Festival Sur Le Niger – Segou

4 Feb

Tonight the Malian skies are lit up with more than the stars, this evening on the banks of the Niger, West Africa’s most talented converge to illuminate the night. As the sun sets over the wind blown waters, the Super Biton of Segou open the celebration to a very enthusiastic crowd. They begin with a tropical salsa rhythm and then move to more traditional Malian tunes. (The cultural ties between Cubans and Malians goes far back). Then Neba Solo fills the air with the sounds of the Belafon, and Djembe, accompanied by two energetic male dancers who combine African, salsa, hip hop and break dancing steps, all in one. The dancers stir the crowd, as spectators scream and rise to their feet clapping in joy. As the evening descends into the deep night the Moroccan Gnawas strum their hypnotic rhythms. The sound of the castanets is drowned by the intense drumming, the men move back and forth, and the dance begins to looses its synchronicity as they step into a collective trance. Then the Tuareg strum out the sounds of the desert with their electric guitars; dancers bodies move in slow spiraling elegant motions, arms and hands floating in a wave-like form. Finally Vieux Farka mesmerizes with the desert blues made famous by his father. His sound are promising and set the tone for the days to follow.


Dream City

3 Feb

LA, known for its new age movements and guru inspired eateries! A city with a web of freeways where cars, like insects, whiz around for miles to then get stuck in traffic. Here a person lives half of his life stuck in traffic. And still ‘Nobody walks in LA ‘ (as the Missing Persons song from the 80’s goes) except on treadmills. The city where the cult of beauty is pivotal, the finest examples are worshiped in the temple of Hollywood. The faith is strong and the credo goes as follows: fantasy is true, fake is natural, money is power, poverty is mental , and big boobs open all doors. But what saves L.A. Is its beach culture from Huntington beach to Venice beach, the natural beauty of the shoreline, palm trees and open minded, far-out people. And wasn’t it Los Angeles that really created San Francisco? The dialogue between the two is constant, and reinforcing. All the political minded people seek their refuge in the north. What one is the other isn’t. San Francisco can take itself seriously because of Los Angeles’ frivolity. It follows to ask, where would the US be without Los Angeles? Stuck in some Bollywood wasteland I am sure.


31 Jan

Monday’s morning hours dragged us through Rome’s renaissance winding alleys looking for that daily espresso, desperately needed to withstand the endless snake-like line outside of the Vatican Museum. Finally after several espressos and about an hours wait we were allowed in. Entering the lower gallery, a wave of heat and hot air fell upon us, like a wet blanket, the congestion of sweat, odor, and humidity smothered. The complaints of tourists filled the air: “I wonder what this is like in June or July!” and another “We came at the wrong time!” Commiserating we walk on.

We enter the magnificent Vatican courtyard and palace, where popes used to wine, dine and live. The surrounding buildings and gardens are fit for an emperor, or a pope – only a name change. We walk towards the base of the column of emperor Marcus Aurelius. The image of a winged man claims the space, and I wonder if this is mans first depiction of an angel? Then on through the high ceiling halls and into another courtyard that contains the famous Constantine bronze peacocks and pine cone. They imperiously stand perched atop the courtyard in a terracotta colored arch. As we stand watching, we cant help but observe two tourists that suddenly throw their headsets down and walk away from their guide in disgust. Some guides are more entertainers than educators. People get taken even in the Holy Vatican City! We decide to move forward and follow the line of tourists that enter the first gallery of ancient sculpture. In this gallery the highlight is the statue of the Primaporta Augustus, standing in contrapposto pose: an echo of an outstanding ancient Greek sculpture, the Doryphorus by Polykleitos. Here Augustus embodies the idealized form of a commanding Roman Emperor. It is a must see for anyone who loves ancient sculpture, history, or just admires Augustus.

From here we make our way into the map section. Where there are maps from the 15th to the 17th century. There is a current of tourists, I feel a part of a slow moving river. The line gets slower as it seems the tourists take their time in this gallery, and being quiet bored I flow to an empty bench where soon a German middle aged man sits next to me and says “so you like maps too?” I just look at him and smile, no energy to answer. All these people in one room have zapped my energy. I search for an out, and quickly see that the Etruscan gallery is open, and it is virtually empty!

