"How can you be an artist and NOT reflect the times?"

First bee of the spring, by Bill Crandall


Singida, Tanzania - Sam Vox (Instagram @samvox)

I’ve always felt that there’s beauty in working with hands, it’s something that I can never describe in words. It’s hard work but at the same time it’s so fulfilling, all the love, care and dedication you put into it and later seeing it all grow and bloom in a way you never imagined. That kind of feeling fills your heart with abundance of love.

I recently met farmers from the Singida region in Tanzania. Singida has had unforgiving climate in the recent years, causing so many farmers to lose all their crops. With little rainfall and lengthy spells of dry weather, most farmers couldn’t cope with these changes. In result they lost most of their annual harvests and their income.

Is there beauty working with hands when you see all the love you put in dry away?

A farmer's land makes a home, a farmer's land makes a person, a farmer's land makes a family.

I was so happy to see that a lot of these farmers come together to learn and adapt to these changes. Together with @treesforthefuture they have managed to learn different farming methods to help them preserve their soil during harsh conditions but also increased their production by planting more varieties of fruits and vegetables.


"An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times. I think that is true of painters, sculptors, poets, musicians. As far as I’m concerned, it’s their choice, but I CHOOSE to reflect the times and situations in which I find myself. That, to me, is my duty. And at this crucial time in our lives, when everything is so desperate, when everyday is a matter of survival, I don’t think you can help but be involved. Young people, black and white, know this. That’s why they’re so involved in politics. We will shape and mold this country or it will not be molded and shaped at all anymore. So I don’t think you have a choice. How can you be an artist and NOT reflect the times? That to me is the definition of an artist."
Nina Simone

Ok, as this song is four years old and the video has something like 12 million views, you may know it already. But Hozier's Nina Cries Power taps something deep and universal in a way that few songs do. It's a fight song, a solidarity song. I don't know of a more stirring recent testament to the power of art, activism, and spirit.

If you don't know, the video shows various activists listening and reacting to the song for the first time. They are mostly Irish but US civil rights icon Mavis Staples - and Nina Simone and others given call-outs in the song lyrics - connects things to American and global rights movements.

As Hozier said:

This song was intended as a thank you note to the spirit and legacy of protest; to the artists who imbued their work with the vigour of dissent, and a reflection on the importance of that tradition in the context of the rights, and lives, we enjoy today.
Ireland has undergone a socio-cultural sea change, the results of which will benefit generations to come. We are witness to a new Ireland waking to the consciousness of itself; a kinder, more inclusive nation. This video is an attempt to acknowledge just a handful of those who have fought for this new Ireland, and whose work continues to inspire me.

Also check out the great Cry Power podcast series, a collab between Hozier and Global Citizen. It's an amazing series of chats with artists and activists about action and changing the world.

PS - On a personal note, not to get complex but there is a kind of amazing circular thing happening here:

• The song Nina Cries Power includes singer Mavis Staples, who was in Selma with MLK;

• Also in Selma was James Reeb, a northern white minister who answered MLK's call for clergy to join the civil rights marchers. So Reeb and Staples quite likely would have known at least of each other;

• In an incident that got a lot of national attention at the time, Reeb and two friends were attacked by local white thugs as they were coming out of one of the few diners that would serve the civil rights marchers, white or black. He ended up dying of his injuries;

• Just before Reeb went down south, he was a young minister at All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington DC. Where he married my parents, who had met at the church in the late 1950s;

• I stumbled on the above video, of the All Souls choir doing a rousing 2019 version of Nina Cries Power. On the spot where once upon a time my parents tied the knot with Reeb officiating.

Life is strange.


Socotra Island, Yemen - Soren Solkaer (via Instagram)

The most iconic and majestic tree on Socotra is the Dragon Blood tree (Dracaena cinnabari). It is endemic to the Socotran archipelago. They are named after the blood red color of their sap. The resin has a wide variety of usages as herbal remedy, wool dying and decoration - but also as in ritual magic and alchemy. Legend says that Cleopatra used the red resin as her lip stick.

Two cyclones in 2015 swept away many of the islands trees and overgrazing by sheep makes it hard for new trees to grow big. The tree is classified as “vulnerable to extinction”.

‘Capitalism didn’t understand community’: Brian Eno steps up the climate crisis battle

The Guardian | April 15, 2022

Convinced that the music community could be doing more, and frustrated that less than 3% of philanthropic funding is directed towards the climate crisis, Eno co-founded a charity called EarthPercent in 2021. Engaging all corners of the industry – from live touring to publishers – by asking them to pledge a small percentage of their income, its goal is to raise $100m (£76m) by 2030. EarthPercent diverts that money to “the most impactful climate causes”

To fight climate despair, this Christian ecologist says science isn’t enough

Washington Post | April 16, 2022

Rick Lindroth is among a small but growing number who argue faith is important to combatting hopelessness. Getting ‘re-enchanted with the Earth,’ he says, is the key.

Jamie Raskin on the climate crisis: ‘We’ve got to save democracy in order to save our species’

The Guardian | April 18, 2022

The struggle to defend the truth is a precondition for defending our democracy, and the struggle to defend our democracy is a precondition for taking the effective action that needs to be taken in order to meet the climate crisis in a serious way and turn it around.


The Union

Brought to you by the Lincoln Project. We’re going to need everyone to help save democracy (see Raskin item above). The fascists are back, and rising. If democracy fails and the wanna-be authoritarians take over, we can forget about climate progress. This new initiative tries to recruit and connect people with various talents and skill sets, check it out.

Helping Ukrainians survive the Easter Offensive

Trusted organizations active in and for Ukraine

Timothy Snyder's Substack "Thinking About..." has a great list of ways to directly help people in Ukraine.

Music Declares Emergency

Head over to musicdeclares.net to check out what this UK-based group is up to for Earth Day, and follow their socials. Lots of good energy in trying to 'green' the music industry top to bottom in the UK and worldwide, and tons of good recommendations on how to get involved yourself.

As I've posted about before, there's also their related podcast Sounds Like a Plan, which is definitely worth your time. This week's episode in Season 3 features British singer-songwriter and environmentalist Nick Mulvey discussing Earth Day, how nature and spirituality have informed his songwriting, and how the semi-taboo on artists speaking directly on climate might be changing.