Posts Tagged ‘music’

The Songs of Hong Kong

November 7, 2014


Early on in their protests, the demonstrators of Hong Kong adopted a song from the democratic Western world to be the unofficial anthem of their movement.

Do you hear the people sing?

Singing a song of angry men?

It is the music of a people

Who will not be slaves again!

When the beating of your heart

Echoes the beating of the drums

There is a life about to start

When tomorrow comes!

So goes the chorus of “Do You Hear the People Sing?” The song was written more than 30 years ago for Les Misérables, a musical about the revolutionary period of France. The protesters of Hong Kong—mostly young students—made it their anthem because they saw parallels between the students in Les Mis who fought for revolution, and their own struggle.

“‘Do You Hear the People Sing?’ describes the exact situation in Hong Kong,” a spokesperson for Occupy Central, the main group behind the demonstrations, said. “Beijing is not listening to the voice of the people and we are trying to get our message out but no one is listening.”

What is that message? The Hong Kong protesters want full democracy for their 2017 election. The election is for Hong Kong’s top civil position of chief executive.

On August 31, China announced that the people of Hong Kong can vote in that election—but only for candidates preapproved by Beijing. This announcement is what triggered the protests, with demonstrators decrying it as “fake” Chinese-style democracy. They demand an unrestricted choice of candidates.

Back in 1997, when the British handed back Hong Kong to China, the Chinese promised Hong Kong “a high degree of autonomy” for 50 years. Now residents say that the freedom that distinguishes Hong Kong from the rest of China is rapidly disintegrating.

At their peak, the protests drew tens of thousands to the streets. They congested many of the city’s major traffic arteries, and sparked occasional skirmishes between demonstrators and police, who sometimes used pepper spray, batons and tear gas on the crowds. Some analysts believed the protests could spread into the rest of China, and viewed them as a legitimate threat to China’s ruling Communist Party.

But as the weeks have gone by, the number of protesters has been falling. Both Hong Kong and Beijing have said the students’ demands are impossible. On October 21, Hong Kong officials finally held a round of talks with students, and promised to deliver a report to Beijing about their demands. But no change resulted from the talks, and little is expected even if more discussions are held.

At present, it looks like the struggle of the Hong Kong students may be more accurately described by the lyrics of a different song from the Western world. It was written by Sonny Curtis in 1958, and is called “I Fought the Law”:

I’m breakin’ rocks in the hot sun

I fought the law and the law won

I fought the law and the law won

I needed money ’cause I had none

I fought the law and the law won

I fought the law and the law won

The protests are not yet over, but China’s refusal to make any real concessions, or to even to give the protesters any real recognition affirms that in Hong Kong, Beijing is the law—unyielding and uncompromising. The students of Hong Kong sang the song of angry men, and some are singing it still. But, despite their songs, efforts and struggle, it looks like the law won.


By Jeremiah Jacques (this first appeared on

A Guitar has Moonlight in it

April 9, 2012

Many eloquent guitarists enjoy discussing their instruments as much as they like playing them. I celebrate both the guitar and the art of quotation, and this list combines the two passions. From witty quips to profound insights, here is my collection of quotes on the guitar:

As you read through these, feel free to listen to my classical guitar version of Chopin’s Waltz in Bm.

“Nothing is more beautiful than a guitar, save perhaps two.”
~Fredric Chopin

“I played guitar for ten years before I realized it wasn’t a weapon.” ~Pete Townshend

“The guitar’s most special quality is its ability to shape the dying away of a sound into silence.” ~John Williams

Sometimes you want to give up the guitar, you’ll hate the guitar. But if you stick with it, you’ll be rewarded.” ~Jimi Hendrix

“The guitar, by its very nature, the nature of its sound, by the soft nuance of its powerful and ancient voice, by the magic of the tone, goes directly to the part of oneself where love is felt.” ~Pepe Romero

“The guitar is your first wings. It’s assigned and designed to unfold your vision and imagination.” ~Carlos Santana

