Thursday, 29 September 2016

Long-Lasting Reggae

I screwed up this week. Kind of.
After deciding to listen to acts from countries I'd yet to look at, I ended up prodding at YouTube's recommendations, and listening to Yet Another Japanese Band before I'd done any of my listening for the challenge this week.
Which wouldn't be an issue, if they were a band I'd heard before.
But they count towards this goal, so...I'll tack them on at the end, as a bonus band!

This week, my main focus is acts from Jamaica!

Black Uhuru
Formed in 1972, the 'uhuru' from this reggae band's name means 'freedom' in Swahili.
Black Uhuru were apparently most successful in the 80s, and have been through several lineup changes over the years.
Their music has a real timeless quality that makes it difficult to put a date to! Though I suspect someone knowledgeable in this genre would be able to date a song right down to the year...
Though I like the timbre of the vocals, this isn't an act I'd listen to again, solely because the genre isn't my thing. But if you do like reggae (or want to give it a try), definitely give this group a listen!
Black Uhuru are still active, which is awesome for anyone that likes them--particularly as they still go on tour!
Black Uhuru on Facebook

The Skatalites
This band were originally active for a few years in the 1960s, but reformed in the early 80s and have been going ever since.
The Skatalites are another group that have been through a lot of lineup changes, and their music is categorised as multiple genres on Wikipedia, but I'm going to note it here as 'ska/reggae'.
Some of their music is instrumental, whilst other tracks have lyrics. I'll embed an instrumental here, but also check out If You Want To Be Happy For The Rest Of Your Life for some lyrical goodness (and a track completely unlike the one embedded here--this group has some variation!)
I like the songs with vocals on better than the ones that don't, and might listen again if I was in the mood for this kind of music. It has an upbeat feel to it, and is worth checking out!
The Skatalites Official Website


YouTube suggested this act to me, and honestly the reason I clicked on it was because I wanted to know what kind of band would release an album named Tenderloin.
Formed at the beginning of last year, this band is a baby compared to the other two acts I've written about here! 
The video above is for the most part the complete opposite to what I expect from a Japanese rock band. Rap verses alongside the more typical-sounding bridge and chorus, a narrative unlike 99.9% of other Jrock music videos I've watched (and I've watched a lot)--this one music video really caught my attention!
The other videos I watched were much more along the lines of what I expect from bands of this genre, both visually and musically. Guess I lucked out on finding one of their more unusual songs first!
I'll probably go back to hear more of this band, when I'm in the mood to listen to something outside of the artists usually on my playlist*!
If you like Jrock, go ahead and check out this band.
CLØWD Official Website

*Before anyone accuses me of being a Jrock weeb, my playlist currently comprises of Moulettes (UK), Steam Powered Giraffe (USA), Beastie Boys (USA), Shilfee and Tulipcorobockles (JP), Vitas (RU) and Rammstein (DE). And soon to add Freshlyground (SA) because their album Nomvula turned up in the post today :3 )

Anyway, that's it for this week! Next week I'll try not to get distracted with YouTube's suggested videos before I get this challenge done!

Monday, 26 September 2016

These Old Bones Will Tell Your Story

There's a goal on my list that I started (and due to the wording, technically completed) but never wrote about until now:
014. Start a collection of found objects
To me, a 'found object' isn't just any old piece of rubbish you might pick up. It's something that sparks an interest, evokes a memory, inspires creativity, or has a use.

Though some might look at the pictures here and think 'but that is rubbish, fair enough. It's all about perception! To me, the broken shards of glass and pottery prod at my imagination, causing me to ask questions--What was this? What did it contain? Who used it?
Then I find myself making up the answers: Here's a fragment of an old medicine bottle, used by a farmer to stave off a winter cold when he was tending his sheep. He left it behind one day and forgot where it was, and over time the bottle got smashed and the fragments scattered in the mud.

Of course, the truth is more likely to be that it was a bottle tossed away carelessly some fifty years ago and it ended up in the mud of the footpath when earth was moved to create said footpath.

But it's fun to imagine something different.

Alongside pottery shards and interesting pieces of metal, I've accumulated some paper-based finds, too!
A couple of these items - the old bus ticket (found in a second hand book) and the Egypt-themed playing card (found at a bus stop) - are items that have been knocking about for ages. The others are things I've found in the park or in the street, and have picked them up with a thought that they might be interesting for an assemblage (which is goal #15!)

I've picked up natural forms, too--a huge pine cone from a tree that has since been felled, a smaller cone from a different kind of tree; feathers and leaves with nice colours, and a little piece of sheep wool found on a pleasant walk in the countryside.

Most of my found objects live in an old shoe box under the bed (until I use some of them for that assemblage!)

But there are some that will live in their own box, until I find a way to display them--and at this point I'll add a warning: if you don't like the sight of animal bones, look away now.

No really.

Look away.

Still here?

Here's my most interesting find so far: 

I found these bird bones amongst some 40+ years of dust and muck in a boarded-up fireplace.
The chimney itself isn't blocked off, so obviously the poor creatures fell down a long time ago =/

Unfortunately I broke a number of the bones when cleaning the dust and fluff from them, and others started to disintergrate after I let them soak in biological washing water (following the advice on Jake's Bones!)

So what I have left is these:

There is still dust inside the skulls that seems to be welded in there, despite having left them to soak so long!
I'll probably put these in a little glass box, if I can find one. At the moment they live in a not so glamorous ice cream tub!

As my goal was to simply start a collection of found objects, I'm marking this one as complete.

If/when I happen upon some more cool finds, I'll write about them here!

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Modern Tradition

For this week's new-to-me music, I decided to look at artists from South Africa! Up until now, I haven't really looked at music from the African continent. It was only recently that I started looking for artists outside of those recommended by friends or YouTube, or acts I found mentioned in magazines. Which being in England means a lot of European and North American music!

This band formed in Cape Town in 2002, though its members come not only from South Africa, but also Mozambique and Zimbabwe. It's seven members play more than the standard setup for a band, with the inclusion of violin, keyboards, flute, mbira, saxophone, harmonica and percussion.
The music itself has a jazzy, indie-rock vibe, but also includes elements of traditional South African music. Their lyrics are both in English and Xhosa, but even without understanding the latter, the feeling of the music is easy to understand. (I embedded the song 'Nomvula' above, because if you're from my part of the world it's not every day you get to hear a song sung in anything but English)
When I listened to this act, the first thing that really stood out to me was how the vocalist sounded. She has an amazing voice, very smooth and emotional! Overall this band is really easy and relaxing to listen to, and their music videos were fun to watch!
Go check out this band!
Freshlyground Official Website

Thandiswa Mazwai
Active since 1998, this musician started out on a talent show, but didn't make the semi-finals. Now a multi award-winning artist, she's certainly shown the world what she's made of!
Thandiswa's music is categorised as afrosoul (which I had to look up--it's a fusion of soul and African music, with a strong influence of vocals and emotions).
Again, even without understanding the lyrics, it's possible to understand the feeling of the song, and enjoy it. I really like the traditional sound to Thandiswa's compositions, and the timbre of her voice is lovely!
Definitely worth a listen.
Thandiswa Mazwai on Twitter
(note: she does have an official website, but Google is warning me that it may have been hacked! :( )

That's it for this week! Check out my goal 29 tag for all the artists I've listened to (so far!) for this challenge!

Monday, 19 September 2016

I Met A Snake

I'm not the greatest fan of snakes, despite meeting a grass snake or two in the fields during the earlier part of my childhood.

But when I happened upon a reptile display on Saturday and went to have a nose, I bumped into a schoolfriend, Shirley, who was there with her husband and some of their reptiles, including this little slinky friend, who is a Mandarin Rat Snake.

 And I was a brave human being...

I was also a cold, tired and windswept human being, but let's ignore that, because I actually held a snake haha
It has really smooth skin, and stayed pretty still and relaxed in my hands.

A bit later I also briefly held a ball python (slightly larger snake!) belonging to another person with the group. I only held it briefly because it wanted to return to its owner!

I should've put 'hold a snake' on my list really, shouldn't I?!

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Two Heads are Better Than One

For the theme challenge on Delightful Aberrations this week, I opted for the theme head...

Admittedly I'm cheating a little, because I snapped this picture before seeing the new themes, though it was on the same day as they were posted online, so it totally counts.

I had some other ideas when I saw the list, then promptly forgot what they were. I'm remembering now, when I don't have the time or energy to do anything!

So here are a couple of heads from Arundel Cathedral, where I went last Saturday.
Didn't edit the picture much, just altered the levels and turned the saturation down very slightly so that the different coloured stone in the doorway wasn't so prominent.

This might not have been the photo I wanted to create for this week's challenge, but I like this one!

Grounds for Tea and Cake

Whilst in Arundel last Saturday, my friend and I stopped for lunch at Grounds Coffee House.

Situated on the High Street, it looks absolutely tiny, perhaps only set up for takeaway--but the building is misleading, as it goes far back from the front of the shop, and has seating upstairs, too.

The menu allows customers to choose up to three items from a list of fillings, to go in a sandwich, toastie, or panini.
Completely spoilt for choice, I ended up ordering a panini with ham, mozzarella and avocado, which turned out absolutely delicious--and was brought to the table within just a few minutes of ordering.
Of course, I completely forgot to take a picture of it, because I was too busy eating it!
But I did take a photo of the banana and chocolate chip cake that I ate afterwards :)
(There was also a lot of choice when it came to cake...)

With friendly staff, fast service and so much choice on the menu, I'd definitely go back here if I was in Arundel again!
Now I'm going to go off and daydream about tasty paninis!

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Anything but Borat

This week, I looked at music from Kazakhstan! Previously I'd only heard of this country due to the film Borat (which I doubt is the greatest of interpretations) and as mentions in the TV quiz show Pointless. So looking at a couple of musical acts from this country is as educational as it is enjoyable!

This instrumental band make use of violin and dombra alongside the more common setup of keyboard, guitar, bass and drums, so their music has an unusual edge to it!
They seem to be categorised as folk metal, though of course with the inclusion of the dombra they have a real traditional twist to their sound.
ULYTAU's music videos are a mixture of typical metal band videos, and others that tell a story, often with historical/traditional dress, battles, wolves, and a real tribal feel.
As I'm used to music with vocals, I missed hearing them in the first couple of tracks that I listened to,
but soon got used to this instrumental music and enjoyed listening!
ULYTAU Official Website

КешYou (Kesh You)
Active since 2006, this all-girl pop group have gone through several lineup changes.
Their music is upbeat and catchy. I'm not a huge fan of pop music but I really enjoyed listening to this group! They have really strong voices that are really shown off to their best in their music.
Visually they have a real combination of typical pop, traditional dress and a costumey element to their style, which I really liked!
Their music videos are pretty varied in the same way as their style, though similar in that they mostly feature the group singing and dancing rather than the images telling a story.
Though they sing in Kazakh (which I don't understand, obviously), I found their music enjoyable and would recommend it to anyone who likes listening to pop!
(Can't find official site for this group, booo!)

That's it for this week! Do give these acts a listen!

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Dodging the Rain in Arundel

On Saturday, I went to the town of Arundel, Sussex, with a friend.
We'd planned it for ages, having looked at the different places to visit on the town's website. rained. All day.

But that didn't stop us from ambling around, taking in the sights, albeit from beneath our umbrellas!

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Move over K-Pop, this is Lao-Pop

For this week's new-to-me music, I decided to check out some artists from Laos. Mostly because I received a package from there a couple of days ago, but also because...well, I've not heard any Lao pop music before.

Noi Sengsourigna
This Laotian singer is apparently also an actress and education with a great passion for her culture.
I have never heard any music quite like hers (which I guess shows how limited my exposure to different music has been). Some of it has a real traditional-sound, whilst other songs have more of a pop twist to them, and the tempo switches between calming and upbeat. Traditional instruments are also prominent in her songs!
Noi's voice has a really soft tone and is pleasant to listen to. I was surprised to hear some English lyrics within her music, though most her songs are sung in Lao.
The music videos are uncomplicated, a lot of them having aspects of traditional Laotian dance and costume, which is interesting to see!

Aluna Thavonsouk
Aluna's music sounds very typically pop, with softly-sung ballads and catchy choruses!
Her videos are very polished; the ones I saw all have some kind of visual narrative going on, which makes it easier to understand the songs even without understanding the language they're sung in.
The music itself isn't the kind of thing I like listening to, but Aluna does have a nice voice. I'd recommend this artist to people who like K-pop ballads!

That's it for this week! Couldn't find any official websites for the artists this time around, so haven't been able to link them. Still, there are a few articles and interviews online with information on these singers--just a google search away!

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Blackberry Squash

Blackberry Squash

Once again, I participated in the weekly art/photography theme challenge on Delightful Aberrations!
This time around, I opted for the pressure theme.

I recently bought a wide-angle/macro conversion kit for my camera, so I was eager to try it out for this challenge!
The final image above is formed of six seperate photos, which I cropped and adjusted the levels of to improve the colour quality.

I created 'pressure' on the blackberry by sandwiching it between a white paper and a piece of glass on a table. Once I had set the camera focus, I pressed down on the glass to increase the pressure, whilst shooting in continuous mode, thus capturing the changes in the berry as it became squashed under the glass!

If not for the fact it's a waste of food (and would make a bigger mess to clear up), I would have used this a vice and squashed something bigger, like an orange or an egg. But blackberries were the less wasteful, less messy option--plus I got to use my conversion kit!

A note on the conversion kit: I figure it won't be as fantastic as an proper lens. But it was £10, which is nothing compared to the £150+ that a whole new lens would cost, so it was an easy choice really!

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Look At My Dumplings!

Last Saturday, after the sewer tour and the exhibition at Fabrica, I stopped for something to eat at Kokoro on Western Road.

They have several restaurants, and I've been itching to try out their food!
(By the way, the building has pies on it, because it was previously a pie shop. It's also a Pokestop!)

A lot of the food is already on a hotplate and ready to be served, but I had to be That Person who wanted something different.

I had Chicken Gyoza Udon (gyoza being a type of dumpling) and though I had to wait for it to be made, it only took five minutes!
It was worth the wait, too, as it was really tasty!
The portion size was just right for a lunchtime meal, and I sat upstairs on one of the seats overlooking the shopping centre. It was peaceful!

I enjoyed eating here, and will be going back another time to try out more of their menu options. There's a katsu curry there that I have to try.

On a similar food-related note, on the way home I stopped in at an Asian food/snack shop that I'd not been into before, and ended up buying this:

Chrysanthemum Tea!
I hadn't had it before, so decided to give it a try.
The flavour seemed pretty strange to me, in fact I ended up drinking water afterwards to wash the taste away!
It wasn't terrible, but I won't be drinking it again.

Inadvertently, in drinking this drink, I completed a goal from The List:
044. Try 10 foods/drinks I’ve never tried before
I can't believe it has taken me over two years to complete this goal!
You can read about the other food and drink I've tried for goal #44 by looking at my goal 44 tag.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Khmer 'core

It recently came to my attention that despite my attempts to listen to bands from all over the world, a lot of what I've listened to for this goal has been from the same parts of the world--mostly the west, with the East popping by in the form of J-rock and K-pop.

So I spent some time searching online for acts from countries whose home-grown music I haven't yet listened to, and from this week onward I'll be doing my best to listen to those, instead of acts from countries already covered by this goal.
My list is long enough that I could stretch out this challenge for another year, but one year is enough!

Here's this week's new-to-me artists...

A metalcore and post-hardcore band from Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Looking at YouTube, it seems this six-member band do a lot of cover versions, though the video I've embedded here is one of their original songs. The sound quality isn't great, but they only have live recordings, and beggars can't be choosers when it comes to live videos!
In the process of trying to find out more about them, discovered that the band's frontwoman has ruffled a few feathers in their home country, for dressing 'like a boy'. This seems mad to me, because her style wouldn't be considered outlandish for a woman in the UK!
Though the music in the video above isn't completely my thing, I liked some of their cover versions, maybe because some of the recordings are a better quality so it's easier to hear.
It's a shame this act doesn't have more coverage, or music videos online, as it would have been nice to see and hear a professional recording. Still, they're worth a listen!
NO FOREVER on Facebook

Another Cambodian band, this time hardcore/deathcore.
I'll admit right away that this is not the kind of music I listen to.
Despite that (and my complete lack of knowledge when it comes to this genre) it's obvious that these guys know what they're doing. The vocalist can growl and shout with the best of them, and the other members know how to handle their instruments.
If you're into this genre, I'd say to check out this band!
Sliten6ix Website

Well, that's it for this week. Come back again to find out which country next week's new-to-me acts are from!