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August/September 2014

Yvonne and I will be bringing James Connolly Songs of Freedom to Italy in October. Please return to this site for final event information or contact me directly: info@matcallahan.com

Songs of Freedom-Italian Tour 2014:

3 October Friday
SARS, Spazio Antagonista di Resistenza Sociale
Via del Balipedio, di fronte alle piscine
Zona Darsena, Viareggio

4 October Saturday
Circolo ARCI Primo Maggio,
Via Monte Altissimo 694,
Riomagno – Seravezza

5 October Sunday
Teatro del Borgo
Casa del Popolo S.Bartolo a Cintoia
Via di S.Bartolo a Cintoia, 95
Firenze

6 October Monday
Firenze-2 Concerts for schoolchildren

7 October Tuesday
University of Trento-panel discussion and concert
dipartimento di lettere e filosofia
Via Tommaso Gar 14, Trento
web.unitn.it/lettere
Time of the panel discussion 17:00 – 17:30. Concert starts at about 19:00

8 October Wednesday
Trieste

9 October Thursday
Via Val d'Aupa, 2 - Udine
casaupa.blogspot.it/

 

July 2014

Since the launching of Songs of Freedom in October last year, I've been more or less continuously on the road. Now, with a couple months at home before a tour of Italy in October, several projects, new and old, are finally getting the attention they deserve. First, is a belated return to the book project I undertook six years ago-music and politics in San Francisco during the Sixties. My aim is to complete the book by year's end. Second, I'm working on another book, based on the special issue of Socialism & Democracy, now available, called Radical Perspectives on Intellectual Property. The three essays in S&D will be added to by a diverse group of authors. The goal is to provide a comprehensive collection including historical, legal, economic and political dimensions of copyright, patent and trademark. I hope to have this ready for publication in a year from now.

On the musical front, three new projects are slowly getting off the ground. First, I'm completing a group of songs that will enter the repertoire of my duet with Yvonne. Second, I'm collaborating with Yvonne on her next project which is to be called: In Praise of Mose. That is, an in-depth look at the life and work of Mose Allison. Finally, research has begun on a followup to Songs of Freedom. I can't say more about this at the moment but I hope to have another book and cd made in a couple of years.
Stay tuned!

 

June 2014

I recently returned from New York City where I attended the Left Forum. The event attracted 4500 people, hosted 400 separate panels and featured speakers such as Harry Belafonte, Cornel West, Angela Davis and David Harvey. My participation included two panels and performance at a Pete Seeger Tribute. The panels were Music, Social Movements and Revolution and Radical Perspectives on Intellectual Property. (see May News for details) Both panels were well attended, encouraging lively discussion. As I have come to expect, argument erupted at the Intellectual Property panel due to the divisions between those (usually musicians and journalists) who defend copyright and those (usually open source and free speech advocates) who defend Aaron Swartz, internet file sharing and freedom from government surveillance. The confusion that has been sewn is very effective in pitting one group against the other-perfect divide and conquer tactics. I refer anyone interested to the article ("15 Years Since Napster and What Have We Learned?") for further information.


The Seeger Tribute was a great success. There were many fine performances by a diverse group of musicians. In addition to singing two of Pete's songs (If I Had a Hammer and the Bells of Rhymney) I gave a brief talk which made three basic points: 1. Pete can speak for himself. His autobiography, "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" and the collection of his letters, "Pete Seeger: In His Own Words" eloquently express Pete's unfolding thought, over many decades and many political and musical controversies. Read them. 2. Pete was a fighter. Though he was undoubtedly kind and humble towards friends, he was fierce in his condemnation of exploitation and oppression, the capitalist system and slavery in any form. He was a staunch defender of socialist revolution (especially in Vietnam and Cuba) and a dedicated internationalist. 3. Pete enlisted me in his campaign for Public Domain Reform. We had many conversations, at his home in Beacon and over the phone. It is no exaggeration to say that at some point in every conversation Pete would say something to the effect: "Don't make ma saint. It will undermine everything I've fought for." Now, a tribute to Pete Seeger might seem a strange place to bring this up. After all, we're honoring a person who gave us many tools with which to change the world not the least of which was the example he set. But I felt compelled to make this point precisely for the reasons Pete emphasized, which were more than personal humility.


Pete knew that ikons are lifeless objects before which people humble themselves. Ikons don't inspire critical thinking or collective action. They don't bring low the mighty and elevate the downtrodden. Even more important, Pete knew that focussing attention on the notoriety or celebrity of one person diverts attention from the years of determined effort that are necessary to build solidarity, unite people in struggle and encourage all to learn. Yes, Pete played in front of tens of thousands at Madison Square Garden. But he played tens of thousands of times to small groups of people all over the world. Yes, some of Pete's songs became hits. But Pete was always lecturing us about the folk process; the transmission, across generations and frontiers, of the common experience of common people-especially those willing to stand up against injustice. Remember that in 2012 Pete appeared at Occupy Wall Street and at a concert demanding freedom for Leonard Peltier.
If Pete Seeger is to be remembered for a life full of accomplishments and achievements, then he must also be remembered for having always stood for equality, collectivity, hard work and militant struggle. His great strength of character was derived in part from his great mastery of music-not only as an instrumentalist (banjo and twelve-string guitar, in particular) but as a composer and collector of songs. The valiant effort to change American culture and the legacy of the Folk Music Revival owes as much to Pete as to anyone. But ultimately, the wellspring of Pete's strength of character were certain core principles. Pete Seeger was a communist.

 

May 2014

I will be chairing two panels at the Left Forum in New York City, May 30-June 1, 2014. One panel will be Radical Perspectives on Intellectual Property which will critically examine the role of copyright, patent and trademark in the fields of music making, industrial production and telecommunications. In my presentation I will explain what led me to the conclusion that copyright and IP generally need to be abolished. I will describe how the Music Industry exploits musicians and why it is only recently that empirical study has been made to determine what, if any, benefit musicians actually derive from copyright.

Concerning political economy, economist and economic historian, Michael Perelman, will present a wealth of research focusing on patent and the relationship between capitalist crisis and the development of IP. Perelman will show how IP is a core mechanism of capital accumulation, not merely a formal, legal appendage. Michael’s book, “Steal This Idea” is one of the all too-rare applications of Marx’s crisis theory to IP.

The other panel I will be chairing is called: Music, Social Movements and Revolution. Here, I will present my research into the recently re-published, James Connolly Songs of Freedom songbook. This includes not only Irish revolutionary music but the music Connolly encountered in the USA at the beginning of the 20th Century-especially that of the IWW and of African-Americans . Since this coincided with the dawn of the Music Industry as we know it today, the clash between capital and labor in the field of music will also be examined for its continued relevance.

Eli Smith will speak on the satirical songs of the IWW including the work of Joe Hill and others, about "People's Songs" and the early works of Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie and others, and about the seminal but largely forgotten work of John Handcox and the Southern Tenant Farmers Union - the first racially integrated union in the South that used indigenous folk music forms to great effect and fought for the rights of sharecroppers.

Christine Kelly will explore the relationship between a  left-wing organization, the International Workers Order (IWO) and the rise of the American folk song revival. In existence for nearly 25 years, the IWO was an enormous supporter of progressive cultural movements. Through its financial backing, events organizing, and relationship to folk icons like Paul Robeson and Pete Seeger, the IWO laid a foundation for the popularization of folk song that would occur in the mid-twentieth century.

For more information about Left Forum and this year's program please visit their website: www.leftforum.org

Left Forum Flyer

 

April 2014

Launching Songs of Freedom
(a summary of four tours)

Ireland
On October 2nd, 2013 the seven members of the James Connolly Songs of Freedom Band took the stage in Cork, Ireland. We came to announce the publication of Songs of Freedom, marking the culmination of two years' effort undertaken by many people in four different countries. Our performance at the Pavilion was preceded by a book launch in the Cork City Library, which included the performance of two songs, an opening address by Jim Lane and a brief talk by Mat Callahan recounting the genesis of the project and its realization.

On October 3rd, the band traveled to Dublin for the concert in Liberty Hall. Liberty Hall was donated by the Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU), Ireland's largest union, with whom the James Connolly Songs of Freedom Project had consulted since the beginning of this process. SIPTU further contributed by publishing in their periodical, Liberty, an interview with Mat Callahan explaining the history of the project. Joining the band onstage were local Dublin musician Daoire Farrell, actor John Smith reciting Connolly speeches and James Connolly Heron, contributor to the new version of Songs of Freedom, acting as MC.

Completing the Irish launch was a concert on October 5th, at Sandino's night club in Derry. This event was sponsored by the Derry Trades Council and not only did the Council donate money to cover expenses, they mobilized some of their members to attend the performance. Long time activist, Eamonn McCann introduced the show and musician Connor O'Kane provided a rabble-rousing set of mainly his own compositions. McCann would subsequently write of the event for a local newspaper, the Derry Journal.

England and Scotland
The next tour was organized by PM Press in England and Scotland. Due to prohibitive costs, this tour was undertaken by Mat Callahan alone. Presentations ranged from talks explaining the history and significance of the Songs of Freedom project to musical concerts with a mixture of the two in between. The first event was a talk at the Anarchist Book Fair in London, October 19th. This was followed by a talk/performance at Bookmarks, a well-known London bookstore, October 22. Mat then traveled to Bristol to perform a concert at the Plough Pub, an event sponsored by the Radical History Project.

With the generous assistance of renowned Scottish author, Jim Kelman, Mat traveled to Edinburg and Glasgow. Jim not only organized the events but provided important historical background regarding Connolly's relevance to Scottish labor and political struggle thus setting the stage for Mat's musical performance. The first event took place October 25th at the Edinburgh Independent Book Fair. The second was held October 26th at Glasgow's Glad Cafe.

The United States
Simultaneously, PM Press was organizing a tour of the United States. Joining Mat on this tour was Yvonne Moore. Yvonne not only provided her voice, but as treasurer of the non-profit James Connolly Project, had organized fundraising, bookkeeping and travel coordination for the band in Ireland and Switzerland.

This month-long tour of the West and East Coasts, included 20 concerts, six hour-long radio programs and several print-media interviews and reviews. Following is a quick list of the dates and locations of events:

West Coast
Wednesday January 15th
House concert, Sacramento

Thursday January 16th
Sacramento, CA - 7-9pm, Marxist School of Sacramento

Friday January 17th
Arlene Francis Center, Santa Rosa, California - 7PM

Saturday January 18th / Sunday January 19th
Western Workers Labor Heritage Festival
Burlingame at the Machinists’ Local 1781 Union Hall, Burlingame, CA
(workshop in the AM. Concert in the PM)

Tuesday January 21st
Bay Area Public School, Oakland, CA - 7pm

Wednesday January 22nd
Shaping SF @ 518 Valencia, San Francisco, CA - 7pm

Friday January 24th
Unitarian Universalist Church of San Mateo, San Mateo, CA - 7pm

Saturday January 25th
Down Home Music (In-store concert), El Cerrito, CA - 2pm

Saturday January 25th
Berkeley House Concert - 7:30pm

Sunday January 26th
The Starry Plough, Berkeley, CA - 12pm-2:30pm

Sunday January 26th
The Green Arcade Bookstore, San Francisco, CA - 5pm

in Troy

RADIO: KPOO, KALW, KRBC, KPFA (2 times), Making Contact-George Lavender

East Coast
Thursday January 30th
Bluestockings Bookstore and Cafe, New York, NY - 7pm

Friday January 31st
Jalopy Theater, Brooklyn, NY - 8pm

Saturday February 1st
Portsmouth Book and Bar, Portsmouth, NH - 9pm

Sunday February 2nd
The Carriage House Theater, Hartford, CT -Matinee-2PM

Tuesday February 4th
Rochester Red and Black, Workers United Union Hall - Rochester, NY-7PM

Wednesday February 5th
Burning Books Buffalo, Buffalo, NY-7PM

Friday February 7th
James Connolly Forum, Oakwood Community Center, Troy, NY-7PM

Saturday February 8th
The Burren, Somerville, MA - 2PM-5PM

Sunday February 9th
Community Church of Boston, Boston, MA - morning service

at Burning Books Buffalo

Switzerland
Concluding the launch of Songs of Freedom was a tour of Switzerland with the entire James Connolly Songs of Freedom Band. This tour was largely organized by Yvonne Moore and Iris Eichenberger of Sun Music with the generous financial assistance of SUISA. The tour itinerary was as follows:

Samstag, 1. März 2014, 22h - 23.15h
Irish Festival ZAK, Jona

Sonntag, 2. März 2014, 17h
Folk im Himmel Pieterlen (bei Biel)

Donnerstag. 6. März 2014, 20h
Obere Mühle Dübendorf/ZH

Samstag, 8.März 2014, 21h
Rest. Landhaus Jenaz/GR

Sonntag, 9. März 2014, 18h
Musiklokal Erlach

Donnerstag, 13. März 2014, 20h
Haberhaus Schaffhausen

Freitag, 14. März 2014, 20h
Kellertheater Brig

Samstag, 15. März 2014, 21h
Rest. Bären Münchenbuchsee

Sonntag, 16. März 2014, 20h
Mühle Hunziken, Rubigen

The Swiss tour was a great success aided by a major story by Pit Wuhrer in WOZ and radio promotion by Mark Stenzler of Radio RABE, Bern and Radio LoRa, Zurich. Not only were the events well-attended but the enthusiasm of the public for the music and history of Songs of Freedom confirmed our original assessment of its current relevance. What began as a humble attempt to revive interest in James Connolly turned out to be an inspiring example of what can be done by implementing his ideas. As Connolly so often said, "The great appear great because we are on our knees. Let us rise!"

Bern, 14. April 2014 - Mat Callahan

 

March 2014

Impressions of our Switzerland Tour

Haberhaus_Schaffhausen

Concert in «Haberhaus», Schaffhausen, 13 March, © Simon Brühlmann
> Article in «Schaffhauser Nachrichten» (PDF; German)

Concert in «Folk im Himmel», Pieterlen, 2 March, © TKA
> Article in «Nordwestschweiz» (PDF; German)

 

The James Connolly Songs of Freedom Band Tours Switzerland

After Yvonne and I completed a month-long tour in the US we returned to Switzerland and began preparing for our tour with the whole band. We've already had the first two performances (in Jona and Pieterlin) both of which went well. We're now on to the next round beginning in Dübendorf. Hope to see you along the way.

For those who can read German please see the article published 27 February in WOZ.
Or click on the links below for music and more information.

https://www.facebook.com/JamesConnollySongsOfFreedom

Music samples:
http://www.wuala.com/audioworks.ch/Dokumente/Exchange/

Schweizer Tour März 2014

Samstag, 1. März 2014, 22h - 23.15h
Irish Festival ZAK, Jona

Sonntag, 2. März 2014, 17h
Folk im Himmel Pieterlen (bei Biel)

Donnerstag. 6. März 2014, 20h
Obere Mühle Dübendorf/ZH

Samstag, 8. März 2014, 21h
Rest. Landhaus, Jenaz

Sonntag, 9. März 2014, 18h
Musiklokal Erlach

Donnerstag, 13. März 2014, 20h
Haberhaus Schaffhausen

Freitag, 14. März 2014, 20h
Kellertheater Brig

Samstag, 15. März 2014, 21h
Rest. Bären Münchenbuchsee

Sonntag, 16. März 2014, 20h
Mühle Hunziken, Rubigen

 

Coming in January 2014

Songs of Freedom West Coast and East Coast US Tour with Mat Callahan & Yvonne Moore

Songs of FreedomJoin Mat Callahan and Yvonne Moore on the SONGS OF FREEDOM TOUR to celebrate the recent PM release of Songs of Freedom: The James Connolly Songbook, edited by Mat Callahan with introductions by Theo Dorgan and James Connolly Heron, and the companion album Songs of Freedom CD. West Coast and East Coast tour schedule below.

The Songs of Freedom Tour is a celebration of the life and work of James Connolly, the Irish revolutionary socialist and musician martyred by the British government for his role in the Easter Rising of 1916. The Songs of Freedom songbook was originally published in 1907 in New York and directed to the American working class. Lost for a hundred years, the songbook is at once a collection of stirring revolutionary songs and a vital historical document. The Songs of Freedom CD turns the enduring lyrics of Connolly into timely and rocking manifestos for today's young rebels. As Connolly himself urged, nothing can replace the power of music to raise the fighting spirit of the oppressed. Please join editor and composer Mat Callahan, along with talented vocalist Yvonne Moore, to celebrate the new release of the 1907 James Connolly Songbook and the new Songs Of Freedom CD. Come indulge in the life, times, words, and contemporary relevance of James Connolly and sing the rollicking revolutionary anthems for a new generation of rebels in the 21st Century.
Books and CDs will be available for purchase at the events. Buy yours HERE.

West Coast

Thursday January 16th - Sacramento, CA - 7–9pm - Free
Marxist School of Sacramento
2791 24th St., Sacramento, room 9
www.marxistschool.org
www.facebook.com/MarxistSchool

Friday January 17th - Santa Rosa, CA-Arlene Francis Center-Doors: 7PM
99 6th Street
Santa Rosa, California 95401
707.528.3009
www.arlenefranciscenter.org

Saturday January 18th  - Burlingame, CA (in the am)
Western Workers Labor Heritage Festival
Burlingame at the Machinists’ Local 1781 Union Hall 1511 Rollins Road Burlingame, CA
Workshop: James Connolly: Irish Songs of Freedom with Mat Callahan and Owen Murphy
www.westernworkersfestival.org
www.facebook.com/pages/Western-Workers-Labor-Heritage-Festival
Must register for the festival
For more info: (831) 426-4940

Sunday January 19th - Burlingame, CA (in the pm)
Western Workers Labor Heritage Festival
Burlingame at the Machinists’ Local 1781 Union Hall 1511 Rollins Road Burlingame, CA
Concert:  James Connolly: Irish Songs of Freedom with Mat Callahan and Yvonne Moore
www.westernworkersfestival.org
www.facebook.com/pages/Western-Workers-Labor-Heritage-Festival
Must register for the festival
For more info: (831) 426-4940 

Tuesday January 21st - Oakland, CA - 7pm - Donation
Bay Area Public School
2141 Broadway St Oakland, CA 94612
(entrance located around the corner, on 22nd Street at the sign of the "Sudo Room" - down the hall take the elevator to the 2nd floor).
thepublicschool.org/bay-area
www.facebook.com/pages/Bay-Area-Public-School
Organizer Contact: Melissa Mack: melissadmack@gmail.com & David Brazil dzbrazil@yahoo.com

Wednesday January 22nd - San Francisco, CA - 7pm - Free
Shaping SF @ 518 Valencia
518 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
www.shapingsf.org
www.facebook.com/pages/Shaping-San-Francisco
518valencia.org
www.facebook.com/518valencia
Organizer Contacts: Chris carlsson.chris@gmail.com & LisaRuth: lisaruth.elliott@gmail.com

Friday January 24th -  San Mateo, CA - 7pm
Unitarian Universalist Church of San Mateo
300 E. Santa Inez Ave., San Mateo 94401
www.uusanmateo.org/
Office contact: 650-342-5946
Organizer Contact: Craig Wiesner of Reach And Teach (PM Imprint)
craig@reachandteach.com

Saturday January 25th - El Cerrito, CA - 2pm - Free
Down Home Music (In-store concert)
10341 San Pablo Ave
El Cerrito, CA 94530
www.downhomemusic.com/
www.facebook.com/pages/Down-Home-Music-Store
(510) 525-2129

Saturday January 25th - Berkeley House Concert - 7:30pm - $10-20
Admission is free, but a donation of $10-$20 to benefit
the performers is suggested. Seating is limited so please RSVP
daniellsdin@gmail.com or 510-277-6669 to reserve places and for location
information.

