Everybody Loves Holland

Holland are one of those teams that have plenty of fans from other countries. The main reason for this is their tradition of “sexy football”, a tradition which goes back to the great Ajax and national sides of the 1970s who scored goals like this:



I first came across them at EURO88. I remember collecting Panini stickers and being dazzled by the bright orange shirts. I was also intrigued by the fact that they had more black players than England. Of course there was Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard, but there were also lesser lights like Aaron Winter and the 2nd goalie Stanley Menzo. They destroyed England with a hat-trick the mighty Marco van Basten. Having grown up in England, I was totally ignorant of van Basten, Gullit, the Koemans and watching them was like a revolution.

And then there were the fans! A sea of bright orange was so eye-catching. It was love at first sight. The fact that they really, really seemed to hate the Germans also sat well (although more recently, Germany have turned into a multicultural, friendly, attacking team who everyone loves – until they win something!).



Since then, Holland have usually disappointed at major tournaments, though they were bloody good in France98, only going out to Brazil in the semis. Remember Dennis Bergkamp! Dennis Bergkamp!, Dennis Bergkamp!



One thing that the Oranje always bring is in-fighting between their players. This took an ugly turn in Euro96 where there were allegations of racial divisions between the players, but usually, their factionalism is pure comedy.

In truth, the Holland teams of recent years have been pretty dull to watch. In the 2010 World Cup finals, they did give us some cracking goals like this one against Uruguay



But in the final against Spain, they suddenly turned into a hideous cross between the 1980s Wimbledon and the Israeli Defence Force. Nigel de Jong’s textbook karate chop in Xabi Alonso’s chest captured their approach perfectly. I was glad Spain won, despite them being a bunch of racist MFs.



Adios Holland. I hope one day you’ll to the joyful, open free flowing style of old.

The UK Garage Years: 10 Classic Songs from a Golden Age

The UK Garage Years: 10 Classic Songs from a Golden Age

There was a time in the mid to late 1990s when the word “urban” was still wet behind the ears and David Guetta was still just another obscure French house dude. In those days, Britain was rocking to the UKG sound. The genealogy of UK Garage should be well known, but I’m gonna give you an overview before introducing 10 classic songs that defined the era.

In 1993-1994, Jungle had re-introduced RnB, Hip Hop and Ragga heads to electronic music. But by 1995, it had all gone a bit dark and aggressive (as would happen with Garage). At around the same time, more and more heads started frequenting clubs and bars playing house music and gradually a distinctive UK sound emerged. While the earlier songs still stuck to the basic 4/4 “four to the floor”, they introduced more vocals and melodic elements. There was an annoying but thankfully short-lived period when big basslines took over, before 2 Step emerged.

Instead of the normal 4 to the floor, producers skipped the 2nd and 4th beats to usher in the 2 Step sound. This is the sound that would explode onto the national scene and make stars out of people like Craig David in 1998 to about 2000. Then, as we know, the mainstream got bored of UKG and on the grassroots level, the ‘yout ‘dem pioneered what would become Grime.

Here are 10 songs that I think nicely sum up the UK Garage years. The good news is that UK Garage never really went away and has remained popular on the radio waves in London. And in the last few years, a revival has kicked in with new tracks bringing back those golden years. Enjoy!

1. Smoking Beats – Dreams
Such a simple track but so powerful. A perfect example of 4/4 UKG.



2. CJ Bolland – Sugar is Sweeter [aka Sugar Daddy Yo!) – Armand Van Helden mix
Guaranteed floor filler to this day. Probably the first UK Garage track to cross over in to the RnB clubs and get away with it. Armand was hot property after this one. See also his remixes of Nuyorican Soul – Runaway and Tori Amos Professional Widow.



3. Danny J Lewis – Spend the Night (H-Man mix)
There are at least 3 mixes of this song that I could have chosen. I opted for this one because it’s a good example of the transition from 4/4 to 2 Step. The live bass gives it a disco kinda feel too.



4. Goldie – Believe (MJ Cole Mix)
MJ Cole’s productions were the classier side of UKG. This mix is classic MJ, with the horn stabs, bumpy bass line and switches from 2 Step to 4/4… and back.



5. Roy Davis Jr Ft Peven Everett – Gabriel
This was produced by US producer Roy Davis Junior and featured singer Peven Everett. The chilled out soundscape and uplifting, spiritual lyrics make this an absolute classic. Never fails to get the crowd moving:



6. Ramsey and Fen – Lovebug
This might be track that really got 2 Step going. A little known fact about this song is that MJ Cole was the engineer for it.



