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Blog Posts (143)

  • Propaganda 101: How Putin gives a speech

    “Let me repeat again, we believe - I want to stress this - everything happening and connected with the special military operation is an absolutely forced and necessary measure”. This is Putin’s response to a Kremlin-approved journalist’s question of how exactly 2022 has gone for Russia. He stands in a suave suit, typical red tie and is seemingly his usual calm and though still unsettling self. He is, as ever, playing the part of a stable and certain leader. With a 16-year long career in espionage working for the KGB and political experience dating back to Boris Yeltsin, he plays this part incredibly well. Artwork by Innes Clark (IG: @Innesclarkillo). This sentence alone captures many of the techniques Putin uses in his speeches to achieve this unwavering appearance of certainty and composure. He uses two phrases to convey certainty before he goes on to make his key point: “let me repeat” and “I want to stress this”. He says “we believe” rather than “I” or “me” again to make it clear that he has considered and consolidated the advice and opinion of others. It is not a “war”, but rather “a special military operation”, a carefully calculated labelling which has been maintained since the invasion in February last year. This labelling has been so successfully maintained that really only Westernised or Russians with access to Western sources will refer to or recognise the events in Ukraine as a war. The majority of Russians who don’t know how to use a VPN or only watch Russian-state television will, unfortuanlt, not know of any other narrative. Besides, the Ukraine war is an absolute must and, according to Putin, his hands are tied - he has been “forced” into doing something difficult though “necessary”. Russian state news often heavily dissects and criticises speeches from Western political figures, including Zelensky, Truss, Biden, Johnson as a means to both discredit the West and boost Putin’s reputation of a great political figure. Zelensky’s speech in Washington from his USA visit in December 2022 was repeatedly mocked on state news - his hands are shaking, he has to hover his finger of his script otherwise he will lose his place, he attempts to speak in English rather than successfully doing so and he is ridiculously dressed, to name a few. To an average Russian television viewer, it doesn’t have to be explained that Putin would never do any of these things because they already know that is the case. There is no doubt that Putin can give a good speech and is a master of public appearance. In comparison to many Western politicians, something Putin is very good at is public speaking. You won’t catch him not knowing where he is, or saying “I’m not walking anything back”, in the words of Biden, the supposed shining beacon of the West. It starts with visuals. Putin is always immaculately dressed. There is usually not one or two flags behind him, but rather a myriad of them. Journalists never have to ask “are you actually going to answer my question?” because he always does, often breaking questions down into segments to make sure that he is answering them in full. He never visibly panics when asked what are at surface-level difficult topics. His answers are usually packed with statistics, mentions of Russia as the motherland, gratitude for the Russian military - he is a master of rhetorical devices, constructing propaganda and misinformation that is presented in an entirely coherent and logical manner. In short, Putin deliberately presents himself in a way that is very difficult to critique. What sprang to mind while watching one of Putin’s most recent press conferences is the time an old Russian teacher innocently and genuinely asked me if Boris Johnson was an alcoholic, having seen a video of him giving a speech with his usual matted hair, unkempt suit and chaotic tendencies. In contrast to Putin, it’s understandable to see why she thought I would be embarrassed to admit that this was my country’s leader, only made worse by the fact that this was around the time of partygate. There is no doubt that speeches have become the main weapon in Putin’s arsenal of maintaining control. There is a reason why Western media outlets are obsessed with reading in between the lines of his speeches - unnervingly, it’s almost impossible to determine what will happen next with Putin. He speaks like the dictators that came before him, and for good reason. In Moscow, you can see the body of Lenin, completely preserved in a glass box. I suspect Putin will expect the same treatment when he dies.

