THE GREATEST: Muhammed Ali – 1942 – 2016

It began with a 1960 teenage Olympic light heavyweight boxing champion declaring “I am the Greatest!” and that he “Floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee!” He dropped his slave name, embraced Islam, refused to fight in Vietnam. Muhammed Ali was vilified for his beliefs and stripped of his World titles. He remained staunchly unrepentent. He fought back and returned to the ring for the Rumble In The Jungle & the Thrilla in Manila and upon his passing we have to say that he turned out to be one of the most important, inspiring and globally loved figures if the 20th century.



STOP PRESS: This print is now available to buy and 100% of the profit will be donated to the charity Order today from

Nice one Mitch!

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There was a little wave of anticipation and excitement in NYC last week over the official launch of two long-cherished projects from my good friend Vivien Goldman. First up is ‪‘‎Cherchez‬ La Femme – The Musical’ which she co-wrote with the ever sartorially elegant August Darnell aka Kid Creole. The production which is on at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club is set in both NYC and somewhere in the Caribbean in the 80s. It features the music from Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band and Kid Creole & The Coconuts plus a few new compositions. August Darnell originally hails from the Bronx and his musical offerings are rooted in those classic musicals of the Fifties and Sixties  like Guys & Dolls, South Pacific and West Side Story. Darnell is an one-off and I still have vivid memories of the hi-energy – beyond all expectations – show that I witnessed at the Lyceum to promote that first Kid Creole album. The combination of August Darnell,  Vivien Goldman and musical director,Angie Kristicis, sounds like a winning combination to me.

August Darnell & Vivien G 2016

August Darnell & Vivien G 2016

So, for a deeper insight into ‪’‎Cherchez‬ La Femme – The Musical’  check out this piece by esteemed NY Times journo John Pareles here:

Vivien by Jean Bernard Sohiez

Vivien by Jean Bernard Sohiez

The second project of Vivien Goldman’s is a compilation of her songs on an CD entitled ‘Resolutionary’ that Staubgold Records have released. It’s nice to have all these songs on one CD and in the context of today’s increasingly eclectic musical scene they still sound remarkably fresh and relevant. I’m still the proud owner of the ‘Private Armies’/’Launderette’ 12″ single, which had a photo story cover featuring Viv and Archie Pool (check the classic movie Babylon) taken by my co-p at that time, Jean Bernard Sohiez and , for me, what Viv’s music represents is the uninhibited creative reality of that time. People were militant. Barriers had been broken down. Don Lett’s had introduced an alternative soundtrack via the Roxy,  John Lydon identified with Dr Alimantado’s ‘Born For a Purpose’, Rock against Racism was on the rise and a host of UK reggae artists like Aswad, Cimarons, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Black Slate, Matumbi, Steel Pulse and Misty In Roots took to the road. In ’76 Carnival kicked off massively. Vivien was (is) a Ladbroke Grove-ite, a regular at Weasel’s shebeen, a journo who was immersed in the punk and reggae scene and all things beyond. She conversed with, and was friends with, late great modern master musicians like Bob Marley, Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman and Fela Kuti and as a woman she had unique and very strong bonds with other strong women on the scene like The Slits, Chrissie Hynde, Rip Rig & Panic’s Andi Oliver and Neneh Cherry.

A scan of those involved in the making of the songs on ‘Resolutionary’ reveals the cross pollination taking place on the music scene at that time. It was John Lydon who helped set the ball rolling by bank rolling ‘Private Armies’ and ‘Lauderette’. The latter is pure bass-line, percussion with shades of Velvet Underground. Viv rides the ridim and tells her tale. Basically, it’s wayward avante-garde pop –  edgy but sweet! ‘Private Armies’ still sounds good me with those early drum machine licks and George Oban’s bass line underpinning classic lyrics like… “Sat in the Mini while skinheads beat the shit out of a person on the pavement”… “blood everywhere”. Adrian Sherwood’s dubbed out production is one of his finest moments.

The Flying Lizards tracks on the CD offer a fresh, playful, free-style energy and add another musical dimension to that period of time in London. Joining The Raincoats’ violinist, Vicky Aspinall, are the pure improvising duo of David Toop and Steve Beresford – both well known for their toy instruments. Be not deceived by these two musicians – they were also the force behind the excellent and eclectic Collusions magazine which ran the very first UK reports on electro and hip hop. A visit their place in Stoke Newington revealed an incredible collection of global music – stacked floor to ceiling on cassettes (which are strangely back in fashion!) . The Flying Lizards were offbeat and on it and don’t be surprised to find Robert Wyatt in the mix. The haunting PIL produced ‘Windows’ is pure bass, percussion and harmonies.

