Feverish fretting in the key of D

CD coverI’m supposed to be feverishly fretting about the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival, but I’ve found myself a little distracted by fretting of a different kind. Guitar frets, to be precise.

James Wilkinson is a guitarist and composer who has been on the Canterbury scene for a while now. We’ve just posted Nicole Reddington’s short interview with him on the library website. We add new musician profiles each year when music month rolls around.

You might remember him from Rua, or Hampster, or The Two Jimmies. I remember him playing solo at the Harbourlight with his fingers flying and the frets melting as he riffed off in one direction, then another, then another.

And thanks to the Naxos Music Library, I can listen to those wonderful guitar sounds whenever I feel the need. Two of his albums are included:

If you want to listen, you’ll need your library card and PIN, but be warned – next time he’s playing live, you’ll probably want to go and see him.

India Iraq Israel Terrorism War Religion

I am a little afraid.  Usually when attending festivals or writing blog posts, the things I cover have tags like: zombies, young adult, cake, fluffy bunnies, Iron Man.  Next week, however, despite all my careful planning and plotting, I have ended up as the only representative on the Festival team going to any event related to important, contentious, and actually serious international issues, with tags like the ones listed above.

Actually, that’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but it does serve to illustrate my fear at being asked to write lucidly about some (or any) of the issues to be discussed in sessions by Antony Loewenstein, Adrian Wooldridge and Michael Otterman.  I am truly fascinated by all of the subject matter that these guys specialise in, but I did think I could hang around on the fringes and watch in awe, rather than being relied on to produce something intelligent and thought-provoking.

Adrian Wooldridge writes for the Economist, and has co-authored five books on globalisation and business, with his most recent being the (so far fascinating – I’m up to chapter 4) God Is Back: how the global rise of faith is changing the world.

Antony Loewenstein discusses Israeli-Palestinian problems, with My Israel Question (I’m almost ready to begin this one; it’s on my desk, I promise!).

And Michael Otterman also looks to be a fascinating speaker, although alas the library doesn’t seem to have a copy of his new release Erasing Iraq, and I have yet to source any kind of extract from the book on the web.

I have, however, been able to watch all of these guys in snippets of interviews on the web, and am so impressed by both their ability to take a wide and reasoned view of undeniably complex and convoluted issues, and their obvious passion for their chosen area of interest/expertise.   And I am truly looking forward to hearing them in person, at which point I will try my hardest to convey some sense of their message to you all!

In the meantime, however, perhaps you’d like to reassure me by sharing YOUR ideal tag-cloud, or even share your most challenging/terrifying/awe-inspiring festival or booktalk session memories …

Great acts celebrate launch of NZ Music Month

The Canterbury Plainsmen


NZ Music Month was launched in Christchurch on Saturday night at the Art Gallery with a great line-up of local artists.  The night kicked off with the duo of Kim K and Tim Chesney and their laid back, folk sound that got toes tapping.   

The 40-strong barbershop group, The Canterbury Plainsmen were a real crowd pleaser, starting off with some classic barbershop harmonies then switching to some upbeat New Zealand pop hits, including Dave Dobbyn’s Slice of Heaven.  The audience didn’t want them to leave and so we were treated to one final number before they left the stage to a huge round of applause.  

Steve Abel, a singer-songwriter from Auckland who’s been compared to Tom Waits and Nick Cave, was one of my favourites of the night.  His songs are kind of dark and gloomy, but he has a great voice and I really enjoyed his set.  I was inspired to find his album in the library so I could hear more of his music.  

Sacha Vee, a fantastic up-and-coming soul/funk artist from Christchurch, was the perfect end to the evening and had the audience swaying and toe-tapping to her funky sound.  Her music reminds me of a great group called Zero 7 and one of their lead vocalists, Sia.   

We have many more fantastic music acts for you to listen to throughout May so check out the programme and get down to your local library today.

The Hallowed halls – Image of the week

Canterbury College, Christchurch. Circa 1921.

Canterbury College, Christchurch

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Also contact us if you have any further information on any of the images. Want to see more? You can browse our collection here.

Nine lives, two interviews, one jangle of nerves

In addition to reading, blogging, panicking and spreading the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival word – there’s also the little matter of  The Interview.

The Interview involves equipment which I have only met in an online-dating kind of a way. Here’s hoping we prove to be compatible because I am down to interview William Dalrymple and Lionel Shriver. Be still my beating heart.

Way back in the sixties, you too may have succumbed to the delights of An Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. I know I did, so I decided to start with William Dalrymple’s latest book:   Nine Lives: In search of the Sacred in Modern India. As a partially out-of-the-closet Hindu with a love of Indian music, Paisley patterns, Persian miniatures and a good curry this felt like it would be a suitable fit. And it was.

Dalrymple loves India and he has walked the walk to prove it. It has taken twenty five years to collect the nine stories that make up this book. Even if you have scant interest in the history of India, leave the room when reincarnation comes up for discussion, loathe books with clusters of foreign, hard-to-pronounce place names and like your non-fiction to have a smattering of photographs, I still believe that you will find yourself captivated by Nine Lives.

The reasons why are simple. Dalrymple is eminently readable , the characters in the stories are as bizarre as anything you would find in science fiction and you will probably find yourself drawn, possibly against your better judgement, to identify with at least one of them. As in: Were I to follow a sacred path in India, which one of these would it be? Actually, even if you are only following a secular path in a job like mine at  Christchurch City Libraries, there will have been bad days  which turned you briefly into The Lady Twilight in Chapter 8 whose story begins thus:

“Before you drink from a skull,” said Manisha Ma Bhairavi, ” you must first find the right corpse.”

OK, so it’s not in the current library training manual but I couldn’t have put it better myself!

Fascinating as these nine tales are, in the end it is Dalrymple’s  own life that I find myself wanting to know more about – perhaps he will relent and write an autobiography one day.  Any questions anyone would like to have asked in the interview will be received by me with little whimpers of joy and may even earn you good karma.