Mazzy Star – Fade Into You

This video is of band Mazzy Star performing their most well-known hit – Fade Into You – in 1994.

Mazzy Star was founded in Santa Monica, California in 1988 by former Opal frontman David Roback and his friend Hope Sandoval.  Roback, who plays guitar, composed the band’s music while Sandoval wrote and sang the lyrics. Keith Mitchell played drums. Their music grew out of the neo-psychadelic scene of the Paisley Underground in 1980s Los Angeles, and combines elements of blues, pop, folk and alternative rock. Mazzy Star has echoes of the ‘LA Darkness’, often explored by Gen X artists from the area. Fade Into You was their only song to break the Billboard 100.

I find Sandoval mesmerising. Known for shyness, she performs as if the audience is not there. Coupled with the dreamy instrumentation, her voice is beautifully melancholic. I had never heard of Mazzy Star until this video showed up on my youtube homepage, after a spree of folk indulgence. Watching her for the first time, I all but fell in love.


I want to hold the hand inside you
I want to take the breath that’s true
I look to you, and I see nothing
I look to you to see the truth

You live your life, you go in shadows
You’ll come apart, and you’ll go black
Some kind of night into your darkness
Colors your eyes with what’s not there

Fade into you
Strange you never knew
Fade into you
I think it’s strange you never knew

A stranger’s light comes on slowly
A stranger’s heart without a home
You put your hands into your head
And then smiles cover your heart

Fade into you
Strange you never knew
Fade into you
I think it’s strange you never knew

Fade into you
Strange you never knew
Fade into you
I think it’s strange you never knew

I think it’s strange you never knew


Thailand’s Rap Against Dictatorship

Prathet Ku Mee (Which is my country), is a 2018 protest song by 10 Thai rappers called ‘Rap Against Dictatorship’. The music video targets the country’s military regime, corruption and legal double-standards in a pounding and defiant delivery reminiscent of late 80s and 90s American hip-hop. Uploaded in October 2018, it has over 89 million views. In May 2019 the Human Rights Foundation awarded them the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissen.

Thailand has had the most coups of any country. The military seized power in 2014 and has yet to relinquish it, despite promises of a return to democracy.  

The song is viciously critical – a bold move in a country where censorship is strong and offending the wrong people can put you in jail. Some wear masks, others do not. Under aliases, the rappers criticise the military for interfering in politics and ruling through fear and the conformity of Thai society. It mentions:

  • construction tycoon getting away with poaching and eating an endangered black leopard in February 2018
  • the heir of Red Bull getting away with vehicular manslaughter
  • judges building estates in a sacred national park
  • the Prime Minister’s Rolex collection

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha condemned the song for inciting unrest and violence, and being ‘un-Thai’. In November he commissioned a government rap video in response. It is as bad as you might expect.

Despite their objections, the Thai government did not block Rap Against Dictatorship. Doing so would involve shutting down the whole of Youtube and causing public scandal – more trouble than it was worth. Thailand’s economy and politics are closely tied to the West and it lacks the state capacity China enjoys to build its own internet. They did, however, threaten to jail anyone who shared the video for 5 years.

Hip-hop serves an apt vessel for the frustration and resentment of these young men against injustice in their home. 

The video is shot in black and white, the rappers performing on a backdrop of a cheering crowd. The only colour to feature is red white and blue of the Thai flag, emblazoned on the guitar playing near the end. It is revealed the crowd are cheering not the men rapping, but a man beating a limp corpse hanging from a tree with a chair.

This grisly scene is from the 1976 Thammasat Massacre, where conservative paramilitaries slaughtered 200 pro-democracy activists. It shows a counter-demonstrator beating a student’s corpse with a chair as it hangs from a tamarind tree. The photograph was caught by American Neil Ulevich and won the Pulitzer Prize. Amongst activists today, ‘chair’ is slang for establishment brutality.

Rap Against Dictatorship say nothing has changed. The soldiers still control the state, and ‘fuck the law with a machine gun’. What’s worse, the ’76 Thammasat massacre is taught nowhere in Thailand and the government is doing its best to disappear it from collective memory – an Orwellian move reminiscent of Tiananmen Square.

