Sonali: The wait is almost over…

I’m very excited to let you know that my book Sonali has finally uploaded – after two weeks of horrible delays – to the website which will publish it as a physical soft back edition, a pdf E-book and even an iPad version for you Apple users!

Sonali front and back

I’m just sorting out the store front for it and working out prices, plus seeing if I can do something a little fancy with the iPad version to make it just a tad more special and then I will make full announcements of where you can buy it and how.

Those of you who have already donated to the GoFundMe site to raise money for Ria’s goal - of doing a Business degree in the UK, staying with my family and aiming to return to Bangladesh and be part of the movement to empower women – you will get a free pdf copy soon and, as promised, your names are in the acknowledgements. Be proud of yourselves – you’ve had the generosity to help meet a young woman’s selfless goal. After that, the book will go on sale.

An example of one of the inside pages of Sonali

An example of some inside pages from Sonali

It’s still not too late to donate and get a free copy of the book – though your name won’t be acknowledged now it is uploaded – and the GoFundMe site will continue to be a place to give donations in general. Please do give a little to help the cause if you can.

So – watch this space! Very soon I will make all the details clear about how you can buy copies of SonaliI’m very excited!

Sonali blurb front cover

 

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Review: The Amazing Wonderbag! Cooking your way to a better world

How would you like, today, to make the world a little bit better and easier? How would you like it if that could work for you too? How would you like it if cooking was the medium for a feel-good deed before your day was out?

Wonderbag

Wonderbag (Photo credit: fumi)

There are few projects I have seen anywhere – be it in real life or on the web – where such a wonderful win-win situation occurs as you find with the perfectly named ‘wonderbag’. We came across this wonderful invention a couple of years ago when visiting friends in the UK. The ‘woman of the household’ – already a marvelous humanitarian and one of the most caring women I’ve ever known – never seems to stop. She holds down a full-time job, keeps the house in tiptop shape, has transformed her garden into a beautiful place of serenity and cooks the most delicious food!

It was while we watched her beavering away one morning before she went to work that we saw her do the most bizarre thing. She chopped up meat and veg, fried and boiled it all in a pot for a few minutes and then, weirdly, turned off the heat, picked the whole pot up and shoved it in what looked like a bean cushion but was actually a bag.

And then she went to work!

That evening she came home, set the table for dinner, took the pot out of the bag and served up. No fuss; I tell no word of a lie – the food was delicious. And so we were introduced to the marvel of the wonderbag. This clever little invention is simply a very, very good insulator which means if you put anything hot in it, it will remain hot throughout the day and lose very little heat. There’s no batteries, no electricity; just the bag. You put your pot of bubbling goodness into it, quickly seal it up at the top and leave it all day if you wish.

What’s more, when you purchase a wonderbag you actually buy two – one of them goes to a needy family in Africa. Furthermore, the people making these bags have also linked up with the World Wildlife Fund and a donation is given to WWF for conservation projects around the world.

Our friend has bought several of these bags over the years and given them to her good friends in Bangladesh (yes, she’s another LAMB person) and, just as here in the UK, using the bags mean consuming less fuel and saving energy. You really do just cook for a few minutes and then put it into the bag.

We finally got a bag this year when we returned to the UK (actually it was the same wonderful friend who bought us one. Bless her, she’s incredible) and found that everything we had been told was true. It’s simple, easy and reduces your fuel bills. We’ve taken to stacking two pots on top of each other in the bag to cook two dishes at the same time and the most you ever have to do is quickly heat them up on the cooker for a couple of minutes just to get them back to piping hot when you return home eight to ten hours later. Otherwise, they’re perfect. Moreover, the meat is drop-off-the-bone-and-melt-in-your-mouth delicious and the vegetables sweet and tasty. You can do seafood, vegetarian, puddings, soups – even drinks! Each bag comes with a recipe book and instructions and you can see online recipes here.

If you live in the UK, USA or South Africa then buying a wonderbag is easy. For other countries have a look on the website and see how to contact a dealer. In the UK Prices range from £30 to  £60 depending on the type you get (ours cost  £45) but don’t forget that you save energy, help the environment and help a poor family in Africa. Our friends in rural Bangladesh can attest to just how much this wonderful bag does help.

So – delicious food, labour and time-saving, good for the environment, poverty alleviation and wildlife preservation: could there be a better way to invest £45?

Put simply: go buy one today.

If you’re in the UK you can buy online hereOtherwise go click on any of the links above or click here and go have a look at the site. It really is WYSIWYG with no catches.

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Shubho Nobo Borsho 1421 – on missing Bangladesh

Yesterday was New Year’s Day in BangladeshNobo Borsho as it is called. Shubho means lucky or happy so my title is literally Happy New Year! This is the traditional greeting for Bangladeshis around the world at this time. Of course, many don’t pay much attention outside Bangladesh itself, but inside the country it is a most wonderful celebration.

