Saturday, July 24, 2004

Friday 23rd July 2004

I am so nesh when it comes to cold water so I hardly ever go in the sea, but it was pushing 40 and almost unbearably hot (to sleep I had to put my sheet under the cold water tap after an experiment with sleeping by the open French window which lead to 13 mosquito bites on my derriere!) so after a couple of blissful hours lying on the beach I took the plunge - gorgeous…

The day was just filled with lovely social encounters – in the shade of the trees by the beach, in the café near where we stayed, various members of Vibronics, Zion Train and Jah Free. Too hot to eat anything other than ice cream…J

Festival rocking - Radical Dub Collective played a great set and so nice to see women (3 in total!) playing in a roots band.
So much of the reggae scene is dominated by people singing about one love but actually practising rascism (black against white/white against white/Carribean against African), sexism, and homophobia. As a woman partially of Nigerian descent I have experienced all of these bar the homophobia. I appreciate that at one time the best reggae music was coming out of Jamaica and predominantly originated by men, but we’ve come a long way since then. There’s an obsession with pseudo Jamaican roots culture and patois that I sometimes find frustrating. I personally would feel a total fraud if I started speaking/singing in patois, I couldn’t infact do it even if I tried given that it wasn’t anything I’d heard until my early 20’s – although I have been encouraged to on several occasions. It its possible to sing and dj in ones own language/accent, although I do concede that some work better than others…
To thine own roots be true!

Z.T. stormed it then Jah Free played a killer set, a great night had by all.

Tune of the day

Rod of Correction
by Jah Free

Friday, July 23, 2004

Thursday 22nd July 2004

Most of the time the way we tour as Zion Train involves being away from home for a few days at a time – maximum a week… But then there’s July.
Was away for 10 days at the start of the month then home for 10 days nursing the sick – everyone but me fully stricken with flu and puking lurgy, before heading off for another 10 today. On the one hand I look forward to the freedom, partying and massively reduced responsibility, on the other I don’t like not being able to share the day to day stuff of family living.
It beats by far having a nine to five job and being separated from the children every day 5 days a week so I’m quite philosophical about it – most of the time!

Head off before dawns crack for Stansted.
In the car on the long journeys of late I have been listening through my old tape collection, deciding what few I want to keep, what tracks I want to search out on mp3. Once I’ve listened to a tape and decided I don’t want to keep it, I leave it somewhere – like in phone boxes or on the bus to the airport terminal for people to find…
I just like the idea of passing on music and someone maybe discovering something they’ve never heard or something they love and haven’t heard for years.

Me and my mellow and lovely travelling companion Hakey fly to Trieste.
Why is it that certain pilots seem to be able to glide planes in and out of the air and others, particularly on the landings seem to nose dive then straighten out all the way down. Is it the thrill or are they just crap pilots?
Anyway the landing in Trieste leaves a few people somewhat shaken.

We are met by a nice Croatian bloke with very little English who drives us through the baking heat out of Italy, through Slovenia and into Croatia.
We are playing for the second year running at the Seasplash Reggae Festival just outside Pula.
It’s the most amazing place – an ancient fort on a hill surrounded by sea and rocky beaches. There’s a big stage and sound system in the courtyard in the middle of the fort a couple of smaller sound systems, mainly the work of one man – Vedran for whom I have a great deal of respect.
I have to mention at this stage that last year (the first year of the festival) we finished playing in the early hours, partied for a bit then went to the port of Pula at 6am to get a “ferry” to Venice which took 45 mins – allegedly. It was infact a tourist boat doing a day trip to Venice lead by a very loud and eccentric Croatian bloke who made announcements very loudly down the tannoy for the majority of the journey which took over 5 hours! “Lovely ladies anda gent el men we are going to the mosta beautifula city in the worlda of Venice, lovely Dutch girls I can see you looking at me, yes you will like it! Just follow my red umbrella…” Never saw how young the Dutch “girls” were but the guy was in his fifties so it sounded a bit dubious.
Befriended a Swedish family – there weren’t enough seats on the boat so we all got very close.
By the time we reached Venice we had long missed the plane to Germany we were due to catch, we made the gig and played a storming set (Bingen Festival) but it was one of the longest and most surreal days I’ve ever had with Z.T.

