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Khepa Baul
10 July 2008 @ 04:18 pm
originally uploaded by Meditant.
Some colorful pictures of Bauls in Flickr
Khepa Baul
06 July 2008 @ 05:52 pm

“You want freedom and they give you chicken korma”
Mohammed Hanif, currently the head of the BBC's Urdu service, shares his insight as a graduate of the Pakistan Air Force by creating a satirical account and explanation of the assassination of President Zia ul-Huq. On Aug, 17 1988 President ul-Huq was killed in a mysterious plane crash along with several of his top generals and the then United States Ambassador to Pakistan Arnold Lewis Raphel. Since then no official explanation came out regarding this incident. Therefore several conspiracy theories are running amok. Borrowing from all those theories and adding his own twist Hanif creates a witty account of the assassination. And according to his version it is a crate of mangoes on the board of the PakOne that was responsible.

The story starts with the moment before the crash and then flashback from the point of view of Ali Shigri, Pakistan Air Force pilot and Silent Drill Commander of Fury Squadron, son of Colonel Shigri, “one of the ten men standing between the Free World and the Red Army”:
“The runaway is in the middle of the Bahawalpur desert, six hundred miles away from the Arabian Sea. There is nothing between the sun's white fury and the endless expanse of shimmering sand except a dozen men in khaki uniforms walking towards the plane.”

The story then quickly moves into the day Ali Shigri's roommate “Baby O" Obaid's mysterious disappearance and the subsequent detention of Ali Shigi, the involvement of the intelligent service, and Code Red security alert for President Zia ul-Huq. In between we meet interesting characters such as the laundryman Uncle Starchy, blind Zainab, secretary general of the all Pakistan sweepers union and my favorite the First Lady:
The First Lady stayed away from newspapers. There were too many words she couldn't make sense of and too many pictures of her husband. She herself rarely appeared in the papers, and if she did, she was usually attending a children's festival or the Quran recitation competitions for women that General Zia dispatched her to so she could represent the government and hand out prizes. The information minister sent her the clippings of these pictures and she usually hid them from General Zia because he always found fault with her appearance. If she wore makeup, he accused her of aping high-society Westernized women. If she were no makeup, he said she looked like death, very unlike a First Lady. He constantly lectured her that as the First Lady of an Islamic state, she should be role model for other women. “Look at what Mrs. Ceausescu has done for her country.”

The bulk of the story is the account of Ali Shigri in first person and his flashback leading up to his arrest where he was accused of plotting to kill the president:
The soldier doesn't blindfold me. He walks me into a room that is trying very hard to look like a torture chamber. A barber's chair with rubber straps on its armrests is connected to amateurish-looking electrical devices. An assortment of canes, leather whips, and scythes are arranged on the table, along with a grass jar of chili powder. Nylon ropes hang from a hook on a wall and a pair of old tyres is connected to the ceiling with metal chains, probably to hand the prisoners upside down. The only new item is a while Phillips iron, unplugged. A torture chamber that doubles as a laundry room? I wonder.

Whether Hanif talks about the busy streets, the secret dungeon created by the Mughals or the spiritual crisis of President Zia while reading the story of Jonah, he brings a witty sense of humor and depth to the story telling. In a recent interview he was asked, if he had received any threats from Zia’s family, the Army or the Intelligence Services. “No,” said Hanif. “I don’t think they are into reading books.”
Khepa Baul
30 June 2008 @ 04:28 pm
More playlists here:

Ray Bonneville Cool Cool Rain Goin' By Feel
Victor Wooten Left, Right & Center Palmystery
Dengue Fever Clipped Wings Venus on Earth
Janiva Magness Bitter Pill What Love Will Do
Carly Simon Hold Out Your Heart This Kind of Love
Doug Miller Ice Cave Regenration
Endless Boogie Bad River Focus Level
My Morning Jacket I'm Amazed
Cheik Lo I Still Haven't Found In the Name of love www.africacelebratesu2.com
Holly Long Homeward Bound Leaving Kansas
Vijay Iyer Threnody Tragicomic
Bob Brozman Rolling Through the World Post-industrial Blues Ruf
Afrissippi Sonna Alliance
Jamie Baum Pine Creek Septet Solace
Uaragniaun Nu Mueire De Saule U Diavule E Lacqua Sante Felmay

