Eurovision Cyprus – δεν ΞΕΧΝΩ – Ι do not forget

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As an observer and tax-paying individual in Cyprus, I have seen many Eurovision ‘attempts’ rise and fall over the decades and when I was thinking about writing this blog there was a dilemma that came to mind. Do I write it after the contest, in which case, if Cyprus loses (does not come first) I will be accused of an ‘I told you so’ ‘sour grapes’ bratness which in the Greek vernacular is called ‘gkrinia’. Alternatively, do I write and publish the blog a few hours or so before the competition and get accused of negativity by all those who are determined in their quest for first place even to the extent that any form of critique equals treachery. I say publish and be damned, my view is based on historical realities. Its one I have had for ages, it will not change, but before explaining it, I would like to clarify some things about this year’s Cyprus entry.

From the outset. I have not heard the song. I did however come across it by accident when doing a live radio show with the sound muted and in so many ways, it reeked of plagiarism image wise. The hair waving profusely, the simulated flames and synchronized dance moves. I expected Jigga to appear out of nowhere at some point to spit some annoying little nasal rap over an 8 bar break. However, plagiarism is such a common thing in mass produced pop music that you cannot expect anything else, its Eurovision after all.

As for the artist, I must confess I am not a big fan of Greek pop music, and Eleni Foureira’s roots as an Albanian Greek do not bother me one bit. I will leave those kinds of racist digs to the Neo-Nazis of The Golden Yawn party in Greece. Now how Foureira was chosen by Cyprus and why, does concern me, because that relates more to the matter at hand. Like all entries in The Eurovision Song Contest, people are chosen to represent at a national level by a state or public broadcaster, in our case, this is CyBC who have a complete monopoly on Eurovision. Aside from the World Cup and Olympics, it is probably their biggest earner financially.

So, I have not heard the song, and probably will not hear it. I plan to listen to Mi-Soul Radio on recommendation of the mighty Lindsay Wesker tonight with the studio door shut tight until the contest finishes. After which point if I hear car horns beeping loudly in my yard I will know Cyprus has won. If I do not, it will be all quiet until next year. You see Eurovision for many people in Cyprus is the pinnacle of their musical engagement and the rest of the year, they go back to their routines until the next song is dished out and hyped all over again by the state broadcaster. Which brings us to the essence ‘δεν ΞΕΧΝΩ – Ι do not forget’ – such a common worn out cliché term for the eternal Cyprus Problem. We have grown up with it – heard it-seen it-lived it thoroughly for so many decades.

I cannot engage with Eurovision because in the past, they, the state broadcaster, I will not say we, as we had nothing to do with their choices, have entered some embarrassing bloopers and any critique has always been muted in the mainstream media. In addition, if Cyprus wins, one of the reasons for that happening will be we have never won before. We are the underdog of underdogs – who more or less every year gave 12 points to Greece and got 12, usually in return. I used to love that moment when the late Terry Wogan would say, year in year out, ‘well there you go, they’ve done it again….’  The underdog syndrome has been  so evident in international media coverage this week, and its really cringe worthy. Some people even think the extra coverage, the prospect of winning Eurovision will help the ‘Cyprus Problem’. Not sure how that works but if we had any sense we would have entered a tri-lingual song and caused a real stir locally and internationally, and promoted a much more positive image of Cyprus than a lot of the crypto-nationalistic drivel that represented us in the past – more of that in a bit.

It’s hard to accept that the state broadcaster, an entity that does not accept critique, has hosted a chat show with a Neo-Nazi like Notis Sfakanakis (and paid a heavy price for it as the singer was overtly racist and they were rightly fined for it) and yet you would never see me on the TV sharing some very basic thoughts on the Eurovision song contest. I guess that’s what people at CyBC call balanced broadcasting. So I feel a need, a desire, to state the case on an alternative way of seeing things.

Therefore people, I deem myself ready to go for this, here are my top 5 ‘δεν ΞΕΧΝΩ – Ι do not forget’ Eurovision bloopers from Cyprus. Click on the links if you dare!

