Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Heavenly pearls!

Princess Diana just loved pearls!
Image Diana's jewels

Another Phos to alethinon bookmark  Philip Ball, What makes pearls round?
BBC Future, Science & Environment June 24 2013
Nacre [Mother of Pearl] is an astonishing material. It consists mostly of the mineral aragonite, a form of calcium carbonate (the fabric of chalk and marble). The mineral is laid down as microscopic slabs stacked in layers and “glued” with softer organic membranes of protein and chitin (the main component of the insect cuticle and shrimp shell). This composite structure, with hard layers weakly bonded together, makes nacre extremely tough and crack-resistant, which is why materials scientists seek to mimic it in artificial composites. It also reflects light in a manner that creates interference of the light waves, producing the iridescence of mother-of-pearl.

Everybody admires the beauty of pearls, Dilmun's pearl divers looked for elixir of eternal life in Gilgamesh epos 4000 years ago. Beautiful women of highest royalty have searched for the perfect pearl in order to outshine other noble ladies in that event...

Also the writers of the Holy Bible elevate pearls high up even to the gates of heavenly Jerusalem!

And the twelve gates were twelve pearls: every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.
Rev 21:21 KJV 

Pearls have messages in the Bible

Rare in Old Testament * - only Mother of Pearl is mentioned in Persia:
The garden had hangings of white and blue linen, fastened with cords of white linen and purple material to silver rings on marble pillars. There were couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl and other costly stones.
Esther 1:6

Pearls were known and valued in Roman period Palestine:
Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
Matthew 7:6

Sound investment!
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.  When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
Matthew 13:45-46

Modesty of Christian women:
I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes.
1 Timothy 2:9 

The Book of Revelation: 
The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries.
Rev 17:4

cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble;
Rev 18:12

Woe! Woe to you, great city,
dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet,
and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls!
Rev 18:16

* Note that in many Old Testament verses the Hebrew word פּני פּנין (pni, pnin) is translated as ruby rather than as pearl, for example Proverbs 3:15 et al.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Jonathan Sarfati - Flood models and Biblical realism

Tri Jonathan Sarfati (1964)
Kuva wikimedia
The subject is an article by New Zealend born Creation Ministries Int. researcher, Doctor of Chemistry Jonathan Sarfati (b. 1964)
Flood models and biblical realism Journal of Creation 24 (3): 46–53 December 2010.

Sarfati works as a researcher in Creation Ministries International (CMI). Sometimes we hear that CMI does not represent Young Earth Creationism with its biblical 6000 years chronology.

But such claims are false. CMI markets a collection of articles edited by J.F. Ashton In Six Days (1999). Here 50 doctoral level writers exlain independently each from his or her point of view why the world is  6000 years old (young).
John F Ashton, In Six Days. Creation Ministries Int, 1999. 360 p.
Fifty Ph.D. scientists each wrote a chapter, without collaboration, telling why they hold to literal creation. Features fields as wide-ranging as geology, cosmology, zoology, botany, geophysics, biochemistry and more. Will have a powerful effect on the unbeliever who reads it, and be immensely encouraging to believers.

Even if not every CMI associated researcher represents YEC world view Sarfati himself definitely does as shown by his article in Ashton's publication.
We should believe in a recent creation in six consecutive normal days because the only Eyewitness tells us this is what He did, and He has shown that He should be trusted. While this requires faith, it is a faith amply supported by science, as I can confirm from my own specialist field.
J.F. Sarfati in Ahston 1999 

About biblical authority 
Model-building should be an example of the ministerial use of science. In contrast, the magisterial use of science, practised by all compromisers on Genesis, overrules the clear teaching of the Bible to come up with a meaning inconsistent with sound hermeneutics. Instead of the Reformation principle of Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), this is Scriptura sub scientia (Scripture below science). With these principles, some popular ideas can be examined.
Sarfati op. cit.
... all compromisers of Genesis = any interpreation that does not represent American fundamentalism à la Chicago 1978 statement about Biblical inerrancy.

... Scriptura sub scientia = all research that does not accept the total and absolute authority of the Bible as the purest representative of truth both in earthly and in heavenly matters.

Pre-flood Paradise?
Many creationist works from a few decades ago portrayed the antediluvian world as a paradise, which was horribly spoiled at the Flood. But this is not taught in Scripture.

... But even if she were much younger, more recent research points to aged fathers as a major source of genetic disorders. This should not be surprising since men keep producing sperm throughout their lives, and older men have more mutations.

