Why this blog?
It was a choice between writing a book and never seeing it printed, or having the means to publish, albeit in small doses. I don’t do any social media at all and you’ll have a job finding photos of me. That’s intentional. I do have a kind of static Facebook page which was not created by me.
I’m from a generation that grew up with everything analogue and clunky though it had depth. It was all valves, switches, knobs and recording tape, ink, paper, pens and steam trains. If you listen to BBC radio recordings of the mid 50s the audio quality is incredible and without a doubt superior to the crisp over defined digital broadcast quality of 2016. That metaphor applies to just about everything sadly now. Everything is now outwardly immaculate but with a loss of soul. The digital BlueRay, 4K quality of today creates a kind of grotesque refinement of what is really out there. It also conveys very well, but tragically, the ghastly spectacle of modern life’s dramas filmed by anyone with a smart phone for all to see. The end of the world in 3D!
The digital world has obviously opened many positive things but not without paying the price of opening a Pandora’s box of unremitting darkness. As always the human race will adjust. Our parents lived through two world wars, two atomic bombs dropped in anger, and the scary cold war where we were all facing annihilation. So 70 years of peace in Europe is something to be grateful for. It was my own children who grew up with computer chips but who could glimpse over our shoulders the innocent post war world of tape recorders and printing presses that was fast vanishing into history.
Originally at the age of 18, in 1963, when I first came to London from East Anglia where I grew up, I wanted to be a jazz pianist but somehow ended up via architecture and rock music, and Sufism, designing books, mostly of an academic nature, for the new wave of publishers and academic institutions who had emerged in the last 30 years as a more mature traditional and spiritually authentic kind of Islam took root in the west and especially in English speaking countries. Not only books. In fact very often it was a logo design commission that led on to books, newsletters, journals, ads, brochures, flyers, CD and DVD packs, business cards and all the minutiae of designed material that pervades all organisations. I’ve dabbled in web design but the mechanics of it baffles me, though I know what I like. It was all bread and butter but good bread and butter. Overall I wanted to raise the quality of all designed and published material (CDs and DVDs as well) as in the 1980s it was pretty dismal. I certainly didn’t set out to do this kind of work but immersion in book design meant that as a transferable skill I could relocate to Spain in 2003 with some ease, even though it was difficult at times. Initially the internet in 2003 was patchy at best and used to stop completely every time it rained. But 13 years later not only is the internet reliable here in the EU, doing the kind of work I do over it has become so much easier.
Living in the EU
Brexit was a big shock to us expats but inevitable it seems – I sensed some almighty chasm appearing in British culture when I left the UK in 2003, between the haves and the have-nots and between the multicultural cities and the flag waving white little Morris dancing Englanders in the countryside where non-whites feared to tread. Brexit showed the true colours of xenophobes and Islamophobes alike, who crawled out from under their stones believing it to be open season on Poles, Muslims, Romanians and anyone with a brown skin. Europe has some similar issues but the EU exists to mix people up much more with freedom to move and work whatever the English media tells you. We live in the Andalusian countryside in the mountains and it is like a melting pot of nationalities and there is an overall tolerance of differences. I hope it stays that way as it enrichens the culture. Everywhere has its right leaning crypto fascists but here they are kept at bay by the recent memory of how fascism and its opponents can rip a country apart. Extremism is really the enemy, whatever the hue, and why Brexit opened that door, regardless now of whether it actually goes ahead or dies a death. Like the faces of the politicians who fostered Brexit, it revealed an ugliness for all to see.
Although I have a background in architecture, graphics and calligraphy, my great love is music and singing and the opportunity to bring this all together became possible with the arrival in my life of the beautiful Moroccan Diwan of the great spiritual master Ibn al Habib, that I recently republished under the Editorial Qasida imprint. (see various postings on this and how to obtain it). There is a long history to this. My first tasting of Islam in 1971 was hearing and singing these qasidas (poems) and they opened a door into a different and inspiring world of knowledge and religious culture hitherto hidden to all of us in the smog of the 1960s. Where rock was not going, this certainly was. In 1971 Islam was almost invisible in the UK with only one or two mosques and just a few Sufi groups hidden away behind closed and very middle class doors. Although I grasped Andalusian music easily, understanding the deep teachings within the text seems to have taken a lifetime and something I am still working at. You will find on the opening page of this blog next to this is an •audio file page with various recordings I have collected over the years. These are now easily accesible on this page and not hidden away in my blog posts. This has the original cassette recordings, now as two mp3s, of how to sing the Diwan that I made in the mid 1970s in London and that many have asked for. Pretty funky but useful nonetheless. I’ll be adding to this page over the coming months dv with useful and beautiful tracks not available anywhere else.