Although originally just a means for celebrating the beginning of a new tax year instituted, if I recall correctly, in the Mughal period of India (one friend on Facebook reminded me that it is the new year for Indian Tamils too), the celebration of Pohela Boishakh (the other name for the occasion) is a very special one. Pohela means ‘first’ and Boishakh is one of the Bengali months. Calendar systems are a bit complicated in Bangladesh and this includes Bengali months which start in the middle of the Western-system months. Hence, Pohela Boishakh is the first day of the first month of the new year which, with this system, is 1421.

What’s great about the celebration is that it is without religious connotation so everyone in the country can join in fully as Bangladeshis regardless of their cultural background. Likewise, there is nothing about the awful history of the War of Independence so this celebration is entirely one of joy. This makes it one of the celebrations I most enjoy, not least because – being a fully hot-blooded male (for which I make no apologies) – it’s a time when women look their most beautiful!

There is little which is more beautiful than seeing Bangladeshi women dressed up in their finest for special occasions such as weddings (one of my favourites), the new year or any of the many celebrations Bangladesh is famous for. Though the men can look pretty darned handsome too, it is the ladies who make the effort. The swirl of traditional colours red and white or the national colours red and green which make up the national flag wrapped in a variety of styles and fashions around the women is a pleasure to view as art if nothing else. Much better than the uniform jeans and T-shirt which seems to be the norm in the UK for our New Years Eve celebrations!

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But this year, nobo borsho has been sad for me. Firstly because it reminds me that the anniversary of the collapse of the Rana Plaza building is soon approaching. Secondly because I’m not there in Bangladesh to celebrate the occasion for the first time in six years. The pain of separation isn’t receding; only life gets busier. I guess that’s something I suppose because an idle mind just goes to waste and festers away – being busy keeps it exercised. But still. I wish I was there celebrating the day with my friends and family at LAMB. This time last year I was recounting these days knowing they were my last. I guess this year I’ll be reminiscing about days gone instead.

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Review: Blues for the White Nigger by MK-O

MKO-BluesFortheWhite

MK-O are a Greek duo who have been performing together since 2000. Their first album ‘Ovation’ released in 2006 and was voted as one of the top 20 albums of the last decade to come out of Greece.

Blues for the White Nigger‘ is their third album and CDBaby lists it as ‘Progressive Rock. That’s pretty accurate as their opus mixes a range of styles together – funk, Jazz, classical and so on – though in doing so, the work almost loses the ‘Rock’ part making it, I guess, more ‘Progressive’ than anything else!

I will warn you now that BftWN is not for everyone. If you enjoy the electronic dance style of artists such as Moby and Enigma then you’re likely to find something in this album you’ll like. If you’re not so keen on tracks based on repeated motifs – which either form the structure through continuous repetition or simply frequently reappear juxtaposed with other motifs – then you won’t be so pleased. This is, in a sense, dance music for those who don’t like to dance.

Personally, I enjoyed the album though -being a 70s baby – I’m less keen on electronic synth sounds which can easily sound dated and would have preferred a little more electric guitar in there. But such moans apart, this is a pleasing album and one I’ve been happy to listen to again and again.

Perhaps one of the reasons is that I hear so many stylistic ‘tips of the hat’ to many and varied artists. My notes for this review read like a list of some of my favourite musical artists from several different genres. This shouldn’t be a surprise: MK-O’s site admit the album is

“…hard to categorize. Extended instrumental arrangements coexist with lyrical songs. Rock, classical, techno, psychedelia, industrial, acoustic, electric and electronic instruments as well as a palette of samples varying from Cesar Franck to Son House, Pink Floyd and Ministry, give a brief idea of the sound of this album.”

Yep, I heard a lot of that too.

BftWN is a collection of twelve pieces, most of which do not run on to one another though I wonder if they should considering many pay homage to the likes of Mike Oldfield or Jean Michel Jarre. There is a heavy emphasis on instrumental sound although, according to the sleeve blurb six are vocal and six instrumental. Some of the tracks are hard to define quite like that which is not a criticism – it’s all part of the experimentalism these two musicians enjoy.

What is not in doubt is the love of Jazz-Blues which runs through almost every track particularly in the title track which comes in two parts. Similarly, funk is prevalent – especially in the bass guitar lines. After that…it’s anyone’s guess!

For instance, White Nigger Blue I had me thinking of Erik Satie’s equally experimental piano style mixed with Thelonius Monk’s eclectic jazz. When a fairground organ sound entered I thought immediately of The Beatles Sgt Pepper’s album. Who would have guessed you could combine those three?

In white Nigger Blue II the mood changed to more of a laid back jazz style which hinted of my beloved Pink Floyd. Perhaps I compared with the Floyd too unfairly as I listened because I longed for more echo and flange in the sound with this track. I felt MK-O were missing an opportunity for real psychedelic chill.

