Kaleidoscope

I remember losing my gaze in a kaleidoscope my Grandmother use to have and the twisting motion bringing about a new wave of symmetrical colours and patterns.

I wrote this song about celebrating curiosity, especially through the form of travel and the whole notion of things being the same, but different.

Working out in the Middle East gave me that opportunity, to see the world but also meet people from everywhere, and I am happy to have friends that are from all the world.

Whilst there are cultural differences, there are many common values we all share no matter where we are from. Especially in a time where Xenophobia has creeped into the narrative, I wanted to write this song to celebrate the idea of cultures and people from anywhere in the world being able to integrate with each other.

Grey Day

There are days when you wake up and feel like rubbish.

It could be just a horrible phase, a rough period or clinical depression. Nothing exact as such.

I wrote this song about those kind of days.

The voices in your head that keep telling you that you’re not good enough are winning (I call this ‘resistance’) and you are left with little energy to do anything else other than wallow.

The thing I’ve learnt is that things always get lighter when you take a walk and open up to someone about it.

Men in particular are awful at this, and it’s becoming more prevalent in the media how false sense of masculinity and bottling up feelings is doing more harm than good.

I wanted to write this song to express the fact that’s it’s okay to have these kind of days and it’s also okay to talk about it.

Avatar The Last Airbender

This show is a triumph.

I’m of course talking about the Animated TV series from Nickelodeon and not the film adaptation from M Night Shyalaman who took every misstep possible and may have even hindered the series from getting the credit it deserves.

The series came out in 2005 to 2008. I was a teenager at the time who was driven by music and the only TV show I remember watching was Fresh Prince and I was more into movies anyway. The TV series passed me by and I never watched it…until Netflix distributed it last year.

My girlfriend insisted that I must watch it. Being an animated series, I was slightly ambivalent towards it, and didn’t think I might enjoy it as much as Better Call Saul which I had just finished after spending lockdown 1 rewatching Breaking Bad.

A few months later, and I’m not only hooked. I watched it twice and now a fully fledged fan! I would say it’s one of the best TV series ever made.

Where to start with my praise!?

First and foremost, the premise is undeniably intriguing to any family member, a world torn apart by war. And every episode you see the devastating impact that war has laid upon communities, of course in a child friendly way but it’s message is nevertheless profound. There’s also excellent takes on authoritarianism and censorship that are cleverly embedded in the plot.

Secondly, the characters are detailed, rich, and outright adorable. Even the antagonists are likeable! Every character has idiosyncrasies, hang ups and back stories that are well thought out and without giving too much away, there are several character arcs…one of which is just incredible. There’s a celebration of characters who are able to showcase their strengths despite disabilities and there’s a diversity and respect for a variety of Asian cultures.

Thirdly is the sense of humour and adventure tied in with wider themes. This show has proven to be an absolute tonic for me during a long drawn lockdown through winter and if you’ve not yet had the chance to see this show yet…I cannot recommend it enough.

Also you won’t be able to get this bop out of your head.

SECRET TUNNEL! SECRET TUNNEL!

Through the mountain…

Secret secret secret secret TUNNEL!!!

Changing something pathological

100 years from now, when Historians study the pandemic, there will undoubtedly be the analysis of how countries managed it and the fact that those who were led by women had a significantly lower mortality rate whilst many countries led by men, particularly those who had been peddling the trends of populism, had a higher death rate.

Of course there are a multitude of other reasons, including ageing populations, population density etc. but there is pattern where men who have had a dubious relationship with truth and facts, have led to tragic consequences.

It seems embedded in the culture here in the U.K. that is much more a sign of strength to stand by your viewpoint and double down on it than change your mind. It is pathological in many of our leaders that you can’t be seen to be wrong.

This has had toxic results.

Moving forward, we need to change the culture to shift in a way where changing position on something as more information comes to light is part of being human and is a desirable value.

We also need education to encourage students to leap from the safety net to be wrong so they can learn to be right.

There’s no point having a mind if you can’t change it.

