Posted by: pascoesabido | January 12, 2009

Gotan Project bring Tango into the 21st Century

Gotan Project, Roundhouse, Chalk Farm, Five star rating *****

published in the Ham & High 12/1/2009 [original article] [see videos below]

In Argentina, to tinker with traditional tango is tantamount to treason, but as the Roundhouse witnessed, the Paris-based collective Gotan Project have found international success by doing just that.

The electro-tango sound created by Parisian DJ/producer Philippe Solal, Swiss-born producer Christoph Müller and traditional Argentine guitarist Eduardo Makaroff has spawned two critically acclaimed albums – La Revancha Del Tango (Tango’s Revenge) and Lunatico – but it is in performing that Gotan Project truly dazzle.

Those present witnessed an incredible spectacle as immaculate musical artistry – both acoustic and electronic – was effortlessly blended with innovative film projections and sultry sexy tango dancers (not of the John Sergeant variety).

On stage, three violins, a cellist, legendary Argentine pianist Gustavo Beytelman (who arranged much of the second album), Argentine bandoneonist Nini Flores (playing a native accordion) and Barcelona-based vocalist Cristina Vilallonga accompanied the original trio, all in signature white attire.

For every tango lament played by the ensemble, a film accompanied. During Mi Confesion, Argentine MCs Koxmoz rapped along from their larger-than-life projection.

Actor Adrien Brody (The Pianist) even appeared in one short as a pair tangoed on stage. Wild horses traversed the Pampas in another as Makaroff delicately plucked La Viguela, guitar on shoulder, pointing to the heavens.

From slow beginnings, the set gathered energy, its electrification constantly growing.

With the first notes of Santa Maria (Del Buen Ayre), whistles filled the air and feet began to move, its piercing staccato heartbeat delivered by Beytelman and the string section as if with a knife.

However, it was the encore of Criminal and then Triptico that produced climax, allowing Solal and Muller to indulge their wilder electronic selves.

An experience rather than a concert, it left a lasting impression; the contrast of tradition and modernity was ever-present, but ever in balance.

Pascoe Sabido

Posted by: pascoesabido | January 12, 2009

Marching for Gaza – unavoidable bias and inevitable violence?

Saturday 10th January, somewhere round-about the Israeli embassy.

20,000 people discarded apathy to make themselves heard against the atrocious violence against Palestinian civilians committed by the Israelis: close to a thousand Palestinians have already been killed, nearly four thousand wounded, and all in the name of killing terrorists – how many dead are terrorists? I wouldn’t bother asking Israeli news networks as they swallow the figures spouted by the military. The Israeli Defence Forces have granted themselves a carte blanche when attacking targets in Gaza, destroying not only non-partisan homes containing families, but the lifeline of sustained civilisations – schools (normally full of refugees or children), universities, hospitals, places of worship. What hope is there of rebuilding? who will do it?

SWP on the march

I joined at High Street Kensington, the march – organised by Stop The War Coalition among others – already in full flow and arriving at its destination, the Israeli embassy. Around me were Muslims, Socialist Workers Party members, students, Londoners; believers in Allah with religious solidarity and those whose belief system denounced the ongoing massacres. Chants rose from the streets, “be us one or be us million, we are all Palestinian”; placards cried out against the occupation and the murderers, calling for a free Palestine.

A buzz was in the air, solidarity lending weight behind a cause, but as with all mass protests, a tension existed, a dread that things could turn nasty. The march had ground to a halt outside the embassy, bottle-necked from the police closing off all side streets and an enormous banner blocking the road. But still aggression was absent.

A balaclava-wearing ‘youth’ pushes back through the crowd – the first sign of menace – but a middle-aged Muslim standing next to me, in traditional dress and holding a placard, stops him: he questions what he’s doing and warns him not to cause trouble, not to undermine the cause. People don’t want violence apart from those looking for violence. The anonymous young man shrugs and carries on pushing through, most likely to launch a ‘missile’ at the police a few hours later – not the sort of ‘missile’ the Israelis are firing – nor Hamas.

