Skip navigation

Author Archives: Szczelkun

artist, author, parent, blogger, allotmenteer.

“Northampton-based rapper Slowthai caused the biggest stir by performing with a dummy of Boris Johnson’s severed head, which he held aloft as he performed Doorman, a track about wealth disparity in modern Britain. … he explained the song, like the rest of his album, aimed to give a voice to “the people from small communities that have been forgotten about”.

“It’s time to let people in,” he said.”

Paper cutting from 20th May – Manic Street Preachers. Song from 1999…


I’ve never been a Manics listener, but this caught my eye as of obv Agit Disco classic. And as it plays my 14 year old daughter calls out ‘One of my favourite bands’. They do really they have place in importance in British/ Welsh working class musical history.

Considering the fight against fascism we are again faced with…

I’ll start by saying that I am an ideal reader for this book – its like it was written for me. Whether it’s down to my teenage empathy with country blues, record collecting, the hi-fi enthusiasm, the field recording fetish, or the suburban childhood. I’ve read some William Burroughs, idolised Brion Gysin and heard Bob Cobbings perform concrete poetry in a small room in London. Then there was the work of Pierre Schaeffer and R. Murray Schafer that I was in awe of at a distance.

The obsession with the ‘authentic’ black solo blues musicians from the first half of the C20th was a huge part of my UK early Sixties Mod culture and through people like John Mayall and his Bluesbreakers, it led to the volcanic rise of British R&B that proceeded to world dominance. The old blues singers got almost nothing – perhaps a European tour if they were the later generation and in good health. I saw Sonny Boy Williams 2nd close up in a pub in Chertsey c 1965. 

This book provides a critical analysis of what was going on with that. Simplistic conclusions there are not. Relief! My own rationalisation of our blues obsession is based on my British history, which is not Seth’s in this book. Mine was that British working class culture was wiped out in certain aspirational sections of the population, to the point at which many of our families stopped singing, and into that terrible void, blues expressed something deeply felt but un-articulated by bodies such as the Labour Party, about cultural oppression. I’m not saying there was an equivalence or anything. And it does beg the questions of the crass exploitation of the labour of those bluesman. (even if they got to cut a disc of their song, they might have been the lucky few as Kunzru points out… young American Negros were being regularly forced into labour and arbitrarily killed during the period in question.)

And of course folk and blues songs were passed around and changed before the rise of printed music copyright laws. So it seems fine for Kunzru to mix lyrics from the rebel versions of songs such as the classic John Henry;

“John Henry told his captain,

A man ain’t nothing but a man.

Before I’d let you beat me down,

I’d die with the hammer in my hand.”

Or Jim Jacksons recording of:

‘I’m Gonna Start Me A Graveyard Of My Own’ 1927

“This song is at least as old as 1900; Billy Cheatham, who is not known to have recorded, was performing it live in that year. If the 1930 census was right, Jim was 24 years old in 1900.” Brazilian Atlantis from comments. 

The background is heartless profiteering – capitalism. Transmorgrified from brazen slavery and forced labour into industrial scale incarceration.  The children of those slave/bourgeois prison owners choose between a heartless existence as family firm executives or to ‘rebel’ as whimsical artists on a parental leash – here shown as without much talent.

Kunzru’s insight into the  discordance of inter-class dialogue is unnerving. The picture of how powerful are the forces that appear out of the social ether if you take a path of non-compliance dramatises something that is usually only inchoately felt. The class analysis is incisive in instances such as the way the captains of industry use the legal system to produce seamless class separation, And to deadly effect!.

I gave up writing this review at this stage, after going on Goodreads I realised there is no chance of anyone reading it at this stage with over 1000 other reviews! But in case your wondering I’m recommending this book its serious literature mind, its gets tough, the language goes through some choppy waters, but that is all in the cause of wringing a deeper truth from the subject matter. This book is about my experience.

Abdurehim Heyit

May his music not be forgotten!!!!


1979 album cover

Podcast here

 Late but great Agit Disco ‘playlist’?!

Alan Dein writes: “Aleksander Kulisiewicz spent six years in Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, imprisoned soon after the Nazi invasion and their attempted destruction of Poland. In the camp he found a unique role both as a composer and living tape recorder of the world of the unfree and the damned. Blessed with a photographic memory, prisoners, many of whom knew they were to be killed, would ask him to remember their songs. Songs of resistance and defiance, songs of love and home, songs that captured the brutality of life and death in the camps. He would also write 50 of his own songs. Performances would take place in secret, at night, away from the eyes of the SS. Kulisiewicz survived a death march at the war’s end and recovered to become the foremost chronicler, in song, of the world of the Concentration Camps. He would obsessively document memories and songs until the end of his life in 1982. In the 1960s he became an unlikely attraction in festivals of folk song for youth rebelling against the silence of their parents generation. Strumming his guitar liberated from Sachsenhausen, performing in his camp uniform, Kulisiewicz would sing his songs from the depths of hell.”