So it is not surprising that Shem, while very fit by today’s standards, would have been considerably less fit than his parents, and carried extra heritable mutations.
Sarfati op. cit.
Truly representative example how Sarfati reads the Bible as a man of our modern scientific era  (hermeneutics).

No rain before Flood?
Furthermore, the Bible gives no indication that the ‘laws of nature’ (really God’s regular ways of upholding His creation) were any different before the Flood from what they are now. Yet they would have to be if there were no evaporation, precipitation and differential refraction before the Flood.
Sarfati op. cit.
Some times we have noted how creationists explain things by saying that God "stopped natural laws for a moment" or that pre-Flood world worked differently from post-Flood world. Sarfati rejects such thinking.

Higher air pressure 
One idea for the pre-Flood world, derived partly from the fallacious pre-Flood paradise assumption, is that oxygen concentration or atmospheric pressure was higher than today. This would supposedly have beneficial effects duplicated in today’s hyperbaric chambers. These increase the oxygen partial pressure as per Dalton’s Law.
This doesn’t disprove a higher oxygen concentration and air pressure, but it shows that they were not needed scientifically. They are definitely not needed on biblical grounds.
Sarfati op. cit.
Strange pseudo-scientific mumbling that has nothing to do with the subject of the article.

As a chemist Jonathan Sarfati may find it very difficult to realize that the writers of the Bible knew nothing of an invisible gas called by modern science air. The Bible does not have a Hebrew word for air. Instead, it speaks about the thing we can observe and feel, wind "ruach" and of blowing air.
In the meantime, on August 1, 1774, an experiment conducted by the British clergyman Joseph Priestley focused sunlight on mercuric oxide (HgO) inside a glass tube, which liberated a gas he named "dephlogisticated air". He noted that candles burned brighter in the gas and that a mouse was more active and lived longer while breathing it. After breathing the gas himself, he wrote: "The feeling of it to my lungs was not sensibly different from that of common air, but I fancied that my breast felt peculiarly light and easy for some time afterwards." Priestley published his findings in 1775 in a paper titled "An Account of Further Discoveries in Air" which was included in the second volume of his book titled Experiments and Observations on Different Kinds of Air. Because he published his findings first, Priestley is usually given priority in the discovery.

Meteorite causing the Flood?
This theory Sarfati rejects on Biblical grounds as such a tsunami would only be a local phenomenon. Bible says that water covered highest mountins so it must have covered the entire world.

Water over firmament?
The canopy theory, as a model for the beginning of the Flood, aligns strongly with this ‘antediluvian paradise’ idea. This asserts that the ‘waters above’ referred to a canopy of water vapour, which condensed and collapsed to provide the rain for the Flood (figure 1). A few decades ago, this was very popular—for good reason, since it seemed to explain many things about rain, rainbows and longevity. Now it is rejected by most informed creationists.
Sarfati op. cit
Sarfati explains on the basis of Bible and modern science why this popular explanation to the Biblical Flood is not valid.
However, the real problem was that some creationists gave the impression that it was a direct teaching of Scripture; CMI cautioned against such dogmatism back in 1989 when the model was still very popular among many creationist writers. After all, for most of church history, no one had seen a canopy in the actual text of Scripture, yet God specifically wrote Scripture to teach, i.e. to be understandable (2 Timothy 3:15–17). Furthermore, it seems to contradict Scripture, since Psalm 148:4 says: “Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!” Clearly these waters could not have been a canopy that collapsed during the Flood, since they were still present during the time of the Psalmist over a thousand years later.

Many of the arguments for the canopy were faulty on scientific grounds. For example, one argument is that the canopy would protect us from damaging radiation, and explain the extremely long lifespans. But water vapour is not a great shield for UV—you can be sunburned on a cloudy day and while swimming. When it comes to cosmic radiation, there is no evidence that this is involved in longevity, and as stated above, the cause of decreasing lifespans was genetic rather than environmental.

What water absorbs very well is infrared, as any vibrational spectroscopist knows. It is actually a far more important ‘greenhouse gas’ than CO2, accounting for about 66% of the atmospheric ‘greenhouse effect’ on Earth, or maybe even as much as 95%. This leads to the major scientific problem with the canopy theory—a water vapour canopy thick enough to provide more than about a metre’s worth of floodwater would cook the earth.

Sarfati op. cit
Sarfati is critical on the theories presented by his own colleagues and argues why "waters over firmament" theory does not stand criticism.

