Briefs News

World in Brief: de-escalation, volcano, false alarms

President Hassan Rouhani announced Iran’s intentions to de-escalate from long-lasting tensions with the US last Sunday. Rouhani met with the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, to conclude de-escalation was the only solution for the wellbeing of the region. “We’ve decided to have more consultations and cooperation for the security of the entire region,” said Rouhani, according to the Agence France Presse

Qatar diplomatically rests uncomfortably between Iran and the US with the largest American military base in the region as well as strong relations with Iran. This comes shortly after high-ranking Iranian general Qassem Soleimani was shot down by a US-led drone attack and a Ukranian Airlines airplane crashed near Tehran after takeoff. It was confirmed the plane had been “mistakenly” taken down by an Iranian missile.

A small volcano near Philippines’s capital Manila erupted on Sunday. The eruption was ranked at a danger level of four, five being the highest ranking. The eruption ejected dust and pebbles 10 to 15 kilometres into the sky. Ash quickly covered the runways at Manila’s international airport, grounding all domestic flights. The eruption was followed by a series of earthquakes, reported the authorities, who rushed to evacuate nearly 300,000 people in the region, reported the Associated Press. The volcano was famous among tourists for its breathtaking scenery.

An alert about the Pickering Nuclear Generation Plant was sent out on Sunday morning. It was soon found to be a mistake during a routine training exercise conducted by the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre, reported CBC. It was only two hours later that a second alert was sent out to reassure the public about the incident. The nuclear plant is located east of Toronto. Emergency Management Ontario will conduct a thorough investigation to find out who was responsible for the alert.


Graphic by @sundaeghost

Student Life

Combining the power of youth, family and compassion

Student travels to Thailand as a youth leader of the first NVC Family Camp Asia

While most Concordia students probably spent their reading week relaxing at home, Monica Thom spent that time working as a youth realm leader in Chiang Mai, Thailand. For two weeks, the communications and cultural studies student held compassionate communication workshops for a group of 18 Chinese children who, along with their parents, were the first-ever NVC Family Camp Asia participants.

“The main goal, for me, was just to role model,” Thom said about being a youth realm leader. “It wasn’t to teach, it wasn’t to impose upon these kids the idea of compassionate communication. It was to offer a demonstration of something different.” The purpose of NVC (Non-Violent Communication) Family Camp, Thom explained, is to get in touch with your feelings and needs, as well as those of others, and to develop strategies to respect both. These strategies can be learned through compassionate communication. Whether you are in conflict or in harmony, there’s always a way to meet everyone’s needs without compromising the other,” she said.

Duo Duo gathering materials for table centerpieces.
“NVC strives to support children’s freedom, even if that means some risk is involved,” Thom said. “With the camp members encouraging him rather that chanting ‘be careful’ and doubting him, he became naturally cautious and extremely competent.”



















The camps are divided into realms, Thom explained. The adult realm, for example, teaches parents the methodology for compassionate communication. While the parents receive that training, the kids are busy with crafts and games that incorporate compassionate communication as part of the youth realm. “It’s not a direct teaching,” Thom said. Since the camps take place outside, she added, “it’s a more natural environment, which is supposed to encourage a more natural state of being, thinking and not being stimulated by outside forces.”

Although NVC Family Camp has been operating in North America for the past 14 years, this was its first time in Asia. The group’s longest-running camp is held in Seattle, Wash., where Thom has been attending NVC Family Camp since she was 11 years old. “The first year I went, I met a few people who have become a fundamental, core family,” said Thom, who is an international student from Chicago.

Lili, 13, reminded Monica Thom a lot of herself when she first arrived at camp. She was super shy at first, but 24 hours in, she had found the courage to be open and connect with others.

Last summer, while Thom attended the NVC Family Camp in Seattle, she formed a connection with a four-year-old named Miles. “The parents noticed the connection and playfulness between us and noticed that I love kids,” she said. Attending the Seattle camp inspired Miles’s mother, Echo Hui, to host a similar camp in Asia. That is how she became the core organizer of the first NVC Family Camp Asia, alongside her husband, Eric Gonzalez-Payne, who supported her and did a lot of the planning.

