For the first time since the outbreak of the corona pandemic, children were able to attend the arrival of Sinterklaas again. Likewise in Noordwijk. In most of the towns where the saintly saint arrived, everything went smoothly. But in some places eggs were thrown again at anti-Black Pete protesters.
Democrats maintain a greater grip on politics in Washington than expected before Tuesday’s Congressional election. Keeping their majority in the Senate, which was sealed this weekend with a narrow victory in the Nevada seat, President Joe Biden will not face Republican opposition in either house of Congress.
On Sunday evening, it was even uncertain whether the Republicans would win the majority in the House of Representatives. Either way, a potential Republican majority in the House appears to be narrowing than predicted before the election, when a “wave” of Republican seat gains was expected.
For Biden, maintaining Democratic control of the Senate is an important boost for several reasons. First, the Democrats there can block laws passed by a presumptive Republican House over the next two years. They also retain control over Senate committees and can keep any impeachment proceedings initiated by Republicans in the House off the agenda in the Senate. In addition, Biden can continue to appoint federal judges – including to the Supreme Court if a seat becomes available there.
Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto’s narrow victory in Nevada gave the Democratic majority this weekend after Democrat Mark Kelly was declared the winner in Arizona earlier on Saturday. Cortez Masto defeated her Republican challenger Adam Laxalt, it turned out Saturday night. This brought the number of Democrats’ seats in the 100-seat Senate to fifty, the number they have had there for two years. That is enough for a majority, because Vice President Kamala Harris, as Senate President, can decide if the votes are tied. Republicans have 49 seats.
With a Democratic majority in the Senate, Biden can continue to nominate federal judges – including to the Supreme Court if a seat becomes available there
One Senate seat is still undecided: in the southeastern state of Georgia, a will be held on December 6. runoff held between Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock and his Republican challenger Herschel Walker. This is because Warnock will remain under 50 percent of the vote, requiring a runoff under Georgia rules. However, because of the victory in Nevada, the result in Georgia will not be decisive.
Biden responded on Sunday in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, where he is attending a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, with satisfaction at the result. “I feel good,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the next few years.”
The Democrats’ victory in Nevada underscores the disappointing results for the Republicans in the so-called ‘midterms’, where they were expected to profit in a resounding way from Biden’s low popularity and high inflation in the US.
Also read: Still no prelude to a new civil war in the US
While voters identified the economy as the main issue, abortion rights were also a factor, after it was dropped nationwide by a Supreme Court ruling in late June. Democrats, like a majority of the population, are in favor of retaining that right. Concerns over the state of democracy also weighed in following the denial of the results of the 2020 presidential election by former President Donald Trump and his supporters; especially deniers of the election results achieved disappointing results.
Still, Republicans are on track to gain a majority in the House of Representatives. This requires 218 seats. On Sunday evening, Republicans won 211 seats, compared to 204 for the Democrats. Of the 20 constituencies where no winner has yet been declared, Republicans have a lead in 10 – although it is very narrow in some districts.
‘I had it calculated and I could actually retire already. Just the thought of it makes me sick. You often see that people then collapse, become lifeless, because they no longer need anything. I understand that you can’t work endlessly, but it doesn’t mean that you don’t have to do anything at all. You can still actively participate in society. So I am now looking at how I will organize my ‘working’ life in the coming years.
„I have been working for the government and the railways for 42 years, the last 17 years as a self-employed person. It is so crazy that when you retire, a lot of knowledge and skills also leave. So then I thought: I can also offer my experience somewhere for a period, I don’t have to do it for the money anymore. That’s why I’m currently volunteering 24-28 hours a week for two organizations, a large documentary festival and an organization that promotes sport among the over-55s. There was a bit of surprise when I said I wanted to do it for nothing.
“Of course you can also do voluntary work in addition to your paid job, I’ve been doing that for a long time. For example, several times a year I teach journalism classes at the weekend school in Utrecht, the city where I live. It is nice to see how children are inspired by professions that they can also practice. This gives them a perspective and purpose to learn for.”
