Our evolving universe -what an image!


, , , , , ,

hubble evolving universe


For all the effort and funds attached to ‘manned’ space missions, the achievement of the ‘unmanned’ Hubble telescope programme has not only stunned us with images but taken our understanding of the evolving universe (s?) light years ahead!

Astronomers using the ultraviolet vision of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have captured one of the largest panoramic views of the fire and fury of star birth in the distant universe. The field features approximately 15,000 galaxies, about 12,000 of which are forming stars. Hubble’s ultraviolet vision opens a new window on the evolving universe, tracking the birth of stars over the last 11 billion years back to the cosmos’ busiest star-forming period, which happened about 3 billion years after the big bang.

Ultraviolet light has been the missing piece to the cosmic puzzle. Now, combined with infrared and visible-light data from Hubble and other space and ground-based telescopes, astronomers have assembled one of the most comprehensive portraits yet of the universe’s evolutionary history.

The image straddles the gap between the very distant galaxies, which can only be viewed in infrared light, and closer galaxies, which can be seen across a broad spectrum. The light from distant star-forming regions in remote galaxies started out as ultraviolet. However, the expansion of the universe has shifted the light into infrared wavelengths. By comparing images of star formation in the distant and nearby universe, astronomers glean a better understanding of how nearby galaxies grew from small clumps of hot, young stars long ago.

Because Earth’s atmosphere filters most ultraviolet light, Hubble can provide some of the most sensitive space-based ultraviolet observations possible.

The program, called the Hubble Deep UV (HDUV) Legacy Survey, extends and builds on the previous Hubble multi-wavelength data in the CANDELS-Deep (Cosmic Assembly Near-infrared Deep Extragalactic Legacy Survey) fields within the central part of the GOODS (The Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey) fields. This mosaic is 14 times the area of the Hubble Ultra Violet Ultra Deep Field released in 2014.

This image is a portion of the GOODS-North field, which is located in the northern constellation Ursa Major.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency).

Blues harp teachers – some of the best


, , , ,

I just wish I was learning blues harp now,rather than a few decades ago – there are now a number of excellent teachers who are willing to share their hard earned experience with you.

Take the opportunity and try some today.

You will have to try a few, as each has their own approach which suits some better than others. Also you may concentrate on a tune or player and use that to try out some of the online tutors.

Adam Gussow 



First choice has to be Adam as he has led the explosion in blues harp teaching on the net. He has been generous and his tips come from study, analysis and much hard experience on the streets.


He is also a writer and researcher:

gussow devil


Tomlin Leckie



I like Tomlin’s approach – he never blinds you with his playing,and never talks down to you. His approach is straight  forward and clear. He keeps on improving his teaching.

Will wild

Good player,but sometimes he assumes you may know more than you do.

Ronnie Shellist

Another good player,but sometimes you think he is ‘winging’ the lesson,although I am sure he is well prepared.

Ronnie  also coordinates the Global Blues Summit, which is an online event webinar.

There are many others –Jerry Portnoy, JP Allen, Paul Lamb,, Hakan Ehn, Jon Gindick, Jason Ricci, Annie Raines -explore and you will find one or two that suit you best.

Some are just good players and less than good teachers, but each one to her/his own!

Music from Zimbabwe – a taster…


, , , ,

Some people will have heard of Thomas Mapfumo and his “Chimurenga” music, others may have heard of the Mbira players such as Chartwell Dutiro and Stella Chiweshe, thanks to Real World music releases, but the richness of Zimbabwean music still has to be explored. I have  had the joy of playing with Chartwell in Bristol and meeting Oliver Mtukudzi in Harare.

Thomas Tafirenyika Mapfumo is known as “The Lion of Zimbabwe” and “Mukanya” for his immense popularity and for the political influence he wields through his music.

In the 1970s Zimbabwe’s people fought a war of independence against their white Rhodesian rulers. Out of that grew chimurenga which is based on the Shona majority’s chiming, cyclical rhythms, patterns and melodies of the mbira resulting in a hypnotric almost trance-like music. Mapfumo took that traditional music and added electric guitars, horns, and a drum kit. With his electronic interpretations of traditional mbira music he became a huge star in Zimbabwe. Being that some of his lyrics addressed the struggle for independence the white Rhodesian government felt threatened by his popularity, As a result, in 1977, Mapfumo was detained in prison for 90 days because of his song Hokoya (Watch Out).

Thomas in 2008 (New Mexico)

Stella Rambisai Chiweshe

Stella Rambisai Chiweshe is one of the few women playing the male-dominated mbira-based music of the Shona people. Born in the late 1940s, Chiweshe grew up in Zimbabwe’s forest region of Mhondoro, about 45 miles from the capital city, Harare. Chiwese began learning to play the mbira dza vadzimu in 1964. It was very unusual for a girl to play mbira at that time and Chiweshe had to face the disapproval of her community, where woman performers were often treated as “loose women.” Chiweshe perservered to become perhaps the best known player of the instrument outside Zimbabwe.



The mbira dza vadzimu is a sacred instrument used by the Shona people of Zimbabwe to call on the spirit of their ancestors in ceremonies called “bira.” In these traditional cermonies the repetitive, chiming melodies and rhythms of the mbira combine with the hosho (gourd rattles), singing, and sometimes drumming (on the ngoma), to inspire the ancestors to offer advice and guidance through a spirit medium.

In 1974, Chiwese recorded her first single “Kasahwa,” useing a borrowed mbira, The song was a hit and she went on to record 24 singles over the next six years. She joined the National Dance Company in 1981 and began to travel to other countries to perform. These days Chiwese maintains a home in both Zimbabwe and Germany and tours extensively throughout Europe and the Eastern United States. In early 1998 she appeared as one of three women showcased on the Global Divas tour.



(ref:Africa Music Encyclopedia )

Oliver Mtukudzi

Mtukudzi began performing in 1977 when he joined the Wagon Wheels, a band that also featured Thomas Mapfumo. Their single, “Dzandimomotera”, went gold and Tuku’s first album followed, which was also a major success. Mtukudzi is also a contributor to Mahube, Southern Africa’s “supergroup”.

With his husky voice, he has become the most recognized voice to emerge from Zimbabwe and onto the international scene and he has earned a devoted following across Africa and beyond. A member of Zimbabwe’s KoreKore tribe, Nzou Samanyanga as his totem, he sings in the nation’s dominant Shona language along with Ndebele and English. He also incorporates elements of different musical traditions, giving his music a distinctive style, known to fans as “Tuku Music”. Mtukudzi has had a number of tours around the world. He has been on several tours in the UK, US and Canada to perform for large audiences.

Unlike Mapfumo, Mtukudzi has refrained from directly criticizing the government of President Robert Mugabe. However, some of his most emotive hits prodded the aging authoritarian ruler, including “Ndakuvara,” which bemoans the political violence engineered by Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party and “Wasakara (You Are Getting Old),” which most Zimbabweans took as a direct plea for Mugabe to retire.

He is the father of five children and has two grandchildren.Two of his children are also musicians. His son Sam Mtukudzi, a successful musician in his own right, died in a car accident in March 2010.[2][3] Mtukudzi also has four sisters and one brother, who died.

(Ref: Wikipedia)



A list of some of the more well known Zimbabwean musicians

  • Thomas Maphumo and the Blacks Unlimited
  • Stella Chiwese
  • Robson Banda and The New Black Eagles
  • Bhundu Boys (Jit)
  • Black Umfolosi
  • Blackites
  • Chartwell Dutiro
  • John Chibadura
  • Leonard Denbo
  • Beulah Dyoko
  • Four Brothers
  • Legal Lions
  • Dumisani Maraire
  • Dorothy Masuka
  • Lovemore Majaivana
  • Jonah Moyo
  • Oliver Mtukudzi
  • Ephat Mujuru
  • John Pounds
  • Shangara Jive
  • Jona Sithole

afro.mix.org is a great resource for music info and sites from several African countries such as Sierra Leone

Blues beyond Crossroads


, , , ,

gussow devil


Blues beyond Crossroads is the latest book by Adam Gussow, blues harp player, teacher and researcher and explores links between blues music, musicians and ideas of the devil and hell.

Watch his own introduction to the book:


Adam has also brought together, as playlists, much of his researched discography on spotify and you tube .

Beyond the Crossroads: The Devil and the Blues Tradition, by Adam Gussow (University of North Carolina Press, 2017).

Gussow is an associate professor of English and Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi and a longtime member of the blues duo Satan and Adam.





Great Female Blues Harp Players


, , , ,


As in many spheres, women take second place when  human achievement is recorded and made public, and blues harp playing is no different.

We can list John Lee Williamson, DeFord Bailey, Rice Miller,Walter Horton, Junior Wells,Little Walter, Sonny Terry, Sugar Blue,Charlie Musselwhite, Paul  Butterfield  , James Cotton,George Smith , Carey Bell and many others…but can we remember the female players?

So lets champion some of the great women , both past and present while looking to the future.

Lets start with today, with some great playing by Rachelle Plas,from France (Mellow Down Easy -Little Walter):



Now lets also go back in time and enjoy the playing and show-womanship of Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton:

Rock me baby



little red rooster




and a great version of ball and chain –with Buddy Guy’s band



and moving back to the “modern’ age with Rachelle Plas , who is a particular favourite of mine:

A couple of  clips illustrating how slow and sensitive her playing can be as well as one showing her faster rocking capabilities

tribute to Sonny boy


whammer jammer


Although she may be the star of the future there are many other female harp players :

Mariana Borssato – Saint Louis Blues: some clean notes…




Tiffany Harp is a traditional American Blues Harmonicaplayer. She was born in Southern Brazil, Itajai, Santa Catarina.(





Cheryl Arena,

WINNER of The 2009, 2013 & 2015 Blues Audience Newsletter Reader’s Poll for
“Most Outstanding Harmonica Player”


Annie Raines,



Roxy Perry, *



Beth Kohnen,



Lynn Ann Hyde


Big Nancy big band, bring it on home


Kellie Rucker


Sandra Vasquez -another Latin American harp player


Louise Hoffsten

Sweet Louise 1988


Trina Hamlin





Tracy K



Kat Baloun


Norman Davis has created the DEFINITIVE website on female harmonica players.  It’s entitled, not surprisingly, “Hermonicas”

Here’s a few notes from this excellent site:

One of the first women to become popular playing the harmonica was Mary Travers who sang and also played violin, accordion, spoons and jaw harp. She became widely popular in French-speaking Canada as Madame Bolduc in the late 20s and 30s and made her first records in 1929. She was most likely the first woman to record on the harmonica.

One of the first women known to play blues harmonica was Minnie Wallace. She was a singer and the mother of blues singer Lucille Hegamin. She played in the Memphis Jug Band, but the harmonica on her few recordings was played by someone else. Very little is written about her in the blues history books.

In 1950, John Brim recorded “Strange Man” featuring his wife Grace on vocals and harmonica. Grace Brim would become known as the “Queen of the Harmonica” and she made several recordings in the ’50s with and without her husband.

Grace Brim



I’ve recently had my attention directed to several excellent YT videos by women players headlined “Mulheres Gaitistas”–“Women Harmonica Players.”  Here’s a webpage you should check out:  http://www.myspace.com/mulheresgaitistas


Little Jenny – out go the lights


In 1952, singer/guitarist Norman “Guitar Slim” Green recorded two songs with a woman identified only as “Turner” on harmonica. That same year Big Mama Thornton recorded “Hound Dog” for Peacock Records in Texas. She did not play harmonica on the recording. The B-side was “They Call Me Big Mama.” The record climbed to number one on the Billboard R&B charts, where it stayed for seven weeks and sold almost two million copies. Big Mama collected only about $500 for her big hit.

I hope this short review has whetted your appetite to search out more female harmonica players. More to come….

The power of SOLITUDE


Solitude is independence. – Hermann Hesse When you acknowledge the integrity of your solitude, and settle into its mystery, your relationships with others take on a new warmth, adventure and wonder. – John O’Donohue In solitude the mind gains strength and learns to lean upon itself. – Laurence Sterne One can be instructed in society; […]

The Power of Solitude — Steve McCurry’s Blog

David Hockney – more ways of seeing !


, , , , , , , , , , ,

John Berger  led us into the worlds of seeing, particularly in art. David Hockney, through his practical exploration of ways of seeing takes us into new realms and perspectives on art.


Let us start with John Berger, from his own utterances:

“Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak.”

“Soon after we can see, we are aware that we can also be seen. The eye of the other combines with our own eye to make it fully credible that we are part of the visible world.”

“The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled. Each evening we see the sun set. We know that the earth is turning away from it. Yet the knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sight. “

“The invention of the camera changed the way men saw. The visible came to mean something different to them. This was immediately reflected in painting.” 

These and other quotes are from his book “Ways of seeing”.

All photographs are there to remind us of what we forget. In this – as in other ways – they are the opposite of paintings. Paintings record what the painter remembers. (John Berger)Unlike any other visual image, a photograph is not a rendering, an imitation or an interpretation of its subject, but actually a trace of it. No painting or drawing, however naturalist, belongs to its subject in the way that a photograph does.

“What makes photography a strange invention is that its primary raw materials are light and time.”

and from his ground – breaking, Bafta award-winning series:

However, Hockney takes us further back, before the advent of photography, back to when artists used whatever technology was available , such as convex mirrors and prisms to get the ‘correct’ perspective on paper. Hockney’s love/hate relationship with technology, first to enhance his perspectives on seeing and then to jettison the technology so as to return to painting ensures his reverence for painting and reminding us about the limitations of such technology, particularly in photography.

He has used convex lenses, standard photography, polaroids (joiners), fax machines, iphones and ipads all to extend his own ways of seeing so as to represent these new ways in his painting.

Lets consider his polaroid ‘joiners’ :

One of Hockney’s concerns is that photography shows a moment in time whereas painting can show more than one moment in time.

He  challenged his point by putting together a collage of polaroid images (in itself an instant image) and to show the passing of time (see the Bill Brandt’s different hand positions)


 )nbbrandt joiners

Noya and Bill Brandt with self-portrait, Pembroke Studios, London, 8th May 1982


As a deeply thoughtful painter, he uses photography to explore more perspectives, which seemed to culminate in his huge collage ‘ a bigger Grand Canyon ”

bigger grandcanyon

A Bigger Grand Canyon” 1998 oil on 60 canvases, David Hockney


Henry Allen from the Washington Post describes the paintings:

He creates this space with hardness and softness of edge. He combs one color over another. He lightens and darkens, juxtaposing flat and glossy; using every tool in the oil-painting shop manual, it seems. It’s been a while since a famous artist painted a landscape using this much technique. Landscape painters of the 19th century used the manual, too — Thomas Moran, Frederic Church — but they used it to enlighten us with the sublimity of wild nature. Hockney provides no mist-shrouded peaks with eagles. There’s no sublimity here, unless it’s in the space between all these buttes and edges. If the sublimity is in the space itself, of course, that means it lies in the parts of the painting where there isn’t anything at all. How unsettling.

Photography can unsettle, but the beauty of the paintings and how they are put together ensures that we have to keep looking and exploring as if we were there , looking in different directions at once.

Henry Allen describes how Hockney explored through polaroid and again move to his love of painting to ‘improve’ on his earlier artistic and cognitive explorations:

In 1982, Hockney stood in front of this same view with a camera, about an hour after dawn. Over the next 30 minutes, he took 60 color photographs, moving his camera along one shot at a time, trying to match the edges of each picture by memory, six rows of photographs that each captured one-sixtieth of the view.

Over the years, he kept reassembling them in collages, until, last year for a show in Cologne, he blew them up large enough to make an 18-foot picture. It didn’t work.

“The moment I saw it, I realized you didn’t feel it across the room,” he says. Only oil color would have the impact he wanted.

He set out to paint 60 canvases that would blend the photographs together, crank up the color, and retain the collage oddity that made the picture possible: 60-point perspective, one point for each panel.

Which is to say: Instead of looking toward one vanishing point, you’re looking at 60, staring at a picture that goes off in 60 slightly different directions at once.

and finally a description on how this evolved:

Across the hall are drawings that lay out the painting in parts and whole; also, two of the photo-collages. After you see the painting, the collages have all the vibrancy of a sun-faded magazine cover. In their jagged immediacy and busyness, though, they recall the thrill of the first Hockney photo-collages you saw years ago, a thrill that was partly the hope that progress in the arts wasn’t entirely dead, that one thing could still lead to another.

Then you look back across the hall at this tour de force fireworks finale, optical illusion, catechism of 20th-century isms and 24-foot parade float commemorating the history of oil painting and and you realize that the collages did lead to something: a painting that takes us all the way back to the Big Bang beginning.



Perhaps Hockney should have the last word:

Photography can’t lead us to a new way of seeing. It may have other possibilities, but only painting can extend the way of seeing.

Undaunted Humankind Kabul, Afghanistan, March, 2016 — Steve McCurry’s Blog

Difficult to picture ‘hope’ but Steve McCurry manages it beautifully:

“A landscape might be denuded, a human settlement abandoned or lost, but always, just beneath the ground lies history of preposterous grandeur. . They are everywhere, these individuals of undaunted humankind, irrepressibly optimistic and proud. – The Carpet Wars, Christopher Kremmer Life in a war zone means that death is always present in the lives of children and […]

via Undaunted Humankind Kabul, Afghanistan, March, 2016 — Steve McCurry’s Blog

Bringing it all back home – another side of Bob Dylan


, , , , ,

JUDAS!(ref Manchester Free Trade Hall 1966)

It was in 1965 that Dylan lost many traditional fans and gained others as he moved from purely acoustic to a mix of acoustic and electric.

In England it was in 1966 at the Manchester Free Trade Hall.


Photos below capture other sides of Bob Dylan, many not seen before and thanks to the photographers and the Guardian for publishing them in a series of posts (as well as the photographers’ publishers)


dylan chessplaying

Playing chess with Victor Maymudes at Bernard’s Cafe Espresso, a favorite hangout spot in Woodstock, 1964.

Photograph: Daniel Kramer/Courtesy of Taschen


dylan at home

‘He suggested I photograph him on the swing. His mood changed when he stood up and he pumped the swing higher and higher.’

Photograph: Daniel Kramer/Courtesy of Taschen



dylan pool

At a pool hall in Kingston, New York, December 1964.

Photograph: Daniel Kramer/Courtesy of Taschen

dylan piano

‘It was obvious from the very beginning of the recording sessions that something exciting was happening.’

Photograph: Daniel Kramer/Courtesy of Taschen


dylan bringing

An outtake from the Bringing It All Back Home album cover shoot with Sally Grossman, Woodstock, January 1965.

Photograph: Daniel Kramer/Courtesy of Taschen

dylan truck

One of several unpublished photos of Bob Dylan on 5th Avenue with Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul and Mary, and the guitarist John Hammond Jr.

Photograph: Daniel Kramer/Courtesy of Taschen



judas dylan

Soundcheck before the show, Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, Queens, New York, 28 August 1965.

Photograph: Daniel Kramer/Courtesy of Taschen


Bob Dylan With Top Hat Pointing In Car Philadelphia PA 1964

Having decided to photograph Dylan for his personal portfolio, it took Daniel Kramer six months to get permission from Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman. Kramer told the Guardian that it was a labour of love as “in the beginning you couldn’t sell a Dylan picture … it was matter of a process to introduce editors to the idea.” Kramer accompanied Dylan on a roadtrip from New York to Philadelphia for a concert at Town Hall
Photograph: Daniel KramerBob-Dylan-Recording-00519645 recording

Bob-Dylan--002barry feinstein 25th birth

Bob-Dylan--001feinstein hardy


A backstage portrait of Dylan wearing white makeup.

Regan recalled Dylan saying: ‘I want the people way, in the back,to be able to see my eyes’


regan fur coat dylan

Visiting the Mayflower II and Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts.

It was here that Regan took a picture of the singer in a fur-collared coat, which would appear on the cover of the album Desire (Regan’s favourite Dylan album)

1975 dylan ali

The Night of the Hurricane benefit at Madison Square Garden, December 1975, where Muhammad Ali visited Dylan backstage and gave him a gift – a huge boxing glove.

The show was to benefit the campaign for justice for Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter, the boxer wrongly convicted of murder in 1967



regan 1975


International Jazz Day 2016


Its that time again, April 30, when jazz lovers and aficionados remind others about the joy and creativity of jazz.

Although recorded jazz may be good to listen to , the ideal environment is LIVE jazz!


In November 2011, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) officially designated April 30 as International Jazz Day in order to highlight jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people in all corners of the globe. International Jazz Day is chaired and led by Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director General, and legendary jazz pianist and composerHerbie Hancock, who serves as a UNESCO Ambassador for Intercultural Dialogue and Chairman of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. The Institute is the lead nonprofit organization charged with planning, promoting and producing this annual celebration.


International Jazz Day brings together communities, schools, artists, historians, academics, and jazz enthusiasts all over the world to celebrate and learn about jazz and its roots, future and impact; raise awareness of the need for intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding; and reinforce international cooperation and communication. Each year on April 30, this international art form is recognized for promoting peace, dialogue among cultures, diversity, and respect for human rights and human dignity; eradicating discrimination; promoting freedom of expression; fostering gender equality; and reinforcing the role of youth in enacting social change.


International Jazz Day is the culmination of Jazz Appreciation Month, which draws public attention to jazz and its extraordinary heritage throughout April. In December 2012, the United Nations General Assembly formally welcomed the decision by the UNESCO General Conference to proclaim April 30 as International Jazz Day. The United Nations and UNESCO now both recognize International Jazz Day on their official calendars.






Perhaps now we can celebrate more music days -such as Blues Music Day

On August 17, 2011 an online petition was launched advocating for the establishment of an International Blues Music Day.


Within a few months the petition-group was joined by thousands of members from around the world, comprising of blues enthusiasts, musicians, celebrities, and promoters.  After reaching 15,000 members, a  formula for an annual date to celebrate IBMD was established as the first Saturday in August of each year with the inaugural celebration on August 3, 2013.  The initiative was the brainchild of world renowned blues musician Johnny Childs who also stars in the film The Junkman’s Son and serves as the President of the NYC Blues Society.