Friday, September 19, 2008


Fresh from exploring some of the mysteries of Tantra, THE GENERALIST is now engaging with the Music of India on behalf of Krishna's Flute, a music promotions company with a difference – a partnership between artist Andrew Wood and prop maker Russell Beck, who share a common interest in bringing the best of world music to a wider audience. This series of concerts at Pelham House in Lewes will be the chance to see and hear some world-class virtuoso musicians at first hand. Should be exciting.

GAURAV MAZUMDAR, who will be accompanied by Shahbaz Hussain on Tabla grew up in a family of well-known musicians from Allahabad and later studied and trained under the legendary master Ravi Shankar. He has subsequently built a global reputation as not only one of the premier sitar players of his generation but also as one of the world’s foremost and versatile Indian musicians.

As well as performing recitals with other leading Indian players, he has also collaborated with the composer Philip Glass, composed and performed with the English Chamber Orchestra and written the music for the ballet 'Siddhartha', based on the book by Herman Hesse.

He became the first Indian musician to perform at the Vatican, where he played his raga ‘Akanksha’ during a concert to celebrate the new millennium. His album ‘Orion’ was recorded live at a concert in the Acropolis in Greece to commemorate the Olympics in 2004.

Other albums featuring his classical, collaborative and compositional works include ‘Echoes from India', 'In Search of Peace', 'Neemrana', 'Soul Strings' and the Grammy-nominated 'East Meets West'. He devotes a substantial amount of his time teaching disciples from all over the world. He is currently composer in residence at MILAP (Liverpool Festival of Culture).

See: 'Raga Charukeshi' with Gaurav Mazumdar (sitar) and Broto Roy on tabla on YouTube

SATURDAY NOVEMBER 8th /7.30pm Tickets £15/concs £12

Popularly known as the NIZAMI BROTHERS, Shakir Ali, Tahir Ali and Mahir Ali Nizami Qawwal got their childhood training from accompanying their famous father, the late Jaffar Hussain Nizami, and are now considered amongst the leading Qawwali musicians of today.

They will be performing in Lewes with a choir of 11 singers from Delhi.

Showered with numerous awards, titles and medals in India and Pakistan, the Nizami Brother’s recordings are best-sellers throughout the Indian subcontinent. Following in the footsteps of the late great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, who first introduced Qawwali music to an international audience, they have become world ambassadors for this 700-year old musical tradition.

See the Nizami Brothers on YouTube

Qawwali is a form of Sufi devotional music, its name deriving from the Arabic word Qual meaning “utterance (of the prophet). Its central themes are love, devotion and longing for the Divine. The Lewes concert will be a rare chance to see a Qawwali performance of what has been memorably described as ‘14th-century soul music’. It is an experience not to be forgotten, as the musicians steadily build up hypnotic sounds and high energy rhythms that produce trance-like states in audience and players alike.

FRIDAY NOVEMBER 21st /7.30pm. Tickets £18/concs £15

Krishnamurti Sridhar , who is performing with Sanjay Jhalla on tabla, is a leading virtuoso on the sarod, which is considered one of the world’s most complex instruments. He began training on the instrument when he was five, became the youngest member ever of Ravi Shankar's orchestral group seven years later, and started performing solo whilst still in his teens.

His musical mastery and training in both of India’s leading classical music traditions allows him to bridge the gap between the Hindustani music of the North and the Carnatic of the South to create profound and illuminating music that enriches both. Sridhar gives his Sufi guru the main credit for giving his music a quality he describes as “an aspiration towards spiritual bliss."

Since 1982, he has given hundreds of concerts worldwide, many under the auspices of WOMAD, and has made 13 recordings for European, Middle Eastern, and American record companies, including the album ‘Shrinigar’ on Peter Gabriel’s RealWorld Label. In the process, he has forged exciting links with musicians of many disciplines including Arabic, African, jazz, flamenco, Persian and European classical.