Technology and it’s impact

We are still fathoming this.

The internet has been around for three decades and change is happening faster than ever to the point that it is as terrifying as much as it is thrilling.

Phones are more than a daily accessory. There is an extraordinary level of dependency on them for how we operate and behave on a daily basis.

There have been tremendous pitfalls along the way, consequences that could be considered dystopian and that have affected our physical and mental well-being.

As we move into the 3rd decade of the 21st century, there will be further developments and one thing we can do is evaluate what’s important.

For instance, are we using social media as a means to connect, or are we using it for status, are we a product?

How do we spend our time with technology. Are we learning, gathering use information or engaging in politics of hate and doom scrolling?

We must endeavour to have control over use of technology and ensure that it’s not the technology that is controlling us.

Informative

I was walking with my friend today and we were discussing the Pandemic. A topic of conversation that is difficult to avoid and one that has dominated so much of our lives for nearly an entire year.

We exchanged thoughts, opinions and ideas and concluded that you could write a book that was well over a 1000 pages that would attempt to examine, anlalyse and synthesise the events that have taken place.

We discussed the situation with asymptomatic cases, holistic approaches that encourages healthier lifestyles, placebos and their role in health and wellbeing and how lockdown has given us an opportunity to reflect on what it is that is important to us.

One rant we shared was on the notion that the media has a lot to answer for. So much of the news consumed is now through social media, headlines or clickbait and the design of it is to excite you as opposed to inform you.

It would be better to have had the mainstream media give much more airtime to the people working tirelessly behind the scenes who are fighting this virus, be it researchers or doctors. Instead what has dominated a lot of the headlines are politicians who are untrustworthy and celebrities who have been humbled by their lack of awareness of what everyone else is going through. The language has been fear driven and uncertain with words like ‘could’ and ‘might’ appearing very often in headlines. It is easy to respond to these with very set assertions that are based on stress and or anxiety.

Yet you have a conversation like the one I had today and you quickly realise how there are so many ways to look at what has unfolded. We do not know everything and through exchanging ideas, is an opportunity to learn a new way of looking at things.

This is why I prefer podcasts as a medium, because it gives a platform to which conversations can happen in so much more depth and you can get deeper into things.

Being informed takes the courage to admit that what you believe right now may be contradictory to other sources but it is worth taking the time to think and listen in further depth before making an assertion as it is then easier to empathise with others and approach the situation we find ourselves in, in a calm manner.

It was a rare snow day in South Wales after many grey days of perpetual rain. Many people were out enjoying the weather (socially distanced of course) and one positive is that this pandemic has perhaps allowed us to re-engage with nature and appreciate it more than we may have done previously. Perhaps as we go forward, this will play a key role in how we ensure that we allow our environment to thrive.

Wishing everyone peace of mind.

Onwards.

Non-falsifiable

It was only inevitable that the pandemic would bring a wave of conspiracy theories.

They’ve come in quick and whilst some have whittled away, some continue to stick and here is why.

Human nature requires explanation for big things that happen because it’s more satisfying to know there’s agency in the way things have panned out. There’s a refusal to accept that things may have or continue to happen at random.

The way a conspiracy works is that it is self-concealed, so picking an argument with a person who believes one is problematic because if something disproves the theory, then the theory changes. Facts are fungible.

Many countries have not helped themselves by adopting a populist approach that weaponises truth. Falsehoods are everywhere and lying is commonplace. Responsibility needs to be taken and accountability needs to be upheld. Too often, people are learning the hard way.

There’s ignorance, but then there’s the illusion that the knowledge we possess is incontrovertibly true.

It’s worth reminding ourselves to thoroughly investigate that which we believe, engage in open discussions that offer alternative views and assume that we may at any point, be wrong.

Leading by virtue

I recently listened to a podcast that featured the blues songwriter Dion. He has had a tremendous career and has recently released a new album at the age of 81.

One of the key things he said when being interviewed that one of the biggest lessons he learnt was told by a priest when he was 15 years of age; that the key to happiness is to be a virtuous man and do good.

