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News

AUKUS Pact: How Will Canada Be Impacted?

The military dealings of Canada’s allies in the Pacific Ocean might play a large role in the future of Chinese-Canadian diplomatic relations.

On Sept. 15, the heads of state of Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States unveiled a trilateral security pact that will serve to expand the three nations’ military influence in the Indo-Pacific region. The pact is more commonly known by its acronym AUKUS.

This deal comes after years of Australia’s tiptoeing on a diplomatic tightrope between American and Chinese partnerships, cementing the nation’s relationship with the U.S. for the near future. The agreement will put into place the construction of tomahawk cruise missiles, extended range joint air-to-surface standoff missiles, long-range anti-ship missiles, and most notably, nuclear-powered submarines, which will all be sent to the Australian military.

According to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the country “received overwhelming support when it came to Australia moving ahead to establish a nuclear submarine fleet for Australia to ensure that we could contribute to the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific.”

This deal will make use of British and American technologies and resources to build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines, vessels Australia has not acquired until now. The increase in size of Australia’s fleet will make patrolling the Pacific and Indian oceans easier as it looks out for what it perceives to be its biggest threat: China’s growing military presence in the region.

According to Dr. Julian Spencer-Churchill, Concordia political science professor and former Canadian Forces captain, “The issue AUKUS is attempting to solve revolves around power and values. Xi Jinping differs from his predecessors because he is dramatically more totalitarian: he’ll stop at very little to achieve some sense of greatness. Whether that’s the Spratly Islands, Taiwan, or the Uyghurs, he wants it all. These countries [involved in AUKUS] are trying to curtail his influence and get him to back down through military buildups.”

Due to the most prominent feature of AUKUS being Australia’s submarine program, many countries have reacted in a variety of ways, ranging from excitement to condemnation. For instance, the Indian government, which has been in heated armed disputes with China in the Himalayas, welcomed this partnership. The Japanese government has reacted with similar satisfaction due to its disputes with China over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands.

On the other hand, one of the harshest critics of AUKUS has been France, which saw its nearly $66 billion contract with Australia for the construction of diesel-electric submarines scuttled with little notice before the new deal was announced. Another more obvious detractor of this deal is China, which views the trilateral agreement as an impediment to its influence in the Pacific.

On the day AUKUS was announced, many were quick to notice Canada’s absence in the deal. While the Conservative Party was eager to take a stance in favour of joining AUKUS and criticizing Trudeau for not signing on, the Prime Minister stated that Canada had no interest in acquiring nuclear submarines, and that the country had nothing to offer in this matter.

Canada remains a member of the Five Eyes partnership, meaning it will still receive tactical information from the three nations involved in the pact. Critics of the AUKUS deal view it as a stern finger-wag at China, but its long-term impact remains to be seen.

While the tension between the Chinese and Canadian governments is still present, all hope for diplomacy and civility is not lost. On Sept. 24, it was announced that Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, the two Canadians trapped in China for over a thousand days, will be returning home. In return, Meng Wanzhou, a Huawei executive trapped in Canada for just as long, will also be returning to her home country. If the AUKUS nations and their allies choose to pursue a more diplomatic approach, much could be in store on the global political stage.

 

Graphic by James Fay

Categories
Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Genesis Owusu – Smiling with No Teeth

The Ghanaian-Australian artist shines on his ambitious and musically kaleidoscopic debut.

Genesis Owusu is a musical tour-de-force, and he’s only just arrived. With his debut, Smiling with No Teeth, the Ghanaian-Australian artist has delivered an experimental opus with an insanely impressive and absolutely electrifying avant-garde nature.

It’s very rare for an artist this early in their career to have such a refined musical palette and dynamic vision, but Owusu has just that.

He’s got clear influences from all over the musical spectrum, from hip hop to new wave, jazz and funk to R&B and post-punk – even including some industrial elements. Smiling with No Teeth somehow brings all of these pre-existing contrasting influences together and creates a completely unique soundscape – a blend of all of these familiar elements, culminating in a remarkable collage of influences that somehow co-exist in perfect harmony.

He can easily go from channelling Prince on one track to channelling the visceral shouting of Death Grips’ MC Ride on the next. His music and vocal delivery are as fluid as can be, and his mastery of every style and genre in his repertoire is incredibly impressive and equally entrancing.

It helps that lyrically and thematically, this project is airtight throughout as well, exploring both the demons that plague Owusu as an individual and those that plague society as a whole. He manages to fit seemingly cathartic moments of commentary on mental health, racism and substance abuse, among other things, within often up-tempo tracks, like on the LP’s second track “The Other Black Dog.”