Chantage - VIVA + EVE

Chantage – VIVA + EVE

Post Flying Lizards came Chantage which unites Vivien and her Afro-Parisian spar Eve Blouin. Over three songs we find them in 80’s Euro-mode bouncing off a meltdown of post colonial British and French influences. This was the dawn of the ‘World Music’ era and Paris – thanks to Martin Messonier and Radio Nova – was awash with Soukous, Zouk and Haitian Compas. Fusion was in the air. ‘Same Thing Twice’ is a twist on a Robert Nesta Marley classic with steel pan, acoustic guitar and rowdy, uplifting Yard style horns. ‘It’s Only Money’ has that bouncy Latin Kid Creole feel combined with melancholy klezmer violin and steel pan, and it’s all pushed along by plucked bass and their breathy vocals.

Following last year’s ‘Professor of Punk’ tour and her current foray into the world of musicals it would be fascinating to see what Vivien and her friends would come up with today. And that might just happen as Vivien is adamant that, “Music is strong in me. I intend to do more.”

BELOW: A 2006 track that’s not on the the album – ‘Seven Days’ from the COS  “Girl Monster” Compilation.

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Iron-Skills-Cover-Mockups_Page_2HAVING PICKED UP A SOME HEAVY BRUISING during a lively and most enlightening Chin Na session (Chin Na is basically the Art Of Seizing & controlling an opponent), that took place during our regular Sunday morning Da Xuan training, I found myself in need of some Dit Da Jau liniment and reflecting on the need to toughen up my wirey, ageing arms. Obviously within the Da Xuan school there are methods to do this but later that afternoon I also found myself perusing Dale Dugas’ excellent Fundamental Iron Body Skills: Tempering Body & Limbs With Ancient Methods.

I like this book because it doesn’t beat about the bush – it’s old skool and reminds me of the days when I was an avid reader of Inside Kung Fu magazine. Anyone who is a fan the Shaw Brothers Hong Kong Movies will be familiar with the mysteries surrounding Iron Body skills. We’ve all seen martial arts people breaking stacks of bricks. But basically, anyone practicing martial arts will find it useful to be able to absorb the blows of a training partner or an actual attacker. In his book, Dale Dugas digs into the China’s ancient Iron skills tradition and based on his own experiences shows you how to develop these skills in a safe, step-by-step manner.

I can’t think of any other book that covers all aspects of iron skills training in one volume, including solo training, use of auxiliary training equipment, herbal liniments and soaks, breaking techniques and fighting applications. Over eight chapters, he offers guidance on training Iron Palm from beginning to the intermediate level. Herbal medications for external use are discussed in detail and formulas/recipes for Iron Palm Training Liniment (Dit Da Jau) and soaks are included – so, you can brew your own!

Iron Palm master Gu Ruzhang

Iron Palm master Gu Ruzhang

Though I have no intention of doing this, there is a section on testing your development by breaking objects like wood, paving blocks, and coconuts. There’s also a useful insight into the short-power art of Jook Lum Southern Mantis. I like the fact that Dugas maintains that three quarters of the training is internal even though the objective seems external.

Fundamental Iron Body Skills is most definitely a useful book to include in anyone’s martial arts library.

The Book

The Book

Robert James Coons’ Internal Elixir Cultivation – The Nature Of Daoist Meditation‘ is also published by Tambuli and it’s a welcome addition to the growing body of books on Daoist Meditation that Singing Dragon have recently published.

Thousands of years ago Chinese sages learned how to hack into the human nervous system for a lifetime of greater health, happiness and wisdom and Robert James Coons – a student of Montreal based martial artist and Daoist master Yang Hai – delivers a modest, straight forward, experience based 150 page book that could provide the launch pad for your own journey. In these stressful times wellness practices are simply a very good idea and meditation begins and ends with simply paying attention to your breathing. Coons offers clear instructions on how to proceed with your practice and its mercifully free of any new age jargon. His teachings are based on classical Daoist documents as passed down through the White Cloud Temple in Beijing via Cao Zhenyang to Yang Hai and they open the way to techniques whereby you can develop and circulate human energy (Qi) while, in the long term, setting your sights on achieving Daoism’s legendary “Internal Elixir.”

Dr Yu Yongnian - Yi Quan master.

Dr Yu Yongnian – Yi Quan master.

I’ve also just noticed that the late Dr Yu Yongnian’s ‘Zhan Zhuang – The Art Of Nourishing Life’ had just been freshly translated and published in book form by Discovery Publisher. I believe this book, by the much celebrated Yi Quan master, was previously available only in PDF form and due a poor translation quite difficult to understand. So, if you’re interested in spending a portion of your day exploring standing postures this slim – 165 page – volume can be added to your want list!

More Info:

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Memories of Rahsaan Roland Kirk & The film – ‘The Case Of The Three Sided Dream’

Rahsaan Roland Kirk: The Case Of The Three Sided Dream is a must-see documentary directed by Adam Kahan that gives us an insight into creative world of a wayward master musician.

