Gregory Alan Isakov writes stories, seamlessly interwoven into raw melodies, creating hypnotising and beautifully poetic songs. Hailing from Philadelphia, Isakov’s music is quickly gaining popularity over here, with the success of singles such as ‘Black Car’ and ‘The Stable Song’. However to appreciate the full scope of his repertoire, and talent, you must experience the energy of his live performances. Accompanied by an outstanding group of musicians- a violin, banjo, double bass, drums and an equally talented support act- an uplifting and intimate gig awaited me at King Tut’s.
Despite the extent to which it has become intertwined with our twenty-first century lives, the Internet is often regarded with caution. The recent election of Donald Trump and the notable rise of the alt right across Europe has only brought criticism against online culture into sharper relief. It is undeniable that the Internet can be a breeding ground for hate. Online chat forums lead angry young men to believe that white masculinity is under threat from those who don’t agree with them – feminists, the LGBTQ+ community, etc. – and a space such as the Internet naturally provides an echo chamber in which hateful subcultures fester and churn out trolls. On an individual level people worry that excessive use of social media can have an adverse effect on mental health, that genuine empathy is being replaced by the angry-face react button. Millenials, the world’s first ever Internet generation, are seen as ‘self-obsessed’ and unable to have decent conversations IRL.
When was the first time you really put yourselves in someone else’s shoes? I mean, really thought about and felt what someone else was feeling? Empathy and sympathy are key skills we tend to learn growing up, and one of the first times we are asked to actually consider a different person’s viewpoint or situation is through the media we consume. Culture does a great job providing a ‘window on the world’; giving us access to places and the lives of people we may have never had the chance to witness before – from nature documentaries showcasing penguins in Antarctica to novels detailing the life of an astronaut. Culture can also show us ideas and life experiences far beyond our comfort zone, forcing us to confront our own preconceptions and build empathy for someone we may never have met, or someone who might not even exist.
Our editors reveal the albums they have connected with personally. Look out for more album reviews in our upcoming issue!
Mylo Xyloto (2011)
I was tempted to listen to Mylo Xyloto after seeing the beautiful album cover; colourful watercolour designs with graffiti inserts looked rather unique and promising. When I researched the album before listening to it, I knew it was going to be different from what I had heard before, but what I didn’t know was how it would make me feel. This might sound ridiculous but Mylo Xyloto is like a friend to me when I need company in an unpleasant state. The vast majority of songs are relatable, therefore, listening to them makes you feel as though you’re not alone. If someone manages to write songs about the feeling I am experiencing that means that they had to feel the same at some point and they managed to make it into a work of art. Also, the album has a positive vibe while speaking about heart-breaking experiences. For all these reasons, this album helped make me feel understood.
This year for the Glasgow Film Festival 2017 I was both coordinating the press coverage for GUM and volunteering on the festival myself. However, with so many interesting films on, there were no signs of fatigue. Here’s a quick round up of films I’ve managed to see (no fully formed reviews here, just scattered thoughts).
In the last decade, there has been an exponential growth in the amount of participatory theatre being produced. What started as a new theatrical experience has now often become a tokenistic trait. Nowadays, participatory performances rarely provide the audience with actual agency and autonomy, but rather an illusion of such. We are Slumber Club, a group of third year Theatre Studies students at the University of Glasgow. From Friday the 17th until Wednesday the 22nd of March we are putting on a project titled Trilogy. We want to return ownership of a theatre performance to you. We intend to move audience interaction from the performance to the process, so the spectator’s active involvement is to contribute items and ideas during the show’s development. When we then perform the final show, created by the spectators, we hope to question these ideas of participation and democracy.
This documentary about a group of maverick Dutch journalists investigating the possibility of ethically produced chocolate manages to be educational, depressing, and very funny all at the same time. The beginning half depicts the efforts of the core member of the group, Teun van de Keuken, to get himself imprisoned for the crime of consciously eating chocolate while knowing that its production has involved child slavery. Towards the end, the film shifts its focus to Teun’s (‘Tony’s’, as his name is commonly wrangled by anglophones) quest to create their own, 100% slave-free brand of chocolate, called Tony Chocolonely. As it turns out, there are massive obstacles on the way to achieving that goal.