Catastrophic tectonic plates theory 
This is probably the most popular model among informed creationists today. This accepts much of the evidence adduced to support uniformitarian plate tectonics, but solves a number of problems. The CPT model begins with a pre-Flood super-continent (possibly indicated by Genesis 1:9).  While uniformitarian models assume that the ocean plates have always had the temperature profile they display today, the CPT model starts with some additional cold rock in regions just offshore surrounding the supercontinent. Since this rock was colder, it was denser than the mantle below. At the start of the Flood year, this began to sink.

... But CPT is not a direct teaching of Scripture, so it is legitimate for creationists to question or reject it as a model, and a number of knowledgeable creationist geologists do. Opponents argue that it concedes too much to uniformitarianism, and that it doesn’t explain the whole of the Flood, but only the last half.

Sarfati op. cit
--- uniformitarianism is among the geological concepts most hated by the creationists. Father of Geology, Sir Charles Lyell (1797-1875), presented the fundamental concept in his major Principles of Geology (1830-1833). Geological phenomena, such as the growth of river delta or the building up of hills on the slopes of a volcano happens at fairly uniform rate throughout history. This is a foundation stone of modern Geology and revolutionized scientific dating of Earth's surface in the 19th century. It also replaced the traditional Biblical chronology calculated from the genealogies.  It is not helpful that Charles Darwin was a close friend of Lyell and ardent student of Geology; it was the new understanding of the formation of soil deposits through time that suggested to Darwin different stages in the history of organic life on Earth.

Plate tectonics are a significant subject in modern research. It is really nice that Bible is also mentioned in this context - or is it?

Underground waters 
This model of Dr Walter Brown  has many passionate supporters. Brown explains:
“Before the global flood, considerable water was under the earth’s crust. Pressure increases in this subterranean water ruptured that crust, breaking it into plates. The escaping water flooded the earth. Because hydro means water, those crustal plates will be called hydroplates.”

Furthermore, water and rocks were hurled at speeds exceeding escape velocity, so this explains the origin of comets, asteroids and meteorites (figure 3).

Sarfati op. cit
Sarfati does not directly reject the theory proposed by engineer Dr Walter Brown (b.1937) but, instead, politely asks him to write more about the theme in CMI context.

"Vanished flood" argument
Sarfati replies to criticism that the Great Flood of Bible has somehow just vanished leaving no trace of it for us to study.

After rejecting such a godless claim Sarfati now gives a beating to Lyell, Darwin and all other uniformists.
The same applies to the uniformitarianism of Flood scoffers, such as Darwin’s mentor Charles Lyell who tried to “free the science [of geology] from Moses”. Widespread fossils of soft-bodied creatures and huge animals, as well as wide and flat sedimentary layers certainly fit the bill. Thus this passage rules out certain extreme versions of the ‘Anglo-European’ or ‘Recolonization’ Flood Model, which become ‘vanishing Flood’ models, where most of the geology of the earth formed after the Flood. And of course, this would rule out the view of certain ‘progressive creationists’ such as Hugh Ross that the Flood was local and left no traces. Sarfati op. cit

Tas Walker's biblical-geological model

Sarfatin artikkeli, Fig. 4

This is how Jonathan Sarfati evaluates Dr Tas Walker's model
The Biblical Geologic Model is a geologic classification scheme based on the biblical record of Earth history. The model is useful for classifying geologic data, understanding geologic processes and guiding geologic research. It is a powerful tool for communicating biblical geologic concepts.
Sarfati Fig. 4 kuvateksti
Pay attention how Walker's model is offered as a comprehensive alternative to the sequential model of geological ages offered by modern Geology.

Of course, anyone is permitted to publish alternative histories of Earth's crust and even to argue for the model using the Great Flood. People whose work it is to study the geological formations of Earth and their history evaluate these theories and take some into attention in their own work rejecting others.

Personally I do not know a single introduction to Geology that would even mention Tas Walker's Biblical Geological model as a serious alternative.

Two notes
Jonathan Sarfati has worked hard analyzing creationist models of Great Flood. The article also gives a nice overview of his own methodology and Biblical hermeneutics.

1. The article demonstrates characteristic Creation Ministries Inc. circular reasoning creating the illusion of research that is done together by a team. The writers refer to each others within the closed circuit as if in legitimate critical scientific discussion of ideas.

There is no real discussion with the views offered by modern scientific Geology. Central ideas are borrowed from there but handled completely free of any scientific research and method. There is no field research, geologist's hammers are not in action, nobody is diving to the bottom of the sea to study continental plates, no chemistry of rocks is discussed and the rock cycle is non-existent. This is arm-chair pseudo-geology full of mudslinging on real geologists pushing the boundaries of human knowledge of out planet.