  • The Success of Sofar Sounds? It’s a Secret

    A secret location announced 36 hours before the show and an unknown lineup. Armed with nothing but a confirmation email, a thick winter coat and a healthy dose of excitement, we made our way to Leith not knowing what to expect of our first Sofar Sounds event. We had received an email the day before confirming the location as Under the Arch, a small independent café situated on Leith Walk. Upon arrival, the first thing we noticed was how cosy the space looked. Decked out in swathes of twinkling fairy lights, candles, and with a fire in the wood burner, the café had been transformed into the perfect ambient stage. The room felt incredibly intimate, with some of the audience members literally sitting at the artist’s feet on the cushions arranged on the floor. The audience’s first introduction to the artists came written on a chalkboard in the corner, with the names Alienore, Mariama and Ay Wing. We tried to resist giving each name a google before the show started, to keep the secrecy of the evening as intact as possible: Artwork by Zoë Brown (IG: @Zoe_r_art). Before each performance, a short introduction was given for the artists, providing the audience with an idea of the genres, stories, and sounds we would be listening to. First up was Alienore, an artist described as ‘witchy pop with indie and alternative influences’. Sold. Her performance was ethereal, with the soft strums of the guitar accompaniment undercutting her dreamy vocals. Filled with natural imagery, the lyrics of Alienore’s songs explore the relationship of nature to the human condition, as she told anecdotes about her experiences of growing up in the French countryside in between songs, to provide the audience with a fully contextualised introduction to her sound. The song ‘Paradise Lost’ was a standout, as Alienore explored her love of literature through the song, using Milton’s epic poem ‘Paradise Lost’ as a mirror for her own connections to the spiritual understanding gained through spending time in nature. Another highlight was the (unreleased) song ‘We Narcissus’, an exploration of life in the 21st century with the intrusion of technology and screens upon the human condition. This song seems to be at the core of what Sofar Sounds is about, as the evening provided a sense of escapism, as the entire audience were joined in the discovery of new music in an immediate way, separate to the Spotify algorithm, and together. After a short interval, where we were given time to pop up to the bar for a drink, the next act was introduced. Mariama was described as a singer-songwriter with truly global roots, with both her European and African heritage forging connections in her music. As well as this, we were told Mariama spent time in South America, and an inflection of Latin sound through the guitar accompaniment certainly brought some sonic sunshine to rainy Leith. The songs she performed were upbeat and lively, speeding up the tempo of the evening from the lilting opening of Alienore. Mariama performed songs from her album ‘Love, Sweat and Tears’ as well as demonstrating her new work, ready for her album release in spring 2023. The song ‘Grains of Wisdom’ was a highlight, as her impressive vocal performance filled the cafe, with layered harmonies played from her laptop as the stripped back nature of the event meant there was no need for a full backing band. The novelty of performing these songs live has not worn off for Mariama following the pandemic, as she explained in between songs that the ‘added extras’ of live performance creates a musical experience far more special than listening to the recorded versions. The final performance, by R&B artist Ay Wing was a perfect sign off for the evening. Described as a driving force of the Berlin music scene, Ay Wing performed songs from her recently released album ‘Bloodstream’. She explained the importance of femininity and womanhood in her songs, as a medium for exploring these aspects of herself while simultaneously uplifting others. Despite the upbeat nature of the songs she performed, the sensual quality of her lyricism was still felt, combining synth with sensitivity. The final song of her set, and the final of the night, was a special rendition of her song ‘No Wonderwoman’ for which she brought out Alienore and Mariama to sing the harmonies. All three artists are Berlin-based and were participating in a small UK tour, performing at various Sofar events in cities such as London and Glasgow, as well as Edinburgh. Their synthesis in ‘No Wonderwoman’ was clear, as the three women shared the space together to perform a song with a strong message of female empowerment. The community of womanhood was acutely felt in the room, as the audience was encouraged to join in and sing along to the catchy hook. The draw of Sofar Sounds is that these performances were unique to the event and to the venue. It’s exciting to think about who could be performing in Edinburgh next, and where this could be. From abandoned buildings, to art galleries, to private living rooms, Sofar Sounds continues to put on regular secret events. A ticket to the unknown, but with the reassurance of discovering new music. Sara Sutherland, the event producer of Sofar, explained that for upcoming musicians, applying to be on a Sofar lineup is a great way to get your music into the ears of a whole new audience. There is an inevitably high demand for slots since Covid, but the regularity of the secret sessions means there is plenty of time for everyone to experience a touch of the Sofar Sounds magic. Alienore and Ay Wing were supported by Edinburgh-based guitarist, Harry Higgs. After speaking further with him, we learnt that his impressive musical background has led him around the world – from California to Eastern Australia – and ended up in Edinburgh. He seems to be well-integrated in the Edinburgh music scene, and came across Sofar Sounds 5 years ago as one of the organisers worked on a show that he was involved in. He volunteered as a supporting artist and did occasional MCing, then met Ay Wing and performed with her to an audience in the impressive Usher Hall. More recently, he performed at a Sofar sounds event in Glasgow in his current duo, which mostly plays a jazz-folk crossover. Whilst we both agreed it seems unnatural that artists cannot promote their gigs with Sofar Sounds until the day before or day of the show, Harry said he could understand the reasoning behind it, and it seems less necessary than normal as there is already a captive audience ready to discover new music. To end, Harry said that although competition is now high following Covid, he has never been busier, a positive sign for him and for the regrowth of live music in Edinburgh. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and we loved being able to interact with each of the artists. If you’re looking for something new to try in Edinburgh, a Sofar Sounds night should definitely be on the cards! Check out the artists on Instagram: @alienoremusic, @mari.ama___, @aywingmusic, @harry88hammer

  • One literature student’s opinion: The modern music tastes of your favourite literary icons