The music of Rahsaan Roland Kirk have travelled with me since my late teens. I first saw him play at the Free Trade Hall In Manchester around the time of ‘Volunteered Slavery’ and back then he transcended musical boundaries attracting an audience that consisted of rock freaks and jazzbos. During the Seventies Rahsaan was a regular at Ronnie Scott’s so, along with a couple of art college mates, we’d hit road from Cheltenham for a long night in Soho.

A visit to Dobell’s record shop was a pre-requisite to the gig and by chance we encountered the man himself, accompanied by Joe ‘Habad’ Texidor – The Shepherd- wending their way down Charing Cross Road. While the latter was armed a serious shepherd’s crook, Rahsaan sported a rainbow coloured poncho and was pushing that walking stick which was adorned with bells, had a horn that you squeezed and featured a wheel on the end. It was a sight to behold. Brothers from another planet! In the shop I nervously approached Rahsaan and told him we’d travelled from out of London for the gig. He asked what I was about to buy. I said, John Coltrane’s ‘Ascension”. His response – wrapped in that inimitable voice – was, “Buy ‘Chasin’ The Trane’ maan. ‘Live at the Village Vanguard’. ‘Chasin’ The Trane’!!”I bought both.

We’d arrive at Ronnie’s early and capture a table near the front. Being financially challenged you had to be mentally prepared to stretch out a couple of pints of lager over both sets. Inevitably we were the butt of Ronnie’s jokes – you know the ones – “bunch of guys her from rent a corpse” etc – but it was always worth it. Rahsaan never failed to deliver and the band was always slammin’, ready to go with whatever the man might do – like, vanish from the downstairs club only to appear in the funk session upstairs playing along with whatever was rockin’ the dancefloor.


I managed to catch this documentary film – The Case Of The Three Sided Dream – when it was shown one Sunday afternoon at The Barbican, last November, during the Jazz Festival. I should have written it up straight away but somehow it got lost in time. Clearly, the film is a labour of love and over 88 minutes it was a joy to travel back in time and revel in the music and memories of others like trombonist Steve Turre – I did a deep interview with Steve in Straight No Chaser so, if you’ve got it, dig it out and check that Rahsaan story! Not long ago I was wondering what might have happened to the film and, today, as I scan their vimeo page I now see that it was notching up props at festivals worldwide before eventually becoming available to be streamed or downloaded. Whether a devotee or just curious The Case Of The Three Sided Dream is most definitely worth a visit and following its showing at the Barbican I vividly recall chatting and bonding with an elderly American woman as we left the cinema. We traded tales and things we loved about Rahsaan… he snatched from us at the modest age of 42 but Rahsaan’s energy and spirit was most definitely in the house that afternoon.

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Union Chapel: 50th Anniversary of the recording of A Love Supreme!

Union Chapel: 50th Anniversary of the recording of A Love Supreme!

OK Brothers & Sisters…. ‘Enlightenment’- an original composition penned by master flautist Rowland Sutherland with support from the PRSF and inspired by the spirit of John Coltrane – returns to the capital this summer and the Ensemble can’t wait to perform it again!

Despite our performing to well over 2000 people in London in 2014 and having been aired live on Jez Nelson’s BBC Jazz on 3 we’ve so far failed to get a festival or venue outside of the metropolis to host a performance! And it’s not without trying. (Big up & thanx to Jeremy D for your tireless efforts!) However, we haven’t given up…. we’re still looking for a couple or more visionaries with a belief in the power of ‘Enlightenment’ and an uncontrollable impulse to transport the incredible 15 piece Enlightenment Ensemble to a Sacred Space near you.

Enlightenment Flyer - warriors

Tickets are on sale now £25.00 via

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SOON COME! The Professor: Tai Chi’s Journey West


The Professor: Tai Chi’s Journey West is a feature documentary about Tai Chi and one of its greatest masters, Cheng Man-Ching, a man who brought Tai Chi and Chinese culture to the West during the swinging, turbulent 60’s. This documentary film tells his remarkable story and features Tai Chi as a martial art and a spiritual practice.

Looking forward to seeing the film on the big screen! Master Cheng’s short form was the first taijiquan form I learned back in the late 70s/early 80s and vividly recall, myself, Simon Cousins and Steve Judges, being hyped at the opportunity to see those then closely guarded 16mm films which would arrive in London carried by one of Master Cheng’s zealous New York City disciples.

“The Professor” premieres in Los Angeles on May 6 and in New York City on June 9.

cheng man ching sword play

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I have fond memories of interviewing Papa Wemba at the Real World studios in Box while Peter Williams did the shots. Papa was wearing a wikkid trad-African print suit when we arrived but refused to be photographed in it. In line with his role as SAPEUR Numero Uno he switched into Designer mode. I also have powerful memories of a stunning afternoon gig in small but classic Parisian theatre – hardly anyone there but a spectacular session. So, this is how I like remember Papa Wemba – sharing the vocal honours with Reddy Amisi and Stino Mubi…. nice clip… Viva la Musica!

Papa Wemba (14 June 1949 – 24 April 2016)

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