Unfortunately, arriving at the main stage reminded me why most activism is its own worst enemy – its unwaveringly hijacked by extremist tendencies. I don’t want to hear someone carrying on about the destruction of Israel and replacing the Zionist flag outside the embassy with a Palestinian one – what good is rhetoric like that? more incitement, more tension, more mutual hatred. What are we looking for – an eternal continuation of hostilities, much as we’ve been seeing, or some sort of a solution, peace? If international support and blanket condemnation of Israel is what the goal is – as well as obviously a cease to hostilities – don’t then go and alienate people. Israelis are coming out against the military action, at home and abroad. By claiming this is all about destroying Israel, you’ll lose the solidarity and the power that is greater than its individual parts combined. I know I can see it from a more objective view point, and no it is not me nor my family who are being killed, but is peace not what we are looking for? Such polarisation in this historical conflict appears inevitable, and is what drives the Israeli army, the support from their people, and the avoidance of the morality and humanitarian responsibility of actions. By demonising the other, dehumanising them and creating a totem to be held up and destroyed, then destruction of the ‘other’ will always be the goal.

Protestors head towards the embassy

As a first step, we need a fairer, less biased press in Israel and at home – people would be more aware of the realities, not able to swallow hollow justifications for unspeakable atrocities. Censorship is taking place and all Israeli domestic outlets are toeing the official line, attacking critics of the invasion, and even questioning Ariel Sharon’s withdrawal of troops and settlers from Gaza (see The Observer 11/1/09). Even at home, the BBC – through their rhetoric – accept what is going on. Interviewing Israeli military spokespeople, correspondents accept answers, allow excuses to be made, and portray the conflict as Israel defending itself.

The power of the Israeli lobby is astounding. The coverage of the march focused entirely on the acts of violence – not even asking why it happened, the build up, the probability that when 20,000 people get together, a few will be there to specifically go astray. The news failed to mention the severe bottle neck outside the embassy that led to people removing the blockades to escape, caused by the police themselves shutting off all side streets around the embassy so everyone was channelled into a small space. They failed to mention that the majority of the protesters had gone home, had been through and made their point peacefully.

Nor was there coverage of the protest itself, just on the violence – is this what news is? is the march itself not news? is what was said by the better speakers not news? is it not an outpouring of democracy, an important valve within our society that was released around the country and that should have been covered? How else can people make their voices heard? what other mechanisms are available? why was the BBC not able to broadcast what the more even-handed intelligent speakers said? Why would people rather know of the scuffles that followed rather than of the march itself? Is it fear of the Israeli lobby – it sounds stupid, but when thousands of complaints are sent to the BBC, the Guardian, any media outlet that dares criticise Israel, consequences are serious. For one, entire email systems are shut down from sheer volume, switch boards are taken over, heads are called for and voices are listened to – remember our man Andrew Sachs, whose phone call from Ross and Brand led to ‘hundreds’ of complaints, look at the response, now think thousands.

Space becomes tight

Space becomes tight

Returning to the question of violence, it is almost inevitable. History has shown it as so. But what should not be inevitable is that coverage ignores the messages of the march, the speeches given, and the reason people are in the street – why should it focus every time on a few individuals intent on causing trouble? Are the scuffles at the end of the day news-worthy enough to not look beyond them? And, if we are going to focus on the violent aspects, can we do so properly. Lets not just show people causing trouble and counting the arrested, but begin to look at why those causing trouble are doing so. Are they the same ilk as those from the Socialist Workers Party and British National Party, who came to demos simply to fight? Are they the same as the football hooligans who’s fixture list is a season of organised violence? Or the wannabe-anarchists at anti-globalisation rallies? No one is naive enough to think it came from people being soooo angry about Gaza that they had to beat up the police – If that were the case there would be a full scale riot.

but the few individuals who waited until the end, donned scarves and balaclavas, and had their ‘look at me what a big man i am’ moment did have their own identity. Judging by the pictures on the news, those in trouble were young Asian boys – likely to be Muslim – and while mob violence is undoubtedly cross cultural, the was an obvious difference, if not in actions then in cause. Politics are at play on such a basic, subconscious level that most of us who live in Britain and are not Muslim or Asian may not be aware or have already accepted and internalised as the normal state of life. The cultural war that is being waged under the guise of a war on terror has divided society and created Us vs. Them. Young Muslim and Asian men have had a torrid time since 9/11, not just from the authorities but from normal people who have internalised the war on terror, internalised the institutional suspicion. No wonder anti-establishment feelings are rife, especially when the establishment is in support of Israel – $3billion of aid was sent from the US to Israel, Europe is about to double its number of imported processed goods from Israel, as well as granting it an improved status in trade. The police are a natural target and even more so when they are protecting the Israeli embassy. I don’t condone it but I do understand it, and am ultimately not surprised by it. This invasion of Gaza has presented the latest instance of the West abandoning Palestine and therefore the Arab world, and as a result Arab solidarity is strengthening, namely against the acquiescing state and its apparatus.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into motive,  giving the perpetrators too much credit or an excuse –  are they just typical young boys and men, showing off to each other, intent on some form of destruction that endow them further to their piers or within their gang? This must be a consideration, but giving it too much weight will hide a more sinister truth, one it would be dangerous to ignore. Race riots in Yorkshire and Lancashire have shown that tension bubbles under the surface, and with the mask of the ‘war on terror’, divisions are even easier to forge. We must not let this self-perpetuating cycle – of violence leading to alienation leading to violence – continue.