Sunday January 26th - Berkeley, CA - 12pm-2:30pm
The Starry Plough
3101 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94705
Near the Berkeley/Oakland Border and Ashby BART
www.TheStarryPlough.com
www.facebook.com/StarryPlough
Organizer Contacts:
Sean Prendiville: seanzenp@gmail.com
@ Starry Plough: Michelle Kappel-Stone
starryploughbooking@yahoo.com - 510.788.0171 or 510.841.0188

Sunday January 26th - San Francisco, CA - 5pm - Free
Green Arcade
1680 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94102
www.thegreenarcade.com/
www.facebook.com/thegreenarcade?fref=ts
(415) 431-6800
Organizer Contact: Patrick Marks patrick@thegreenarcade.com

East Coast

Thursday January 30th - New York, NY - 7pm - Donation
Bluestockings Bookstore and Cafe
172 Allen St, New York, NY 10002
bluestockings.com/
www.facebook.com/bluestockingsnyc
(212) 777-6028
Organizer Contact: Sky @ Bluestockings events@bluestockings.com

Friday January 31st - Brooklyn, NY - 8pm
Jalopy Theater Brooklyn
315 Columbia St, Brooklyn, NY 11231
www.jalopy.biz/
www.facebook.com/jalopytheatre
(718) 395-3214
Organizer Contact: Eli Smith elismithetc@gmail.com
Double bill with Eli Smith presenting his new album "The Union Makes Us Strong"
The Irish Revolutionary Songs of James Connolly and American Labor Songs of the IWW
8:30pm  Eli Smith and Peter K. Siegel perform songs of the American Labor Movement from their new CD: The Union Makes Us Strong:
www.cdbaby.com/cd/peterksiegelelismith1
9:30pm The Irish revolutionary songs of James Connolly - Irish songwriter, poet and revolutionary from 100 years ago, as sung by Mat Callahan and Yvonne Moore, who have done a wonderful new album of this material, and released a book:
secure.pmpress.org/index.php?l=product_detail&p=561

Saturday February 1st - Portsmouth, NH - 9pm - Free
Portsmouth Book and Bar
40 Pleasant St, Portsmouth, NH 03801
bookandbar.com/
www.facebook.com/PortsmouthBookAndBar
(603) 427-9197
Organizer Contact: John- jpetrovato@hotmail.com

Sunday February 2nd - Hartford, CT - Matinee - 2pm
Carriage House Theater 360 Farmington Ave, Hartford, CT 06105
860-548-9144
hartbeatensemble.org/
Organizer Contact:  Lucy Rosenblatt- LLRosenblatt@comcast.net

Tuesday February 4th - Rochester, NY - Workers United Union Hall - Donation
750 East Ave, Rochester, NY 14607
Sponsored by Red and Black
Sponsor website: rocredandblack.org/
www.facebook.com/RocRedandBlack
Organizer Contact: Jake Allen jallencan@gmail.com

Wednesday February 5th - Buffalo, NY - 7pm - Donation
Burning Books Buffalo
420 Connecticut Street, Buffalo, NY 14213
burningbooksbuffalo.com/
www.facebook.com/pages/Burning-Books/
(716)881-0791
Contact: Leslie leslie@lesliejamespickering.com

Friday February 7th - Troy, NY -
Oakwood Community Center
313 10th St Troy, NY 12180
www.oakwoodcommunitycenter.org
www.facebook.com/pages/Oakwood-Community-Center/
Organizer Contact: Jon Flanders jonathan.flanders@verizon.net

Saturday February 8th - Boston, MA - 2PM-5PM
The Burren
247 Elm St, Somerville, MA 02144
www.burren.com/
www.facebook.com/burren.somerville
(617) 776-6896
Sponsored by Russ Davis and the Jobs With Justice group.  
Russ Davis russdavis@comcast.net and Rand Wilson rand.wilson@gmail.com

Sunday February 9th - Boston, MA - morning service
Community Church of Boston
565 Boylston St Boston, MA 02116
Ph: 617 266-6710
www.communitychurchofboston.org/
Organizer Contact: Dean Stevens dean@deanstevens.com

Yvonne & Mat


Connolly Songs of Freedom Band
Switzerland Tour March 2014

Saturday, March 1st 2014, 22h – 23.15h
Irish Festival ZAK, Jona

Sunday, March 2nd 2014, 17h
Folk im Himmel Pieterlen (bei Biel)

Thursday, March 6th 2014, 20h
Obere Mühle Dübendorf/ZH

Saturday, March 8th 2014, 21h
Rest. Landhaus, Jenaz

Sunday, March 9th 2014, 18h
Musiklokal Erlach

Thursday, March 13th 2014, 20h
Haberhaus Schaffhausen

Friday, March 14th 2014, 20h
Kellertheater Brig

Saturday, March 15th2014, 21h
Rest. Bären Münchenbuchsee

Sunday, 16. März 2014, 20h
Mühle Hunziken, Rubigen

 

November 2013

I recently returned to Bern after successful tours of Ireland, England and Scotland. Preparation is now under way for a tour of the States. The basic parameters are January 16 to January 29 in Northern California, January 30 to February 9 in the North East. I will post the details shortly but I wanted to inform readers of the general outlines of the ongoing campaign to launch James Connolly's Songs of Freedom. After we complete the tour of the States we will commence a tour of Switzerland beginning at the end of February and continuing through the middle of March. All these dates will be posted shortly as well.
Meanwhile, if you wish to purchase a copy of Songs of Freedom (book and cd) please go to one of the following links (depending on where you are).

In the US:
PM Press

In the UK/Europe:
PM Press releases are distributed to the book trade in the UK and Europe via Turnaround Publisher Services. For more information or orders, contact Turnaround here:
www.turnaround-uk.com
orders@turnaround-uk.com

Turnaround Publisher Services
Unit 3, Olympia Trading Estate, Coburg Road,
London N22 6TZ
Tel: 020-8829 3000
 
For mail order and non-booktrade orders in the UK/Europe contact Active Distribution:
www.activedistribution.org
info@activedistribution.org

Active Distribution,
BM ACTIVE,
London,
WC1N 3XX,
England

If you want more information about upcoming concerts, talks, and other public appearances, please contact me directly at: info@matcallahn.com

October 2013

Back from Ireland. On to England and Scotland.

Tour Details:

Tuesday 22 October:
Bookmarks - London
1 Bloomsbury St, London
Greater London WC1B 3QE

Wednesday 23 October:
Plough Pub Easton, Bristol
223 Easton Road, Easton
Bristol BS5 0EG
Info HERE.

No event Thursday the 24

Friday 25 October at 8.15pm:
17th Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair
Joined by influential Scottish writer Jim Kelman
At the Out of the Blue Drill Hall. 30-38 Dalmeny St
Edinburgh EH6 8RG
Info HERE.

Saturday 26 October:
Glad Cafe
Joined by influential Scottish writer Jim Kelman
1006a Pollokshaws Road, Shawlands
Glasgow, G41 2HG
Info HERE.

Hope to see you along the way!

 

 

September 2013

The launch of Songs of Freedom continues to be the big news. You can order the book and cd directly from PM Press here.

Or you can attend one of the following events. For more detailed information please contact local organizers or you can write to me. Please return to this site for further information as new dates are being added-thanks, Mat

Ireland: October 2-5 – full James Connolly Songs of Freedom Band in concert
England, Scotland: October 19-26 – Mat Callahan solo-talk and selection of songs from songbook

October 2nd, 8 p.m
The Pavilion
Huguenot Quarter
Carey's Ln
Cork City
 
October 3rd 8 p.m.
Liberty Hall,
Eden Quay,
Dublin 1.
 
October 5th, 4 p.m.
Sandinos
Water Street
Derry City

October 19th, 5 p.m
London Anarchist Book Fair

October 22nd, London Bookmarks

October 23rd, 7 p.m
Bristol, Bristol Radical History Group
The Plough Inn, Bristol

October 25th, 8:15 p.m
Edinburgh Independent Book Fair

October 26th, 8 p.m
Glasgow, The Glad Cafe

 

August 2013

The big news is the arrival of Songs of Freedom. The book and the cd are now available. Please contact PM Press for information.

The world-wide launch will take place in Cork, Ireland October 2, 2013. This will be followed by a concert in Dublin's famed Liberty Hall, October 3 and an afternoon event at Sandino's in Derry, October 5. Featured on this program will the seven-piece James Connolly Songs of Freedom Band including myself, Stefanie Aeschlimann, Alan Burke, David Brühlmann, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Joe McHugh and Yvonne Moore. More details will be provided closer to the events.

October 2nd, 8 p.m
The Pavilion
Huguenot Quarter
Carey's Ln
Cork City
 
October 3rd, 8 p.m.
Liberty Hall,
Eden Quay,
Dublin 1.
 
October 5th, 4 p.m.
Sandinos
Water Street
Derry City

Later in October I will be traveling to the UK to launch Songs of Freedom there. I will furnish all the details next month. But if you want more information immediately please contact: PM Press, London.


Cover Songs of FreedomSongs of Freedom by James Connolly
(edited by Mat Callahan with introductions by Theo Dorgan and James Connolly Heron)

Songs of Freedom is a celebration of the life and work of James Connolly, the Irish revolutionary socialist martyred by the British for his role in the Easter Rising of 1916. The present volume is comprised of three songbooks published previously but long unavailable. These are the original Songs of Freedom, published in 1907, the Connolly Souvenir program, published in 1919, and the James Connolly Songbook, published in 1972. The first two are presented exactly as they appeared upon publication providing not only the lyrics of songs but a compelling view of the times in which they were written. Unseen for a century, their republication is therefore of considerable historical significance. The introduction to the James Connolly Songbook of 1972, moreover, provides essential background for the appreciation of the songs themselves. Along with those of other writers are featured 23 songs or poems by Connolly. In addition, there are introductory remarks by Connolly's great-grandson, James Connolly Heron, a biographical sketch by Theo Dorgan and a note about the making of the current book by Mat Callahan.

Format: Paperback
Size: 9x6
Page count: 96 Pages
Subjects: Music-Lyrics/History-Ireland


Songs of Freedom (the CD)

The songs on this recording were selected to bring renewed vigor to the vision and spirit of James Connolly. Their performance combines diverse musical influences, from traditional Irish to American rhythm and blues, expressing both Connolly's internationalism and the backgrounds of the musicians who hail from four different countries. As for the songs themselves, nine have lyrics by Connolly, three were written about Connolly and one, the Red Flag, was chosen by Connolly to be in the original Songs of Freedom songbook, subsequently becoming a classic song of Labor. Some of the music is derived from traditional airs, some was composed specially for this recording. All was arranged and performed by a large band assembled under the direction of Mat Callahan. The instrumentation is acoustic: guitars, uillean pipes, whistles, fiddle, accordion and Irish harp, as well as drums and bass. There are five lead vocalists, singing separately and together: Alan Burke, Mat and Shannon Callahan, Shirley Grimes and Yvonne Moore. Inspired by Connolly, this stellar cast deliver a stirring tribute to the ideals for which he fought and died.

The CD booklet includes song lyrics and production credits.

 

July 2013

For those of us paying attention, Edward Snowden's revelations came less as a surprise than as a confirmation. The US government has been spying on US citizens for at least the last century. Ask any Black Panther, any American Indian Movement member, anyone in Vietnam Veterans Against the War, or for that matter any of the millions of committed participants in what was then called the Movement. We witnessed first hand the infiltration, phone tapping, evidence planting, snitch-jacketing and outright murder on the part of the FBI and local Red Squads across the country. If one goes back to the Haymarket Riot of 1886 (which, incidentally, gave birth to May Day, international workers' day), the Palmer Raids of 1919, or the Sacco and Vanzetti case, one immediately recognizes a pattern by which the US government used informers, spies, agents provocateurs and every other devious means to stem the tide of popular discontent. I find it hard to imagine any period in American history when the government was not spying on the American people. If there was one it was very early on because by the time of Shay's Rebellion-1787-the US government was in the business of suppressing its citizens by force of arms.

So what do Edward Snowden's revelations tell us that we don't already know? Well, two very significant things having nothing to do with the information divulged. One is that along with Julian Assange, Bradley Manning and a number of other courageous people, Edward Snowden's actions prove that sooner or later the state apparatus breaks down. The police function of government ultimately relies on human beings, no matter how advanced the technology. But human beings cannot be bullied, bribed, or hypnotized forever. Some among us will see the criminal betrayal of principle and will rise up. The Government's worst nightmare is a replay of the Vietnam War when opposition became so widespread that the army, navy, marines and even air force, were unreliable. Mutinies, fraggings, strikes and public protests became so common they stopped arousing media attention and became the norm for military commanders. This is what Edward Snowden's action portends. The beginning of the unravelling of the whole repressive apparatus from within.

The other significant thing the Snowden case shows is that American democracy is a sham. It always has been for black, hispanic and native people but now everyone is a target of surveillance because everyone is a threat to the power structure. You don't have to be a commie, you just have to be alive. What are the implications of this fact becoming apparent to millions of Americans who until recently believed they were protected by the Constitution and enjoyed the freedom to speak and assemble guaranteed by that noble document? When you discover that your free speech is recorded, your free movement photographed and your free access to information monitored, the alternatives become obvious: either you become psychotic, clinging desperately to your own self-delusion, or you call a spade a spade. This is tyranny, this is totalitarianism, this is slavery, this is wrong!

The situation will destabilize further. Order may be restored but that will not mean a return to the day before Snowden's revelations. There must be a reckoning, which at the very least will result in many countries uniting in opposition to the US. Already the governments of Germany and France are sensing the incompetence of their bosses in Washington. Angela Merkel and the German Intelligence service have been exposed: they are the Stasi, reconfigured. Every charge made against East Germany can now be made against the ostensibly democratic West. Indeed, given Germany's Nazi past one has to wonder what possible explanation will save the German government from the wrath of its people and its neighbors. This is extremely dangerous for the EU as it faces massive opposition to austerity already. A generation of Edward Snowdens is in the streets of Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy. Corruption and fraud at the highest levels are already exposed. The latest revelation simply proves conclusively that the governments of the EU and the US are illegitimate, effectively totalitarian, and must be removed. Recent uprisings such as those in Turkey and Brazil only fade temporarily, their renewed occurrence becomes a certainty and a permanent feature of world politics. Add to that the critical stance taken by actually legitimate governments in Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Nicaragua and the situation becomes even more precarious for the US. The bungled kidnapping of Evo Morales only demonstrates the desperation and futility of US government response.

40 years have passed since Nixon visited Mao in China. In their portion of the joint statement made public at the time the Chinese said: "Countries want independence, nations want liberation and the people want revolution." Today, all governments must be wondering: "What if that is true?"

 

June 2013

Cover Songs of FreedomThis month we'll be putting the finishing touches on the James Connolly-Songs of Freedom songbook and cd. This project, which began in earnest in November 2011, will thus enter a new phase. Our publisher, PM Press, is currently completing the graphic design and layout as well as making all the necessary preparations for publishing worldwide. There is growing interest in modern Irish history due to upcoming centennials, namely, the Dublin Lockout of 1913 and, soon to come, the Easter Rising of 1916. Connolly's role in both events was of crucial importance making it especially important that his Songs of Freedom, originally published in 1907, is being republished at this time. In order to bring the greatest possible attention to the songbook's availability, concerts are being planned in Ireland, the UK, the US and in Switzerland. The latter country might appear an odd choice, but in fact, many of the musicians involved in the recording of the music on the cd reside there and we did, in fact, receive the first tangible support for the project from Swiss sources-both personal and institutional. Had it not been for the generosity of friends and the arts funding still available in Switzerland, we might never have recorded the music much less organized its worldwide distribution along with the songbook that was its inspiration! Nevertheless, without an Irish and American component this endeavor would never have begun in the first place.

From the very beginning it was support from Irish and American individuals and organizations that proved decisive in bringing this project to fruition. The encouragement of people active in labor and political organizing gave a powerful impetus to our efforts. Meetings in San Francisco with numerous individuals, with the ILWU and with The Freedom Archives were productive both in providing valuable information and financial support. The same applies to Ireland where consultation with a wide range of people and organizations culminated in a much expanded and far richer Songs of Freedom than could ever have been imagined by those of us who started this project. Not only did we gain valuable input from SIPTU and Committee to Commemorate the Dublin Lockout of 1913 (especially Padraig Yeates), but it was the wide ranging discussions held with diverse groups that led to Theo Dogan's and Jim Heron's additions to the book. Also, the critical evaluation provided by Des McGuinnes, Des Geraghty and Jim Lane were indispensable in correcting errors of fact and providing perspective on matters of historical importance. The book and cd go to press and manufacture July 1. They should be available for order via internet some time in August, or at the very latest, September. Which brings us to my upcoming trip to Ireland.

I travel to Ireland June 18 for meetings designed to accomplish two separate tasks: 1. to organized the concerts in October and, 2. to raise funds. The latter is slightly complicated by the fact that at present it is crucial that we raise funds for the book and cd, whereas, soon thereafter we need to raise funds for the concerts. This means that between now and July 1 we have to sell as many advance orders for the book and cd as possible. Publication of the book and cd are not at risk but the number and therefore the price will be negatively impacted unless we can assure PM Press that at least 500 have been ordered. The difference is between 1000 and 3000 as a print run and per unit costs that are lower with the larger number. Anyone wanting to order books and cds now can use the order form below or go to www.pmpress.org and order directly there.

This is only one part of the fundraising effort, however. We are faced with transporting musicians as well as other ancillary costs of putting on the October concerts. We will have to raise a substantial sum to cover air fares, ground transport and accommodations for eight musicians and a technical crew. For these purposes we have established the James Connolly Fund. This is a non-profit organization created to handle donations and monitor expenditures. It will also serve to disburse any future income that might eventually accrue. Indeed, the first beneficiary of any surplus has already been designated: the Save Moore Street campaign. In any case, should any readers wish to contribute please contact me directly at: info@matcallahan.com I will then instruct you as to how best to make a donation. Thanks.

Finally, concerts are now planned: October 2, Cork, October 3, Dublin, October 4, Belfast, October 5, Derry. In January 2014 we will be performing a the Western Workers' Labor Heritage Festival in San Francisco. Further US events are being planned for the Pacific Northewest and on the East Coast (New York and Boston). It is not yet clear when but we will definitely be performing in Glasgow and Edinburgh where numerous events are planned for the commemoration of Connolly's life. Please return to this site for more information.

Download the Order Form or order online. Thanks.

 

April 2013

Mat and Yvonne US Tour dates April – May 2013

April 16
The Brecht Forum-New York City
James Connolly-Songs of Freedom night
More infos

April 17
House Concert-Boston
(contact me if you want to come)

April 18
Berklee College of Music-Boston
(talk and performance)

April 20
House concert-Hartford CT.
(contact me if you want to come)

April 25
University of California, Davis
(talk in Media Archeology Course)

April 26
American River College
(concert at mural dedication)

April 27
E Street Gallery Concert in Sacramento
More infos

April 28
Left Curve magazine launch at City Lights
(10 minute duet performance on longer program 5PM)

May 2
Ex'pression in Emeryville
(workshop presentation)

May 3
Benefit for Looters film archive
(518 Valencia 7PM)

May 7
talk-open to the public 7PM
California Institute of Integral Studies
1453 Mission St.
San Francisco, CA 94103

May 10
James Connolly Night
(518 Valencia 7PM)

May 12
Arlene Francis Center-Santa Rosa
concert

contact me directly for all details: info@matcallahan.com

 

March 2013

The biggest news at the moment is that Yvonne and I are preparing for a month in the States. We have performances in New York city, Boston and Hartford on the East Coast, San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Rosa and Sacramento on the West Coast. I will post a detailed itinerary in the next week when all of the dates are finalized but the arrival of Spring reminded me that I needed to announce our imminent departure: We leave for New York on April 14 and we return from San Francisco on May 14.

Meanwhile, I just returned from Göttingen Germany where I attended a conference called "Music in Detention". From punishment to rehabilitation, torture to therapy, the conference discussed diverse ways the State has employed music in the context of detention, whether those detained were common criminals or political prisoners. But, the overriding theme and the focus of the great majority of papers was the use of music as torture-especially by the Nazis, the fascist juntas in Spain, Portugal and Greece, and most recently by the US government at Guantanamo, Abu Graib and other prisons. The evidence presented was not particularly surprising but it was deeply disturbing, nonetheless. Torture by any method is barbaric but using music to inflict it is a monstrous violation of what makes humans human-or, at least some of us think so. It is nonetheless impossible to deny that the whole subject is fraught with contradictions; the confrontation between cherished ideals, be they aesthetic or political, and historical facts. Especially thought provoking was the presentation given by Professor Suzanne Cusick of New York University. Her own research on the subject began with an exploratory piece published in 2006. Subsequently, Professor Cusick has done exemplary work interviewing victims (former inmates from Guantanamo and other sites) as well as gathering testimony from US soldiers and representatives of government. While she is by no means the only one interested, Professor Cusick is one of very few academics who take it seriously enough to devote time and energy-at some professional risk-in getting to the root of the matter. You can read her original paper here:
www.sibetrans.com/trans/a152/music-as-torture-music-as-weapon

I will write a report on the conference along with my own views on this subject at a later date. Here, though, I must say that I was at once pleased to attend such a gathering of devoted scholars and troubled to discover how little has been done-either theoretically or practically about a subject that should be the concern of every musician, music lover and political activist. To be blunt, I get the sense that this is now just "yesterday's news" and judging by the internet exchanges Professor Cusick has patiently gathered, it's actually something of a running gag-at least in the blogosphere. It may be that we have all become so desensitized that our ability to distinguish the monstrous from the mundane has been compromised. It may be that other problems seem so much greater in significance and urgency that music as torture can only be viewed as one more in a litany of woes to be regretted but forgotten. Yet, there persists the uneasy feeling that we are entering a realm beyond which all talk of culture, enlightenment, civilization or human emancipation, is not only forbidden, it is nonsense. "Arbeit Macht Frei" (labor makes you free) as the Nazis put it at the gates of Auschwitz. But as we know, the only freedom Auschwitz could offer was death. Likewise with music: if music is torture the remedy is silence. Is this, after all, what the US government is offering anyone critical of its policies: death and silence?

After decades spent dissecting the co-optation of music by the Culture Industry or our manipulation by "mass media", everyone is no doubt aware how our judgement, our ability to discern the choices we think we are making, is influenced by shadowy but powerful forces we see without seeing every day. However, such mechanisms operate within the "free market" where the "customer is king" and our desires are instantly gratified with the wave of a magic wand: the credit card! Music as torture is another thing altogether. This is not entertainment, diversion or advertising. This is the State openly admitting that to preserve itself it will destroy the very civilization it claims to be the product and representative of. All the principles of the enlightenment are out the window. All the lofty notions regarding the cultivation of taste, aesthetic sensitivity and ethical conduct are reduced to a blubbering mass of futility. In the end, if music is used as torture it is no longer music. It is noise. But this tactic, turning music into noise, cannot conceal the fear motivating its desperate deployment. The State, in fact, fears music. Music has for centuries been used to mobilize resistance to the State and has often been successful. This is no better exemplified than the use of music in the Civil Rights and Black Liberation struggles in the United States itself. It was also used to similar effect in the struggle against Apartheid — notably by the political prisoners on Robben Island among whom was Nelson Mandela. It is my contention-which I will explore in greater detail at another time-that we are witnessing the breakdown of power structures-including the co-optive and manipulative functions of the Culture Industry and mass media-and, as a consequence, both the potential of mass resistance and the related potential of music as a weapon of liberation are increasing. This is ultimately what is at stake for the State in general and the US government in particular.

Please return to this site in a week for more details.

 

February 2013

Now for a quick update on several projects.

1. The James Connolly-Songs of Freedom project is entering a new phase. The book and cd are completed and being prepared for printing and manufacture. With the thoughtful assistance of Adi Tosetto of Audioworks in Bern, the mixing and mastering were completed in the first week of February. At the same time the final contents of the book including the cover design were assembled under the guidance of our publisher PM Press. Plans are now underway for concerts in Cork, Dublin, Belfast and Derry from October 2-October 5, 2013. Under discussion are further concerts in Edinburgh and Glasgow to coincide with celebrations in those cities of the life and work of James Connolly. Please contact me for further information.

2. Yvonne Moore, Blue Wisdom Volume 2 is now available. For all those who have heard and were inspired by last year's Blue Wisdom Volume 1, this will be a welcome addition since Volume 2 is more songs performed by the same stellar cast as Volume 1: Hank Schizzoe, guitar, Andi Hug, drums, Andre Pousaz, contrabass and, of course, Yvonne Moore. Once again, the combination of unusual arrangements of old blues played with enthusiastic spontaneity produces a stunning result. Far from the slick, predictable formulas found in most of todays pop offerings, Yvonne Moore's Blue Wisdom Volumes 1 and 2, feature impassioned performance, exactly as it occurred in the studio. We are all very proud of this project. For more information please contact: www.yvonne-moore.ch

3. A visit to the US: Yvonne and I will be traveling to New York City, Boston, Hartford and San Francisco between April 14 and May 14, 2013. We will be performing as a duet in different venues and with different repertoires. In some cases we will be performing our own songs, in others we will be performing selections from the James Connolly Songs of Freedom songbook. In addition, I will be delivering talks on music and politics in various schools. I will post the details on this site in a couple of weeks.

