46 million people living as slaves, latest global index reveals

1 Jun

46 million people living as slaves, latest global index reveals

Walk Free Foundation, backed by Russell Crowe, names India as having highest number of slaves in the world

46 million people living as slaves, latest global index reveals
Russell Crowe launches the 2016 global slavery index in London. Photograph: Shanshan Chen/Thomson Reuters Foundation

An Australian human rights group, founded by billionaire business magnate Andrew Forrest and backed by Hollywood actor Russell Crowe, has released research estimating that almost 46 million people are living as slaves.

The 2016 global slavery index, funded by Forrest’s Walk Free Foundation, says 45.8 million people are trapped in some form of slavery.

The report ranks incidences of slavery in 167 countries, with India having the highest number of slaves while North Korea has the highest percentage of slaves per capita. This year’s estimates are nearly 30% higher than in the previous report, which estimated 35.8 million people living in slavery in 2014.

Forrest says the rise is partially due to more accurate methodology but he also believes the number of people trapped in slavery is increasing year on year.

“It is time to draw a line and say, no more,” he said. “This isn’t Aids or malaria, it is a man-made problem that can be solved, and it’s time to take real action to free the world from slavery once and for all.”

The index was launched in 2013 after Bill Gates, another billionaire philanthropist, challenged Forrest to quantify the scale of modern slavery. This year’s index was launched in London on Tuesday by Crowe with video messages of support from Tony Blair, Bono, supermodel Karlie Kloss and Richard Branson.

Forrest, who says he found and addressed slavery in his own supply chains, warned businesses that they must step up their efforts to address slavery or face the consequences. He also called on consumers to question their buying habits.

“At one point, it was common to see Australian truck drivers throwing litter out of the windows of their cars because everyone else was doing it. Now, there has been a huge public outcry against this behaviour and it has stopped. The same can be done for slavery,” he said.

“We need to make it unacceptable for people to buy something without asking the company where it was made and who made it and if they can’t answer that question clearly then the next question must be ‘how do you know it wasn’t made with slave labour?’”

Walk Free said slavery is found in all 167 countries in the index, with India home to 18.4 million slaves. This year’s index also claims that over half of the 45.8 million people living in modern slavery are in five countries: India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Uzbekistan.

It calculated that more than 4% of North Korea’s population is enslaved, with Uzbekistan and Qatar the other countries with the highest prevalence of modern slavery per capita.

The index has faced criticism for its methodology and rankings system since it launched. Despite naming 167 countries, this year’s index was based on interviews conducted by pollster Gallup with more than 42,000 people in 25 countries. In some cases, rankings and prevalence estimates are calculated using data from surveys conducted in other countries deemed to have an equivalent “risk profile”.

Kevin Bales, an anti-slavery campaigner who worked on collecting data for this year’s report, said he is “very confident” the estimations were an accurate reflection.

“Over the last few years we have really honed our methodology and have build a solid framework to build on year on year,” he said. “Measuring the problem is a hugely important factor in beginning to effectively tackle this enormous problem.”

Although modern slavery constitutes a huge illegal industry, deemed the third most profitable criminal industry behind drug and arms trafficking by the UN, data remains patchy.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that 21 million people are trapped in forced labour and other forms of modern slavery. The index says it hopes to work with the ILO to provide a single set of global estimates.

 

1 Jun

Emily Blunt confirmed as Mary Poppins in sequel to classic film

The British actor will be joined by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda in Mary Poppins Returns, which takes place 20 years on from the famous first film

Emily Blunt confirmed as Mary Poppins in sequel to classic film
Emily Blunt: set to administer a spoonful of sugar. Photograph: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Move over, Julie Andrews. There’s a new Mary Poppins in town.

Walt Disney Studios announced on Tuesday that Into the Woods star Emily Blunt would be taking over the part of the famous nanny in a sequel to the 1964 classic film, confirming the British actor’s long-heralded involvement. She was said to be the producers’ first choice.

Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda will also star as a new character, Jack, the street lamplighter.

The film, titled Mary Poppins Returns, will be center on a now-grown Michael Banks and his three children in the aftermath of a tragedy, and the help they get from Poppins and Jack in 1930s London.

Rob Marshall, who worked with Blunt on the film version of the Stephen Sondheim musical Into the Woods, will direct, while the script will be written by Finding Neverland writer David Magee. Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, who won a Tony award for Hairspray, have been enlisted to write the songs.

When the remake was first announced last year, Marshall said that the film would not be based on the 1964 musical, which famously starred Julie Andrews. Instead, it will take its story from the seven previously unadapted books Mary Poppins’ creator PL Travers wrote about the magical nanny.

Marshall told Vulture: “This is an extension. I’m a huge fan of the original, and I’m a very good friend of Julie Andrews, and I hold it in such awe. There is all this new material – it was the Harry Potter of its time – and they were never turned into anything further than that adventure.”

Travers disliked the famous film, which took some liberties with her original book, for instance turning the character of Mrs Banks into a suffragette. Nevertheless, it grossed $100m, won five Oscars and became a children’s classic.

It did, however, become notorious for Dick Van Dyke’s cockney accent as Bert, the chimney sweep, renowned as one of the worst ever committed to film. Asked about this by the Guardian recently, Van Dyke said: “There was a whole cast of British people and nobody said, ‘Y’know, you’ve got to work on that accent a bit.’ Nobody said a word.”