Meanwhile, summer ended and Thom started school in Montreal. Months later, she was invited by Hui to lead the youth realm for the upcoming camp in Thailand. “My initial feeling was […] this is a great opportunity for practicing something I want to do after university,” Thom said. “It’s a great work experience, and it’s a great opportunity to see the world and then reconnect with this family I fell in love with.”

Prior to her arrival in Chiang Mai, Thom had to prepare schedules and activities for the participating families. She reached out to Maren Metke, who has been running the NVC Family Camp youth realm for the past 14 years, and Johnny Colden, a long-time youth realm program coordinator who has been working in Seattle.

“Releasing Thai lanterns was probably one of the more emotional evenings for the whole camp,” Thom said. “We were all bathing in joy, awe, appreciation, dreams, sadness, love, beauty and whatever else we had to send up to the heavens.”

“The goal is to make sure everyone is included and having fun,” Thom said, so she asked for suggestions of inclusive and co-operative games for the kids and parents. Once she got to the camp, Thom realized how easy it was to plan activities. “The kids bring a lot of inspiration and ideas and requests of their own,” she said.

Thom learned a bit of Mandarin to compensate for the language barrier. While most of the parents spoke English, communicating with the kids was mainly done through sign language and lots of “goofy miming motions.”

Many of the activities Thom organized for the kids incorporated nature, by making natural floral dyes, collecting leaves, painting coconuts and murals, among other things. “We wanted the kids to have a big impact on the surrounding beauty,” Thom said. “All their artwork was put up and hung around camp, just so that the parents can see how important the kids are to the creation of a community. This is a more physical and visual way of showing it, but it’s very emotional too.”

Community painting… first the kids, then the adults.

As the youth realm leader at the camp, Thom was constantly demonstrating compassion and empathetic communication, setting an example for the kids.My goal is to [be a] role model, to be inclusive. There is no age restriction, no intellectual barriers or language barriers; everyone is included,” she said. “One of my goals was to make sure these kids had a safe place to be free.”

At the start of each day, Thom and her team would present a slideshow about the camp schedule and demonstrate the day’s activities. Then, Thom would lead a game at the morning circle to get everyone moving and interacting with one another. Later in the day, there would be communication workshops for the parents and time for the kids to do art projects, explore nature and practice parkour, among other activities.

Fabric painting quickly turned into face painting.

Although a week might not seem like much time to make friends, Thom watched three teenagers form such a strong connection at the camp that, by the end of the week, they didn’t want to leave each other. “The surrounding space is one for cultivating that type of relationship,” Thom said. “You feel loved, you feel accepted. […] It was cool to see strong bonds form so quickly.”

These friendships can make it very difficult to part ways after just one week. “You are crying because this time has been so meaningful,” Thom said. “So saying goodbye is really challenging, but you are saying goodbye with this bursting heart.”

Mahman the shyest kid in the clan and Monica Thom.

And that is exactly the purpose of NVC Family Camp Asia, Thom said. It’s about creating strong bonds and inspiring confidence. “Having everyone in tears at the end was a tribute to the success of that. That’s a little victory,” she added. “It comes down to having confidence with the power of youth, the power of family and the power of compassion.”

“Tammy was one of the shyest kids in the group,” Thom said. “A smile from her was pretty rare, but at the end of camp she was giggling with the people she trusted.”

All photos are courtesy of Monica Thom.


World music review: Asia

7he Myriads (Russia): If you think space disco is a kind of theme party thrown by Russian cosmonauts, then you’re missing out on quite possibly one of the most enjoyable new hybrid genres, and the dual-continental band positioned squarely at its forefront. 7he Myriads, formed by Vitalic Teterin and Alexey Krjuk in 2007, are more than just an electronic group. Adding Yunusov Ilgiz to the band, the Ekaterinburg (Asia) natives draw upon disco, funk, deep house, rock and electro, while combining live instrumentation with electronic staples like the ever-trusty laptop and MIDI keyboard. Now based in St. Petersburg (Europe), the intergalactic rock threesome released their debut album ∞ in 2010 and an EP, Running Man, soon after. Although they haven’t released another album since, they’re constantly updating their SoundCloud online where you can stream almost 30 tracks for free.