7. Brandy & Monica –Boy is Mine (Garage mix)
For some reason, Brandy’s voice seemed to suit garage remixes. The bass lick was also used for “I Wanna Know” by Restless Natives (aka Y-Tribe). Wish I could include that here also.



8. Sound of One – As I Am (Todd Edwards Mix)
The fact that this guy is called “Todd the God” by UKG aficionados says it all really. Had to get one from him in there.



9. Wookie – Scrappy
There was no other producer like Wookie, though many tried. His remix of Sia’s Little Man and his various remixes all displayed his militant drum patterns and bass addiction.



10. Zinc – 138 Trek
UKG always maintained a darker, edgier side which would eventually blossom into Grime. This is probably the archetypal example of this.



I’m ashamed about all the songs I’ve had to leave out, so please also check out this Youtube Playlist for more:
http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL70084DEAB0A1398E

Racism in Football: Bilic Shames UEFA



Racism in Football: Slaven Bilic v UEFA

Croatia went out of EURO2012 last night. It wasn’t quite in a blaze of glory but they can hold their heads high. They gave Spain a decent run for their money. Some may say that losing to a team playing with no striker is nothing to brag about. But Spain could play 11 defenders and would probably still beat most teams in Europe.

We should give special praise to the outgoing Croatian national team coach Slaven Bilic. In the days prior to the Spain game, he came out and firmly condemned those Croatians who engage in racist abuse. Normally, players and managers choose to stay silent about racism unless it is done against them. But not Slaven. When asked about the alleged racist incidents involving Croatian fans, he went on the offensive:

“It (racism) is a big problem all around Europe and all around the world and on behalf of the entire nation, not even as a football manager, I want to say that I am really disappointed as a Croatian, a parent, and a sportsman, a person who comes from a modern, open-minded and tolerant state.

Everyone is welcome in our county. I don’t like these kinds of supporters and nor do my players. I don’t want them to come into the stadium.

“I live in Croatia and we really are a tolerant county. We are not a racist country and we are angry at these few crazy supporters. We have to put sanctions on these kind of supporters and stop them forever.” Source

Bilic deserves major props for this. His team was just about to play a crucial Euro2012 match. He could have opted to avoid rocking the boat and distracting his players. He could have just hid behind nationalism and claimed that the problem of racism is exaggerated. But he stayed true to his stated anti-racist principles and condemned his own “crazy” kinsfolk.

If only UEFA could show that they too were serious about racism. Instead, they have demonstrated their priorities by fining Nicklas Bendtner £80,000 for advertising a non-official sponsor after scoring against Portugal last week. This amount dwarfs the fines which they have dished out recently over racist abuse. The message seems clear, doesn’t disturb the corporate sponsors, so it’s not a big issue.

Slaven Bilic is now off to Locomotiv Moscow in Russia, ironically, a country which has serious problems with racism in society and thus in football.

Should be interesting!

Akala: The Hip Hop Prophet

What is a prophet?

If you’re like me, when you think of a “prophet” you conjure up an image of an austere bearded man in the Middle East somewhere several centuries ago, shouting at passers-by in a market square. This chap is very angry and spends his time warning anyone who will listen about the impending catastrophe that is about to befall them from God, unless they change their ways.

A prophet is usually seen as one who predicts the future, hence the term “prophetic.” And according to the Bible and other texts, this is indeed a big part of the prophet job spec.

But a prophet doesn’t necessarily tell the future. He or she (despite its generally patriarchal and somewhat misogynistic outlook, the Bible does affirm that women could be prophets) is also someone who speaks about and critiques present day realities. I think of people like Martin Luther King and Omowale Malcolm X as great African prophets of the past century. Their words were like flaming arrows, telling America and the world, just how unjust and ugly it really is.

It might seem a bit outlandish, but I believe that we have a prophet in our midst, right here in north London. I’ve seen Akala (aka Kingslee James Daley) perform live a few times and I’ve also seen several of his talks and lectures and I’m always impressed by his clarity and by how deep he thinks about a range of subjects. For me, he shares the same sprit as MLK and Malcolm, the ability to speak uncompromising truth in a manner that is engaging and inspiring. He has recently released his latest album, Knowledge is Power Vol.1. More details on his website www.akalamusic.com.

I’m sharing two examples of his vision and clarity. They are two completely different audiences but in both cases, he commands the audience’s full attention.