The new film is scheduled to hit theaters on 25 December 2018.

1 Jun

Roger Daltrey planning solo record and book – but he may not release them

The Who frontman says ‘musicians are getting robbed every day’ thanks to music streaming and that he won’t give his music away for free

Roger Daltrey planning solo record and book – but he may not release them
‘I’m not going to pay to release music’ … Roger Daltry performing in Bournemouth in 2011. Photograph: Mark Holloway/Redferns

In October the Who’s Roger Daltrey will appear at the star-studded Desert Trip festival in California. Now he’s adding two projects to his calendar: a solo album and an autobiography – both of which, he says, may never see the light of day.

“I’m working on a solo project, but I don’t know whether I’ll ever release it,” Daltrey said in an interview with Rolling Stone. “I’m working on a biography … [but] I’ll only release it if it’s a good book. I don’t care how long it takes.

“I won’t sign a publishing deal. People sign a publishing deal and they have to put it out because they’ve taken the money. Well, bollocks to the money, I don’t care about the money. I want [to write] a good book.”

He also expressed concern about the way in which people consume music for free online: “The way the internet has come about has been the biggest robbery in history,” he said, “like musicians should work for nothing.”

When asked about whether the Who would put out any of its unreleased songs, he said he wouldn’t pay-to-play. “There’s no royalties, so I can’t see that ever happening. There’s no record business. How do you get the money to make the records? … I’m certainly not going to pay money to give my music away for free. I can’t afford to do that. I’ve got other things I could waste the money on,” Daltrey said.

“Musicians are getting robbed every day,” he added. “You notice, the internet is a slowly but surely destructive thing. I don’t think it’s improved people’s lives. It’s just made them do more work and feel like they’re wanted a bit more, but it’s all bollocks.”

A new solo record would be Daltrey’s first lone venture since 1992’s Rocks in the Head. The Who frontman has released eight solo studio albums so far, kicking off in 1973 with Daltrey.

He says he has collected “five great tracks” for a proposed solo record, and is “looking for another five”. What musical direction might he take? “I started off as a soul singer. I’ve never done a soul album. I’m playing some stuff like that. I’ve got ranges in my voice that people have never, ever heard.”

1 Jun

Snoop Dogg lambasts Roots remake: 'I can't watch it'

Snoop Dogg says he is sick of films and TV shows that depict historical racial abuse against African Americans when they are still ‘taking the same abuse’

Snoop Dogg lambasts Roots remake: 'I can't watch it'
Snoop Dogg arrives at the premiere of Coach Snoop. Photograph: Jerod Harris/Getty Images

The remake of Roots has gained widespread critical acclaim – but not from Snoop Dogg, who posted a short video on Instagram on Monday criticising the show, and suggesting that African Americans should not watch it.

In the video, the rapper said that he was fed up with watching films and TV shows that depicted the abuse of black Americans. “12 Years a Slave, Roots, Underground, I can’t watch none of that shit,” Snoop Dogg said, also taking aim at the Steve McQueen-directed Oscar-winning film and the WGN TV series about slaves in Georgia escaping via an underground railroad, which was recently renewed for a second season.

“They just want to keep showing us the abuse that we took hundreds and hundreds of years ago,” said Snoop Dogg. “But guess what – we’re taking the same abuse. Think about that part. Why don’t y’all go and make a muthafuckin’ series about the success that black folks is having?”

The rapper is at least leading by example, with a current web series on AOL called Coach Snoop, which follows the Snoop Youth Football League. Snoop Dogg set up the league with the aim of getting inner-city children aged between five and 13 involved in football, and is its coach and commissioner.

Roots, meanwhile, revisits one of the most successful shows in US television history for the Black Lives Matter era. British actor Malachi Kirby stars as enslaved Gambian warrior Kunta Kinte in the first episode, which aired in America on Sunday. The show is executive produced by LeVar Burton, who played Kunta Kinte in the original 70s miniseries, which was based on the book by Malcolm X biographer Alex Haley.

Snoop Dogg concluded that he would not watch Roots, and advised his fans to avoid it. “Let’s create our own shit based on today, how we living and how we inspire people today. Black is what’s real. Fuck that old shit.”

31 May

Rapper Troy Ave pleads not guilty to attempted murder following TI show shooting

Charges for artist AKA Roland Collins could be upgraded to murder after ballistics test, as prosecutors claim he ‘recklessly fired a gun five times in a crowded venue’

Rapper Troy Ave pleads not guilty to attempted murder following TI show shooting
A New York Police Department crime scene unit is seen outside Irving Plaza on 26 May. Photograph: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

Rapper Troy Ave, who was charged after a deadly shooting at a New York City concert hall, has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder.

The artist, real name Roland Collins, was called before the court on Monday following the shooting during which one person was killed and three others wounded. The Daily News reports that Collins, who was one of the injured, was arraigned on charges including attempted murder. Rapper TI, who was set to headline the show but had not yet taken to the stage, was not involved in the shooting and was unharmed, the newspaper also states.

After ballistics tests, the charges could be upgraded to include murder.

Prosecutors say Collins “recklessly fired a gun five times in a crowded venue” with no concern about the consequences.

Defence attorney Scott Leemon says 30-year-old Ronald McPhatter, one of Collins’s bodyguards who died in the shooting, wasn’t shot by Collins. Prosecutors say Collins shot himself in the leg with his own 9mm, while Leemon claims the bullet came from another person.