“I don’t have any limits, or feel any limits in the guitar. I consider it a small orchestra, and almost perfect. … The guitar has all the colors, and the polyphony, and many, many things — except powerful sound.” ~Leo Brower

“The guitar is a miniature orchestra in itself.” ~Ludwig Vaughn Beethoven

“I love guitar; it plays my heart-strings.” ~Carolyn Burns

“The guitar is a wonderful instrument which is understood by few.” ~Franz Schubert

“The [guitar is the] instrument most complete and richest in its harmonic and polyphonic possibilities.” ~Manuel de Falla

“I love the guitar for its harmony; it is my constant companion in all my travels.” ~Nicolo Paganini

“Yes, we three were so happy, my wife, my guitar, and me!”
~Big Bill Broonzy

“A guitar has moonlight in it.” ~James M. Cain

“Electric guitars are an abomination, whoever heard of an electric violin? An electric cello? Or for that matter an electric singer?”
~Andres Segovia (before the days of the Piano Guys or Auto-Tune)

“The turning point in the history of western civilization was reached with the invention of the electric guitar.” ~Lene Sinclair

“Take but degree away, untune that string, and hark, what discord follows!” ~William Shakespeare

“The harmonious efforts which our guitarists produce unconsciously represent one of the marvels of natural art.” ~Manuel de Falla

“If a lute player lives to be 100, he spends 99 years tuning and one year playing.” ~Unknown

“The guitar… is like a lady, but one to whom the saying “look at me but do not touch me” does not apply.” ~Gaspar Sanz

“One must make of one’s fingers well drilled soldiers.” ~Fernando Sor

“To play the guitar well is easy, to play the guitar poorly is difficult.” ~Pepe Romero

”I can’t play guitar, but I can sure make it howl.” ~ John Lennon

“Playing guitar is like telling the truth.” ~B.B. King

“My Guitar is not a thing. It is an extension of myself. It is who I am.” ~Joan Jett

“You should only play pieces that you’re willing to marry.” ~Pepe Romero

“I don’t know, with a piano, in a sense you’re stuck with the sound of the piano so you can only do things which use that sound. Anyway, I never cease to be amazed by what you can say with the guitar.” ~John Williams

“The pleasure of playing a fine guitar will long outlive the pain of the initial price.” ~Ray Fair

“When it is possible that people don’t understand my English, I take my guitar and speak with my music!” ~Celedonio Romero

Also, I occasionally post things for my guitar students here, if you have a hankering to take a gander.

Fortune Cookie

August 15, 2011

This is a song from my 2004 album, A Glass of Iranian Sand. It’s called “Fortune Cookie”, and it’s about a self-fulfilling prophecy.

(This is two steel-string guitars, one tambourine, one male voice, and a short synthesizer bass section that I hope is unexpected for this kind of song).

Fortune Cookie (© Thyatira Music 2004)

My fortune cookie said that I would die today.

That’s uncommonly specific, I think it’s safe to say.

I asked the waitress for one more, to be sure it was true.

She said, ‘”one cookie per entrée is all I can give you.”

I ordered my second meal, and scarfed it down with dread.

Then my stomach ruptured, and in minutes I was dead.

(The diminished guitar part is based in part on a traditional song that I discovered via Jon Chappell)

The Legend of the 27 Club

July 26, 2011

“I went down to the crossroads and fell down on my knees, asked the Lord up above for mercy, save poor Bob if you please.”

 ~“Cross Road Blues” by Robert Johnson

Crossroads…         ((C) by


Those are the lyrics that first kindled the legend. From the time of Johnson’s death back in 1938, the myth has grown steadily stronger.

Robert Johnson

And, on Saturday, the legend was injected with a new surge of power when the news about the untimely death of Amy Winehouse broke.

The most recently inducted member of the 27 Club

Robert Johnson was a Mississippi blues guitarist and songwriter said to have sold his soul to the Devil “at the crossroads” in exchange for an other-worldly ability to play the guitar and pen songs. Part of the crossroads story comes from a report that Johnson dropped off the radar for a few months in the early 1930s just after his wife and child died in childbirth, and that when he returned he could suddenly waltz that guitar like a Chicago gangster dancing with the strong arm of the law during the prohibition days.

