No Medal for Liam Neeson

We shouldn’t be surprised.

Liam Neeson’s admission that he went looking for a ‘black bastard’ to kill after learning that the rape of his friend was committed by a black man was only shocking in so far as he admitted it.

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And no John Barnes, he doesn’t deserve a medal. If there is anything he deserves, it’s to be on a poster; a poster showing how his thoughts and actions were not unique. They were the thoughts and actions of many a self denying racist. Neeson sought to seek revenge not on the man who committed the heinous act of rape, but on any black man he came across. An innocent black man’s life was under threat because, for a week, Neeson decided that the act of one black man, justified the killing of any black person.

Neeson’s words should highlight a larger point; that the environment in which he was brought up, had an impact on how he reacted. Not everybody who grows up in an environment produced by British imperialism will feel the compunction to try and find a black person to kill as a method of revenge. Thankfully he didn’t. When black people talk about having better and more positive representation in the media, it is to combat situations like this. Had Neeson not had his bigoted upbringing in Northern Island during the ‘troubles’, perhaps his thoughts wouldn’t have gone to such a dark place. But they went there.

I don’t doubt that there are many people across the UK who heard his confession and could empathise with Neeson, having had similar thoughts on one occasion or another. While they may not admit it like Nesson, or may not have carried out their own brand of vigilante justice, those thoughts and feelings do not just disappear after talking to friends. They surface in the form of off colour jokes, burner twitter accounts, the rejection of a black Hermione Granger and ridiculous stories about Raheem Sterling. The microaggressions and subtle racism that many people of colour often talk about are the outpourings of white frustration at not being able to exact the violent revenge that may take over their thoughts. The lynchings in the US during the mid 20th century, were children were given days off school and the bodies of young black men were left to hang like Strange Fruit, were the result of whites being able to express their anger with no repercussions. To them, taking the life of any black person was justified if there was even a hint of wrongdoing. If Liam Neeson had indeed killed a black man in revenge, it would tantamount to nothing short of a modern day lynching – the killing of an innocent to appease a desire for race based revenge.

When this all happened is irrelevant. The fact that it happened is all that matters. Winston Churchill is well known for being a racist, having expressed his disgust for Indians saying, ‘I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.” However, his supporters are quick to point out that he simply held the opinions of his time. Imperialism thrived as the British Empire regarded blacks as less than human 400 years ago. Men, women and children were segregated in the United States 60 years ago because of the colour of their skin. 40 years ago Neeson wanted to kill a man for a crime he did not commit simply because he was black. The New Cross fire in 1981. Stephen Lawerence in 1993. Dylann Roof in 2015.

The opinions of the time seem to be timeless.

Of course, Liam Neeson has learned from that ‘episode’. There would be no way he would have volunteered that information if he didn’t feel as though he could declare that he is now over his racism, like a strong bout of flu. For him, it was a moment in time. For many of us, it’s a daily reality, knowing that there are people walking the streets who want to act out on thoughts that have been influenced by the media and learnt from family members and immediate communities. Their thoughts and actions may not kill us, but they may affect job prospects, our love lives, self-confidence and mental health.

Neeson was right about one thing though. There needs to be more dialogue. But not from us. We’ve marched, protested, debated, written, sung, and preached for years. To quote Reni Eddo-Lodge, ‘You can only do so much from the outside’.

And power walking won’t help.

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White Violence Vs Hip-hop

Media Diversified

Nathan Holder discusses how hip-hop is excluded from music education

One of the main reasons cited for hip-hop not being taught in schools is because of the glamourised violence contained in lyrics and videos. A whole genre of music and its creators remain censored in schools but thrive as soon as children leave school gates. Nielsen reported ‘a 72% increase in on-demand audio streaming in hip-hop but it continues to be ignored and demonised by many music educators in the UK. Does the need to censor a genre because of violence represent a double standard in education? It is undeniable that there is violence in some hip-hop, but should a few cases marginalise an entire genre?

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The argument against hip-hop on the basis of violence is one to my mind which has no grounding in logic. The visual depiction of violence in the form of guns, knives or physical assault…

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Where are the Black Classical Composers?

While most boys played games in the streets he was touring Europe. He had become internationally known for his ability to compose for someone so young. It had helped that his father was uniquely positioned to help to guide his son along his musical journey, a world-class musician in his own right. By the age of 30, he had composed some of his greatest works, securing himself not only in the annals of music history but ensuring that his name would forever be synonymous with the word prodigy. His final composition entitled The Magic Flute, premiered a few months before his death.

This was Austria. His name was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The year was 1791.

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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (27 January 1756 – 5 December 1791)

I’ve always wondered why, when studying music in school, we never learnt about music from western Africa or the Caribbean during the generally accepted years of western Classical music (1730-1820). We learnt about many male European composers including Beethoven (1770-1827), Schubert (1797-1828), Hayden (1732-1809) and C.P.E Bach (1714-1788). By contrast, the earliest music the Caribbean we learnt about was reggae and ska which originated in Jamaica in the mid-20th century. When we learnt about ‘West African drumming’, we were merely told that these traditions go back hundreds of years. We were never taught about great African or Caribbean musicians from the 18th century, shown their portraits or listened to their music. Why not?