“He didn’t shoot himself, he didn’t shoot his lifelong friend and bodyguard, Ronald McPhatter,” Leemon told AllHipHop.com. “Ronald died a hero and should be remembered that way. The snippet of the video released by NYPD doesn’t tell the whole story.”

Following the incident on 25 May, The New York Daily News reported that an employee of the venue said the shooting was the result of “a beef between two rival crews”, associated with different rappers who had credentials to get into the green room.

A separate witness who was in the green room, Johnny Wilkins, told the Daily News: “It was a fight over a push, it was some bullshit. It was like 50 or 60 people in the VIP room. It was crazy. It’s crazy more people didn’t get shot.”

Police left open the possibility that a revolver was also fired. Troy Ave has pleaded not guilty to the charges and is being held without bail.

31 May

Glastonbury's Emily Eavis: 'We will definitely do a festival somewhere else'

As the full Glastonbury lineup is revealed, the organiser discusses this year’s tributes and the event’s future plans

Glastonbury's Emily Eavis: 'We will definitely do a festival somewhere else'
The Who on the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury in 2015. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

As Glastonbury announces its full lineup for 2016, with Damon Albarn, Tame Impala, Christine and the Queens and more added to the bill, Emily Eavis has addressed rumours regarding this year’s festival, and the event’s future ambitions.

Discussing previous suggestions that the festival may move from the Worthy Farm site in Somerset to another location, Eavis denied this would be the case, but revealed the organisers behind Glastonbury would host a new event “in 2019 or 2018, but probably 2019,” in a new location.

“We are going to do a show somewhere else with the same team behind Glastonbury but it hasn’t got a name yet and we’re still not entirely sure what shape it’s going to take,” she told the Guardian. “For now we’re all [focused] on Worthy Farm. We’re not thinking too far down that road because we’re quite busy with this one at the moment!”

A number of established names have been newly confirmed for 2016’s event: Damon Albarn and the Africa Express musicians will join The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians opening the Pyramid stage on Friday morning, Aussie psych group Tame Impala will warm up the stage for Adele on Saturday night, while other new additions include White Denim, Michael Kiwanuka, Anoushka Shankar, the Shibusashirazu Orchestra, Mystery Jets, Alessia Cara and Rat Boy.

This year’s festival will also pay tribute to the many icons the music world has lost in the past 12 months. Footage from David Bowie’s 2000 performance will be screened across the site this year, while the careers of Lemmy and Prince will also be celebrated throughout the weekend.

Glastonbury's Emily Eavis: 'We will definitely do a festival somewhere else'
David Bowie performing at Glastonbury in 2000. Photograph: Dan Chung for the Guardian

“There will be all sorts of things popping up all the time. At the moment we’ve got a few Prince visual tributes and a few late night parties in Block 9 and various other places across the site,” said Eavis. “With Bowie we’re going to put the [Aladdin Sane] flash on the Pyramid stage. Obviously with his relationship with the festival going back so far to 1971, we really wanted to mark it as if it were his stage, because he had such a relationship with Glastonbury. We are also doing a Lemmy tribute on the Other stage which is really good but it has to remain a surprise because if I try to explain what we’re trying to make it look like it wouldn’t sound half as good as it’s going to be!”

Eavis also stated that the festival had come close to booking Prince numerous times. “Prince was rumoured every year, and we often came close. He confirmed about three times then pulled out in recent years. Unfortunately it never happened. I don’t know why, but I think there was always a lot of tabloid rumour which didn’t help,” she explained.

Addressing Glastonbury’s “secret performer” slot – which Prince and David Bowie were often hoped to fulfil – Eavis denied the rumour that Radiohead would perform at 2016’s event. “There’s no planned Radiohead gig at the moment. But obviously we would love to have Radiohead back. Personally I’d love to have them play next year but at the moment there’s no confirmation, so we’ll have to see.”

A surprising addition to the lineup is the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Choir, who will open up the Pyramid stage on Saturday morning – a particularly pertinent booking following the birth of Eavis’ third child.

“I’ve obviously got a very close relationship with the NHS having just had a baby and experiencing how incredible the whole NHS was, and also just talking to the staff about the experience of the cuts and what an impact that’s having on people. Seeing it firsthand, it really makes you treasure it and realise what an incredible thing it is,” says Eavis. “We just wanted to invite them down to perform here on the Pyramid and this feels like a year that’s more important than ever.”

Glastonbury festival takes place from Wednesday 22 to Sunday 26 June. Adele, Coldplay and Muse headline the main stage this year.

30 May

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson's Baby Girl, Jasmine, 'Loves Looking at Daddy's Tattoos': Photo

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson's Baby Girl, Jasmine, 'Loves Looking at Daddy's Tattoos': Photo
Dwayne Johnson at the 2016 MTV Movie Awards on April 9, 2016, in Burbank, CA. Credit: Alberto Rodriguez/MTV1415/Getty Images

This would melt the toughest heart. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson shared a cute pic on Instagram on Sunday, May 29, showing his baby daughter, Jasmine, inspecting his tattoos.

“After we feed her, Jasmine just loves looking at daddy’s tattoos. I think it helps her digest,” he captioned the photo. “Can’t wait to one day explain to her what all this means. Chat about her cultures (Samoan, Armenian, African American and Italian). And while these symbols may appear to be primitive, unsophisticated and crude — they’re extremely sacred, thousands of years old and very powerful. My mana (strength).”