He has also composed numerous film soundtracks - including that for the 1968 French short, ‘Pondichéry, juste avant l'oubli’, which won the prestigious Jean Vigo Award in 1988 - and has conducted seminars in many parts of the world on the art of improvisation and musical creation. He currently divides his time between the USA, Europe, and India.

See: Sarod by Krishnamurti Sridhar 2 on YouTube

SATURDAY DECEMBER 6th 7.30pm. Tickets £15 concs £12

[Tickets from Tel: 0844 477 1000]

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


The recent death of Rick Wright, the keyboard player of the Pink Floyd, took me back to the rock 'n' roll history of Lewes.

For years I had heard rumours of that a number of famous bands had played at the Town Hall during the '60s but information was scarce. Certainly the Pretty Things had been there (they replayed the venue some ten years ago). Others said Paul Butterfield Blues Band had done the gig. And then there was the rumour of the Floyd, which I managed to confirm in 2007 when I discovered Vernon Fitch's extraordinary Pink Floyd Archive, which includes a complete list of Floyd concert appearances.

This is where it began to get interesting. For January 1968, he lists the following dates:
12 - University of Aston, Birmingham, Warwickshire,
13 - Winter Gardens Pavilion, Weston-Super-Mare, Avon, (Saturday Dance Date)
19 - Town Hall, Lewes, Sussex (two shows)
20 - Hastings Pier, Hastings, Sussex

What makes these special is that these were the only four gigs which featured the following line-up: Syd Barrett, David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Roger Waters, Rick Wright. In other words, Syd and Dave Gilmour on-stage at the same time. By the following month, Syd had left the band and the rest is history.

There the story might have rested were it not for the recent publication in our local magazine Lewes News, of the above signed poster. LN had been contacted by the promoter of the concert Norman Ashdown, who still lives in the town, and still has many original posters, tickets, account sheets and photos from the series of gigs he put on to raise funds for Lewes Football Club. Of such stuff are legends made.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


In recent years Lewes, like many towns around the country, has been plagued by a rash of unseemly and unsightly development projects which threaten to damage the fabric and nature of our small historic town. Small but vociferous protest groups grew up to challenge each of the major projects in turn but despite their best efforts, it seemed that the little could be done to challenge a planning system weighted towards development and a District Council that refused to acknowledge the important objections raised by the town's citizens.

The spark that started a much bigger protest movement within the town began when illustrator Jenny Mumford revived Glenda, a character loosely based on Private Eye's Glenda Slagg, who had been a figurehead of previous protests against development many years before. Jenny put up a big Glenda protest cartoon frame on the outside of her house and the Council threatened her with legal action unless she took it down. Within days and weeks, Glenda posters sprouted on windows, doors and walls throughout the town. See: Friends of Glenda

In fact, the Council backed down but it was too late to stop Glenda. She became the figurehead of a big protest march which had the effect of uniting all the disparate anti-development groups in the town. Since then, all the groups have formed a Lewes Coalition, who now meeet every month to compare information and discuss strategy and tactics. This has proved extremely effective and we now have tabs on every single development in Lewes and have managed to create a much broader awareness within the town about the scale and nature of the problem.

This was helped a lot by the publication of the New Battle of Lewes map (above) which showed people for the first time the scale and range of developments currently under consideration.

This fact has not escaped the attention of the authorities, who are beginning to realise that their every action is now under scrutiny. Also working in our favour is the economic downturn which looks set to scupper at least some of the grandiose schemes for more unsightly high-priced apartment developments.

What's happening in Lewes is a microcosm of the development picture throughout the South-East in particular and the rest of the country in general.

The issues concerned include: the loss of community buildings to commercial development; the failure of the planning system to protect the historic fabric of the town, which is designated a conservation area; allowing development on the flood plain, in a town that was severely damaged by flooding in October 2000.

One of the big focuses now is to ramp up the campaign to get Lewes included in the proposed South Downs National Park. This will automatically raise planning standards and require that any new developments meet much more stringent planning requirements.