The Raghu Dixit Project (India): Combining traditional Indian vocal styles and instrumentation with unconventional musical styles including funky basslines, reggae rhythms and crisp, clean electric guitar, the Project is more than just a name—it’s an “open-house” for musicians and artists to come together and express their craft, regardless of genre, style or nationality. While the majority of his music is inspired by Shishunala Sharif, a saint from Karnataka, India famous for his poetry, Raghupathy Dixit’s lyrics, which are mostly in his native tongue, speak to the masses and deal with everyday experiences and emotions. The self-taught composer and musician believes Indian folk music is not a genre, but a state of mind. “We’re all untrained musicians,” said Dixit on his website, “and singing a song, because it’s innate, is a basic instinct.” The RDP’s debut self-titled album, available to stream online, includes eight full-length tracks that were composed over the past 12 years. The quintet that currently makes up the Project also has a new album in the works.

Morphy (Singapore): This collective, represented by vocalist and guitarist Lilia Yip and supported by Eugene Wong on synth and bass, lead guitarist Alexius Cai and Chua Yingtze on percussion, is not for those who enjoy mainstream folk music. The ambient, electronic, folk-pop band melds genres and risks melding your mind with their psychedelic ambient potpourri of sound. Stepping beyond electronica, the band uses traditional instruments from all areas of the world, including the wooden folk flute, and the African thumb piano, also known as the mbira. Their seemingly rule-free composition stems from their open approach to their music, inviting musicians from all corners of the globe to contribute to their sound. Their first album Pink Ashes (2004) set the pace for what was to come in their 2010 release Just Like Breathing, which featured U.K. guitarist Timothy Lloyd. Their presence in the scene, however, is reminiscent of their music—rather ambient—so if you want to hear them, you’re going to have to do some digging.

Kabul Dreams (Afghanistan): Here in the Western world, the music market is oversaturated with rock bands trying to make it big. Afghanistan’s first rock ‘n’ roll band, Kabul Dreams, is only three years old. They have become somewhat of a novelty on a global scale, purely due to the fact that they’re the first ever in their country, but don’t let that stop you from giving them a listen. While their sound ranges from generic to melodic, they do have talent and a whole lot of gusto. As the self-proclaimed voice of Kabul youth, their ciphers deal with post-Taliban messages of peace, unity and love. Groovy. Although the trio lived outside Afghanistan during Taliban rule—singer Sulyman Qardash in neighbouring Uzbekistan, bass guitarist Siddique Ahmed in Pakistan, and drummer Mujtaba Habibi in Iran—they moved back to Afghanistan once the Taliban was removed from power. What’s interesting about these three Afghan boys is that they come from different areas of the country, so they all speak a different native language. Instead of trying to work with that, they decided to sing in English.

Niraj Chag (England via India): This British musician of Indian descent has spent his life in London. His family’s strong ties to their heritage and homeland inspired him to create what BBC Radio 1 host DJ Nihal calls “some of the most beautiful British-Asian music ever created.” Chag composes in multiple languages, including six different languages on his debut album Along the Dusty Road (2006), after which he was awarded the “Best Underground Act” award at the U.K. Asian Music Awards. His next release, The Lost Souls in 2009, drove home this fusion artist’s talent, blending major South Asian styles with Hindi and by combining over 50 vocal layers on one track alone. The songs themselves are relaxed; it’s the type of music you can picture yourself listening to while smoking fragrant Mu‘assel from an ornate hookah in some tucked-away lounge amongst the crowded streets of New Delhi.

Eli Walks (Japan): Producer extraordinaire Jeff Lufkin has long had his hands in Japan’s thriving popular music scene—it’s a family affair. Both of his sisters are established musicians; Olivia is a fairly successful J-pop songstress, while Caroline is a vocalist for indie rock’s Mice Parade. Lufkin had an early affinity for heavy metal, but after his sisters introduced him to electronica à la Kraftwerk and Massive Attack, he searched for a method that would allow him to meld the two, and found it in club music. Lufkin worked as a producer, guitarist and composer in Japan, but moved to L.A. and birthed the moniker Eli Walks, as he studied sound design, engineering, and mastered Ableton Live at the California Institute of the Arts. His 2012 debut, Parallel, is delicate yet abrasive, overlapping atmospheric dance music. This is music to fill your ears; it works equally as an isolation soundtrack/solo travel companion or setting for a chill, alternative dance floor. He will make his Fuji Rock Festival debut this summer alongside the likes of Radiohead and the Stone Roses.