Instead of being thankful for the men and women who during the past 200 years have gathered and interpreted fundamentally important truthful facts about Earth and discovered more and more wonders in God's creation!

2. Sarfat's article is a good mile stone in the reality of New Earth Creationism today. It is honest and serious attempt to fit everything into the 4000 years genealogy from Adam to Jesus.  Jonathan undoubtedly is among the leading gurus who works actively in CMI projects and is thus a representative case.

Unfortunately, CMI is talking about its own reality of creation that in many ways resembles the reality of Jehovah Witnesses with their New World theories, Biblical references and "scientific quotes". The building has a certain internal logic in which different elements support each other - because they have been constructed purposely to support each other and the assumed truth of the Bible.

Geology is Theology!
(by this I mean real Geology, not the pseudo scientific rubbish offered by CMI in glossy covers)

Hello, Jonathan, where in your world is Gilgamesh Epos Table XI and the excavations of Abram's home town Ur?

For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee..
Isaiah 54:10

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Satan in Giotto's fresco and Egyptian god Bes

Last Judgement
Giotto di Bonavenda 1306
Scrovegni Chapel Padua
Image Web Gallery of Art
Alastair Sooke published in BBC Cutlure June 19, 2013 an interesting article on how imagery of Egyptian god Bes may have influenced the depiction of Satan in Christian art. The analysis is well worth reading in its entirety (here).

The decisive punch of Sooke's argumentation comes at the end of the article. He refers - almost in passing - the world famous fresco of Devil in Arena Chapel of Padua. Giotto depicts the Devil in decidedly bessian style. However, as Sooke rightly reminds us, Bes was for ancient Egyptians a protective god especially helping in delicate moments of child birth rather then an incarnation of evil.

Detail from Last Judgement
Image Web Gallery of Art
On theological note, Giotto depicted in his Last Judgement fresco the Devil as having a real good time in Hell   as an orgy of devouring condemned humans. This is an interesting twist of Biblical message common in Medieval Church art - for the Book of Revelation describes the burning lake of hell prepared as a place of eternal punishment for him and his angels.

Egyptian god Bes
Image BBC Culture

The typical depiction of Bes in Egyptian art shows him facing the viewer. This is very uncharacteristic as gods, people and also animals are usually depicted in profile - they "walk like an Egyptian". As Alistair Sooke suggests this detail may indicate foreign, possibly African origin, to this god in the rich pantheon of ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Jesus and the Cursed for Gold

Men work during the week in often illegal gold washing sites among Amazon. Diesel engine pumps water with high pressure and hoses are used to attack soil. Water loosens it and it flows to structures made of rain forest trees cut down for the purpose. The wash towers contain boxes that are covered by small mats. Men pour mercury from small plastic bottle over the washed soil and rubs the mixture with bare hands. Running water removes the mud and mercury ties the gold dust into the mats. Water continues flowing eventually reaching branches of Amazon river. The men use tea spoons to scrape the gold dust into a bowl carefully adding also every nuggets they find.

Image Cursed for Gold TF2

Weekly visit to civilization
Image Cursed for Gold TF2
After hard work of a week or two the men walk jungle paths or use their canoes to reach Wild West towns, that have been haphazardly built here and there. Now is time to get things, diesel oil for the pumps, mercury from Brazil, food and other necessities. Gold is valid currency here but if there is enough some of it is changed into cash at local shops and sent to wife and kids far away.

Airplanes land and take off in some of the many unofficial strips bringing necessities and taking things and people back to the big cities.

Now is the time to relax in bars, seek female company, laugh, dance, drink and enjoy life until morning and return back to harsh work in the rainforest. Gang fights are often bloody, .38 guns send men to their deaths and to simple burial in nearby forest where the body decomposes in a few days.

Working women 
Gold washers attract women who arrive to the Wild West towns even from far. They include mothers from Brazil, lonely teenager from Surinam, local daughters from French Guiana families seeking for income. There are enough clients. Some women have legitimate work as cooks in the hotels, shop keepers, pharmacists or postal workers. Some just hang out bored waiting for the week-end action.

The number of prostitutes is significant among the women. Gold dust is local currency and a popular girl may get 4 or 5 grams for the services. Evening in bars, dancing places can be profitable if you do not concentrate on a single nice guy.

Many of these women suffer from home-sickness, eyes are sad despite the smile on the lips, husband and children are there far-away and occasionally get some money from the gold fields. The business is not that profitable and after a year or two the women long home if they just had the money to travel.