One of the concerns amongst many about our District Council's planning system is that an increasing amopunt of planning descisions are being made, not by elected representatives who are, in principle, answerable to the electorate, but by planning officers. There have been many breaches in legal procedure which we are carefully documenting. There also appears to be a much too cosy relationship between the planners and developers.

We have also brought pressure to bear on our local civic society, the Friends of Lewes, who in their younger days were a vibrant and active force who prevented potentially catastrophic developments in the town but who in recent years have allowed projects to pass through without a murmur.

We are not against development per se. There are many things our town needs, not least affordable housing for young people and other facilities that would add value to the existing infrastructure. But part of the problem is that all planning applications are considered individually without reference to the broader picture of the evolution of the town as a whole.

The Council is currently meant to be preparing a proper overall Development Plan but their deliberations are moving at a snail's pace.

We believe that poor planning regimes flourish in the absence of active citizens, prepared to devote their unpaid time to opposing them.


At a time when the world money markets are in free fall and world headlines are full of news of bankruptcy and recession, the successful launch of £10,000 worth of the Lewes Pound has attracted news stories across the globe. Why this should be is another matter. It has certainly touched a media chord.

Today the BBC News reported that Dozens of pound notes issued in an East Sussex town to encourage shoppers to support the local economy have been sold on an internet auction site.

As of tonight there were 28 sellers of this local currency on Ebay. Two consecutive numbered notes had reached a sale price of $55.48.

The Times reported that 'The Lewes pound became the largest currency launched in Britain for more than a century this week as cheese shop customers, German numismatists and a ten-year-old boy buying a chocolate bar were among those who snapped up all 8,500 available notes in less than 24 hours. '

Lewes' local brewers Harveys have created a special beer to celebrate the occasion.

The town has also had its own currency once before, between 1789 and 1895.

The Hindu Times reported the story this way: 'The East Sussex town of Lewes in England has always been a contradictory sort of place, probably ever since the barons demanded a say in government and defeated Henry III outside the town in 1264. It was here too that Tom Paine, whose pamphlets fanned the flames of revolution in America, honed his polemical skills at the Headstrong Club in the White Hart during the 1760s. They still burn the Pope and sundry politicians in effigy every bonfire night. And on September 9, just along the high street, the Brewer’s Arms was displaying a sign warning Chancellor Alistair Darling that he was barred. Now, the town is going one step further along the road to contrariness by issuing its own pound notes...It is an attempt to boost local spending in the local economy.'
Lewes is following on from the Totnes Pound which was launched a year before by a Transition Town organisation which Lewes also emulated.

See also:

The "Brixton brick"

Berkshares Inc

'Slow Money Revolution: the global growth of local currencies.' by Cliona O Conaill. New Consumer magazine.

See Previous Post: Paine In The Net

Also the following review from The Generalist Feb 2006:

The Trouble with Tom: The Strange Afterlife and Times of Thomas Paine by Paul Collins [Bloomsbury.2005]. This extraordinary and wonderful book follows the author through space and time as he unravels the journey of Tom Paine's bones [dug up by the radical William Cobbett and shipped to England] and gives us a wonderful picture of the radical life and times of the 1700s. [The information in this book supersedes the 'bones' story given in my previous Tom Paine posting.] See reviews here: Bookslut, The Telegraph,

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Back in the late 1980s when I was Editorial Director of Greenpeace Books, I was fortunate enough to be involved in the production of what, on second glance, is still a lovely book for all those who love dolphins and desire to know more about them. Also to be aware of the threats to their survival.

The book was published in 1990 by Century Editions in the UK and Sterling Publishing in the US and thus it is inevitable that a lot of the information is now dated. However, during the production of the book, we managed to pull work together from almost all the leading dolphin photographers in the world. In addition, the illustrator Martin Camm produced a unique and wonderful set of wildlife drawings, anatomically exact, including species that had never been illustrated before. Similarly, the evolutionary tree of dolphins was at the time bang up to date with fresh information incorporated. We also used Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion projection for the background maps of global distribution.

The main text writer on the book was Kieran Mulvaney and the designer was Andy Gammon. Many experts contributed, as did all the global Greenpeace campaigners.