We wander through the exhibition which was once the palace of Pope Innocent VIII (1484-1492) and come across the most exquisite bronze statue from the 5th century BC, the Mars of Todi – a warrior dressed in Etruscan armor. There is no doubt to the Greek influences on his shape, proportions, and features. The Greeks were paramount to the development of Etruscan arts and crafts, and one cannot help but think of the Greeks when one sees the Etruscan exhibition. But the ‘Etruscan’ is also there for those who seek it; in the freedom of their “inexact” proportions, their “flat” surfaces their “harsher” lines and in their “primitiveness.” Perhaps they are the first artistic rebels?

Then through the Apostolic palace where the rooms are painted by Raffaelo ‘the great.’ His signature painting “The Philosophers” holds his audience in awe with so many wise men in one room, while his “Flight of Aeneas” with images of the sack of Troy and Aeneas carrying his father Anchises on his back, transports us back to classical antiquity and to Virgil’s the Aeneid. Then down a few stairs and through many narrow hallways to the somewhat hidden Chagall, Munch, and Riveras to name a few. The Vatican has so much art that these modern art masters become some what of a sideshow left in the dark corridors between the Raffaelos and Michelangelos. Tired and worn out the tourist yawn as they forgo entering the galleries and opt to head towards the highlight, the Sistine chapel. Here tourist take pictures regardless of the constant admonitions from the guards, and signs that prohibit photo shots or videos. This is the only time I have seen tourist not acting like little lambs, here they begin to think on their own, over taken by the beauty, they have to have just one shot of Michelangelo’s divinely inspired creations. I wonder what has gotten into them, is it the cooler temperature, or perhaps they heard the old Roman adage: Better to live one day as a lion than 100 as a lamb? Then I think, this is what people come to Rome for: to see the paintings of a man who did not like to paint. How many can create something so magnificent, beautiful and awe inspiring, while not enjoying what they are doing? The contradiction is binding, and is probably why so many just keep coming back, hoping some day to figure him, Michelangelo Buonarroti, out.

domus aurea

30 Aug

Riding down a mountainous road

slipped and slid over the frozen Alpine

Icy, angry, barren; cold wind of rage and deception

Leaving behind the bitter harshness of the Alps

I followed the sun towards

The smooth land of the Lombards


To the land of demigods; worshipers

Of fine foods, wine, women, and beauty

Down to the eternal city, center of centers

Where emperors walk disguised as Popes

And politicians fear their own crucifixion.


Here where the cult of Victory is all

I rolled my heart down the Spanish Steps

Free for all – even a tourist- but it fell

Upon a local; elegant, tall, dark, and devilish

With a slight snake like walk

And fast shark eyes.


As fins approached I slipped the beating red over my back,

And slid towards safety on the Palatine mound

Felt myself as Aeneas, carrying

The old frail Anchises, out of Troy.

Weary yet eager to found a new life

Between Via Veneto and Via Cavour.


Passed the Forum to the Colosseum

The home to all the pigeons of Rome

They cleave to these ancient ruins,

As reincarnated emperors,

Vespasian, Nero, or Claudius?


Stopped at the Santa Maria Del Popolo

Stunned under the painting of

Caravaggio’s Conversion of St Paul

The shades of chiaroscuro as stigmata

Bled tears in my eyes

His paint, drenched in the divine


Hoping the heat would incinerate

My burning heart, I ran a mile

Down the banks of the Tiber

And aerated the flame,

Left the ashes on the altar of

The Ara Pacis and prayed

For eternal peace.


And now light, and unburdened

I fly like the pigeons

Except I am not a reincarnated emperor

Just a lover

With a fresh new heart, that can fly

Hopefully this time…to the heavens

To that golden shelter in the sky


17 Jun

Also Known As

My lover has an ocean flooding

Through him, filling both banks

East and west of his heart, and at midnight

The descending moon dances on

The backs of wild glistening

Blue dolphins


He pulls the crescent moon down

From the sky and places it in

His pocket and I can see it

From time to time

When we bobble on boats

To the gushing wind.

