The graying, sleepy-eyed Haji Mike whipped up the Crux stragglers with a hopeful ode to his troubled homeland--"Party at Ledra," an anthem for the party his fellow countrymen will throw at the Ledra palace whenever the now-split capital of Nicosia is unified: "Someone play a tune so sweet / Feel the vibes from your head to your feet!"
Urged forward by sidekick (and producer) Standout Selector, Haji Mike balanced bouncy party tunes with emotional songs of struggle. And the band's dynamics were stellar, dropping the beat and snapping it back in, or bringing the volume down.
The final tune was the highlight. Set to a Middle-Eastern syncopation, the almost brittle anthem quietly cried over and over: "We don't want no war / Peace and love is what we're living for"--sending the vibe into the night with a proper weight
A review by John William Ioannou
Temperatures soared to new hot and highs on May 1st as the world enjoyed a day of rest. While the world rested and some even flocked to the beach, one artist here in Cyprus was busy releasing his third outing as a solo artist. He is perhaps the most underrated, underappreciated and deeply misunderstood local artist; but if there’s one thing that Haji Mike knows well, that is not to never ever let anyone get your spirits down.
Haji Mike has been lyrically active since the early 90’s. After all, we are talking about the same ‘Vragaman’ who took Cyprus by a storm in the summer of 1992. But if you ask me, much has changed in Haji Mike and his music since the days of Vragaman or Stavroulla. He has matured, become a father of two as well as a well respected academic, and above all, a world-wide traveller. And it is this maturity, and new-found happiness that shines through Haji Mike’s third solo CD ‘The StoryMan’.
‘The StoryMan’ is one of those eclectic albums that are hard to file under a specific section within a record store. Haji Mike may love reggae, but ‘The StoryMan’ is a whole lot more than just reggae. It’s a global album, intended at a global audience, reflecting global issues and themes, as well as being backed by a global production team and featured artists. This planetary network of collaborators, guest MC’s, singers and producers all adds up, making ‘The StoryMan’ one of the most innovative and above all independent artistic works ever to be released from Cyprus. It’s a narrative journey. A series of loosely connected tales about life on the planet we live in. With hair raising introductions such as ‘What Kind Of World Are We Living In’, the tongue in check vibes of ‘Greek Wedding’, a rap from Haji Mike’s very own son aged 6, also known as Cutmaster G, in the title track ‘The StoryMan’… With 17 tracks in total, it is truly Haji Mike’s most accomplished work to date.
The cast and crew of ‘The StoryMan’ are long to list; Stand Out Selector from PSM in San Francisco, Tony ‘Mutley’ Matthew from London, Imiskoubria out of Athens and Rocker T and CES-ONE from Oakland. As always, Cypriot kin are part of this network as well, notably Mike Cherry and Zeki Ali.
If there is any justice in the music business, ‘The StoryMan’ should be the start of greater things for Haji Mike. More than anything he has released to date, this is the closest he has got to what he has always wanted to make – rootsy reggae music with the most conscious lyrics.
‘The StoryMan’ by Haji Mike is available through Olive Tree Music (OTMCD 003) at all good record stores across Cyprus.
For more information on Haji Mike log onto his webpage http://www.soundclick.com/hajimike
Local artist Haji Mike releases his third album – a collection of reggae songs about the world around him
At the beginning of last month, Haji Mike released his third solo album, The Storyman.
It stands as his biggest and most successful work so far, and within a few weeks of its release, the album got into the i-Tunes reggae chart alongside big names of the international music scene including Shaggy and Shaun Paul.
Haji Mike first became known on the island with the release of his first album in 1994, Haji Mike on the Mike. The seven hits on the CD, which included ‘Vragaman’ and ‘Stavroulla’, were continuously played at clubs and venues as the hip-hop work stood as something very different at the time. Twelve years on, his style has changed a great deal as Haji Mike has developed and evolved as an artist. Great care was taken in the production of his new album, and it is, on the whole, far more reggae oriented than previous releases.
Work began on The Storyman three years ago, as recordings took place in Nicosia, London, Athens, and San Francisco with production by Stand Out Selector and Tony Matthew. Guest appearances on the CD include Greek hip-hop band the Imiskoumbria, Mike Cherry, Mike D, Greekie Lion, CES-ONE, Cutmaster and Zeki Ali.
Haji Mike explains that the title of his album, The Storyman, was his son’s idea who was six years old at the time. “This is a reflection in a micro-cosmic way of what the album is all about - just telling everyday stories,” he said. “Sometimes we close our ears and eyes to things, we live in a society where people are often intolerant to new ideas and choose to withdraw themselves from reality,” he added.
