Music Diplomacy

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Today’s selection demonstrates that, while some of the images might age, the theme, sadly, never seems to go out of date. Notice, by the way, the color of the balloon John Lennon carries in the opening demonstration. As I said earlier this week, the events in Iran separate the idealists from the realists. And what I’ve realized about myself is that I’m something of a hybrid: realist when it comes to relations between states, and idealist when it comes to the relation between citizen and state. I’m not sure whether and how we can influence the outcome in Iran for […]

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Today’s selection comes a week late, since it talks about D-Day, and the debt the French owe to us ‘Marruhcunz (as I learned how to say in the Big D). And no, the song isn’t performed by a Fox News commentator, but by Michel Sardou, a French cultural rarity: the right-wing artist. The opening stanza about says it all: If the ‘Mericans hadn’t been thereYou would all be in GermanyTalking about I don’t know whatSaluting I don’t know who. That’s where he gives the Heil Hitler salute, as if to say, You guys really are a bunch of ungrateful bastidz. […]

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Today’s selection selected itself. It’s been a while since it was so easy to find something topical, actually, and it comes from one of the great bands, one that managed to build on its initial derivative gimmick to end up with an original sound that can only be described as, well, the heavy, heavy monster sound of Madness. I missed the one chance I had to see them play live, at the old Concert on the Pier series, in ’83, it must have been. If memory serves correctly, I’d just gotten grounded after Pops found out about my 14-year-old fondness […]

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Today’s selection was oddly enough almost last week’s selection, but I decided that it didn’t have enough to do with foreign affairs to really warrant using it. Then this week, I saw its most famous lyric referenced three times: by Cheryl Rofer in a post on North Korea, by Tom Ricks in a post on Pakistan, and by Matthew Yglesias in a post on, well, partisan domestic politics. But you get the picture. The fact that I just saw Kris Kristofferson — albeit overdubbed in French — in Sam Pekinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid a few days ago […]

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Today’s selection comes from Pat Martino, the man I consider to be the gold standard of jazz guitarists and — as my guitar teacher’s teacher — my musical Godfather. The song itself came to me as I was running alongside the river, thinking about nothing in particular. But it seems to wordlessly express the feeling I get from President Barack Obama’s first months in office, with the composition’s speed and momentum that comes of leaning into the rhythm broken up by the stops and starts and broken stride of its quirky, halting middle section. The quintessential recording of this comes […]

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Today’s selection comes from a band, Maná, that I first heard while in Ecuador, back in 1996. During the same trip, training manuals from the Army’s School of the Americas — the elite U.S. military academy for Latin American officers — made headlines for seeming to condone torture. Ironically, the manuals had been pulled from use in 1991 by then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney for violating U.S. policy. This song comes off of the album, Sueños Liquidos, that came out just after I got back from that trip, and I remember the impact it had on me at the time. […]

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Today’s selection began with a reference to the Falklands War in this video that Andrew Sullivan posted. That got me looking for a good video of the Madness song, Blue Skinned Beast, which turned out to be pretty fruitless. A few random associations later and that had become any good reference to Thatcher-era England. And for reasons that I can’t fully explain, because there are other candidates that might seem more obvious, that led me straight to Linton Kwesi Johnson. The poem on which the song is built takes the form of a letter home from a young Carribean man […]

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Today’s selection is a movie scene, since this week saw a bunch of foreign policy bloggers come up with their Top Ten lists of films that “tell us something about international relations more broadly,” as Stephen Walt, who kicked things off, put it. Sam Roggeveen came up with his list here, and has the rest of the links as well. If the criteria didn’t include being a good film, I’d have mentioned the Lord of the Rings, essentially the story of building ad hoc alliances in a world where multilateral institutions have fallen into decline. And if you could somehow […]

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I originally thought of this week’s selection — posted a day late — in relation to the elections going on in South Africa. But then Hampton’s post from yesterday made me think of it from a different angle. Ina lot of ways I agree with Hampton that any attempt to punish theuse of torture would risk being both compromised by politics andhampered by the complexities of parsing who should be held responsiblefor what. That’s what I was referring to when I saidthere would be weaknesses to both criminal prosecutions and a truthcommission. In other words, I acknowledge the possibility that […]

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Today’s selection is a stretch as far as foreign policy themes go, since it deals with my hometown of New York, and not some far-off, distant land. But to an expatriot in Paris, New York sometimes feels like a far-off, distant land. And since I’m heading back on Sunday for a ten-day visit, it’s a stretch I’m willing to make. While I’m gone, Matt Eckel and Matt Dupuis from Foreign Policy Watch will be keeping things lively here, starting on Monday. If you’re not already familiar with their stuff, click through and take a look. You’ll see why we thought […]

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I’m not going to make a habit of doing this, but today’s two selections reflect my previous post about the disconnect between the political theater of this weekend’s NATO summit, and the political substance that underlies it. And in trying to make a final choice between the two of them, I realized that neither one fully does justice to the situation, whereas together they describe it perfectly. The first selection reflects the political theater and its theme of conciliation, and it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that the song was loaded into President Barack Obama’s iPod before he left for […]

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Today’s selection gets the nod as much for the fact that I’m pretty damn impressed with myself for having found it as for its beauty. All I had to go on was a vague memory of a lyric about an old Indian canoeing down the river in the jungle, and that it was written and performed by Ruben Blades. Somehow I managed to not only identify the song, but find a brilliantly grainy video of Blades performing it with what seems like the Fania All Stars. The song always got me nostalgiac for the time I spent in the Ecuadoran […]

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Today’s selection kind of sneaks in through the backdoor. It’s got no real association with foreign affairs to speak of, but it does mention two European countries, and it’s sung by the King, Elvis Presley. This performance is from the same 1972 tour that was recorded as a classic live album at Madison Square Garden. And it gives you an idea of the entire record: the funky bass walking all over the power-horn arrangements; the background singers filling in like a mini-choir; the all-over-the-place song selection — Also Sprach Zarathustra (the 2001 Space Odyssey theme) as an intro, Proud Mary, […]

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Today’s selection is from a band that I first remember seeing thirty years ago on an episode of What’s Happening. This is somehow true. As for why I selected it, it has to do partly with the hat the drummer is wearing, partly with the way Skunk Baxter’s swivel chair has a front-to-back rocking mechanism built into it, and partly with the fact that part of my calling in life is to make sure that bands like the Doobie Brothers don’t get dismissed as bizarre epiphenomena of the Seventies. But it has mostly to do with the growing conviction I’ve […]

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I actually owned today’s Music Diplomacy selection in a store-bought, second-hand cassette version, back when I was living in L.A. and all I had was a tape player in the ’81 Oldsmobile Delta 88 that I drove around town. For all of you newbies, cassette tapes were an analog music-deliveryformat about the same size as aniPod, only instead of holding 3,000 songs, they held about 30 (if you were lucky). Primitive, I know, especially for 1998, but Leon Russell slowly unwinding from one spool of a cassette to the other seems somehow more appropriate than ole Leon captured in the […]

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Rob over at Arabic Media Shack poses the question, God Save the Queen or La Marseillase? The Marseillaise, hands down. Indeed, its soaring refrain is high on the list of reasons I’m glad my son has dual citizenship. That urge to run through walls Rob mentions upon hearing it is no coincidence, by the way. As an anthem, it’s true to its revolutionary battle-cry roots, complete with alarms about the enemy come to “cut the throats of your sons” and calls to “water our fields” with their “impure blood.” (Intellectually, of course, I prefer La Marcha Real, Spain’s national anthem, […]

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I’d actually had this one scheduled for next week, because I wanted to hit the globetrotting theme of Hillary Clinton’s first trip abroad as secretary of state. But then Barack Obama announced a troop increase in Afghanistan and, more importantly, Sam Roggeveen went and casually dropped that he’d interviewed Australia’s minister of the environment, Peter Garrett. Right. The rest, as they say, is history — or something that vaguely resembles it on a drastically reduced scale, anyway — and I had to go with this today. (You made me do this, Sam.) I wasn’t as big a Midnight Oil fan […]

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I couldn’t find true video of it, but today’s selection is one of the more beautiful songs off one of Tom Waits’ more beautiful albums. I was bitten by the vagabond bug and began dreaming of the great escape at a relatively young age. So this sort of imagery was already talking to me when I first heard it as a teenager: Planes and trains and boats and busesCharacteristically evoke a common attitude of blueUnless you have a suitcase and a ticket and a passportAnd the cargo that they’re carrying is you. I’ve argued before that citizen diplomacy is the […]

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I bet if I told you that today’s selection is from the Clash, you’d assume it was going to be about sending diplomatic cables from London. That would be understandable, because I’d initially intended to go with London Calling. But then I ran across this other nugget, and I couldn’t pass it up. It’s not an easy track, speaking as it does about the gap between Joe Strummer’s idealist expectations and the harsher realities he encountered on a trip to Jamaica. It reminded me of my own first trip to the “Third World,” in my case Ecuador, when I left […]

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This next one comes off the first Bob Marley record I ever bought — vinyl, for those of you keeping track at home — back in 1982. It’s hard to grasp, really, how much the world has since changed in ways unimaginable to my then fourteen-year-old imagination. Back then, the lingering effects of colonialism were not only so very tangible in the way the world was organized, but still present in South Africa and elsewhere. With so much energy and attention directed towards defeating an ideology based on racism, it was easy to forget that the corrupting influence of power […]

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From the gang at Foreign Policy Watch (congrats on the well-deserved Weblog finalist nomination, guys), I learn that I am old. Ah, well, it could be worse. Warren Zevon’s dead. Apparently, forty’s the new thirty, but I’m just fine with forty being forty. As I observed to a charming twenty-something not long ago who tried to reassure me by protesting that I wasn’t that old, “You say that as if young is a compliment.” All of which is to say, if you want recent music by living artists, you’d do well to send recommendations (and preferably open source links). Even […]

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