  1. “Sti fotia” (Στη φωτιά) 1995 – Alex Panayi – a rather tribal pseudo operatic anthem like song which featured the patriotic line – ‘Είμαι ο Έλληνας που πολέμα’ – which translates as ‘I am the Greek who fights’. Patriotism was at its highest in 1995. The Government of then President Clerides had ordered S300 missiles from Russia, despite us taxpayers paying millions for these, they never came, the ended up in Crete but thats supposed to be a secret. The song finished 9th. I still find it hard to digest how the EBU, European-Broadcasting Union allowed such a blatantly political song to be viewed by millions of people around the world. In addition, as a taxpayer it made me ashamed to say I am Cypriot.  I must stress here that back in 1995 everybody who paid electricity had a levy on his or her bill, which went to financing CyBC. This draconian method particularly hit people with families in the winter. It was rightly phased out, as it was completely unjust. So our electricity levy financed this nationalistic drivel.
  2. ‘Ela Ela (Come Baby) 2005 – Constantinos Christorofou. Christophorou entered the context 3 times, 2 solo and once with a boy band called One. There is so much wrong with this song musically – a weird 12 bar bridge in the middle of it makes you want to count to 16 – and his English, oh my lord his English. ‘I’ll make your heart go bang, bang’ ‘I’m the king of the night, Let me show you tonight who I am Ela, ela, ela, la…’ and very cliché rhyming ‘mysterious’ ‘delirious’’action’ ‘passion’ etc. I did try to bring much of this up at the time, in my weekly column at ‘The Cyprus Mail’ but I was censored from saying anything on TV and radio shows soon afterwards. Relief is, after 3 attempts, Kochos from Limassol probably will not enter for Cyprus again – well at least never again in English.
  3. ‘Genesis’ 1998 – Michalis Hajiyiannis. Not sure what this song is about really. It has obviously a biblical title but it seemed again to touch on nationalism, with an image of Cyprus rising like a Phoenix from destruction of the past leading to freedom. He also looked such a misfit, such an odd match. Here was the adolescent Cypriot teenager and he is singing a ballad song called ‘Genesis’ in Greek at Eurovision with a shiny black leather jacket and what looked like a full orchestra being conducted by Giorgos Theophanous. He on the night thought he was Andre Previn, doing all the moves a conductor does. There was also the backing singers with mismatching clothes and sizes. The wardrobe assistant at CyBC also got that one badly wrong. The entry just seemed so over dramatic that there was a real relief when the song finished.
  4. 2006-09 and 2014 – four years in a row Cyprus failed to qualify. A bit of an injustice was done in my opinion in to ‘Firefly’ to Christina Metaxa in 2009 which was not that bad. We also went from English, to French to Greek in  3 years (2006-08). 2014 is a notable year. Cyprus did not enter due to the financial crisis/haircut of 2013. There was no money in the state coffers. Ironic then that our current Minister for  Economy and Commerce, Haris Georgiades has declared this week that he will open the same said state coffers if Cyprus wins in 2018. That is a hard one to stomach as a taxpayer. Has he visited the state hospital lately? Why doesn’t he take out the chequebook for that? People are dying due to incompetents and health cuts and a minister gives Eurovision more priority!
  5. “Tha ‘nai erotas” (Θα ‘ναι έρωτας) – 1999 Marlain. I had to put this in because it was the worst ever entry points wise – just 2!. Marlain, a nice affable singer/actress was convinced of a much higher place and tended to blame everyone else at the time. As a song, it starts as a ballad made for theatre, with again grandiose imagery in the lyrics and then about half way through it goes into a cheesy euro-house beat, which was an uneasy transition to make – imagine that on the dancefloor? Marlain’s platform shoes hindered the dance routine tragically as well, which is why she was only moving her arms. Still she was a member of Hi-5, the first Greek girl band, they did not last as long as The Spice Girls, but there you go…that’s the pop music game for you.

I am often accused of negativity on Eurovision, a contest I affectionately refer to as ‘Euroxtijon’ in the Gringlish vernacular as most of the songs on the contest are complete stinkers. Nevertheless, there is one or two I liked. I mentioned ‘Firefly’ already. That’s just my taste. However, the best entry for Cyprus points wise was ‘Stronger every minute’ by Lisa Andreas getting 170 points and finishing 5th in 2004. A simple ballad that simply worked.  Nothing more than that. Lisa Andreas just mesmerized the audience. We never came close to that kind of points tally again, which does lead me to beg for a final question. If Cyprus has done consistently badly why have no heads rolled at CyBC? In any other context in the music industry, when so much is at stake, failure would result in a change of approach and management.  This is not the case at the state broadcaster, which ticks over, no matter who is in government, the taxpayers pay, and the bureaucrats stay in their seats, despite a long list of absolute bloopers. I have only named a few, there are many more. In another domain, like football, managers change based on performance and goals set within specific time frames. Many of us have these in our work duties – and if do not meet them – there could be trouble. Why should there be one law for a state employee then and another law for us? Are they ever made to be accountable by any one?

No matter the result in 2018, it is time for some heads to roll and changes to be made. If Cyprus wins it will partly be due to this. We have never won, so even if the people making the decisions do get it finally right, for so many years, they have time after time, got it consistently wrong and that I find hard to forget…let alone forgive…because it is my taxes and yours that pay for their bloopers.