This juxtaposition of often upbeat instrumentation against the darkness that Owusu’s lyricism tends to highlight isn’t necessarily revolutionary, but it is an incredibly nuanced way to exemplify the album’s core concept.

Smiling with No Teeth may seem as random a title as any, but when you get to the root of the music, the title is an allegory for the thematic and stylistic nature of the music. A closed smile is often forced and used to hide feelings other than genuine happiness, which, in a way, is exactly what the lively nature of a good amount of this album’s soundscape represents: a veil of fun, with the lyrics’ true darkness hiding behind it.

This is an LP that not only checks every box but goes outside of these boxes and finds ways to achieve even more. It would be a magnificent body of work for any artist, but for a debut album, this is beyond spectacular.

To liken Genesis Owusu to a chameleon in that regard would be a disservice to exactly what he has accomplished here. It’s not he who adapts to the genres incorporated in his music, but it is him that forces the elements he takes from these genres to bend to his will and fit his sound. He’s not just impressive, his virtuosity at this stage in his career is practically unheard of, and if this album is any indication, he has the potential to become a generational talent.

9/10

Trial Track: “The Other Black Dog”

 

Categories
News

Canada Joins Australia in the fight for the future of the internet

Can’t share this

The fight for the future of the internet has gotten the heat turned up. Earlier this month, the conflict playing out in the Australian Parliament between Google and a proposed law that would make them and Facebook pay to link to news sources jumped to the public consciousness.

Google has since decided to get ahead of the legislation and began paying news outlets for their stories in their Google News Showcase program. This is a complete reversal after threatening to exit the country completely, should Australia go through with the legislation.

Facebook, on the other hand, went on the offensive. On Feb. 18, Facebook users in Australia were unable to see or share any news content. The ban was far-reaching, covering both domestic and international news outlets. The ban went so far as to remove some pages relating to government institutions. In regards to this issue, Australian Prime minister Scott Morrison said, “They may be changing the world, but that doesn’t mean they run it.”

Facebook relented once they began striking deals a few days later on Feb. 23 after the code was amended.

Facebook claims that they are different in handling news than Google, namely that publishers choose to publish their articles on Facebook. Facebook claims that they give publishers “5.1 billion free referrals to Australian publishers worth an estimated AU$407 million.”

According to Axios, the number of visits to Australian news sites both domestic and international dropped during the few days the ban was in place. It remains to be seen how restoring sharing affects these sites or if the ban hurt Facebook usage in the country on a larger scale.

Enter Canada. The same day that news was removed from Facebook in Australia, Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, who is in charge of similar legislation, doubled down on his commitment to the project. His proposed legislation is expected to hit Ottawa later in the spring, according to Reuters. Indications suggest the legislation will follow the Australian model rather than the French model, which differs in that publishers are paid to have their content used in a special content area called Google News Showcase, rather than charging for access to links. 

Pandora’s box has been opened, with Australia leading a charge that appears to only be snowballing from here.

Canada’s follow-up to Australia will likely be pivotal. Many popular outlets of Australian media are owned by a rather controversial company, News Corp., which contains The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, and Fox News, among others. News Corp. championed the legislation through their various channels, leading some to question the motive of the legislation and consider it “media blackmail,” such as Jeff Jarvis, director of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the Craig Newmark School of Journalism at the City University of New York.

Other companies such as Seven West Media have joined Google News Showcase in Australia.

Canada following the Australian model legitimizes it and establishes it as a standard, even though it’s not an actual law yet. 

As we spend more time online due to the continuing pandemic, the market dominance of Google and Facebook has come to the forefront. The Canadian Media Concentration Research Project clocked Google at 50 per cent market share in Canadian online advertising in 2019, and Facebook was nearing one-third, leaving only roughly one-fifth of the market.

It is unknown how this legislation will change those figures or anything as of yet since France is the only country to enact a law similar to this, and their model is not applicable.

So by the time you read this, you may not be able to share this. We are now in the waiting game to see what Canada’s heritage minister’s legislation brings to Canada, and how Facebook and Google react. If Australia is a model to go by, we may go a few days without sharing.

 

Graphic by Taylor Reddam

Categories
News

Google vs. Australia: the first battle for the future of the internet

Google threatens to remove its search engine from Australia

It’s no secret that traditional news media has been having a hard time. The balance of power between news sites and aggregator sites is a fight as old as the internet. In this effort, the Australian government proposed a law last year that would require companies like Google and Facebook to pay to link to news stories.

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the goal of the law is to “address bargaining power imbalances between Australian news media businesses and digital platforms, specifically Google and Facebook.”