Elana James Run away with me Snarf
Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog Todo El Mundo Party Intellectuals Pi
Billy Gragg I Almost Killed You Mr Love and Justice Anit-
Sammy Price Harlem Parlor Blues Classic Piano Blues Smithsonian
Kaiser Cartel Blue Sky March Forth blu hammock www.bluhammock.com
Annie Keating Drive Belmont
John Sebastian and David Grisman Coffee Blues Satisfied
Gary Nunez & Plena Libre Plena al Salsero Live in Monterry
Po' Girl Texas Folk Alliance Showcase 2008 Folk Alliance
Hayden The Van Song In Field and Town hardwood
Sonantes Defenestrando Six Degrees
Florent Vallant Nitshiuenana Quebec Putumay www.putumayo,com
Khepa Baul
13 June 2008 @ 10:00 pm

Several historical characters show up in the new novel of Rushdie.Akbar and Birbal are two:
“If you were an atheist, Birbal,” the Emperor challenged his first minister, “what would you say to the true believers of all the great religions of the world?” Birbal was a devout Brahmin from Trivikrampur, but he answered unhesitatingly, “I would say to them that in my opinion they were all atheists as well; I merely believe in one god less than each of them.” “How so?” the Emperor asked. “All true believers have good reasons for disbelieving in every god except their own,” said Birbal. “And so it is they who, between them, give me all the reasons for believing in none.”
Khepa Baul
Mark Poster in a recent article (Quarterly Review of Film and Video, 24:4, 379 — 393) asks the question "is the epoch of postcolonial studies over"? His conclusion is that postcolonial mode of theory is in the decline and moreover with globalization and dissemination of Internet we can encounter a “planetary culture” that “might yield an instantiation of globalization that was neither foreseen nor desired by its neo-liberal proponents" (p. 391). He bases this conclusion on some valid critique of postcolonial theories. He particularly draws on Bhaba's idea of “Third Space” and “hybridity” and argues that the hybridity created by the new media and “electronic spaces” are very different than that envisioned by postcolonial theorists like Bhaba and others. Instead of looking at the colonizer/colonized schema, he wants to focus on the media landscape using Foucault's notion of power. However, from a scholar like Poster it is surprisingly a flimsy argument that does not bode well with the realities of the new media associated with the other structural changes that is happening in the neo-liberal economic systems.

As mentioned above, Poster starts with Bhaba's notion of hybridity and argues that this hybridization is taking a new form with the advent of networked computers:
“After the intense globalization of the past thirty years, the situation is altered and more complex still. For one thing, the peoples of the non-Western world are now, in large numbers, in the Western World, an outcome that has led to theories of multiculturalism and diaspora. To some extent, this is not new: Jews and Muslims inhabited Europe before Western globalization. The Chinese immigrated throughout Asia. Africans have been (unwillingly) placed in the West since the early days of globalization. Postcolonial theories of colonizer and colonized do not lend themselves to illuminate this sort of mixing. Second, the tremendous impact of the economic aspect of globalization has brought Western commodities to the rest of the world and has incorporated non-Western labor into the design and manufacture of Western goods and even increasingly for services, for markets all over the world. Postcolonial nations are now suffused with Western commodities, including the labor skills learned in Western universities and exported back home. Third, cultural objects now extend back and forth between the West and the rest through global communications systems.”
Although he mentions about labor and commodities but the direction of the article solely focuses on “global communications systems”. He brings in Appadurai's idea of “mediascape” in order to balance it with some postcolonial critique. To bring in media issue here is relevant, as he argues, but does that fill the gap of postcolonial theorizing?
“As the migrants circulate through the space of nations, affected by mass media and armed with their own media, the condition of postcoloniality is altered. For postcoloniality depended upon a stable geography of nations, each one harboring its people or better peoples with the asymmetry of the West and the rest defining a cartography of interaction and strife.”
Postcoloniality is altered, there's no doubt about that. But is it just through diffusion of media and information? There is a certain aspect of “informationilzing” the issues in Poster's argument that needs to be carefully looked at.