His songs narrate stories about real life with lyrics about money, war, violence, love and even Greek weddings. He speaks the truth about the world we live in, with talent and his trademark touch of humour. He explains that ‘Greek Wedding’ is a very autobiographical song and explains, “I have reflected on things in Cyprus that made me very annoyed from personal experience, and I wanted to express that anger in a satirical way”.
‘Friday Night@The Dog and Duck’ is a gritty song that makes a plea against the violence associated with the pub culture in the UK. “I grew up in a part of London where violence was an everyday phenomenon. Walking outside the pub on a Friday night remains a very powerful memory that I wanted to share with people... to send out the message that we should not turn a blind eye to violence,” Haji Mike said.
‘Bling, Bling, Bling’ recorded with the Imiskoumbria, explores the ‘bling culture’ of modern music and the quest for fame and fortune with shrewd lines, while ‘Plastic People’ is an edgy and dark tune attacking governments, celebrities, false hopes and modern plastic lives.
The release of The Storyman marks an important contribution to alternative music - Haji Mike makes it clear that he is not motivated by the idea of the ‘bling bling’ lifestyle, or the idea of becoming famous. “As an independent artist, things are definitely not always easy, but on the other hand I find it very liberating to do my own thing,” he explained. “One of my main ambitions is to put Cyprus on the musical map”.
He goes on to explain, “It’s difficult for anyone to permeate the local music scene, as there is serious lack of state and media support for local artists. This is unfair and tragic for all Cypriots trying to get their work recognised”. He stressed his disappointment at the fact that at the recent Cyprus Music Awards, which took place on June 20, not one Cypriot-based artist was nominated or invited to appear at the event. “The Cypriots who appeared are all based in Greece, but what does that say about our island’s music? If we are supposed to operate as an independent country, why don’t we have our own music industry and respect for local artists?
“I really believe in the musicians of Cyprus, but the authorities never turn around to recognise their talent, there is unfortunately a huge lack of cultural policy when it comes to these issues”.
If you wish to catch Haji Mike and his stories of the world around us in a live performance, then you can head down to Paradise Place in Pomos on July 8. The show will mark the start of several other concerts in Cyprus throughout the summer, as the artist is likely to go on to perform in Greece, London and the USA.
Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2006
My immediate impression, especially from listening to the opening track ‘What Kind of World Are We Living In’ is the similarity to that of Gary Clail’s ‘Emotional Hooligan’ album. ‘The Story Man’ was recorded in Nicosia, London, Athens and San Francisco with production from Stand Out Selector. It also features a host of special guests, which makes for an extremely varied mix of tunes and styles.
Personally I found the need to spin this release several times before I became accustomed to Haji’s unique vocal style which is deep, bass filled and more often spoken word, rap-style, than actual singing, which is nicely complemented by many of the guest vocalists. The whole album is very ‘deep’ and low-end bass heavy, sometimes bordering on industrial. Those of you with a powerful sub are in for a serious treat!
Haji Mike powerfully narrates his perceptive and astute lyrics, never cutting corners; he is a social observer and comments on subject matters as diverse as Greek weddings, bling, war, self destruction and love. This is highlighted by tunes such as ‘Friday Night@The Dog & Duck’ and ‘Plastic People’.
There are some very interesting and original pieces of work on this release such as ‘Bling, Bling, Bling’ featuring Greek rappers Imiskoubria. This is a hard-hitting cut in a dancehall style, exploring the bling culture of modern music, lyrically very shrewd with lines like ‘some would sell their own mother to get the Grammy, some would sell their own father to get the Grammy, they sell them soul for twenty pieces of silver, sign on the dotted line and the dollar flow like a river’.
Other stand out tunes include ‘Party@Ledra (refix)’ with P4P Riddim Section, a down-tempo, head nodding riddim cut with hip-hop style vocals. This is followed by ‘We Don’t Want War!’ featuring Greekie Lion, MD & CSE-ONE, this is heavy on the kettle drums and creates a real feeling of Greek emotion. Vocals flick from Rap to spoken word via reggae Deejay style. ‘Just a Camel Herder’ featuring Rocker T & Zeki All, will have you bouncing, with its imaginative hip-hop instrument arrangements. ‘Plastic People’ is an edgy and dark tune, intelligently attacking governments, celebrities, war, false hopes and modern plastics lives!