“Ironically enough the symbol she’s fixated on is our ATUA (our God) protected by the small building blocks of my life and then by shark teeth,” the action hero, who grew up in Hawaii, continued. “Yuuuuup, we gonna have some good daddy/daughter chats. Until then she’ll continue to use daddy’s tattoos as a place to scratch, drool and spit up.”

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson's Baby Girl, Jasmine, 'Loves Looking at Daddy's Tattoos': Photo

Jasmine, who was born in December, is the first child for the action hero, 44, and his longtime girlfriend Lauren Hashian. He also has a teenage daughter, Simone, from a previous marriage.

Johnson, whose father is a Black Nova Scotian and mother is Samoan, is set to star in Moana, an animated Disney movie about a Polynesian princess. He will voice (and sing) in his role as the demigod Maui in the film that’s due out in November.

The busy actor also shared a first look at his character, Hobbs, from the upcoming Furious 8, which is currently shooting.

“When you strip a man of all he has. All that’s important to him. You force him to return to his roots.. and sometimes that’s a very dangerous and twisted place,” Johnson captioned the black-and-white pic on Instagram.

“If I was going to return for another FAST & FURIOUS I wanted to come in and disrupt the franchise in a cool way that got fans fired up and their blood pumping to see a new version of Hobbs and his “Daddy’s gotta go to work” mentality and set the table in a cool way for where the character goes in the future,” he explained.

“Maybe it’s a spinoff movie. Maybe it’s more#FF movies,” he teased. “Or hell maybe Hobbs just gets on his motorcycle and rides off into the sunset never to be seen again.”

Furious 8, which also stars Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Charlize Theron and Scott Eastwood, is set to be released in April 2017.

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson's Baby Girl, Jasmine, 'Loves Looking at Daddy's Tattoos': Photo

30 May

Emilia Clarke nominates herself as a Jane Bond contender (and DiCaprio as a 'Bond boy')

Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke says playing a gender-swapped version of the 007 agent is an ‘unrealised dream’ and says DiCaprio would be her ‘ultimate leading man’

Emilia Clarke nominates herself as a Jane Bond contender (and DiCaprio as a 'Bond boy')
Actor Emilia Clarke has raised her hand to become the next Jane Bond. Photograph: Victoria Will/Invision/AP

Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke has thrown her name into the ring to play a female version of 007.

In an interview with the UK’s Daily Star, Clarke said, “I have a lot of unrealised dreams. I would love to play Jane Bond. My ultimate leading man would be Leonardo DiCaprio. No doubt about it.”

Clarke made the comments while promoting her drama Me Before You, the 29-year-old’s first major leading romantic role.

The self-nomination comes on the heels of The X-Files star Gillian Anderson retweeting a fan made poster casting her as the next 007 agent along with the words: “It’s Bond, Jane Bond.”

Not everyone is interested in a gender swapped version of Bond. The Guardian’s film editor, Catherine Shoard, said in an editorial that the campaign to make Bond female “sits oddly” with a vision of a world in which women leaders effect progress by adopting an approach not previously applied. “Shouldn’t we be cooking up new heroines, rather than just sticking old ones in a frock?”

But among fans speculation over who will nab the coveted role from the current Bond actor, Daniel Craig, remains rife. At this point it is hard to find a British actor of a certain vintage who hasn’t been mentioned, with Tom Hiddleston, Aidan Turner, Idris Elba, Damian Lewis and Billy Elliot star Jamie Bell all having their names tossed around by both fans and film industry pundits.

The franchise’s outgoing director, Sam Mendes, recently told audiences at the UK’s Hay festival that the decision lay in the hands of producer Barbara Broccoli and that the final choice “will not be what you expect”.

“There’s this constant debate about who’s going to be the next Bond,” he said. “The truth is – and here’s the headline – it’s not a democracy. It’s not the X Factor, it’s not the EU referendum, it’s not a public vote.”

Bookmakers recently suspended betting on Hiddleston landing the gig after reports he was seen meeting with Mendes and Broccoli in London.

The most unexpected person to play Bond may be Craig himself who – while not exactly sounding keen on it (at one point he said he would rather slash his wrists) – has not actually ruled out returning to the role.

30 May

Moscow exhibition celebrates Soviet cinema's grand designs

Poster display highlights ideology and escapism of mass-produced publicity tools that spawned an artistic genre, The Moscow Times reports

Moscow exhibition celebrates Soviet cinema's grand designs
A film poster from 1929, for a film by Sergei Eisenstein. Photograph: Russian State Library

The cultural heritage of Soviet cinema is being celebrated in a landmark exhibition, which brings together some of the most innovative film artworks of the past century.

With none of the romanticism of the Hollywood silver screen, these bold experiments in graphic design and ideology demonstrate how a mass-produced publicity tool became its own artistic genre.

Organised by the State Museum and the Moscow Museum of Design, The History of Soviet Cinema in Film Posters 1919-1991 allows visitors to track artistic developments as cinema became the USSR’s most popular artform, from the advent of constructivism to the arrival of socialist realism and sophisticated photo-montage techniques.

The exhibition’s curator Anna Pakhomova explains: “Even if the films are unknown, the language of film posters is very meaningful because the artist must give an impression of the whole film ‘in one shot’ to make the viewer want to go to the cinema.

