The Ocean Spell

 

ocean1

 

Mysterious and dangerous
Your unfathomable blue
has captivated my curious heart
When I fall into your deepness
sinking, struggling
I stop to doubt my emotions
and begin to feel the tension

Formless and endless
I have no clue
for why I am breathing hard
When I dive into your darkness
flowing, gliding
I fail to spot all the cautions
and focus only on my passion

Impressive and immersive
Enchanted by the view
my heart is pounding fast
When I look into your wildness
stroking, fondling
I feel the senses of attraction
Is that what you call affection?

Graceful yet powerful
you can be cruel
how long will this voyage last?
When I think upon your vastness
craving, desiring
I can’t escape from this obsession
until I reach the heart of my ocean…

 

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The Wall

 

bwall3

 

Hard and cold
a solid fortification
Proud and bold
a peaceful demolition

The Iron Curtain
that split The East and The West
The country’s burden
a never-ending identity quest

You thought a wall
could suppress a desire for sovereignty
No, not at all
It increased the pressure of liberty

Feared and confused
the people shunted on both sides
freed and amused
the nation shared the same skies

A symbol of oppression
rose up quietly amid the silence
A barrier of desperation
torn down slowly just like a valance

Would you cross the line
if there’s an alternate history?
Or rather endure the time
of those years of misery?

 

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bwall6

This year, on 9th November 2019, will mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. A wall that divided the nation, the city, the families and the loved ones from 1961 to 1989. But eventually, it had to come down as the Soviet Union was dissolved.

For better or worse? The present speaks.

 

 

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Until…

nickcave1

🎶🎵Tell me why…I don’t like Mondays…Tell me why🎵🎶

This song came across my mind as I was contemplating on this amazing artwork at Carriageworks the other day.

On 29 January 1979, 16 year old girl Brenda Ann Spencer opened fire at a school in San Diego killing two adults, injured eight children and a police officer.

brendaspencer

When asked why she did it, her response simply was “I don’t like Mondays.”

Bob Geldof from The Boomtown Rats was doing a radio interview at the time and he read about the incident as the message came out of a telex machine beside him.  He later wrote this song in response to the ruthless act of the psychopath.

idontlikemondays

 

🎶🎵…And he can see no reasons…
‘Cause there are no reasons…
What reason do you need to die, die
🎵🎶

 

Sadly, 40 years later, the message of this song is still relevant today. Mass shootings and every day gun violence are still prevalent in USA.

nickcave2b

“Until” is an installation created by American artist Nick Cave to raise awareness about the problem of gun violence in America.

On top of those mass shootings carried out by some nutcases every now and then, as an African American artist residing in Chicago, Cave particularly concerns about those racism related gun crimes that happen on a day-to-day basis.

” ‘Until’ is about the urgency I feel as an artist…All too often, we are faced with a history that keeps repeating, one in which gun violence pervades our streets in the hands of both civilians and law enforcement…” said Cave.

If each wind spinner in this exhibition represents a life that was lost due to gun violence each year, then you may want to ask…how many more lives do they need to lose before they realise the right to keep and bear arms is not a human right?! But the right to live free from violence is!

nickcave3
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It’s a matter of time

townhall

At the unexpected moment our eyes met
we failed to talk
a second expanded into eternity

I heard a sound in the empty-air
tick-tock tick-tock
our hearts beat accordingly

I watched the movement of your lips
mumbling rambling
words with no rhyme

I coded a message with my hand
tipping tapping
“Now is the time.”

.

.

.

It’s a matter of time
I said
But what’s time?
you asked

Time is like a place
We walk from one point to another
We are walking clocks
Every step is measured
Past, present, future

Time is like a piece of music
being played from the beginning to the end
We are the notes that meet in between
We steal time through tempo rubato
but we have to return it as we go

Time is like a train
rushing into the present from the past
We are the passengers waiting on the platform
Though the train has to stop at some point
it swiftly hastens to the future soon as we board

Time is like water
slipping through our fingers
We are the patrons sitting at the bar
craving the Water of Life straight or as a mixture
like a wandering Jew feeling thirsty in the desert

Time is like a thief
sneaking away in the night
While we let a lucid dream
lingering and recurring in our waking mind
we forget to enjoy every moment of our life

Time is like the ocean
the waves come and go in circular motion
We gaze over the endless horizon
as we stand along the shoreline
wondering if the flow will pass a second time

It’s a matter of time
you said
till we meet again
I added

 

timeisagrowingblock2

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Our gracious neighbour

nz-4inrow-7

After a short peaceful cruise across Lake Manapouri, the boat slowly approached the shore of West Arm, trying its best to minimize the disturbance to the serenity embraced by the surrounding mountains.