He does find Appardurai's notion of media limiting, but how does he fix it? Poster is too much focused on the difference of the media rather than the structural differences that are attached to media such as copyright, ownership etc:
“Appadurai’s thesis of globalization as migration and media, productive as it is, does not adequately explore the difference of media or appear to reflect an understanding of the specificity of media. The subtlety of his analysis does not extend to an appreciation of the particular material and cultural forms of media. In the passage quoted above, for instance, he attributes the “rupture” introduced by media in the constitution of the contemporary imaginary to “electronic media.” This is far too general a term. He seems to be referring to networked computing. But “electronic” refers as well to radio, television and film, not to mention satellite communications systems and mobile phones. In other passages he refers to mass media in a way that does not exclude the Internet but probably should since networked computing is a many-to-many communications system not a few-to-many apparatus like television or film. The murkiness of Appadurai’s understanding of media inhibits the analytic power of his argument, as I will attempt to indicate below. It does not account for the difference between media controlled by transnational capital and media that afford individuals positions of speech, between media that enforce and reproduce the opposition of producer and consumer to media that challenge that separation.”
Poster then brings in Foucauldian notion to understand the complexity of mediascape which I think is very useful:
“In particular, Foucault’s notion of productive power is especially germane in the understanding of media. For Foucault, power produces relations and subject positions within those relations. Power for him is an apparatus (dispositif ) or mechanism, combining architectural spaces, practices, rules, and discourses. The confessional, the prison, the workshop and the school are prime examples of the operations of productive power. In each case individuals are positioned in such manner that they construct themselves in relations with others and with themselves. These relations are always asymmetrical, including some degree of domination. Individuals in these subject positions, however, are to a large extent unconscious of all the mechanisms that structure the situation in which they find themselves......This concept of power is particularly useful in understanding media effects and in fact, some of Foucault’s depictions of power sound as if he were speaking about computer networks.”
Then he falls in to the trope of “network” and “global” ideas of information which is not very helpful in understanding the complexity he is trying to unveil. To his credit he does point out the complexity of the "network" but does not follow through:
“How then does the globally networked communication system of digitized computing imbrication users unconsciously into new configurations of rectification? This apparently innocent question is complicated by three areas of concern: first is the question of the multiple nature of the Internet; second, and related to the first, is the relation of preexisting social and cultural forms to digital culture; third is the relation of non-Western cultures with the Internet mode of information that was originally developed in the West.”
I was following his argument till now and pretty much agreed with it, but with the following arrangement he lost me:
“The digital self that participates in Internet public spheres is different from the individual speaking in the angora or the coffee house, as well as from the representative of individuals speaking in democratic institutions like parliaments. Digital information machines construct subjects who are present only through their textual, aural, and visual uploads. The requirement of networked computing constructs subjects as producers of cultural objects, just like the speeches uttered in coffee houses or the essays published in newspapers, journals and books. Networked computing also enables subjects to distribute their own work to countless numbers of recipients, such as in globs, Listerine,multiple email distributions, web pages and file transfer protocol programs. In this respect, the digital self is more like a broadcaster than like an individual speaker at a meeting. Like some other media, a degree of anonymity is enabled by networked computing so that the assurances one has about identity in face-to-face situations or in publications that have strong gatekeeper functions such as newspapers and in print in general do not obtain.”
He goes on:
“We cannot yet be confident in giving shape to this emergent identity but we must acknowledge its novelty. “
OK, I agree with the notion of novelty but so what? Then, he says:
“Since the digital self also absorbs the accordances and constraints of the Internet, we can say that the positions of speech that are made possible in this medium are greatly expanded from what we have known before. To obtain such a speaking position in the digital world is vastly easier and more affordable than any comparable participation in the past. To speak in the angora one had to be a member of the elite of free citizens of Athens; to speak in the coffee house of early modern London, one had to be an adult, Christian (probably Protestant) male at least of the bourgeoisie; to speak in a salon in eighteenth century Paris, one had to be an invited aristocrat or bourgeois. To speak on the Internet, there are no age limits, no gender limits, and no religious, ethnic or national limits. Indeed there is no way to discern these traits in most Internet discussion forums, from Usenet to chat rooms, from Listerine to blogs"
Yes, there is not limit in the Internet like ancient Athens but that does not imply equal participation. I find the notion of “global space” and digital self” very limiting in a sense that it “absorbs the accordances and constraints of the Internet” as he implies but does not elaborate on it. And he is probably also sick of this “global” term so he leaps to the planetary dimension:
“In this regard, digital subjects are solicited not to stabilize, to centralize, to unify the territorial identity they were given by birth or social position, but to invent and to construct themselves in relations with others. In the digital medium, subject formation becomes a task inherent in cultural exchange. And it does so at a planetary level.”
Here I think he is under the “global long-sightedness” (Olson 2005)virus which is not helpful to look at what is going on locally. The communication, interaction and hybridization that are happening is useful and we need a global lens, no doubt, however, but in the expense of ignoring the locality and the particularly that the postcolonial mode that provide. It is not yet settled that postcolonial theory is in the decline or not, there are new dimensions that needs to be looked and media is definitely one of them. However, the over hyped notion of "network" and the idea "planetary communication" only create jargons that undervalue the specificity of the smaller issues.

