Aray Interview on ARC CDs - 4 Oct 04

 

The Arms Reduction Coalition (ARC), in conjunction with Aray; has just produced three CDs (ARC Peace Quotes, ARC: The UN and Africa and Nurturing ARC Instrumentals) with new specifically composed World music (World Dialogue Sounds). These form part of the Nurturing ARC Series. A collection of some music, speeches and other writings concerning the ARC. See ARC Music and ARC CDs Free Music Samples to download and listen to some of the tracks.

World Dialogue Sounds, created in 2004 by an African (Djigui Diabate from the Ivory Coast) and an Afro Caribbean (Karl Miller from Jamaica) , is a fusion of Revival Reggae, Jazz, World Music, Drum and Bass, Easy Listening, Rhythm and Blues (R&B), Soul, Tribal, Ethnic, Instrumental and Speech Rap genres. It is optimised for speech (but presents an excellent medium for singing, rapping and toasting) by removing some distracting and overbearing sounds. Created with modern computer software, it features simple loops of many instruments that require an orchestra or a large band for fine live rendition. The sounds generate soothing, sad, groovy and even party moods. The instrumentals are rich in variety of sound and can be used for discos, background music, sound effects, film moods creation or just chilling.

Below is the text of an interview with Aray conducted on 4 October 2004.

What is ARC?

"The Arms Reduction Coalition (ARC) is campaigning for the states of the UN to agree and implement a legally binding instrument, to reduce the amount of resources spent on arms by between 1 and 5 percent for a period of between 10 and 25 years, and to spend the resources saved on programmes that benefit humanity and the earth. This reasonable proposal is based on Implementing Article 26 of the UN Charter, in which the states of the UN have committed "to promote the establishment and maintenance of international peace and security with the least diversion for armaments of the worlds human and economic resources".

ARC is driven by the ARC resolution, which you can endorse. We are based in London, and have organisational members and supporters for all round the world. You and your organisation are encouraged to endorse our resolution or become a member (It's only £5 see www.arcwebsite.org )."

 

Why did you produce these CDs?

"Well it was addressing the problem of how to reach more people with the ARC message. I bought the Stop the War and Movement for the Abolition of war CDs; and noticed people will buy merchandise and attend discos but not so many will come to meetings. I thought of a book of my writings; but Vijay Mehta (the ARC vice-president) was doing one called 'Arms No More'; I though again. I had always wanted to do a CD of my songs. So I was in the bar one night; asked a top musician; but he said his studio is not ready yet for doing the vocals. Djigui was there I asked him; he said yes, come round on Saturday; and thatís where it started."

What musical background do you have?

"None! I can't play an instrument and am not that good a singer. But I have written about 30 songs over the years and have a life long ambition to record them and release an LP. The spider and the Fly was done back in 1994; but I was not happy with how it turned out"

So was it not difficult producing the music?

"Not with Djigui the magician on his Computer. I just talked and told him the mood and feel for each track and he or we worked till we came up with it. At first we chose from some of the rhythms he had composed, maybe changing some instruments, taking some out, adding some in. Later we just composed them from scratch; like Some ARC voices; I was amazed and please with how that came out. Sure we had difficulty; mostly me talking in layman's language and mixing up the instruments. A typical exchange went like this me: 'Take down the high hats'. Djigui: 'They are already down to zero' Me; 'So what's the one making that sound Ö bup Ö bup' Djigui: 'You mean the snare? '

What's this about World Dialogue Sounds?

"We were trying to choose a music genre, and Djigui did not like any of them and we have a variety of music on the CD. Ok some is light reggae but some is like music I have not heard before. Djigui suggested Dialogues with World music (or something like that) and we played around and settled on World Dialogue sounds. I hope it does start a world peace dialogue similar to the Barcelona dialogues I attended this year. "

So why did you do the instrumentals?

"Well I figured if people don't like my voice at least the can check out some of the music. Also I wanted some instrumentals to do my speeches over, live, doing PA's etc. We re-mixed them adding instruments and doing more dubbing as we went along. As it turned out the instrumentals are great. Sometimes when I am vex I listen to them and just chill."

The CD's remind me of Linton Kwasi Johnson.

"Shh don't say that. Although many people have said that. I have an issue with the Poet. Perhaps because he used to beat me at dominoes. No, Linton is a seasoned musician and dub poet. Dennis Bovell and his dub band are fantastic and have played all around the world. I don't think you can compare me and Djigui to such accomplished masters."

You call Linton the Poet, what would you like to be called?

"Me, the talking scribe."

So do you think people will listen to you talking?

"There is hope. People listen to people talking on the radio without music all the time. Any way we have got 1 song; the spider and the fly. I suppose I am hoping that people will buy the CDs as a statement to say they are for peace and arms reduction; and as a way of supporting us. And somewhere along the line find a phrase they like."

What are your plans for a video?

