This was a bumper year for me in literature, music and cinema. I finally got to read Zadie Smith’s latest novel, NW, Milan Kundera’s earlier works, Life is Elsewhere and Laughable Loves and William Burroughs’ Marmite-like Naked Lunch (either you like or you don’t. I fall in the former camp). I have also finished the year on a high with a re-read of one of my favourite Cuban novels, Memories of the Underdevelopment. Bearing in mind that I am writing this post about ten days before it’s due to come out, there could still be nice surprises ahead.
Unfortunately, because of the high price of cinema tickets, we do not get to go to the pictures a lot, which means we miss out on new releases. That is where Lovefilm comes in. We can tailor our movie time as a family and with a few exceptions most of the films that follow have a 12-certifcate. This year we have seen Badlands, High Fidelity (again!), The Killing Fields, Death of a Salesman (the one with Dustin Hoffman and a very young John Malkovich, who also had a supporting role in The Killing Fields), Ivan’s Childhood (based on a short-story that became my long-lasting companion when I was a child), The 400 Blows, The Truman Show (again!), A Soldier’s Story, Macbeth (Polanski’s version with a superb Francesca Annis playing Lady Macbeth), Gandhi, I am Cuba, Coriolanus (one of my favourite performances by Ralph Fiennes an Vanessa Redgrave. This is the movie that should be shown to presidents and prime ministers everywhere before they decide to invade another country), Pink Floyd-The Wall (again!) and the visually striking The Tree of Life. Funny, isn’t it? I started the year with Malick and ended the year with Malick. I say, who needs the local multiplex with this wealth of movies?
I have left music for the end because you all know how much music gets played on this blog. My most recent purchase was four albums by The Black Keys: The Big Come Up, Attack and Release, Brothers and El Camino. I can’t stop playing them. Theirs is raw, unadulterated blues-rock, with the emphasis on blues. Earlier in the year I got (finally!) Laura Marling’s four albums. I wrote about Laura back in the summer in one of my regular columns, Killer Opening Songs. Another record which I bought this year and which has been growing on me slowly is Mike Ladd’s Negrophilia, an organic synergy of jazz, house and hip-hop. Anoushka Shankar provided me with a beautiful, sensuous and spiritual soundtrack to my summer holidays with Rise, an album that shows off her excellent skills as an arranger, producer and composer. Dutch singer Nynke was the surprise package this year. I bought her album Alter after reading about it in Songlines magazine. I was not disappointed at all. Nynke’s music is hard to classify. I would call her a good, really strong pop artist with a strong folk influence. A serendipitous discovery was Yasmine Hamdan, the Lebanese singer whose debut record Ya Nass, found its way into my CD collection by chance. I was on You Tube, as you do, checking up clips by musicians from here, there and everywhere, when up pops this unknown (to me) artist. I was hooked immediately to her husky voice and electronica-infused arrangements. In this end-of-the-year review I cannot leave out the Brazilian brigade. 2013 was the year when I bought the whole Original Album Series by none other than Elis Regina, Milton Nascimento and Gilberto Gil. Five classic records per CD. A snip at less than a tenner for the whole lot. I also purchased The Definitive Collection by Caetano Veloso and Jorge Ben (the latter of Mas, Que Nada!). 40 tracks per artist, double-CD issue, low price, win-win. Beautiful! Having grown up in Cuba listening to all these great albums, I have been on a trip down memory lane this whole year. The icing on my musical cake was A Curva Da Cintura, a collaboration between two Brazilian singers, Arnaldo Antunes and Edgard Scandurra and the Malian kora player Toumani Diabaté. The only word I have for this album is poetic. That pretty much could describe my year, too.
I will be back on Sunday 12th January. In the meantime, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Next Post: “Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music”, to be published on Sunday 12th January at 10am (GMT)