 

 

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Playing in the Prison that held you captive – 2 compañeros from back in the day

Around 1984 I was living in a bedsit loft in Hackney, post doing 2 degrees at Essex University, and getting back into all things London. It was a buzzing time in the area. Most weekends soundsystems could be heard humming familiar bass lines passing through poorly insulated walls and ceilings, and you might wonder still why I like Dub. During this time, through my flat mate Alister I met all kinds of interesting people from all over the world. We were all in some way linked as political nomads of sorts, people who had either been forcefully uprooted from their place of birth or had at some point in their lives decided to up and leave the pressures of what they left behind them.

One of the things that attracted me was the sounds of Latin Americans in exile. My friend Lukax Santana, a political refugee from Chile, had escaped Pinochet’s fascist regime by coming to London. The capital gloomy and usually raining was however bustling with sounds from South America. The London School of Samba, Inti Illimani, Dave Hucker spinning discs at The Sol Y Sombre and a strange  little experimental outfit called Quilombo Expontáneo ( Q.E. ) which Lukax was the percussive part of. Q.E once played Essex University, I think that was one of their first gigs. It must have been 1984 and it was a wonderfully weird concoction of sounds and things played spontaneously. Most people present at the gig expected Andean flute pipes but they got one of the most surrealist acoustic performances of their lives. ‘Ere’ someone asked me ‘was that bloke really playing the bendy hoover pipe with his mouth whilst rotating it above his head like a helicopter’.

One night Alister came to the flat with a friend. ‘Mike this is Mauricio – Mauricio this is Mike’ and the rest was up to us. I did not know who I was talking to but soon found out he was a poet and singer who had been imprisoned and tortured by the Naval Secret Police under Pinochet’s regime. We talked for a couple of hours about poetry and music with me realizing how limited and backward my thinking was. Those moments with Mauricio Redolés changed me so much that whenever I hear his name or read one of his poems or hear a song I know this is one of the few people in life who shone some light on my creative poetic mind in troubled times. ‘You are trying so hard’ he told me ‘why make it sound like a lecture, it’s too didactic’ and from that time, whenever the inspiration has taken me, songs, lyrics, poems flow free without the habit I had before of writing in a routine way about everything and anything. Mauricio taught me not to provide answers all the time, leave some questions in people’s minds, and  upset a few people, annoy the establishment, whoever they may be, as well. I felt like I was listening to the Chilean equivalent of John Cooper-Clarke.

Now the free flowing approach and that sense of spontaneity I owe rhythmically to my friend for life Lukax Santana, who I reconnected with recently via LinkedIn (of all places). Lukax is now based in Chile after decades of living in exile in London. We did so many gigs together and no one gig was ever the same. Some times in band settings other musicians found this tricky to deal with but he always smiled and said ‘don’t worry I will follow you’ proceeding of course to improvise again. Lukax is a humble, relaxing soul who I never had an argument with. I don’t know if this is a healthy thing as in most relationships it’s good to have differences. We did disagree on a few things but we never disagreed on playing music, unless of course he had another gig somewhere else already booked! This wise friend could play a rhythm on a match box if he had to and whenever I worked with him things were easy, cool, no pressure, no worries, just music and feeling your heart beat to the flow.  Lukax will always have two things over me – that famous surname – comes in handy saying I used to play with ‘Santana’ in the 80’s and 90’s and, he played in Cyprus before me, thanks to our mutual friend and compañero Costis Ahniotis – RiP.

Mauricio, who I only met once, and Lukax, who I performed with countless times, recently did a gig together in Santiago Chile on March 8th 2018. On this day the old prison where they were held as political prisoners in 1973 was declared a National Monument and they played live there together, 2 compañeros from back in the day, in the prison where they were once tortured and detained. Hoping we will link again soon…and be 3 compañeros….

Radio Haji Is Here :)

 

Radio Haji is here – an online station playing Haji Mike music 24/7

Its been a long time in the making but its eventually happened…Radio Haji features music 24/7 plus special live radio streams from around the globe where Haji Mike DJ’s – check it here on Tunein

Bye Bye Jimmako….

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‘You will never guess who was just in here’ Aki beamed with a Cheshire cat-like grin from ear to ear. The ‘good Greek music guru’ as I affectionately called him in my weekly music column seldom smiled like this. His knowledge of Greek music was so vast that anyone could walk into Trehantiri – the biggest Greek music record shop in the world – hum a tune and he would know it. Aki passed away far too young due to complications after a routine hip replacement operation. I can see him now sitting with Jimmakos somewhere beyond this world saying quiet jovially ‘remember that day when you came into my shop in North London?’