Stay tuned!

 

 

January 2013

Mat Callahan interviews Jim Rogers

RFE

Jim Rogers is a Research Fellow and Associate Lecturer at the School of Communications, Dublin City University, Ireland. Jim’s recent research interests focus on how the music industry has negotiated the transition to digital. It points to many fundamental continuities in terms of how the industry operates, despite the perception of a ‘digital revolution’ bringing transformation to the domain.

Jim is the author of The Death and Life of the Music Industry in the Digital Age — a forthcoming book [early 2013] from Bloomsbury Academic. Bloomsbury offers this summary:

“This book challenges the conventional wisdom that the internet is ‘killing’ the music industry. While technological innovations (primarily in the form of peer-to-peer file-sharing) have evolved to threaten the economic health of major transnational music companies, this book illustrates how those same companies have themselves formulated highly innovative response strategies to negate the harmful effects of the internet. In short, it illustrates how the radical transformative potential of the internet is being suppressed by legal and organisational innovations. Grounded in a social shaping perspective, the book contends that the internet has not altered pre-existing power relations in the music industry where a small handful of very large corporations have long since established an oligopolistic dominance. Furthermore, the book contends that widespread acceptance of the idea that online piracy is rampant, and music largely ‘free’ actually helps these major music companies in their quest to bolster their power. In doing this, this book serves to deflate much of the transformative hype and digital ‘deliria’ that has accompanied the internet’s evolution as a medium for mass communication.”

Our interview covers three broad themes:
1. the actual state of the music business amidst the hue and cry over file sharing and the decline of CD sales. More specifically, what are this business’s current practices and profitability?
2. the intersection of music and the technology involved in music making and how that is both distinct from and linked to the technology of computers and the internet. (for example: digital signal processing, midi, hard disk and software based recording, as opposed to: file sharing, hacking, digital distribution via internet, etc.)
3. IP regimes, criminalization of file sharing, assessing “threats”, real and imagined. Is “piracy” a boon or a curse for musicians and audiences? Is copyright doomed? What new opportunities present themselves as a result of the internet? And for whom?

RFE Episode Seven: music, technology and capitalism, an overview of current developments. An interview with Jim Rogers.

 

December 2012

Mat Callahan interviews Josef Brinckmann

RFE

Josef Brinckmann has 33 years professional experience in the global trade of herbal medicinal products. The most common of these products are teas, pastilles and syrups and Josef has worked with farmers and wild collectors in many parts of the world in bringing their good to market.

Josef is also the Senior Consultant for Biodiversity Products with the International Trade Centre (ITC) in Geneva, Switzerland, serving as well as an Advisory Board member of numerous scientific and trade organizations such as the American Botanical Council (ABC) and the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP). The list is very long and it’s not necessary to present it all to make clear the reason I asked Josef to join us. His rich experience and in-depth knowledge in several overlapping fields, namely botany, agronomy and international trade, make him an invaluable resource regarding some highly contentious issues. This interview explores three broad themes:

Health, agriculture and social organization

a. how do we define health, what are the purposes to which medicines of any kind are put to use and what differentiates herbal medicine from the synthetic or the traditional from the manufactured.  Are these mutually exclusive, interdependent, or something else?

b. how do we define growth, progress, efficiency or productivity in relation to plants and animals either raised or wild harvested by farmers, fisher-people, pastoralists or other herding? How is labor in any of these activities related to outcomes? Is there a necessary connection between the work and skill inputs of people and the quality of what is harvested or are industrial methods employing large scale mechanical inputs equivalent in the end product? What is the connection between the knowledge of common farmers, for example, and trained botanists-between “practical” knowledge and science?

c. how do we define organic, specifically as it relates to the treatment or life-quality of the producers of nourishment, including medicinal plants. The Demeter standards, for example, name the living conditions of the farmers as a definitive component. Slave labor, debt peonage, serfdom are clearly not acceptable. But what is?

Episode 6: Health, agriculture and social organization, an interview with
Josef Brinckmann, 15.10.12

 

November 2012

November is almost over and I'm only now getting to this installment of the monthly news. This is not because nothing happened but because so much did. Time permits only a brief summary but I hope to keep readers up to date on three important projects. First, the final touches are being put on the James Connolly Songs of Freedom book and cd. Most of the printed material has been assembled and is being designed by PM Press in Oakland, California. This book will bring together in one volume three previously published songbooks. One is the original Songs of Freedom, edited by Connolly and published in New York in 1907. The second is the Souvenir Program for a concert held in Dublin in 1919 to commemorate Connolly's birth. The third is the James Connolly Songbook published in 1972 by the Cork Workers Club. The first two have been hidden from public view for a century. I have written a brief Preface to explain how this new book came to be made and its relevance to current affairs. Theo Dorgan, a fine writer and early supporter of this project, has agreed to contribute a biographical essay on Connolly. As for the music on the accompanying cd, it will be finished by year's end. The recordings will be completed by the end of November and the mixes by mid-December. Please return to this site for news. There will be concerts to celebrate the publication of the book/cd in Ireland (at least in Derry and Dublin, perhaps elsewhere in Ireland as well), and very likely the United States. We continue to do fundraising and seek advance orders so any of you who can contribute, please contact me:

info@matcallahan.com

Mat Callahan
Weissensteinstrasse 53
3007 Bern
Switzerland

Meanwhile, Radio Free Everybody is completing its first half year of podcasting. Two new interviews were conducted in November and more were organized for next year. Upcoming will be a talk with Josef Brinckmann in Sebastopol, California regarding his work in the field of medicinal herbs. This wide ranging discussion takes on the topics of health, agriculture and social organization in a global context. Josef's experience with growers and wild gatherers of diverse species of medicinal plants is an eye-opener. But even more significant is the perspective he brings to relationships between governments, treaty organizations and, inevitably, the giant corporations that dominate pharmaceuticals and agriculture.

Next we have a discussion with, Jm Rogers, Research Fellow and Associate Lecturer at the School of Communications, Dublin City University regarding his work on technology and media. Jim's most recent research focuses on how the music industry has negotiated the transition to digital. It points to many fundamental continuities in terms of how the industry operates, despite the perception of a 'digital revolution' bringing transformation to the domain. Jim is the author of 'The Death and Life of the Music Industry in the Digital Age'-a forthcoming book from Bloomsbury Academic.

Stay tuned to this site or, visit our dear friends and online host, STIR Magazine, http://stirtoaction.com/

STIR: Volume One
STIR has recently published its first book. The Press Release puts it well:

"At a moment when alternatives are not obvious to all and most responses to austerity are all too predictable, this crowdfunded collection of articles and interviews from the first years of Stir Magazine looks at how inspiring and innovative groups are taking cooperative and community-led ideas from the margins to the mainstream."

Writers as diverse as Simon Critchley, Raj Patel, Nina Power and many others were brought together by editors Jonny Gordon-Farleigh and Abby McFlynn in one beautifully designed volume. Please contact STIR to purchase a copy.

Stir

STAND & FIGHT
Last but not least, work has begun on, "Stand and Fight". This is a song and a film project that has been on the drawing board for the last six months. I will write more about this in the December installment of my news but here I must mention that we will record and film musicians from four continents performing this song. This will be distributed via YouTube and other digital means. Then, I plan to record and film a new repertoire, related musically and thematically to "Stand and Fight". (in the 'old days', we'd have called this an album.) Naturally, funding and logistics are taking up most of my time. The music is composed, the lyrics are done, it's a matter of getting the production organized. More soon.

 

October 2012

Mat Callahan interviews Dr. Hans-Martin Frey

Dr. Hans-Martin Frey is a research associate in the chemistry department at the University of Bern. His work is in general physical chemistry focusing on rotational lasar spectroscopy.  Dr. Frey is also a political activist who for many years has been involved in the movement against nuclear power in Switzerland. He first became engaged during the struggle to prevent the construction of the Kaiseraugst nuclear power plant in 1974 (this campaign succeeded in preventing the construction of the plant). More recently, Dr. Frey has been active in the struggle to shut down the Mühleberg nuclear plant near Switzerland’s capital city, Bern-which continues to this day. This combination of scientific training and political engagement provides insights useful to understanding two of the most important issues facing humanity: climate change and nuclear energy. Each of these subjects are controversial but under current circumstances they form a tangled knot of claims and counterclaims fueled by special interests.

On this installment of Radio Free Everybody, we’ll be asking basic questions such as “what is science and what separates science from opinion, from self-interest or from politics?” and “What is nuclear energy? is there a scientific consensus about its costs, benefits and dangers?” We also investigate the ways climate change is actually measured and why this has led to a virtually unanimous verdict among scientists that it has a strong anthropogenic component. In other words, greenhouse gases, caused by human activity, are accelerating the heating of the earth and its atmosphere, producing catastrophic consequences for many living creatures including humans.  This has led to, on the one hand, claims from the oil and coal industries that there’s nothing to worry about and, on the other hand, from the nuclear power industry that nuclear energy is the only solution! How do we get to the bottom of this and find reliable data for making informed decisions.

Episode 5: Science, climate change and nuclear energy, an interview with Dr. Hans-Martin Frey from Bern, Switzerland

 

Eric Hobsbawm died at the age of 95

On October 1, Eric Hobsbawn died at the age of 95. Hobsbawm was among the world's most important historians. Along with the Annales School in France, especially Fernand Braudel, Hobsbawm was a major figure in revolutionizing historiography. This entailed the wholesale assault on and decisive defeat of the "great man theory" of history which dominated history departments throughout Academia until the 1960's. Replacing it instead with the "history from the bottom up" Hobsbawm demonstrated the usefulness of studying society's "lower orders", the people whom history had previously ignored. This revitalized the study of history and along with Braudel's theory of the longue durée (or history of very long periods of time) changed what we consider important or worthy of examination. Hobsbawm pioneered the study of bandits, working class rebellions, and popular insurgencies, firmly establishing new methods of assessment as well as the reevaluation of causes and effects. His great series, the "Age" books, provide a much needed antidote to those conventional histories devoted to glorifying conquistadors, monarchs and potentates. The Age of Revolution, The Age of Capital and The Age of Empires, not only offer new data and insights in regards to the forces that shaped our present but they deal a stunning blow to the apologists for slavery and imperial conquest, not to mention current defenders of neo-liberalism. His summary of the short 20th Century (1914–1991), The Age of Extremes, is both a conclusion to the "Ages" series and a reckoning with the consequences of what is covered by the three previous books. His last book, published in 2011 was appropriately titled: How to Change the World. For a lifelong communist and internationalist scholar, what could be a more resounding finale! What follows is the review of the book by Terry Eagleton that appeared in the London Review of Books last year.

Indomitable

Terry Eagleton
How to Change the World: Marx and Marxism 1840-2011 by Eric Hobsbawm
Little, Brown, 470 pp, £25.00, January 2011, ISBN 978 1 4087 0287 1

In 1976, a good many people in the West thought that Marxism had a reasonable case to argue. By 1986, most of them no longer felt that way. What had happened in the meanwhile? Were these people now buried under a pile of toddlers? Had Marxism been unmasked as bogus by some world-shaking new research? Had someone stumbled on a lost manuscript by Marx confessing that it was all a joke?

We are speaking, note, about 1986, a few years before the Soviet bloc crumbled. As Eric Hobsbawm points out in this collection of essays, that wasn’t what caused so many erstwhile believers to bin their Guevara posters. Marxism was already in dire straits some years before the Berlin Wall came down. One reason given was that the traditional agent of Marxist revolution, the working class, had been wiped out by changes to the capitalist system – or at least was no longer in a majority. It is true that the industrial proletariat had dwindled, but Marx himself did not think that the working class was confined to this group. In Capital, he ranks commercial workers on the same level as industrial ones. He was also well aware that by far the largest group of wage labourers in his own day was not the industrial working class but domestic servants, most of whom were women. Marx and his disciples didn’t imagine that the working class could go it alone, without forging alliances with other oppressed groups. And though the industrial proletariat would have a leading role, Marx does not seem to have thought that it had to constitute the social majority in order to play it.

Even so, something did indeed happen between 1976 and 1986. Racked by a crisis of profits, old style mass production gave way to a smaller scale, versatile, decentralised ‘post-industrial’ culture of consumerism, information technology and the service industries. Outsourcing and globalisation were now the order of the day. But this did not mean that the system had essentially changed, thus encouraging the generation of 1968 to swap Gramsci and Marcuse for Said and Spivak. On the contrary, it was more powerful than ever, with wealth concentrated in even fewer hands and class inequalities growing apace. It was this, ironically, which sparked the leftist rush for the exits. Radical ideas withered as radical change seemed increasingly implausible. The only public figure to denounce capitalism in the past 25 years, Hobsbawm claims, was Pope John Paul II. All the same, another couple of decades later, the fainthearted witnessed a system so exultant and impregnable that it only just managed to keep the cash machines open on the high streets.

Eric Hobsbawm, who was born in the year of the Bolshevik revolution, remains broadly committed to the Marxist camp – a fact worth mentioning as it would be easy to read this book without realising it. This is because of its judiciousness, not its shiftiness. Its author has lived through so much of the political turbulence he portrays that it is easy to fantasise that History itself is speaking here, in its wry, all-seeing, dispassionate wisdom. It is hard to think of a critic of Marxism who can address his or her own beliefs with such honesty and equipoise.

Hobsbawm, to be sure, is not quite as omniscient as the Hegelian World-Spirit, for all his cosmopolitan range and encyclopedic knowledge. Like many historians he is not at his sharpest in the realm of ideas, and he is wrong to suggest that the disciples of Louis Althusser treated Marx’s Capital as though it were primarily a work of epistemology. Nor would Hegel’s Geist treat feminism, not least Marxist feminism, with such cold-eyed indifference, or consign one of the most fertile currents of modern Marxism – Trotskyism – to a few casual asides. Hobsbawm also thinks that Gramsci is the most original thinker produced by the West since 1917. Perhaps he means the most original Marxist thinker, but even that is dubious. Walter Benjamin is surely a better qualified candidate for that title.

Even the most erudite students of Marxism, however, will find themselves learning from these essays. It is, for example, part of the stock-in-trade of historical materialism that Marx broke decisively with the various utopian socialists who surrounded him. (One of them believed that in an ideal world the sea would turn into lemonade. Marx would probably have preferred Riesling.) Hobsbawm, by contrast, insists on Marx’s substantial debt to these thinkers, who ranged from ‘the penetratingly visionary to the psychically unhinged’. He is clear about the fragmentary nature of Marx’s political writings, and rightly insists that the word ‘dictatorship’ in the phrase ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’, used by Marx to describe the Paris Commune, means nothing like what it means today. Revolution was to be seen not simply as a sudden transfer of power but as the prelude to a lengthy, complex, unpredictable period of transition. From the late 1850s onwards, Marx did not consider any such seizure of power either imminent or probable. Much as he cheered on the Paris Commune, he expected little from it. Nor was revolution to be simplemindedly opposed to reform, of which Marx was a persistent champion. As Hobsbawm might have added, there have been some relatively bloodless revolutions and some spectacularly bloody processes of social reform.

An absorbing chapter on Engels’s The Condition of the Working Class in England claims it as the first study anywhere to deal with the working class as a whole, not merely with particular sectors or industries. In Hobsbawm’s view, its analysis of the social impact of capitalism is still in many respects unsurpassed. The book does not paint its subject in too lurid a colour: the charge that it depicts all workers as starving or destitute, or living purely at subsistence level, is groundless. Nor is the bourgeoisie presented as a bunch of black-hearted villains. As so often, it takes one to know one: Engels himself was the son of a wealthy German manufacturer who ran a textile mill in Salford, and used his ill-gotten gains to help keep the down-at-heel Marx family afloat. He also enjoyed a spot of fox-hunting, and as a champion of both the proletariat and the colonial Irish maintained a unity of theory and practice by taking a working-class Irish woman as his mistress.

Did Marx see the victory of socialism as inevitable? He says so in The Communist Manifesto, though Hobsbawm denies that it is a deterministic document. Yet this is partly because he does not inquire into what kind of inevitability is at stake. Marx sometimes writes as if historical tendencies had the force of natural laws; but it is doubtful even so that this is why he saw socialism as the logical outcome of capitalism. If socialism is historically predestined, why bother with political struggle? It is rather that he expected capitalism to become more exploitative, while the working class grew in strength, numbers and experience; and these men and women, being moderately rational, would then have every reason to rise up against their oppressors. Rather as for Christianity the free actions of human beings are part of God’s preordained plan, so for Marx the tightening contradictions of capitalism will force men and women freely to overthrow it. Conscious human activity will bring revolution about, but the paradox is that this activity is itself in a sense scripted.

You cannot, however, speak of what free men and women are bound to do in certain circumstances, since if they are bound to do it they are not free. Capitalism may be teetering on the verge of ruin, but it may not be socialism that replaces it. It may be fascism, or barbarism. Hobsbawm reminds us of a small but significant phrase in The Communist Manifesto which has been well-nigh universally overlooked: capitalism, Marx writes ominously, might end ‘in the common ruin of the contending classes’. It is not out of the question that the only socialism we shall witness is one that we shall be forced into by material circumstance after a nuclear or ecological catastrophe. Like other 19th-century believers in progress, Marx did not foresee the possibility of the human race growing so technologically ingenious that it ends up wiping itself out. This is one of several ways in which socialism is not historically inevitable, and neither is anything else. Nor did Marx live to see how social democracy might buy off revolutionary passion.

Few works have sung the praises of the middle classes with such embarrassing zest as The Communist Manifesto. In Marx’s view, they have been by far the most revolutionary force in human history, and without harnessing for its own ends the material and spiritual wealth they have accumulated, socialism will prove bankrupt. This, needless to say, was one of his shrewder prognostications. Socialism in the 20th century turned out to be most necessary where it was least possible: in socially devastated, politically benighted, economically backward regions of the globe where no Marxist thinker before Stalin had ever dreamed that it could take root. Or at least, take root without massive assistance from more well-heeled nations. In such dismal conditions, the socialist project is almost bound to turn into a monstrous parody of itself. All the same, the idea that Marxism leads inevitably to such monstrosities, as Hobsbawm observes, ‘has about as much justification as the thesis that all Christianity must logically and necessarily always lead to papal absolutism, or all Darwinism to the glorification of free capitalist competition’. (He does not consider the possibility of Darwinism leading to a kind of papal absolutism, which some might see as a reasonable description of Richard Dawkins.)

Hobsbawm, however, points out that Marx was actually too generous to the bourgeoisie, a fault of which he is not commonly accused. At the time of The Communist Manifesto, their economic achievements were a good deal more modest than he imagined. In a curious garbling of tenses, the Manifesto described not the world capitalism had created in 1848, but the world as it was destined to be transformed by capitalism. What Marx had to say was not exactly true, but it would become true by, say, the year 2000, and it was capitalism that would make it so. Even his comments on the abolition of the family have proved prophetic: about half of the children in advanced Western countries today are born to or brought up by single mothers, and half of all households in large cities consist of single persons.

Hobsbawm’s essay on the Manifesto speaks of its ‘dark, laconic eloquence’, and notes that as political rhetoric it has ‘an almost biblical force’. ‘The new reader,’ he writes, ‘can hardly fail to be swept away by the passionate conviction, the concentrated brevity, the intellectual and stylistic force of this astonishing pamphlet.’ The Manifesto initiated a whole genre of such declarations, most of them from avant-garde artists such as the Futurists and the Surrealists, whose outrageous wordplay and scandalous hyperbole turn these broadsides into avant-garde artworks in themselves. The manifesto genre represents a mixture of theory and rhetoric, fact and fiction, the programmatic and the performative, which has never been taken seriously enough as an object of study.

Marx, too, was an artist of sorts. It is often forgotten how staggeringly well read he was, and what painstaking labour he invested in the literary style of his works. He was eager, he remarked, to get shot of the ‘economic crap’ of Capital and get down to his big book on Balzac. Marxism is about leisure, not labour. It is a project that should be eagerly supported by all those who dislike having to work. It holds that the most precious activities are those done simply for the hell of it, and that art is in this sense the paradigm of authentic human activity. It also holds that the material resources that would make such a society possible already exist in principle, but are generated in a way that compels the great majority to work as hard as our Neolithic ancestors did. We have thus made astounding progress, and no progress at all.

In the 1840s, Hobsbawm argues, it was by no means improbable to conclude that society was on the verge of revolution. What was improbable was the idea that within a handful of decades the politics of capitalist Europe would be transformed by the rise of organised working-class parties and movements. Yet this is what came to pass. It was at this point that commentary on Marx, at least in Britain, began to shift from the cautiously admiring to the near hysterical. In 1885, no less devout a non-revolutionary than Balfour commended Marx’s writings for their intellectual force, and for their economic reasoning in particular. A whole raft of liberal or conservative commentators took his economic ideas with intense seriousness. Once those ideas took the form of a political force, however, a number of ferociously anti-Marxist works began to appear. Their apotheosis was Hugh Trevor-Roper’s stunning revelation that Marx had made no original contribution to the history of ideas. Most of these critics, I take it, would have rejected the Marxist view that human thought is sometimes bent out of shape by the pressure of political interests, a phenomenon commonly known as ideology. Only recently has Marxism been back on the agenda, placed there, ironically enough, by an ailing capitalism. ‘Capitalism in Convulsion’, a Financial Times headline read in 2008. When capitalists begin to speak of capitalism, you know the system is in dire trouble. They have still not dared to do so in the United States.

