Category Archives: Africa

No light went out with Mandela, it continues to shine ever brighter

I have a picture on my mantlepiece showing Nelson Mandela leaving the International Convention Centre in Birmingham during his visit to the UK in 1993. He had just spoken to a packed hall for two hours, without notes, and it seemed as if he was just holding a conversation with us. It certainly didn’t seem like two hours and those present would have willingly stayed another two or more to hear what he had to say to us. As the car left I positioned myself to salute him which he acknowledged with a smile and wave. He made everyone he came across, it seems, feel important, and as we have seen the people of South Africa are celebrating his life which brought them not only freedom but a knowledge of who they are. This feeling of course extends not only across Africa but the whole world.

One of the first to pay a tribute to Mandela in Birmingham was Rev Jesse Jackson. He is no stranger to Birmingham and Handsworth, home to a significant African Caribbean community. When former Councillor Phillip Murphy made a request for Nelson Mandela to come to Handsworth the response was that it would be impossible given his tight and exhausting schedule. When ANC contacts let it be known that such a visit had been requested he insisted on meeting them early that morning.

Tributes to Mandela continue to pour in across the world, including from the Israeli government who continue to uphold their own apartheid regime between Arab and Jew. Palestinian tributes were countered by the Israeli army using their accustomed violence.

Beethoven and Bridgetower

In reading Alexander Thayer’s “Life of Beethoven” on the years 1802-3, the time of the “Eroica” Symphony, I was stopped short by reference to a young violinist selected to take part in performances some of the composer’s compositions.

Thayer writes:

“…..we have sight of Beethoven again in private life
Dr Joh. Th. Held, the famous physician and professor in Prague, then a young man of just the composer’s age (he was born on 11 December 1770) accompanied Count Prichowski on a visit to Vienna. On the evening of 16 April these two gentlemen met Beethoven in the street. He, knowing the Count, invited them to Schuppanzigh’s. ‘where some of his pianoforte sonatas which had been transcribed as string quartets were to be rehearsed’. In his manuscript autobiography Held writes:

‘We met a number of the best musicians gathered together, such as the violinists Krumbholz, Moser (of Berlin), the mulatto Bridgethauer, who in London had been in the service of the then Prince of Wales, also a Herr Schreiber and the 12 year-old Kraft who played second…..’

The ‘Bridgethauer’ mentioned by Held – whose incorrect writing of the name conveys to the German its correct pronunciation – was the American ship captain qho associated much with Beethoven’ mentioned by Schindler.
George August Polgreen Bridgetower – a bright mulatto then twenty-four years old, son of an African father and a German or Polish mother, an applauded public violinist in London at the age of ten years, and long in the service, as musician, of the Prince of Wales, afterwards George IV – was never in America and knew as much probably about a ship and the science of navigation as ordinary shipmasters do of the violin. In 1802 he obtained leave of absence to visit his mother in Dresden and to use the waters of Teplitz and Carlsbad, which leave was prolonged that he might spend a few months in Vienna. His playing in public and private at Dresden had secured him such favourable letters of introduction as gained him a most brilliant reception in the highest musical circles of the Austrian capital, where he arrived a few days before Held met him at Schuppenzigh’s. Beethoven, to whom he was introduced by Prince Lichnowski, readily gave him aid in a public concert. It has an interest on account of Beethoven’s connection with it; for the day of the concert was the date of the completion and performance of the ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata. Ries writes:

‘The famous sonata in A minor, Op. 47. with concertante violin, dedicated to Rudolph Kreutzer in Paris, was originally composed by Beethoven for Bridgetower, an English artist. Here things did not go much better [Ries had referred to the tardiness of the composition of the horn sonata which Beethoven wrote for Punto], although a large part of the first Allegro was ready at an early date. Bridgetower pressed him greatly because the date of of his concert had been set and he wanted to study his part. One morning Beethoven summoned me at half after 4 o’clock and said “Copy the violin part of the first Allegro quickly.” The pianoforte part was noted down only here and there in parts. Bridgetower had to play the marvellously beautiful theme and variations in F from Beethoven’s manuscript at the concert because there was no time to copy it. The final Allegro, however was beautifully written, since it originally belonged to the Sonata in A major (Op. 30)which is dedicated to Czar Alexander. In its place Beethoven, thinking it was too brilliant for the A major Sonata, put the variations which now form the finale’

Bridgetower, when advanced in years, taking with Mr Thirwell about Beethoven, told him that at the time of the Sonata, Op. 47. was composed, he and the composer were constant companions, and that the first copy bore a dedication to him; but before he departed from Vienna they had a quarrel about a girl, and Beethoven then dedicated the work to Rudolph Kreutzer.”

The story of Bridgetower and Beethoven is related elsewhere telling how his playing impressed the composer resulting in the dedication. Because of the quarrel over a woman to whom Beethoven was fond at the time it was re-dedicated to Kreutzer by whose name it became famous. We are told that Kreutzer, himself a famed violinist, had said it was too difficult for him to play and had no liking for Beethoven’s music.

It is thought that Bridgetower’s father may have come from Barbados, the capital of which is Bridgetown. We know that he performed in Paris in the late eighteenth century at a time when another musician whose mother was African and who came to Paris from Guadaloup was well known and active at the time. Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de St Georges, had influenced Mozart as the initiator of the Sinfonia Concertante form. He was also the intermediary in the commissioning of Haydn’s 6 Paris Symphonies (nos. 82-7) and conducted their first performance. The first the three of these evidently prompted Mozart to give the keys of E flat major, G minor and C major to his last three great symphonies.

Further information

Africa. Continuing exploitation or partnership?

Whereas China’s foray into countries across the continent look suspiciously like a new colonialism, there has been little notice taken of another emerging giant. Brazil, the dominating giant in South America, has been developing relationships with countries that were part of the old Portuguese empire and so share language allowing economic advances.
Relationships between Brazil and the Portuguese-speaking areas was fostered by President Lula. His expressed view was that this would not be a replay of exploitation with no benefit to African people. Unlike China, Brazilian firms employ local labour.

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Libyan justice

So Saif Gaddafi wants to go on trial in the international court at the Hague while the new rulers of Libya say that violates their sovereignity. I don’t blame Saif if the justice he gets is like his father’s. Rough justice indeed which made areal life spectacle enjoyed by the world. At least Hillary Clinton laughed her socks off. The thin veneer of civilisation indeed!
Presumably then the US will support the new Libyan administration which can hardly claim not to have blood on its hands. I believe it’s important to hear what Saif has to say. NATO cannot claim that it stuck to the UN mandate as is claimed. It was clearly about safeguarding civilians. To the NATO allies it was about safeguarding the oil supplies they want so badly want and will use any pretext to get it. Probably a lot more suffered as a result. I would think that NATO will not welcome Saif Gaddafi telling all he knows about what has been going on in Libya. As usual the media have followed a narrow one-sided path so as usual we remain ignorant of the full story. Curiously Al Jazeera seems more pro-western while Russia Today has provided a broader outlook.

Libya. “This was a war of France against Italy”

Even before the the dust has settled and the guns have fallen silent the “black gold” rush has begun. International oil countries are busy trying to secure lucrative deals – better than they were able to while Gaddafi was around – and governments are staking their claims against the strength of their relative involvement in bringing down the Libyan regime.
The demonisation of Gaddafi is a reversal of views formally held. Blair courted him and so did Sarkozy. Now Cameron spews venom and Sarkozy has turned himself inside out. Nothing is said about the way wealth was distributed internally to provide health, education and housing to the people. It was a key member of the African Union. Now black Africans are in acute danger as the victorious rebels turn on anyone it identifies as supporter of the toppled power. Racism it seems is rife, not that that will bother European powers.
The duplicity of the western powers that turned on Libya is well described in the comment from an Italian commentator on Russia Today. “No Italian media would ask me for an interview” declares the speaker as she describes the motives for the bombing. She denies that the oil wealth was withheld pointing to the considerable benefits in housing, education and health available.

Who wants Permanent War?

Make changes? “Yes we can” declared the new President Obama after the weary years of George W. Bush who embroiled the US in unending combat. Now he has been censured by the House of Representatives for embarking in one war too far. Libya.
Bush stated: “we will attack you if we believe you will attack us”, and Obama has endorsed such a sentiment. In UK Blair gave his full support and now Cameron appears even more gung-ho with “I’ll do the talking, you do the fighting” when defence chiefs wanted to know where the money was coming from in our supposedly straitened economy.
Where are the pressures to keep the bonfire alight. Here’s a suggestion. War is big business and governments have been in the habit of increasing the role of civilians in conducting their conflicts. Of course our elected representatives will fight for us won’t they? Not if the revolving door continues its merry way offering lucrative contracts to ex-politicians, government officials and army chiefs! How well the arms industry fared under Bush is not a secret.
Whereas there is clear opposition to Obama over Libya, where is such a restraint on Cameron and co? We understood the UN mandate for NATO action to be limited and certainly did not include “regime change”. To make their mark it seems that successive prime ministers since Thatcher have felt it necessary to be blooded using the Churchillian comparison. Blair outdid Thatcher in many ways like privatisation of public services. Her Falklands adventure pales into insignificance alongside Blair’s. Cameron still has a long way to go. God help us all.

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Libya. Already out of hand.

Every debacle the US and NATO enters soon becomes a quagmire where it becomes impossible for them to free themselves. The much proclaimed “we are there to protect civilians” has become as sick a comment as can be imagined. We don’t have to go back to Korea or Vietnam, but the still active forays into Iraq and Afghanistan show what we can expect in the next victims. So far Iran and Syria have not had the full treatment, although we can imagine there is much activity on the ground as there was undoubtedly in Egypt as it emerges the new regime is a much in hoc to US imperialism as the old.
So now we have daily reports of extensive civilian casualties that NATO et al are meant to protect, a Channel 4 report is particularly horrifying. Today one of Gaddafi’s sons is dead and three of his grandchildren. The claim is that a “military target” was bombed. It so happened that Gaddafi himself was there. Presumably the three children are civilians, so what was the real purpose of this attack?
Russia Today believes that Gaddafi’s intention to introduce a gold currency us a likely reason for the west to round on him. This was in conjunction with the African Union and other Arab states with the prospect that payment for oil would be demanded in gold. This is not a prospect that the credit-ridden world of Capitalism could countenance.

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BAE in Tanzania. More from Wikileaks

The BAE Tanzania arms deal came under scrutiny but was fiercely defended by Tony Blair. Was this highly sophisticated and hugely over-priced “defence” system necessary for the country which was facing many other demands on its economy. It was claimed that the radar system could be used for civilian air traffic control as Tanzania lacked an airforce! A little more on the secretive tendering has come to light from Wikileaks reports the Guardian as the prosecuter with the job if investigating the matter reports that he “feared for his life”. This was because it appears that politicians at the highest level may be involved.

Once more the European Union shows it is about protecting corporations not people

India produces cheap drugs which are life savers to vulnerable people. They can’t afford the prices imposed by the drug industry in western countries -as is the case with many living there. The European Union is about to stop all this by getting India to agree to stop supplying cheap copies and to accept licensing which helps the giant pharmaceutical industry amass their huge profits.
Industry revenues (Wikipedia)
For the first time ever, in 2006, global spending on prescription drugs topped $643 billion, even as growth slowed somewhat in Europe and North America. The United States accounts for almost half of the global pharmaceutical market, with $289 billion in annual sales followed by the EU and Japan.(pdf) Emerging markets such as China, Russia, South Korea and Mexico outpaced that market, growing a huge 81 percent.
US profit growth was maintained even whilst other top industries saw little or no growth.[18] Despite this, “..the pharmaceutical industry is — and has been for years — the most profitable of all businesses in the U.S. In the annual Fortune 500 survey, the pharmaceutical industry topped the list of the most profitable industries, with a return of 17% on revenue.”
Pfizer’s cholesterol pill Lipitor remains a best-selling drug world wide. Its annual sales were $12.9 billion, more than twice as much as its closest competitors: Plavix, the blood thinner from Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sanofi-Aventis; Nexium, the heartburn pill from AstraZeneca; and Advair, the asthma inhaler from GlaxoSmithKline.
IMS Health publishes an analysis of trends expected in the pharmaceutical industry in 2007, including increasing profits in most sectors despite loss of some patents, and new ‘blockbuster’ drugs on the horizon.
Teradata Magazine predicted that by 2007, $40 billion in U.S. sales could be lost at the top 10 pharmaceutical companies as a result of slowdown in R&D innovation and the expiry of patents on major products, with 19 blockbuster drugs losing patent.

Zimbabwe’ diamonds

“There is no such thing as a clean diamond” was a comment made by a Canadian when talking about the way that First Nation land is being exploited there for this over-rated commodity. In Zimbabwe individuals are making themselves extremely wealthy while Zimbabweans fight extreme levels of poverty. We talk of the benefits of globalism but who is going to get a grip on reality?