In February 2019 the Thai government held elections, on the precondition the military hold half the National Assembly’s seats in reserve. Prayut Chan-Ocha won with 99% of the vote. Echoing those of 1976, student protests erupted in August 2020.

Sources: Khaosod English, Bangkok Post, New Mandala

See Also:

John Prine – That’s How Every Empire Falls

This is a song written by RB Morris and recorded by folk singer-songwriter John Prine (1946 – 2020),
who died from COVID-19 earlier this week, age 73. Its cryptic lyrics tell how moral rot destroys the soul of a man and a nation from within. It featured on Prine’s grammy-winning 2005 album ‘Fair and Square’.

John Prine is from Maywood, Illinois a suburb on the outskirts of Chicago. While working as a mailman, he wrote songs and played at local bars, which caught the ear of Kris Kristofferson. Prine then opened for Kristopherson in New York and released his first (self-titled) album in 1971. Its standout track is Sam Stone. Arguably his best, it tells a sobering tale of  Vietnam veteran’s struggle with heroin addiction. Through both tune and spoken word, Prine’s songs often touched deep subjects, others were lighter and humorous.  All told stories with a personal touch. He wrote most of his own songs with That’s How Every Empire Falls being a notable exception.

Prine never broke the mainstream, but in his life attracted a dedicated fanbase and was an icon in folk circles. His biggest fans included Johnny Cash, Roger Waters, Bruce Springsteen, Bill Murray and Bob Dylan.  In total Prine received 11 Grammy nominations and won three, including a lifetime achievement award in 2020, a few months before he died.

‘That’s How every Empire Falls’ is not his best, or even most popular song, (I personally love Lake Marie) however in the context of his death, and the state of America right now, it is certainly the most prophetic.


He caught a train from Alexandria, just a broken man in flight
Runnin’ scared with his devils, sayin’ prayers all through the night
But mercy can’t find him, not in the shadows where he calls
Forsaking all his better angels: That’s how every empire falls

The bells ring out on Sunday morning like echoes from another time
All our innocence and yearning and sense of wonder left behind
Oh gentle hearts remember, What was that story? Is it lost?
For when religion loses vision, That’s how every empire falls

He toasts his wife and all his family, the providence he brought to bear
They raise their glasses in his honor although this union they don’t share
A man who lives among them was still a stranger to them all
For when the heart is never open, That’s how every empire falls

Padlock the door and board the windows, put the people in the street
“It’s just my job,” he says, “I’m sorry,” and draws a check, goes home to eat
At night he tells his woman, “I know I hide behind the laws”
She says, “You’re only taking orders”: That’s how every empire falls

A bitter wind blows through the country, a hard rain falls on the sea
If terror comes without a warning, there must be something we don’t see
What fire begets this fire, like torches thrown into the straw?
If no one asks, then no one answers: That’s how every empire falls

See Also:

The HU

‘The HU’ (2016-) of Mongolia fuse nomadic folk music with heavy metal, a style they call Hunnu Rock.  Throat singing with double kick. I usually don’t listen to metal, or Mongolian folk for that matter, but combined it is something else. Over a heavy and hard hitting rhythm, they sing lyrics from Mongolian poetry and battle cries of old. Hey traitor, bow down!

The band:

  • Gala – lead throat singer and morin khuur (horsehead fiddle)
  • Enkush – lead morin khuur and throat singer
  • Jaya – tumor khuur (jaw harp), tsuur (Mongolian flute) and throat singer
  • Temka – tovshuur (two stringed, horsetail lute)

All four instruments date back to at least the 1200s. Four extra musicians provide backing vocals, drum and bass.

‘Wolf Totem’, their first single, was released in November 2018. It shot to number one on iTunes and garnered 14 million views on Youtube. Their second single, ‘Yuve Yuve Yu’, has 20 million. A third, ‘Shoog Shoog’ was released in June, and their debut album Gereg is upcoming. Since 2018 the Hu have played 23 shows in Europe and met the Mongolian Prime Minister.  They are the most successful act to ever come from that country.

The HU (not to be confused with the better-known ‘Who’) is the Mongol root-word for ‘human’. In Chinese it means ‘barbarian’ –what their histories dubbed the Mongols, Xiongnu and other steppe peoples.  The Mongols, by the way, called the ancient Xiongnu ‘Hunnu’, yet more evidence they were the Huns.