There is much else to admire in How to Change the World. In a suggestive passage on William Morris, the book shows how logical it was for a critique of capitalism based on the arts and crafts to spring up in England, where advanced industrial capitalism posed a deadly threat to artisanal production. A chapter on the 1930s contains a fascinating account of the relations between Marxism and science – it was the only period, Hobsbawm points out, when natural scientists were attracted to Marxism in significant numbers. As the threat of an irrationalist Fascism loomed, it was the ‘Enlightenment’ features of the Marxist creed – its faith in reason, science, progress and social planning – which attracted men like Joseph Needham and J.D. Bernal. During Marxism’s next historical upsurge, in the 1960s and 1970s, this version of historical materialism would be ousted by the more cultural and philosophical tenets of so-called Western Marxism. In fact, science, reason, progress and planning were now more enemies than allies, at war with the new libertarian cults of desire and spontaneity. Hobsbawm shows only qualified sympathy for the 1968ers, which is unsurprising in a long-term member of the Communist Party. Their idealisation of the Cultural Revolution in China, he suggests with some justice, had about as much to do with China as the 18th-century cult of the noble savage had with Tahiti.

‘If one thinker left a major indelible mark on the 20th century,’ Hobsbawm remarks, ‘it was he.’ Seventy years after Marx’s death, for better or for worse, one third of humanity lived under political regimes inspired by his thought. Well over 20 per cent still do. Socialism has been described as the greatest reform movement in human history. Few intellectuals have changed the world in such practical ways. That is usually the preserve of statesmen, scientists and generals, not of philosophers and political theorists. Freud may have changed lives, but hardly governments. ‘The only individually identifiable thinkers who have achieved comparable status,’ Hobsbawm writes, ‘are the founders of the great religions in the past, and with the possible exception of Muhammad none has triumphed on a comparable scale with such rapidity.’ Yet very few, as Hobsbawm points out, would have predicted such celebrity for this poverty-stricken, carbuncle-ridden Jewish exile, a man who once observed that nobody had ever written so much about money and had so little.

Most of the pieces collected in this book have been published before, though about two-thirds of them have not appeared in English. Those without Italian can therefore now read a number of important essays by Hobsbawm which first appeared in that language, not least three substantial surveys of the history of Marxism from 1880 to 1983. These alone would make the volume uniquely valuable; but they are flanked by other chapters, on such topics as pre-Marxian socialism, Marx on pre-capitalist formations, Gramsci, Marx and labour, which broaden its scope significantly. How to Change the World is the work of a man who has reached an age at which most of us would be happy to be able to raise ourselves from our armchairs without the aid of three nurses and a hoist, let alone carry out historical research. It will surely not be the last volume we shall be granted by this indomitable spirit.

 

September 2012

Mat Callahan interviews Cesare Silvi

Cesare Silvi is a mechanical and nuclear engineer who was employed by the Italian government in the mid-1970s to study safety at nuclear power plants. The goal was to design reactors that could withstand any threat be it enemy attack or catastrophes such as those that subsequently occurred at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and more recently at Fukushima. Years of research led Silvi to the conclusion that there was no practical means of making nuclear energy safe nor could its production be justified economically or scientifically. This led him to a deep inquiry into what he has termed "Sun Science".

For the last twenty years Silvi has been active in the International Solar Energy Society from which has emerged an entirely new perspective on solar energy as well as many innovative proposals. Today he chairs Il Gruppo per la storia dell’energia solare (the Group for the history of solar energy, GSES, www.gses.itinfo@gses.it) and the Italian National Committee: "The History of Solar Energy", established in 2006 by the Ministry of Heritage and Culture.

Episode 4: Energy, engineering and philosophy - Interview with Cesare Silvi from Rome, Italy

 

James Connolly Songs of Freedom-Dublin meetings September 2012

RFE Meetings in June had clearly established that Songs of Freedom would be published as a song book and cd, that these would have the support of SIPTU (the Services, Industries, Professional and Technical Union) and that all proceeds would go into the James Connolly Fund which would designate an annual beneficiary, the first of whom would be the Save Moore Street campaign. What the meetings did not resolve were the date of publication, how the production was to be funded and distributed and how the James Connolly Songs of Freedom Band could be brought to Dublin to perform on the date chosen for the publication of the book and cd. The purpose of our meetings in September was, therefore, to answer these questions and provide practical means for completing the project successfully. To that end we met with Frank Connolly, communications secretary of SIPTU, and Padraig Yeates, head of the 1913 Commemoration Committee. In preparation for the meeting Frank and Padraig were supplied with rough mixes of the 13 songs that will comprise the album. Outside of the musicians themselves, Frank and Padraig were the first to hear the album in its entirety. In addition, they were presented with the two most significant components of the song book itself, namely, scans of the original Songs of Freedom from 1907 and the 1919 Souvenir Program which, together, contain the bulk of James Connolly's published song lyrics.*

We agreed on a number of important points. First, October 2013 was chosen as the date of publication. On the one hand this will benefit from the year long celebrations of the Dublin Lockout of 1913 in which Connolly played a crucial role. On the other, it keeps the focus on Connolly as attention will, by October, begin shifting to the commemoration of the Easter Rising in 2016. Second, it was agreed that PM Press would be the publisher and in collaboration with SIPTU, other unions in Ireland, the United States and in other countries, would bring Songs of Freedom to the widest possible audience worldwide. Finally, it was agreed that the remaining funds necessary to finalize production would be sought directly through SIPTU and other unions as well as from supporters of the project from all walks of life. More specifically, a budget was submitted by PM Press that established both the basic costs as well as the lowest possible retail price.

The costs are approximately $25,000 for 3000 copies of song book and cd. The retail price will be $14 for book alone, $15 for cd alone and $20 for book and cd together, shrink wrapped. It is hoped that unions will contribute by ordering copies in advance thus guaranteeing the costs are covered and the books and cds made available directly to union members. PM Press will handle distribution through book stores and other outlets to reach the general public.

The final point discussed was a proposed concert at Liberty Hall, Dublin, to announce the publication of the song book and cd. It so happened, we had that very morning received an invitation from Joe Mulheron to launch the publication at his club, Sandino's in Derry, so we already had before us two concerts around which to organize a promotional tour. Naturally, this will require more funding and logistical support. It was agreed that we would begin work on this idea immediately but that it would depend to a large extent on our successfully completing the production of the song book and cd. Fortunately, Frank and Padraig were inspired by the music and on that basis consider the concerts an important means of building support for the project as a whole. It was agreed that Liberty Hall would be secured for the event but that we would have to collaborate with others to bring out the public and make the event a success.

Later the same day, a listening session was convened at the Dublin Teachers Club. A wonderful group of artists and activists, many with decades of experience in labor and political struggles, came to listen to the music. We played the recording from beginning to end. The audience sat in attentive silence from the first to the last note. Any uncertainty I had was immediately removed by the general enthusiasm of all in attendance. It was a heartwarming vote of confidence for all of us who've worked long and hard to make the songs of James Connolly come to life.

A lively discussion followed with numerous concrete suggestions of how to build an audience for the finished product. It was suggested that a documentary be made of how this project was conceived and realized. It was further suggested that a translation be made into spanish and a collaboration be initiated with the Victor Jara Foundation. This is especially relevant because the President of Ireland, Michael Higgins, will be making an official visit to Chile next October and could make use of the Songs of Freedom in his presentation. It was clear that the music inspired everyone to think of ways to bring its message to world. It was especially encouraging that two of Connolly's great grandchildren were present and urged us on. Michelle Connolly in particular said how much she enjoyed the great spirit of the music and that this would certainly appeal to young people.

Afterwards, we all went to the bar downstairs and carried on discussion over pints of Guinness. I certainly had the feeling that this small event would galvanize the support needed to not only complete the making of the song book and cd but to give it the greatest public reception when it finally arrives.

*(These two separate song books will be accompanied by the front cover and introduction to the version of the James Connolly Songbook published by the Cork Workers Club in 1972. Since the songs in the Cork Workers Club version are taken directly from the 1919 Souvenir program there is no reason to duplicate them here. The reasons to republish the 1907 and 1919 books in their entirety are, first, very few people alive today have ever seen the originals and they are of great historical interest. Secondly, while some songs are duplicated many, especially those written by Connolly himself, are not. Together all three song books tell a fascinating story that follows Connolly's own life and enduring legacy which led to the present effort half a century after the Cork Workers Club book was published.)

 

August 2012

RFEDear Friends: Please read the introduction to this new book. It's posted below. You will find a welcome antidote to the poison we are forced to ingest on a daily basis. - Mat

 

 

 

Alain Badiou
The Rebirth of History

 

 





Introduction

What is going on? Of what are we the half-fascinated, half-devastated witnesses? The continuation, at all costs, of a weary world? A salutary crisis of that world, racked by its victorious expansion? The end of that world? The advent of a different world? What is happening to us in the early years of the century – something that would appear not to have any clear name in any accepted language?

Let us consult our masters: discreet bankers; media stars; hesitant representatives of major commissions; spokesmen of the ‘international community‘; busy presidents; new philosophers; factory and estate owners; stock market men and boards of directors; chattering opposition politicos; urban and provincial notables; economists of growth; sociologists of citizenship; experts on all sorts of crises; prophets of the ‘clash of civilizations’; heads of the police, justice and ‘penitentiary’ systems; profit assessors; productivity calculators; the prim editorialists of serious newspapers; human resources directors; people who in their own view are of some account; people one would do well not to take for nobodies. What have they got to say about it, all these rulers, all these opinion-formers, all these leaders, all these thimble-rigging tyrants?

They all say that the world is changing at a dizzying pace and that, if we are not to risk ruin or death (for them it comes to the same thing), we must adapt to this change or, in the world as it is, be but a mere shadow of ourselves. That we should energetically engage in incessant ‘modernization’ , accepting the inevitable costs without a murmur. Given the harsh competitive world that daily confronts us with challenges, we must climb the steep slopes of productivity, budget reduction, technological innovation, the good health of our banks, and job flexibility. All competition is sportive in its essence. In short, we must form part of the final breakaway alongside the champions of the moment (a German ace, a Thai outsider, a British veteran, a Chinese newcomer, not to mention the ever vigorous Yankee, and so on), and never crawl at the back of the pack. To that end everyone must pedal: modernize, reform, change! What politician on the campaign trail can dispense with proposing reform, change, novelty? The argument between government and opposition always takes the following form : What the others are saying isn’t real change. It’s a thinly resprayed conservatism. I represent real change! You’ve only to look at me to know it. I reform and modernize; new laws rain down every week – bravo! Let’s break with routine ! Out with the old !

So let us change.

But change what, in fact? If change is to be permanent, its direction, so it would seem, must be constant. All the measures dictated to us by the economic situation are to be implemented as a matter of urgency. This is so that the rich can continue to get rich while paying fewer taxes; so that the workforce of firms can be reduced with numerous redundancies and extensive restructuring; so that everything which is public can be privatized, and thereby ultimately contribute not to the public good (a particularly ‘anti-economic’ category) , but to the wealth of the rich and the maintenance (costly, alas) of the middle classes, who form the reserve army of the rich; so that schools, hospitals, housing, transport and communications – those five pillars of a satisfactory life for all – can initially be regionalized (that is a step forward), then exposed to competition (that is crucial) , and finally handed over to the market (that is decisive) , in order that the places and resources where and with which the rich and semi-rich are educated, treated, housed and transported cannot be confused with those where the poor and their like struggle to get by; so that workers of foreign origin, who have often lived and worked here for decades, can have their rights reduced to nothing, their children targeted, their statutory papers rescinded, and have to endure the furious campaigns of ‘civilization’ and ‘our values’ against them; so that, in particular, young girls can only go out on the streets with their heads uncovered, and the rest too, mindful as they must be of affirming their ‘secularity’ ; so that the mentally ill can be imprisoned for life; so that the countless social ‘privileges’ on which the lower classes are getting fat can be hunted down; so that bloody military expeditions can be mounted the world over, especially in Africa, to enforce respect for ‘human rights’ – i.e. the rights of the powerful to carve up states, to put in power (through a combination of violent occupation and phantom ‘ elections’) corrupt valets, who will hand over the totality of the country’s resources to the aforesaid powerful for nothing. Those who, for whatever reason, and even if they were serviceable for ‘modernization’ in the past, even If they were obliging valets, are suddenly opposed to the carve-up of their country, to its pillaging by the powerful and the ‘human rights’ that go with it, will be brought before the tribunals of modernization, and hanged if possible. Such is the invariant truth of ‘change’, the actuality of ‘reform’ , the concrete dimension of ‘modernization’. Such, for our masters, is the law of the world.

This short book aims to oppose to this view of things a rather different one, which can be summarized here in three points.

  1. Under the interchangeable rubrics of ‘modernization’ , ‘reform,’ ‘democracy,’ ‘the West,’ ‘ the international community,’ ‘human rights,’ ‘secularism,’ ‘globalization’ and various others, we find nothing but an historical attempt at an unprecedented regression, intent upon creating a situation in which the development of globalized capitalism, and the action of its political servants, conforms to the norms of their birth: a dyed-in­ the-wool liberalism of mid-nineteenth-century vintage, the unlimited power of a financial and imperial oligarchy, and a window-dressing of parliamentary government composed (as Marx put it) of ‘Capital’s executives’. To that end, every­ thing which the existence of the organized forms of the workers’ movement, communism and genuine socialism had invented between 1860 and 1980, and imposed on a world scale, thereby putting liberal capitalism on the defensive, must be ruthlessly destroyed, and the value system of imperialism – the celebrated ‘values’ – recreated. Such is the sole content of the ‘modernization’ underway.

  2. The present moment is in fact that of the first stirrings of a global popular uprising against this regression. As yet blind, naive, scattered and lacking a powerful concept or durable organization, it naturally resembles the first working-class insurrections of the nineteenth century. I there­ fore propose to say that we find ourselves in a time if riots wherein a rebirth of History, as opposed to the pure and simple repetition of the worst, is signaled and takes shape. Our masters know this better than us: they are secretly trembling and building up their weaponry, in the form both of their judicial arsenal and the armed taskforces charged with planetary order. There is an urgent need to reconstruct or create our own.

  3. Lest this moment flounder in glorious but defeated mass mobilizations, or in the interminable opportunism of ‘representative’ organizations, whether corrupt trade unions or parliamentary parties , the rebirth of History must also be a rebirth of the Idea. The sole Idea capable of challenging the corrupt, lifeless version of ‘democracy’, which has become the banner of the legionaries of Capital, as well as the racial and national prophecies of a petty fascism given its opportunity locally by the crisis, is the idea of Communism, revisited and nourished by what the spirited diversity of these riots, however fragile, teaches us.


July 2012

RFEMy radio show is now going on RFE (Radio Free Everybody). Please check the following links:

Q&A explaining the show

Newest (3rd edition) of the shows

(interview with Professor Paolo Knill)

 

June 2012

It's June 13, mid-way through the month, and I'm only now getting to what's supposed to be posted on the first! A diary of the last two months would explain the delay but it would also fill many pages so I'll confine my remarks to the two most timely matters. These are the continued podcast of Radio Free Everybody from the Stir magazine website and the progress toward completion of the James Connolly-Songs of Freedom project.

The first podcast of Radio Free Everybody elicited a number of favorable responses including an invitation for my guest, Alan Story, of the University of Kent to participate on a panel, Talking Copyright: Is Copyright Fit For Purpose In An Age Of Free?

This event is sponsored by British Black Music.com and the Black Music Congress to be held at:
Senate House (Room G35 Ground Floor)
University of London
32 Russell Square
WC1B 5DN London
Thursday, June 21, 2012 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM (GMT)

Interest in the theme of intellectual property is, of course, the main reason event organizers were drawn to Radio Free Everybody's podcast of Professor Story's interview. But it is certainly gratifying to know that people are listening and, even better, are inspired to take the discussion further.

Upcoming podcasts include an interview with Professor Nina Power on philosophy and politics (should be online in a few days), followed by interviews with Professor Paolo Knill of the European Graduate School on the relation between music, science and education and an interview with nuclear engineer, Cesare Silvi, regarding humanity and the Sun. Please visit Stir for more information.

The Songs of Freedom project took a major step forward in May and June. Public meetings were held in San Francisco and Santa Rosa which brought forth an outpouring of support. Money was raised to cover the expenses of travel and to aid in completing the recording of the music. Even more important, I was greeted by an enthusiasm beyond all my expectations. Members of the labor movement as well as those who've long been involved with the struggle for Irish self-determination could be counted on to encourage any revival of interest in Connolly's work. But I could not have anticipated the galvanizing effect this man I'd thought forgotten-at least in the US-would have. Perhaps it's just my ignorance but it was nonetheless inspiring to see all these veteran fighters gather together, itself a tribute to Connolly's vision. As a direct result of this public meeting I was invited to present an appeal for support to the executive board of ILWU Local 34. This appeal was greeted with warm interest and I'm hopeful that the union will choose to contribute either by donating funds or, even better, the advance purchase of the completed book and CD.

But the response came from far beyond those already knowledgeable about Connolly. Thanks to the efforts of friends in Santa Rosa two interviews were scheduled to publicize the event that took place at the Arlene Francis Center in that city. First, I was interviewed by The Bohemian newspaper, a large circulation periodical in the North Bay region. Secondly, I appeared on one of the most popular talk shows in the area, whose breadth of listenership was confirmed by several people who attended the event because of the interview. This publicity led to a marvelous turnout. People who knew nothing about Connolly came and listened attentively. Given that this was a mini music festival featuring several bands on a Friday night, it might be expected that the audience would become restless with a presentation that was mostly talk. But people were engrossed by the story of Connolly and his Songs of Freedom and especially by the reading of the program of the Irish Socialist Republican Party from 1896. This program-which I delivered in San Francisco as well-sounds as if it were written today, its timeliness apparent to all in attendance. When I eventually did play a small selection of the songs Connolly's stirring lyrics proved to have lost none of their pertinence and are capable of evoking powerful emotion more than 100 years after they were composed.

Following my visit to San Francisco and Northern California I went to Ireland to follow up on the work begun there in April this year. Meetings were set up with a number of individuals and organizations which have both a special interest in Connolly and many years of experience in labor and political organizing. Once the project's scope and guiding principles were made clear it was greeted with a generous welcome and tangible support. This took various forms among which two were most significant.

The first was that the largest union in the Republic of Ireland, the Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU) is preparing for a year long commemoration of the famous (in Ireland, at least) Dublin Lockout of 1913. To this end a committee has been formed and events organized. Joe McHugh, Alan Burke and I met with members of the Committee and the Union-on very short notice, I might add-and while many details remain to be worked out we have enlisted their support on two fronts: first, the completion of the song book and the CD of the recorded portion of Connolly's songs. The publication of both is to be coordinated with the actual centenary of the lockout which began August 26, 1913. Secondly, an invitation was extended to the entire, 10 piece, James Connolly Songs of Freedom Band for a concert at Liberty Hall to coincide with both the Commemoration and the publication of the song book.

The second significant development was a meeting arranged by Des McGuinness, Professor of Communications at Dublin City University, that brought together many artists and labor activists including Mags O'Brien, also of SIPTU, and Frank Allen whose play Twelve Days in May concerns the events surrounding Connolly's execution by the British in 1916. The perspective and advice provided us by these fine people were invaluable. From the project's inception, we have been seeking such perspective and advice not only to inform ourselves but to involve others in what must be a collective, community endeavor. That is, reviving Connolly's Songs of Freedom is the property of no one because it belongs to everyone. In this vein the specific question of designating a beneficiary for any proceeds that might be generated by sales of the book and CD was broached. Frank Allen suggested a meeting with Connolly's great-grandson, James Connolly Heron to discuss the matter. So, next day we met and Heron suggested we consider the Save Moore Street campaign with which he has been involved for the last ten years. Please search Save Moore Street on the web for more detailed information but suffice it to say it is an effort to preserve a crucial site near Dublin's General Post Office that has fallen prey to real estate speculators who'd like to turn it into a shopping center! Not only would this be an insult to the memory of all those who fought in the Easter Rising of 1916, it would be a theft from future generations of important lessons they will need to guide them in their own struggles.

One final task was accomplished, namely, the photocopying of Connolly's original song book, the last copy of which resides in the National Library, Dublin. We ordered the copy and once it is received it can be incorporated in the design of the new book. I say incorporated because what we plan to publish is not only the original Songs of Freedom but two other subsequent books that play a crucial role in this unfolding saga. These are, first, the 1919 Souvenir Program which was published for a great concert held in Dublin to commemorate Connolly's life only three years following his execution by the British. And, second, the James Connolly Songbook published in 1972 by the Cork Workers' Club which contains an account of the 1919 concert and the struggle to carry it off as well as the texts to the songs as they appeared in the 1919 Souvenir Program. What we intend to publish is James Connolly's original book, unavailable for more than one hundred years, supplemented by the other two books which contain many more songs by Connolly which did not appear in the original. Also included will be the stirring history of the commemorative concert which was written for the 1972 version. This book will be accompanied by a CD which contains ten songs, some of which appeared in the original Songs of Freedom, some of which only appeared in the 1919 Souvenir Program. Nine of these are by Connolly himself, the tenth is The Red Flag by Jim Connell. In addition, there are other songs about Connolly which give a sense of how Connolly has been remembered in song.

There is still a great deal to be done. But with what we accomplished in April, May and early June I am confident we will have the project completed in time for the 1913 Commemoration. Please send any inquiries or support to: info@matcallahan.com

 

Q&A with Radio Free Everybody host Mat Callahan

How can philosophy be used to advance the struggle for a better world? How can people participate in discussions that cut through both the fog of opinion and the barrier of “expertise”? Radio Free Everybody consists of conversations between the host, Mat Callahan and guests who want to share their specialized knowledge in the arts and sciences.

Episode 1. Intellectual Property, Copyright, Patent and the Law with guest Dr. Alan Story, lawyer and teacher at the University of Kent

1. Radio Free Everybody

 

April-May 2012

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As readers will have noticed, I missed the deadline for April's news. This is due to several projects I'm involved with, each having its own schedule but overlapping with the others. April 1, I traveled to Ireland to continue work on the James Connolly-Songs of Freedom project and the weeks prior to the trip were taken up with organizing not only that trip but a visit to London that followed immediately. Furthermore, I have for several months been preparing an extended visit to San Francisco, requiring a good deal of planning with friends and associates in that city. Since I'll be in San Francisco for the month of May I decided it would be best to combine April and May in one installment of these monthly reports.