The album continues in this vein, with seventeen tracks in all, including instrumentals and dubs, with scratching, breaks and samples. This is a truly diverse and inventive piece of work, with heavy emphasis on creativity, intelligent lyrics and interesting musical arrangements. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by 'JumpUp' WEB SITE
.Well done to Mike Cherry/Ces one/p4p Riddim section/Greekie Lion/Rocker t /Zeki Ali /Cutmaster g and also the fantastic Imiskoubria.
The tracks ‘What kind of world are we living in’ and ‘Everybody Love’ are so important. The sound is excellent and I love the vibe. The sound is raw.
‘Greek Wedding’ is such a funny song because the lyrics are so true. Very funny and clever.
‘Bling Bling Bling Pt II’ is my favourite track on this album. Imiskoubria blend in well with Haji. Very original and excellent to listen to.
I love all the tracks especially ‘Party @ Ledra’,’We don't war’,’Baby to a child’.
The song ‘Friday night @ the Dog and Duck’ has lyrics that are raw and very true. Unfortunately there are people that live for the violence and look for the fight. I see it too many times when people can't take their drink or argue over something really stupid.
As a DJ who plays every weekend I see the stupidity and how people can react. The scary thing is that the gun culture is increasing.
All the tracks have a story to say. Well done to the whole team for a very original album.
DJ Mario, Inspiration FM, UK.
By Leo Leonidou
We’ve had the talks, the aborted walks and the meditation. A new group plans to
A SONG recorded in English, Greek and Turkish is attempting to bring people from both sides of the divide closer together.
Haji Mike, a musician on the island who raps on Music is Joy and was involved in the song’s production, yesterday told the Cyprus Mail that the project began as a workshop last summer with the involvement of 15 young people, both Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
“The end result took a week to organise, record and mix and includes artists such as Zeki Ali, Sofoz_MC, Bulmy, St3phani3, maxiMOOM, Funkit, MC G-Force, Mike Cherry, DJ Atesh, Mustafa Goyze and Constantinos Pissourios,” he said. “It was also facilitated by music producer Stand Out Selector from San Francisco and is released by the Olive Tree Music label.”
He went on to say that, the song was “so good we decided we had to release it and looked at alternative ways of doing so.”
“Most stuff released by the Greek and Turkish Cypriot media is no good and doesn’t appeal to young people. We want Music is Joy to be heard by as many people as possible and wanted to bypass the established media of television and radio, who all say and play the same stuff. The only alternative is print media, which allows for much greater freedom of expression.”
The song will not be available in shops but will instead be distributed free in the next edition of the Sunday Mail and in Turkish Cypriot newspaper Kibris.
The recording was made with support from the United Nations Development Programme, who funded the pressing of 20,000 CDs and from the United States Agency for International Development and the US Embassy’s Bi-Communal Support Service.
Haji Mike described Music Is Joy as, “a funky hip hop song, which celebrates the power of music and brings people together and joy to their lives”.
“We want everyone to know that people exist on both sides of the divide who work together. There is so much talent and willingness to cooperate, as the new generation see things differently to their parents and grandparents.
“As a living example of how people can create and work together in Cyprus, the artists hope local politicians can see this as a positive example of how the future could be in a united island.”
He was speaking to the Mail from Intercollege, where he was performing ‘Safe Sex (Just Do It)’, a special song he was asked to write by the college’s head of Behavioural Sciences Research Unit, in lieu of World AIDS day.
Haji Mike is an assistant professor of communications at Intercollege and is also a freelance journalist.