More effort needs to be made at building bridges and lowering suspicions, but one of the important ways we can do so as a nation is to fully inform people – cover the march as well as the violence, let the messages of what is really going on in Palestine be heard, allow people to make up their own minds if it is right, and then be able to collectively condemn as would hopefully be the outcome. Palestine is the chess-board of the Middle East, of the entire Arab-Israeli and now Arab-West conflict, and to show we are not always on the side of the oppressor would even repair some of the damage caused by Iraq. We have the power as a nation to repair bridges, diffuse the anger of young men, and create a sense of common purpose – regardless of religion or race – and by doing so we will not only create a safer country but a safer world. There has never been a greater need for us to remove our masks: “be us one or be us million, we are all Palestinian”

Posted by: pascoesabido | January 5, 2009

Tracksuits & Techno on NYE

Eastern Electrics NYE @ Great Suffolk Street Car Park, London – Wednesday 31st December 2008

Written By: PascoeSabido

New Years Eve? Always a nightmare, always loads of pressure, never quite what you were hoping for – if you hang around with me anyway, turning up to raves a split second after the boys in blue, getting lost in European cities.

However, NYE 2008 had all the hallmarks to buck the oh-so-evil trend: Eastern Electrics organising the biggest show-stopper this side of the channel. Not one party, not even two, but three; three promoters each bringing their own sound, each capable of throwing a wicked party unassisted, but all kindly getting together in an orgy of sexy sounds and bubbling beats (no, not R’n’B). Man Make Music were charged with the first room, bringing with them their rather naughty reputation in the warehouse department; mulletover – whose nous for a good time is given and on display once more on the 31st for yet another banging ‘secret location’ warehouse party – had the middle room, headlining with M.A.N.D.Y.; and Tayo, with Serge Santiago in tow, transported his legendary tracksuit party to room three.

And all that announced with the venue still TBC – a ‘secret warehouse’. There were a few pessimists/chiefs who, via a certain web forum, tried to rain on the parade before it even got marching – claiming all we were getting was a ‘vaguely distorted beat in a freezing shitty warehouse’, slating mulletover parties, and laughing at us for not going to Berlin. Well I never. I wonder how comfortable it is to have your head surgically lodged up your own arse with only a miniature model of the Panoramabar for company? Shame on you.

However, give all three a space in the Great Suffolk Street car park – a tried and tested warehouse-extraordinaire – and my god, what a rave. For those who have never been, a car park makes it sounds open and cold, but in fact it’s three connecting-but-separate railway arches – tunnels if you like – with brilliant acoustics, enough heat to keep you warm, but not too much to sweat on the spot. It being a car park is criminal – a space like that should be a club 365 days a year, especially when it’s two minutes walk from Southwark tube. But alas it’s not, so all the more reason to rejoice for New Year – and laugh heartily at the naysayers even if they can’t hear you (too busy examining their tattoos).

A very convenient/cheap/empty pub next door, in and through a speedy queue, and a choice of six cloak rooms: rarely in London, never for New Year’s, but as long as you weren’t one of the unlucky few who accidentally queued in line for the clown-costume/psychedelic rave next door, easy-peasy.

Even the preamble is joyful: a very convenient/cheap/empty pub next door, in and through a speedy queue if you got the right one (not for the crazy psytrance next door), and a choice of six cloakrooms – a rarity for a London club. Once in, escaping the cold requires pushing through the thick black blanket that guards room one from the outside, passing anonymous cloaked figures on the way, lost as bulks in the fabric. Emerging on the other side brings the welcoming sounds of Noel Mas (you’ll get his name if you read it backwards). Playing from the back in the shallower of the three tunnels, the second Man Make Music DJ of the night brings his updated retro samples, mixing up two-step with four by four, old raving acid house keys with bursting synthesisers, sounds that have become signature.