Work on the Connolly project went well what with the recording of fiddle, pipes and whistles at Doolittle Recording near Sligo, Ireland. With the able assistance of engineer Urs Lanz, Stefanie Aeschlimann and Joe McHugh provided crucial melodic lines on their respective instruments bringing the recording one big step closer to completion. We will now record the remaining vocal parts to be sung by Shannon Callahan, Shirley Grimes and Yvonne Moore, here in Bern. This will leave only the accordion and perhaps a few additional instrumental parts to be completed in June when I return from San Francisco. There is, however, still a lot of work to be done before the entire project is ready to be brought before the public. For one thing, the book has to be prepared. The contents are of course already in existence since they consist, for the most part, of James Connolly's texts. But since republication will in fact include not only Connolly's original Songs of Freedom, but two other subsequent books containing his lyrics, a new design and layout is required. In addition, arrangements have to be made for getting text and recorded music out to the widest possible audience. Discussions are underway with a growing number of interested individuals and organizations about how best to accomplish this task.

Fortunately, there is great interest in James Connolly and the Songs of Freedom project both in Ireland and the United States. This might seem obvious as regards Ireland but it should not be forgotten that Connolly's role in the workers' struggle in the United States was considerable. Connolly spent seven years, between 1903 and 1910, organizing throughout the country. While mainly based in New York, Connolly traveled widely, speaking before gatherings of socialists, trade unionists and other political activists, including a stop in San Francisco. While to a certain extent this resulted from Connolly's sharing the fate of many Irish people who emigrated en masse from their impoverished homeland, it was for his revolutionary views that he became well known. Indeed, positions he took and ideas he articulated were among the most advanced in the world at the time and still contain much wisdom from which we can learn. These include his view of the struggle for national liberation in Ireland as well as the necessity for a revolutionary workers movement directed at the elimination of capitalism. Connolly made a lasting impact not least on the struggles of the dockworkers in San Francisco and the militancy of the ILWU. This legacy will be part of my presentation at a James Connolly event to be held Wednesday, May 2, 2012, 7:30 p.m. at the Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics, 518 Valencia Street. The event is co-sponsored by Freedom Archives and Shaping San Francisco. I especially want to thank Claude Marx and Chris Carlsson for making this possible.

Meanwhile, after my visit to Ireland, I traveled to London to deliver a talk at Housman's Bookstore. Housman's is a wonderful bookstore reminiscent of City Lights in San Francisco. It's been an important center for radical politics the last 45 years. My talk was called, Whose Music? community vs. copyright and was hosted by my friends at Stir magazine. There was a good turnout and people quickly engaged with my argument for the abolition of copyright. It was readily apparent that this is a hot topic but one which has been greatly confused by music industry propaganda. Interest was so great that the event had to be extended by an hour to accommodate all the questions. I am most grateful to Nick at Housman's and Jonny at Stir for making this possible and doing such a good job of promoting.

Going simultaneously backwards and forwards in time, my upcoming trip to San Francisco is the result of an invitation from Lincoln Cushing to participate in a panel discussion of Rock, Posters, and Politics. The event will take place: Wed May 09 2012, 7:30 PM at CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission St., San Francisco. Lincoln is a librarian, author and curator of the Michael Rossman poster collection now housed at the Oakland Museum and the subject of Lincoln's recently published book: All of Us or None. This book makes a stunning contribution to both the historical and artistic record and I recommend it highly. I first met Lincoln while researching my own book on San Francisco in the Sixties. Not only was he generous with his time but he provided much valuable evidence for a reappraisal of the period in question, especially since posters document events which, while now long forgotten, nonetheless had immeasurable impact at the time. Indeed, Lincoln and I have maintained a lively correspondence over the last few years punctuated by illuminating discoveries Lincoln made while archiving Rossman's more than 25,000 posters. This enjoyable exchange culminated in our collaborating on the upcoming event. I am particularly gratified because it gives me a chance to share some of what I've learned in the long process-not yet completed-of researching and writing my book. As it stands now, I won't be done until later this year. But preparation for this event has given me a chance to summarize some key points in a presentation entitled: Rock, Politics, and Counterculture: The neglected history of music's contribution to the movements of the 1960s and 1970s.

I certainly hope readers will make note of these diverse activities and participate wherever possible. I will write a summary for my next installment in June. Please note:

May 2, 7:30PM, Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics, 518 Valencia St., San Francisco
James Connolly-Songs of Freedom

May 9, 7:30PM, CouterPULSE, 1319 Mission St. San Francisco
Rock, Politics, and Counterculture: The neglected history of music's contribution to the movements of the 1960s and 1970s.
with Lincoln Cushing

 

March 2012

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There's a lot to report. First, the new issue of STIR is now available at this site: www.stirtoaction.com/ Please have a look. Among diverse topics is an interview with philosopher Simon Critchley entitled: Faith for the Faithless. Critchley confronts the conflicts surrounding religion in politics, critiquing shallow and dismissive views often found on the Left. How philosophy and theology differ and how they intersect is given a thoughtful look by a politically engaged thinker. Another example is Glyn Moody's piece, The Struggle Between Copyright and the Internet, which provides historical background as well as a summation of current developments. As you will see, the comments already elicited by the article are themselves of interest, one indication of how heated this subject has become.
Secondly, the first of my radio programs will be broadcast through STIR later this month. Radio Free Everybody will begin with my guest, Alan Story, a reader in law at the University of Kent. Alan's a specialist in copyright and patent law who brings clarity and insight to this debate. Not only is the launching of Radio Free Everybody, but this program is also an announcement for the talk I'll be delivering at Housmans' bookshop, Kings Cross, London at 7pm, April 11. This event is hosted by STIR and you can find more information at www.stirtoaction.com/events. The talk is entitled, Whose Music? community vs. copyright, and all are welcome to attend. I will send out another announcement at the beginning of April.

Meanwhile, the James Connolly-Songs of Freedom project has finally gone into production. The first recordings were made last week and will continue over the coming weekend. I will then proceed to Ireland for more recording. When I travel to San Francisco in May, I hope to have most of the tracks completed so I can use these to build support for the project in the States. We still need to raise a substantial sum of money to pay all the production costs. Although everyone involved is fully committed to the ideals expressed by the project, travel expenses, food and lodging as well as compensation for time and effort, is absolutely necessary. Fortunately, we have received some funding from the city of Bern as well as a few generous individuals. With this we were able to begin. But as it stands now we cannot complete the work without a minimum of 5000-dollars or swiss francs. If anyone reading this wants to help, please contact me directly: info@matcallahan,com
For more information please clik on December News. Or write to me.

There is more to report, especially my upcoming visit to the Bay Area where I will be hosting at least two James Connolly nights as well as giving talks at various colleges and universities. But I will save that for next month's installment and get this one posted.

 

February 2012

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The meeting of the World Exploiters Front (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, recently concluded its annual ritual as it always does, by reaffirming the necessity to defend and expand the enslavement of humanity and the planet earth. The 1% come to revel in the fact that the Swiss government, using Swiss people's money, employs its military and police to protect the sanctity of fraud, pillage, and genocide. This is especially ironic given Switzerland's much lauded direct democracy and citizen army. Such blatant hypocrisy would be bad enough. But given that the army and police are used against the people, including Swiss citizens, who gather to protest outside the WEF enclave, it is effectively criminal. It extends to a massive police presence in the capital of Bern assigned the task of preventing a demonstration in that city against the WEF. Just walking through town that day it was apparent that these cops, armed to the teeth and dressed like latter day gladiators, were positioned to crush any expression of popular outrage. Muted though it may be in this wealthy country, there is widespread outrage. While it is not clearly enough directed, it is still so disturbing to the bankers and businessmen who control the state that they would rather risk losing the facade of democracy than actually face an aroused populace in the streets.

The day of reckoning may be forestalled but it will not be for long. Dr. Doom, aka Nuriel Roubini, gave his prognosis at the WEF meeting and it was bleak. Of course, the populace-particularly of Europe-already know that. It's just interesting to hear one of their own admit that nothing the International Mother Fuckers (IMF) can do will prevent the collapse of their system. It's furthermore, of more than passing interest, that the founder of WEF, Klaus Schwab, himself declared that, “Capitalism, in its current form, no longer fits the world around us,” This can only mean that those whom the WEF represents, are themselves seeking a new form for their rapacious plunder. What might that be? Perhaps, the Chinese model=capitalism without the figleaf of democracy. It certainly looks that way in Bern when even a small outcry is suppressed by thousands of riot police.

There are some differences with old-style fascism, for example, the colors of the uniforms and the insignia on the flags. More significant is the enduring hope-wishful thinking, really-that some crusading liberal will come along and save the day. Sorry, folks, that only happens in the Lord of the Rings. Here in the real Mordor, it doesn't work that way. Social democracy is finished and either we realize that and fight for substantive change or we join the line to the abattoir. Oh, it will undoubtedly look like a shopping mall, but it will be a slaughterhouse nonetheless. Instead we must see clearly, think imaginatively and act in unity. We must heed the call of our greatest poets, like Percy Byshe Shelley, who wrote:

"Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you-
Ye are many-they are few."

 

January 2012

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2011 will long be remembered as the year when the spell was broken. Capitalism could no longer hide behind a veil of carefully constructed illusions, it was exposed before the world as a disaster. While this had begun to emerge with the first waves of the financial crisis in 2008, capitalism could still maintain a shred of credibility by referring to this as merely a phase in a boom-bust cycle. What turned this into a crisis of legitimacy were the revolutionary storms rolling across North Africa and the Middle East. Quickly joined by the Indignados in Spain and the Occupy Wall Street movement across many countries, it became impossible to ignore that capitalism was being indicted in the court of public opinion for crimes against humanity. The charges: 1. totalitarian rule by a small group of banks and corporations-completely undemocratic and beyond the rule of law, 2. total destruction of the planet earth and all its inhabitants by plunder, waste, pollution and war. Suddenly, mainstream media were made curiously irrelevant. Young people were no longer persuaded that what they read in the paper is true. For one thing, young people no longer read the paper-they're more likely to read Wikileaks. For another, they no longer subscribe to the ideology-blind faith, really-that Progress is the Future and if they just work hard they will get their fair share. Not only because there are no jobs. The endless hoarding of more, more, more is NO FUTURE. Now the young-from Cairo to California-are pointing the finger at the tyrants who have robbed them of any chance to invent a new one! Not only is the equation right-we ARE the 99%-but the consequences of everyone having to think about that fact are unavoidable: Revolution is once again the horizon of possibility.

Of course, this poses specific questions for those of us old enough to have participated in the revolutions of 1968 not to mention those even older who participated in those preceding. Thus, the role of mass movements, political parties and state power are being reexamined in light of their renewed relevance. Such questions take particular form from country to country and region to region but they share certain features that are universal, demanding everyone's attention while offering the basis for internationalist solidarity. What, after all, is the common good? What can protect and preserve for the great majority of people the resources of bountiful nature as well as the education, health and welfare of future generations? What can put an end to war, poverty and environmental degradation? Since it is now strikingly obvious that capitalism is the problem and not the solution what will its replacement look like?

The new year has only begun. It will undoubtedly be fraught with deadly conflict-just like all the old ones were. But 2012 has this hopeful aspect: what we think and do matters. We can change the world. Therefore, we must.

 

December 2011

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This month's installment is slightly delayed due to the fact that I was in Ireland and out of internet range until December 5th. The trip was part of the effort to organize the James Connolly-Songs of Freedom project discussed in the October and November news. I went to the National Library in Dublin to see and photograph what may be the last extant copy of the original song book. I discovered that the book differs in certain respects to the reprint that was made in 1925 by the Cork Workers Club of which I obtained a copy early this year. For one thing, the songs contained in the original are not all or even mainly compositions of James Connolly himself, his role being to assemble and introduce them. In the book of more recent vintage, most of the songs are by Connolly. Another difference is the introduction in the original which was written by Connolly and contains his famous declaration of the significance of poetic expression to any revolutionary movement. It concludes with the ringing words, "Until the movement is marked by the joyous, defiant, singing of revolutionary songs, it lacks one of the distinctive marks of a popular revolutionary movement; it is a dogma of a few, and not the faith of the multitude." The more recent book begins by quoting this statement in full but adds an important explanatory note: "This little songbook is based on a selection of songs and recitation which were performed at a concert, given by James Connolly's comrades of the Socialist Party of Ireland and the Irish Citizen Army, to commemorate the anniversary of his birth. The concert was due to be held in the Mansion House, Dublin, on the 5th of June, 1919 with members of the Citizen Army, described in the Souvenier Programme as the "Red Guard of the workers," acting as stewards. However, British Imperialism, which had executed Connolly only three years previously, was intent on coercing those who would, "seek a vent in song, for the aspirations, the fears and hopes, the loves and hatreds engendered by the struggle" and accordingly, the concert was proclaimed under the Defence of the Realm Act (D.O.R.A.) When the people arrived for the concert, they found the Mansion House guarded by armed police and many more police positioned in the nearby streets. Immediately, fully armed groups of the Citizen Army were mobilized. A Citizen Army officer who was trying to resist arrest, fired on the police; his men followed his example and Dublin had its first shooting since Dan Breen and his comrades raised the standard at Soloheadbeg. Several policemen and one civilian were wounded. Later that night, the proclaimed concert was held in the Trades Hall. While the police and the "Red Guard of the workers" faced one another in the street outside, the "joyous, defiant singing of revolutionary songs" could be heard coming from the building."

This should give readers today some sense of the circumstances surrounding both versions of Songs of Freedom. Arising as they did out of what was in fact a mass revolutionary movement they are monuments to their makers and to the cause they served. But they are more than that. First of all, some are strikingly beautiful lyrically, evoking powerful emotions even when read on the printed page. Though somewhat archaic in linguistic terms-popular speech has evolved considerably-the meaning is nonetheless abundantly clear as is the literary quality which speaks highly of the intelligence and education of the people who were their audience. Secondly, leaving aside a few specific references, these songs are as pertinent today as they were a century ago. Indeed, stylistic considerations notwithstanding, they could have been written last week. What Ireland faces now is the loss of its sovereignty to the lords of capital in the guise of the IMF and the renewed immiseration of its people. Once again the prospect of mass emigration stalks the land (estimates as high as 100,000 leaving in each of the last two years). Under the banner of "austerity" the working people of Ireland are being told they must shoulder the burden of capitalist crisis. If there was ever a time when James Connolly's leadership were needed it is now.

It is in this spirit that the James Connolly-Songs of Freedom project has been undertaken. We will republish both the original song book and the version produced by the Cork Workers Club accompanied by a recording of ten songs whose lyrics were composed by Connolly. In addition will be a couple of songs about James Connolly as well as James Connell's classic, The Red Flag. We hope to begin recording in February, 2012 and bring the project to completion by the end of Summer. A stellar cast of Irish, American and Swiss musicians has been assembled, mixing the influences of traditional Irish music with those from other countries. This is especially significant because as James Connolly wrote in his introduction to the original songbook, "this small bouquet of songs, culled from a very limited garden, is offered until some one with greater means shall present to the American Working Class a more suitable collection drawn not from the store of one nation alone, but from the Socialist poetry of the World". He goes on to add that while every song in the book is written by an Irishman, "This is in no spirit of insularity but rather is meant as an encouragement to other Irishmen and women, to take their part and do their share in the upbuilding of the revolutionary movement of the Working Class."

There is much more to report but I will leave off here so as to get this posted. Stay tuned for more info in a couple of weeks.

 

November 2011

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This is the second installment of regular monthly news-and the news is good! October 31 we finished mixing Yvonne's Moore's new album, Blue Wisdom. Halloween is for night creatures, the Owl of Minerva flies at dusk, and an owl adorns the cover of this album, so it's a fitting day to celebrate the completion of a long and fascinating journey. Funny thing is, what took two years of preparation took two days to record! Not that we planned it that way, exactly. But we all knew how right it was to do these old songs the old way. For a very long time-many decades in fact-this is how recording was done. Musicians played live perhaps hundreds of times and then rushed in to the studio for a few hours or a couple days to record what they performed on stage. In our case it was lots of listening, lengthy discussions, detailed preparation, and plenty of trial and error, that led to inspired performances in the studio. We are very happy with the results. Within the next few weeks details of the album's release will be available on Yvonne's website.

The other news this month concerns the James Connolly-Songs of Freedom project and my soon to be broadcast radio show Radio Free Everybody. The radio show is scheduled to be broadcast in January, 2012, the exact date is yet to be determined. It will appear once a month from January through June and if there's an interested audience we will continue. The main thing visitors to this site should be aware of is that while the show is broadcast terrestrially and is available within a hundred kilometer radius of Bern, Switzerland, it is also available online at the Radio RaBe website. There it can be listened to as a podcast or downloaded as a sound file plus it remains in the archive indefinitely. We have already recorded four of the six programs and I will give a complete list of my guests and the topics we covered in next month's installment of the News.

As for the James Connolly-Songs of Freedom project, we continue the process of fundraising while simultaneously planning the recording. If we do well with the fundraising we should be in the studio sometime between January and March next year. Our overall target for having the recording and the republished songbook available is late summer or early fall 2012. As you can imagine a large ensemble including 10 or perhaps 12 musicians is as much a feat of organization as of musical performance. It's the exciting prospect of bringing these songs to life that makes it all worthwhile. Connolly's stirring lyrics are more timely than ever and their appeal is international, not only to people in Ireland. For more information on James Connolly check out this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Connolly

The news would not be complete without a status report on my book. Many friends and colleagues have inquired about this project in the last few months due not only to interest in what I am doing but also to the length of time it has taken to get to where I am now. I began seriously working on a book about San Francisco in the Sixties in the middle of 2007. My motive was largely indignation at all the hype and hoopla surrounding the fortieth anniversary of the "Summer of Love" – a non-existent event that has come to be regarded as historical fact. It took the next three years to complete the research. This meant reading more than three hundred books, many essays and articles, viewing documentaries and archive film as well as listening to music from the period. It also entailed 100 hours of interviews and the necessary transcription of the recordings. Now all this effort might seem unnecessary given the fact that I was not only an observer but a participant in the events I am writing about. I was 16 and an active musician living in San Francisco in 1967 and I know that this "Summer of Love" stuff is bullshit.

Proving that, however, is another matter. The first thing I discovered upon embarking on my project is that there is no need for yet another of the accounts that have routinely appeared in every succeeding decade since 1967, more often than not retelling the same story, using the same source material and arriving at more or less the same conclusions. But there's no getting around the fact that these innumerable books, essays and documentaries have also to be accounted for as they have come to comprise "the historical record", such as it is. It is not enough, therefore, to simply give my own version of events. That would at best be a memoir, perhaps of some interest but not nearly as important as the task as I have come to conceive it. What the world needs is not "another book about the Sixties" but a radical critique of what has become, in part, legend and lore but, more insidiously, the "standard narrative" appearing even in school textbooks and academic journals. Since in many respects this narrative is seriously flawed-in parts, downright false-it requires a thorough reassessment which in turn requires accounting for the narrative itself. In other words, not only "setting the record straight" but showing how the "record" was created and by whom.

In 2010 I contributed an essay to the City Lights published, Ten Years That Shook The City (scroll down this page for more on the book). This is a fine collection of essays that begin the task of reassessment I am calling for. After completing my entry, When Music Mattered, I expected to immediately continue writing my fuller, more detailed exploration which would then become my book. But I was swept away with talks and tours and music so that in the end I had to postpone book work until January 2011. Between January and June I worked more or less full time writing. At that point I had to, once again, suspend operations for my 60th birthday celebration and the performance of Irish revolutionary songs which would evolve into the James Connolly-Songs of Freedom project. This was immediately followed by work on Yvonne's new album which brings us to the present.

I resume writing now with approximately half the book completed. But I have used the hiatus to do some reevaluation, particularly in light of the events of this year, 2011, which are not only deeply inspiring but raise anew the need for a radical reassessment of the period they most resemble-namely the Sixties. If 2011 can be compared with any other year within living memory it is to 1968. Revolution is once again on the world's agenda, suddenly, our horizon of possibility. The System is once again the target of the "99%" suffering its depredations. Differences between the two periods are also significant and no comparison should overlook them. But the fact that a young man in Tunisia, Mohamed Bouazizi, would burn himself alive in protest thereby igniting an unprecedented revolutionary storm is a stunning reminder of similar self-immolations which were a hallmark of the Sixties. Also significant is that a highly educated and cosmopolitan generation demanding freedom closely resembles their forbears four decades ago. Toppling despots and targeting the US and European neo-colonialists while inspiring youth in Spain, Greece, the UK and the US to mount mass movements against capitalism is further evidence that a break in the dumb repetition of casual atrocity is now at hand.
With all this in mind, I return to work on the book. I will report on further developments in next month's news.

Last but not least I would like to call attention to the publication of an essay I wrote, Making Music A Racket, which appears in the latest issue of a great online magazine, Stir: Please check it out and comment.

 

October 2011
ANNOUNCEMENT

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Visitors to this website will have noticed the irregularity with which news is presented. I plan to remedy that situation by providing monthly updates starting with October 2011. Earlier attempts to achieve consistency were foiled by the demands of travel and the erratic schedules inherent in music production and performance. At the same time, maintaining contact with friends, colleagues and the general public has only increased in importance which requires making some changes. To begin with, different projects require different methods of presentation. If my work were focused solely on writing songs and playing in a band, then the "news" and the "live dates" format on this site would be perfectly suitable. They were, in fact, designed for a musician's itinerary in the first place. For the last several years, however, while I've continued to write songs and perform in various formations, I've nonetheless been increasingly occupied writing books, essays and speeches as well as composing music that does not fit into the rock band or popular music format at all. As a matter of fact, the projects I have lined up for the next few years are mainly of a different type than those I've been engaged in previously. Before going into the details, though, I want to call attention to what this website is for and how it can best be used.

ARCHIVES-Guests will notice that there are a lot of musical, visual and text files available for download or viewing. This is because I view this website as a repostory or archive of some of the work I've done over the years. If anyone needs anything I have made I want it to be available. I will add to this collection as new work is produced or older work is archived for digital delivery.

LINKS-The second purpose this website should serve is providing links to people, organizations and projects that I support and want others to know about. These links are few in number, certainly when compared to the list one finds on many websites today. But, as everyone knows, one does not need links to find people, organizations and projects, that's what search engines are for. Therefore, my purpose can best be served by carefully selecting those I want my guests to pay attention to-and providing the most convenient means of connecting.