“There are many metaphors, imaginative artistic decisions and framing elements. The language of film posters is very graphic and, at the same time, artistic.”

The exhibition comes as the Kremlin announces 2016 the “year of cinema”, which will see the government step up funding for local films, facilitate productions in remote regions, as well as launching a Eurasian film academy and festival.

Moscow exhibition celebrates Soviet cinema's grand designs
Poster for Paren iz Nashego Goroda (The Boy From Our Town). Photograph: Electronic Studio

When the USSR was first formed, Soviet cinema flourished. It was simultaneously a medium of mass entertainment and a channel for communicating ideology. The 1920s became a period of unprecedented developments in the graphic arts throughout Europe and Russia was no different. Freed from the confines of realism, artists reassembled images and photographs to create dramatically modern posters that defied the limitations of fine art.

A prominent example of this practice is the poster for Boris Barnet’s 1927 silent film Devuska c Korobkoy (The Girl with a Hatbox). Created by Vladimir and Georgii Stenberg, who famously staged the first constructivist exhibition in 1922, the poster incorporates geometric abstraction with a highly stylised composition.

Moscow exhibition celebrates Soviet cinema's grand designs
Girl with a Hatbox, 1927. Photograph: Russian State Library

During the early years of Bolshevik rule, much of the population were illiterate so cinema and its accompanying film posters provided a straightforward method of communicating political messages.

The second part of the exhibition, covering the 1930s to the mid-1950s, demonstrates aptly how cinema of this era fell under the auspices of state-sponsored propaganda.

Using the language of socialist realism, film posters had to convey the ideological messages of the ruling party as censorship squeezed the film industry and production. There was also a focus on patriotic, nationalistic themes.

Films produced during the war years, such as Molodaya Gvardiya (Young Guard), Zhdi Menya (Wait for Me) and Paren iz Nashego Goroda (The Boy From Our Town), reflected on the sacrifice and heroism of ordinary Russian citizens.

It was only in the late 1950s and 1960s that there was a return to creative freedom in cinema and art. During Khrushchev’s rule, artists could once again experiment relatively freely with composition, content and symbolism.

Moscow exhibition celebrates Soviet cinema's grand designs
The Story of Asya Klyachina, 1967. Directed by Andrey Konchalovsky. Photograph: Linz Design Museum

While many of the posters will be recognisable to Russian audiences, alone they still stand as bold works of art.

The exhibition also showcases the cinematography of the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s. Posters chart the rapid changes afoot in Russian society and the ways in which artists responded to artistic and technological advancements.

Films such as Chuchelo (The Scarecrow) and Igla (The Needle) had posters that played with photography, experimenting with the new possibilities offered by developments in photo montage.

“For me Soviet cinema offers a history of our country. It [represents] our past, as well as our favourite films,” adds Pakhomova.

A version of this article first appeared on the Moscow Times

30 May

'Stealth gospel' music aims to shake up North Korea's songs of praise

Project records tunes that secretly replace adoring references to Kim dynasty with mentions of Jesus and the Holy Spirit

'Stealth gospel' music aims to shake up North Korea's songs of praise
North Korean pupils at a talent school that drills children to sing praise to the regime. Photograph: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

From giant balloons and illicit DVDs to portable media players, campaigners have been extremely persistent in finding ways to smuggle information inside North Korea.

But “stealth gospel”, whereby adoring references to the ruling Kim dynasty in classical propaganda music are replaced with mentions of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, must be one of the most creative.

No Chain, a project initiated by former North Korean political prisoner Jung Gwang-il, has recorded 32 new songs almost identical to the ones played on state-run radio – but with a twist.

“It sounds exactly the same as what you would hear in North Korea, the same accompaniment, the same type of voice, but the names have all been changed,” Jung said.

“[The customs officials] aren’t going to sit there and listen to each song, because the music sounds the same to what they’re used to hearing,” he added.

No Chain uses its network of smugglers along the China-DPRK border to distribute the music, which is secretly loaded on USB sticks and SD cards. They do so at great risk: the penalty if they’re caught is public execution.

Jung, who presented the project at the Oslo Freedom Forum recently, was stressed that his aim was not to proselytise. Instead, he said he was using religion as a way to expose North Korea’s isolated citizens to alternative ways of thinking.

“In the DPRK there is no concept of love that isn’t about loyalty and love for the regime and the ‘dear leader’. We’ve done this to show that outside, people believe in whatever they want,” he said.

Jung hired a music studio, a producer, and enlisted the help of a defector who used to work as a singer in Pyongyang. “We took great pains to reproduce the exact sound – the singing, the intonation, the methods,” Jung said.

'Stealth gospel' music aims to shake up North Korea's songs of praise
Jung Gwang-il spent three years in a North Korean prison camp in the early 2000s.

But it’s also about bringing a bit of cheer. Testing the songs on fellow defectors in the US, Jung says: “They hear the words and they’re like, ‘what the hell?’, chuckling and laughing. They’re so surprised.”

Pop attrition

Music is a well-worn battleground in North Korea’s ongoing fight to control the hearts and minds of its citizens. Patriotic songs celebrating the “exploding mental strength of our million citizens” are a regular fixture of state-run radio and TV, with Kim even announcing his own theme tune in 2012 and founding his own all-female pop group.