‘I have an active life, I think it’s in my genes. I run three times a week and go to the gym twice a week. I mainly do this to keep myself in good shape for when my boyfriend and I go on mountain hikes or long bike rides. In recent years we walked in Corsica and Mallorca, and we cycled from Santiago to Bilbao. We have started the crossing of the Pyrenees, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea, in stages. But that middle part is very heavy, if we still want to do that, we have to do it in the next few years, because otherwise it will be too heavy physically.
“On Saturdays I always go to the cafe after exercise for a cup of coffee and yogurt with muesli. Then I read the newspaper and then I go to the market to get a bunch of flowers. We eat responsibly, including organic meat and fish, and more with the seasons. We also eat vegetarian half of the week. At the weekend we often have people to eat, you don’t skimp on that.
“I donate monthly to various charities, with documentary makers deep in my heart. They live for years on almost nothing to tell their story on screen, sometimes at the risk of their own lives. My daughters inspire me to be generous. For example, the oldest had a piggy bank for children in war zones when she was little.”
On paper, in the Rules of Procedure of the House of Representatives, the division of tasks seems clear: “The clerk is in charge of the official organisation. The presidency oversees this.” The practice turns out to be more unruly. In the space of 24 hours, the presidency, the daily management of the House of Representatives, has lost the confidence of the entire top civil servants.
Clerk Simone Roos, the highest-ranking official, did not hide anything in her suicide note on Friday. She notes that “there is little or no attention or compassion for the civil servants who have recently and also in the past drawn attention to socially unsafe behaviour”.
Also read the research: Under acclaimed Chamber President Khadija Arib, one official after another snapped
With Roos, the management team of the House of Representatives also resigned from its duties with immediate effect. A unique one. A day later, the works council withdrew its confidence in Chamber President Vera Bergkamp (D66) and the rest of the presidium. “I don’t think Bergkamp would be able to glue the shards together. The damage is too great,” chairman Michel Meerts told TV program news hour. “There is no longer any confidence in the civil service in the entire political top of the House of Representatives.”
The reason: the ongoing unrest about the investigation into reports about the behavior of former Speaker of the House of Representatives Khadija Arib (2016-2021), which the presidency decided on September 28. In addition to Vera Bergkamp, the eight other members of the presidency unanimously approved the investigation into Arib on Wednesday 28 September: Martin Bosma (PVV), Salima Belhaj (D66), René Peters (CDA), Frank Wassenberg (Party for the Animals), Michiel van Nispen (SP), Laura Bromet (GroenLinks), Roelien Kamminga (VVD) and Henk Nijboer (PvdA).
When the news leaks through NRC, Arib tells journalists that there is “a political reckoning by Ms Bergkamp and those around her.” She also says in advance that she will not cooperate. She speaks of a “sham investigation”. That her party colleague Henk Nijboer has also agreed, she calls “after”.
The commotion that ensued resulted in Nijboer retiring as a member of the presidency on 4 October. He calls the news about the investigation “disgraceful”. But he faces the decision. “Presidential members act in the interest of the entire House, regardless of party color,” he wrote in a statement. “At the moment that so many employees of the House are forced to report an unsafe work situation,” the presidium cannot help but take such signals seriously. Since then, the PvdA has no longer been represented in the presidium.
Nijboer’s departure is not the only change in personnel in the presidium. Laura Bromet (GL) and René Peters (CDA) relinquish their places as deputies to Tom van der Lee (GL) and Anne Kuik (CDA), who have time again after the interrogations for the parliamentary inquiry into gas extraction in Groningen are over. . From then on, the presidency will therefore have a different composition than during the decision to conduct an investigation.
On 1 November, a meeting of the usually procedural Committee for the Procedure gets out of hand. Bergkamp, again, cannot maintain order that evening. Members of parliament express their doubts about the way in which the presidium supervises the process. Renske Leijten (SP) is one of the members of the House of Representatives who has a different view than the presidium of which a fellow party member is a part. For example, Leijten wants to ‘stop’ the research and change the assignment in order to better protect ‘the institute’ and ‘all the people who work there’ in the future.