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As the boat came to a standstill, the calm water gradually restored its mirror-like surface that looked as smooth as a large piece of silk cloth covering the earth with the pattern of a blue sky.

We then all boarded a coach that took us over The Wilmot Pass, a remote road situated amidst the tranquil beauty of a pristine rainforest, into Doubtful Sound.

Occasionally pointing out the native plants on the side of road, the nature guide on board told us about the history and the geography of the region.

nz-leaves1

I looked out of the window at everything passing by.
Giant trees. Flourishing shrubs. Evergreen ferns.
And flowers. White flowers.
Waterfalls. Creeks. Rivers.
Above us, the native birds were hovering over the roof of our coach bus.

Are they watching us? I wondered.

Like a host watching the guests arrive at her home?

Or more like a helpless owner watching the intruders trespassing on her land?

This mysterious sound of doubt was echoing in my mind as if it’s being trapped in the hidden wilderness of Doubtful Sound.

.

.

.

“Our gracious neighbour” was written after my visit to Te Wahipounamu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site situated in south-west New Zealand. The area is comprised of four national parks including Mount Aspiring National Park, The Westland Tai Poutini National Park, Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park and the Fiordland National Park. Though the site carries World Heritage Status, it is constantly changing and evolving, just like the rest of the natural world.

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“Our gracious neighbour”nz-river2

It’s never the same.
It’s constantly changing.
As groundwater flows out of a river
reaching out to the rocks gently and gracefully,
a curious seed begins to sprout like a newborn heifer
crying out to the world softly and blissfully.

Heritage is just a name
to glorify those of the remaining.
Do species exist like all the matter
exploding out to the world from a singularity?
An ancient tree seems to soar like the Eiffel Tower
poking through the cloud showing its superiority.

Mother nature rose to fame
as she dwells in the land of the living.
While the child of the heavenly father
yearning desperately for his papa’s endless generosity,
a sedulous bee gives thanks to its creator like a fugacious flower
looking up to the sky praying for prosperity.

And then the day came.
And her inhabitants were mourning.
The seabirds began to tremble with fear
as they faced the end of their history.
The crested penguins were afraid to hear their appointed gardener
would endanger the lives of their posterity.

It’s like water to a flame.
The beginning isn’t returning.
As the cloud raining like a keeper
weeping copiously for her fragility,
the mountain sheds tears over the melting glacier
as she bears testimony to the failure of humanity.

You know, in this climate game
really no one is winning.
For everyone will be the loser
traveling in this lifelong journey with uncertainty.
Our vision of the future becomes unclear like a hopeless wanderer
searching for his destiny in calamity.

So who are the ones to blame?
Those of the living or the dying?
If you ask, aren’t we the master
merely reigning over our own property?
Or you may think, why does it matter? We are its rightful owner
exercising our freedom and liberty.

Why are we so lame?
Can’t we see the meadows are suffering?
Though coating with a green groundcover
the mountains never take pride of their beauty.
A young child looks for his favourite colour as the flora and fauna
making up the most beautiful scenery.

She’s never the same.
She’s constantly changing.
She is like our gracious neighbour
showing us her mercy in this gruesome reality.
We, as her grateful admirer living across the border,
we shall take on the responsibility and help her thrive in this community.

nz-4inrow-5

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Preserving language through music

thesongkeepers2

American singer-songwriter, the “Piano Man” Billy Joel once commented on the power of music saying that “music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.”

This is so true. But there’s actually more to this amazing power of music than one would think.

Music not only has the power to evoke feelings, it can also be used to build bridges between relationships and cultures, and even as a means to preserve languages at risk.

thesongkeepers

The Song Keepers is a documentary that tells the story of an Aboriginal women’s choir and their first tour to Germany. 140 years ago, a group of Lutheran missionaries arrived in remote Central Australia. It was then the baroque German hymns were first introduced to the communities of the land’s original inhabitants, and was later on translated into their ancient indigenous languages.

Through music, both of these ancient German hymns as well as the Aboriginal languages and cultures are being passed down through four generations of women whose ancestors were part of the Choir.

Setting aside the controversy of colonization, this documentary not only proves that music can stand the tests of time, it also shows that the power of music can bring two unlikely cultures together towards a positive outcome.

If this story fascinates you, you may want to check out The Song Keepers, which is playing in selected cinemas in Australia right now.

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Same but different (II)

samebutdifferent_ybr

I love listening to cover songs, especially the ones that are so different from the original.

It’s like experiencing something that is so familiar, and yet so fresh and exciting. Sometimes it’s that sense of confusion that drives my curiosity to explore these cover versions.