It includes a set of rules for the publishers and social sites to adhere to, including publishing “core news,” maintaining editorial standards, and being primarily Australian in origin and intended audience.

However, Google did not take this lying down. About a week ago, a yellow warning sign appeared under the search bar in Australia that linked to an open letter from Google Australia’s managing director, Mel Silvia. They are threatening to shut down Google search from the country if the proposed law takes effect.

Google argues in their statement that this “puts Google’s business in Australia — and the services we provide more than 19 million Australians — at enormous risks,” and this monumental shift to how the internet works would lead to unforeseen consequences.

Google representatives did not respond to The Concordian’s request for comment.

“Many countries are contemplating link taxes or other forms of revenue sharing,” according to Robert Fay, managing director of digital economy at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI).

“In France, for example, Alphabet [Google] has agreed to negotiate licenses to pay for content,” said Fay. That French example is an agreement between news publishers and the Alliance de la Presse d’Information Générale (APIG), where publishers make a deal with Google to showcase their articles in search results for a negotiated fee, rather than just exposure. A similar program called Google News Showcase is in place in Germany and Brazil already.

The Australian law would force Google to pay for links to news sites, not for the content of the articles. 

John Hinds, president of lobbying group News Media Canada, thinks that the Australian model may be the way to go, and stated that “it’s the most effective model because it also has a code of conduct that also deals with some of the advertising issues beyond simply the idea of paying for content.”

The click economy relies on big services such as Facebook and Google to get eyes on pages. It was a mutually beneficial partnership for years, as news sites relied on the coverage that Google and Facebook could give them. In return, pages like Google and Facebook benefitted from consumers using their platforms by both finding and sharing articles. Both publishers and social sites take in ad revenue from the consumer looking at their respective pages.

Delphine Halgand-Mishra, senior fellow at CIGI argued that, “knowing that this article has a production cost to bring reliable information, then it is only fair that the media get a portion of the ad-revenue the online service providers gained thanks to users reading the article and spending time on the platform.”

Fey added that “Google’s concern is likely that if it agrees to what Australia proposes other countries will follow. That boat has left the dock. Google’s ultimatum is not in its best interest since, in the end, it would only lose market share if it begins to pull out of countries.”

This fight comes at a pivotal point in the information age (or misinformation age).

Traditional reporting has been falling on hard times since the internet became commonplace, not just in terms of diminished readership but also in the loss of advertising revenue. Ever since 2000, revenue for newspapers in both advertising and circulation has been unstable and declining, ad revenue dropping 44 per cent between 2006 and 2009 alone. Confidence in the news continues to be low, and layoffs in newsrooms only serve to compound the troubles.

The need for reporting did not go away, however, and reliable information has only since gone up in importance. The internet removed barriers to accessing information, while not proposing a way to pay for said information.

The path forward is not entirely clear now. These rules appear to be in defiance of net neutrality, the idea that the internet is a level playing field. Many different sets of rules are likely to be rolled out across the globe, with Australia and France perhaps only early forerunners of a larger movement.

“New problems could always arise from new legislation,” argued Halgand-Mishra.

“The devil is always in the details. No legislation is ever perfect. I think this legislation will mostly change the way Google pays news providers. Google will not pay in its own terms anymore.”

 

Graphic by Taylor Reddam

Categories
Briefs News

World in Brief: political turmoil in the Middle East, deadly wildfires

Iran’s top security and intelligence commander, Qassem Soleimani, was killed in a US-led drone strike near Baghdad’s airport last Friday, reported the New York Times. Since Soleimani’s death, the Iranian government announced its intentions of ending all commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal, raising fear all over the world and the new #WW3 storming Twitter. Escalations also reached Iraq, with the government calling for the expulsion of all foreign troops amid Soleimani’s death. There are currently about 5,000 US troops on Iraqi soil. While seen as a hero by many in Iran, Soleimani was listed as a terrorist by the US. In a statement, the Pentagon accused Soleimani of planning terrorist attacks on the US and approving an attack on the US embassy in Baghdad last week.

Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, referred to Israel as a nuclear power in a slip of the tongue during a weekly cabinet meeting about a subsea pipeline deal with Greece and Cyprus. Netanyahu said “the significance of this project is that we are turning Israel into a nuclear power,” he then paused, acknowledged his mistake with a shy smile before correcting his statement to “energy power,” reported Reuters. Israel has been long-denying the possession of a nuclear arsenal.