Akis Pattalis -The Good Greek Music Guru

Today the world is a much poorer place soulfully following the death of Jimmys Panousis. Jimmys was an artist who came in and out of my life as a friend and fan. Before I get into the how these connections were made over the years I just want to clear something up on that word ‘artist’.

Since his death Jimmy has been called all kinds of things, stand-up comedian, comic, actor, satirist, singer but very few people have touched on that word artist, that’s what he was, a unique resonant opinionated artist who had a habit of always sending-up people in or with power. Whether these people were politicians, priests, pop star singers, media celebrities or just plain hypocrites, Jimmy always had a way of exposing them through the tool of satire. He was for me an astute oppositional voice in a sea of mediocrity and his work touched the soul of this thing called humour simply by being daring, different and provocative. Yes he did get up people’s noses, and no he was not PC (politically correct) but what did we expect from someone who made art into a form of cultural anarchy. Even the sounds of some of his songs, often cleverly pastiche – take note of the tune ‘Psofia Glosa’ his take of ‘La Bamba’ – buzzed away annoyingly.  In some cliquey music circles dominated by  Greek notions of ‘entexna’ – those crafted often PC songs – which are wrongly associated as natural expressions of protest music – he was shunned. I had to get all this off my chest because the most pukey thing I heard about Jimmy’s passing was from George Dalaras, the ‘famous one’ from Greece who Panousis often satirized (and at great legal expense). It so easy to sweep things under the carpet….And Dalaras is so good at grandiose carpet sweeping exercises, his best being those concerts for the military defence of Cyprus in a past life – nuff said!

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My  first connection with one of his songs was mid-1980’s, a couple of years after Greece joined what was then called The European Economic Community -EEC – aka nowadays the EU. 1981 was a bumper year when EEC membership reached double figures. Jimmy, ever loud and vocal, shared a different viewpoint a couple of years later with the hearty song ‘Axx Evropi’ – loosely translated as ‘Ohh Europe’ – although it must be said – ‘ohh’ is much milder than ‘axx’. This was the song which everyone with a guitar and half a voice would sing at Bouats – those bijou music gatherings – a lot of French words in here-  where radical students congregated to ease their troubled minds and souls. It was a song with an anarchist slant, and while not everyone was one there was something defiant about just singing the chorus because mainstream political thought went in the complete opposite direction. ‘Ax Evropi – esy mas maranes’ ‘Oh Europe – you have drained use dry’. What a way to start a song. Direct to the point and prophetic. Axx Jimmako what a philosopher – predicting so much that came true.

 

young jimmys

So when the good Greek guru was for words, exasperated by who had been in his shop on that grey, drizzly north London afternoon, he just pointed his finger ‘that-a-way’ to the next room bursting with vinyl, rifled through a few LP covers and held this one up to my face.

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My initial reaction was ‘when, where is he, how come…’. Aki then told me everything he observed about Jimmys Panousis being in his shop, with every meticulous detail.  He actually came into buy a copy of ‘Mousikes Taxiarxies’ his LP unleashed to an unsuspecting public in 1982. ‘Imagine that’ he said ‘Jimmys Panousis coming into this Shop, buying his first LP because the record company did not give him a promo!’ Akas said in a whimsical philosophical tone, ‘and he stood right there’ (pointing to where I was standing) ‘and he was quiet shy actually, trobalos, very softly spoken, and I did not realize who he was until he took off his hood off’. These were the good memories I had from living above a Greek Record Shop in Green Lanes Haringey.

Jimmys songs kept flowing over the years and he carried on unconventionally, attacking the rotten system and anyone who he deemed as being too establishment/part of it, there was The spat/dig/oppositional rant on Dalaras, ‘Kankela Bantou’ (Railings/Metal Fences Everywhere) to ‘NeoEllinas (The New/Nouveau Greek) – the cover of this release again found him in court for being featured ripping up the Greek flag. He was always a wind up merchant but he always did things as a defiance and not just for the sake of it. Myth has it that once in the 80’s he called a press conference to announce his marriage. Journalists arrived to find him sitting comfortably with a goat.’ She is my wife to be’ he declared! You could see this ridiculous scene as a wind up I guess but it was also a critique of a mass media obsessed with gossip so Jimmy simply though I will give you something surreal to gossip about!

Jimmy was a big inspiration to me. He was the epitome of the Greek saying ‘we laugh with our pain’ – ‘yelame me ton bono mas’ and after my first LP, ‘Haji Mic On The Mike’ somehow, sometime in the mid-90’s a copy of it was ‘liberated’ by Panousis from my good Kyperoundan friend Alvinos. I never really figured if Jimmy fully understood what I did, but he was fascinated with the ‘Gringlish’ vibe of it. So much so that he used it on his popular daily radio show as background music which he ranted over.