I got my fill with Tranfiguration which is, for my money, the best track on the album. Beautifully laid out with well-executed Monk-like riffs and an open ambient sound which made me think very specifically of Pink floyd’s Atom Heart Mother. By the time the piece ended I was now with Engima from the 90s instead. The Angel’s Machine, the penultimate track, carries on this ambiance reminding me of Moby at times. This was a wonderfully spaced-out piece which fitted my mood perfectly.

I don’t have time to mention all the influences I heard – there were so many! Artifacts reminded me of that great experimenter in style and sound, Kate Bush, reminiscent of the second half of her Hounds of Love album as it was. The final track, by complete contrast made me think more of the disco funk sound of Jamiroqui! And I’ll leave you to figure which track I thought sounded like Jimi Hendrix. Yes, one really did…

Overall, a good album and one which experimental funk/prog rock/ambient sound fans will enjoy. Marina Kanavaki is no stranger to this site as I’ve known her many years a wonderfully talented artist. It was only last year I discovered she is a musician too. After I bought this Blues for The White Nigger album and discovered I liked it, I promised Marina I would review it – openly and honestly. Incredibly, months later, this is the first opportunity I’ve had. For that, I apologise Marina. :)

Blues for the White Nigger is available for download here

MK-O’s website is here.

Marina Kanavaki’s art website can be found here

 

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Sonali News and other round-ups

I thought it was about time I brought you up-to-date with stuff I’ve been doing here and on my writer’s blog WriteOutLoud.  Yes, I’ve been fiddling again – plus a little spring cleaning – anything to procrastinate when I’ve got lots of real work I should be doing!

The front cover of Sonali

The front cover of Sonali

First thing is to tell you that Sonali now has a Facebook page (yes, that does mean I’m almost ready to publish!). There’s a link on my sidebar or just click herePlease go take a look, like it, like some posts, leave comments and basically help me make it look like people are interested! Really, if you’re a loyal fan of this blog you should be interested – you know that don’t you? ;)

Similarly, there’s still time to donate to Ria’s cause on GoFundMe and get your name mentioned in the acknowledgements of Sonali  (don’t forget too that you will get a free copy of the E-book as another thank you). It’s only a little thing but I am hoping this book will come out in print version too once the E-book version is up and running and so you’ll have the pleasure of knowing your name is in print somewhere on somebody’s shelf (probably my mum’s!) one day.

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More seriously, I’d love more people to give a little to this cause (there’s also a link at the top of my sidebar). We’re beginning to get there now with a recently flurry of activity. We need lots of small donations and a small handful of larger ones. Behind the scenes we’re working on those larger ones but this site is really for peeps like you who can spare $5 here or there (numbers matter rathan amounts- it encourages others to give) to help bring a girl from a rural developing country to live with my family and train so she can go back and help steadily improve conditions for women and raise their status in the economy.

I always feel weird writing stuff like that because it sounds like over-hyping things but I’ve lived long enough in Bangladesh to know that small things make huge changes. Indeed, LAMB started decades ago as a tiny project in an insignificant part of the country and the difference it has made is immeasurable. Time is running out to make Ria’s dream come true – I hope you will help if you haven’t already.

Last plug for the money – you can also donate to either of my blogs by clicking this sign wherever you see it:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

 

For the time being, any money raised this way will go towards Ria’s fund too. Assuming we get her to the UK, any other funds will go towards the rest of her keep for the next three years.

Ok, so on a different note – please go check out my writer’s blog WriteOutLoudI’ve added quite a lot of stuff and got it (more or less) up-to-date so there are examples of reviews, articles and guest posts I’ve done plus a page of what services I offer. I know most of you here aren’t professional writers (though a large number of you bloggers and that makes you writers too remember!) but I would really appreciate you going over, clicking the like button in various places and maybe even leaving a comment or two on various pages (it won’t take you long, honest) – bearing in mind this is where clients go to see if they want to hire me. Thanks greatly :)

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And thinking of looking and liking things – have you signed up for my tweets? If not, why not? No – don’t answer that one; I’ll only cry and that’s not pleasant to watch. But if you’re a Twitter fan, follow me @KenFordPowell (again, there’s a link in the sidebar too) and tweet me a message to say you follow this blog. I promise I will follow you back. Fair’s fair after all. :)

Wifey begins her new job on Monday and then I will be truly alone in the house each and every day (feel free to pop in for a cup of tea). I have just a couple of weeks left of receiving some support (not much I have to say) from our charity agency – the one we went out to Bangladesh with – and then I truly go solo as a full-time writer. It’s scary to think that the safety net of a little income is about to end and it’ll be up to me to earn a crust unassisted from then on .

Anyone have dishes they need washing?…

 

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