n Look out for your free copy of Music Is Joy in this weekend’s edition of the Sunday Mail
Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2005
Cio’ premesso, aggiungo subito che classificare sbrigativamente il poeta dub cipriota come una simpatica curiosità e poco piu’ sarebbe ingiusto, innanzitutto considerando il credito non indifferente di cui gode Haji Mike in molti ambienti di musica etno-undergorund (è apparso anche a “Rhythms of the World” della BBC) ma anche e soprattutto considerando che l’attitudine e il sound del nostro sono oggettivamente di considerevole valore e inventiva. Tutto quanto abbiamo detto finora si traduce in musica nell’album che ci apprestiamo ad analizzare e che è senz’altro il lavoro piu’ rappresentativo del Dj Poeta: “Aprhodite’s Dream”, uscito nel 1997. In quest’interessante lavoro Haji Mike riesce ad affiancare a brani dal feel piu’ propriamente giamaicano quali la bella “Chippy” ,la dolce “Reggae Reggae Reggae” , un pezzo roots in combination con un sorprendente, quanto sconosciuto, Keppy Ranks, e la dancehall flavoured “The things we do” (in duetto con una splendida voce femminile, Irini) a brani ricchi di sonorità mediterrane suonati con strumenti tipici ciprioti, quali il bouzuki e il baklama, e cantati in greco. A fondere il tutto in un prodotto finale solare ed evocativo c’è la delivery cool di Mike, che ora canta, ora rappa, ora fraseggia alla LKJ, ma sempre e comunque in uno stile veramente efficace.L’ultima produzione di Haji Mike, datata 2001, è un altro interessantissimo lavoro di Poesia Dub, un mini-album intitolato “Vira!Vira!” in cui il nostro autore ed altri artisti a lui conterranei (riuniti sotto il nome di Weeping Island), traducono in musica splendidamente alcune composizioni dedicate alla loro Cipro e tratte dal libro omonimo. RasWalter
Una delle piu’ interessanti sorprese partorite dal Reggae negli ultimi anni è rappresentata dalla poliedrica figura incarnata da Haji Mike, un interessantissimo artista proveniente dall’isola di Cipro. Haji Mike è un autore molto originale e per questo anche molto difficile da classificare ma grosso modo potremmo definirlo un Dub Poet alla Linton Kwesi Johson ma con grosse velleità anche di dj rapper. Come il suo piu’ famoso collega britannico il nostro Haji Mike ha al suo attivo anche vere e proprie pubblicazioni editoriali ed è molto rispettato sia in patria sia nella comunità cipriota londinese. E’ stato in quest’ambito infatti che il Dj Poeta si è fatto in primo luogo notare, suscitando interesse anche in gente come Simmon Emmerson (Afro Celt Sound System) e ottenendo un considerevole successo col brano “Vragaman” che già a partire dal titolo sintetizza la ricetta musicale di Haji Mike, e cioe’ un Reggae riccamente intriso delle sonorità mediterranee del suo paese.
9 Lazy 9 - Electric Lazyland (Ninjatune)
Acacia - Maddening Shroud (Alchemy Arts)
Massive Attack - Persuasion (Circa)
Bandulu - Run Run (track from 'Ambient Auras' / Rumour)
Haji Mike and Sugar - When Cyprus becomes One (Tongue and Groove)
Air Liquide - SME (white label)
Spacetime Continuum - Pressure (from 'Sea Biscuit' / Fax)
Mixmaster Morris - Global Chillage (Rising High)
Further - 5 Further Journeys (North South)
Bob Holroyd - African Drug (Makin)
Full Moon Scientist - The Men in White Coats (Hard Hands)
Depth Charge - Hubba Hubba (Vinyl Solution 12")
D* Note - Iniquity Worker (Dorado 12")
Freak Power - Get in Touch (4th and Broadway)
Luke Slater - My Yellow Rise Rug (General Productions)
Portishead - Glory Box (Go Beat)
Sun Ra - Where Pathways meet (Luv N Haight)
Single Cell Orchestra - Demon Drums (Reflective)
Red Snapper - In Deep (Flaw)
Ray Lema - Professor Stefanov (Delabel)
1 The 'Handbag' backlash backlash
2 The Trip-Hop backlash backlash
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Cypriot capital to stay divided
By Andrew Borowiec
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
December 6, 2005
NICOSIA, Cyprus -- Hopes that Europe's last "wall of shame" could be breached before the new year have disintegrated amid recriminations that have troubled this Mediterranean island for years.
Until the last minute Saturday, optimists thought that a miracle could happen and that inhabitants of the maze of narrow alleys forming Nicosia's heart could again cross the dividing line for shopping and contact with "the other side." Several crossing points between the two sectors exist, but they are outside the capital.
But, the optimists were wrong -- the Greek Cypriots accused the Turkish side of encroaching into the 50-yard buffer zone to strengthen their fortifications. The Turks dismissed the charge. U.N. peacekeepers issued several contradictory statements without any impact on the "Ledra Street project."
The collapse merely demonstrated the difficulty of finding a solution on an island inhabited by two apparently incompatible ethnic groups -- Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
Greek-Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos said he would not agree to further work on the planned passage until the Turkish side ceased its "encroachments" in the buffer zone cutting through the old quarter of the divided Cypriot capital.
Mehmet Ali Talat, who presides over the Turkish Cypriots, described the Greek-Cypriot objections as "ridiculous." All the while, Turkish-Cypriot workers hammered at the 40-year-old barricade -- apparently pointlessly.
This latest confrontation in the Cypriot imbroglio included a nearby footbridge on the Turkish side that, according to the Greeks, is too high and permits "spying" into the Greek sector.