Jimmys  Alvinos declared was a fan of mine and a few years later, on one of my trips to Athens to spin Reggae and Dub with the very Rankin Johnny I was waiting anxiously outside a small bar in Psiri, Athens to greet the man who more than any artist from Greece had inspired me to dare to be different and satirical. Meeting Jimmy and spending a good half hour with him was very special. He was ordinary, polite, smiling, we shared a few stories and jokes. When he stepped in the venue a quiver of voices whispered his name which carried the weight of someone historic and radical yet so remarkably ordinary. He stayed around for a couple of hours, skanking in his own way, smiling at every one who smiled at him. There was none of the usual fuss that surrounds celebrities, like autographs and this was also in the pre-selfie age. I thought to myself ‘I finally met Jimmys Panousis!’ and took the early morning plane back home after the gig. I was so happy on that trip. The customs man rifled through my stuff, proclaiming ‘DJ!’ when he went through my modest collection of records. I just smiled back in a Panoussian way and said ‘DJ’.

 

I only saw Jimmy perform once, at Skali Anglatzias, a few years later, in Nicosia. I returned the compliment to visit him at a show, and saw him briefly before he hit the stage we chatted for a short time, he gave me a warm hug and hand shake. The show itself was so powerful, so painfully funny – a combination of media sending everything and everyone up in his unique acerbic humour acutely post-modernist and anarchist to the bone. He did his Dalaras jokes, as the resonance of the pop singer who always played ‘the ever so radical one’ was heavy in Cyprus. Jimmy decided to say the name cautiously, whispering Dalaras name as if a Cypriotic Greek Leviathan would descend from the stage and obliterate him. H ended with the band with carnivalesque version of ‘Zorbas’, with every one mimicking a machismo masturbatory in sync dance.

I followed him online. His radio pranks were just so funny, and yet so ordinary. He once cold called a woman and accused her daughter of allegedly hitting on his 13 year old son. The woman tried to be defensive, with the ‘what’s my daughter’s name’ line but Jimmy out maneuvered her and before she knew it, the whole thing sounded so spontaneous, so believable – check it here . And his passion for doing alternative/disruptive like media interviews even made the Sex Pistols on The Today program with Bill Grundy in the 1970s look so lame. Look no further than the artist’s last ever unedited interview.…And then, the here and now, when we all learned of his passing, and there is this big empty space in our lives called Jimmys Panousis. He will be sorely missed by us and by the establishment, the politicians in suits, the pop stars with egos, the politicians without ties, and the priests in their robes of corruption, then plastic media people and the tyrants who rule out lives day and night. Kankela Pantou Jimmy, even today…And we still sing Axx Evropi with a louder passion that haunts our souls even more these days…..so RiP my friend…we laughed and sang with your/our passion and pain….Bye Bye Jimmako…

 

 

 

 

The Story of Stavroulla….

stavroullaThe song came out in spring 1992, with music produced by the legendary Sugar Hajishacalli, who sadly passed away 8 years ago. The idea had started a few months earlier. Shaggy’s version of ‘Carolina’ stormed the charts. I had it on white label a few months before it came out and when I was lucky enough to meet the MC I told him I planned to do a Cypriot version. Shaggy smiled at the idea but the production was a long way off. Nowadays you can sit in front of a screen and with some basic skills and talent its failry easy to knock up a tune, record it, mix it and have it up on Soundcloud by evening. Back in the early 1990’s things were different. You had to have a budget for the studio, the production and dah dah dah, the pressing. I had been hearing alot of stories about failed relationships/marriages that were based on ‘broxenia’ /arranged marriages. I am in fact still convinced that 2 out of 3 arranged marriages, of my generation,  ended in divorce. So why not write a song about it. The original lyrics to ‘Stavroulla’ were radically different, based largely on a friend’s painful experience (he will remain nameless)  of being with some one called Stavroulla. When I played my mate the tune he chased me around the room with a hammer with the word ‘pezevengi’  coming out of his mouth several hundred times. I did find the lyrics hilarious mind you but he guaranteed a libel case. I did the demo at home, taking a loop from ‘Carolina’ on my double cassette player, plugged in a mic, and worked out a basic verse chorus structure. It got played to a close circle of friends and relatives, many of whom liked the chorus but thought writing a tune about some one else painful relationship did not quite sit right.