Ongoing wildfires ravage Australia despite large efforts to tame the blaze. Since September, five million hectares of land have been destroyed killing 23 as of Jan. 4, reported Global News. Efforts from Australian forces and other countries like Canada have been fighting the flames. The causes of the fires are still unclear, but officials are pointing fingers to the extreme temperature, drought, and human activity. A 19-year-old was arrested on suspicion of arson. The individual was charged with seven counts of setting fire.

 

Graphic by @sundaeghost

Categories
Music

Alex Cameron goes where the genius is

An interview with Australia’s next best star

Alex Cameron is feeling good.

In fact, he says he’s in the best position he’s ever been in. The Australian singer has fallen in love with Jemima Kirke, an English artist and actress who greatly inspires his songs, most notably on his newly released, love-centred album, Miami Memory. His team has just cleared a few years’ worth of debt and can finally afford to pay their rent while living comfortably. Most impressive of all, Cameron is on track to play over 100 shows on tour in 2019.

“We tour our fucking asses off and people come to our shows,” said Cameron. “What we do is a reputation thing. We have a reputation for putting on hot shows and writing songs that, though they are very specific, people find a way to latch onto them and it becomes broad reaching once the ideas spread through conversation. We got no problems, man. We’re feeling good. Are you feeling good?”

The eccentric frontman asks me the question as he sits backstage at the Fairmount Theatre before his show on Nov. 16, alongside his saxophonist and business partner, Roy Molloy. 

Cameron is comfortable as he finishes his sound check, sporting a pair of black track pants, slicked jet black hair, his Miami Memory merchandise necklace and a retro City Ford Sydney Roosters jersey to commemorate his hometown. Molloy opts for a more done-up look as he sits alongside us in a black corduroy suit with a bag of Sour Patch watermelon candies in hand.

Photo by Guillaume Knobloch

Cameron’s earlier projects, Jumping the Shark and Forced Witness, touch upon themes of loneliness and distress as a failed musician. However, those days may be over, ever since Cameron was contacted by Brandon Flowers, lead singer of The Killers. 

He says that Flowers, whom he has previously labelled as one of the best songwriters of our generation, stumbled across his music on the internet and asked him and Molloy to assist him in writing The Killers’ 2017 album, Wonderful Wonderful. Flowers later took them onboard the album’s tour as a support act and returned the favour with songwriting credits on Cameron’s Forced Witness. The Killers have since announced a forthcoming album, Imploding the Mirage, which Cameron says he may have a hand in as well.

“I think what that whole experience gave us was a lot of information and a lot of guidance about the industry and what it means to be a performer, and what it means to have your music actually impact people,” said Cameron. “There’s a good lesson in there.”

Despite the insight that Cameron and Molloy may have received from connecting with Flowers, they don’t expect their music to peak at the top of the charts – at least not in the foreseeable future.

“I think that pop music is driven by the kids and the kids will always want something new,” said Cameron. “I think that popular music, generally speaking, is consumed by people who are like, between the ages of eight and 15. So when you’re writing a pop song and you’re getting all those sales and making all those hits, it’s because kids love it. If you want to talk about why our music isn’t at the top of the charts, it’s because our music is explicitly for adults. And that’s a different kind of ball game.”

“What we’re doing isn’t for 14-year-olds,” said Molloy.

The duo says that their art is reserved for an older audience because of certain lyrics riddled with mature content that includes explicit sexual references and a certain song with homophobic slurs. 

While it is certainly not for radio, Cameron is in no way homophobic. His slurs are sung ironically as his lyrics address him being called gay for the makeup he wears and the way he dresses. Later that evening on stage, Cameron saves “Marlon Brando” for the encore and assures the crowd that it’s normal for them to question their sexuality while discovering who they are.

Cameron carried that same feisty energy with him on stage throughout the whole show. His stage presence was compelling and his dance moves contagious. Many artists could certainly take tips from an Alex Cameron performance.

While Cameron may be considered new to the music industry, his influence is certainly felt by many established and aspiring musicians alike.

“I feel like we’ve presented some ideas that were definitely ours that other people are accessing,” said Cameron. “But I also feel like once you put something out there into the world, you’re putting it into a melting pot to be shared. If you don’t want to be ripped off, just don’t release anything.”

Cameron may be inspiring artists that likely fall into the rock or indie category, but he doesn’t think that certain music thrives because of the genre that they’re boxed into.

“Ultimately, I don’t think it’s a genre thing,” said Cameron. “I don’t think it’s about

‘why is rock not at the top? Why is rap at the top? Why is pop music not at the top?’ Ultimately, it’s about where the spirit is, and where the energy is – where the genius is.”