After Bergkamp has ended the meeting, members of the House of Representatives demand a vote very against her will. The outcome: a narrow majority forces Bergkamp to ask the presidency to halt the investigation into Arib. The experienced clerk Simone Roos calls the committee meeting in her letter the “most shocking meeting in my career, in all respects”.
Not long after the derailed meeting, the next problem arises. The presidency partly based its decision on 28 September on advice from State Attorney Pels Rijcken. The lawyers write: “We can imagine that the Registrar and the Presidency jointly order this investigation.” That’s how it happened. The fact that the presidency and the clerk are familiar with the complaints – and are therefore interested in the investigation – try to resolve them by appointing a “delegated client” – the head of HR and the head of legal affairs. They do not regard the fact that they are also familiar with the complaints as a problem. The choice has led to fierce criticism.
It is hardly about the reason for the investigation anymore: the reports in two anonymous letters. The top officials are experiencing a déjà vu: once again the presidency is unable to adequately follow up reports of an unsafe working environment. At the beginning of 2019, top official Jan Willem Duijzer reported to the presidency – of which Vera Bergkamp and Martin Bosma were already members – in a letter that he expressed “his great concerns” in a personal conversation with Arib at the end of 2018. “In summary, my concerns were about her role in the civil service organization and her erratic and sometimes outspoken negative leadership style,” he wrote. “For me, the last point in particular was urgent, in view of various urgent signals from the official organization.” Duijzer left, nothing changed for officials.
The initial relief after the decision of the presidency has turned into great disappointment for the part of the civil service that has had bad experiences with Arib. “It deeply touches me that my legally motivated employer obligation has been made so political and has thus become part of a public debate,” Roos writes. The official confidence in politics as a solution is gone. The management stops, the rest remains behind in despair: what now?
The presidium, which usually deals with less eye-catching subjects such as the working method of the House of Representatives, must provide answers. Whether and in what form the investigation will continue. How she will implement the official leadership. And how she thinks she can regain trust. Bergkamp wants to stay on, she said Friday evening. “I am an elected president. And I am committed to bringing that research into safe waters.”
They were promising words. Under his presidency, in Senegal “no journalist would be imprisoned for a” délit de presse, a journalistic offense,” promised Macky Sall, when he was a guest in the studio of the French channel i-Télé (now CNews) in October 2015. “Journalists are not at risk in Senegal.” Words that the president is fine with this week was remembered by means of Sud Quotidien.
The headline that the Senegalese newspaper put on its front page: When Macky Sall ‘locks up’ the press. Below it Senegal’s most recent listing on the world ranking for press freedom. Number 73. A year earlier, Senegal was in 49th place.
Not only Sud Quotidien writes pages these days about the ‘tense relationship between the head of state and the national press’. The recent arrest from Pape Alé Niang, head of the news site Dakar Matin, also leads to heated discussions elsewhere. With loyalists who accuse Niang of not being a journalist but an activist and colleagues who see his arrest as a reckoning for doing his job.
In a recent video on his YouTube channel, the journalist discussed a case that divides supporters and opponents of Macky Sall like no other: the accusation of rape of a beauty salon employee by Ousmane Sonko, the opposition politician who in recent years has turned out to be Sall’s biggest challenger.
Sonko admitted to visiting the masseuse in question for his “back pain”, but otherwise denies all allegations. The politician and his supporters speak of a “political plot”, concocted by Sall to keep him out of the presidential race in 2024. When Sonko was briefly arrested last year, riots broke out for days, leaving 13 people dead. Last week, he had to appear in court again, turning Dakar into a besieged fortress.
In his YouTube report, Niang, a noted government critic, shared information from police files he obtained about the mobilization of security forces that day. Not only that: he also said it would turn out that the police report in the case against Sonko had been manipulated. The journalist is now charged with spreading information from classified state documents, spreading fake news and defamation.