I only have a video in mind for The Spider and the Fly. I am hoping that people in TV (or those with access to appropriate footage) will spend some of their own time and construct their own videos to some of the tracks. I dream of having a worldwide compendium of ARC videos. Anyway I think they will be able to do it much more justice that I ever will be able to. Its like DJs doing an ARC or Peace session, they will be able to do much better ones than me.

You say 50% of Profits & Royalties goes to ARC, why not all of it? Isn't this just a way for you and Djigui to make money?

"I wish it is. I have put myself into a lot of debt by funding this entire project. Djigui is an unknown struggling young musician, who has spent lots of money buying equipment and put his creativity into these CDs and deserves some reward. All the way along the line I have to be paying people; for blank CDs, artwork, printing, duplication, selling, delivery etc. Yet we are expected to donate all our time and efforts for free. We have to eat too! I think 50% for ARC is very reasonable. Anyway the main motivation and driving force in producing the CDs is to get the message across and provide funding for ARC."

Tell us about the tracks?

"ARC Introduction and Resolution is just my shortest standard introduction to ARC with the full resolution which governs ARC. To me the music is haunting and makes it sound like a deep and powerful warning.

Quotes on the UN and Disarmament should have been re-voiced. I was foolish and tired and Djigui persuaded me it was ok to keep the mistakes; so it seems like it was a live lecture. I was tired so I agreed. It's just a few quotes from world leaders and conferences that I have compiled on arms reduction; mostly within a United Nations context. I hope I do not upset any of those famous people with my rendition.

How you can help to advance ARC is something I wrote one night and put on the ARC web site. It about different ways people can help to advance arms reduction. People such as artists, children, teachers, celebrities, sports people etc. Itís the closest to my real ARC speech. I am still vexed that we have done all these tracks but I have not got to do my real main ARC speech.

Blood Run Done; Cease, Now Peace was born in Jamaica when attending the funeral of my uncle who was brutally murdered in cold blood. Itís a summary of many of the conversations I had with people in Jamaica that I wrote in a letter to the Gleaner newspaper; to clear my head; so I could get some sleep. Despite some errors and broken English in it; I kept to the original letter on the CD. I have developed some other ideas around the slogan; Blood Run Done; Cease, Now Peace; such as applying it internationally and calling for a whole year cease-fire. This track is very personal as I remember sitting with my uncle's daughter after the funeral; and she crying for her father; and asking a question none of us could answer. She is a Doctor, working in a hospital, treating gun men like those who murdered her father, how is she going to continue caring for them? I made a vow that his death would not be in vain, and I see Blood Run Done; Cease, Now Peace as the fulfilment of my promise.

The UN is in Crisis over Africa is a long diatribe I wrote grieving for the African peoples in 2003. At the UNA conference a friend from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), who had just about escaped with his life, pointed out that the section of the policy statement on the DRC was not strong enough. I spoke on that section emphasising the three million dead that I had read about. About a month later I read an article about the deaths in the DRC in the Wall Street Journal, I picked up on an aeroplane. After months of grieving and being angry I wrote my thoughts in September (including some of Sir Joseph Rotblat's article that I had just read). I sent it to someone in New York who I hoped would get it to some of the ambassadors at the UN General Assembly. I also sent it to some peace groups and contacts. Then silence. Not 1 comment. I felt, as if I was the boy pointing out the Emperor has no clothes on; raising a subject no one should talk about. Anyway Djigui agreed it was essential to record and include it despite its length. I think we should have chopped it up into sections. It a shame many people won't listen to the end of it because I quite like the quotes at the end.

Some ARC Voices was the result of the vibes at the time of recording the vocals. I like the way it turned out especially as me and Djigui composed it from scratch in one session. These were some of the ideas going through my head. I kept on thinking about 'Voices in the Wilderness'; itís the name of a peace organisation you know. And all the reasons people had given me for not supporting ARC, such as the fear many have. I wanted to end on a positive, happy note. I hope people can dance to it and find it uplifting.

The Spider and The Fly was recorded in 1994. As I had it lying around doing nothing I though I would include it. Bwoy it was hard to find someone to convert it from DAT tape to CD. I wrote and recorded it when I was playing carnival mas with a band called Coffee boys and Girls who played The Spider and The Fly mas that year. Vamps the engineer kept on complaining its too long, no one would play it; hence why the most appropriate verse to this CD is not included ' The African Chief and the Arms Trader '. I even re-wrote a shorter version, but did not like it. Also it has a great dance to go with it, which we lost some of somewhere along the line. I hope people will construct their own verses to it; It's one of life's important lessons."

Overall how to you feel about the CDs?

"Well we have produced them. It was a big struggle as we had little money and I had to fund them out of my almost empty pockets.  Given more resources they could be much better. Now it's up to the people, we have done what we can to make some of the small voices of peace in the wilderness of the many sounds of modern life more accessible to them. I just hope that the CDs achieve their purpose in providing support and funding for ARC and make people more aware of the culture of peace."

**** End of Interview *****