But it’s also increasingly being used to expose isolated citizens to the outside world – and incense the regime. Following a nuclear test in January, Pyongyang declared it had been driven to “the brink of war” by a barrage of pop music being pumped across the demilitarised zone by a fleet of loudspeakers installed by South Koreans.

A spokesman for the South Korean defence ministry said they had been careful to choose “a diverse range of the most recent popular hits to make it interesting”, including a selection of catchy K-pop tracks.

The international community responded to Kim’s provocation with a new sanctions, but analysts say these measures continually fail to deter the regime and instead further alienate average citizens.

Writing in the Guardian, Korea specialist Andrei Lankov argued that “even if sanctions were to inflict damage on the North Korean economy – which has exceptionally low dependence on foreign trade – the only victims will be common North Koreans, who will just suffer more.”

For Jung, who started out by smuggling seeds for Doctors Without Borders in 2008, these measures have made smuggling music, foreign films and TV programmes all the more important, thanks to their power to act as a subversive force against the regime’s rhetoric.

“Dramas and Hollywood action films may be classified as entertainment, but when we send them to North Korea, where people are living lives of forced labour, they realise that others don’t have to focus only on working to survive,” he explains. “It may be simple entertainment, but it has a profound impact.”

29 May

Next James Bond will not be who you expect, Sam Mendes says

Outgoing director’s remarks suggest Tom Hiddleston not a shoo-in for the part of 007

Next James Bond will not be who you expect, Sam Mendes says
Tom Hiddleston has been the favourite to take over from Daniel Craig as Bond. Photograph: Des Willie/BBC/The Ink Factory

The actor chosen to play the next James Bond will be an unexpected candidate, the franchise’s outgoing director has said, suggesting favourite Tom Hiddleston may not land the 007 role.

The British film-maker Sam Mendes said the choice for the next star of the hugely successful franchise lies solely with producer Barbara Broccoli. He also confirmed he will not be returning to direct the next film, saying he is ready to work on something new, the Telegraph reported.

Speaking at the Hay festival, Mendes, who directed Skyfall and Spectre, said: “I’m a storyteller and at the end of the day I want to make stories with new characters.”

He said he had loved the “incredible adventure” of working on Bond, but that he thought it was “time for somebody else to do a great job”.

Speculation is rife as to which actor will next step into the spy’s impeccably polished shoes to replace Daniel Craig 10 years after he first took the helm with Casino Royale. Tom Hiddleston, Aidan Turner, Idris Elba, Damian Lewis and most recently Billy Elliot star Jamie Bell have all been touted as possible 007s.

Bookmakers recently suspended betting on Hiddleston landing the gig, after the star of the BBC’s hit series The Night Manager was pictured meeting with executives linked to the Bond franchise.

Mendes said the director and lead role were likely to be unexpected. “I can guarantee whatever happens with it, it will not be what you expect. That’s what she [Broccoli] has been brilliant at, and that’s how it’ll survive.”

29 May

Music fans could be target of next UK terror attack – security chief

Top counter-terrorism officer tells music executives to take extra security measures in run-up to festival season

Music fans could be target of next UK terror attack - security chief
Last year’s Glastonbury festival. ‘Crowded places are right at the top of the agenda,’ say the Met police. Photograph: Tabatha Fireman/Redferns via Getty Images

Music fans and nightclubbers could be the target of the next major terrorist attack in Britain, a top counter-terrorism officer has warned ahead of the country’s festival season.

Music executives were invited alongside Premier League football bosses to a recent anti-terrorism briefing at Wembley stadium to hear the warning from Neil Basu, deputy assistant commissioner with the Metropolitan police, who is in charge of the country’s protective security.

Many stadiums already have strict security measures in place to protect against the risk of terrorist attacks. But, Basu said in an interview with the Sunday Times, there were concerns over the risk to the night-time economy.

“I’d want to see the owners and event managers taking the same kind of security precautions,” he was quoted as saying.

Glastonbury, the world’s largest music festival, is expected to draw about 135,000 people to Worthy Farm in Somerset next month, with many more expected to fill parks and green spaces for music events throughout the summer.

But after the attacks in Paris last November, where terrorists attacked revellers on the streets and in a concert venue and attempted to bomb the Stade de France, Basu warned that crowded entertainment events were a priority for police.

“These people are perfectly happy to target civilians with the maximum terror impact,” he said. “Crowded places were always a concern for us, but now they are right at the top of the agenda.”

Stadiums and music events were particularly vulnerable due to the high concentrations of people, but music festivals were particularly hard to control and secure because of their larger perimeters, Basu said.

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, announced on Friday that he had launched a review of the capital’s ability to tackle a major terrorist incident that will investigate how emergency services would cope if extremists launched simultaneous attacks, such as those that hit Paris last year.

But elsewhere in the country, particularly in rural areas that host some of the country’s largest summer festivals, forces are warning they could be “sitting ducks” in the face of a terrorist attack as they wait for armed officers to arrive from as far as 70 miles away.

Meanwhile, the government’s overall counter-extremism strategy has been mired in controversy after it was suggested that it could actually fuel terrorism by alienating communities. A counter-extremism bill unveiled in the Queen’s speech has been criticised for failing to define extremism, while the police lead on anti-radicalisation has said government plans risk turning British officers into a “thought police”.