I’d heard about music being a key way to communicate with people with dementia but hadn’t done much about it when I saw the BBC site of snippets of songs from decades. My Mum’s life began in 1926 so I started by listening to the ’20s and ’30s lists. I was surprised to find many songs I recognised from our family radio in the Fifties.

I started to practice singing some of the songs and downloaded lyric sheets. I then got my son and his son involved in playing and singing a small selection to my 92 year old mum in her carehome. Many people have responded warmly to the video we made of this visit.


After making this I realised that one or two things might be awry. One is that two of the songs are from the USA, and as the BBC radio in the period of her youth broadcast mainly live music, rather than playing 78rpm discs, it may be they were not in circulation in Nottingham. The BBC had a monopoly of the airwaves and was conservative in taste avoiding anything too vulgar or too ‘hot’ as in jazz! So she might not have heard these two songs, ‘Red Red Robin’ and ‘Bye Bye Blackbird’, until they were released in Britain in the Fifties. That’s maybe why I knew them so well. Henry Hall’s ‘Teddy Bears Picnic’ is a British hit song and the band that issued it was the BBC orchestra from 1932 – 37.

The second thing was that the songs that can break through the dementia communication barrier are often from out teenage years, when we choose ‘our own’ musics and these tunes get associated with the formation of our selves. Mum was only thirteen in 1939 – so maybe I should have been looking more at wartime songs? Flanagan and Allen’s ‘Run Rabit Run’ was one such song we did use in our session. Never mind, it was all a positive experience and I hope the video will inspire other people to try something similar.

The project has lead me to have an appreciation of the very lively popular music scene in the UK which seems to have been a mix a US jazz inspired dance bands and music-hall comedy soloists. Joan may have been too young to go out to the dance bands that must have played in Nottingham – except for a few years in the middle to end of the War when she was working as a nurse. She got married to a Polish Mosquito pilot and moved to Central London in 1947. But then I was born in February 1948 so that would have limited her social life in London to some extent. There are a lot of questions that I’ll sadly never have answers to.

Joan has always danced since she’s been in the Carehome – but not sung. It was only in the last year that I got more confidence in my own singing and started singing a bit to her. We never used to sing together at home. My mum’s mum Daisy worked in service in her young years and perhaps picked up that raucous working class sing-songs were a bit vulgar.

‘Playlist for Life’ is somewhat like my Agit Disco Dispersal idea – the suggestion that our lives have a musical accompaniment and a version of our life stories may be told in the musics that grab us at key times. If we do get dementia later in life this could be useful to our close relatives.

The Agit Disco project, of which this blog is a close relation, is archived here:

and is still available as a paper book from several sources.

Other links relating to music and memory:



The history of post-war popular music has been closely associated with concerns for social justice. It is not only that particular ideals (equality, community, rights, an end to oppression and discrimination) have animated the public sphere; it is also that those ideals have – whether we look at blues, gospel, world music, punk or hip-hop, for instance – been central in many music genres.”


The conference will be at University of Memphis on the 30 March 2019

a 15 minute video by Ed Ram.

Georgia’s rave revolution.

In May this year, riot police raided the country’s most popular nightclubs prompting thousands of young Georgians to rave in the streets in protest.

But the events also revealed an undercurrent – a clash between liberal youth and conservative far-right groups.

‘Opportunity Costs’ spotty playlist created by Death, Sex and Money

Anna Sale host of an NPR Podcast called ‘Sex, Death and Money’ invited podcast listeners to contribute to this playlist.


The x5 ‘Opportunity Costs’ podcasts. in which people talk about their feeling about their class, can be found here:

Thanks to Sherry Linkon of

for this intelligence.

César Strawberry rapper get two year prison sentence for lyrics (suspended).

  • “”In December, 12 members of the rap group Insurgencia each received two-year jail terms, for glorifying terrorism in one of their songs

  • In February, the Supreme Court confirmed a three-and-a-half year jail term for Mallorcan rapper Valtònyc for glorifying terrorism and insulting the monarchy in his lyrics

  • Earlier this month, Catalan rapper Pablo Hasél also received a two-year sentence and a fine of 37,800 euros (£33,500; $46,700) on similar charges

Please follow these people on Twitter for updates.

Meanwhile in Turkey and elsewhere”

Back in Blightly Transpontine reminds me that the anti-rave Criminal Justice Act from 1994 is still in effect …