Room two, longer than the first with a bar at one end and M.A.N.D.Y.’s Philipp Jung elevated in his own little box, is rammed. Everyone’s preparing for the strike of midnight, most sporting tracksuits in honour of Tayo. A Picachu pops up, as does a rather dapper Barack Obama tracksuit, purchased from the apparently politicised Shepherd’s Bush Market.

The record stops, the countdown begins – again (the first was a false alarm) – and couples grab each other – or don’t if you’ve lost your other half somewhere amongst the madness, a theme that continues. ‘Wooooooooooo’, arms in the air, smiles on faces, high fives and hugging, everyone deserves to feel a little smug for being in the right place for NYE. The music from M.A.N.D.Y. is admittedly slightly tame, opting Sebastien Tellier’s gorgeous – but utterly undanceable – La Ritournelle. To boot, this room is an effective thoroughfare between the other two – and it’s horribly packed and hot at this point.

Geddes takes a different approach: thumping techno with little else, often too subtle to really stimulate the senses – but no questions asked about softness. At times too self-involved to care enough for his audience and up the ante, Geddes does not stray from his own agenda, sending out a personal homage to rumbling minimal tech. There’s brief respite in the form of Rekleiner’s Somewhere (one of his own creations), the atmospheric build-up putting hairs on end and tingling skin.

Up some stairs and through another wall cavity is the jewel in the crown: room three. It’s a real treat – with the style and setup of a proper club, featuring a long balcony that’s initially for chilling, a long low intimate dance floor, and a very long bar. Serge Santiago controls the place from 1.30, playing a set more expected from the mulletover boys than a tracksuit party – chunky groovy beats that get you to your feet. There’s space to chill, chat, and the smoking area and portacabin toilets are situated at the open back of the room – which also gives a good bit of ventilation. It feels like days gone by when farts evaded the nostrils, BO was not so noticeable, and a murky cloud made everywhere feel clandestine.

I know it’s tradition to mention the toilets – especially how bad they are in warehouse parties – but why bother dwelling (perhaps because I can piss standing up?). According to some they lived up to the expected nightmare, and going by the face of a friend of mine, there wasn’t much lighting either – after a fuse blew or something around midnight. Although to be fair the ladies portacabins were probably the poshest we’ve ever seen (in the light) – complete with porcelain lavs, wicker basket for throwing your thick paper towels in, posh handwash and even artwork above the loos (why girls need visual stimulation above the toilet we’re not sure?) Emerging with black streaks around her eyes and across her cheeks, the lesson is not to apply your makeup up in the dark, and never allow those without full control of faculties – friend or foe – near a mascara brush.

Back in the first room Another Amit is proving the MMM pedigree, a wonky tech-house set that pleasantly reeks of Mr. Von Stroke – Claude gets his Whistler in, as well as his remix of Samim’s Heater, twisting the euphoric for our aural satisfaction. The haunting deepens further with the Charles Webster remix of Justin Martin’s The Sad Piano. Whether it’s an obscure early morning slot at Café 1001 or headlining Eastern Electrics on New Year’s Eve, Amit is always worth listening to.

Weaving along the eerily lit brick walls, skating between the nylon three-stripes, navigating the metal steps that get more unsteady as the night winds on – or perhaps it’s my balance? – we reach Tayo in room three, with a style all of his own that we weren’t expecting. Immediately distinct, he samples old Philly roots and New Orleans funk to prop up the eclectic electronica, segueing eventually into chunky melodic techno, jacking tech-house, and a sprinkling of tribalism. As if to prove a point, D-Unity’s Tribalism Continues(Filthy Drum Mix) is blared out, brimming over with African drums and muted chanting. We stick by him at the expense of Damian Lazarus in room two, and it turns out to be an inspired choice – although on paper the Crosstown Rebels head honcho would surely win.

The only downside is the indecision come half six, the desperation of being cold and confused: where to go for an after party? The plan to meet at 10AM at the Old Queen’s Head is a good one, but needing of a stop-gap filler until then – those who sneak off to Jaded have the right idea, while talk of Aquarium drags off a few more (bleugh – Ed).. Unfortunately, those who accompany me to an empty party on the other side of London wish they hadn’t, but then again, what’s New Year’s Eve without a slight mishap?