„The regime is dealing with a bete noirea scapegoat, who wants to silence it by any means, even unconventional”, wrote investigative journalist Momar Dieng on his news site impact.sn.
Also read: Unrest in stable Senegal: ‘We have to show our anger’
He received support on Twitter from, among others Y’en A Marre (loosely translated: we’re fed up), the civil society movement that led the resistance against Macky Sall’s predecessor in 2012 when he wanted to run for a third term, against the constitution. “Instead of attacking the press, the state should target the evil that infects our institutions and alienates them from the aspirations of the people.” they wrote.
The meaning of that evil is lost to few Senegalese. Rumors are growing that Sall wants to follow his predecessor’s example by running for a third term. Something he had sworn in previous years he would never do. It did the newspaper l’Observer recently asked philosopher and psychologist Ngor Dieng whether the promises made by politicians still have any value.
No, he answered undisguised. “Senegalese now associate the politician’s word with lies and deceit. It is no longer a parole, but a simple dead leaf that can be blown away by the first wind.”
A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper of November 12, 2022
An apartment complex in Amsterdam Nieuw-West, where young people and status holders live, partly collapsed on Sunday after a large fire raged there. No one was injured, but a number of residents are unable to return home. Later in the day, the police announced that a 27 year old resident of the residential complex has been arrested. The police suspect the man to have started the fire deliberately.
Three to four hundred local residents were evacuated early Sunday morning during the fire. According to local news broadcasters Many people were still sleeping at the time. The block where the fire started contains 75 container homes, of which an unknown number collapsed shortly afterwards. A spokesperson for the municipality informed the ANP news agency that a long-term shelter is being sought. The young people and asylum seekers with residence status who have become displaced can temporarily stay in a sports hall in Amsterdam South.
The Amsterdam student union ASVA raised the safety of the same residential complex at the beginning of this year, after a storm had blown the roof off a building. The fact that it may be arson “makes the feeling of insecurity for these residents even greater,” the union tells NOS. There is no word yet on a possible motive for the arson.
In 2006, American speed skater Shani Davis pasted a picture of his Dutch competitor Erben Wennemars on the door of his refrigerator – the competitor he was chasing. There is a good chance that after the first World Cup weekend of this season, an American will decorate the refrigerator of his foreign opponents. Jordan Stolz, 18, crushed everything and everyone in the middle distances in Stavanger, Norway. Is he the successor to his legendary compatriots Davis or even Eric Heiden?
It was no surprise that Stolz won the 1,000 meters on Sunday – in 1.08.73 he was the only one under 1.09, more than half a second ahead of number two, Canadian Laurent Dubreuil. On Friday, the American from West Bend, Wisconsin had already given a masterclass in the 1,500 meters. Although most times in the Sørmarka Arena were disappointing, Stolz almost carelessly improved the track record to 1.44.89. Almost two seconds ahead of Canadian Connor Howe – no one has ever won a 1,500m World Cup with a bigger lead. And in between his first two World Cup victories, he drove a fast 500 meters (35.02) in the B group on Saturday and a solid training race on the five kilometers, with an acceleration in the eighth lap.
It was not only his signed victories that made a big impression. Especially the way in which Stolz combines short and long distances is special. Only two skaters ever took the world title sprint and all-round among the men: Heiden and Davis. Stolz, who regularly trains in Milwaukee with Davis as a supervisor, has also opted for the heavy combination of both disciplines. In February he wants to shine at the World Junior Championships in Inzell. After that, he focuses on the World Championship distances, in Heerenveen at the beginning of March. “I prefer to drive all distances there,” he said on Friday after the 1,500 meters at the NOS. “Maybe just not the ten kilometers.”
Big step forward
His reputation had already preceded Stolz before he came to Europe last week. At the American selection competitions in Salt Lake City in October, in addition to the 500, 1,000 and 1,500 meters, he also won the mass start twice (over 16 laps) and improved his personal best in the five kilometers. His winning 1.06.47 in the 1,000 meters was a junior world record and the sixth time ever set. A big step forward, after making his international debut last year with a 13th (500 meters) and 14th (1,000 meters) place at the Olympic Winter Games in Tokyo and a fourth place in the World Sprint Championship. “I haven’t really done anything different than in the past two years. I ate well, did some weight lifting and just got stronger.”