BoA (South Korea): K-pop girl groups have steadily grown in popularity, breaking into Western and Japanese music markets on the heels of BoA (Beat of Angel), or Kwon Boa, the reigning “Queen of Korean Pop Music.” BoA’s dance electropop first hooked South Korea in 2000 after she caught agents’ eyes while accompanying her older brother to a talent search. In 2002, she became the first South Korean musician to break Japan since the World War II entertainment trade embargo, opening the doors for girl groups like the Wonder Girls and 2NE1. BoA secured a fan base in the U.S. with the 2009 release of her self-titled English debut album and after spending much of 2010 touring the states and promoting her single “Eat You Up.” The pop starlet is it still maintaining her presence in Japan and South Korea, but is also set to make her Hollywood debut in the dance flick COBU 3D, so brace yourself for a K-pop invasion.

Modern Dog (Thailand): As the victors of the Coke Music Contest in 1992, college mates Modern Dog were instantly thrust into a world of bright lights and flashing cameras to sell over 500,000 copies of their debut album. Their introduction to the Thai music market may seem near effortless, but their sound was over a century in the making. For years, Thailand borrowed music from its neighbours India and China, resting at a crossroads of traditional Greek and Roman trade routes. But Thailand’s popular music format, known as “string,” wasn’t developed without the influence of American R&B, shipped overseas courtesy of American and Australian soldiers serving in Vietnam. Modern Dog broke through the sticky sweet boundaries characteristic of string and brought heavier, American influenced experimental rock featuring English and Thai lyrics. With That Song (2004), produced by Tony Doogan (Mogwai, Belle and Sebastian), and a 2006 U.S. tour, they tried to break into the Western world, but failed to gain much steam. Still hailed as the leader of Thailand’s indie rock music scene, Modern Dog paved the way for alternative rock’s presence in popular Thai music and have sold over two million albums to date.

Hedgehog (China): Despite China’s well-documented, swelling population, it has never been considered a major producer or consumer of popular music. Due to state restrictions, cantopop and mandopop commercialized love ballads pollute the radio waves, for an alternative hasn’t yet broken into the mainstream. Inspired by Western bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit, a black/thrash metal scene developed among youth in the ‘90s, and heavy rock music has now grown in popularity in Beijing and Shanghai. Beijing’s Hedgehog was born out of those same punk/grunge roots, and they developed a fan base playing shows underground in 2005. Fans now flock to their shows to see Atom, the petite yet aggressive female percussionist, peeking through a mop of hair, behind a towering drum kit. The guitarist, Zo, sings most lyrics in Mandarin and English, and they recently recruited a new bassist, Xiao Nan, for their 2011 U.S. tour with Californian synth pop collective Xiu Xiu. Hedgehog recorded their upcoming 2012 release, Sun Fun Gun, in New York with Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s John Grew and Russell Simins, and the album’s first single is now available for free download on Bandcamp.

Hiromi Uehara (Japan): Hiromi Uehara is known as one of the world’s most talented, game-changing musicians for her ability to bring raw, emotional rock to the piano—a relatively peaceful instrument. She began playing the piano at six years old, joined the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra at 14, and has now broken into the more mainstream alternative Western market. Hiromi first worked as a jingle writer in Japan, but travelled to the United States to attend Boston’s Berklee College of Music to study jazz piano. Since the release of her debut album, Another Mind (2003), she has travelled the world, developing a reputation for her inventive, high-energy fusion of classical and hard rocking jazz. With the Hiromi Trio Project, she will bring her latest release, Voice (2011), to this summer’s Fuji Rock Festival and both Montreal’s and Toronto’s jazz festivals.

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