Great Suffolk Street was undoubtedly the London venue of NYE 2008, a breath of fresh air from all the usual haunts – and whilst the likes of Berghain and Panoramabar in Berlin looked hands-down mind-bogglingly brilliant, for those who appreciate the home comforts (i.e. being surrounded by mates and getting into your own bed at the end of it all), Eastern Electrics delivered in style. My NYE faith has been fully restored, and up cranks the pressure for next year. Oh dear.

Photos by Gareth Drake

Posted by: pascoesabido | December 9, 2008

Fat Freddy’s Drop bring Kiwi sunshine to chilly Camden

Written By: PascoeSabido published in Data Transmission [see original article]
Fat Freddy’s Drop @ Camden Roundhouse, London – 4th December 2008

Fat Freddy’s Drop: either you’ll have heard them, loved them, and remembered the name, or when asked if you know them, a troubled, quizzical look will fall across your face, betraying a hint of worry for the person asking’s sanity. Remember the name.

The seven-piece progressive dub-roots-reggae-jazz-funk-soul band from New Zealand have been skanking away with their unique blend of dubbed-up soul in tow for over a decade. Renowned for their live performances and drawn-out tracks, the world has greeted them with the same love as their native Wellington. However, despite the undisputed success of their national and international marauding, Fat Freddy’s Drop can still only count the single studio album to their name, Based On A True Story, and one live album, their first major release, Live At The Matterhorn.

Perhaps this fact, coupled with the ironic crashing and burning of Chinese Democracy got to them, but whatever the case, their European dates in August were cancelled in order to finish the new album, The Big BW, out in Spring 2009 on their label Kartel. The current 18-date tour has been all about promoting it, but this 5th December already saw its conclusion at a second sell-out ‘final night’ in Camden’s Roundhouse.

The Roundhouse itself is an architectural spectacle: once a turntable (train)engine shed, then an arts venue, and now a fully refurbished and rather swankier venue than before, the building’s original steel pillars circle the stage below its enormous domed roof. In the main arena you can buy pie and peas, in the foyer areas numerous crowded bars roll out drinks, whilst outside a sprawling terrace suggests summers of Sundays, perhaps even of the secret Giles Smith kind. Hopefully by the summer no one will have a coat (or bag) and therefore need the cloak room. Not advisable. Nor is going in before it starts, because you won’t be allowed out again.

Back in the main arena, surrounded by towering pillars (don’t get stuck behind them) and a ring of elevated seating, the buzz is growing, and the introductory antics of MC Slave, FFD’s resident emcee who also drops a lively verse on The Nod, builds the anticipation.

Up steps dapper-looking Joe Dukie, aka Dallas Tamaira – the Drop’s silky singer, a casual beanie atop a tweed suit and waistcoat. His voice provides the unmistakable quality found on all FFD tracks, pouring his honey-glazed melodies  onto jazzy riffs and darker distortions. During the evening, Cay’s Crays is teased out by Dukie’s concentrated expression, singing “skank be the rock in my life” to raised arms and nodding heads. When not on the mic, he’s lending his other talents, either picking up a guitar or at the back alongside producer/DJ Fitchie, looping and sampling his own voice and adding a tech ‘n’ dub slant to the proceedings.

Fitchie, aka Chris Faimumu, two-times winner of ‘Producer of the Year’ in NZ, looms behind his trusty sound desk and MPC sampler, dominating the rumbling bass lines and rippling beats he serves up throughout the set. Quirky rhythms from the new album (I’d love to give you track names but they’ve not been released apart by and large) are supported by dub vibrations, and just to show he’s a man of many cultures, commendable forays are made beyond the already flimsy constraints of genre. Tailing on from a brass harmony, distorted guitars echo through the system on top of a thudding bass, as if borrowed from Death In Vegas or UNKLE. The dense musical blanket is definitely experimental, but not as popular as the next expedition into electronica, thumping a four-by-four (beat, not plank) to a delicate high-hat straight from the tech-house handbook. But which other tech-house tune features the eerie, ambient trombone of Ho Peppa?

Peppa, aka Joe Lyndsay, is another dapper-looking member of Fat Freddy’s. On his last outing to the Astoria, the tracky Bs and a wife beater were the chosen attire; this time a white 1950s vintage suit adds a slightly respectable veneer to the general energy and madness that lies beneath. When not providing the jazzy brass section with his dreamy elongated notes, he’s to be found skanking around the stage, spinning away with trombone precariously held in one hand, rapidly returned for any necessary toot. The veneer lasts little over an hour, the jacket being thrown aside to reveal the comforting white vest (and belly) that return natural order to the world. Unfortunately, the FFD classic Hope, made such a success by Lyndsay’s trombone, is hinted at but never played, robbing both him and his audience of a memorable occasion.

