The last time I mentioned Pope Benedict XVI on this blog, it was in relation to his last visit to the United Kingdom-the first such visit in three decades.
Then, the pontiff made international headlines the world over, given that his visit came at a time when the Universal Catholic church was under international scrutiny for its management of the child sex-abuse scandals that had taken place in previous decades.
I devoted a half-hour radio documentary to exploring the papal visit to Britain within the context of events that had taken place in the 28- year period since the previous pope, John Paul 11 visited the UK in 1982.
Pope Benedict XVI is headlining the concert of international public opinion again. But this time it is NOT to apologize for any supposed failings of the church.
The Pontiff’s new book: Jesus of Nazareth, which will be released tomorrow as a sequel to the earlier volume Jesus of Nazareth 1, reflects on who is to blame for Jesus’ death.
Why Jesus of Nazareth, Vol 2 promises to be popular
History records that for over 2000 years, Catholics had used Mathew 27, to blame Jews for the Killing of Jesus and to justify the bloody jewish persecution in the Middle Ages.
It was only in 1965 at the Second Vatican Council that the Catholic Church formally rejected the idea that Jews were collectively guilty for Jesus death.
Pope Benedict XVI’s new book which is a stride towards fighting anti-semitism (prejudice against Jews)has been hailed by critics as a sign of the Vatican’s ‘consistent policy toward better dialogue’.
In excerpts of the treatise which were released earlier, the Pontiff argues that Jesus, all his early followers and early Christians were Jews themselves and as such he explains that it would be unfair to pile the heap of blame for Jesus death on the entire nation of Israel.
After carefully reflecting at length on the guilt of Judas, and the Jewish people who shouted “His blood be on us and on our children!” before the Crucifixion, Pope BenedictXVI argues that these individuals symbolised the Temple Aristocracy or the entire human race.
He challenges his readers to see in themselves the same betrayal of Jesus renewed with every sin.
Old Arguments, New Significance
Pundits argue that while versions of these arguments have been made before , they take on a new significance when published by the head of the Roman Catholic Church.
They emphasise that the recent publication highlights the fact that the charge of anti-semitism which is sometimes pointed at Pope Benedict XVI is a gross libel to say the least.
However, the book-Jesus of Nazareth does not change any fundamental belief systems between Jews and Christians.
Unlike Christianity, Judaism does not recognise Jesus as God’s Son or the Messaiah, but simply as a prophet.
Skeptics of Monotheistic belief systems haven’t stopped criticising the ideas contained in the book either. An online commentator at the Telegraph blogs who calls himself Tiddles, writes:
“Surely it was God who killed Jesus ,as part of his grand plan to redeem us from sin . ( Bit of a crazy plan ,but thats monotheism for you ) (sic).
But if you think Gospel Music has been shaped by American singers alone, you might have to think again.
Steve Smith’s debut book British Black Gospel is a masterpiece into the origins of what is today a dynamic music genre in the UK.
That the history of such a pivotal genre of gospel music in Britain has been hitherto under-documented, is itself astonishing.
But Steve Smith, author of British Black Gospel beautifully compresses the result of ten years of research into six chapters which promise to leave British gospel music enthusiasts with that ‘eureka’ feeling.
For one thing, the lack of a preceding publication on this subject makes the book not only a trailblazer, but also a giant piece of the gospel music puzzle in Britain today .
Steve Smith acknowledges that the book is a work in progress but boy, what a progress itself the book has made!
British Black Gospel-Bridging the generation gap
Appealing to complex audiences with varied tastes is an ability which few writers are blessed with. However, readers of Steve Smith’s treatise will find an analysis of gospel music from every era.
From the late 19th century influence of Thomas Rutling and the Negro Spirituals to the contemporary sounds of the London Community Gospel Choir and Muyiwa of Riversongz amongst others, British Black gospel patiently represents the dynamism that characterises this rich, sublime music genre.
Describing the impact of this treatise on gospel music artists in Britain today, British Gospel Singer, Noel Robinson writes:
“As a gospel artist I couldn’t help but feel that I’m standing on the shoulders of some of the greatest movers and shakers of the past generation…”
But if like many of us you can’t be bothered by the facts and figures and are only interested in the music, then you certainly can’t avoid this book!
