PERSPECTIVES… TRAVELLING LOG

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When I’m on foot

My hat cocked at a jaunty angle, my jacket nicely fastened around my fit and healthy torso and my lovely smart backpack with everything in it I’ll need on this excursion I am nothing if not smug.

People in cars pass me. I think: you’re investing in a nice paunch there. I’m going to stay trim and be able to walk distances when I’m an older woman.

 When I’m on my bicycle

Look at my beautiful thighs and buttocks. Working. Pedalling. Powering this magnificent machine.

And think about what my heart is doing. I’m alive! I’m sometimes going faster than you in your car. I’m nimble and responsive. Good for the environment and really quite marvellous all in all.

When I’m on my motorbike

I am without doubt the coolest, smartest road user. A cross between the eco-approved bicycle and those silly smart hatches that are little more than four-wheeled prams with engines (See Small Minds: Mini Mentality).

My leathers are flattering and fitted – trousers that hug my super thighs, a jacket that hugs my lovely waist, boots that just unify the whole look… Aren’t I just the most enviable road user?

I can go fast. I can slide in and out of you stationary cars. I can go ultra slow – my clutch control is second to none. And I can smell the air, hear the sounds of English life and be somehow in the world yet speeding past with the coolness of Shrek’s Prince Charming in his finest moments.

Similarly, I remove my helmet with a duly dramatic shake of my head revealing shiny locks and then remove my gloves to reveal immaculately painted nails.

When I’m on the bus

I don’t travel on buses any more. People coughing. Sneezing. Blowing their noses. Fidgeting. Scratching their hair… Bus drivers fulfilling their Formula 1 dreams with helpless, paying passengers on board. Road bumps? Pah! Sleeping policemen? Let’s wake them up shall we..? They should provide ‘waste bags’ on board like they do when you fly.

When I’m in my car…

You idiot! In your cheap velour shorts and nasty buttocks in my face. Get off the road! No one’s going to remember you for saving the planet riding that monstrosity, love. Orange skin and a bike that defies style definition. Oh, it’s a racer is it? Well, try racing in it woman…  If I ever get out of my car…

If only pedestrians would cross at crossings. Move, Mum pushing a buggy! You’re an offence to society. Warbling on your phone, holding your latte or hazelnut latte or iced latte you coffee drinking imbecile.  All your children will recall of their pushchair years is the smell of burnt coffee (yes they all burn it) and thinking Mummy talked to herself. Susie Orbach, the Dalai Lama, Deepak Chopra and all the nouveau therapy on offer would be unable to help.

Oh there’s a biker. Great. I’ll move over and let him through. He’ll be quick and will know what he’s doing. He’s got his life in his hands. There, he’s gone. Wish I’d have thought of that.

It seems almost impossible to put myself in someone else’s shoes/saddle. Why?

I don’t think it’s anything to do with today’s pace. It’s just being human. We all think we own the road.

Vehicles with engines pay road tax so I suppose drivers feel justified in complaining.  A bicycle rider would argue, well, we don’t destroy the road so we shouldn’t pay tax. Ditto for the pedestrian. I question the political/language definition of motorbike riders. When you tax your motorbike, the tax disc used to state: Bicycle. That’s so offensive.

I won’t end this in a saintly statement saying I’ll try harder to see the point of view of other road users: I know I won’t.

But maybe I ought to get out more as a pedestrian/cyclist/biker… Maybe that’s a way of reminding myself I’m hot always right when I’m in my car.

Sometimes the only way to see the other side is to leap over and be there. It’s futile to think I can recall or bear in mind the perspective/sense of danger of other road users when I’m driving. We’re not built like that as humans.

So, what to do? I suppose the conclusion is to be a good road user however I choose to get around. Trash the self-righteous stance if at all possible and just do what I’m doing well. Tolerance. Probably a good philosophy to adopt in life.

Things I should be thinking: I don’t agree with your mode of transport. Your baby needs attention. I’m glad to see you considering your carbon footprint on that hideous contraption. You’re in my blooming way. You look stupid. Can’t you go any faster? Move, idiot!

Well, give me time…

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REVIEW: Ke Sabroso by José León

Unmistakable Latin over layers of soul, Jazz and Flamenco, the artist has evolved each style and made a sound that was always meant to be.

Ke Sabroso

Crisscrossing traditions, straddling them skilfully, creating sounds that will become etched in your musical memory

It’s not often I’m persuaded to write a review. It’s not often I want to. Hail this album, Ke Sabroso by José León.

