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Cultural Highlights of the Decade

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, December 29th 2019

MUSIC

Elza Soares, The Woman at the End of the World/A Mulher do Fim do Mundo, Mais Um Discos 2016.

Brazilian music – from bossa nova to Tropicalia and present sounds – has always been a passion of mine. Elza Soares is a Brazilian national treasure and inspiration who was born in poverty in one of Rio’s favelas. She has had huge commercial success and now in her 80s a couple of years ago decided to make a contemporary album.

This is no nostalgic act or even Rick Rubin ‘uncut’ copy. It is a fierce, unapologetic call to arms. She surveys the world and Brazil in particular and embraces resistance, defiance, solidarity and sisterhood. The title track sounds like a mix of trip hop, Brazilian influence, the Pop Group and Gang of Four with her stunning ragged voice, full of power, insight and tenderness in equal measure. In other words – completely unique.

Its themes cover poverty, class, racism, hardship, heartache, men not living up to being men, getting older and the experience and resilience that go alongside. All this is sung in Portuguese – with the album notes providing English translations of everything. In a crowded, hectic music world of streaming and homogenisation, spend a few minutes with this and let it in your heart. It will change your life. Read the rest of this entry »

Time to Decide: Scottish Labour and the Independence Question

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, December 22nd 2019

This week reality hit the Labour Party in Scotland. In the aftermath of yet another disastrous election defeat senior figures in the party have decided to question Labour’s long held opposition to an independence referendum, believing they should champion Scotland’s right to self-determination.

Paul Sweeney, Monica Lennon and Neil Findlay as well as others have indicated that the party cannot be seen as standing for Westminster minority rule and against the democratic right of the Scottish people. There was a backlash against these pronouncements. The last representative of the once mighty Westminster Scottish Labour battalions – Ian Murray – indicated that he was ready to fight to the end stating with candour that ‘The Labour Party in 2014 destroyed itself by campaigning for Scotland to stay in the UK because it was the right thing to do and I’m sure the Scottish Labour Party would do the same again.’

Labour are not moving to consider a pro-independence position. Instead, they are debating accepting that the Scottish people have the right to decide their own future. This leaves the door open for what will become Labour’s future stance on independence and the constitutional question. There are at least five distinctive positions – all with costs. Read the rest of this entry »

My Favourite Music of 2019

Gerry Hassan

December 23rd 2019

This is the fifth time that I have compiled a list of music that I have bought, listened to, and that came my way in the past year.

This has been an even more varied, diverse and fantastic year of music listening and experiences this year, aided by a number of factors. One was obviously just becoming aware of more great releases, and a number of artists being brave enough to follow their muse and not the mainstream. Another was upgrading my hi-fi streaming to Qobuz along with using Roon Labs – and becoming even more conscious of new, exciting releases. And finally a plug and big thanks to the Southside Record Club – which I run with Vivienne – hosted by the brilliant Some Great Reward on Victoria Road, Govanhill. Many thanks to the fantastic Ollie and Faye and everyone who has come along and contributed their great sounds.

NEW ALBUMS:

     10. Cuz I Love You – Lizzo

Fabulous, stylish, stomping dance tracks from the divaesque Lizzo. A breakthrough hit in the UK and elsewhere and it is not hard to see why. Fun, with a glorious beat and intelligent empowering lyrics and attitude. Read the rest of this entry »

My Favourite Books of 2019

Gerry Hassan

December 22nd 2019

This is a list of my favourite books of the year. It is the fifth year in a row I have done this – and undertaken separate book and music lists – the latter coming in the next day. It is a totally subjective and idiosyncratic list: made up things I have read, come across, been involved in or inspired by and which have stopped me and made me think.

The biggest reason I do these lists is for my own enjoyment: looking back and reflecting on reading and listening, and making sense of these areas of culture. It helps me further enjoy and immerse myself in the books and music in question. And also it is great from the unsolicited comments I have got that there are people out there who get something out of this exercise. So without further ado ….

SCOTLAND: POLITICS AND CULTURE:

Jemma Neville, Constitution Street: Finding hope in an age of anxiety, 404 Ink.

This timely book is about place, people, voice and the fabric of democracy. Take one street in Scotland – Constitution Street, Edinburgh – and listen to the people there and use it as a starting point for reflecting about the wider canvas and environment we live in.

William Knox and Alan McKinlay, Jimmy Reid: A Clyde-Built Man, Liverpool University Press.

Jimmy Reid is a Scottish icon and inspiration and at last he gets a biography worthy of his life and impact. Well-researched and written, Knox and McKinlay throw fresh light on the journey of a section of the Scottish left and an extraordinary individual of his time but with lessons for the present. Read the rest of this entry »

The 2019 election and the End Games of Imperial Britain

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, December 17th 2019

The 2019 UK election campaign had few memorable moments, but despite this the result will have implications for most of us for the rest of our lives.

Maybe this is what ugly history looks like. The phrase ‘British politics’ is now a misnomer. There is no real UK-wide politics, rather a distinct four nations politics, and within this all kinds of divisions and cleavages – of young and old; within the working class; in education and housing; and between and within cities, towns and rural areas.

A stark contrast is the different UK and Scottish mandates. Boris Johnson’s Tories were elected with 43.6% of the vote, 365 seats and an overall majority of 80. This is the highest Tory vote since 1979 and first overall working majority since 1987. Caveats should be made. For all the media hype of Johnson’s appeal to former Labour voters, he and his government remained throughout the campaign hugely unpopular by historic standards – with Johnson as unpopular as John Major was in the 1997 Labour landslide. Read the rest of this entry »

The People’s Flag and the Union Jack: An Alternative History of Britain and the Labour Party
Gerry Hassan is a writer, commentator and thinker about Scotland, the UK, politics and ideas. more >
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