became fascinated with films. He saved his money and bought a home movie camera.

In high school, Cousteau became bored with school and began to cause trouble. As a result, his parents sent him to a strict boarding school. Cousteau excelled in this new environment and upon graduation, he entered the Ecole Navale (Naval Academy) in Brest. In 1933, Cousteau joined the French Navy as a gunnery officer. It was during this time that he began his underwater explorations and began working on a breathing machine for longer dives.

In 1937, Cousteau married Simone Melchoir, and they had two sons, Jean-Michel and Phillipe. Two years after their marriage, Cousteau fought for the French in World War II. He spent time as a spy and was awarded several medals. During the war, Cousteau still found time to continue his underwater work. In 1943, he and French engineer Emile Gagnan perfected the aqualung, which allowed a diver to stay underwater for several hours. Divers used the aqualung to located and remove enemy mines after World War II.

A Song for Tibet

Filmed in the Indian Himalayas and in Canada, A Song for Tibet tells the dramatic story of the efforts by Tibetans in exile, including the Dalai Lama, to save their homeland and preserve their heritage against overwhelming odds. Since the invasion of their territory by China in the late 1950s, Tibetans have been struggling for cultural and political survival.

A Song for Tibet

land of snow and mountains, of burgundy-clad monks and prayer wheels–this mythical image of Tibet hides the tragedy of a forgotten people. Since the invasion of their territory by China some forty years ago, Tibetans have been struggling for cultural and political survival in a world surprisingly indifferent to their plight. Filmed in the Indian Himalayas and in Canada, A Song for Tibet tells the dramatic story of the efforts by Tibetans-in-exile, including the Dalai Lama, to save their homeland and preserve their heritage against overwhelming odds.

Shangri La, ‘the Rooftop of the World’ – locked away in its Himalayan fortress, Tibet has long exercised a siren’s hold on the imagination of the West. Tibetans are used to hardship and, despite the disastrous Chinese occupation, they have managed to keep their culture and humour alive.

Although the Tibetan climate is not as harsh as many people imagine, be prepared for sudden drops in temperature at night, particularly in western Tibet. The most pleasant time of year is between May and early November, after which temperatures start to plummet. However, in May and June there is a wind factor to consider and dust storms are not unusual. During July and August you may find roads temporarily washed out along the Friendship Highway to Nepal. These two months usually see around half of Tibet’s annual rainfall.

October is the best time to make a trip out to the east. Lhasa and its environs don’t get really cold until the end of November. Although winter is very cold, many restaurants are shut and snowfalls can sometimes make travel difficult, some travellers swear by these months. There are few travellers about and Lhasa, for example, is crowded with nomads and at its most colourful.

March is a politically sensitive month (the anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising and flight of the Dalai Lama) and there is occasional tightening of restrictions on travellers heading into Tibet at this time. It’s worth trying to make your trip coincide with one of Tibet’s main festivals. Losar (New Year) is an excellent (although cold) time to be in Lhasa. Saga Dawa (April or May) is also a good time to be in Lhasa or Mt Kailash.

Waiting for Fidel

“This feature-length documentary from 1974 takes viewers inside Fidel Castro’s Cuba. A movie-making threesome hope that Fidel himself will star in their film. The unusual crew consists of former Newfoundland premier Joseph Smallwood, radio and television owner Geoff Stirling and NFB film director Michael Rubbo. What happens while the crew awaits its star shows a good deal of the new Cuba, and also of the three Canadians who chose to film the island.”

Waiting for Fidel – Cuba

hen Fidel Castro was barred from the U.N. 50th-anniversary parties and fun, Christopher Hunt’s curiosity was piqued. He decided to spend a winter in Cuba, avoid New York’s icy misery, practice his Spanish, absorb some Cuban culture, and maybe even meet Fidel. In the time-honored tradition of great travelogues, everything goes wrong and everything goes right. He finds wonderful people while trying to meet Castro (including the man who played Grandpa Munster on the 1960s television show, The Munsters), and sees a lot of Cuba, from Havana alleys to resort beaches to the mountains that sheltered Castro and his band of rebels years ago. Some questions get resolved, while unanswerable Cuban quandaries take their place, such as how Cubans balance fear, hunger, passion, and hope in a country of food shortages, endless lines, and police surveillance. Hunt’s finely rendered account of four months in Cuba whets the appetite for more about Cuba and more penned by Hunt.

Hunt doesn’t travel the easy way. His last book, Sparring with Charlie (LJ 5/1/96), was about navigating the Ho Chi Minh Trail on a motorbike. Here he retraces Fidel Castro’s 1959 Liberty Caravan through Cuba, doing it illegally (as a foreigner) by hitchhiking on crowded trucks and staying in the unlicensed homes of local people. His goal was to interview Castro, but in this he failed. He did, however, come in contact with a cross section of ordinary people to provide a view of a nation that appears to be reaching the end of its socialist era, rife with shortages and encountering a notable increase in crime. He finds growing dissatisfaction with the government and an alarming polarization of power and privilege. Hunt writes with sympathy and humor, which somehow makes for enjoyable reading despite the suffering he describes. A good choice for public libraries.

Lost Over Burma – Search for Closure

This documentary follows a mission into the Burmese jungle to recover the remains of a RCAF crew of six young Canadians lost during World War II. Their lives and wartime experiences are recalled through the memories of colleagues and families, who attend the emotion-laden funeral near Rangoon, where the men have finally been laid to rest with full military honours.

Lost Over Burma – Search for Closure

n the closing days of the Second World War, a volunteer air crew of six young Canadians flew off in a converted DC-3 transport to airdrop food to hungry Burmese living in isolated jungle villages. It was the monsoon season in Southeast Asia, and, even though the crew had flown many missions, flying was extremely dangerous at that time of year. The powerful winds generated by the torrential storms could tear the wings off a plane, throw it into an uncontrollable spiral, and cause certain death for the crew.

The men of flight KN 546 never returned to base, and soon the Canadian Department of Defense notified the men’s families that the plane was “missing in action.” Forty-five years later, however, the plane’s wreckage was discovered, and the Canadian government was able to send a recovery team into the trackless jungle to find and bring out the remains of the young flyers so that they could be buried in a military cemetery.

Viewers learn the characters of these ordinary Canadian men through the shared memories of the brothers and sisters who knew them for only a few short years, the sweethearts who they were never able to marry, the wives they never grew old with, and the comrades with whom they shared the dangers of war. The sorrowful pain of loss felt by these people may have been dulled by the passage of a lifetime of years, but it is never lost or forgotten.

We can only imagine the pain that lives in hundreds of thousands of Canadians who remember and mourn the 42,042 young soldiers, sailors, and airmen who died during the Second World War.

Unfortunately, the monumental effort and sacrifice made by millions of Canadians during WW II is often ignored or neglected by writers, textbook publishers and film makers whose aim is often to simply exploit the flaws in past government policy to promote current attitudes and agendas. Lost Over Burma is a powerful antidote to this diminution of the just cause our nation fought for and the life-long effect it had on our citizens.

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