Photos by Guillaume Knobloch

Categories
Briefs News

World in brief: China’s mass detention of Muslim, Koalas killed by fires, and Indigenous collaboration on Frozen II

On Nov. 24, leaked classified documents showed China’s strategic plan of mass detention for ethnic minorities. They were obtained and verified by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in collaboration with CBC News and other media organizations around the world. Identified as the China Cables, the documents describe the large-scale incarceration and brainwashing of Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim minority in China’s Xinjiang province. Adrian Zenz, a leading researcher on the Uighur crisis, estimates that more than 1.8 million Uighurs are or have been imprisoned over the last three years. “What we are looking at in Xinjiang is probably the largest internment of an ethno-religious minority since the Holocaust,” said Zenz, in an interview with CBC

Record-breaking fires continue to devastate Australia’s East coast as yet another heatwave worsened the situation last week. Various media reported that more than 1 million hectares of New South Wales and Queensland have been ripped apart by the devastating bushfires which destroyed more than 300 homes. While bushfire season is not uncommon for the country due to dry weather, several scientists agree that this year is abnormally overwhelming, and for all types of lives. The chairman of the Australian Koala Foundation, Deborah Tabart, estimates that over 1,000 koalas weren’t able to flee the fires and lost their lives, reported the Daily Mail.

Disney is fostering Indigenous collaborations with Frozen II as it hit the theatre over the weekend. Critics over cultural appropriation from the first movie adopting Scandinavia’s Indigenous Sámi culture led the Hollywood magnate to work on the sequel with a team of Sámi experts from Norway, Sweden, and Finland, as reported by CBC. The group was constituted of Sámi artists, historians, elders and politicians. They were consulted on the historical aspect of the storyline, the costumes and the songs to ensure that their culture would be properly represented onscreen.

 

Graphic by @sundaeghost

Categories
Music

Australian artists Mallrat and Allday bring their rap and hip hop to Montreal

Mallrat + Allday at Le Ministere for their first Montreal show

Australian musician Grace Shaw,  who goes by Mallrat, is now old enough to be in the venues she is getting booked at – but that wasn’t always the case. After releasing her first EP at just 17 years old and quickly gaining popularity, she often had to be escorted quickly out of most of her venues. Now having graduated from school, the indie pop and hip hop singer is free to go on a larger tour, co-headlining alongside one of her major influences and friend, Allday.

Montreal was the fourth stop on the “Mallrat & Allday North American Tour.” The show began at 8 p.m. sharp at Le Ministere, when supporting act Japanese Wallpaper took to the stage. The venue has a very low stage but because it wasn’t overly packed, everyone had a clear view of the many instruments set up across the stage. Japanese Wallpaper was a fitting choice as he had helped produce tracks for both Mallrat and Allday in the past. The thirty-minute set got the crowd ready for more, and gave some time for the room to slowly fill up.

By 8:50 p.m. Allday got on stage to some loud cheers from a few fans who were clearly there for him. They fans knew every word, and you could hear their dedication in their singing. Allday had a drummer and a backup singer, and was accompanied by Japanese Wallpaper on keys. Starting off with his newest single, “Protection,” and then fan favourite “Switch Sides,” it was going well until the power on stage shut off and the track came to a halt. Allday was very professional, laughing along with the crowd, and asking for poutine recommendations. He settled on going to Patati Patata after the show.

After everything was fixed, Allday dived into some more hits to finish of his set. “Restless,” the most pop-like song on the setlist thus far, really let Allday show off his singing talent. The room was heating up but he told us how he bet his bandmates that he wouldn’t take off his grey oversized suit jacket no matter what, and that he wasn’t going to lose with only one song left. They then played “In Motion,” a track featuring , Japanese Wallpaper.

Mallrat didn’t keep us waiting long. Mallrat’s live DJ, Denim, came out to get the crowd pumped. She then hopped onstage as the track “Sunglasses” came on. While I do usually prefer live drums, having DJ Denim on backup vocals and her DJ equipment gave the set a very club-like feel, and the bass and drops sounded great.

Mallrat expressed how lovely she found our city, having spent the morning out shopping with Denim. The stand-out moment of the concert was when Mallrat sang “Circles.” It’s only been out since Sept. 5 and it was only her fourth time playing it live, so she warned the crowd that it’s a challenging song and that she would try her best. With a lower range than most tracks and very breathy vocals,  I understand why. But Mallrat knocked it out of the park to loud cheers from the crowd.

Once “Groceries,” Mallrat’s most popular single played, it seemed like the show was over. But the crowd chanted “one more song!” and Mallrat came back out, flattered.  They played “Uninvited” and while most of it was on the backing track, the crowd really got into it. She even invited two young fans from the front row to come dance and sing on stage.