Wild West life in modern rainforests of Amazon.

Dangerous to life, mercury poisoning, devastating forests, eventually deadly fish that cause medical problems to Amerindian children and also make the gold diggers themselves sick. For each 50 kg of gold brought from Amazon jungle people introduce 20 kg mercury into the nature.

Gospel light to the night of humanity 
How wonderful it was to see preachers in these towns talking about Jesus to these people in the midst of heavy work, murder, adultery, drugs and deadly poisons.

Some twenty women of the gold town have gathered and are standing with open Bibles in their hands reading aloud what Jesus says in Matthew 6 about Treasures in Heaven
"Não acumulem para vocês tesouros na terra, onde a traça e a ferrugem destroem, e onde os ladrões arrombam e furtam. Mas acumulem para vocês tesouros nos céus, onde a traça e a ferrugem não destroem, e onde os ladrões não arrombam nem furtam. Pois onde estiver o seu tesouro, aí também estará o seu coração.

“Os olhos são a candeia do corpo. Se os seus olhos forem bons, todo o seu corpo será cheio de luz. Mas se os seus olhos forem maus, todo o seu corpo será cheio de trevas. Portanto, se a luz que está dentro de você são trevas, que tremendas trevas são!"
“Ninguém pode servir a dois senhores; pois odiará um e amará o outro, ou se dedicará a um e desprezará o outro. Vocês não podem servir a Deus e ao Dinheiro

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."
Jesus Mat 6:19-24

This text is a thankful comment on the exceptionally fine multiple awards winning documentary by Olivier Weber Cursed for Gold (TF2 2008).

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Le Nozze di Figaro - Théâtre des Champs-Élysées 2004

image captured from a youTube clip 
Bel Air Classiques BAC017
Just a few moments into the overture to W.A. Mozart's beloved opera buffa composed in 1786 and we realize that tonight Concerto Köln is going to give a landmark performance under the direction of René Jacobs.

Just a few moments into the first act and we realize that stage director Jean-Louis Martinoty has somehow succeeded in reaching the spirit of Amadeus and in creating a performance that Mozart himself would surely have appreciated. The unusual  set created by professor Hans Schavernoch has been both criticized and praised in press - in the filming it works perfectly.

But it is very difficult to define exactly what makes this recording so different.

We can ask some usual questions and get an affirmative answer:

  • Does the share beauty of E Suzanna non vien or Dove sono i bei momenti (German soprano Annette Dasch) bring tears to our eyes? Yes it does.
  • Does the approaching marching band (Concerto Köln) inadvertently make us smile from the pure joy of music? Yes it does.
  • Is there perfect harmony in the sextet Riconosci in questo amplesso una madre? Yes there is.
  • Does Deh, vieni, non tardar teasingly sung by Susanna (British soprano Rosemary Joshua) take us to the heights of pure music? Yes it does.
  • Does the Count (Italian baritone Pietro Spagnoli) have a presence that in all its hypocrisy still brings dignity and social values into the comedy? Yes, he has, magnificently so.
  • Are there amorous feelings between Figaro (Italian operatic bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni) and Susanna that the audience can feel? Yes, there are.

The list goes on. What a magnificent cast; what a great performance!

But all these details do not explain the particular charm of Théâtre des Champs-Élysées 2004 performance of Le Nozze di Figaro in 2004.

What does?

I do not know.

Taken all together, the performance is just so .... eh ... so Mozart.

W.A. Mozart 1780/81 Detail.
Oil on canvas. Johann Nepomuk della Croce (1736-1819)
Image wikimedia

Saturday, June 8, 2013

In hoc signo vinces

Labarum of Constantine
Reconstructed from the coin shown below.
The three circles probably had portraits of rulers.
Image wikimedia

Constantine I 307-337 AD. Æ en:Follis (2.97 gm)
Struck 337 AD. Constantinople mint.
labarum, with three medallions on drapery and crowned by a christogram, spearing serpent.
Image wikimedia

“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other."
Matthew 24:30-31 NIV

Ichthys inscription from Ephesus
Image wikimedia

Christ talks in Matthew about the sign of the Son of Man but we do not know what sign is in question. Among the earliest symbols for Christ found in excavations in Israel and in catacombs was the fish, in Greek Ichthys.  "Ίησοῦς Χριστός, Θεοῦ Υἱός, Σωτήρ", (Iēsous Christos, Theou Yios, Sōtēr) Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour.