British Black Gospel is served with a spectacular side-dish, a British Black Gospel CD which samples a broad spectrum of gospel music styles including Reggae, Praise and Worship, Neo-Soul, Rap, Funk, Hip-hop, R&B and traditional gospel choral music amongst others.
Hope you enjoy reading this classic as much as I have!
That I am disinterested in Cameroonian politics itself is testament to the somewhat cliched expression of my country’s supposed democracy.
But yesterday’s broadcast in the Telegraph online which reported Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak’s indication to step down after an election in September, re-ignited the last ember of hope left in me about Cameroon’s political future.
According to Cameroon’s constitution until 2008, President Paul Biya could not stand for another seven year term in the upcoming October 2011 elections.
But he quickly removed the constitutional limit on Presidential terms in April 2008, despite the numerous riots against this constitutional adultery.
President Hosni Mubarak’s announcement that he would not seek another term in Egypt’s upcoming presidential elections in September, makes me flirt with the idea that his brother from another mother, President Paul Biya, could do same in Cameroon.
Biya and Mubarak: Political Twins?
It is quite interesting that President Paul Biya and Hosni Mubarak- politicians of nations so far apart would be intriguingly similar.
President Paul Biya has championed the Republic of Cameroon’s politics since the 6th of November 1982-just one year after Hosni Mubarak became the fourth President of the Arab Republic of Egypt on October 14, 1981.
While BBC online notes that President Hosni Mubarak has survived at least six assasination attempts during his tenure, President Paul Biya survived only one notable military coup attempt on April 6, 1984.
In October 2008, rumours of President Paul Biya’s death caused a stir in Cameroon, until the President returned from one of his numerous foreign trips to announce that he had at least 20 more years to live.
The worry amongst many Cameroonians though is the fact that President Paul Biya does not have a successor.
While the politics of Egypt would certainly leave Cameroonians with a weird sense of deja vu, it is unclear whether the African country is ready for a change of President just yet.
But it would be interesting to hear President Biya decide to immitate his political pal Hosni Mubarak, and announce his decision to step down in October 2011.
At the moment, this might only be a fanciful thought-and pundits would argue that if he did, then changing the constitution in April 2008 was a sheer waste of time.
It was hard to ward off that sickening deja vu feeling when TreyC and Katie got the least votes in the X Factor’s results show last Sunday.
But probably even harder to comprehend was the judges’ choice of Katie over TreyC , despite acknowledging that TreyC was the better singer.
Ms TreyC Cohen’s rendition of Toni Braxton’s Unbreak My Heart failed to stop the judges from shattering her X Factor dreams, as Simon Cowell and Louis Walsh voted to keep Katie Waissel instead.
Katie Waissel’s third eviction escape with her rendition of Solomon Burke’s Please Don’t give Up on Me has met with mixed reactions from the show’s audience.
X Factor boss, Simon Cowell said he voted as a member of the ‘viewing public’ would, adding that while TreyC Cohen was the better singer, Katie Waissel was the ‘more interesting to watch’.
Critics have questioned claims that the show is still a singing competition, given that the bettter vocalist was evicted in the Sunday sing offs.
Louis Walsh’s New Stance
Probably the most suprising verdict on Sunday was Louis Walsh’s decision to keep Katie Waissel in the competition.
In previous episodes, the Irish born judge had clearly stated that he was unimpressed by Katie Waissel’s vocal abilities.
But the former Westlife Manager said on Sunday that his ‘head’ said to vote for TreyC and his ‘heart’ said to go with Katie.
Mr. Walsh decided to go with his heart and gave Madonna look-alike, Katie Waissel, another chance.
His decision was unlike his rather candid remarks after Ms Waissel’s performance of Queen’s We are the Champions. The judge had said to the contestant :
“Katie when you first auditioned I thought you were more style than substance and after that performance I haven’t really changed my mind…I honestly think the song was too big for you”.
Why Katie Wins Sympathy
There might be no right or wrong explanation for Katie Waissel’s continual survival on the X Factor, despite repeatedly winning the least public votes.
However, it is possible to argue that the controversial decision to keep her would increase the programme’s viewership.
It might not be outrageous to imagine that many viewers would watch the show solely out of curiosity to see what the judges do next in Katie’s favour.