The first is a rhyme he delivered at a school in 2011 (I think). I especially love this because of the way the young students are all hanging on his every word, even though he’s going for nearly 10 minutes… with no beat.

The second vid is a TED talk that he did on the connections between Hip Hop and Shakespeare.

Thus sayeth I and I, don’t sleep on this brother. www.akalamusic.com

Why no East African Pidgin?

<!–[if !mso]> st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } <![endif]–> So, Onyinye is another banging P-Square song ain’t it? Even the fake Rick Ross doesn’t manage to ruin it!

Anyway, if you listen to Afro Beats or hang around West Africans from Ghana, Nigeria, etc., you will be familiar with Pidgin English. As I understand it, pidgin it’s a kind of patois, sort of a broken English, or better still, Africanised English.

How come we don’t really have Pidgin English in East Africa? I mean, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana, etc were all lumbered with the same burden of British colonialism. And part of that experience has involved taking on the English language. But for some reason, unless I’m missing something, we didn’t develop a Pidgin English.
There must be a logical reason for this. But I just can’t think of it. Wetin Dey?

New Mix – African Riddimz!

Naija music has been blowing up for a little while now. Whatever they are putting in the water in Nigeria is resulting in a constant stream of excellent tunes from the likes of D’Banj, Flavour N’abania and of course P Square. All of these are featured in this mix, along with one or two offerings from Ugandan, Ghanaian and Congolese artists. Enjoy!

Happy New Year Nigeria! – From GEJ & the IMF

See Original source

“When President Goodluck Jonathan was campaigning for votes and after he won election and was sworn-in on May 29, he promised Nigerians “Fresh Air” and also an inclusive government. He assured the citizenry that his administration was going to be a listening one.

With these promises, many thought that everything about his government was going to be democratically debated and majority voice respected.

Less than a year after, the democratic promises of the President are been put to play. The issue of subsidy removal is now putting to test the President’s pledge to be transparent. It initially started as a rumour and then it officially came out that the government is going to remove fuel subsidy.

According to the executive arm of the government, subsidy on petroleum must be removed because the ordinary masses are not benefitting and the money spent on subsidy is been corned by some “Cartel”.

Government says it spends an annual estimate of N1.3 trillion on subsidy and that it cannot continue to sustain that.

The House of Representatives has categorically voiced their objection to the planned subsidy removal, while the labour union also threatened to make the government ungovernable if it insists on removing the subsidy.

Last week, at the town hall meeting convened by the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) in Lagos, Nigerian masses expressed their objection to the proposed subsidy removal from fuel.

As government is insisting on subsidy removal, many people are asking who are doing pushing the President to go against the will of the people.

And as if to answer the question, as the debate on the subsidy gets heated, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde came visiting.

The meeting was not just coincidental. Analysts believe it was predetermined. The IMF has been canvassing for the removal of subsidy among African countries.

For instance, the IMF has urged countries across West and Central Africa to cut fuel subsidies, which they say are not effective in directly aiding the poor, but do promote corruption and smuggling.

This pronouncement has seen governments in Nigeria, Guinea, Cameroon, Chad and Ghana moving to cut state subsidies on fuel.

Yesterday, Ghana cut subsidy and it was learnt that the development was due to pressure from the IMF to do so because of rise in the price of crude.

The Chief Executive Officer of Ghana’s National Petroleum Authority (NPA), Alex Mould said the cumulative effect of the rise in crude oil prices this year and the about 5.7 percent depreciation of the cedi meant a 25 percent increase in cedi terms in the cost of procuring crude oil and petroleum products since January.

The price change will see the cost of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) increase by 30 percent while petrol and diesel will go up 15 percent at pumps in Ghana.

Mould said Ghana has spent about 450 million cedis on fuel subsidies in 2011.

Ghana’s Minister for Finance Kwabena Duffour said the removal of subsidies would have a positive impact on Ghana’s economy.

Duffour said: “Subsidising fuel is not sustainable. It is the right thing to do so we can sustain our fiscal consolidation.”

This is the same music that the protagonists of subsidy removal in Nigeria, like the Coordinating Minister of Economy and Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; the Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke and the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi are singing.

While Sanusi insisted that the economy would breakdown if the subsidy is not removed, Ngozi said Nigerians would be better off without subsidy.

Ghana’s subsidy removal yesterday confirmed people’s speculations that Western powers are behind the move to stop subsidy. Development in Ghana has also gone to confirm that the Nigerian government would boycott the public outcry on subsidy removal and go ahead to remove.