Anyway this years Seasplash was brilliantly organised!
We were met by Jah Free on great form who had been there a few days and later joined by the Vibronics crew. Was very glad I’d made the decision to travel the day before the gig as really enjoyed the social.

Tune of the day

Work It Out
by Beyonce

Monday, July 12, 2004

Sunday 11th July 2004

Friday night we had lovely gig at Czech festival called ‘Colours of Ostrava’ – Ostrava being the name of the town. Great gig infact, but it shall be forever associated with one of the worst meals we’ve ever been given – fried cauliflower and instant mashed potato; and the woman in the hotel room next door to mine leaving her dog ‘home alone’. Every time anyone on the floor made any kind of noise (breathing) the dog set off barking and didn’t shut up until she got back after 4am.
I phoned her to thank her as I was leaving at 8am – bitchy but immensely satisfying.

So drove to Prague (4 hours) got plane to Milano then drove to near a place called Reggio Emilia (2 hours) for a festival that amazed me. Nearly 100 8 a side footie teams from all over the world competing in the ‘Anti Racist World Cup’ and partying in the evenings. Really nice.
Met up with some friends who go way back with the Zion Train – one of whom had a blood clot in the brain and has had to re learn talking and walking among other things – now that makes you think. It’s inspirational too when the medical profession said don’t bother trying, he’s up and about and going to festivals…

Anyway the ‘Anti Racist World Cup’ rocks and I would like to go there next year with a team of musicians who can play, maybe I could cheer lead (my footballing skills are non existant).
On the plane on the way back to London with me was one of the teams who had competed. Got talking to one of them and we talked for the hour we sat in the plane on the runway til a passing storm had passed, and all the flight back. Amazing – that’s never happened to me before. So I have a new mate (not as in reproducing like but going to the pub).

For the first time on tour I have had with me on this trip a Mac G4 Powerbook and my brand new Ipod – I am in techno heaven. Typing my diary as I go rather than scribbling into a little pad, 100’s of tunes to choose from, it’s been revolutionary.
When you get a digital camera it changes the way you take photographs, when you get an Ipod it changes the way you listen to music.
There is of course the dilemma of how to file tunes on Ipod…

Tune of the day

Dancing Queen
by Abba

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Saturday 10th July 2004

Since Salerno I’ve been to Augsburg for a couple of days to chill in theory but ended up reading some of the Disney classics in German at 7am to a lovely early rising little girl, and yomping round woods and lakes. All lovely stuff but I left more knackered than when I arrived!

Slept most of the train journey to Prague with a load of Americans. Met at the station by the lovely Petr.

Seeing the transformation of Prague since we’ve been going there has been quite incredible. The first time we went it felt really Eastern European – stunningly beautiful historical buildings in the relatively deserted in the centre and huge imposing apartment blocks in the outskirts. There were no tourists (it was winter but also there were no organised guides etc), subtle shops and vegetarian food consisted of boiled rice with boiled frozen vegetables mixed in…

Now there’s always a stag do on the plane on the way out and it seems every other person you meet is American. There are gangs of tourist guides with red umbrellas herding masses round all the “attractions”, there’s Macdonalds and fast food flashing signs and at Radost FX you can eat delicious vege food and drink cocktails til you’re sick (not that I was, but I did stuff my face).

Prior to Radost had gig at Roxy – running out of things to say about Zion Train gigs as they are in general all good in terms of the people who come and their vibrations and mainly really lovely, but Roxy’s another of those in “the zone” from the off affairs…
I love Prague and it’s (alongside Krakow) one of the most beautiful towns I’ve ever been to, but I kind of liked feeling it was a very special place that only a few people knew about!

Tune of the day

Treat ‘em Right
by Chub Rock

Monday, July 05, 2004

Sunday 4th July 2004

I said at the start of last nights gig that we were happy to be back playing in Napoli our adopted Italian hometown and it’s true. There’s a similar vibe in down town Lagos to the one in the centre of Napoli and I love it.
It’s definitely in between Europe and Africa. It’s loud and expressive, the cars are all dented and bashed in because everyone drives like a lunatic, the food is second to none – you haven’t really eaten mozzarella if you haven’t tasted fresh mozzarella di buffalo from here (sorry to sound like a total ponce) and gigs are always in “the zone” from the start.