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I thought about it for a while and one day went to Sugar in his home studio in Edmonton. He was convinced I had something with the idea for the chorus,. after all, who else had written a tune called ‘Stavroulla’ but he said the lyrics needed more work. Writing them again and again, I started to craft a story that was more generic, as  a tribute to my sisters in the community, who basically wanted to do their own thing, as the descendants of Aphrodite. Haringey came into it, as I was then living in a flat above Trehantiri. A Baklama came into it as well played so eloquently by Sugar. He was such a mastron as a musician. That sound, along with a phenomenal bottom end mixed on a pair of Yamaha NS10’s by Jimmy Dimitri Swanyard studios rocked the walls during that session.What a day it was. Sitting in the studio after it was done we all had huge smiles on our faces. That ‘Stavroulla’ recording session was an epic experience. With support from Trehantiri Music the tune fell into the hands of the one Andy Kershaw who played it on the BBC World Service. It was also supported by the late Tony Piatas,  and my brother Perry, AutoAcoustics who both contributed  to pressing the vinyl, and would not have happened without my publisher, another legend, Rob Bozas @ Swanyard, who negotiated me the studio time. Kershaw didn’t know it at that time but he was the first person to play Stavroulla on air and in Cyprus. The rest as they say is history… I feel life has come full circle now that I will be singing the tune, at a special Summer Party after so much time again in Haringey on July 16th, back in London where it all began.  White Hart Lane  is a place dear to my heart, as many of you know, and playing on that special road will make me very happy. You can see the clip for Stavroulla here and the tune can still be purchased on vinyl  by emailing PowerofWords.

Keep on Rockin’ Arthur….

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I am not sure if we ever actually met. Somewhere in the not so distant vraka past our paths must have crossed in Paphos, the place where so many things started. Its strange though because I felt like I really knew my dear friend and compadre Arthur Tilley, my Paphian cyber buddy who had moved to Finland, because like many people these last few years, emigration seemed a better option than trying to survive in post ‘kourema’ Cyprus. Arthur first came to my attention as journalist when my wife Marina worked at SIGMA TV as a sound engineer. He was the station’s correspondent for Paphos. Many years later we ‘reconnected’ on Facebook and bantered on about so many things on a fairly regular basis. Arthur was always brave enough to speak his mind, even if people didn’t like what he said, he stood up always for truth, rights, justice and most of all, for freedom. He was passionate about the liberation and unification of Cyprus and frustrated just as much as me about  corruption and the suffocation of expression by local party hacks.

Arthur was also a musician, and that side of him always fascinated me. We planned to meet to discuss all of that. He started playing music at the age of 15. Like most people he started out in a covers band, as a drummer in The Crazy Horses. A short time after  with a Andros and  George Athanasiou , and Andreas Georgiou they  formed the Black Angels a pioneering rock group in Cyprus in the 1980’s – and I always felt they must have been pioneering because they were from Paphos.  There are so many chapters to Arthur’s life. Journalist, athlete, radio and TV presenter, and more recently, after he relocated to Finland with his wife Tuula, he became a qualified youth worker!

More than all the music and journalism, Arthur was a rebel, a fighter til the end, a person dedicated fully to the liberation and unification of this at times suffocating and frustrating homeland of ours Cyprus. Friday 26th February 2016 was such a day. Vibrant, creative and non-stop. I met a few old friends, saw our 12 year old daughter Melina  take part in a musical at Satiriko, and then had to shoot across town to talk about Reggae at opening of a poster exhibition. When we got home and heard the news about Arthur through Facebook, silence struck, shock, sadness, how, why, ma yiati olan, not Arthur!

We never had that coffee, neither here nor there, and I am sure it would have been ‘tou laikou’. Arthur passed away on that morning while undergoing heart surgery combined with  complications from pneumonia which he had been trying to shake off. I will always drink to your name my friend and compadre, and think of you, Paphos, Cyprus and that cherished Freedom. Rest in Peace Arturo…

 

 

 

 

Island Connection – 30 Years and still going strong

Island Connection started in dances at Essex University with Donald Mack , DJ Skev and myself, Haji Mike, forming a core team of DJ’s who held their own campus events playing Soul, Reggae and Rare Grooves.  There were of course many other people involved on campus DJ wise, the legendary Count Claude, Derek Robinson, Jah Andy and one Dotun Adebayo who has of course gone on to much bigger things at the BBC. Many of these DJ’s were involved with student based groups like the Afro-Caribbean Society, Black Music Appreciation Society (B.M.A.S), Reggae Appreciation Society (R.A.S) ,University Radio Essex (U.R.E) and the more mainstream Entertainment Society. Essex raves, back then didn’t happen in fields with thumping banal house beats. They occurred usually in the events room behind the Student Union Bar or in the tower block flats where we lived as students. Most time the towers based parties were private free events, like a birthday, and these sessions, neighbours permitting could go on til any time, event 6 or 7 am when the sun came up. The events room was a bit different. That’s where we did our own sessions, with a minimal door fee which usually ended by 3 am (although some times we did close the doors and let the bass rumble on an hour or two more). Its where I first picked up the microphone to MC in the early 1980’s with Donald coming into the DJ booth in total shock saying ‘did you just chat on the microphone!!!’RAS POSSEE POSTER 1980'S