It was almost as though there were no prominent West African or Caribbean musicians or composers at that time. We were taught that many West African cultures rely on oral traditions. Knowledge was rarely written down but was passed on via griots, through music and stories. How we were taught about oral traditions and customs often implied that these people couldn’t write their music down and that they were too primitive to produce anything close to the level of sophistication of Mozart et al. Where are the composers and musicians of West African and Caribbean descent from 1730-1820?

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The Trans-Atlantic slave trade began to wane during this period with Denmark being the first country to ban it in 1803. What we were failed to have been taught was that the very men who were afforded the luxury to compose and develop their musical craft did so partly because of the resources that were being produced by slaves on the other side of the world. As plantations grew in the Caribbean and West Africans were being shipped in their millions across the Atlantic, the European Classical composers were able to compose, tour and receive critical acclaim for their efforts. Knowing that, will a Mozart concerto ever sound the same to you again?

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For peoples of African extraction, oral musical traditions weren’t born out of choice. They were born out of necessity. Timbuktu was a cultural centre of religion and education in the 16th century with Leo Africanus commenting in c.1526 of the West Africans that, ‘It is their habit to wander into town at night between 10 pm and 1 am, playing instruments and dancing.’ With manuscripts in Timbuktu being destroyed due to fires, the pillaging of towns, cities and villages, and millions of Africans being taken away as slaves to the Americas, it’s no wonder why we find very few tangible traces of music being made in Western Africa and the Caribbean running parallel to the celebrated history of European classical music.

As plantations grew in the Caribbean and West Africans were being shipped in their millions across the Atlantic, the European Classical composers were able to compose, tour and receive critical acclaim for their efforts.

People of African extraction that we read about during 1730-1820 such as Olaudah Equiano (1745-1797), Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) and others, are usually brought to our attention because of what they accomplished in the face of adversity rather than what they accomplished out of the luxury of artistic inspiration and expression.

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Joseph Bologne Chevalier de Saint-Georges (December 25, 1745 – June 10, 1799)

Although his father was a musician and he was born near the epicentre of European classical music, Mozart chose to be a musician. He chose to spend almost his entire life writing and performing, with his compositions being safely stored in museums and being recorded by countless performers since the invention of recorded sound. In contrast, the Caribbeans and West Africans we hear about are those who fought against slavery and oppression. We hear of the first doctors, lawyers, nurses and inventors to break colour lines, but rarely musicians. Even exceptions such as John Blanke (fl. 1501-1511), Ignatius Sancho (1729-1780), George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower (1778-1860) and Joseph Bologne Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799) had at least one parent who was born a slave.

Many people of African extraction at that time start their stories with struggle. Where are the black classical composers? It’s not that Africans or Caribbeans were too primitive to write their music down. It’s not that oral traditions are the best or most efficient way to keep information accurate. It’s not even that music stopped being made and performed before the abolition of slavery. It’s that while some had the freedom and luxury to write, compose and travel, others were being transported across the world to be sold into slavery, raped, beaten, killed or all of the above.

The date of his birth is uncertain. No-one really knows about his parents. His education is also a topic for debate. Although he was born a slave, he became a free man at the age of 33 and was able to accumulate some semblance of wealth. A decade later, he participated in and became the leader of the largest successful slave revolt in history.

This was Haiti. His name was Toussaint L’Ouverture. The year was 1791.

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Toussaint L’Ouverture (9 May 1743 – 7 April 1803)

5 Pieces All Classical Pianists Should Know

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There are so many amazing pieces to choose from! This list could have easily listed 50, but these pieces are some of the most iconic and popular in history.

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Lesson #7 – THE Sax Anthem

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It’s the NFC Championship game on the 22nd Jan 2017 between the Atlanta Falcons and the Green Bay Packers. As traditional before a sporting event in the US, the national anthem was performed. This was a special one with saxophonist Mike Phillips stealing the show before the opening kickoff.

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Lesson #6 – Pirates Of The Caribbean

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Jarrod Radnich has carved out a niche online as a virtuosic pianist who covers popular songs and themes from movies.
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Lesson #5 – The Beatboxer, the Flute and the Orchestra

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Many children grow up thinking that there are two ways to play an instrument: the right way and the wrong way. Greg Patillo is one of a number of musicians who prove that an instrument can be played in many different ways and combining many different skills.
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Lesson #4 – Take Us Away Hiromi Uehera!

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It is important especially for young girls, to see amazing female musicians performing, writing and producing their own music.
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Lesson #3 – I Got Rhythm

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I Got Rhythm was written by the great American songwriter George Gershwin in 1930 and is being performed here by the Benny Goodman Quartet in 1959.
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Lesson #2 – Adele, The Roots and Classroom Instruments

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Many of us think that instruments like glockenspiels, kazoos and banana shakers aren’t able to make serious music. Professional musicians would never play on such basic instruments would they?
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