Music is a key component of life on the steppe. In the 1980s western rock found an audience among the youth of communist Mongolia. When the wall fell, it surged. The Hu seek to preserve and renew the Mongolian musical tradition. They do more than add a Mongol tinge to metal, they make it their own.

See Also:

The Dubliners – Raglan Road


‘Raglan Road’ was first written as a poem by Patrick Kavanagh in 1946. He dedicated it to Hilda Moriarty, a university student Kavanagh met, and pursued a brief affair with, on Raglan Road in Dublin. After she criticised his poetic skills for their dreary subject matter, Kavanagh promised he would immortalise her in his poems.

Luke Kelly of the Irish folk group The Dubliners put Kavanagh’s poem to music and in 1986. It has since become a well-known addition to the Irish folk tradition. I love the mournful tune and how Kelly delivers. Frances Black sang it at the funeral of IRA leader cum North Irish first minister Martin McGuinness in 2017.  It also features on Martin McDonagh’s ‘In Bruges’ (2008) – one of my favourite films.

The lyrics tell the tale of a man who falls in love with a woman on Raglan Road. He knows the relationship will hurt him, but goes in anyway. Man, I can relate.


I gave her gifts of the mind
I gave her the secret sign
That’s known to the artists who have known
The true gods of sound and stone
And word and tint without stint
I gave her poems to say
With her own name there and her own dark hair
Like clouds over fields of May.

Leon Bridges – Good Thing (Album Review)

220px-Good_Thing_by_Leon_Bridges.pngGood Thing is Texas soul singer Leon Bridges’s sophomore album, released on the 8th of March 2018.

I was introduced to Leon Bridges’s music two years ago by a friend. He is a new artist but plays an old style. Accompanied by acoustic and bass guitar, piano, saxophone and drums, Bridges channels the essence of traditional rhythm and blues; singing about love and desire, family and spirituality with a beautiful voice and old fashioned charm.

Popular music is stuck in a rut. New artists deliver mainly overproduced pop which relies too much on thrumming EDM riffs, or self-indulgent mumble rap. For me, the stripped-down, smooth and nostalgic soul of Leon Bridges was (metaphorically speaking) music to my ears.

Bridge’s 2015 debut, ‘Coming Home’ was one of those albums you can play start to finish and enjoy every song.  Highlights include the groovy flagship single ‘Coming Home’, the tale of his mother’s conversion ‘Lisa Sawyer’ and the hauntingly spiritual ‘River’.  Critics compared him to Sam Cooke and Otis Redding. Everything from the way he dressed to his lyrics: ‘What can I do? What can I do?/ I’d swim the Mississippi River/ if you would give me another chance girl’ was clearly a homage to that era. You won’t hear a single curse either.

I awaited ‘Good Thing’ with anticipation.  On first listen one thing was clear: this was a different album. Bridges experiments with modern production and a more pop-friendly sound. This is clearest in ‘You Don’t Know’, ‘If it Feels Good (Then it Must Be) and ‘Forgive You’.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

The shift reminds me of Bob Dylan’s ‘Going Electric’.  When the folk singer introduced his new sound, diehard fans cried ‘Judas’. Luckily, ‘Good Thing’ hasn’t quite met the same reaction. If Leon had a few more retro albums under his belt, it might have. Asserting a diverse pallet early is probably a wise move.

leon bridges.jpg

Bridges has not lost his way. Songs like ‘The Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand’ and ‘Bad, Bad News’, go in new directions while retaining his signature sound. The autobiographical ‘Georgia to Texas’ could have been from Coming Home.

‘Beyond’ is my favourite. It really captures both being in love, and the equally powerful fear of having maybe found the one, with heartfelt lyrics and an uplifting tune: ‘I’m scared to death that she might be it/That the love is real, that the shoe might fit/she might just be my everything and beyond (beyond.)’

Song for song, I still find Coming Home a better album. However, for Bridges, who never meant  the retro theme to define him, it is a step in the right direction.  Good Thing’s best tracks – of which there are a decent few, hold the album strong.

Leon Bridges is in the big leagues now. His new producer, Ricky Reed, is a pop music giant with clients like Jason Derulo and Maroon 5. My only hope is that Bridges remembers his roots and doesn’t sell his soul to the radio as did the latter. Judging his humble demeanour, I don’t think he will.