Since the book was published the Baiji or Yangtze River dolphin has been declared extinct. In a piece written for us by Mark Cawardine he reported: 'There was no effort to determine the number of surviving dolphins until 1979, when a three-year survey estimated a maximum of 400 along the entire length of the Yangtze. There has been a rapid reductions in the numbers in the years since. Today there could be as few as 200 baiji left.' Sadly conservation efforts came too late.

The New Scientist Environmental blog recently reported in a story entitled 'Dolphin Serial Killers' that: 'Scientists who autopsy cetaceans that wash up dead on British beaches have come to a grim conclusion: some species are being killed by bottlenose dolphins.' The photo (left) shows the rake marks on a harbour porpoise caused by a bottlenose dolphin.

Activists stage dolphin die-in at Japanese embassy in US [Sept 3, 2008] WASHINGTON (AFP) — Environmental and animal rights activists dressed as dolphins Wednesday staged a die-in in Washington to protest what they called the

"horrific butchering" of thousands of dolphins by Japanese fishermen every year. Animal welfare activists accuse Japan

of brutally slaughtering some 20,000 dolphins and small whales every year in the "biggest massacre of its kind in the world," said the Animal Welfare Institute and Humane Society International, which organized the protest in Washington.

This post was triggered by my friend Luisa who sent me a link to this fascinating video entitled 'Dolphins play bubble rings'

On Google News I discovered the following story by Ednal Palmer, published in the 9th Sepetmber this year in the Solomon Star, the Solomon Islands leading daily newspaper.

'THE Government is urged to seriously consider resolutions reached in a recent workshop in Samoa on dolphins. Local environmental campaigner Lawrence Makili said at the moment the number of dolphins in our waters remain unknown.“Ignorance over this issue risks us giving away our natural riches and beauty, not knowing that one day we will desperately need them,” Mr Makili said.

He said the Samoa workshop, attended by marine scientists, concluded that live dolphin capture for international trade of indo–Pacific bottle nose dolphins threatened the survival of local dolphin population. The meeting was convened by the World Conservation Union.
This was in response to the international outcry by scientists and conservationists last year over the capture and export of 28 dolphins from Solomon Islands to the United Arab Emirates.

Scientists say there’s lack of scientific knowledge on local dolphin population. They say until an accurate account of the number is made, the removal of any of those mammals can threaten the survival of the species.

The Samoa meeting noted the rate of dolphins capable of leaving the Solomon Islands waters can reach 500 a year. “This is because 5 permits have been issued to individuals to export up to 100 each year and this was prescribed by the fisheries minister,” the workshop noted.

It says this would require a local population of at least 5,000 animals if the long-term survival of the population were to be ensured. Mr Makili said the government must understand these recommendations are aimed at preserving the nature and resources of the country.


The race to develop electronic reader devices that may well supersede the book, the magazine and the newspaper quickened yesterday with the unveiling of Plastic Logic's reader device at the San Diego tech conference DemoFall08.

The product – scheduled to reach stores next year – uses the same electronic ink technology used in Sony's Reader Digital Book (below) and's Kindle (bottom). It also weighs the same (less than 1lb) but has a screen that measures 8½ x11ins - more thantwice the size of either of the other devices - which is made of flexible plastic rather than the glass used in the others.

The device, which has yet to be christened, has roughly the same cover dimensions, thickness and weight of a typical issue of Newsweek, can store hundreds of pages of content and can be updated wirelessly. The prototype displayed a rotating loop of text and images switching from magazine cover to office documents and then a newspaper page formatted to fit on its screen. Its price will be revealed at the International Consumer

Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January 2009.

E-Ink developed the technology used in all three devices. The e-ink technology uses tiny, encapsulated balls, black on one side and white on the other. Electronic charges control whether the black or white side is displayed thus determining whether a black or white pixel appears on the screen. Electronic ink displays reflect light instead of emitting it. This makes them more visible in strong light and reduces power consumption.