A few critics of the show hold that the judges’ sympathy for Katie Waissel is a compensation for the overwhelmingly negative press she received after making it through bootcamp.
Cheryl Cole’s decision to choose Katie Waissel over Gamu Nhengu, had caused a public outcry of disapproval in the earlier episodes of the talent show.
So while the judges’ controversial choices throughout the show are nothing new, it is unclear whether viewership ratings take precedence over the quality of contestants in this case.
As the show gets more competitive, it is widely expected that Katie will again take her place as queen of the ‘bottom two’ category in Sunday’s show, with Brazillian singer Wagner Carrhilo as her fiercest competition.
Before the live shows begin on Saturday, 223,032 people have already voted the winner of the 2010 X Factor competition …Gamu Nhengu.
These ‘Facebook votes’ might seem worthless at first sight, following reports confirming that the 18 year old singer’s sojourn in England has come to an end.
The Daily Mirror noted that Ms Nhengu’s last hopes of returning to the show were dashed yesterday, when the programme’s producers told her “sorry you can’t come back”.
To make matters even worse, the singer now has to leave the UK voluntarily or face deportation, as immigration officials confirmed that her mother’s visa application had not met all conditions for approval.
But the latest visa concerns will NOT exonerate the shows producers from public outcries of disapproval, as a spokesperson for the talentshow admitted that:
“Gamu’s visa being processed was not the reason that she didn’t make the final 12.”
Why It is Unlikely Gamu Will Return
Even if The X Factor’s producers initially meant to recall Gamu to the show as part of the wild card feature, the public outcry against Ms Nhengu’s rejection may NOT have worked in favour of her return.
From a PR standpoint, recalling Gamu Nhengu to the show would be an admission that Ms Cheryl Tweedy failed to spot obvious talent, putting the judges’ professionalism to question.
From a production standpoint, it would also mean that the ‘element of suspense’ would be eliminated from the show.
It is obvious that should Gamu return, her 223,032 Facebook fans (including myself) would immediately vote for her making her the obvious winner of the show even before the semi-finals!
If the show’s producers initially meant this as part of an elaborate PR stunt, it has certainly backfired beyond every reasonable doubt.
It is less likely that the public outcry of discontent would have been as severe, had Cher Lloyd been rejected and eventually recalled to the show.
At least, the show’s producers would have explained that she was a worthy contestant who fell ill and as such was unable to perform due to circumstances beyond her control at the time.
It might be too late to ward off the damage the decision to eliminate Gamu Nhengu has brought the show, but that decision might just have worked in her favour.
Blessing in Disguise?
Ms Nhengu’s journey to superstardom may just be taking an unusual twist as the organisers of the African Music Awards(Ammies) are keen on having her grace the stage alongside The Jacksons next week.
In today’s edition of The Daily Mirror, the ‘Ammies awards’ founder, Eric Mc Kaiser said:
“If X Factor does not recognise her talents, then we do. We would love Gamu to perform with us. She makes us proud to be African.
He added that ” The Jacksons think she is great and could sing Michael’s part”.
If keen on the offer, Ms Gamu will be the “favourite flavour” on a star-studded Wembley Arena on October 15, joining the likes of Tinchy Strider.
Whatever happens to the singer’s stay in the UK, it is certain that her numerous fans have not seen the last of Gamu Nhengu yet.
But as the X Factor gets more dramatic, it is certain that when Presenter Dermot O’ Leary says “the winner of the X Factor 2010 is…”
223,032 and more people will know that the real winner of the show was announced months ago….Gamu Nhengu!
The programme which aired on ITV 1 saw the judges make the crucial decisions about which contestants to send to the live shows.
The finalists would eventually compete for the lucrative recording deal in Simon Cowell’s music empire and the opportunity to launch an international music career.
But the judges’ choices of the contestants to make the live shows have exposed several misconceptions about the TV talent show.
Misconception 1: Rehearsing to Perfection will make you a pop star!
In her comments prior to rejecting 18 year old student, John Wilding, X Factor judge Danni Minogue said while the contestant could really sing, he was “too rehearsed and too practiced”.
She added that he needed to allow for “spontaneity” to make his performances “exciting”.
Her comments came just a few hours after she told the contestants prior to their auditions at the judges’ houses that at this stage in the competition they weren’t “looking for perfection, but for the x factor”.