Verdict: 3/5

Christy Moore – Viva La Quinta Brigada

Ten years before folk singer Christy Moore saw the light of morning, the Irish Socialist Volunteers were fighting in Spain. Moore wrote this song as an ode to their struggle but mistakenly pronounced the Spanish ‘quince’ as ‘quinta’. The Irish volunteers actually fought in the XV International Brigade. Poetic licence aside it is still a good song.

Verses one and two honour the Irish volunteers who fought against the fascists in Spain.  Frank Ryan of the IRA was their leader.

Verse three features the fascists. I admire Moore for mentioning this. Ryan’s nemesis Eoin O’Duffy was a Free Stater in the Irish Civil War and leader of the fascist ‘Blueshirts’. He rallied 700 Irishmen to fight for Franco out of Catholic solidarity. Only 277 fought in the International Brigades.

The final verse is name dropping. While it may seem tedious, one must remember these were real men who fought another people’s war out of ideological conviction. The utterance of their names bears weight.


Ten years before I saw the light of morning
A comradeship of heroes was laid
From every corner of the world came sailing
The Fifth International Brigade

They came to stand beside the Spanish people
To try and stem the rising fascist tide
Franco’s allies were the powerful and wealthy
Frank Ryan’s men came from the other side

Even the olives were bleeding
As the battle for Madrid it thundered on
Truth and love against the force of evil
Brotherhood against the fascist clan

Viva la Quinta Brigada
“No Pasaran”, the pledge that made them fight
“Adelante” is the cry around the hillside
Let us all remember them tonight

Bob Hilliard was a Church of Ireland pastor
Form Killarney across the Pyrenees he came
From Derry came a brave young Christian Brother
Side by side they fought and died in Spain

Tommy Woods age seventeen died in Cordoba
With Na Fianna he learned to hold his gun
From Dublin to the Villa del Rio
Where he fought and died beneath the blazing sun

Viva la Quinta Brigada
“No Pasaran”, the pledge that made them fight
“Adelante” is the cry around the hillside
Let us all remember them tonight

Many Irishmen heard the call of Franco
Joined Hitler and Mussolini too
Propaganda from the pulpit and newspapers
Helped O’Duffy to enlist his crew

The word came from Maynooth, “support the Nazis”
The men of cloth failed again
When the Bishops blessed the Blueshirts in Dun Laoghaire
As they sailed beneath the swastika to Spain

Viva la Quinta Brigada
“No Pasaran”, the pledge that made them fight
“Adelante” is the cry around the hillside
Let us all remember them tonight

This song is a tribute to Frank Ryan
Kit Conway and Dinny Coady too
Peter Daly, Charlie Regan and Hugh Bonar
Though many died I can but name a few

Danny Boyle, Blaser-Brown and Charlie Donnelly
Liam Tumilson and Jim Straney from the Falls
Jack Nalty, Tommy Patton and Frank Conroy
Jim Foley, Tony Fox and Dick O’Neill

Viva la Quinta Brigada
“No Pasaran”, the pledge that made them fight
“Adelante” is the cry around the hillside
Let us all remember them tonight

Christopher Tin – Baba Yetu

This song is the theme for the 2005 computer game Civilization IV. American composer Christopher Tin took the Swahili Lord’s Prayer and set it to his own tune and orchestration. Baba Yetu means ‘Our Father’. The song was officially released in 2010 and won the Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangements with Accompanying Vocalists, the first piece of video game music to do so.

Sung variously by Stanford Talisman, Angel City Chrorale and Prime Vocal Ensemble, the Soweto Gospel Choir sang it on Tin’s Grammy-winning debut album ‘Calling All Dawns’. This is the version I have linked. The video is tacky, but it’s the music that counts.


Baba yetu, yetu uliye

Mbinguni yetu, yetu amina!
Baba yetu yetu uliye
M jina lako e litukuzwe.

Utupe leo chakula chetu
Tunachohitaji, utusamehe
Makosa yetu, hey!
Kama nasi tunavyowasamehe
Waliotukosea usitutie
Katika majaribu, lakini
Utuokoe, na yule, muovu e milele!

Ufalme wako ufike utakalo
Lifanyike duniani kama mbinguni.