Mallrat, Allday and Japanese Wallpaper put on a high quality show with a small budget. While it didn’t have the most intensive production, the way they all synergized into each others’ sets and rolled with the punches demonstrated their skill and chemistry together as friends, on and off stage.

 

Photo by Britanny Clarke

Categories
Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Tones and I – The Kids Are Coming

Tones and I is a newcomer onto the music world’s big stage; although The Kids Are Back is exactly what the world needed from the pop singer since her lightning-fast rise to fame this year.

The 6-track EP highlights the Australian former busker’s creative use of her voice over both upbeat dance-style instrumentals and more melancholic, piano-driven tracks. Her ability to twist and bend words, almost deconstructing their pronunciation and transforming them into an unrecognizable musical sound, perfectly demonstrates her ability to use her voice as an instrument. Also, the fact that she touches on relevant themes, such as sexual discrimination and the importance of the youth, show that her understanding of music goes beyond her natural talent. Tones and I is here to stay, and this short EP was enough to prove it to everyone.

8.5/10

Trial Track: “Dance Monkey”

Star Bar:

“No one wants to listen to the kids these days

Yeah, the fibs these days, yeah

They say that we’re all the same

But they’re the ones to blame” (Tones and I on “The Kids Are Coming”)

Categories
Sports

Competing to save lives

A sport made for versatile athletes ready for new challenges

Invented in 1891 by the Royal Life Saving Society of England, lifesaving is an activity that really gained popularity with the creation of the Royal Life Saving Society of Australia in 1894.

The organization was first developed to ensure public safety during daylight bathing on the beaches of Sydney, Australia, according to the country’s Royal Life Saving Society. Volunteers gradually created patrol groups that taught lifesaving, as well as first aid training, to look after the increasing number of imprudent Australian bathers.

In the beginning, lifesaving was not a sport but rather a strong rivalry between the more ancient Australian lifesaving clubs, such as the Bronte Surf Life Saving Club, and the Bondi Surf Bathers’ Life Saving Club. The rivalry is what turned lifesaving into a competitive sport, according to Irish Water Safety. With the creation of the Surf Bathing Association of New South Wales (SBANSW) on Oct. 10, 1907, nine Australian clubs and affiliated associations organized official competitive lifesaving events. Later in the 20th century, lifesaving clubs emerged in other parts of Australia and around the world.

Records of lifesaving events in Canada date back to 1894, when Arthur Lewis Cochrane taught his lifesaving skills to students of the Upper Canada College in Toronto, according to the Canadian Lifesaving Society. Following that, lifesaving started to spread in Canada and, in 1904, the Royal Life Saving Society of Canada was created. Since the 1930s, the society has hosted many lifesaving sport events and, today, the Canadian Lifesaving Society hosts its own national championship.

What kind of a sport is lifesaving?

As a sport, lifesaving is an educational activity that mixes first aid training and athletic techniques. There are two main types of contests: pool and beach events.

Pool Events

Pool events are mainly swimming events, but they differ from traditional swimming competitions because obstacles, like mannequins, and flippers are involved. Mannequins represent the upper body of a person. They are one metre long and filled with water. The goal for the athlete is to dive, grab the mannequin and drag it a given distance.

Obstacles are underwater barriers that go 70 centimetres below the surface. They are often positioned in the middle of the pool. Athletes have to dive under an obstacle every time they reach one.

Flippers are feet extensions that a swimmer puts on to increase their speed. There are 11 trials in a pool lifesaving event, including the 200m obstacle swim, the 100m mannequin tow with flippers, and the 4x50m medley relay.

Beach events

Beach or open water events have trials on land and in the water. They combine reaction, running, stamina, swimming, surf skiing and board paddling. A total of 16 trials comprise a beach event. Trials such as the surf race, the beach sprint or the board race test athletes’ different abilities.

The main attraction of a beach event is the Oceanman/Oceanwoman race. It combines all the requirements to be a beach lifeguard in one race. Beach events also have unique trials such as inflatable rescue boat (IRB) events and surf boat events. Beach events are often more spectacular as there are natural elements involved such as wind and waves.

One final event that is common in both pool and beach events is the simulated emergency response competition (SERC). It’s a two-minute event that tests the lifesaving skills of a four-athlete team through simulated emergency situations unknown to them in advance.

Points in beach and pool events are awarded as followed: the relay teams and individual athletes placing among the top 16 in each trial earn points for their club. The club that earns the most points wins the event. At the end of a pool or beach event, the top three teams or athletes of each trial are also awarded medals.