Aldous Huxley admitted that it was embarrassing that the best advice he could give after 45 years of research, was for people to be kinder to each other.

Over two thousand years ago, Plato made the philosophical argument that those who are just will be happier.

It is so simple yet so elusive, because the so much of the culture today is designed to make us feel inadequate, protect our own interests and be fearful of anything different. Social Media has given everyone a megaphone and it so happens that the loudest voices, which are the ones fuelled by hatred are the ones that garner most attention. It is only recently that they are acknowledging the fact that action needs to be taken to quash this, but then there is the fact that so much money is involved in it, which leads us on to another point, that greed for the last four decades has been far too legitimised.

I have interacted with people of all sorts of backgrounds and I know that wealth does not make people happier, on the contrary, it can make them significantly more miserable.

The most happiness I have seen is when people lead by building connections, lifting others not putting them down and being generous in a variety of ways.

We all have the opportunity to make a positive contribution each and every day.

What will you choose to do?

The Ravel Affair

I am currently attempting to write my first string quartet. It is a significantly new creative path for me and very challenging but nevertheless rewarding.

Upon my research of different quartets, Ravel’s String Quartet in F Major is one of my favourites. I consider it to be a beautiful piece with extraordinary passages and details typical of Ravel’s musical personality that would continue to evolve later on in his career.

What I find remarkable about the story of this piece is that it was his final submission to the conservatoire de Paris and Prix de Rome competitions to which both rejected the piece. Aside from having mixed reviews from the Parisian press, his teacher, Gabriel Faure, to whom the piece is dedicated to, dismissed the last movement as ‘stunted and in fact a failure’. Ravel himself believed that the quartet was an inadequate realisation.

Thankfully Debussy, whose own string quartet piece, which was written ten years previously and most likely had some influence on Ravel, wrote to him a letter with some words of encouragement and insisted he did not touch a single note of the piece he had written.

From what I’ve read, the truth appears that Ravel was an unconventional character with unconventional approaches to musical composition that was difficult for the conservatoire’s ultra conservative director to accept. He had enough resilience, or indifference to any other criticism than his own to keep going on his own path and it just so happens that the frustrations and failure he dealt with led him to propelling forward in his career and eventually being revered as one of the greatest French composers of all time.

Sometimes, art and the work created just so happens to be received in a time where the culture is not ready to accept its value. Some works find that appreciation is manifested at a later date, in some cases even beyond the life of the artist. Ravel’s String Quartet is now one of the most played chamber pieces.

The reason I like stories like this is that it reaffirms that steering your own creative path and focusing on what it is you want to achieve is better than changing what you do and who you are merely to fit in.

More often than not, innovation comes from the outside.

The edges is where it is at.

Now and then I check the Spotify top 50 charts and my gut reaction is a wince.

I approach the music without prejudice and will always be fascinated by what makes a hit a hit, but other than my musicological curiosity. The music more often than not, is not for me.

I’ve come to learn that there is are fundamental reasons why the chart music does not work for me.

One reason is that my musically trained ears usually require something with a bit more sophistication.

Another is maybe that the production is a bit run of mill. Super loud, super compressed and sound choices that are being used at the time simply because their fashionable.

The most important reason is that my values as to what music means to me is rarely aligned with what is in the charts.

As a result. If I mentioned my top favourite albums to anyone around me, it is unlikely they have heard it.

I choose music that speaks to me in a way that is more personal, weird and interesting.

That is okay.

We are an era where hits mean very little. TV especially seems to be going through an extraordinarily exciting period of creative development where shows are coming up that are unique and tailor made for an audience with a specific taste.

If you aim to target only 1% of the population of the U.K. with what you create, that’s still 660,000 people.

It’s good to have a space in your creative output where you maintain a full sense of integrity, stay true to what you want to achieve and work in your niche.

Everyone else is already taken.

P.S. If you might like the music I like, below is the playlist. There is no better marketing tool than word of mouth.