The event for the poster above shows just how DiY everything was. We would take an image, photocopy it, then use letraset transfers for the lettering, which had to be placed meticulously, letter by letter and this would make a master template which would be photocopied. As you can see this one was coloured in by hand with Ital Rasta Colours, and it took me a good few hours to do those 100 posters by hand. We played records back then, this was pre-CD, pre-Mp3, used our own decks or if it was a bigger event, hired some from the town of Colchester. DJ’ing was a pricey business. Buying vinyls every week burned holes in our students and renting equipment was also expensive. Back then we never did any events in the town. It was a very hostile and racist place and no local clubs or pubs, as far as I know, hosted any student events. I recently saw a crowd funding site for a student society event which looked like a huge banquet. None of them 5 course meals in our day we was much more humble. I spent 5 years as a student at Essex, doing a BA and MA. In that time radio was something I did for years, some times 5 nights a week on URE, and each week there were usually several parties to go to. We never really made money out of DJ’ing back then. Private events you did them for friends, at the end of the night they’d give you a few bottles of wine and you’d walk home happy at sunrise, humming the melody of the latest Gregory Isaacs tune. Our own events usually cost just as much to do in renting equipment and buying vinyls. So there was a real love for the music, money was not the motive, no egos. Every one had their set, their half hour, their hour. No one bossed any one around and we would just party. We’ve kept in touch over the decades, Skev, Donald and me. We had a great session for Skev’s 50th in his back garden in London. A couple of years back we played in Nicosia at the old Maple Leaf, and the place was packed to the rafters. We used vinyls that night. Some people had never seen a record, let alone heard one play.

The Dream Team

We made ourselves a promise, whether her or there, when the occasion arises, to get together and DJ again. We are bit older of course. Donald Mack was always wicked on the mic with his banter, and now he’s turned that into Standup Comedy. Skev has worked in local authority management for a few decades and music, DJ’ing and sweet soul music is still his escape.And I went on to become Haji Mike based in Cyprus, teaching, making music, DJ’ing and hosting radio shows. I always look forward to these Island Connection Re-Unions because the tunes just flow, like back in the day, the decks, the mic and the music. Our events will be at Brickyard, Nicosia Sat 12th March  and Lithos, Oroklini Sun 13th March – join us 🙂

brickyard

 

Outta Mi Yard Radio – Out of Many Yards We Are One Station

Streaming radio is here to stay for music sounds that are not represented through corporate land based profit making playlisted stations. Radio has become a slave to automation software. Many people who work on it are usually clueless about music and the computers to all the work. They just have a script to read which usually lacks substance and opinion. I decided to stop working on stations locally in Cyprus a couple of years ago because of playlists, the lack of shekels they paid me for my work, and more important than any thing a lack of respect and knowledge for the music I play, namely Reggae. Streaming offers liberation and a new station I am on ‘Outta Mi Yard’ is a dream come true, doing radio from home, with people in the chat room sharing and loving the vibes. Its a continuation of many of the people on Versionist working as a collective from many yards around the world as one station. Show time remains Wednesday for me, 6-8 GMT – 8-10 CY Time. I do like Wednesday, it breaks up my week, and I enjoy radio so much more nowdays. So join me in the studio, outta my yard, live from Nicosia click and tune in here

 OUTTA MI YARD HM MAIN

3 The Soul comes to Paphos

 3 the soul

3 The Soul – 5 nights of partying in Paphos

There are some short cuts to happiness and music and dancing are two of them.  Many people thought clubbing was dead in Cyprus and Brian Norman and the 3TheSoul Team are out to prove them wrong.  3The Soul is a new concept that’s coming to Paphos in late June as an exclusive clubbing experience for the Over 30’s. Soul music events at cool beach parties, exclusive open air night spots and an onboard boat party, over one blazing long weekend from 25th to 30th June.

 

Following 20 years of club DJ’ing, Brian can now boast that he not only founded and promotes one of London’s longest running and most successful R&B nights, he has also developed his DJ’ing career to such a level that he is regularly asked to DJ as far away as Japan, Hong Kong, Barcelona, Ibiza, Dubai, Munich, Cyprus and Dublin. Whilst also being asked to DJ at high profile media events, a few recent parties being the premiers of Aladdin, The Lion King and Jesus Christ Superstar along with celebrity parties for Prince, Madonna, Samuel L. Jackson, Mariah Carey, Wyclef Jean and Maxwell.