Why should you join a lifesaving club in Montreal?

Lifesaving is a very interesting sport because it is not only physically demanding, but also a useful activity where you learn actual life-saving techniques. In this sport, a good athlete is a good lifesaver, therefore, lifesaving diplomas are mandatory. So, if you’re looking for a physical sport that could lead to a useful and interesting diploma and job opportunities, lifesaving might be for you.

As a Concordia student or a Montrealer, you live in a city that is home to many lifesaving clubs. Within an hour of Concordia’s downtown campus, you can reach no less than six clubs in all parts of the city and surrounding areas. These clubs all provide weekly classes, from beginner to experienced levels. As a student, it could be an interesting opportunity to test your physical capacities.

The lifesaving diploma and first aid training will always be useful in your everyday life. Not only will it teach you to calmly help people in urgent situations, this training will also give you the opportunity to work as a lifeguard at a pool or beach. Overall, lifesaving can make you a versatile athlete, a good lifesaver or both.

Main graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

Lifesaving clubs in Montreal:

Le Club de Sauvetage Rive-Nord (CSRN) in Laval

Sauvetage Sportif 30-Deux in Ste-Julie

Club Aquatique du Sud-Ouest in St-Henri

Club Aquatique de l’Est de Montréal in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve

The Rouville Surf Club with a facility in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and Ahuntsic-Cartierville

Club les Piranhas du Nord (CAPN) in Ahuntsic-Cartierville

Categories
Music

Sobie’s album: The Montreal Winter

Concordia exchange student releases album based on her experience in Montreal

Sophie Botta, known on stage as Sobie, hails all the way from Sydney, Australia, but is proud to call Montreal a source of musical inspiration. Botta released her album, The Montreal Winter, on Nov. 19, which is dedicated to her semester spent studying in Montreal. The album has a nostalgic, folk-pop sound, accompanied by soothing vocals. Sobie gives voice to our city’s coldest season, making it the ideal album for Montrealers to listen to all winter long. Reminiscent of soft 90s pop, The Montreal Winter will take you on a smooth sailing, sonic joy ride.

In January 2014, Botta came to Montreal for a semester abroad at Concordia. She majored in electroacoustic/audio engineering with a particular focus in sound design. “I wanted to choose North America, and Concordia had all the artistic majors that interested me,” said Botta.

Botta said her passion for music started at a young age. “I use to watch my uncle play drums a lot,” she said. “I couldn’t reach the pedal on the drum kit until I was seven years old.” Botta played in a band called Castle in the Air while she was in high school in Australia, she then played as a session musician for musicals in England. When she arrived to Montreal, she played the drums and guitar in a band with her classmates from Concordia. “For one of my music classes at Concordia, we had to make a band, so I started playing gigs with a few of my classmates.” Botta was the drummer, Faye MacCalman played the saxophone, Ben Brimacombe and Luke Quin played the guitar and Fuat Tuac was on vocals. “The music we played was very experimental,” said Botta. The name of the band was Zürafa, meaning ‘giraffe’ in Turkish—lead singer Tuac is of Turkish descent. Zürafa played a few gigs in Montreal at the Upstairs Jazz Club and at theatre Sainte-Catherine. “My class lecturer asked our band if we wanted to play on morning TV, so we got to play on Global TV’s morning show,” said Botta.

Faye MacCalman on sax, Sophie Botta on vocals and Ben Brimacombe on guitar performing at the Upstairs jazz club. Photo by Alex Dergachev

In July 2014, Botta returned home where she finished her degree and continued playing music as a solo artist under the stage name Sobie. On stage, however, she plays with a backing band. “I am the lead singer of Sobie. I have a backing band of four musicians who play with me at gigs,” said Botta. Members of her backing band include Laura Samperi on keyboards, Jack Quinn on drums, Benji Tomc on guitar and Deeks Knight on bass. Botta released her first solo EP, Lest We Forget, in April 2016.

According to Botta, Montreal influenced her musically, which is why she decided her next album would be about her experiences there. “From the day I arrived to Montreal, the city was always so alive with arts and culture. It is very hard for a creative person to not be creative there. There is always so much music being played,” said Botta. She said she felt very inspired by the city and wanted to reflect that in a piece of art.“Even before I left Montreal, I wanted to write an album about the different experiences and people I met,” said Botta. Most of the songs on The Montreal Winter were written in Montreal. A girl Botta met at a bar in Ottawa wrote the lyrics for her track “Valentine.” “It was a poem she wrote for her boyfriend. She asked me if I could put some music into her poem—she had sent me her poem by text message. I came back to Montreal, recorded it, sent it to her and she loved it,” said Botta.