The wind blows through his narrow

Sculptured cobblestone hips

And I feel I could walk forever

Belted to his slippery sea sprayed slopes.

At times we stand and glance upon

His lost, flame haired love

‘Sofia’ some call her ‘Hagia’ since

She was so loyal and pure.

Even I, can sense her greatness.

And reminiscing we walk

His sculptured arms as pillars

Firmly entrenched around my waist

As he tells me of the love of Hero and Leander

Of Chalcedon, the hippodrome and

Of Meshnun and Leila.

And suddenly he turns me

Spinning under the Sufic wool of his garment

Cosmic mana fills  and I am seized by

The elaborate seductive designs

Of his arched blue kiss.

My lips reach the dome of his thoughts

Grasping towards the heavens

And towards the divine

A timeless sigh is placed upon our souls

He bows before the silence,

Towards the emptiness of the qibla

Surrounded by a bouquet of

Carpets, tiles and the One


And at night his eyes like stars

Invite me to enter the galaxy of

Rhythms and otherworldly dreams

As we waltz to the sound of the ney

On Sundays he dresses in the

Iconic compassion of a passing empress,

Soft gilded purity, seen through the silver and gold

Sustaining tesserae of the Madonna

And where is the child?

He is out sailing ships in his backyard.

He strides ferrys catching disillusioned lovers.

And waits under the bridge with his nets

The cycle of souls lost, regained

The tides of love

Never easy, fair, clean or clear.

And when I stare off into his Seljuk eyes

I see the outline of his soul,

So sharp like daggers, poles, minarets

Protruding from a shoreline of undulating hills

His ‘skyline’ is more beautiful

Than the famous yellow rose itself.


At night I rest my head

Against his belly, his fanning

Breath brings me sleep,

While the call to prayer awakens me

I whisper his name,

Byzantium, Constantinople, Nea Roma, Istanbul!

Groggy I try to hold him but my

Arms cant grasp him he is so vast?!

I fidget to find him, and as

I reach for his turban I fall

Out of bed

Naked , drunk and alone……yet full of awe.

Epi Oinopi Ponto

28 May


Turquoise streaks stretch lazily along the coast

Paradisaical pools beckon an invitation to sail

In the light that shines between currents and time

Splashing, plunging into the wet Greek blue.


Carpets of sea floor amphorae

Woven tales of engraved

Men lost at sea, lone figures,

Shipwrecked, striding the keel,

Surviving disaster

On the wine-dark sea


Calling for a hero

His spirit putatively as strong

As wine poured from the jug

And when he spoke the waves rocked

A sea foam epic echoing these heroic words:


My mates were thrown from the ship,

And like sea crows they bobbed on the waves

Around the black ship, and the god

Took their homecoming from them.”


And in this Odyssiodic episode,

Of drowning seas and ominous crows,

Foretells the junction between will and fate

So tenuous is the line that spares a

Life or ceases the spirits gait.


It is only those who risk their

Lives on Trojan shores and

Face the Cyclops inner eye

Who know of loves loyal tides

Of beloveds burns and blinds

Whose ardent words immortalize.

Dual Blue

27 Mar


I sailed seeking the two seas

But found a turquoise heart

Sunk off the island shores,

Cupped it in my hands, as it

Painted a kaleidoscope

Of sea-foam pearls with its beats.


Grazed the waters purple wind and met

The weathered men at sea,

Glistening brows of ocean sweat,

Their spirit is of salt, wind, and water

Drank from their generous tea

And cardamom conversation


Slipped past the royal gates,

To the granted superiority of

Men in thorbes who glide not walk,

Donned in red and white

Alluring colors, that flap

Like proud flags in the wind.


Took a night journey to

The Garden of Eden, saw an

Exquisite love struck angel

Hovering over a sea creatures heart

“Is life beautiful?” He asked as he

Slid a Dilmun amulet over my

Neck and we turned to gold.


The sea creature frightened fled

Sinking through the indigo currents

We tapped the ocean floor

That gushed a fresh spring

And planted a rainbow to forever

Remember that space between

The two seas, between salty and sweet.

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