Artwork featuring kissing couples is almost endless – whether in fan art or Renaissance frescos, manifesta-tions of love are present. Art history is filled with this subject matter and often the background stories of the paintings can be even more enticing than the scenes they display.
William Dyce, Francesca da Rimini, 1837
The painting depicts lovers Francesca and Paolo from Dante’s epic poem, The Inferno, sharing an innocently tender moment in the moonlight. In the poem, Francesca is to be married off to the old and deformed Gianciotto, but she falls in love with his younger brother, Paolo. The picture includes some ominous elements to suggest the tragic fate of the lovers – for example, Gianciotto’s disembodied hand is still included in the edge of the canvas, although the figure himself has been trimmed off due to damage to the canvas. The kiss, in all its gentleness, cannot fend off the sinister atmosphere of the painting, which reflects the doomed love of the unfortunate couple.
Francesco Hayez, The Kiss, 1859
The medieval setting and the passionate embrace of the figures in Francesco Hayez’s painting evoke the feeling of that epic, grand love familiar to us from fairytales. There are certain things in the painting that sug-gest the scene to be a farewell – like the man wearing his hat; a foot already on the stair; and his lover gripping onto his shoulder, unwilling to let go. These elements add to the picture a slightly wistful atmosphere – yet at the same time they also enhance the depiction of a great, tragic love.
Jean-Leon Gerome, Pygmalion and Galatea, 1890
This painting draws its inspiration from the myth of Pygmalion and Galatea. According to the story, Pygmalion, the king of Cyprus, sculpted in his studio the perfect female figure and fell in love with her. His lovesickness for the sculpted woman was pitied by Aphrodite, who turned the ideal figure, Galatea, into a living being and presided over their marriage. The kiss is a representation of the desire to attain what seems to be bitter-sweetly beyond reach, and it can also be seen to convey the message of the irrationality and uncontrollable nature of love.
Marc Chagall, The Birthday, 1915
In this painting, the artist pictures himself giving a kiss to his wife on her birthday. The figures are free from the constraints of gravity, and the way Chagall turns to his wife to kiss her, his body twisted to the other direction and floating mid-air, conveys a feeling of surprise and spontaneity. The modernist streak in the style serves to emphasize the sentiment further and the experimental visual language translates to the playfulness of the portrayed scene.
Rene Magritte, The Lovers, 1928
One of Rene Magritte’s most iconic works, this picture portrays two lovers kissing, with their faces covered. The shrouded faces have been interpreted in a multitude of ways in art history — the cloth can be seen as a barrier forever separating the lovers and rendering their intimacy to isolation, or it can be read as a symbolic description of the distance that always exists between people. The shrouding of the figures’ faces certainly has an effect on the mood of the image. It is a mysterious, slightly sad and even a little terrifying depiction of what is usually thought to be the ultimate act of romance.
By Emmi Joensuu
What does it take to be chosen by the Scottish Women Football Association to be their main anthem’s songwriter?
How does it feel to compose, write and sing a song that represents women’s empowerment and struggle?
Most importantly, what is it like to be a woman nowadays, who plays football and the guitar just as well?
Sharon Martin talks power, talent and gender equality honestly, truly and openly – like only she can.
How did you get into music initially?
I always loved music but got into performing at the age of 16. I used to hang around with a bunch of grunge kids who would go to Riverside studios in Busby every Saturday to rehearse with their band. We’d all squeeze in the room and watch them perform. Got me thinking it was something that I wanted to do – so I did! I started my own Grunge band called ‘Corset’ – I was the singer and we’d do very bad covers of Nirvana, Hole and Placebo. Was a hoot! We fibbed about our age to get gigs in pubs in Glasgow. Very naughty…
Indeed, but it worked! You’ve been chosen to write the SFA’s anthem. Where is the intercept between music and football? And what does it mean for fans and players according to you?
Music plays a role in everything – it adds the emotive element. It’s a rush for fans to chant songs in the stands, encouraging and supporting their players. For players, it’s a rush to hear your fans supporting you through song.
I have played football most of my life- I am a former Glasgow City player. It has given me so much in terms of health, focus, friendship and confidence. I’ve met some of the most amazing, funny and inspiring people through football- so writing the Scottish Women’s Anthem for them seemed like the least I could do to give back.