29 May

Michael Eavis urges Glastonbury fans to use their vote on Europe

Glastonbury clashes with the referendum, but festival founder has plans to ensure visitors don’t miss out – and wants young people to vote to remain in EU

Michael Eavis urges Glastonbury fans to use their vote on Europe
Music fans planning to attend this year’s Glastonbury festival are being urged to make sure they cast their vote in the EU referendum. Photograph: Tabatha Fireman/Redferns via Getty Images

Michael Eavis, the Somerset farmer who runs the world’s biggest music festival, Glastonbury, has appealed to fans converging for this year’s event (from 22 to 26 June) to vote in the European Union referendum.

Eavis and his festival have been the subject of concern from some political quarters – notably former Labour leader Neil Kinnock – because the gates for Glastonbury open the day before the referendum on Thursday 23 June, with music under way on the Friday morning. Lord Kinnock, who became a European commissioner and was vice-president of the European commission until 2004, said it would be a shame if young people were “rocking instead of voting”.

The festival was arranged for its usual weekend, close to the summer solstice, long before the referendum date was chosen. “It has been like that for 47 years,” said Eavis. “Even Neil Kinnock should know that.”

He added: “The people coming to our festival have to make sure they vote. The result of this referendum strongly affects their future – it’s so important for them and they’ve got to ensure they’re part of it. I do believe that the kids who come here will want to be involved. We have said it until we’re blue in the face: if you come, vote.”

Michael Eavis urges Glastonbury fans to use their vote on Europe
Michael Eavis, the Glastonbury festival organiser, believes young people should vote to stay in Europe. Photograph: David Levene for the Observer

Eavis knows which box he would like voters to put their mark in. “It’s so important that we vote to remain in the EU,” he said. “They need to get out there, get stuck into this, and vote to stay part of Europe.”

There will not be a polling station at the festival, so Eavis and the festival organisers are strongly encouraging ticket holders to vote by post or by proxy if they plan to leave home before polling stations open.

“The show doesn’t start until Friday morning, so most people, coming after work on Thursday, have got a day,” said Eavis. “Many of the people travelling here on Thursday to catch the opening will have time to vote earlier in the day. But those coming from farther away will have to make other arrangements – and they need make sure to get their postal vote organised.”

As with every other year in the weeks before the festival, fences go up, stages are built and Worthy Farm’s rolling meadows become fields of scaffolding, cranes and bustle. And when it comes to voting in or out, Eavis has also addressed the matter of the “thousands of people who are already here getting the whole thing together”.

In Goose Hall, the pre-festival catering site for staff and crew, Eavis has set up an information desk to help people already on site to register for a postal vote – the deadline is 3 June – and get their votes into the mail. If they fail to do this, however, there is still hope.

“We’re going to need to organise buses to ship [those] people from here to the polls on referendum day, if they’re registered within reasonable reach of the site,” said Eavis. “That’s something we’re going to look at more closely. We’re going to do all we can to accommodate people needing assistance to vote.”

Eavis, the son of a Methodist minister, grew up on Worthy Farm. He was inspired to launch Glastonbury after going to the Bath music festival in 1970, where the line-up included Jefferson Airplane, the Byrds and Led Zeppelin. His first “Glastonbury Fair” brought David Bowie, Traffic, Hawkwind and other artists to the farm.

Since then, Eavis has become a national institution – and a local one. He is at ease in the town of Glastonbury, four miles from his Worthy Farm at Pilton, often calling at Knight’s Fish and Chips restaurant – regularly voted “best in the west” – opposite the festival office, for a chat with townsfolk and music fans.

Speaking of his own position on the referendum, and glad to urge his festival fans to agree with him, Eavis said: “I’m deeply for ‘In Europe’. In with both feet. It’s not for my sake – I’ve nearly finished; I’ve been on the go at this for 50 years – it’s for them.

“I think most people who come to our festival are reasonably intelligent. And as such, they must realise that our future must be part of this European ideal.

“I can understand the OAP – with a little house in Margate and a picture of the Queen on the mantelpiece – wanting to be little England again. I accept all that. But it’s the past: that’s just rainy old windswept Margate talking. This referendum is about the future, in which we have to be part of the bigger picture, a continent of opportunities, languages, colours, excitements and exchanges.”

With direct regard to the job he does for the rest of the year, Eavis added: “I also need to vote for Europe as a farmer. Farming would be dead in the water if we left the EU. We’d be flooded even more with rock-bottom cheap stuff from Singapore and all over. For farming, this is a serious moment.

“And my God, I need the Poles I have working here,” he added. “There are about six of them, and they’re fantastic. Up when we have to be at half-past three in the morning, on time, no problems, no fagging out in the barn. I don’t know what I’d do without them. No – we’ve got to vote, and we’ve got to stay in.”

29 May

Rap artists bristle at 'antiquated' NYPD comments about concert shooting

The police commissioner blamed rap for a fatal shooting outside a TI concert – the sort of crime the ‘hip-hop squad’ would have been deployed to in the 90s

Rap artists bristle at 'antiquated' NYPD comments about concert shooting
Irving Plaza, where one person was killed and three others injured during a show to be headlined by rapper TI on Wednesday night. Photograph: Timothy A Clary/AFP/Getty Images

New York is the home of hip-hop, one of the most dominant cultural movements in America, but the head of the city’s police department has blamed rap music for a fatal shooting, sparking outrage from scholars and artists.