    When Lizzy Bennet rejected Mr Darcy, would she have angrily stomped through her beloved English countryside to the latest Killers song, or is she more likely to have sardonically muttered the lyrics to ‘Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve’ under her breath? Does Heathcliff just scream heavy metal or are we thinking something a little more soulful for our brooding antihero of the Yorkshire moors? What about Jo March? Frankenstein’s monster? Clarissa Dalloway? Winnie the Pooh? I’m sure we’ve all had this debate at one point or another. I don’t know about you, but when you hit 4am at a flat party, hours after everyone probably should have left, the inevitable lull in conversation happens and suddenly you hear: “I bet the Bennet sisters would have been Swifties.” If this situation doesn’t sound somewhat familiar to you, firstly, just what HAVE you been doing? And secondly, your luck has clearly changed, because fate has conspired to bring you to an article that is going to set the debate surrounding some of your favourite characters to rest. Artwork by Alison Laing (IG: @Alisonlaingart). Sherlock Holmes Let’s face it, I couldn’t write for an Edinburgh-based magazine and not include a character from our very own Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. We know Sherlock’s address, his singular fashion style, even his drug of choice. His modern music taste, however, we can only guess. It’s my opinion that twenty-first century Holmes unwinds after a long hard day of cracking cases with a mix of the Eagles, some Arctic Monkeys, a bit of Cage the Elephant and a dash of Hendrix thrown in for some spice. If there’s one thing these artists have in common, it’s that they are excellent to both brood and head-bang to, something Holmes does in equal measure. If he’s not answering ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ with an emphatic yes and eye-roll, then he’s going to be adjusting his pipe so he can mime the guitar solos in 'Purple Haze’ and ‘Hey Joe’. Elizabeth Bennet It takes one Swiftie to know another, and I stand by what I said earlier: Elizabeth Bennet would be a hardcore Swiftie. She was almost certainly on her Vigilante Shit when she turned down Mr Collins. It was definitely Death By a Thousand Cuts for Lizzy whilst she wandered around the Pemberley Estate and (finally) realised what an utter dreamboat Mr Darcy is. I’d even go so far as to say that if you listen hard enough, you can practically hear ‘Call It What You Want’ playing when Liz smacks down Lady Catherine like the boss bitch she is. A love like Lizzy and Darcy’s never quite goes out of Style, and I can even picture their first Christmas together, Pemberley filled with the sounds of laughter, the clink of crystal glasses and ridiculously expensive silverware… and ‘Christmas Tree Farm’ playing in the background. Which is her T-Swizzle era, you ask? Why, all of them, darlings. At least, until you piss her off. Then you’d better be Ready For It to be Reputation all the way. Heathcliff Our Heathcliff is probably the most mysterious figure on this list. Aside from the unexplained three-year absence where no one quite knows what the chap got up to (launching his pop career? Picking apart daisies while softly murmuring ‘she loves me. She loves me not’?), he is also notoriously reticent when it comes to talking about his feelings. That is, until they all come out in a flood of poetic chaos that makes one simultaneously clutch their pearls and swoon in equal measure. For that reason, I think Heathcliff would of course be a Smiths fan, but also a secret Adele listener. Even he will admit that it certainly felt a bit like Chasing Pavements where Cathy was concerned. U2 will also be making an appearance - maybe not ‘Beautiful Day’, but definitely ‘With or Without You’. Let’s face it, these two are the Ross and Rachel of Yorkshire, so they would without doubt stare out the window at the incoming downpour and marvel at how Cathy managed to give herself away to the wrong guy. Jo March I imagine dear Jo with the most singular music taste known to man. I don’t doubt that she’d enjoy a Peach Pit or Bleachers song every now and then, but Jo knows better than anyone that you are what you listen to, and her taste would be more unpredictable than most. She’d start off her day right with some Maggie Rogers, sure. Yet by the time her elevenses hit, she’d have veered right into Lizabett Russo and Adia Victoria-territory and be humming Troubled Mind as she walked the streets of New York. The afternoon would see her relax with some girl in red, maybe a bit of Plumb for nostalgia’s sake, and in the evenings? Why, it’s got to be First Aid Kit and Brandi Carlile while she unwinds from a hard day of being the modern girl’s favourite fictional EveryWoman. Matilda Wormwood This may be controversial, but I see Matilda as a diehard rock and roll fangirl. She’s always been older and wiser than her years, so for me, it’s not hard to imagine that a more modern Matilda would have The National’s latest album playing in the background while she reads Great Expectations for the first time. The Beach Boys and The Killers have also got to be making an appearance - after all, there’s not a better song than ‘The Man’ for Matilda to rock out to once she succeeds in vanquishing Miss Trunchbull from Crunchem Hall. Dare I say, she would also join Heathcliff at a Smiths listening party? Should he be in one of his better moods, that is - we’d hate for Matilda to have to glue a hat to Heathcliff’s head after he’d told her to “go to the devil” when she asked to listen to their Greatest Hits album with him.

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