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Letters: Black musicians and the media

Black musicians have presence, it's the media who ignores them

Monday 20 February 2006 01:00 GMT

Sir: Matilda Egere-Cooper raises an interesting question about the lack of presence of black artists at Wednesday's Brit Awards (17 February). Is this due to the lack of record company support, as she mentions, or the cyclical nature of music? I would add a further point: lack of press attention and support of homegrown black music. There has been a vibrant jazz, hip-hop, soul and club music scene with a basis in black music (and including a huge array of Asian artists) in this country for years; it's just that the media chooses to ignore it.

The Independent does try focusing on the black music underground, but clumsy, dry pieces on already established black music genres such as grime and the merits of the release of a duet album from the late Biggie Smalls is hardly going to increase public attention of black music. Where are the lively, enthusiastic articles on multi-talented artists such as Kaidi Thatham and Mark de Clive Lowe, who bridge the gap between jazz, funk, hip-hop and dance? These artists sit happily as premier jazz artists and as street-savvy musicians able to sell a thousand or so white-labels of club-orientated music. They also sell out international venues.

Does media coverage increase sales? Yes, some music represents a niche market and would have limited sales, but arguably any attention would help develop alternative styles of music. Other music can rest easily in the underground, but given the right push, it can appeal to the mainstream. Radio 1's Gilles Peterson exclusively championed both Zero 7 and the Gotan Project when both were producing limited 12-inch vinyl of 500 copies. This radio exposure led to album sales of 350,000 for Zero 7 and 80,000 for the Gotan Project.

And why did The Independent ignore the sad and very early death of J Dilla aka Jay Dee (Jason Yancey), one of the greatest producers of all time? Surely if the agenda is to promote black music, a respectful obituary on J Dilla was needed.

So, did the Brits lack a black music presence? My overriding memory was of the finest musician for decades (black or other), Prince, turning the Brits upside down with another stunning performance.



Church's share sale is not anti-Semitic

Sir: As someone in part responsible for the General Synod motion to divest from Caterpillar, I find myself wondering why there has been such vitriolic language in response ("Chief Rabbi attacks Church of England for Israel protest", 17 February). At last, Synod has had the courage to stand up for Palestine and refuse to be intimidated by those who like Chicken Little cry "anti-Semitism" whenever Israeli human rights abuses in the occupied territories are mentioned.

The Israeli military is committing war crimes on a daily basis with Caterpillar D9 bulldozers, which are the size of a double decker bus, weigh 53 tons and are fortified with bulletproof glass, machine-gun turrets and grenade launchers. These bulldozers are being used to destroy homes, olive groves, farms, orchards and utilities so that Israel can annexe the land for its exclusive settlements and apartheid roads. They are an integral weapon in Israel's strategy to destroy the international roadmap and erase any possibility of a viable, independent, sovereign Palestinian state. If Caterpillar is genuinely repentant, then let us see some of its profits used to rebuild Palestinian homes.

What arrogance from those who would lecture Anglicans of conscience for voting to withdraw their own funds from companies exploiting the occupation. The Central Board of Finance is on notice. If they do not sell our Caterpillar shares as expected by Synod within a short period of time, individual parishes will begin unilaterally doing it for them and find other more ethically acceptable investment options than the CBF. Why has the Archbishop faced a torrent of criticism over this vote? Simple: the people in the shadows know that Caterpillar is only the first. "Let justice roll" (Amos 5:24).



Sir: Sir Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi, states that "the Church has chosen to take a stand on the politics of the Middle East". On the contrary: the Church has chosen to take a stand on the issue of international legality and human rights, about which the Chief Rabbi has nothing to say.

In fact, his stand is consistent with his continued position of uncritical support for whatever the Israeli government chooses to do. This is, of course, taking a stand on the politics of the Middle East.

It is indeed strange that a man of the cloth who trumpets his commitment to peace has nothing to say about the godless outcome of the uses to which the Israeli militarised Caterpillar bulldozers are put. Since he is far more angry about a resolution than about the evil that occasioned it, many Jews like myself feel that his strictures are a sign of the bankruptcy of the organised establishment Jewish voice.



Sir: The Chief Rabbi suggests that the Church of England should remain primarily concerned with relations between Jews and Christians in England, and so support the Palestinian economy in the same way it does the Israeli one. However, he fails to take into account the levels of destruction caused in the occupied territories by the Israeli military, so making any investment in Palestine money down the drain. Israeli forces have destroyed roads, electricity supplies, water works, and other necessary and basic public services with impunity. It is international investment in Israel that allows for this state of affairs to persist, and the Church has rightly targeted the Israeli economy in order to redress the balance.



Sir: The most ridiculous part of the Chief Rabbi's attack on the Church of England is his suggestion that it should have chosen to invest in the Palestinian economy. This at a time when the Israeli government is withholding thousand of dollars of tax money that is due to the Palestinians.



Sir: The Anglican Church is taking a legitimate moral decision not to invest in companies that profit from the illegal occupation of Palestinian land. Chief Rabbi Sacks is wrong to view this decision as in anyway a comment on British Jews. It is therefore quite wrong for him to tie the decision of the Church to divest from Caterpillar with Christian-Jewish relations in Britain. We should be aiming to break the perception that criticism of Israel is criticism of British Jews, not reinforce it, as Chief Rabbi Sacks does.



Sir: The only way Jonathan Sacks can view the Church of England's disinvestment in Caterpillar as hostile to Jews and Israel as a whole is by forgetting that not all Jews and Israelis agree with the policy of bulldozing Palestinian houses in illegally occupied territories.



Expert witnesses need more scrutiny

Sir: The case of Sir Roy Meadow highlights a serious anomaly between the way in which professionals give expert witness advice to the courts and the normal means of publishing academic research ("Disgraced Meadow reinstated by judge", 18 February).

No researcher, of whatever renown, could publish an academic view in a recognised journal without it being subjected to peer-review. Why should evidence from expert witnesses be any different? If one side in a court case wishes to call an expert witness, it should be the automatic right of the other side to require the witness's testimony, and the data on which it is based, to be subjected to the scrutiny of other experts. The court could then decide at the time if the witness is "honest, albeit mistaken", and fewer innocent women might go to jail.



New Zealand 'ID card' increased theft

Sir: About 10 years ago, the New Zealand population was conned into accepting photographic driving licences. This has rapidly become our de facto ID card. We were told it would reduce crime, cut road deaths and improve driving.

None of these things turned out to be true. The only impact has been an increase in identity theft. We have learned that creating a single, highly valuable form of ID makes life easier only for criminals and terrorists. Go to any country in the world that has an ID-card system and you can buy a false one for less than US$20,000, the going rate for a good Western passport. Do you really think serious criminals and terrorists will care about such a trivial sum?



Prophetic Orwell

Sir: Having just re-read Nineteen Eighty-Four, I am astonished at how prophetic Orwell proves to be: "...practices which had long been abandoned, in some cases for hundreds of years - imprisonment without trial, the use of torture to extract confessions... - not only became common again, but were tolerated and even defended by people who considered themselves enlightened and progressive".



Where are we now?

Sir: Perhaps the wandering drivers that Joan Bakewell refers to (17 February) would not be so lost if one vital piece of street furniture was required to be provided - the street name. Every street needs two at each end and one opposite the end of a T-junction. This is a perfect provision that I have never seen, and therefore I am reduced to driving around slowly and turning my head, trying to find out where I am.



Melting away

Sir: No doubt there will be people to contradict Jim Hansen's view of the melting of the Greenland ice cap (17 February), but doesn't it make sense to anyone who has ever defrosted a fridge? Nothing seems to happen for ages, then some chunks drop off, and suddenly there's water all over the kitchen floor.



Trams vs cars

Sir: We are supposed to be beating the Kyoto targets for CO 2 emission reductions, yet last week the Government announced a £360m road scheme to get more cars into Liverpool. Is this the same government that turned down a tramway into Liverpool, which would have reduced CO 2? Where are the policies to reduce car traffic?



Paternal love

Sir: In "The golden age of grunt 'n' groan" (18 February), Brian Viner says that Big Daddy's reputation was as "the man they loved to hate". Up until the mid 1970s, when he partnered Giant Haystacks in a tag team, this may have been the case. However, by the time he fought the Mighty John Quinn, as shown in the photograph accompanying the article, he was firmly established as one of Britain's most popular wrestlers. I feel sure that for the majority of 1970s grapple fans, Big Daddy will always be remembered as "the man we loved to love".



Cut out and keep

Sir: I enjoyed Miles Kington's column (17 February) about the useless rubbish one acquires so much that I felt compelled to cut it out to keep. It has now been added to the large pile of humorous clippings I have collected over the years and fully intend to read again one day.



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