Both E-Ink and its competitors Qualcomm have demonstrated colour versions of this technology.

Source: 'Plastic Logic's screen stars at tech conference' by Jonathan Sidener. Photos by John R. McCutchen
[San Diego Union-Tribune. Sept 9, 2008]

'Scientists aim to deliver e-paper in full computerised colour' The Guardian 2 October 2008

Monday, September 08, 2008


[Illustration by Andy Potts]

Two of The Generalist's favourite gurus have made a recent appearance in the mainstream and academic media.

The Economist'
s latest issue contains a Science and Technology supplement which profiles Amory Lovins, one of the world's leading exponents of energy efficiency as a fast-track solution to our current energy situation. 'The Frugal Corncucopian' is an interesting piece which acknowledges how far ahead Lovins has been in his thinking but also gives space to his critics and their perceived weakness of his arguments. Its a good read.

The Generalist first met Amory Lovins in 1996 and 1997 and was inspired by his thinking. [Use the search box to find full accounts of the two interviews I did with him at that time.]

His ideas lie behind my Earthed postings on this blog which provide irregular reports on the new industrial/energy revolution of green, efficient, low carbon technologies. It's happening even if the mainstream press is still blindsided on the subject.

Fascinating read is the 1977 Plowboy Interview with Lovins from the archives of Mother Earth News.

Another man who had a great influence on my thinking was of course Jim Lovelock, most famous for being the author of the Gaia hypothesis. Lovelock is always worth keeping an eye on.

I had the privilege of going to his house in Devon to do an interview back in the early 1980s. I have since written a piece critical of Lovelock, not about his coming out in favour of nuclear energy per se, rather the fact that the British press had failed to realise that Lovelock has been a long-term nuclear supporter from the get-go, rather than as green whose changed his stripes.
Read this Previous Post: James Lovelock: Man of the Moment

In the current issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Lovelock is talking about the fact that planetary engineering as the only way we are going to be able to have a chance of controlling climate change. Read about it in the excellent Daily Galaxy

The Generalist was onto this subject early, writing in PLANET NEWS in Sept 2007 about The Climate Engineers, an excellent and detailed essay by James R. Fleming in the Wilson Quarterly

Monday, September 01, 2008


UPDATE: NOV 19: Press Release today announes that Noko will step into the late John McGeogh's shoes for Magazine's upcoming gigs. 'McGeoch played a Yamaha SG1000 + MXR flanger + a few other bits. Noko is substantially duplicating this equipment set-up, enabling him to create and re-create much of Magazine’s original dynamic with a lick of his fringe and a switch.' Ipso Facto have been invited to open the shows with a short set of their own making and later will join Magazine on background vocals for several numbers.

Magazine, one of Britain’s most influential bands, who have not played live together since 1980, are to reform for just two concerts in 2009 – at The Forum, London on February 13th & The Academy, Manchester on February 14th. Tickets are due to be released on Monday 15th September. The concerts will be recorded for possible release later in 2009.

Original members Howard Devoto, Dave Formula, Barry Adamson and John Doyle are to be joined by an as yet unnamed guest guitarist, who will replace the departed and sadly missed, John McGeoch. [Johnny Marr anyone ?]

Considered one of the most influential British bands of all time, they have been frequently name-checked by the likes of Radiohead, Morrissey and Jarvis Cocker.

Magazine mainman Howard Devoto co-formed the Buzzcocks with Pete Shelley after the pair had seen The Sex Pistols in early 1976 and promoted the now legendary Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall gigs. Devoto left in 1977, after the seminal “Spiral Scratch” EP had been released, and created Magazine. Their first record was the post-Punk anthem “Shot By Both Sides”.

Four ground breaking albums later and the band had parted company, leaving behind an influential body of work which was re-released by Virgin EMI last year to critical acclaim.

See also:
Howard Devoto's MySpace site
Magazine on YouTube

Thanks to General Specialist Nigel Proktor, proud wearer and collector of Mambo shirts, encountered by chance at the Lewes Arms.