Olesen, Thomas. 2006. “Transnational Protest and global Activism/Coalitions across Borders:
Transnational Protest and the Neoliberal Order. International Sociology. 21: 417422.
Poster, Mark. 2007. "Postcolonial Theory in the Age of Planetary Communications". Quarterly Review of Film and Video 24:4, 379 — 393
Current Music: Ahmad Jamal
Khepa Baul
21 May 2008 @ 10:58 pm
Some new stuff that I have been playing on my radio show.

1. Pink Martini: Very eclectic new release -- Hey Eugene!
2. Haale Gafori: Iranian-American rock singer.
3. Etnar Finatawa: Nomdas with electric guitars.
4. The Details.
5. New Release by Brad Mehldau Trio.
6. Argentine Diva Liliana Barrios, tribute to Anibal Troilo.
7. Lionel Loueke: Karibu
Tags: ,
Khepa Baul
21 May 2008 @ 10:39 pm
Comparing Ghazzali and Descartes: Convergence or Divergence?

Carl Olson (2003) in his introduction to Zen and the art of postmodernism calls comparative philosophy “a promiscuous activity” (19) as the scholars involving comparing ideas need to try out different things, go around the block few times:
“The comparative thinker must remain intellectually promiscuous because of the possibility of the fusion of divergent horizons. This promiscuity takes place on the margins of philosophy, which is indicative of the uncertainty, riskiness, and dangers associated with comparative philosophy and one's willingness to venture one's self-understanding in the presence of the other.”
Olson's idea of margin here implies that one is willing to cross the border which is not possible from the center.

However risky and uncertain this task maybe Tamara Albertini takes a stab on this under the umbrella of certainty. In the article “Crisis and Certainty of Knowledge in Al-Ghazālī (1058-1111) and Descartes (1596-1650)” Albertini draws an “epistemological platform” in order to compare and contrast these two influential thinkers. The idea here is not to equate these two thinkers although there are some similarities but to strengthen the platform where we could establish a nuanced understanding of both of them and furthermore proceed with dialogs that can enlighten our views about different traditions.

Al- Ghazālī, one of most influential Islamic thinkers, helped create a new path for Islamic philosophy by carving a way out of the influence of Aristotelian-Neoplatonic concepts. And Descartes is a towering figure in Western metaphysics after Aristotle who both of these thinkers read and commented on. However, as several scholars suggested the common thread here is doubt and skepticism. Following that line Albertini explores how “they thought that doubt could be defeated” (2) by focusing on their argumentations and methods.

After several years of teaching in a prestigious institution in Baghdad, al-Ghazālī underwent a profound spiritual crisis:
“So I became certain that I was on the brink of a crumbling bank and already on the verge of falling into the Fire, unless, I set about mending my ways. I therefore, reflected unceasingly on this for some time, while I still had freedom of choice (quoted in Albertini 2005:1).”
The bulk of the article deals with al-Ghazālī works specifically how he criticizes different school of thoughts: the scholastic theologians, the Batinites, the philosophers, and Sufis. His goal is to define and find “true” knowledge, therefore he criticizes the various ways to get to that knowledge:
“[a] true knower does not stop short of grasping the originating principle of that object or of the epistemic process that he (or she) wishes to understand. On the other hand, a true knower also does not restrict reality to that principle only but follows it through all of its manifestations down to its lowest expression, such as reflection or a shadow in Plato, or in marks traced on a sheet in al-Ghazālī: (Albertini 2005:4).
In order to attain this knowledge Al-Ghazālī defines what is “true”: “So I began by saying to myself: “What I seek is knowledge of the true meaning of things. Of necessity, therefore, I must inquire into just what the true meaning of knowledge is.” Then it became clear to me that that sure and certain knowledge [al-ilm al-yaqini] is that in which the thing known is made manifest that no doubt clings to it, nor is it companied by the possibility of error and deception, nor can the mind even suppose such a possibility.” (Al-Ghazālī, quoted in Albertini 2005: 5).</blockquote>

In order to achieve this certainty Al-Ghazālī proposes the idea of cleansing ones' mind of opinions and beliefs that have been absorbed from youth and onwards. As Albertini points out, he does not question the belief but questions the method. Hence when he criticizes the philosophical method, he is not demanding the end of philosophy as some scholars blamed him for that. His goal is to question the “untested epistemic content”.