PROJECTS-New projects will be the main focus of this website. As you'll see in what follows there are several just completed or newly underway that I want to call attention to. But this website is not intended to be a message board or a promotional tool. I intend it to be of practical assistance to those seeking detailed, reliable information because they're involved or interested in what I'm doing. As with the archival materials and the links provided, I will present what is currently being worked on as well as when it is due to be completed.

COMMENTARY-Finally, I will on occasion write about current events and post such writing here. But, as a rule, the writing I do is not journalistic. Nor does it conform to a regular schedule such as the monthly one I'm trying to establish here. One of the projects I've undertaiken this year is a radio program which will be one place you can hear my views, and those of my guests, on current affairs. (although, even in the case of a monthly radio show, my interests are philosophical and critical and far from blizzard of blather that fills "mass media")

NEW PROJECTS
First and foremost among the new projects I've been working on is Blue Wisdom. After two years of discussion, research and experiment, Yvonne Moore and I assembled a repertoire and a band that could present the musical variety and lyrical sophistication that reside in the blues. As musical genre or marketing device, blues is known the world over but what is often obscured is the musical variety and range of subject matter contained in a vast reservoir of songs. One could get the impression that all the blues is about is a shuffle beat and "my baby done left me". Indeed, in the European context, when one speaks of blues it often means Chicago blues, a particular style made popular in the 1960's by musicians such as Muddy Waters or BB King. Since this music is loud, rhythmic and generally upbeat, it's perfectly suited to partying and celebrating and is therefore a mainstay of nightclubs and drinking establishments everywhere. As great as some of this music is, however, it is by no means all that comprises blues or the wealth of actual song material produced. In reaching back into the Public Domain and resurrecting lesser known songs by Robert Johnson and Skip James, Yvonne and I found wonderful compositions that tell stories with humor and social criticism-not only the bemoaning of loss. The work of Odetta we found to be particularly insightful and inspiring. We then set about reworking these gems in order to contribute to their ongoing life as timeless treasures available to people today. Once we had a repertoire we approached musicians who shared our perspective. We were fortunate to be joined by Hank Shizzoe on guitar, Andre Pousaz on upright bass and Andy Hug on drums. This lineup took the stage in June 2011 and went into the studio to record in September. The recording is done and will be mixed and mastered soon. Please visit Yvonne’s website for more details.

Secondly, the James Connolly-Songs of Freedom project is underway. This project began in October 2010 when plans for my 60th birthday were being discussed. Given that I was born on July 14th, Bastille Day, I wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate revolution by singing revolutionary songs. Since many of my closest friends are Irish, it occurred to me to sing Irish revolutionary songs, particularly in light of the demise of the Celtic Tiger and the rack and ruin faced by the Irish people at the hands of international banksters. In my researches I came upon a songbook published in 1907 by James Connolly, the Irish Republican Socialist martyred by the British for his role in the Easter Rising of 1916. I managed to locate a copy with the help of bookshop in Galway and began the search for the musical accompaniment. This turned out to be more difficult than I first imagined. I spent weeks searching YouTube, talking at length with my dear friends Joe McHugh and Alan Burke and consulting a number of libraries. Joe and Alan were able to furnish some of the music. A couple other tunes I was able to locate on YouTube or other recordings. But as time pressed I decided I'd have to complete the repertoire by writing music myself. Between February and May this year I was able to assemble the repertoire and enlist the support of the musicians necessary to perform it. These were a stellar cast from my immediate circle of family and friends including Yvonne Moore, my life partner, Shannon Callahan, my daughter, Shirley Grimes and her life partner Wolfgang Zwiauer as well as Sam Baur, Stefanie Aeschlimann and the aforementioned Joe McHugh and Alan Burke. At the last minute, Joe suggested his son Fintan to join us on Irish bouzouki. The ten of us managed to learn the songs and compose arrangements in time for the big birthday bash held on July 16 (since July 14 fell on a Thursday we held the party on Saturday so more could attend).

Initially, I had no plans to do any more than perform these songs at the party. But the reception was so overwhelming and the significance of resurrecting James Connolly's songbook so great that I decided we had to do a proper recording of the music and republish the song book. As the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising is approaching in 2016 it seemed a particularly propitious moment to be doing this. Presently, we are in the process of raising funds. As we'll need approximately 40,000 Swiss Francs we're seeking public and private support, including asking the Kanton and Stadt Bern. If anyone reading this would like to contribute please contact me by email, post or phone. We hope to begin recording this year.

Meanwhile, I was approached by a member of the board of local community radio to host a program. Bern is serviced by Radio RaBe 95.6MHz which is also available on the internet. Mark Stenzler, who hosts his own program Blues Zeppelin on RaBe, is a veteran of community radio both in the US and in Switzerland. Mark was kind enough to not only invite me to do the program but to assist in its production. After long discussion and much trial and error, our first program was recorded in September. When it will be aired is yet to be determined as the station's board has to decide what the most suitable time slot would be. The show is called Radio Free Everybody and consists of conversations about how philosophy can change the world. Among my first guests are law professors, chemists, physicists and musicians. The idea is to hold discussions that might just as easily take place over a dinner table as on a radio program. This informality is designed to encourage the participation of any interested person even if they are not themselves specialists in the topics under discussion. Needless to say, this is a work in progress but the goal is to produce six shows running six months to both shape the format and build an audience. At that point we can determine whether or not to continue. Soon, I will provide more detailed information about broadcast schedule as well as how to access the show on the internet.

Last but not least I continue to work on my book about San Francisco in the Sixties. I will furnish a more comprehensive summary of my progress in next month's installment on this site. If you have any questions or suggestions please contact me directly. I'd like to hear from you.

info@matcallahan.com

 

Gil Scot-Heron (April 1, 1949 – May 27, 2011)

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The poet is dead
Now he lives forever
He delivered the word

Did we hear it?
Did we hear the word of Spartacus?
Did we hear the word of the Zanj?
Did we hear the word of Queen Nanny of the Maroons?
Did we hear the word of Toussaint L'Overture?
Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman and Old John Brown?
Did we hear the word of Fred Hampton-
“You can murder a revolutionary,
But you can't murder revolution.”

Gil Scot-Heron, the poet, is dead
But he is not silent.
Death cannot silence him.
Words flung back into the crack of the whip, the rattle of the chain, the slam of
     the prison door,
cannot be buried with their speaker, they resound across the universe:
“You can shackle my body but never my mind”

And once they have been uttered,
They belong to everyone

The poet is dead
But never alone, always in good company
With Hughes and Neruda, Dubois and Garcia-Lorca, Baldwin and Brecht,
Shakespeare and Malcolm, Milton and Robeson, Lady Day and John Coltrane

– No Jump Jim Crows, no Minstrel Shows, no coon songs, Toms or showbiz
     niggerism to ghettoize the ghetto's eyes, to trap the light you shed upon the world
– No “colored only” comparisons to pop tart rhymsters and great white fathers
     to keep you from sharing a seat with Rosa Parks or Aimé Césaire
No and no again.

The poet is dead
we are living
given a task, a duty to perform
Divide: the mortal lie from the immortal truth
Divine: the future from rhythms, blue hues and sunrise
Decide: never fear forever here

Gil Scot won't let you down
If you stand up!
                                                            Mat Callahan, May 28, 2011

 

Ten Years That Shook the City:
San Francisco 1968-78

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Book CoverA RECLAIMING SAN FRANCISCO BOOK
CITY LIGHTS FOUNDATION
Edited by Chris Carlsson with LisaRuth Elliott

A collection of first-person and historical essays spans the tumultuous decade from 1968, the year of the San Francisco State College strike, to 1978 and the twin traumas of the Jonestown massacre and the assassinations of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. This volume provides a broad look at the diverse ways those ten years shook the City and shaped the world we live in today. From community gardening to environmental justice, gay rights and other identity-based social movements, anti-gentrification efforts, neighborhood arts programs and more, many of the initiatives whose origins are described here have taken root and spread far beyond San Francisco.

City Lights Publishers
ISBN-10 1931404127
ISBN-13 9781931404129
Publication Date June 2011
List Price $18.95
  Reviews
Upcoming Events
Buy a book!
Our Self-guided Walking Tour
Go to City Lights Books website

 

Our Tour Of Swiss Prisons

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Yvonne and I were approached by Andi Reinhard, a dear friend and fine musician, with the idea of making a tour of Swiss Prisons. This was inspired by an acquaintance of Andi's, Peter Zimmermann, who had spent 30 years in prison himself and had subsequently started an organization, Reform 91, with the goal of contributing to the rehabilitation of prisoners. Since 2010 marked the 20th anniversary of Reform 91 it seemed an opportune time to celebrate its work with music. Yvonne and I enthusiastically agreed to join Andi and the band he is a member of, Notty's Jug Serenaders, in preparing a program to present in whatever prisons would invite us in. Since Reform 91 had contacts in many prisons throughout Switzerland it was their task to approach the institutions with the idea.

Generally, administrators welcomed the offer to have music presented to their inmates. There were, however, some that did not due to the fact that Reform 91 had agitated successfully for improved conditions in prisons putting certain administrators in a bad light. We found out that in 2006 there had been a mutiny in Geneva's Champ-Dollon prison which forced a review of overcrowding, harsh treatment and other serious problems. So from the start it was clear that controversies were bound to arise in the course of organizing the tour. Adding to such controversy was the ballot initiative sponsored by the right-wing Swiss People's Party, demanding that any foreigner convicted of a crime be extradited to his or her country. While this initiative is a subject in its own right, suffice it to say that the climate it created was not encouraging to our plans. The fact that this campaign was being conducted at the very moment we were attempting to raise funds to pay for the tour did not bode well. Indeed, the first round of fundraising was disappointing and it became clear that the atmosphere of fear and retribution, particularly towards foreigners,was impeding our efforts.

This had the effect, however, of forcing us to clarify our own motives and strengthen our resolve. What began as simple curiosity about the prisons in Switzerland and a general spirit of good will evolved into a principled position. This was comprised of three basic points. First, we all favored rehabilitation as opposed to simply punishing offenders. This is for the obvious reason that sooner or later the great majority of these people will be reentering society and need to be properly prepared if they are to function constructively once they do. Secondly, we wanted to express our solidarity. We all know that many if not most of the people incarcerated come from social situations that are full of conflict. It is obvious, for example that there are virtually no rich people in prison. The prison population in fact includes many who have been drawn into criminal activity, be it drug dealing or theft, by organized crime, whose overlords rarely have to do any time. Furthermore, the society that produces pedophiles, rapists and murderers, cannot ignore the fact that means must be found by which such behaviors can be prevented and, when they do occur, be treated in order that the effects be minimized and their causes eliminated. In other words, we did not go into this as some kind of "do-gooders" ready to forgive and forget the real pain and suffering caused by some of these individuals. But we were determined to extend our hands as human beings saying it is our common duty to find solutions to these social problems.

Finally, we all agreed that music plays a special role in both a practical and spiritual way. Practically, because music is an activity in which people can take part, encouraging collectivity and shared experience. Spiritually, because music has the unique ability to evoke the emotions common to all people encouraging them to feel and express humanity. This was particularly true given the fact that as many as 37 different languages are spoken in some of the prisons we visited. The great jazz musician Albert Ayler once said, "Music is the healing force of the universe". It was in this spirit that we brought music to the prisons.

What we encountered when we got there both confirmed our intentions and exceeded our expectations. While there were differences from place to place, the general response was gratitude, surprise and a curiosity reciprocal to our own. Many prisoners not only thanked us profusely but were obviously moved, wondering why we were there playing for them, these social rejects, branded and scorned. Of course, there were a few "tough guys" who had to maintain their cool demeanor, acting as though this was nothing to them. But such individuals were the exception. The great majority were intrigued and attentive, surprised at first since they had no way of knowing what to expect, but then ultimately being uplifted by the honesty and joy with which we performed.

Mind you, what we performed had something to do with it. Our "Tour de Prison Band" consisted of Yvonne and me plus Notty's Jug Serenaders, consisting of Notty Homburger on dobro, Thomas Banholzer on kazoo, jug and trumpet and Andi Reinhard on kazoo, jug and sax. For many in our audience the jugs alone were a revelation. In fact, few people in Switzerland even know what a jug band is let alone some of these guys from Morocco or Ghana or Bosnia. Since our repertoire was mainly old American songs this only added to the effect which must have, for some prisoners, sounded like music from another planet. A lot of the younger inmates may only have heard techno, hip hop or pop music in all their lives. Having acoustic music performed by real people right in front of them had to be unusual, to say the least. It didn't hurt that Yvonne is not only a great performer but could speak in French, German, Italian and English. This covered the languages most prisoners use to communicate with administrators and each other. But above all, it was the music that communicated, the prisoners joining in with handclaps and singalongs when the music called for it. One special moment in every concert was when Yvonne sang the only Swiss-German song in the repertoire. A lovely ballad called "Edelweiss", it never failed to bring quiet to what were generally boisterous proceedings.

Everywhere we went we asked questions. We discovered that there are 115 prisons in Switzerland divided into three categories. (we played at ten of these, of all three types) The first is the detention center where people are held while awaiting trial. The second is the half open prison where the emphasis is on psycho-therapy, vocational training and re-socialization. Half open means that some prisoners, but not all, can leave for work or training but must return at night. The third kind is what one would call the conventional penitentiary where people are sent for longer sentences, including life terms. There also separate prisons for men and women. We played in only one place where there were a few female inmates in the audience. These women were being held in this particular facility on a temporary basis and were segregated when they returned to their cells.
We also discovered a fact that astonished us. There are 6,048 prisoners in the whole country. Since I couldn't believe this low figure I obtained documents from the Federal Government which not only confirmed it but added others that fill out the picture. As of 2009, 31% of the prison population, or 1,888 individuals, are awaiting trial and have not been convicted. 411 were, in 2009, awaiting extradition (this figure has increased in 2010 to approximately 750). Only 6.1% of all inmates are women. Only four prisons have more than 200 inmates. Most we visited had 80 to 100. These numbers have to be put in perspective. The United States had, in 2008, a prison population of 2,304,115 or 754 per 100,000 in the general population. Switzerland has 77 per 100,000. This hundredfold difference obviously says a lot. It certainly puts the lie to the claims of right wing politicians that crime is rampant in Switzerland and that foreigners are the cause. It is quite true that 75% of the prison population are foreigners coming from all over Europe, parts of Africa and even other continents. The largest number of these are involved in drug dealing and petty offenses, very few for violent crimes. Furthermore, reciprocal treaties between Switzerland, the EU and most other countries of the world, govern the handling of crime up to and including extradition. All the directors and administrators we spoke to remarked that the ballot initiative was only going to make their jobs more difficult due to increased bureaucratic hassles. It will not change any of the treaties or existing laws and, in the end, probably cannot be implemented in any significant way. Besides, there are already legal mechanisms for the extradition of criminals to their country of origin and these are being implemented anyway, as the numbers above suggest.

There certainly are crimes being committed, violent assault, rape, pedophilia and murder among them. Immigration and social cohesion are also real problems and no doubt these are expressed in very unpleasant ways in schools, work places and public life in general. But one is forced to ask: how serious are these problems in comparison with others affecting society? When one considers the criminal activity of bankers who have cost the Swiss people 50 billion francs in bailout funds, or the Mafia that traffics in sex slaves, weapons and drugs, one has to pause and reflect. If the legal principle that all are equal before the law has any substance, why are the only people in prison poor and marginalized individuals? As one prison administrator told us, many of them have been driven into criminal activity by conditions in their own countries for which Europe bears some responsibility. He went on to add that while Europeans enjoy low prices for agricultural products such as coffee and cacao and can travel as tourists to the countries where these products originate, it should come as no surprise that farmers driven into poverty by such unequal arrangements would seek to better their lot by coming to Europe.
While we did not expect our music to answer these questions, let alone to bring about their solution, we were happy to know that in a small way we contributed to a rational, even-handed discussion of them. What we found convinced us that music can make a positive impact even if the results are not immediately tangible. On the one hand, it lends encouragement and support to organizations like Reform 91 in their ongoing work. On the other, it demonstrates the great potential that lies in joining together for a common purpose. Music, in this sense, can offer the opportunity to imagine and to envision a better world.

 

November – Swiss Prison Tour

Yvonne and I are doing a tour of Swiss Prisons. Our purpose is to support rehabilitation, to offer solidarity and to use music to inspire the struggle for change. We will be joined by our good friends, Notty's Jug Serenaders. Each group will do a set and then we will play together in what we now call the "Tour de Prison Band". Here are the dates. Please note, there are two that are open to the public.

Tour de Prison
mit der Tour de Prison Band

8. Nov. 2010
Strafanstalt Witzwil / BE
9. Nov. 2010
Massnahmenzentrum St. Johannsen / BE
11. Nov. 2010 – OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
RegionalgefängnisThun / BE
17. Nov. 2010
Strafanstalt Wauwilermoos / LU
22. Nov. 2010
Massnahmenzentrum Bitzi / SG
23. Nov. 2010
Strafanstalt Saxerriet / SG
24. Nov. 2010
Strafanstalt Gmünden / AR
2. Dez. 2010
Kantonsgefängnis Frauenfeld / TG
3. Dez. 2010
Stiftung Märtplatz / ZH – OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

 

This year I collaborated with another good friend and artist, Raoul Ris, making his book «bernsehen – bilder & texte. I contributed one of 25 essays/stories to accompany Raoul's fine work. I will also be playing music a the vernissage.

bernsehen   bernsehen – bilder & texte
berner stadtlandschaften von raoul ris
und texte von 25 schreibenden
150. 27/23 cm vierfarbig
38.– oder 50.– mit unsterstützungsbeitrag

bilder- und buchvernissage
im forum altenberg, bern
freitag, 26. november, ab 18 uhr
lesung ab ca. 19 uhr


Finally, I will be joined by some of my dearest friends, and some of the finest musicians I know, in:

Mat Callahan's San Francisco

26 Dezember 2010
Alte Taverne Adelboden

28 Januar
Alte Moschti, Muhlethurnen

Please join me and Shirley Grimes, Yvonne Moore, Sam Baur, Rafi Woll and Wolf Zwiauer in a celebration of San Francisco as I know and sing about it.

 

September in the States

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Yvonne and I recently returned to Bern from a two week visit to the US. Plans for the trip had been underway since December 2009 when professors at two colleges extended invitations to perform and lecture at their respective schools, American River College in Sacramento, California and Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, two other opportunities arose fortuitously adding to the trip's agenda. The first was the completely unexpected discovery of a large cache of video tape documenting the Looters' two tours of Nicaragua, one in 1983, a second in 1987. These tapes had been stored and forgotten in 1998 following the closure of Komotion and my impending move to Switzerland. I had long assumed they were gone forever when my dear friend Mark Pistel contacted me to say he'd found them while clearing out his storage locker. With the gracious assistance of Thad Wharton and Jim Johnson the tapes were rescued and brought to a new facility on a temporary basis with the understanding that they would ultimately find a home in an archive where they could be properly preserved and made available to the public. It was Thad's idea to contact Freedom Archives in San Francisco to see whether there was interest and capacity to handle the project. Thankfully, Freedom Archives had both the interest and the capacity and an important new component was added to our trip. With the thoughtful assistance of Claude Marx, the tapes were delivered and checked to see if they could still be viewed after more than 20 years. Then they were catalogued in preparation for transfer to new storage mediums (hard drives) on their way to being made available to anyone interested in seeing them. This will take some time as there is a lot of material, some shot by crews from Sistema Sandinista Television, in 1983 the official government broadcaster, and some by crews sent with us to Nicaragua by Island Records in 1987. Last but not least, there are tapes shot in San Francisco that were used in a video by Val Landau and Nina Serrano called "Back From Nicaragua" which included not only the Looters but other notable performers such as Joan Baez who'd done concert tours in support of Nicaragua's struggle for independence against Reagan's Contras. Eventually, you will be able to view this material by contacting Freedom Archives: www.freedomarchives.org

As if this were not enough, another exciting prospect emerged when a number of us began speaking of a reunion of members and supporters of Komotion International, the artists collective I helped to found in 1986. This started, as is so often the case, with casual remarks made while imbibing alcohol in sufficient quantity! In other words, Claude Palmer and I started talking about this back in December 2009 without any idea of how to make it happen. Once the subject had been broached to a number of Komotioneers-namely, Robin Balliger, Josef Brinckmann, Li'l Mike Martzke, Richard Olsen and Celeste Connor-it became apparent that enthusiasm was general and that we should indeed organize such an event. This eventually took place on September 18th and was a high point of our visit. Not only were many in attendance but it was clear that all of us continue to pursue the creative and social interests that brought us together so long ago. It was particularly inspiring to hear Alejandro Murguia read his poem about Che Guevara accompanied by Claude Palmer's improvisation on the oud. Hopefully, there will be further collaborations and explorations that will carry forward the spirit of Komotion in the future.

Prior to the Komotion party, our first public appearance was at a celebration of the birthday of Leonard Peltier. This event was organized by the American Indian Movement (AIM-West) and held at La Pena in Berkeley on September 12th. For those who are unfamiliar with his case, Leonard Peltier was incarcerated 35 years ago for a crime he did not commit, the killing of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Space does not permit a full account of this case but suffice it to say that Leonard Peltier was in fact jailed for being an AIM member and militant opponent of injustice, specifically that injustice perpetrated by the US government against native peoples going back centuries. The fact that Leonard Peltier has remained steadfast in his support for all people struggling for peace and justice while suffering the brutality of imprisonment sets an inspiring example for us all. Free Leonard Peltier, immediately! (More information is available from wikipedia and other internet sites. Also, everyone is encouraged to send letters of support to Leonard Peltier #89637-132 USP-Lewisburg US Penitentiary PO Box 1000 Lewisburg, PA 17837)

Next, we drove up to Sacramento and American River College where I delivered a talk to a Music History class and we performed at a dedication ceremony for murals created by students in the Ceramics Department that were installed in various sites around the campus. This ceremony was given greater urgency due to recent budget cuts directed especially at arts education in California. At American River College this has led to the layoff of numerous professors and the reduction of the number of courses offered. Opposition to these cuts has been growing, however, and a big part of the dedication ceremony was calling attention to the role of art in society. In fact, the event was given a title: "The Importance of Art in Society, a mural dedication" and it was presided over by one arts professor, Thomas Powell, who gave brief but clear arguments in favor of an expanded role for arts education. This was further attested to by students who spoke of how art directly impacted their lives.