After the early days of his career in his home turf it wasn’t long before the East End gave way to the bright lights and far more multicultural mix of people to be found in the West End. This confirmed his resolve to turn what was at the time a fascinating hobby into a career. His residence at ‘Fresh ’n’ Funky’ is the UK’s longest running R&B club night and has received recognition and respect in the music industry receiving a prestigious MOBO Award for Best Club Night. There have been ‘Fresh ‘n’ Funky’ parties running successfully in Dublin, London, Hong Kong and the Cyprus resort of Ayia Napa.

Brian also founded the Fresh ‘n’ Funky Foundation, with his wife, in 2013 to raise awareness and funds for people affected by cancer. The foundation works to raise funds for charities like Cancer Research and ACLT as well as smaller and individual causes.

 

Events for 3 The Soul include a massive DJ line up including Brian Norman, Dj Bigga, Paul Mac, Pascal, Haji Mike,  Chris Box & Antonis from Rock FM.

 3 the Soul all flyers

 

 

 

3 The Soul Full Schedule
Thursday 25th June – 3 The Soul Beach Party at Lighthouse Beach with DJs from the UK & Rock FM playing Soul & R&B music. Free sun loungers, food & drink available, plus volley ball and 5-a-Side Football to keep you entertained, a perfect chilled out start to the scorching weekend!

Friday 26th June – 3 The Soul Roof Top Party, dance to Classic Soul and R&B music, on the roof top of Everest Bar, overlooking the beach until the sun rises.

Saturday 27th June- 3 The Soul Casino Royale Dinner & Dance Party at Elea Estate with DJs and performance by a Soul Singer.  A classy and lavish party night at the chic and stylish Elea Estate.  Complimentary champagne or Bacardi Mixers, a succulent buffet meal, magician show with casino games and music by Natasha Watts performing her greatest hits, followed by 3 The Soul DJs. A night of cool music and sophistication.

Sunday 28th June – 3 The Soul Wave Dancer Boat Party with DJs and Performance by a Soul Singer. Late afternoon enjoy a relaxing day cruising the aqua seas along the coast of Paphos, with a delicious buffet on the ever popular Wave Dancer. From 9pm, party through the night until heading back to Paphos Harbour.

Monday 29th June –
3 The Soul Sunset Beach Party at Atlantida Beach with Rock FM Live Broadcast. Early evening, to cap the weekend off in style, dance along the sandy shore and party way after the sun goes down at Paphos’s only beach party spot, Atlantida Beach Bar. Rock FM will be hosting the party with 3 The Soul, broadcasting the party live to their huge listening audience with our DJs providing the soulful flavours.

Tuesday 30th June –  Hamam Café Lounge Bar farewell party where you will be mingling and partying as we goodbye to our old and new friends, with 3 The Soul DJs providing the Soul R&B & Reggae music to sing-along to!

Full details on all events, DJ line-ups, start times and costs can be found at http://www.3thesoul.co.uk/

To book tickets or for more details on the events, please contact: 3thesoulcyprus@gmail.com

 

Versionist – Tune in to the sounds of “Liberation”

About 2 months ago I joined an online radio family called Versionist which was introduced to me by the King of The Reggae and Radio Underground and co-founder of the station Gibsy Rhodes. Having been on radio for the last 3 decades I must admit to feeling a bit tired of the medium of late. Mainstream radio has largely become an automated affair, meaning huge job losses and lack of any quality. I’ve carried on doing ‘Outernational’ as a pre-recorded show, going out on 5 different stations each week…but its not the same as the live radio experience. Gibsy is a clever strategist. He featured ‘Outernational’ on his weekly King of The Underground slot on Versionist for about a month, and then one day threw down the gauntlet, ‘Haji mate, its time you got back on the live tip on Versionist’. He then linked me up with Verisonist, the co- founder of the station, who explained the technicalities and with alot of help from my friend Dub Thomas from Dubophonic, who is also on the station, a new Haji Mike radio show was launched.

HM NEW VERSIONIST

“In Session” is on Weds 6-8 GMT (8-10 Cyprus time) and its the best live radio I have done since those wonderful first experiences on University Radio Essex (URE) in the early 1980’s. Versionist is like a village online. The family of DJ’s on it are supportive of each other. We tune into each other shows, share music, make jingles and being on there just feels like a conversation in any natural environment, in a venue, a pub, a coffee shop or even you very own front room.

This week Versionist celebrates 1 year of being on air, warming up the wires with sweet Reggae music. As a tribute, my mate Gibsy sent me a riddim by Flow Production in Switzerland and said ‘see what you can do with this’. The next day I wrote and recorded a special dub plate for the station dedicated to all the DJ’s on the station. So here it is, free for all to enjoy, tune in to the sounds of “Liberation” and pass through the Village, and experience Versionist 🙂

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