In a similar fashion we find Descartes questioning:
“for all the opinions to which I had hitherto given credence, I could not do better than to undertake, once and for all, to get rid of them, in order to replace them afterwards either by other, better ones, or even by the same ones, when I would have adjusted them to the level or reason”
(Discourse on Method, quoted in Albertini: 6). He then goes on delineating four rules. The first one is:
“The first rule was never to accept anything as true that I did not evidently know to be such: that is to say, carefully avoid all precipitation and prejudice, and to include in my judgments nothing more than that which would present itself to my mind so clearly and distinctly that I were to have no occasion to put in doubt. (Discourse on Method).

There are some significant methodological differences between them that comes into play how they understand such uncertainty. However, the common epistemological framework here is linking self-knowledge to knowledge of God:
“Like Al-Ghazālī, one finds Descartes linking self-knowledge to the knowledge of God. In the Meditations one learns, thus that by scrutinizing one's thinking one discovers ideas of such clarity and directness that they can only be innate. ..The Cartesian idea of God rests on two intrinsically related notions: infinity and perfection. Both notions are thought to be underived concepts that can be acquired neither through experience nor through a logical operation. Descartes' reasoning is that we do not acquire the notion of infinity by negating what is finite, and we do not grasp perfection by thinking of the opposite of imperfection.”

In Al-Ghazālī writings we understand the importance of reason but also the importance of intuition, these combined can show us the true knowledge.

Albertini, Tamara, 2005 "Crisis and Certainty of Knowledge in al-Ghazālī (1058-1111) and Descartes (1596-1650)" Philosophy East and West 55,1:1-14.
Olson, Carl, 20003. Zen and the Art of Postmodern Philosophy. New York: State University of New York Press.
Khepa Baul
08 May 2008 @ 03:15 pm
1. http://www.foundationburma.org or by check or money order to Foundation for the People of Burma, 225 Bush Street Suite 590, San Francisco, CA 94104. For questions please call (415) 217-7015.

2. Mennonite Central Committee http://mcc.org/myanmarrelief/

3. http://www.burma-network.org/

4. unicef http://www.unicef.org/
Khepa Baul
05 May 2008 @ 09:59 pm

A fascinating collaboration between members of Miles Davis band and Indian musicians.


Miles Alumni

Gary Bartz, Ron Carter, Jimmy Cobb, Chick Corea, Pete Cosey, Michael Henderson,
Adam Holzman, Robert Irving III, Dave Liebman,John McLaughlin, Marcus Miller,
Ndugu Chancler, Benny Rietveld,Wallace Roney, Badal Roy,
Mike Stern, Lenny White and Vince Wilburn Jr.

Indian Musicians

Gino Banks, Louiz Banks, Ravi Chari, Rakesh Chaurasia,
Selva Ghanesh, Sikki Gurucharan, Dilshad Khan, Shankar Mahadevan,
Rudresh Mahanthappa, Brij Narain, Sridhar Parthasarathy, Taufiq Qureshi,
Kala Ramnath, U. Shrinivas, A. Sivamani and Vikku Vinayakram.
Khepa Baul
27 April 2008 @ 11:56 pm
Taha Muhammad Ali is one of the leading poets from Palestine. Born in 1931 in Galilee village of Saffuriya, he fled to Lebanon, after his village was destroyed during the Arab-Israeli war of 1948. A year later he slipped back across the border with his family and settled in Nazareth, where he has lived ever since. This poem is from a recent collection So What: New & Selected Poems, 1971-2005, Translated by Peter Cole, Yahya Hijazi, and Gabriel Levin. Published by Copper Canyon Press.

By Taha Muhammad Ali.

When I was a child
I fell into the abyss
but didn’t die;
I drowned in the pond
when I was young,
but did not die;
and now, God help us—
one of my habits is running
into battalions of land mines
along the border,
as my songs
and the days of my youth
are dispersed:
here a flower,
there a scream;
and yet,
I do not die!

They butchered me
on the doorstep
like a lamb for the feast—
in the veins of petroleum;
In God’s name
they slit my throat
from ear to ear
a thousand times,
and each time
my dripping blood would swing
back and forth
like the feet of a man
hanged from a gallows,
and come to rest,
a large, crimson mallow
a beacon
to guide ships
and mark
the site of palaces
and embassies.


And tomorrow,
God help us—
the phone won’t ring
in a brothel or castle,
and not in a single Gulf Emirate,
except to offer a new prescription
for my extermination.
But …
just as the mallow tells us,
and as the borders know,
I won’t die! I will not die!!
I’ll linger on—a piece of shrapnel
the size of a penknife
lodged in the neck;
I’ll remain—
a blood stain
the size of a cloud
on the shirt of this world!