The obvious question then is “what is the X factor?” While contestants are told to work extra hard (apparrently rehearsing 14 hours a day)to stand a chance, it appears practicing too much rather makes imperfect!
Misconception 2: A heavily flawed performance automatically ruins your chances for music fame!
In her audition at Cheryl Cole’s house, Madonna look-alike, Katie Waissel once again stopped her performance midway and restarted due to what she termed an “emotional song “.
Her performance sufferred just a few weeks after she forgot the words to the song in her first audition and had to sing another song instead.
However, it seemed her repeatedly flawed performances were not bad enough to stop the judges from putting the 24 year old receptionist through to the finals.
In the same light, 16-year old Cher Lloyd who wowed the judges at her first two auditions failed to “turn her swag on” at the judges houses.
The bookies’ favourite failed to impress Cheryl Cole and Will-I-am at the judges’ houses due to an onset of tonslitis which ruined her voice.
In her comments to the contestant, Cheryl Cole admitted that while Cher Lloyd was very good at her initial auditions, her illness gave the impression that she could easily break under pressure.
Her failure to deliver worked in her favour though, as she was booted off into the finals confirming Cheryl’s affinity for the contestant known for bringing “bags of attitude” to the stage.
Misconception 3: Ticking all the boxes will guarantee superstardom!
Perhaps the most suprising verdict of last night’s show was Cheryl Cole’s reluctant NO to 18 year-old Gamu Nhengu, who was initially trailed as a favourite contestant to win the show.
Cheryl Cole’s verdict on Gamu Nhengu came as a huge suprise given that the Girl’s Aloud singer told Will-I-am that Gamu was the only singer who kept her at ease during her performances.
“I find that I can relax when she is singing,” Cheryl had told Will-I-am.
She told the contestant that she was “extremely adorable” and admitted she loved her song choices, saying ” I completely got you”.
Her high praise was followed by a relunctant no, advising the singer to get some “more experience”.
The public’s frustration at Gamu’s rejection has resulted in a facebook storm, as over 40,000 people have joined a facebook campaign calling for the return of Ms Gamu Nhengu(pictured above) to the show.
BBC News reports that it is widely expected Gamu will return to the show as a wild card feature.
But as the chosen 12 prepare to face the voting public in live shows that begin on Saturday at 19:40 BST, the events of yesterday have revealed that the judges are as fickle as the voting public anyway.
Before I delve into somewhat familiar but unpleasant territory, its fair to say the visit was a success.
Pope Benedict XVI made a clear call against what he termed “aggressive forms of secularism” and the upholding of the role of faith in society.
But the success of the papal trip is being measured by what did NOT happen as much as what did.
Prior to the visit, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins stirred a storm of speculations about arresting the Pope during the visit.
So the visit was a success because that did not happen.
‘Sit up and think’
Infact, the mail online correctly observes that the popularity of the visit confounded opponents who predicted thin congregations and empty parks.
The security of the Pope was a major concern for both the British and Vatican governments which resulted in huge sums of money spent on policing.
The visit was a success because Benedict XVI HAD A SAFE TRIP.
Eventhough this meant the arrest of 6 men in connection with an alleged terrorist plot which the police failed to prove.
The visit was a breath of fresh air for Catholics whose faith was under fire.
BBC News reported that Prime Minister David Cameron noted that Pope had challenged the whole country “to sit up and think” about the relative roles of religion and politics.
But for the many victims of sex abuse, words might not be enough to heal the wounds of abuse.
PR, not Penitence
While Pope Benedict XVI expressed ‘deep sorrow’ to a carefully selected group of five victims of abuse, Peter Isely, of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, told the bbc
“We don’t need a Pope who is sad about crimes. We need a Pope who will prevent crimes. And his words prevent nothing.”
According to Terence McKiernan,President and founder of the protest group BishopAccountability.org, the pope’s sorrow is “public relations not penitence.”
McKiernan said Pope Benedict XVI’s apologies this year have become more frequent and his vocabulary more impressive, “as if to mask his continued refusal to take significant remedial action”.
The fact that 77 year old Cardinal Kasper pulled out of the visit after likening Britain to a third world country has not been forgotten yet.
It would certainlty take a lot more good PR, to convince critics that dust has finally settled over the problems facing the catholic church worldwide.