The rest of the horn section, while not as energetic in their dance moves, still provide texture, flavour, and further dimension. The Nod, a lively brass-heavy track (check out The Nod studio session recorded for WFFD Radio at Data Transmission) , jumps from the stage as Fulla Flash aka Warren Maxell’s wandering tenor sax joins the sharp stabs of Tony Chang aka Toby Laing’s trumpet. But the jazziness only works because it’s laid over the funk and reggae brought by Jetlag Johnson and Dobie Blaze on guitar and keys respectfully.

Both Johnson aka Tehimana Kerr and Blaze aka Iain Gordon play the versatile game of supplying exactly what the band need: reggae oozes from the plucked bass of Kerr – with pedalled effects for extra oomph – and the caressed chords of Gordon, whilst every transition towards the funky side of life is seamless. Ernie subtly begins with muted analogue chords from Gordon, almost unnoticeably amid the funky twangs of Kerr, but as it continues both sounds sharpen to climax on the staccato keys and reggae riff that send shivers down the spine as they pierce through Lyndsay’s dark wall of sound; the highlight of the night, especially the way it developed, in trademark Fat Freddy’s style, beginning as its own artistic form, morphing into Ernie and ending in yet another musical space. A pleasure to be present for.

Whilst many classics from Based On A True Story (such as Roady, Hope,or This Room) were culled in favour of new material, it is their improvisation and organic development that defines a Fat Freddy’s Drop live show, and the Roundhouse definitely experienced that, including a junglist solo by the guest-drummer. 15 minute changeling tracks dart freely from one place to another, while playing live allows the possibility to fully exploit new samples, loops, echoes, boosting bass lines, and general peppering of the set with a more sinister dub side not always present on the album. Pull the Catch, the latest single off The Big BW and included in the performance, is certainly a darker, dubbier creation, shaking up the Roundhouse and leaving pleasant surprise and an appreciation of the sound system. The Camel ft Alice Russell, the first single from the album and also on the set list, whilst not as dubby, is performed with a melancholic strand running through its nine minutes. If the two new singles are anything to go by, the new album will definitely be a good one, if slightly less upbeat; whilst they succeed in stimulating similar aural sensation, neither contain the same organic feel as the first album. To reach the heights of Based On A True Story is a near-impossible feat, but if anyone knows what’s required, it’s the Fat Freddy’s Drop boys.

Posted by: pascoesabido | December 9, 2008

Guess Wu’s back?

PREVIEW: GZA published in the Camden New Journal [see original article]
Electric Ballroom,

THE legendary GZA is set to blow up at Camden’s Electric ballroom next week, (November 13).
One of Wu-tang Clan’s founding fathers, The GZA – real name Gary Grice – met critical acclaim with his first solo album, Liquid Swords, in 1995, and is now back celebrating his latest offering, Pro Tools.
Alongside new tracks, expect Liquid Sword classics and a visit to The Wu-tang’s 36 Chambers, their ground-breaking first album. In support will be one of the UK’s most grizzled veterans, Mud Fam’s Skinny Man, alongside new Bristolian talent, Buggsy.

Pascoe Sabido

Camden News – by PASCOE SABIDO published in the Camden New Journal [see original article]
Published: 13 November 2008

SHERIFAH Ponle is all set to compete in the finals of Miss Black Britain – and is hoping a win will boost a charity set up in memory of her brother.
The 20-year-old will go up against fellow finalists in the beauty contest at the Leicester Square Theatre on November 22.
Sherifah, from Agar Grove, Camden Town, could win a prestigious modelling contract if she is successful in the event. She plans to use any success she achieves to raise the profile of a charity created following the death of her brother, Omar El-Aziz, who died four years ago, aged 22, after suffering from muscular dystrophy.
He passed away just a month after receiving a first-class honours degree in computer engineering.
Sherifah said: “We were very close. He’s the one who pushed me into going to university.”
The Omar Muscular Dystrophy Trust was officially launched this year to help with research into the genetic disease.
“We want to take it back to Africa,” said Sherifah, half-Ghanaian, half-Nigerian.
“Over there most people don’t know what muscular dystrophy is – they think it’s a curse.”
Through setting up a centre in Ghana, Sherifah and her family want to help and inform sufferers and their families.
The student is one of five siblings, and while caring for her family – Omar was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy aged only six, and her 18-year-old sister Simbi has severe learning difficulties – she has also mentored at a secondary school and worked with young people for various charities through the arts, dance and drama.

