Friday, February 16, 2018

Ned Kelly's "Jerilderie letter"

Ned Kelly was the infamous Australian bushranger-the aggrieved and agog thorn in the arse of the colonial authorities of Victoria and New South Wales. Eager to tell his story, with the boiling blood of many grievances, he was intent to live life on his own terms, to tell his tale by whatever means. I wrote the song "Ned Kelly (born in chains)" many moons ago after reading the book "The True History of The Kelly Gang" by Peter Carey.

I came across the below portion of Ned Kelly's "Jerilderie letter" a few days ago. The letter was dictated to his compatriot Joe Byrne, it tells the story of what led Ned to becoming an outlaw. The style of the letter is somewhere between James Joyce's "Ulysses" and some of the Fianníochta tales of old. What makes Ned's letter unique is his tale's proximity to the reality of his situation-it is straight from the horses mouth, not a story embellished and passed down over centuries. You can read the full letter here, below are the extracts.

"I have been wronged and my mother and four or five men lagged innocent and is my brothers and sisters and my mother not to be pitied also who has no alternative only to put up with the brutal and cowardly conduct off a parcel of big ugly fat-necked wombat headed big bellied magpie legged narrow hipped splaw-footed sons of Irish Bailiffs or english landlords which is better known as Officers of Justice or Victorian Police who some call honest gentlemen."

"But he would be a king to a policeman who for a lazy loafing cowardly bilit left the ash corner deserted the shamrock, the emblem of true wit and beauty to serve under a flag and nation that has destroyed massacreed and murdered their fore-fathers by the greatest of torture as rolling them down hill in spiked barrels pulling their toe and finger nails and on the wheel. and every torture imaginable more was transported to Van Diemand's Land to pine their young lives away in starvation and misery among tyrants worse than the promised hell itself all of true blood bone and beauty, that was not murdered on their own soil, or had fled to America or other countries to bloom again another day, were doomed to Port Mcquarie Toweringabbie norfolk island and Emu plains and in those places of tyrany and condemnation many a blooming Irishman rather than subdue to the Saxon yoke Were flogged to death and bravely died in servile chains but true to the shamrock and a credit to Paddys land What would people say if I became a policeman and took an oath to arrest my brothers and sisters & relations and convict them by fair or foul means after the conviction of my mother and the persecutions and insults offered to myself and people Would they say I was a decent gentleman, and yet a police-man is still in worse and guilty of meaner actions than that The Queen must surely be proud of such herioc men as the Police and Irish soldiers as It takes eight or eleven of the biggest mud crushers in Melbourne to take one poor little half starved larrakin to a watch house."

Monday, January 1, 2018

Shehnai Music

On my recent sojourn in Kolkata I came across a style of music called Shehnai. Shehnai groups are brass bands that play wedding music across India, their origins are colonial, from the mid 19th century. When the British formed brass bands to express their military splendour (impressing upon the locals the might of British imperialism) the locals formed their own bands for their own purposes--filling the skeleton of the colonial construct with the meat of their own local music.

Shehnai, as well as being the name of the music, is also the name of the oboe like reed instrument that forms the backbone of the groups. Here are some images of "Sagar," the band I recorded.  They have their HQ in some of the more congested and warrenous dens near College St. Kolkata. Heres a quick listen to how Sagar sound (its a basic audio recording straight from the camera)...

The band's garb pay more than a passing resemblance to Sgt. Peppers era Beatles, though methinks this is due more to the British military origins of the groups than any particular Indian appropriation of the Beatles. Until the advent of d.j.'s Shehnai bands were the go to music for any wedding celebration. Their popularity in recent years has been waning. The leader of Sagar, Mr Iqbal, when asked about if he was worried whether their type of music would continue replied "we have no reason to worry, when the world is over, the music is over."