You’d probably look for it in the Latin section: sung in Spanish with rhythms and harmonies that are instantly recognisable as Latin, the delight in this is the skill he’s used in bringing in other influences from Flamenco to Jazz to Rock and even beautiful references to Middle Eastern sounds.

…it’s as though a good friend takes you by the hand and leads a tentative you to the carnival. Once in, you’ll want to stay.

Ten tracks launch with the title track, Ke Sabroso. This surely has to be included in any Zumba teacher’s tracks! Light in its feel, joyful and with energy that feels limitless. Vibrating with sounds that lure you into a colourful world of skilled musicianship and authentic sounds, it’s as though a good friend takes you by the hand and leads a tentative you to the carnival. Once in, you’ll want to stay. It leads the album truthfully: what you hear first sets the high standard you can expect throughout the album.

Mueve La Cadera, has an animal quality: the raw expression of a man watching a woman dance. There are grunts and growls and deep and traditionally masculine vocals giving the track a wonderful predatory sense. But nothing in this album is just one thing. This isn’t the creation of a man who only knows how to do one thing.

Take the track Mi Amor. It has the tender and helpless ring of a victim of infatuation. It resonates and listening to it you can’t help but feel involved yet determined to take your fiend aside soon and have a quiet word.

Few will be unmoved: it describes the perfect sound of willing submission by a strong man. The sudden end to the track leaves us with some hope: he might come to his sense. Or not…

It brings to mind the opening scene of a violent, vibrant Cuban film. There’s so much going on behind the simple but universally understood lyrics Quiero entender como puedo ser el único en tu vida (I want to understand how I can be the only one in your life.) – guitar, percussion with that glorious trip in the rhythm – in between the main beat, creating a sense of deeper thought – which so adds to this track.  Few will be unmoved: it describes the perfect sound of willing submission by a strong man. The sudden end to the track leaves us with some hope: he might come to his sense. Or not…

There’s a track on the album which creates so many vivid pictures. Flamenkito conjures the tail end of warm Mediterranean days.; a holiday you won’t forget and know you couldn’t repeat. For me, it’s the beach at sunset, locals just out from work enjoying a slowly emptying beach, football on the sand, bocatas and a bottle of limonada. It’s Spanish to the core yet has a unique sense that you, the visitor, are being invited in. A rare and precious moment. José’s years working as a Flamenco guitarist give him full authority to weave Spanish guitar into the scene: it’s authentic and full of imagery.

The most powerful track in terms of the variety of sounds is Mira Que Bonito. The falsetto vocals at the start deceive the listener. Delicate, slightly fragile but the driving baseline pushes the track along with a potent urgency and gravity. It gives a slightly threatening sound and there’s a sense that it belongs to another track but has fallen into Mira Que Bonito. It hasn’t. The textures José delivers are sure-handed and carried out with the expertise of a pro.

It’s sometimes easy to overlook the glaringly obvious. In this case, vocals. José’ produces emotion of every kind. Tender and without ego (Amor y Candor); predatory and frank (Mira Que Bonito); sensitive and masculine (Quiero Bailar Contigo and Mi Amor). It’s the artistic exploitation of a versatile voice that brings so much to each track.

And then Pasión Flamenca which might be the sort of thing the invading Moors and existing inhabitants might have forged together in a moment of lucid artistry.

There are numbers which are almost heartbreakingly melancholy (Amor y Candor) but winningly uplifting; there’s Samba Sentimento, an instrumental which has the feel of an improvisation between a group of like-mined friends. Leisurely and easy, it has the pleasant feel of a Sergio Mendes composition. But this is not a sentimental journey back in time. José pulls it through the decades because of his sheer knowledge and being able to tap resources from RnB to Flamenco to Jazz and traditional Indian flavours.

And then Pasión Flamenca which might be the sort of thing the invading Moors and existing inhabitants might have forged together in a moment of lucid artistry. It plants such colourful imagery – vivid tiles, fountains, cobbles, pale sand, fine horses and the torture of conflict.

To end the journey is the lilting, tender waltz, Te Quiero Divina. With a distinctively retro feel, the track shows love in a rare and unguarded way. It’s sensitive and frank – there’s no shroud, no pretence and no shame in its utter devotion. A fitting finish to this astoundingly memorable album.

Don’t forego this album. It’s enriching, fresh yet with so much the Latin fan will want to hear.

The track whose lyrics stick in my head? Quiero Bailar Contigo. The track that exerts the most power: Mira Que Bonito and the one that makes me want to catch a plane to Andalucía now? Pasión Flamenca.

But save yourself the price of a ticket and get this album instead. It lasts longer, takes you further and the memories will inhabit your skin for much longer.