The following night we performed at the E Street Gallery & Studios in downtown Sacramento, an event hosted by Linda Gelfman and her partners in the workspace. We performed among beautiful paintings, sculpture and pottery to a welcoming audience composed of artists and musicians from the area. It was thanks to Linda that we were in Sacramento in the first place since it was on her initiative as a professor in the Ceramics Department that we were invited to American River College.

We concluded our visit to the West Coast with the Komotion party and then it was on to Boston. Upon our arrival we performed at a house concert organized by professors from Berklee College of Music and Northeastern University, Victor Wallis and Inez Hedges, who were also our gracious hosts. The concert was well attended and we were greeted with warmth by an audience comprised of academics and activists from the Boston area. Next day, I delivered a talk on Music and Historical Memory at Berklee. Three professors brought their classes to fill the David Friend Recital Hall. Combined with the talk Yvonne and I performed songs which illustrated how contemporary composition can make use of historical themes as subject matter. This was followed by lively discussion with the students and faculty. In an extended question and answer period it became abundantly clear that for these young musicians there was a lot more to making music than getting a gig. I found it exciting that so many focused on substantive issues regarding content and purpose in composition and performance. What are we trying to say and toward what social ends? Particularly refreshing was finding so many young people with so few illusions about the music industry. Of course, file sharing, copyright and other current affairs are without a doubt controversial and require clarification. But it was evident that this group of musicians was not buying the line fed them by the Record Industry Association of America and other business mouthpieces. Perhaps most importantly, they expressed an enthusiasm for music and for critical inquiry in an institution that supports these qualities above all. We were left with a very positive impression of Berklee, its faculty and its general approach to education.

Our brief tour now completed we headed for home. We took with us some fond memories and a sense of accomplishment. We want to warmly thank all those who made our visit so rewarding. We hope to see you all again.

 

Rio, Berlin, San Francisco, Boston

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Our visit to Rio de Janeiro was rich in experiences and ideas. As I explained in the previous news entry, Yvonne and I were invited to participate in a conference organized by the Copy/South Research Group. We also performed a brief concert at the end of the proceedings. What many people in the global "North" are not aware of is the intensity with which issues of copyright and patent are being fought in countries such as Bolivia, Brazil, South Africa and the Philippines. In most of the world far more is at stake than teenagers downloading music or the music industry creating moral panic. There are constitutional crises (particularly in Bolivia) that involve the sovereignty of states and call into question the form international relations take, namely the UN and its subordinate organizations (WIPO, WTO, etc.) and various treaties such as the Berne convention. It is inspiring to see how broadly people are mobilizing to resist the neo-colonialist agenda rich countries are pursuing by way of copyright and patent law. Long after decolonization took place formally, the original Conquistadors have reimposed their dominance by using treaties and other legal instruments all based on the Berne Convention of 1886. (link to article: here) This is now being contested in different ways by different countries and by social movements. Copies of the speech I delivered to the conference will be available on this site shortly. The conference itself was composed of seven panels in three days. These were titled:

1.Piracy, File sharing and Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)
2.North-South Cultural Flows and Cultural Diversity
3.Access, Circulation and Use of Knowledge
4.E-books, G-books & S-books/Electronic Books, Google Books & SciELO Electronic Books Project
5.Alternatives and Resistance to Copyright
6.Musicians and the Copyright System
7.The Political Economy of Copyright
8. Conference Assessment and Closing

The presentations provided a great deal of data, analysis and insight. The positions were diverse yet all were highly critical of the copyright system and the injustices it perpetuates, particularly in the global South. Participants came from many countries including South Africa, Chile, Bolivia, Cuba, the Philippines and Brazil. New frameworks for thinking and organizing were offered as well as reports from concrete struggles presently underway-for example, the Pirate Party of Brazil. Also, the current process unfolding now to radically reshape the Bolivian Constitution. This is but a quick glimpse-for more information please visit: www.copysouth.org

We did have a chance to explore some parts of Rio during breaks and in the evenings. Also, we stayed a few days after the conference was concluded. We were fortunate to meet a wonderful group of people including some from and familiar with Rio. This enabled us to enjoy camaraderie and lively discussion along with some local perspectives. Visiting any great city one can only catch the most superficial glimpses in so short a time. This is certainly true in the case of Rio- a huge city of more than six million. Nonetheless, the spectacular natural surroundings-the great Bay of Guanabara, the Sugarloaf and Corcovado (Christ the Redeemer), to name just a few-make even a glimpse fantastic. Not surprising, the music we heard was great, the musicianship stellar and the diversity compelling. In a few short days we heard traditional samba, Rio Funk, a Brazilian form of reggae, bossa nova and jazz. We were fortunate to be given the gift of one Cariocas' (native of Rio) personal favorites compiled on dvd. It was a most memorable trip indeed.

Next, we will be flying to Berlin to share a stage with my daughter Shannon, Friday August 13. This is a show at the Natur-Park Schöneberger Südgelände with Shannon Callahan Band and Friends. The show is called, Summer Songs Outdoors!
It begins at 19:30.

In September, we fly to San Francisco for a brief tour of the area. Concerts and speaking events include American River College in Sacramento, the Open Secrets bookstore in San Rafael and a couple other venues. Details will be posted in the Livedates section of this site.

On our way back to Europe, we stopover in Boston for a concert Monday night September 20th and a couple of talks at Berklee College of Music September 21st.
Then it's back to Bern.

I'll be furnishing updates on our return.

 

May 2010

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The month of April was packed with music. Mat Callahan's San Francisco, featuring Shirley Grimes, Yvonne Moore, Sam Baur, Rafi Woll and Wolfgang Zwiauer, played a series of concerts that were a rousing success. The band had such fun together we decided to continue and hope to do another series of concerts at the end of 2010. In the midst of all this, Yvonne and I did a pair of shows in our duet. Quite a contrast to the thunder of the San Francisco band but nonetheless warmly received and enjoyable to do. Last but not least, we began work on Yvonne's latest endeavor: Blue Wisdom. This included rehearsing and arranging songs for a recording which we completed at the end of the month. It's the first step towards bringing this music to the public sometime this Winter.
Meanwhile, I was invited to attend a conference in Rio de Janeiro June 27-30 organized by The Copy South Research Group. The Group's work addresses "issues in the economics, politics and ideology of copyright in the global South". Please visit their website for more information at: http://www.copysouth.org/

The invitation was a result of my book, "The Trouble With Music" and the questions it raises about "intellectual property", specifically file sharing, copyright and music. It is often forgotten in the wealthy countries of the global "North" that more than two thirds of the world's population has no computers and is not connected to the internet in any way. Moreover, the manner in which the great majority of the world's people are affected by copyright or patent is in a life and death struggle with giant corporate and state interests over land, water, mineral and agricultural resources and products. Songs, stories, fabric design and other creative products are also involved but not in the way it is portrayed by the Entertainment industry in its highly publicized campaign against internet "piracy". Indeed, the problem is quite the reverse in many cases involving indigenous peoples or cultural traditions that have brought into the world a vast treasure trove the Disney Corporation or Universal Music would like to get their hands on to turn into their property. I've written elsewhere about this and I invite people to look in the newsletter archive (on this site) for more details. Furthermore, a paper I originally presented to the European Consortium of Political Research in 2009 will be published in July by the periodical "Socialism and Democracy". It is entitled: "Distinguishing Friend From Foe in the Intellectual Property Debate" and can be accessed by purchasing the magazine or visiting their website: www.sdonline.org.

Later this year Yvonne and I will be returning to the West Coast for some concerts. We hope to have the itinerary in place soon but at the moment we can say we will be appearing in the San Francisco Bay Area in early September. Between now and then I hope to make significant progress on the writing of my next book. As many of you know it concerns San Francisco in the Sixties, particularly the intersection of music and politics. At present I am wrapping up the transcription of more than 60 hours of interviews I conducted over the last three years as well as completing other research. It is difficult to predict how long a project of this scope will take. I had hoped to have it done by the end of this year but I know now it will take a good deal longer, perhaps until the end of 2011. In any case, I am frequently reminded how necessary such a history is. Mostly this comes in the form of spurious attacks and relentless efforts to discredit that fill most media. The Sixties, according to these sages, were no more than "an intellectual and moral wasteland whose only worthwhile contribution to Western Culture was a handful of memorable songs". (that's Mark Goldblatt from the rightwing National Review) Naturally, this just further fuels my indignation giving me more energy to continue. I will furnish updates of my progress in future installments. Stay tuned!

 

Mat Callahan's San Francisco

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The band that originally recorded my album "San Francisco" back in 2001 reformed in May, 2009 for one special performance.  This was the Tribute To Fabian Kuratli held at the Dampfzentrale in Bern.  The entire event was a glorious celebration of Fab's life and music, the example he set and the projects he contributed so much to.  I was fortunate to have worked with Fab on many occasions but it was truly a gift to have him working on my own music. His contributions appear throughout the recording, "San Francisco", in percussion he played and the ideas he provided.

Reassembling the band was a joy in itself because not only are the musicians all dedicated and accomplished but they are among my closest friends.  Of special note was the addition of Sam Baur who took Fab's place with grace and skill.  After the performance we all agreed that it would be a shame not to go out and play again.  Yvonne Moore volunteered to organize the concerts and so here we are getting ready to hit the road. 

The band features Shirley Grimes, Yvonne Moore, Sam Baur, Rafi Woll and Wolfgang Zwiauer.  We are performing the entire album "San Francisco" plus a few selections from "A Wild Bouquet" which was recorded in San Francisco prior to my move to Europe. 

A few notes about the album "San Francisco":

I wrote this at the end of the 20th Century when I still lived on 17th Street in the city's Mission District.  I attempted to capture the moods, the characters and the sounds of the streets in my neighborhood.  Naturally, this included my moods and how the clashing clamor affected me.  Originally, I intended to record the album in San Francisco and, in fact, the earliest demos were made there.  But even as I was writing the songs I was in transition.  I had been invited to work regularly in Switzerland and through very good fortune I met Wolfi Zwiauer and Fab Kuratli while working on Shirley Grimes' album "New Waters".  Over the course of 18 months Wolfi and I worked together organizing the whole project and it is to Wolfi I owe a great debt of gratitude.  He was my collaborator on everything from playing, arranging, recording, mixing and editing.  He also introduced me to Rafi Woll who, together with Fab and Wolfi formed the powerful rhythm section that drives the whole album.  Without Wolfi this album might never have been completed.

We'll be playing a series of shows in April. We hope you will join us and share our pleasure in performing this music.

If you want to listen to or purchase the album please visit this site: brokenarrowrecords.com

 

September and Beyond

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Dear Friends:

The big news now is the release of the latest duet CD "Burn The Boogeyman". Yvonne and I are excited about this since it is the culmination of a year's hard work and not only our own. In addition to the preparation and performance of the music we had the assistance of a number of good friends in completing all the tasks involved. To begin with we had the wonderful photographs, taken by Linda Gelfman, of the El Cucuy burn in Albuquerque which both inspired the title of the album and provided the artwork for its cover and booklet. These were then given artful graphic design by HP Walser who did the same excellent work with our previous album "Welcome". For the recording we had the benefit of engineer Adi Tosseto's experience and his delight in music made the old fashioned way. This means getting the best sound from a real performance, not something artificially constructed afterwards out of pieces recorded at different times. The desired result is created by the musicians and the engineer. It is only assisted by the machines. Making this available to you was the task that fell to Thad Wharton of Broken Arrow Records and, thanks to him, one can access the recordings, the graphics and even T-shirts via various internet links. Please visit the duet site (matandyvonne.com) for all the details.

In mid September we'll be heading down to Italy for some concerts. The highlights will be a benefit concert in Florence for the women's group Libere Tutte followed by a concert at the Arcobaleno in Rome where we performed last year. The Arcobaleno is a warm, inviting social center that hosts diverse events, cultural and political. We'll be visiting with our friends in US Citizens for Peace and Justice in both Florence and Rome and hope to contribute to their dedicated work. Upon our return we'll be touring Switzerland in support of "Burn the Boogeyman". Hope to see you somewhere along the road.

Meanwhile, I've been working on a number of writing projects as well as participating in related conferences. In July a piece I wrote for Socialism & Democracy, "The Nature of the Beast", was published. It can be found at www.sdonline.org. September 12, I will present a paper on intellectual property to a panel convened by the European Consortium for Political Research in Potsdam, Germany. The paper, called "Notions of Property and Property in Notions", is an exploration of contradictory claims, for example, those made by large corporations and those made by musicians, farmers and indigenous peoples. It is a product of my engagement as an NGO at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and with Pete Seeger's proposal which I originally presented in Geneva in 2006. The most recent paper will be published soon. Visit this site or write to me directly for more information on how to get a copy. Lastly, I contributed a chapter to a book on San Francisco in the Sixties that is being organized by Chris Carlsson and will be published next year by City Lights. I believe it will be called "Ten Years That Shook The City" and my piece is concerned with the role of music. There will be further announcements closer to publication but I'm sure you can visit the City Lights website to find out all about it – http://www.citylights.com/publishing/

Amidst all the forgoing activity I'm still working on my own book about San Francisco in the Sixties (title to be determined). The research goes well and I've reached the point where I can begin writing. Almost. There are still some interviews to transcribe, a few more to do and a small mountain of books to plow through before I'll be satisfied my grip on the subject is sufficient. But my visit to San Francisco in March this year made the parameters clear, provided much of the material I need and deepened my conviction that the book is necessary. There are not only gaps and obfuscations in the public record that need to be filled and clarified, there are important questions of history, music and philosophy that must be addressed. For example, what is being effaced by commemoration? (this year it's Woodstock, next year Kent State, maybe...) The paradox here is that our attention is being drawn to something in order to prevent us from seeing it. We are convinced Woodstock is important by virtue of the fact that it is being commemorated while we are learning to forget the reasons it happened in the first place. This is not unlike the way magic tricks work. We may yet ask if it remains important because the music made since pales in comparison. But this then turns historical and musical developments into matters of taste; aesthetics separated from lived life. What were decisive moments of public involvement in history making become mere trifles for private consumption.

Forgetting isn't always a bad thing. It can be useful to disabuse oneself of false notions and waste no more time thinking about them. It can also be most helpful to get over the pain of injury, physical or emotional. But the forgetting that's being prescribed in regards to the Sixties is akin to Prozac being prescribed for unhappiness. It is the careful orchestration of masks whereby a mystery is manufactured out of events which actually occurred for concrete and knowable reasons. Indeed, there are important lessons to be learned if we remember what we were fighting against. This is why it is not enough to marvel at the music-although that's a great place to start. One must come to grips with, A, the Vietnam War and the Black Liberation Struggle which occupied the attention of millions upon millions of young Americans at the time and, B. Revolution of some kind-political, cultural, spiritual or all three-was underway and was viewed as a necessary step towards human liberation. While glimpses of this certainly poke through in many accounts it is nonetheless the overriding message that those were crazy times never to be repeated, thank God! Meanwhile,the movie of Woodstock is definitely worth watching if for nothing else, Richie Havens' stunning performance – just be sure to ask yourself who was crazy and who was sane.

I'll be reporting on all the above in coming installments. Stay tuned!

 

 

July 1, 2009

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Dear Friends,

Here is a message from Broken Arrow Records:

With excitement we let you know that Mat's great album "SAN FRANCISCO" is now available for the first time in the U.S., and worldwide.

The album was recorded and released in Switzerland in 2001, but was generally unavailable outside of the country.  Further it has been out of print since 2003 – until now.

Callahan's "San Francisco", is an epic and utterly distinctive portrayal of his American hometown;  it's characters, excentricities and adventures. Featuring the compelling songwriting that is a hallmark of this author/musicians' work, "San Franciso" boasts grand, soaring arrangements with full harmonies and choruses that were a great and favorite trademark of his trailblazing work with the Looters. The first 3 songs are as exciting and powerful as anything he has done, and send the listener off on another exhilarating voyage, truly separate from the normal offerings of popular rock music...

starting at "The Land of Miracles"
                ("...comes Miss Tiffany, and she says 'don't give up'...),
venturing "Out West"
            ("don't remember too many buckaroos, but do remember Black Panthers, Little Red Books and the Family Stone"...),
missing the Mission "They All Come Down"
         ("half expecting Jesus to appear on 16th Street, because they all come down, to my neighborhood"),
visiting "St. Anthony's"
              ("...go down Golden Gate and Jones, put some flesh back on my bones...")
and ending "At My Father's Grave"
              ("wondering what remains of him, here inside of me...")

This is actually Mat's most recent recording with a full band, and what a band it was.  A stellar lineup of musicians from Bern along with the familiar names of Naomi True, Yvonne Moore and Mat's daughter Shannon who together provide glorious vocals and harmonies.  Long-time friend Joe Johnson joined Mat for the first time since he left the Looters after "Jericho Down".  

The album is currently available exclusively on our website and Mat's, in both digital and physical form (not yet available anywhere else). As well, single songs are available for download.

THAD WHARTON | BROKEN ARROW RECORDS
1395 San Carlos Ave., Suite C, San Carlos, CA  94070
Ph.: 650.654.1700 | Fx.: 650.654.1700
twharton@brokenarrowrecords.com | http://www.brokenarrowrecords.com
SF

 

May 22, 2009 15 h Dampfzentrale Bern

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A Tribute To Fabian Kuratli
24 January 1970 – 6 August 2008

Fab was a master musician, inspired teacher and dear, dear friend to many people. I first met Fab in 2000 while working on Shirley Grimes' album "New Waters". We subsequently worked on three more albums together including my own, "San Francisco". Fab's contributions always went beyond providing excellent drumming and percussion. He was engaged emotionally and intellectually in the creation of each project bringing to them his lively, humorous spirit. Often a short remark or an unusual choice of instrument would open up a refreshing approach to a song that would give it just the "vibe" it needed to realize its potential. This was born of a profound commitment to music, to musicians and to community. That's why Fab used his influence within a wide range of musical projects and genres to bring together people in his Musikfestwochen which provided a platform for adventurous exploration outside the commercial mainstream. This is a model that all of us should learn from and use. In many conversations I had with Fab he spoke of the need for musicians to devote some time and energy to such collaborative effort. It might not provide any direct reward such as a gig or money but it would further the cause of music, in the long run benefitting everyone. This gave great encouragement and support to me, personally, for which I am most grateful. It certainly makes me want to rededicate myself to those ideals Fab held so dear.

At the Dampfzentrale on May 22, 2009 we will be joining in a celebration of Fab's life. The body may be gone but the spirit lives on in our hearts, in our good works, and most of all, in the groove.

 

January / February 2009

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– New CD
– New Book
– The Komotion Archive Project

Preparations for the recording of a new CD have occupied the last two months. We begin recording February 9. We hope to have project completed by the end of February.
We are going San Francisco in March where I hope to complete the research for my new book. The remainder of 2009 will be devoted to performing our new music and writing the new book.

The Komotion Archive Project is a major new undertaking. It involves archiving all the music, poetry and other performance recorded during Komotion's 11 year run between the years 1986-1997. It also includes the digitization of all the print magazines, album covers and other graphic art produced during this period. We are trying to raise the funds to complete this task. Please look at the short film available on this site (under films) for background information on Komotion International. Contact me directly for more information on how you can help.

There will be more news shortly. Stay Tuned!

 

November 2008

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Mat and Yvonne get ready to record

As the year winds down Yvonne and I are gearing up to make another album. The response to "Welcome" has been overwhelmingly positive and we are encouraged to continue. Even in today's anxiety ridden climate-particularly within the field of music making-we are enthusiastic about recording and hopeful about getting the result to its intended audience. Mind you, this is not about "business" as in Music Business (or any other profit making venture, for that matter). We need to sustain our efforts as does anyone but the point of all this is not to "move units" as the industry puts it. Rather, we seek to establish a living connection with people like ourselves who share our love for music and for life. We are confident that with sufficient work and careful planning we can make that connection and thereby contribute to the struggle all of us are waging to make the world a better place.
Presently, we are rehearsing a new repertoire developed over the last year to be recorded in January. As many of you know, we consider our music "organic" in the sense that its ingredients do not include the toxins routinely introduced into the music making process by the corporate-controlled Entertainment Industry. To begin with, the songs are written from our own experience and heartfelt conviction. They are not made to order by purveyors of "pop" pabulum to be foisted upon hypnotized consumers. They are not made for "consumers" at all. Indeed, we view our music as being part of an exchange between producers, or put another way, between people who are productive. Not only do we all have to work for a living but more fundamentally, we are all working to make a Life. If we bring our albums to market it is with the hope that they will nourish in the same manner the farmer we buy our lettuce from nourishes us. What would please us greatly would be if that very farmer (whom we visit every Tuesday morning in Bern) found our music as healthful as we find his vegetables!
Meanwhile, we have recently enlisted the aid of Alex von Hettlingen who will take on the booking of concerts for us. Alex is an old friend and veteran of the music scene in the Bern region. For a number of years he was responsible for organizing shows at the well known venue the Bären in Münchenbuchsee (a town near Bern). We are grateful for the interest he has taken in our music and the invaluable assistance he will provide in helping us reach our audience. Along with Thad Wharton of Broken Arrow in San Francisco we now have the basis for greatly expanding our efforts in the US and in Europe. Thanks to both of these guys for their enthusiasm and support.
We will keep everyone informed of the album's progress but we expect to have it available in early Spring 2009. If you want more information regarding either live performance or recordings please contact the following:

Alex von Hettlingen
Schulhausstrasse 10
3052 Zollikofen
Mobile +41 (0)76 412 02 99
booking@matandyvonne.com

Thad Wharton
Broken Arrow Records
1395 San Carlos Ave.
Suite C
San Carlos, CA 94070
650-654-1700
www.brokenarrowrecords.com
info@brokenarrowrecords.com

 

October 2008

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As banks drop like flies and panic stalks the Stock Exchange it's worth noting that this has been an ongoing story for more than a decade. I was living in San Francisco when the mass hysteria called the dot.com bubble was at its peak and everyone believed we'd arrived at an unprecedented departure in human history where money actually grew on trees. The collapse that followed precipitated the next round of speculation until, amidst various wars and terrorist attacks, not to mention stolen elections and other nefarious schemes, the boondoggle reached extremes that have everyone wondering what actually happens when the sky falls. "Uh, can the sky really fall?" "I dunno but I can make you a special deal on these umbrellas I have in stock."
There had long been a few lonely voices suggesting that there might be a problem with a three trillion dollar war being lost while the US was no longer making anything it could sell except debt. The facts on the ground were for the "reality based community" and this had been superceded by Empire, our Empire which could do as it wished. Well, well, well. Just how old this story is-and how pathetic-is clear enough when one considers that the following song was published in 1919-

I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles
I'm forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air.
They fly so high,
Nearly reach the sky,
Then like my dreams,
They fade and die.
Fortune's always hiding,
I've looked everywhere,
I'm forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air.

And don't forget these chestnuts roasting on the open-fire:

A pyramid scheme is a non-sustainable business model that involves the exchange of money primarily for enrolling other people into the scheme, without any product or service being delivered. It has been known to come under many guises.
Pyramid schemes are illegal in many countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Malaysia, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Iran. These types of schemes have existed for at least a century.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyramid_scheme

A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation that involves promising or paying abnormally high returns ("profits") to investors out of the money paid in by subsequent investors, rather than from net revenues generated by any real business. It is named after Charles Ponzi.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ponzi_scheme

Last, but not least, the cardinal rule of capitalism:
"There's a sucker born every minute."-PT Barnum
ps: it was later stated that ol' PT actually said "customer", not sucker. But what's the difference?

 

September 2008

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Mat and Yvonne Say: No Dal Molin!

Yvonne and I traveled to Vicenza Italy to participate in the second annual No Dal Molin festival. Dal Molin is the name of a civilian airport approximately 1.5 kilometers from Vicenza's historic city center (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). It is this airport that the US government wants to turn into a military installation to house several thousand members of the 173 Airborne Combat Brigade Team. Plans for the base were developed behind closed doors by the US and Italian governments sometime in late 2003 only coming to light in 2006. When residents of Vicenza began to question these plans they were met by evasion and threats first from the Berlusconi government and then by Prodi's short-lived one. But the questions persisted until an alarmed populace began to mount a determined resistance. This quickly developed into a mass movement involving people from every walk of life. Not only were they never consulted about a construction that would have a serious impact on their lives, the idea of yet another American military base (there are already three others in the area) raised profound questions about everything from Italian sovereignty to environmental degradation to the folly of war itself. In a climate of widespread opposition to America's invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the generally bellicose rhetoric of the Bush regime the issue of Dal Molin became a rallying point for a wide range of people for whom enough is enough.
The festival itself was an enthusiastic expression of solidarity involving many local residents, young and old, in building and maintaining a large site that resembled a town. Two stages, a large kitchen and dining area, a radio station, information booths, book stalls and more were set up in a field donated by a local farmer much to the chagrin of those in authority who'd blocked usage of other public sites. Among the performers were world renowned dramatist, Dario Fo, widely influential journalists Marco Travaglio and Oliviera Beha and numerous musical and theatrical groups. In addition, a series of debates were held that engaged hundreds of people in lively discussion. Yvonne and I were warmly received by an appreciative audience. Clearly, the fact that I'm a US citizen was part of this. While most Vicenzans know that the American people and the American government are not the same it helps to have an actual American state this openly. Furthermore, it is of no small significance that people far and wide are making this struggle their own. It is no longer a local matter only concerning residents of Vicenza or, for that matter, Italy. What it has already achieved has repercussions far beyond one particular locale or country.
First of all, construction of the base has been effectively delayed for more than a year. Though the authorities constantly spread disinformation designed to convince people that the base will be built regardless of their protests this is by no means a foregone conclusion. The spirit of resistance has taken root and is spreading with unpredictable consequences for the US and Italian governments. There is mounting opposition in other parts of Italy including movements such as No TAV against hi speed trains, in Chiaiano near Naples against a hazardous rubbish incinerator, a committee against a new Italian base at Mattarello in Trento all gathering under a pact of mutual aid and lending support to the No Dal Molin campaign.
Second, and most important, this sustained, well organized expression of the popular will has provided an inspiring example of what happens when people unite. As one young activist told me, "What we see here in this movement is equality. All of us together for a common purpose." That this is a far cry from and far better than the phony "democracy" referred to ad nauseam in tedious speeches by politicians is obvious to anyone who has experienced it. The lesson is clear: only by mobilizing the citizenry can there be a citizenry. Only by making public demands in the public sphere can there be a public informed and empowered to act in the public interest.
That this lesson is not lost on the powers that be was made painfully obvious when the police attacked a peaceful demonstration which took place in front of Dal Molin on September 6, the day before we arrived. If the intended result was to intimidate the people of Vicenza then its failure was made immediately apparent by an hilarious "Oscars" ceremony held on September 10 in front of the world renowned Teatro Olimpico in the center of Vicenza. This satire included the screening of a short film (the winner of the "Oscar") showing the police assault. The rally was a spirited act of defiance as well as a means to build for a larger demonstration planned for Saturday, Sept. 13.
While we could not stay due to commitments in Switzerland, we received reports that approximately 8,000 people turned out in the pouring rain to march from the Teatro Olimpico to Dal Molin. In a short email, Stephanie Westbrook of US Citizens for Peace and Justice in Rome told us: "We left from Teatro Olimpico and marched out toward the site of the new base. Before leaving the center they put up a colorful cardboard tower made by the No Dal Molin children to see if riot police would charge in and tear it down...Started raining half way through. We put up another tower at the site of the new base. 200 police in riot gear inside the fence, but this time they stayed 30 meters away. The No Dal Molin Fanfara Band led us in music, plus music and speakers from truck. Much talk about police violence the previous Saturday, and the upcoming referendum (Oct. 5). Calls for resignation of police chief. Most demonstrators arrived at festival. Main tent packed. We were all soaked but in good spirits."
The referendum Stephanie refers to is to enable the citizens of Vicenza to decide the future of Dal Molin. Not surprisingly, Berlusconi has stated that this will have no bearing on the actions of the central government. Apparently, his definition of democracy is passive acceptance of whatever he and his cronies say or do. But for the people of Vicenza any mandate he might feasibly claim to have since being reelected Prime Minister does not include making Italy a colony of the United States. Nor can it overrule the inhabitants of a region who want to determine what happens where they live. Ironically, the Lega Nord that blusters so much about "independence" for the industrious northern Italians from their supposedly lackadaisical southern counterparts, has said nothing about Dal Molin. Apparently, independence for them means complying with the wishes of a foreign occupier, namely the US. But such confusion and corruption are common in politics these days, not only in Italy but throughout the world. What the movement in Vicenza offers is a genuine alternative; a challenge to all the parties and politicians without exception. While there is a diversity of views amongst those opposed to the base certain themes, continually articulated, form a growing consensus: an end to war and militarism, protecting and nourishing the environment-particularly air, water and food, and the vigorous defense of human rights. Guided by such principles this struggle gives all of us the opportunity to actively participate in changing the world. We want to express our gratitude for and solidarity with those making their stand in Vicenza. No Dal Molin!

Fabian Kuratli
24 January 1970-6 August 2008
musician, teacher, friend
his life was an inspiration to all who knew him
he set an example of dedication and integrity we all can learn from

 

August 2008

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Today is the anniversary of the dropping of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima. This event remains controversial due to the weapon's inherent destructiveness as well as the reasons it was used. On the one hand a device with the potential to destroy all human life was actually deployed, demonstrating for all to see what awesome power rested in the hands of the United States government. On the other, the justification for its use-namely that it hastened the end of the war thereby saving lives-has been thoroughly exposed as a fraud. It is beyond all reasonable doubt that Truman and some of his advisors were determined to drop the bomb at all costs and did not want Japan to surrender until they had the chance to do so. An article that appears in today's Guardian provides sufficient evidence to convince any but the most die-hard defenders of US policy of the veracity of this claim.

(http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/aug/06/secondworldwar.warcrimes)

Of course, the folly of the act was revealed in its result. It not only failed to deter the Soviet Union which was the Truman administration's real objective (nor had it any bearing on China "succumbing" to the Red Menace soon after) it led to the Soviet Union producing its own bomb and the subsequent proliferation of nuclear weapons that continues to this day. The fact that by the 1960s there were already enough bombs stockpiled to destroy the world-not only once but many times over-gives us some indication of the madness of MAD (mutual assured destruction) which was and tacitly remains the policy of the United States. I suggest that anyone who believes that this state of affairs is sane consider having their own heads examined. That might be more productive than trying to reconcile a logic of victory whereby everyone is killed, including oneself. If sanity has any usefulness as a description or measurement of healthy brain function then the perpetrators of this wholesale terror are not sane. The sooner one divests oneself of the notion that these people are "reasonable" because they wear suits and ties, meet in great palaces and appear shaking hands on TV the sooner one can begin creatively working on solutions to the problem.
Meanwhile, I continue working on all the projects I've mentioned in previous entries here. Production of An Lar's new album is underway as is work on the next Duet album due to be recorded in January. Research continues on my book including reading dozens of other books and articles as well as continuing to interview participants in the era (see May and July news for more on the project). And, of course, Yvonne and I continue to perform with some regularity. A visit to the Duet website will fill you in on all the details. A new installment of my newsletter is planned for September and some articles I've written for other publications will soon be available. (I'll announce the actual dates and links when I have them)
If you're in the neighborhood and are so inclined, drop by one of our concerts and say hello.

 

July 2008

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I missed the June entry to "News" due to a number of factors. First, my trip to San Francisco provided a quantity of data far greater than anticipated and this has taken weeks to sort through and catalogue (a process not yet complete). I had the good fortune to conduct several interviews with, among others, three members of Country Joe and the Fish (Joe MacDonald, Barry Melton and Bruce Barthol), RG Davis, founder of the SF Mime Troupe, Joan Holden who played a pivotal role in the Troupe following Davis' departure and Joel Selvin (who also provided invaluable research assistance). I want to thank all of these good people for graciously sharing their time and thoughts. Perhaps more importantly, I hope to do justice to their insight which derives from rich experience and from which there is much to learn. In addition to the interviews were visits to three libraries: San Francisco Public Library, Media Resources Center at the Moffitt Library UC Berkeley and the San Francisco State Library. With the help of some conscientious librarians I was able to locate numerous documents relevant to my project and begin the slow process of assembly necessary to both determine what has already been presented to the world (and what has not) as well as verifying or refuting my hypotheses. I will write more soon on what exactly those hypotheses are but suffice it to say that while many fine books have been written on music and politics in San Francisco during the Sixties there are a number of important questions that need to be more fully explored. In fact, as 40th anniversaries are now upon us, the Sixties are being extolled or excoriated in many media today. This, however, is generating more heat than light thereby obscuring rather than clarifying events of great significance. In other words, from the SF Mime Troupe to the Jefferson Airplane, from the Diggers to the Black Panther Party, from the Acid Tests to Zap Comics, from the Free Speech Movement to the New Communist Movement, from Sly and the Family Stone to Santana, concentrated in a small region in a short span of time was a musical renaissance and a social revolution whose impact continues to resonate. Just pouring through the documents and interviews gathered so far has proven to be a large task. And there is much more to do.

As soon as I returned to Bern I was off to Italy. It was a much needed break after almost six months of touring, writing, performing and recording. As it turned out, Bush was coming to Rome for a stop on his "goodbye tour". I had been corresponding with an organization called US Citizens for Peace and Justice, Rome and they were participating in a demonstration to indict this war criminal publicly. We were invited to participate at the demo and to play a concert a couple days later. Pictures and reports are available on the website mentioned above. Please have a look. No matter where you're reading this from you will no doubt be encouraged by the efforts this group is making. You will also find that they are connected with like-minded folks in Florence. That is where we went after our short visit to Rome. We met some of the group there and played a concert in the middle of a large street festival called Notte Bianca organized to celebrate the summer solstice, June 21. We were very happy to make the acquaintance of some fine, dedicated people whom we now consider our friends. We will certainly return to Italy to join them in their work.

Upcoming in July: July 11 at Kiental Yvonne and I will be performing.
July also marks the beginning of the An Lar project mentioned in my last news entry (see below)
Also, I am preparing another newsletter for publication in September.

May 2008

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We got back from our East Coast tour in late March. Having spent almost two months on the road I had a lot of catching up to do. In part this was because, before departure, I was engaged to write a twice weekly blog for Allvoices.com. (you can visit the site: www.allvoices.com, if you're interested) Meanwhile, a small pile of requests for articles had piled up on my desk and I had to hunker down to getting them done. Of special note is a review I wrote for Down Home Radio about a truly wonderful book, "American Folk Music and Left-Wing Politics" by Richard Reuss. You can read the review at the Down Home Radio Show website.

http://www.downhomeradioshow.com/

On the musical front, there are two new projects underway. First, is that Yvonne and I are preparing to record new album of our duet at the end of the year. We are working with Broken Arrow Records to coordinate a worldwide release and a summer festival tour next year. If you visit one of our concerts, in the meantime, you'll likely hear us trying out the new songs to get them ready for recording this Winter. We are not done traveling this year, however, as we will be playing in Ticino and Italy during the summer. Check out the Duet site for more info.

Secondly, I am proud to announce that I was asked to produce An Lar. As their website says: "An Lár (Irish for “the center”) has gained a reputation as one of the most vibrant Celtic Folk Bands in Switzerland in the past few years. Their mix of traditional and contemporary tunes and songs from Ireland, Scotland, Asturias and Brittany enriched with their own material is full of energy and sense of style. Besides the exciting arrangements, a typical An Lár concert features strong lead vocals and the musician’s great virtuosity on a multitude of instruments."
http://www.anlar.ch/site/e/home.html
I can attest to the truth of that statement. I consider myself a fan of their music and it is with great pleasure I join them to make their next recording.

In other news, I'm going to San Francisco in a few days to do more research for my next book. As I've written in my newsletter, I'm working with newly founded PM Press on a study of music and politics in San Francisco in the Sixties. While this is, in one sense, my own story, I am not writing an autobiography. While my own experience will certainly inform what I say, I want to provide a more comprehensive view that, hopefully, will explain why San Francisco was the site of a musical renaissance and a social revolution that continues to resonate to this day. This requires pouring over the materials in various libraries, hence my visit to San Francisco. It may come as a surprise to those used to using the internet but a vast amount of data has not been digitized and is only available in the old fashioned form of print (books, newspapers, photographs, posters, etc.). By year's end I hope to have what I need and to begin writing the book.

There'll be more news in June. Stay tuned!

 

Dear Friends: I received this message a couple weeks ago. I agree with its contents wholeheartedly and hope you will consider them carefully. thanks, Mat

April 18, 2008

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To Mumia Abu-Jamal -- my brother in this Struggle; and your family,
friends, and supporters.

I offer you my warmest greetings. How appropriate, after so many
years, that I now send you word from a cage housed in the very same
state as yours.

Perhaps it is destiny that we would find ourselves incarcerated so
near, under similar circumstance, by similar forces, using similar
excuses, for a similar love of our people.

Perhaps it is destiny that we arrived at a similar truth -- that we
had to stand in opposition to a similar oppression.

Perhaps it was destiny that we were unable to stand idly by with
similar brutality all around us, and similar violence thrust upon us,
as the only means to survive.

Given the choice of lying down to die or standing up to live, we chose
to live. Standing up and living is our only crime in this, the land
of the free and home of the brave. Our dream is still alive, and as
hunger striker Bobby Sands once said, you can lock up the dreamer but
you cannot place chains around an idea.

While acknowledging another setback for Mumia in the lack of a new
trial, I am hopeful for the new sentencing hearing on April 19. Like
so many before us, our smaller victories will one day result in our
ultimate triumph, and we will carry on the Struggle until that day.
For we are one, and we are many. We are forever, we are timeless. We
are Crazy Horse, we are Geronimo, we are Mumia, we are Leonard
Peltier, we are Malcolm X, and we are Martin Luther King. We are the
voice of justice and natural living. We are the American Indian
Movement, we are the Black Panthers, we are MOVE, we are the Viet
Cong, we are the Irish Republican Army, and the Palestinian Liberation
Organization.

We are every man, woman and child who desires to see a sunrise in a
land of freedom and opportunity, a land of plenty and not hunger, a
land of choices without fear, a land of progress without brutality.
We are not only the citizens of Belfast and Pine Ridge, Philadelphia
and Gaza. We are children of Earth, a place worth living in and not
just surviving in. A place where every life, no matter if it is
wrapped in brown skin or black, red skin or yellow, white skin or any
color skin, is precious to our God and to each other.

I pray and I live for the day that we meet as free men, and embrace
each other in our own communities, with our families and the world as
witness to our liberation and our triumph. For make no mistake the
world is watching, and our children are learning. And every slight,
every insult, every injustice, every bruise, every injury, every lost
battle, every second behind bars, will be redeemed in the colorblind
laughter of our children. Theirs is the future that we struggle for,
and why we will never stop speaking the truth.

Free Mumia!

In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,

Leonard Peltier
Lakota, Anishinabe

Time to set him free... Because it is the RIGHT thing to do.

Friends of Peltier
http://www.FreePeltierNow.org


March 27, 2008

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We just got back to Bern from our tour of the East Coast. From our first concert to our last we made new friends and introduced our music to new audiences. In Hartford we performed a benefit concert for the Hartbeat Ensemble. This is a fine theater troupe that also teaches drama in Hartford's public schools. Between our sets they showed a film of a play students had written and performed. It was a great example of how arts can play a vital role in education. From Hartford we went to Boston where we played an open mic at the Club Passim. We hope to return there for a proper concert next tour. Then it was on to Willimantic where we performed at a storefront community center known as Wrench In The Works. Both the Hartford show and the Willimantic show were accompanied by performances on local radio stations so the turnouts were good and the public was definitely there to hear our music. The efforts of the organizers of these events were noteworthy and we were very warmly received.
Next day we drove back to Boston where we were to give a presentation at world famous Berklee College of Music. The professor in a class called "Modern Political Thought" invited us to perform as well as talk about music. 25 young music students were in attendance and there was much lively discussion. This focused mainly on how music can affect social change. This included questions of how one could function in the music business while staying true to one's principles. Hopefully, we provided some food for thought. It was certainly encouraging to us to meet such thoughtful young people.
Next we went to New York City where we performed two concerts, one at a nightclub called Banjo Jim's the other at a social center called the Brecht Forum. The show at Banjo Jim's was a monthly event with several performers including a group from Cincinnati, the Tillers, and our host, Eli Smith. The Tillers and Eli were both outstanding. It definitely got us fired up to play. The following night, however, was the first disappointment of the tour. Due to poor organization little publicity had been done and the turnout at the Brecht Forum was small. But we made the best of a bad situation by sitting in a circle with the other musicians and swapping songs. It was a lot of fun and inspiring to hear three young musicians sound so good.
In Baltimore we had a divided evening. First half was a book talk about "The Trouble With Music". Then there was a short break and we played a concert. Red Emma's Book Store is a well organized and very popular collective space so there was an enthusiastic atmosphere from the outset. The book talk got everyone involved and discussion could have gone on much longer than the 90 minutes alloted to it. But everyone wanted to hear us play so our host segued nicely into the concert. From there we continued south with stops in Richmond and Harrisonburg in Virginia and finally Chapel Hill in North Carolina.
The high point of the whole tour was at the Little Grill in Harrisonburg. A sizable crowd turned out on a night when the city was overflowing with concerts. In fact, our host was a bit nervous until show time when the Little Grill suddenly filled up. Opening the show was a young guy from Harrisonburg named Josh Warner who did excellent versions of many classic country, folk and blues tune accompanying himself on guitar, banjo and harmonica. This was just the introduction we needed and we gave a spirited performance of our own.
All in all, the tour was good. Though a few events didn't meet our expectations others exceeded them. We learned some valuable lessons about preparation and working together with local organizers to present the best possible event for all concerned. It certainly convinced us of the need to get out there with our music. And we're grateful to all the wonderful folks whose hard work and dedication made this possible. Thank you all.

In the next few days I'll be posting some news about upcoming events and projects.
Stay tuned!

 

February-March 2008

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There are two noteworthy events in February. First, Yvonne and I are playing a concert in Berlin
Tuesday, February 19.
Showtime: 20:00
Hofperle
Im Haus der Neukoellner Oper
U7 Karl-Marx-St. 131/133 12043 Berlin
Tel.030/5682 9429, hofperle@gmx.net

Secondly, we're joining my daughter, Shannon Callahan, to celebrate the release of her debut album, "Nectar". All of the musicians appearing on the CD will play at this special event. Join us!
Quasimodo, Saturday February 22
22:00-21.00 einlass
www.quasimodo.de
Kantstr. 12A
10623 Berlin, Germany
+49 30 318045 - 6
Kosten : 15
for more info check:
www.myspace.com/shannoncallahanmusic

In March, Yvonne and I will be heading to the East Coast for a tour. Please check the tour dates and come to a show near you.

Meanwhile, there is more news to report. In my last update I mentioned that I'd begun work on a new book. Now, I have a new publisher as well. With their help I hope to complete interviews and research this year. Writing will commence thereafter. For more info please contact:

PM Press
Ramsey Kanaan
PO Box 23912
Oakland , CA 94623
510 703 0327
ramsey@pmpress.org

Also, PM has wisely decided to employ the services of a booking agent which will greatly aid in the popularization of the authors and ideas it publishes. Anyone interested in hearing a presentation of the views expressed in "The Trouble With Music" should contact:

Jen Angel/ Aid & Abet,
jen@aidandabet.org
www.aidandabet.org
510-910-5627

 

January 2008

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The year begins with:
A new book. a new publisher, new tours and new music. I will be furnishing more details shortly. Here are the basics-

I've concluded a deal for my new book with PM Press. For more information please contact:

PM Press
Ramsey Kanaan
PO Box 23912
Oakland , CA 94623
510 703 0327
ramsey@pmpress.org

We'll be touring the East Coast in March. For more information please contact:

Thad Wharton
Broken Arrow Records
650 654 1700
1395 San Carlos Avenue Suite C
San Carlos, Ca. 94070
info@brokenarrowrecords.com

We'll be touring the Northwest in October. For more information please contact:

Jess Grant <jessg@speakeasy.net>

Finally, we plan to end the year by recording a new album. But we'll be playing the songs all year long and you'll get to hear them if you come to see us play. Stay in touch.

 


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