What meaning does the song hold for you?
For me, the meaning is in the message. I believe that every human being is gifted – but so often these gifts aren’t used because a person’s potential isn’t encouraged and cultivated by their environment. I wanted to remind the girls and women of Scotland that greatness is in every one of them and self-belief is the key to releasing this. This isn’t an elitist song that is only for those with ambition to be world leaders, it applies to everyone – the woman in the Women’s Aid shelter with her kids, the kid getting bullied at school. It’s a reminder to hold tight because things will get better. It’s also of course a celebration of Scottish Women and a big shout out for gender equality – something that is very applicable to sport in this country.
You told me there would be a video too. Can you give us a bit of info about it?
The song is being used as part of an SFA campaign to encourage participation in Girls Football in this country. A video has been shot with the National Team players – this campaign kicks off in May. SWF (Scottish Women’s Football) have also shot a video with Purple TV to promote their support of the song’s message and to promote the Scottish Women’s League.
Amazing! How important is for girls, who enjoy football, to feel supported and encouraged?
It’s vital to support our female footballers. Scotland is such a progressive nation yet people don’t necessarily realize that there is such a disparity in support and opportunity between the men and women’s game. The media needs to get behind this cause- with public support comes the potential for commercial investment and thus, make the game more professional. They do it in other countries, why not here? Most of the girls and women work full-time jobs then train like athletes every evening – it is no doubt exhausting.
But it’s not just about supporting football for the sake of football. If we support our female athletes in the media, we create positive role models for our younger generation. Girls are bombarded with images of size zero models in beauty magazines; they should also see fit, healthy, strong women who are working hard and achieving. It gives them something better to aspire to, and to know that a females self esteem should not be derived from her sexual objectification. It also in turn, cultivates more positive gender attitudes amongst boys.
Couldn’t agree more! How important is gender equality not just in sports but overall?
It’s imperative for the future of our world. Equal rights and opportunity will create a more stable society. It is statistically proven that when women are empowered economically, more money goes to their children’s health and wellbeing. There is less debt and more investment in health, education and housing. The more women appointed in Government, the more democratic the country is. Women possess a great capacity for humility and compassion – wouldn’t this make them more inclined to seek peaceful resolve as opposed to starting and participating in wars? To me it’s a no brainer – we need each other, and we need to be on an equal footing. What man wouldn’t want a better future for his daughter and the women in his life?
What’s the future holding for the women in SFA? And for you, personally?
My hope is that women take up key positions within the SFA and are strongly involved in the decision-making processes. Decisions that impact the future of both the men’s and women’s game. I hope that the women’s game flourishes in this country and the girls are giving the credit they deserve for their athleticism, achievements and positive influence on the nation.
For me personally, I’ll just keep writing songs and getting behind the causes that I believe in. Many thanks for this interview.
Sharon Martin’s song, the SWF and SFA anthem Girl (Daugher of Scotland) is now available on iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/girl-daughter-scotland-single/id1104656614
By Joanna Velikov
Eyes blur. Tension is unbearable. Breath is out of control. Pain, pleasure, agony, and release.
No, I am not having sex. I am trying to accomplish the camel pose of bikram yoga.
Health is the obsession of our time: the next diet and exercise trend always claiming to be better than the last. In the eighties spandex-clad individuals crowded in front of their TVs and clenched their buttocks in unison to the sounds of synth-pop (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deKHYCsjseg). A decade ago, there was the cardio craze, which had thousands of middle-aged men take to cycling, swimming and long distance running – all intent on completing a new triathlon each weekend. Lately, there have popped up a number of refurbished industrial buildings where people stand in stripped-down rooms, lift enormous tractor tires and wield sledgehammers in order to buff up.
Female weightlifters and skinny men in lycra are breaking gender norms, but body dimorphic disorder (BDD) has never been more prevalent as it is today. According to a 2015 report by Beat (https://www.b-eat.co.uk/assets/000/000/302/The_costs_of_eating_disorders_Final_original.pdf?1424694814) there are 725 000 people suffering from eating disorders in the UK, which is a 7% yearly increase since 2009. This is not just a physical and psychological burden for the patient, but it also takes an immense emotional toll on the carers and has a severe financial impact on the NHS and UK’s economy. Not to mention that it is the one mental health issue today most common to end in fatality.