Sobie’s band live on stage. Photo by Kawshi Manisegaran

While in Montreal, Botta also traveled to New Orleans with friends, which inspired a few songs on the album as well. When it comes to songwriting, Botta said she always starts with the lyrics. “It’s usually inspired by an event. My inspiration factor to a song is 99 per cent [of the time] always the lyrics, and then I start to see how it can fit with something,” said Botta. Her favourite song to play live from The Montreal Winter is “Silhouette.” “We start playing it and everyone locks into the groove. We jam together and have fun,” said Botta. One of Botta’s biggest musical dreams would be to collaborate with Ed Sheeran or Adele. “If I were to make a song with Ed Sheeran, it would probably be something funny. I’d call our song ‘Like a Koala Hug,’” said Botta.

According to Botta, the music scene in Sydney is a lot different from the music scene in Montreal. “Montreal is a lot more open. Sydney has a lot of gigs going on as well but I feel like Montreal has more places and opportunities to play,” she said. Botta will be returning to Montreal in October and hopes to continue playing gigs at the Upstairs Jazz Club. In the meantime, warm up to the soulful and heartfelt music in The Montreal Winter.

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The Cat Empire “effect”

When a band tours incessantly, individual shows can get lost in a shuffle of airports, continental breakfasts, and sweat, but The Cat Empire’s Felix Riebl can’t say the same about their time in Montreal.
“The first time we went to Canada, we played in Montreal to a room full of people who knew all the words,” recalled Riebl. “A few years later, we played the main stage at the Jazz Festival, and it was one of the biggest audiences we had ever played for. So Montreal is a very special point in our tour. We’ve made lasting friendships there, and everyone in the band is looking forward to those shows.”
The Cat sextet truly feeds off of their tours. Trumpeter and vocalist Harry James Angus, drummer Will Hull-Brown, DJ Jamshid Khadiwhala, keyboardist and back-up vocalist Ollie McGill, bassist Ryan Monro, and vocalist Riebl are each established musicians in their own right, but together they jive, jam, and soak up the sounds of their surroundings.
“We got into this cycle where we would tour, then make albums about the excitement and pressure of the tour,” explained Riebl. “Our music is about the spirit of travelling, while being open-minded.”
There are many terms one could use to describe The Cat Empire, and jazzy-Australian-ska-reggae’d Afro pop is what first comes to mind. Yet the band claims no one “sound” is intentional, and they don’t wish to be defined by genre or continent. The result is a feel-good, toe-tapping, sing-a-long, groovin’ escape.
“I don’t think it matters that we’re from Australia, or from anywhere else,” explained Riebl. “We’re not active cultural ambassadors, we’re musicians. We play together, and that’s our sound.”
Their live shows first hypnotized dancehall audiences into a frenzy over a decade ago in their homeland Australia. In time, they gathered an immense international following through word-of-mouth, playing over a hundred shows a year and sliding unscathed under mainstream media’s radar, retaining underground status.
Five albums and over 800 shows later, The Cat Empire is finishing its 10th anniversary tour in dedication to the fans that greased their wheels.
The band first began as an academic instrumental experiment in 1999 with McGill, Riebl and Monro meeting on stage as part of the Jazz Cat, a nine-piece outfit from different Melbourne schools. That same year, they got together and formed The Cat Empire, which began as a trio, but became much larger with the addition of Angus, Hull-Brown and Khadiwhala in 2001.
They gigged around Melbourne, from playing shows just to pay rent, to headlining local festivals.
“I remember after one of our biggest shows, saying ‘I wish I could do this every night’,” recalled Riebl. “And then, that’s kind of what happened. It was a wondrous moment.”
They established a strong Australian fanbase, toured the American west coast, and played a sixteen-show stint at Edinburgh Festival before their 2003 debut studio album The Cat Empire went platinum in under five months.
“The whole experience took us by surprise,” said Riebl. “Even after a successful album, we were never quite sure where it all came from. When you’re playing live for an audience, it becomes real, and you know where you stand. [The success] can be quite alienating, but it was a hell of a ride.”
The Cat Empire “effect” isn’t entirely captured in recordings alone. After experiencing them live, and watching the band and crowd feed off each other’s euphoria, one understands how concertgoers become rabid hype machines.
“It’s really a question of atmosphere,” Riebl guessed. “It’s the combination of the audience and the music, and what that does to a room.”

The Cat Empire are playing back-to-back shows at Metropolis (59 Ste-Catherine St. E.) on March 30 and 31. Tickets are $39.20 in advance.

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