Crown Heights rapper Troy Ave has been charged with attempted murder for his role in a shooting at a TI concert in Manhattan on Wednesday night that left one person dead and three others injured, including the 30-year-old rapper, also known as Roland Collins.

The morning after the shooting at Irving Plaza, the NYPD commissioner, William Bratton, told the radio station WCBS-AM that rap lyrics, and the people who perform them, are responsible for violence in the industry.

“The crazy world of these so-called rap artists basically celebrates the violence,” Bratton said. “Unfortunately, that violence sometimes manifests itself in their performances and that’s exactly what happened last evening.”

Erik Nielson, an assistant professor at the University of Richmond who studies hip-hop, said Bratton’s comments were “antiquated”.

“It is really rooted in a pretty basic misunderstanding of the genre and it feels intended to place the blame on an artistic and cultural movement, rather than on systemic forces that, frankly, the NYPD has had a significant role in perpetuating,” Nielson said. He added that the NYPD is part of a broader institutional structure that has disenfranchised communities of color in the city.

The NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program notoriously targeted communities of color, as did the “broken windows” policing theory, pioneered by Bratton in his first run as NYPD commissioner from 1994 to 1996. There is also the department’s involvement in the deaths of unarmed black men.

In the past, the police department has specifically targeted the hip-hop scene, which was born in the south Bronx in the 1970s. The NYPD ran a special hip-hop intelligence unit for several years in the late 1990s to the early 2000s to monitor crimes in the community.

But the scholars and artists themselves contest the NYPD’s assumption that rap is more dangerous than any other genre of music.

“Go ask emergency room doctors, which they think are more dangerous, rap or EDM concerts?” Nielson said, referring to the drug deaths at electronic dance music festivals. “The answer will not be rap concerts.”

In fact, Nielson said, hip-hop culture was an outlet for those communities disproportionately affected by poverty and violence.

“In the 1970s, New York was overrun with violent street gangs, no matter what politicians did, no matter what the police did, the gangs remained pervasive and endured,” Nielson said. “Then came hip-hop,” which he said helped rescue community members.

TI, the headliner for Wednesday night’s show who didn’t get to perform, emphasized the importance of rap music while offering his condolences on Instagram to the victim’s family and those injured in the shooting.

“My heart is heavy today,” he said. “Our music is intended to save lives, like it has mine and many others.”

The hip-hop squad

The NYPD said Wednesday night’s shooting began outside a green room sparked by a dispute.

Ronald McPhatter, 33, was killed in the shooting and Collins was injured along with Christopher Vinson, 24, and Maggie Heckstall, 26.

This is the sort of crime the NYPD’s since-disbanded hip-hop intelligence unit would have been deployed for in the late 1990s and early 2000s, said the creator of the unit, Derrick Parker, a 20-year veteran of the NYPD.

Parker said the NYPD’s rap unit – known as the “hip-hop taskforce”, “hip-hop squad” and “rap intelligence unit” – was formed in 1999, sparked by a rise in violence in the hip-hop community. Before the unit was made official, Parker was the NYPD’s go-to for incidents that involved rap artists, like when Brooklyn-born rapper Notorious BIG was killed in Los Angeles in 1997.

Questions have been raised about whether the hip-hop taskforce was guilty of profiling and unfairly surveilling communities of color, which Parker disputes. “I don’t see it as profiling, I think it’s more or less, knowing a little about people who had violent tendencies in this community,” Parker said.

The NYPD, meanwhile, has never confirmed that the unit existed, though it said in 2004 that it had detectives who monitor the music industry after the Miami Herald reported that its police consulted the NYPD about rap violence.

Police would closely monitor those on the list when they made nightclub appearances or had concerts in the city, according to the Post’s anonymously sourced report. “The other part of it is, there’s a lot of really street-leaning gangster guys on the fringes of the industry … The police taskforce keeps tabs on who is around certain rappers and what movements they are going through,” one source said.

Parker said the rap surveillance unit has since been disbanded, though there are still officers monitoring shows and club nights. In 2014, the New York Post reported that the NYPD had a special watch-list of hip-hop artists including Drake, Chris Brown and Lil Wayne.

The New York police department did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

“I’m not trying to blame anyone else, but the management for Irving Plaza dropped the ball on this,” said Parker, who now works as a security consultant. “It looks like they were not prepared to deal with this, especially with the magnitude of the rappers they had.”

Live Nation did not respond to a request for comment and Irving Plaza said it was referring all inquiries to the NYPD.

Despite the alleged lapses in security at the venue, Bratton lamented that it was “the backgrounds of some of these people, unfortunately the lifestyles they led or had” that were more to blame.

“No question a lot of talented artists, enjoy the music,” Bratton said. “Music all too often celebrates violence, degradation of women and the drug culture. It’s unfortunate that some of them, as they get fame and fortune, cannot get out of the life.”

Daryl McDaniels, the DMC of Run-DMC, told the New York Daily News that Bratton “should have known better” than to pin the shooting on rap music.

“Violence is everywhere,” McDaniels said. “It existed long before rappers started portraying it in their music.”

McDaniels added that some artists need to take responsibility for violence in the community. McDaniels’s friend and fellow Run DMC member, Jason Mizell, also known as DJ Jam Master Jay, was shot and killed at a Queens music studio in 2002. The NYPD has not solved the murder.

“When we see the violence in our community, we’ve got to keep saying it’s wrong, it’s wrong, it’s wrong,” McDaniels said.