That is why I wish to address a different change in the health community: the turn towards mindfulness. Recent studies in cognitive behavioural therapy have shown that mindfulness can be effective when treating anorexia, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder, as well as depression, stress and anxiety. Bikram yoga is just one example of how to exercise mindfulness. The 90-minute class consists of 26 different poses and two breathing exercises, which take place in a room heated to 40 degrees. The aim is to work every single part of the human body to achieve optimum health and function.
Don’t get me wrong. I was definitely a sceptic too. Standing in a hot room, dripping of sweat and attempting to breathe slowly did not seem like my type of exercise. In fact, it did not seem like exercise at all. I was used to running far and fast, lifting heavy weights and swinging kettle bells in quick succession. I wanted to burn fat, build muscle and tone my body to perfection. I did not see the value of relaxation and meditation.
Time devoted for relaxation has become another stress factor for students today. It is not enough to achieve straight-As. You need to have a part-time job to pay the bills. You need to do an unpaid internship to forward your career. You need to apply for postgraduate study with the aching knowledge that you are slowly losing control of your future. Simultaneously, you need to prove that you have a social life (don’t even get me started on Tinder…) and party with your friends, while maintaining a healthy diet and visiting the gym regularly to feel good about your exterior.
Bikram yoga is certainly not exempt from the stress and the weight-losing obsession that stalks gyms today. Like in any female locker room, you will find women in yoga studios that pinch their love handles, stare at the mirror and sigh at their static kilos of pudginess – ‘Who’s the (fattest) of them all?’. There seems to be an awkward silence in the yoga community about people with body dysmorphia. The yoga ideal that adorns magazine covers, Instagram accounts and Youtube videos holds the promise of a skinny but anorexic body. Healthy eating that accompany yoga narratives, such as juice cleanses, gluten-free vegan diets and fruity smoothies, all propagate a certain life style that may disguise a person’s eating disorders. In their May 2015 issue, Yoga Magazine even featured an ancient yoga technique called Vyaghra kriyā (vomiting in order to cleanse your body), which becomes another way of rationalising bulimic practice.
Bikram yoga might not be for everyone. And the first five classes were not exactly my cup of tea. With sweat running in every crease of your being, the fat bulging in awkward places and constantly falling down during balance poses, it is difficult to accept and celebrate your body. I came out feeling depressed about my ‘extra kilos’ and exhausted from the heat. I began to despise the loud and happy chatter of the thin, flexible women proudly sporting their tight bras and mini shorts. Everything just seemed too perfect.
The yoga community needs to start admitting their responsibility in inspiring unhealthy food habits and obsessive exercise. Yet not all hope is lost. My yoga centre features flyers from Glasgow Centre for Eating Disorder, which encourages yogis in need to seek help (http://www.glasgow-eating-disorders.co.uk/). The classes focus on clearing the mind from stress. Newcomers are warmly applauded for just staying in the room throughout the class. On the Internet, there are new and encouraging narratives from yogis of all sizes (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qX9FSZJu448 and https://www.instagram.com/biggalyoga/?hl=en).
So perhaps it is not your body that needs to change, but the way you think about your body. From a young age, girls are complimented for being pretty and boys are complimented for being cool. It is no wonder that girls learn to measure their self-worth from their looks and not from their smarts. Next time, instead of telling your friends they look skinny and beautiful, tell them they look happy and confident. Instead of staring at the number on the scale, think about how well you accomplished a certain yoga pose. Congratulate yourself on the progress you make, not on losing kilos or sculpting your body, but on mastering a certain pose or controlling your breath.
As the feeling of yoga mastery slowly came to me, I started to notice new things in my class. Surrounding me were people of all ages, all sizes, both genders and different origins. Some were beginners, some were experts, but everyone was struggling with their own personal issues. The instructors were smiling and positive, not because they seek perfection, but because they enjoy the feeling of community: the feeling of everyone working together. I began to accept that I would turn into a human waterfall. I started to enjoy having 90 uninterrupted makeup-free minutes for myself. Afterwards, when the sweating subsides, I can rest in the afterglow of knowing when to let go.
By Sofia Lindén