"There will be no patrols, no troops on that bridge, which is not in the buffer zone," Mr. Talat said. "We can put a curtain over it if the Greeks insist."
With the effort to create a crossing point in Nicosia's center stymied and international diplomacy paralyzed, Britain's Royal Institute of International Affairs, popularly known as Chatham House, issued its verdict on the Cyprus situation.
No solution on the east Mediterranean island is possible, it concluded, "because power sharing between the communities will almost certainly lead to the two sides squabbling over even the smallest issues."
In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated that because progress in Cyprus "has been negligible," he saw no reason to appoint yet another special envoy to commute between the protagonists at this time.
What has become know as "the Cyprus problem" has been festering since 1963 when the British-imposed constitution broke down amid clashes and arson between the two communities, which have lived apart since.
The Turkish army landed in Cyprus in 1974 in response to a coup to link the island with Greece.
Nonetheless, some Cypriots will not give up. A Cypriot rapper by the name of Haji Mike has composed a song in English, Greek and Turkish to be distributed on both sides of the barricades "as a living example of how people can create and work together in Cyprus."
The determination to create works together makes Poetz4Peace really tick. Our mission is peace and the music is some of the most positive vibes ever to come out of the deepest Mediterranean.
Poetz4Peace are a group of poets, singers, musicians, and studio personnel who believe true world peace can be achieved through the universal language of music. Much of the creative process was done through the magic of cyberspace. Olive Tree Music and Poetz4Peace first came together via the Internet, exchanging beats, ideas and lyrics online. After completing the recording the group developed the first cyber music label based in Cyprus. One of the offshoots of the company, in collaboration with Positive Sound Massive Recordings, is a remix site where people around the world can remix one of the band's tracks.
Who are they, these Poetz4Peace?
Zeki Ali - Steffen Franz - Haji Mike
An international collective of musicians, vocalists, poets and studio personnel who have teamed up to make some amazing musical and lyrical fusions. We work in many different locations in Cyprus and in the USA; aiming to be transglobalculturalists- with a shared perspectives. The overall aim is to establish an independent, positive minded music label by the end of 2003 and in the meantime share some reasoning with audiences throughout the world.
What they saying?
Steffen Franz aka Stand Out Selector - San Francisco based producer, remixer, beatmiester/PSM label founder. Facilitates the process and keeps the team inspired: Our mission, to make this music heard throughout the world and to enjoy the knowledge that we are doing something that is changing the world around us for the better. Steffen has produced over 30 full length CDs including tracks, albums and remixes with internationally known artists such as; Barrington Levy, Nicodemus, Shinehead, Mix Master Mike, Rocker-T, Jamalski, Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus, and Automator (aka Dan Nakamura), just to name a few. His production style favors early KRS-1's "edutainment" style and hybridizing Dancehall Reggae and Hip Hop riddims.
Zeki Ali -poet/writer and radio presenter As a poet in a small island community Zeki strongly believes that peace is inevitable and division will be a subject in the history books. But he also believes that we can't sit down and wait for it. Our trials will be the greatest gifts to our children and we lovingly take our part in it. Peace is not just an alternative to war: its a way of life. A universal religion. We are simple people who are proud to be simple. We have nothing to lose. Instead of being the objects of manipulation by others we prefer to stand up and say you can not be right on everything and every time. We don't want to see our future blocked by the mistakes of people from the past.
Haji Mike: poet/musician/producer /vragga dagga don: It all came about as a natural process - as if it was really meant to happen for a reason. One day we'll go down in the history books. Most of all, the optimism of doing something actually locally based, professional and forward thinking, that's what makes it so fresh - so daring and so different
'A Pair of Olive Leaves'
Olive Tree; #OTM001
"We don't want to see our future being blocked by the mistakes of people from the past."
This is a worthwhile endeavor. Poets 4 Peace, brought to us by Steffen Franz -- noted producer and head of San Francisco's premiere dance-hall reggae label, Positive Sound Massive Recordings -- is a collection of poets, singers, musicians and studio personnel who feel that peace truly can be achieved through music.
True to the reggae-as-revolutionary concept, "A Pair of Olive Leaves" focuses on the island of Cyprus and its division amongst its Greek and Turkish sects.
Recorded in three different studios -- due directly to the division in the community -- Franz and globally based buddies Zeki Ali, Haji Mike and Mike Minas scoured the world to bring the pieces together for this project.
The result is a slow-grooving, hip-hop and dance-hall blend of international harmony.
By Jah Itagaki / November 8, 1998