There is no provision for subsidy in the 2012 budget proposal submitted by President Goodluck Jonathan.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has said that from next year they would not pay for subsidy because there is no provision for it in the budget.

The development also negates the IMF’s saying that it does not tailor policies for any country to follow, but only provide technical supports.

But during the visit of Lagarde to Nigeria, she said, “I came here primarily to listen to our African members, and to find out how we can better tailor support to countries in this region in the current difficult global environment.”

Nigeria is indeed in serious economic problem. For instance, the value of the currency has been devaluing against major foreign currencies. The official value of naira against dollar is currently 156 to a dollar and at the Bureau De Change, it goes for 165 against the dollar.

The governor of central bank, Sanusi sometime this year faulted the IMF for suggesting that the value of the naira be devalued to protect further depreciation of the foreign reserves.

However, the governor bowed to pressure and got the naira devalued. It is the same pressure from the Western powers that is pushing the government to remove fuel subsidy.

In Nigeria, removal of subsidy would necessarily lead to hike in fuel pump and such hike would trigger increment in the price of other commodities and services.

It is already been speculated that by next year, when subsidy might have been removed, Nigerians would have to pay as high as N140 per litre of petrol. The price is currently N65 per litre.

What this means is that Nigerians should gird up for tough times next year. This is because any increase in the price of fuel would push the cost of production in the manufacturing industry up.

Also, cost of transportation would go up and even operators of Small, Medium Scale Enterprises would not be able to continue in business because most of them relied on generators to power their machines and generators are powered by fuel.

Some civil society organizations and organized labour are urging Nigerians to come out and protest subsidy removal. The question is, can Nigerians occupy the “Three Arm Zone” as Americans “Occupied” the “Street.”

Subsidy removal is turning out to be another Bretton Woods Institutions’ anti-peoples’ policy. It is a neo-liberal agenda developed by those in authority. It is not a popular idea but that of the ruling power. It is becoming a dominant idea because in every political setting, the dominant idea is the idea of the ruling power.

Now that the government is bent on removing subsidy from fuel against people’s outcry, the question to ask is if this is the “Fresh Air” that President Goodluck promised Nigerians during his campaigning?”

See also, see Ghana latest in Africa to cut fuel subsidies

Conscious Reggae Mix

Reggae is the default music for me. I love all kinds of genres but I always, always return to reggae (in all its forms). This is a mix I did in July 2011. Having listened to it endlessly in the gym, I thought I may as well post it online – the first time I’ve ever done so. It contains some of the finest conscious and lovers reggae tracks from the last few years. This mix is both mellow and uplifting, and features all kinds of artists from heavyweight veterans like Marcia Griffiths and Freddie McGregor to newer kids on block like I Octane, Taurus Riley and Romain Virgo. I haven’t put a tracklist, but can do if anyone’s interested.

Enjoy, and give feedback too, positive or negative – preferably positive 😉

Uganda Cranes Close to Ending 34 – Year Drought!

The Uganda Cranes defeated Guinea-Bissau 2 – 0 yesterday afternoon. The victory at Nambole stadium means the Cranes are now clear at the top of their qualifying group for next year’s African Cup of Nations (Afcon) tournament in Equatorial Guinea & Gabon. They have 3 wins and a draw from 4 matches, and have yet to concede a goal.

Amazingly, if the Cranes qualify for the Afcon finals, it will be their first appearance in 34 years! The last time they were there, they lost 0-2 in the final to the hosts Ghana. Since then, the Cranes have failed, largely because of a tyerrible record away from home. Although they have a terrific home record (last home loss was in 2005), their win over Guinea-Bissau earlier this year was their first away win in a decade.

The Cranes have two more games to go – a trip to Angola in September and Kenya at home in October. If Kenya and Angola draw in their match later today, then Uganda need only a point from their last two games to qualify. If Kenya win, then Uganda need one more win to be absolutely sure. [UPDATE: Angola 1 – 0 Kenya. This means a point in Luanda will see the Cranes through!]

A football-crazy nation awaits!

Uganda 2 – 0 Guinea Bissau – Goals

In the crowd!

1978 Afcon Final – Ghana 2 – 0 Uganda

R.I.P. Gill Scott Heron

Gil Scott Heron died in the week of African Liberation Day 2011. He was a genius and encountered some of the problems that usually come with genius. Along with others like the The Last Prophets, bother Gil provided the musical counterpart to the fiery politics of the 1960s and 1970s. And his music helped to inspire me to become politically-aware and to get involved in political activity. Here are some of my personal favourite songs of his.