Today we are lucky enough to have the opportunity to chill for a few hours at a friends house in the country – big garden, hammocks and more delicious food. Then we head off to the social centre in Salerno for tonight’s gig.

One of the things that makes Italy so special for me is the social centres. Most of the major towns and cities have one. They are usually old industrial buildings which have been squatted, adorned and turned into music venues sometimes with food café’s, bars, Internet café’s or stalls selling everything from music to sexy underwear depending on what the individuals running the centre are into.
In the UK we have the welfare state which I think is brilliant but at the same time provides anyone living here with something to fall back on in life. That sometimes leads to complacency.
In Italy you either have to work, be dependent on your family or try to create something for yourself and social centres represent collective DIY culture at its best – people working together to try and create a space where other people can come and express themselves and be inspired. Gigs are always very low in price and generally well attended, and they rock – Salerno was no exception.

A culture has developed in the UK where people are not only complacent but feel justifiably impotent.
We are living in a time where the biggest demonstration of the broadest cross section of people was totally ignored by a government which had had a previously arranged agenda - to go to war with Iraq, for reasons which are yet to be revealed but which I suspect can only have been monetary.
We were given the shoddy justification “weapons of mass destruction” - which of course proved totally fabricated.
Politics of the party has taken over, appearance and spin and the party line are everything. Against a holier than thou, united and sanctimonious stance very few real people stand out in any political party.
At the Italian social centres people in general are fiercely and passionately political, organising demonstrations and direct action, proud to stand up, be counted and express their views.
When in Zion Train we were at our most political - campaigning and demonstrating against the criminal justice act; doing benefit gigs for various causes eg the Liverpool Dockers, I loved feeling part of a movement that at the time I felt was progressing, creating change and moving forward.
I was overjoyed when “New Labour” got in and I really believed that there would be genuine change.
Having seen what’s happened in the last few years I guess I am now as cynical and complacent as anyone else…
I could never vote tory – they are and always will be old boy network small minded scum as far as I’m concerned, no matter the changes in their outward appearance. I like some of the Liberal Democrat policies but can’t take the smug pontificating of Charles Kennedy seriously. I voted for the Green Party in the Euro elections and Plaid Cymru in the local elections (although some of Plaid are racist toss pots like Meic Stevens our local bloke seems genuine enough)…
Anyway respect to the motivated people of the Italian social centres!

Last week a friend of mine told me that the whole of Euro 2004 was rigged and that Greece would win and it was all related to money and corruption surrounding the Olympics. When they beat Portugal in the final I felt kind of deflated – conspiracy theory or reality?!

Tune of the day

Queen Majesty
by The Techniques

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Friday 2nd July 2004

I am sat in a courtyard full of exotic plants, palms and vines, with a stage and loud sound system behind me, a bar to my right and a pizzeria which is also part of the venue Zion Train playing tonight infront of me. Two groups of people are preparing fresh vege and smells of garlic are drifting about.
We have just come from the sea (which was a bit smelly and the sand was full of cigarette buts but you can’t have everything) and before that we were fed cold slices of water melon.
We do work as well! Spent 6 hours in a van in the scorching heat to get here (here being Taranto) from Roma where we played last night to a beautifully vibed up Roman crowd under a full moon.
DJ Perch is soundchecking and expressing himself through the medium of dub. People thinks he makes mad sounds during our gigs, but some of the wild oral excesses of the soundcheck have to be heard to be believed!

The owner of the venue is treating us very well in his own eccentric way. He must be 50 if he’s a day with large build shall we say and has been dressed only in a sarong which keeps threatening to fall off. His every pore exudes the spirits he must have been caning for the last 20 years.
Later in the evening he is dressed in pin striped trousers and white shirt and jacket which he even later tries to remove whilst offering DJ Perch the opportunity to smell his armpit.
At this point in the proceeding he has already danced wildly in front of the stage showing me his stomache then proceeded to come on stage and dance with me before singing what an Italian friend described as “nonsense” down my mic. He spends the rest of the night apologising whilst fondling various members of our entourage (“members” in both meanings of the word).
We are due to sleep at his villa but after the discovery of bed bugs and a piss bucket at the side of one of the beds we opt for a hotel.

I have to stress the gig was really nice and his antics were only a source of great amusement.

Tune of the day

Gargantua Del Diablo
by Zion Train