It is numismatic fact that Constantine the Great knew the Chi Rho symbol and this must have been the sign painted on the helmets and shields of his legionaries in the crucial Battle of Milvian bridge on October 28 312. Before  that eventually led to his rise to power as the sole Emperor of Rome and to events that made Jesus Christ the divine ruler of Rome and Constantinople.

Image MudPreacher

However, today world knows better cross than labarum as the sign of the Son of Man. In early church it was such a cruel tool of execution that it was not used as religious symbol. However, after Constantine the Great forbid crucifixion its horrors were forgotten and gradually during the 4th and 5th centuries it gradually became the dominant symbol of Jesus Christ in art.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Such a total failure!

Praying mantis - India
Image wikimedia

"I am such a total failure;
when I bought myself a praying mantis
it turned out to be an atheist."
Benny Hill (1924-1992)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Youssou N'Dour et le Super Etoile de Dakar

Youssou N'dour Warszawa, Poland during the 5th Cross Culture Festival Sept. 13 2009
Image wikimedia
Another Mezzo experience
Last night I had yet another Mezzo TV experience.

First, allow me to explain what this means in general. Living in an area with rather limited active cultural life and narrow-band choice of music in public media the unbelievable quality and breadth of Mezzo TV seen in satellite channels connects me to the wider world. Uniquely, I would say, there is nothing like it in radio or TV here or among the hundreds of satellite channels visible. After watching and listening some performance I usually feel a little less ignorant, a little bit less outsider as the magnificent programs expand my knowledge of  composers, artists and musical companies. 

So I am not ashamed to confess (or maybe a little...) that through Mezzo TV I have learned about Jordi Savall's extraordinary work on Albigensian Crusade, about the exceptional charm of  Renée Fleming, seen Händel's Rinaldo at the Caen Theatre with the Collegium 1704, learned to appreciate the Green by Johann Sebastian Bach... the list is long. All this would be unreachable for me without this precious TV channel.

Last night it happened in the usual way - casual browsing of channels for something worth to watch, stopping for a moment at Mezzo (for I am not always in tune even for the best of musical performances), quick look at the Jazz offering and ... My thumb simply stopped not so much on what I saw but what I heard! This is usually dangerous and was again so - I was hooked even knowing that tomorrow is regular work day.

For what I heard from the 2011 festival at Fes was not really Jazz. It was something I have never heard before. First of all I was attracted by how comfortable and relaxed the singer was in front of full house audience. Then I noticed the easy at which each musician handled their instrument - easy that only comes with complete mastery of it. Then the sound started to sink in; Super Etoile de Dakar players formed a  single organic body playing complex rhythms and melodies in total harmony over which Youssou N'Dour developed his singing as an integral part of the whole.

Particularly impressive was the joining in of an Arabic singer with beautiful voice and his background group of four humming Allah, Allah. Youssou joined in as if he was one of them. Arabic I understood more or less but what he was singing I did not have any idea of. No wonder Youssou N'Dour  recently n 2013 won a share of Sweden's $150,000 Polar music prize for promoting understanding between faiths as well as for his music (Reuters 2013).

Spectacular musicians
By time my ear started to recognize different instruments in the pleasing and interesting flow of kind of music I have never heard before (ignoramus as I am). I was astonished by the quality and beauty from the electric guitar - and learned soon that yes, it is indeed a Fender Stratocaster played by Senegalese Jim Mbay - and that Jim is internationally known as one of the most celebrated African guitarists if not the most. Similarly, the famous bassist Habib Faye did not try to impress anyone - he just played what came to him, and it impressed everyone! 

But that was not all. There was something in the sound of the band that I did not quite catch first - an unusual and very catchy beat. The western drum set it was not nor was it the skilled bongo player, these are familiar sounds. Could it be that ridiculous little thing Assane Thiam was holding near his head with such obvious joy?
And indeed, there was a microphone near the tiny drum and the exceptional beat came from it Assane beating it with right hand fingers and holding a kind of spoon in his left hand.

I learned that this is a "talking drum" called tama and what a difference it made. Unforgettable!

"Talking drum" tama
Image wikimedia

Artist and politician
Last night I also learned while listening to the enthralling music that Youssou N'Dour is a world famous artist and also an important politician, currently the Minister of Tourism and Culture of Senegal. Mezzo TV has thus - again - made me a little less ignorant about world class music and art.

No, Jazz it was not.

The music Youssou N'Dour et le Super Etoile de Dakar played deserves its own category - the proper name for it is mbalax.