Posted by: pascoesabido | December 9, 2008

A bit of Guardian Football banter

Tottenham v Aston Villa – live!

Please refresh for the latest updates and share your pain, shame and lame gags with

82 min: Lots of blunt probing by Spurs ends when – guess what – Villa charge forward on the counter. Fortunately or the home side, Agbonlahor’s cross to Ashley Young was fractionally too long. “As an Arsenal fan, I can tell you that Spurs once upon a time induced fits of rage and emotional rollercoasters, but their fall into mediocrity left me emotionally barren,” says Pascoe Sabido, while reclining on the couch. “There’s no venom, just perhaps a touch of pity. But this! This is like the birth of that child I never had! the joy! Firmly bottom and losing again – I would have had to pay for years of therapy to uncover those long-lost emotions. Even when we had to rely on a band of dodgy East London caterers, there was no real fear – it was Spurs! But if they fall from grace as spectacularly as QPR did in 746, I may even become a Jehovah’s witness – there is a god and I want you all to share him with me.”

I just felt so proud that my only rambling comment made it up there, i had to share it with the world…x

Posted by: pascoesabido | December 3, 2008

Open letter to the Guardian

This is an open letter written to the Guardian on November 20th, questioning the environmental impact of Chinese investment in the extraction of Latin America’s natural resources. It was not published:

Dear Sir,

As China cements extensive free trade deals across Latin America – primarily for natural resources (China’s Influence, November 19), why are alarm bells not ringing? This is an environmental catastrophe on a monumental scale.

Their main focus lies with agriculture and raw materials, i.e. nickel, copper, iron ore and oil, the delivery of which will further decimate fragile environments. Up and down the continent, from the Andes to the Amazon, China’s industrial growth is taking precedent over local sustainability and climate change.

Clearance for agricultural purposes (cattle, Soya, sugar cane), already cause 90% of all deforestation in the Amazon. In the month of April, Brazil alone lost a rainforest the size of Los Angeles. Meanwhile, mining that occurs across the continent – mainly in mountainous regions but also in the rainforest – pollutes on every level: water, soil, air, visual, and noise. The carbon footprint it leaves is enormous, from highly intensive extraction through to transportation; further stimulation along current lines would be a tragedy.

$2.2bn have been paid by the Chinese to extract 7m tonnes of copper from a single Peruvian peak, but this deal is only one of many, and further exploration is underway in Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela. Stores of crude oil have already been found under large swathes of forest, and more are predicted. Glaciers are another hapless obstacle to mining ambitions, as are protected habitats. Regulation, whilst in place, is too weak to be enforced, and leaves mining and extraction companies with little to fear and no concern for environmental accountability.

The tender of contracts on the free market guarantees this degradation, as the lowest bidders will be those who cut the greatest number of corners, not those who incur greater costs whilst attempting to safe guard the natural environment.
For any change to begin, re-involvement from both the USA and the EU in Latin America is essential, whilst engaging both the Chinese and local mining companies must be a priority. A consensus must be found and incentives to do the right thing offered. This is a huge challenge facing Barack Obama, and one he must meet. With so much to offer, Latin America is already being plundered, but the legacy of destruction stretches far beyond the Rio Grande.

In my role as media coordinator for the PSA Awards 2008, I ghosted the Parliamentary Brief Online Supplement for the Awards.

As much as I would love to include the entire piece, it is over 4,000 words long, and on this page would appear boring – however..!

…The PDF is available for download here, to see it in its full finished, picture-supplemented glory, or alternatively you can view it online at the political magazine’s website here

If you have any comments on the piece, don’t hesitate to leave them below

Posted by: pascoesabido | November 25, 2008

PSA Award Winners 2008 Press Release – Anne Owers

University of Newcastle, Newcastle Upon Tyne NE1 7RU

News from the PSA

Release Date: Midday

25th November 2008

The Political Studies Association Recognise Anne Owers for Setting the Political Agenda

This year’s annual Political Studies Association Award for Setting the Political Agenda has gone to Anne Owers. Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons has continuously opposed government plans of mass-imprisonment whilst ensuring human rights are upheld across the prison network through her hard-hitting and accurate reports.