For the next few years, Johnson gained notoriety and enjoyed great success. But one night he was poisoned at a party, and succumbed to his ailment 4 days later. He was 27 years old.

In the years since then, dozens of other successful musicians have given up the ghost (normally under shady or self-destructive circumstances) at age 27. The trend has given rise to the legend saying the devil will grant fame to those who make a deal with him, and that he often collects his due when his client is 27 years old.

Here are a few of the more famous “27 Club” members:

Jim Morrison

Janis Joplin

Ron “Pigpen” McKernan (Grateful Dead)

Jimi Hendrix

Pete Ham (Badfinger)

Alan Wilson (Canned Heat)

Brian Jones (Rolling Stones)

Kurt Cobain (Nirvana)

And, when Amy Winehouse died three days ago, she too was 27 years old.

Is it a coincidence that they all died at 27?  Is there really some diabolical “prince of the power of the air” who has the ability to give people uncanny success and fame?  Is this the lamest post I’ve ever written?

I believe the answer to all three questions… is yes.

The Quester’s Quest

July 13, 2011
God-shaped void (by M. Antonio)

"God-Shaped Void" (Sketch by Monica Antonio)

King Solomon said God puts “eternity” in the heart of every man.

It means that He etches an eternal dimension into the heart of each human being — a God-shaped void that can only be filled by a relationship with God.

Every man and woman has this void carved into his or her heart, but so few understand how to fill it.

A quick survey of the world reveals men of all walks of life trying desperately to fill the “God-shaped void” with human companionship, materialism, promiscuity,  power, alcohol or drugs, and myriad other ineffective substitutes.

Most men subconsciously detect the eternal nature of their malaise, and try to fill the void with some manner of spirituality. But all too often their concepts of religion are counterfeit, and they try to fill it with man-made gods. These are also poor substitutes.

When I lived in Paris, I was often astonished by the degree of piety and devotion many of the people there displayed. Many of the Catholics and Muslims in the City of Lights were astoundingly sincere.

That observation inspired me to write this song called “The Quester’s Quest” or “Manna”.  It’s sung from the perspective of a man who is acutely, intensely aware of the void in his heart. He desperately wants to know God and serve Him, and he has sacrificed everything in search of Truth, but he is not being called, so he remains unfulfilled. He is sincere, but deceived.

This is from my 2007 album called The Season of Reckless Goodbyes, and the recording is only a primitive demo track.

Here are the lyrics:

The Quester’s Quest (Manna)

And now I’m conjugating verbs in a language long dead.

And sacred texts fill my room. Frenzied thoughts flood my head.

I’ve got the sneaking suspicion I’ve been somehow mislead.

And I search for the truth, but find questions instead.

And I remember being small and thinking of nothing at all

I hardly knew that I existed.

And, though I’ve learned from year to year, the only thing that’s really clear

Is that my mind is slightly twisted.

Because now I’m translating verse from the world’s oldest tome.

In my pursuit of the truth, I’ve lost my wife and my home.

And now I drift around Jerusalem, Mecca, and Rome,

But I sense that I’m only confused and alone.

And so I’ve given and I lost, thinking seldom of the cost,

And now I’m old, and I’m reclusive.

And after all the trial and war, the only fact of which I’m sure

Is that the truth can be elusive.

So now I’m meditating on this Himalayan divide.

And I’ve fasted for so long, I couldn’t eat if I tried.

I even had myself castrated, and the lust in me died.

But I know that all this just appeals to my pride.

The nasty trend of history to reoccur is all I see.

The beast is rising, like the tide.

One billion Catholics in “the flock” and even more of Muslim stock:

The next crusade is cosmocide.

Mine was a cold and empty life, fraught with misery and strife,

But it was mine, so what’s it to you?

And, though I’m broken and alone, I would bow before His throne

With just one word:  Hallelujah.