Some critics may belittle cover songs arguing that playing other people’s music is less creative than making your own. I don’t see it that way. I see it as a different form of artistic interpretation when the song is performed live with a new rendition instead of a mere emulation.

A couple of years ago, I wrote the post “Same but different” about different covers for one of my favourite Bob Dylan songs “Make you feel my love”.

Today, I’m going to say a few words about another one of my favourites – Sir Elton John’s “Goodbye yellow brick road”.

A cynical hippie
The original was released in 1973. Elton was 26 years old at the time. Though the lyrics, written by Bernie Taupin, give a sense of melancholy and wistfulness, with the upbeat tune and Elton’s refreshing voice, one could imagine Elton’s telling a story of a young heart. A flower power hippie, who had had enough of this world, was seeking to be free from the mainstream life.

When he sings “So goodbye yellow brick road / Where the dogs of society howl / You can’t plant me in your penthouse / I’m going back to my plough”, it feels like as if this cynical fellow’s shouting out loud “Screw you all materialistic capitalists! I have a greater goal in life than this!”

 

The typical Billy the piano man
The two iconic “Piano Men” performed a duet of the song live 8 years ago in Madison Square Garden in New York. Though both would be considered as the most world-renowned soft-rock pianists/singer-songwriters in pop music history, their performing styles are very different.

As soon as Billy inserted his voice at beginning of the song by singing “When are you gonna come down? / When are you going to land? / I should have stayed on the farm / I should have listened to my old man”, his unique vocal style immediately emerged, and then gradually built up in the next verse “You know you can’t hold me forever / I didn’t sign up with you…”. On top of that, the rhythmic components featured in Billy’s music is distinctive both in his own songs and cover songs. This live performance of Elton’s classic is no exception.

 

The girl with a broken-heart
I have fallen in love with Sara Bareilles’s cover of this song. Just like Elton, Sara is also a piano-based singer-songwriter. Her piano, down-tempo rendition of this song creates a completely contrasting taste to the original.

Sara’s delivery of the song not only carries a different sense of disappointment towards the high life, but it also stirred up a deep sense of sorrow and loneliness, it is as if she was using her expressive voice to recite an evocative poem to her heartbroken self.

Even Elton once said he was “so blown away” by Sara’s performance of his song. He said, “I’ve never heard anyone sing one of my songs like that…when someone sings your songs they usually copy you and she made it her own…”

If you’re also blown away by Sara’s cover of the song, you may want to check out Sara and Elton’s live duet performance of Sara’s beautiful heartfelt song “Gravity” too. I’m sure you would also “fall another moment into the gravity” of this amazing performance just like I did.

 

A carefree Aussie
Elton has also praised Australian singer-songwriter Sarah Blasko who performed a cover of this song on Triple J’s Like A Version back in 2006. He also said, “whenever you hear something new that inspires from the young it makes you feel like you want to do that”.

Sarah’s beautiful acoustic rendition somehow reminds me of Doris Day’s “Que Sera, Sera”. Tinged with her Australian accent, Sarah managed to bring out the Australian carefree spirit through her breathy, husky voice and her unique vocal styling.

The harmony between the instrumental and vocal effectively builds up a light and airy feeling, which overpowers the heavy-hearted sentiment described in the lyrics. Especially in the sing-along chorus, where she sings “So goodbye yellow brick road/Where the dogs of society howl / You can’t plant me in your penthouse / I’m going back to my plough…”, it is as if she’s projecting her “Que Sera, Sera” attitude through her singing, telling us that she simply couldn’t care less about life anymore, and she’s decided to leave, whatever will be, will be.

 

A nostalgic retiree
43 years older, reaching 70 years of age, Elton performed this song again in 2016. For most people, as one gets older, the voice changes accordingly. In this version, though Elton’s aging voice registered lowered than the original, he’s still able to deliver quite an incredible performance.

Just like the original, this version carries a strong sense of cynicism, but unlike the original, the young arrogant Elton has now turned into a grumpy old man, who has experienced all kinds of ups and downs of life, and he’s tired of living.

With his now deep, low voice, Elton cries out “Back to the howling old owl in the woods / Hunting the horny-back toad / Oh I’ve finally decided my future lies / Beyond the yellow brick road”. For him, the purpose of life is no longer about revolving around money and success anymore, he’s yearning to return home, return to his roots, just to live a simple retired life.

 

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Of course, these are just my interpretations about how I feel when I listened to these beautiful versions of the song.

Just as Scottish philosopher David Hume said, “Beauty in things exists in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty.” (from Of the Standard of Taste)

 

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