Other awards went to London Mayor Boris Johnson (Politician of the Year), the Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor Vince Cable (Parliamentarian of the Year) and Labour MP Frank Field (Backbencher of the Year), all of whom have joined Anne Owers in holding the government accountable.

Steve Richards of The Independent was named Political Journalist of the Year, while the Political Editor of Channel 4 News, Gary Gibbon, was named Political Broadcaster of the Year. The PSA Judges’ award went to political documentary maker Michael Cockerell.

All results are derived from nominations received by the PSA’s 1750 Politics professors, lecturers and researchers, with the final decisions being made by a seven-person judging panel. This year Dr Katharine Adeney of Sheffield University chaired the group, consisting of academics, politicians and journalists. In making the awards, the judges noted the following:

Setting the Political Agenda – ANNE OWERS
“Anne Owers was a surprise choice as Chief Inspector of Prisons, but has continued the pioneering, radical work she undertook for Justice, when unafraid to do battle with the government. Her opposition to the continuous building of prisons and increases in the prison population may not be populist, but is always based on reasoned, constructive argument and strong principle. Anne Owers has consistently highlighted the failings of mass imprisonment in terms of recidivism, mental illness and other problems, and her opposition to titan prisons has been an important contribution to an ongoing debate.”

Politician of the Year – BORIS JOHNSON
“Boris Johnson scored a famous victory in the 2008 contest for London Mayor. Taking on a formidable opponent in Ken Livingstone, he ran a remarkable campaign which mobilised the electorate, reflected in a high turnout. Boris Johnson infused the contest with a series of imaginative ideas (a point conceded by his main opponent); ran a campaign based on positive politics rather than negative or personal slurs and returned lots of 1997-2005 Conservative ‘deserters’ to the party.”

Parliamentarian of the year – VINCE CABLE
“His observation that ‘The House has noticed the Prime Minister’s remarkable transformation in the past few weeks from Stalin to Mr Bean’ was one of the most hilarious moments witnessed in parliament; witty, biting and a potent mix of the absurd but true. As Simon Hoggart wrote in the Guardian, “A great howl of laughter seemed to fall from the very ceiling’.”

Backbencher of the Year – FRANK FIELD
“Frank Field was deemed Backbencher of the Year by the judges following his persistent and intelligent pressuring of his own government to address the problem created by the abolition of the 10 pence tax rate. Consistent with his broader efforts to assist the low-paid, Frank Field’s demands for compensatory government action proved successful; a fine example of how sensible, forceful backbench campaigning can make a significant difference to government policy.”

Steve Richards’ columns in the Independent were praised for their “proper, fair-minded analysis of the problems created by – and afflicting – Gordon Brown, offering refreshingly insightful reading amid the mass of superficial writing on the subject.” Gary Gibbon’s contributions to Channel 4 news were noted for their “consistently high quality; the senior broadcast journalists on the jury spoke so highly of Gibbon’s determination to cover stories with a depth and precision not always apparent on inferior news programmes.”

The wealth of documentaries produced by Michael Cockerell were praised for “containing the mass of substance and insight necessary to interest regular politics watchers, whilst also being sufficiently fascinating to bring in a much broader audience of viewers.”

There was also widespread recognition for Britain’s academics, as Tony Travers (Political Studies Communication Award), Professor Vernon Bogdanor (Sir Isaiah Berlin Prize for Lifetime Contribution to Political Studies), Professor the Lord Norton (Special Recognition), and Anne Phillips (Special Recognition) also received awards.

The lunchtime event, hosted by the Today programme’s Jim Naughtie, also heard that PSA members had, in an Ipsos Mori poll judged President Franklin Roosevelt as overwhelmingly the best post-war President. However, since FDR only squeezed into the reckoning by a matter of months much attention was focussed on second, third and fourth place which were judged to be Bill Clinton, John Kennedy and Harry Truman, respectively. In joint last place were George W. Bush and Gerald Ford


Notes to editors:
The Political Studies Association (PSA) is the leading organisation in the UK dedicated to developing and promoting the study of politics. For further information please contact Ivor Gaber on ivorgaber[at] or 07730 955690 or Pascoe Sabido on pascoe.sabido[at] or 07969665189.
Visit the PSA website at

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »