Perched high up above the Thames in downtown London every month this past year a different writer has spent four days living in a replica of the Roi des Belges, the boat Marlow travels up the Congo in Joseph Conrad's The Heart of Darkness. Each author would write a short text during their stay "which explores London, rivers, the work of Joseph Conrad, or even all three." They would be visited on the last day by a journalist from The Guardian who recorded them reading their essay, poem or short story. Among the poets, historians and novelists were Adonis, Jeanette Winterson, Teju Cole, Michael Ondaatje and Kamila Shamsie. These recordings, each prefaced by a short interview, are all available on the Guardian website, to stream or download. Below the cut there is a link to each recording, with a short description. [more inside]
"In Calabar they have over two hundred inches of rain a year. This night they proved it. Everybody got soaked. It's a wonder no one got electrocuted."
Seven intense minutes of Fela Kuti and The Africa '70 performing in a night club in Calabar, a small Nigerian port city, in 1971, filmed by Ginger Baker. Seven years later, in one of their last performances before The Africa '70 disbanded, they performed at the Berlin Jazz Festival: V.I.P. (Vagabonds In Power), Power Show, Pansa Pansa (part 2), Cross Examination of the African Colonial Soldier.
Sahel Sounds is the blog of ethnomusicologist Christopher Kirkley, a.k.a. MeFi's own iamck. It's about the contemporary music of the Sahel, which is the Southern border of the Sahara, focusing on West Africa. It has long been a region of great musical ferment. The most famous musicians today are Tinariwen (previously), but there's a great deal more out there. Kirkley travels around trading music, Western songs in exchange for Saharan, which he mostly receives off cellphone memory cards. Kirkley has made three compilations, Sahelsounds, the Promo CD and Music from Saharan Cellphones volumes 1 and 2 (the numbers link to downloads). Kirkley has also collected and recorded videos. The Guardian interviewed Kirkley on the subject of cellphones' effect on Saharan music, which he has written about. Mark Richardson of Pitchfork was prompted by one of Kirkley's collections to write about musical scarcity in today's infoglut society. Besides the collections, there are a lot of other songs on the blog, the entire archive is wonderful and worth reading through.
Jessica Hilltout has been traveling around Africa taking pictures of matches as they are played in the continent's small villages, its players, goals, boots and balls. It is especially striking to compare that last collection to all the official World Cup balls. You can see slightly larger versions of some of Hilltout's pictures here and here.
Luna Commons is a database of sixteen free digital image collections built using Luna Imaging's Insight software. And there's a lot of cool stuff, well over a hundred thousand images all available for download in good resolution. Here are some of the collections featured: Pratt Institute Fashion Plate Collection, The Farber Gravestones Collection, Maps of Africa, Cornell Political Americana Collection and the The Estate Collection of art by HIV+ artists. The advanced search allows you to search across all collection, for example seeing everything across all collections about animals or New York or your birthyear. Whatever you look for, it's gonna bring up a boatload of interesting images.
The James Koetting Ghana Field Recordings has 142 reels of Ghanaian music, almost all of which have more than one track, collected by ethnomusicologist James Koetting. There is a glossary of musical terms should you want to know a bit more about Ghanaian music and Koetting's notebooks should you want to know a whole lot more. All the music is wonderful but here are a few that stood out to me. Here are two tracks featuring postal workers whistling over a rhythm beat with scissors and stampers. Flute and drum ensemble. Brass band blues. And finally, twenty teenage girls singing over some nice rhythms. [requires RealPlayer]
The African Cookbook is a compilation of recipes from 9 countries in Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Morocco, Mozambique, Senegal, Sudan and Tanzania & Zanzibar. As well as a handful of recipes each section has short chapters on how food is served in each country. For more recipes and information go to Try African Food.