The Dutch skaters did not come into play against Stolz in Stavanger. “If someone is faster, you have to respect that,” said Olympic champion Thomas Krol, who lost a direct duel in the 1,000 and only finished sixteenth in the 1,500. Stolz is up in the new Olympic cycle to 2026 pole position. And is already confidently looking forward to next weekend’s World Cup in Heerenveen. “Then I’ll be a bit more rested.”
Mats Van (15) was born deaf. That meant a lifetime of hardly any contact with hearing people, apart from his parents and his sister three years older. Yes, as a small child he could still play with other children – a toddler doesn’t do much with language yet. But that changed by the age of ten. Communicating with other children was hardly possible. On the annual cycling holiday, which the family undertook together with other families, he fell outside the group.
Five years ago, in 2017, the family therefore engaged an interpreter for the first time, who went on holiday with them. The deaf and hard of hearing receive an interpreter allowance for 30 hours per year as standard, and the deafblind for 168 hours. In addition, they can request extra hours, for example for a holiday. In the Netherlands, 7,737 people are entitled to this interpreting facility.
During the holiday, always somewhere in Europe, Mats was eligible for those extra hours: the UWV paid for the interpreter’s hours, his parents for the interpreter’s travel and accommodation expenses. “It was such a revelation, Mats was able to join the group again and became much more active,” says his father August. The holidays became “more fun than ever”, says Mats himself. “I could have fun with my hearing friends.”
This year the holiday was booked again and the reimbursement requested again. But now all of a sudden it was rejected. In principle, the UWV no longer reimburses interpreting hours abroad, as it turned out. According to the UWV, a foreign holiday is “not the only way” in which Mats can come into contact with hearing peers, according to the rejection of the request, recognized by NRC. An objection from the family was initially declared unfounded, but eventually declared valid by the UWV, because the holiday had already been booked before it was reported that the rules would change. The family would still receive the compensation before this summer. But, the letter also stated, that was “once” and “an exception”.
The fact that the UWV will no longer reimburse an interpreter abroad in the future is “painful”, says Mats, who attends special education for deaf children in Groningen. “It is not fair to the deaf community. Many deaf people struggle with a language barrier without an interpreter.” Having fun with his hearing friends is out of the question that way, he says: “They can’t sign language.”
We struggle with a language barrier without an interpreter
An UWV spokesperson says that interpreters are scarce: “That is why we have to deal with them efficiently. In practice we saw that interpreters sometimes went on holiday for several weeks, while there is a shortage in the Netherlands. That was never the intention of the scheme.” He emphasizes that the standard hours (30 for the deaf and hard of hearing and 168 for the deafblind) may be used on holiday, and extra hours are always available for emergencies, also abroad.
Nine deaf, deafblind and sign language interpreters say to NRC that the standard hours are quickly running out; often before the holidays, for example on holidays, family parties, courses and doctor visits.
The nine say they have doubts about the approach taken by the UWV. In chat contact with the UWV, viewed by NRC, states that contact is by telephone, while calling is often impossible for deaf people. Or the language is of too high a level, so that the message is not understood. Dutch is almost never the first language – that is sign language. According to those involved, it shows little knowledge of the community.
The UWV also says it offers contact via SMS, but “improvement is always possible and we take this signal with us”. The spokesperson has been informed by advocacy groups that they disagree with the new guidelines, but also says that it is necessary to make “difficult choices”. “Soon, someone will not be able to find an interpreter for a doctor’s visit in the Netherlands, because many interpreters are abroad.”
According to Lisa van der Mark of the advocate for Dovenschap, there is indeed a shortage of interpreters, but it has never been investigated whether this is due to the use of interpreters during foreign holidays. “Failing to reimburse an interpreter abroad just pushes the problem on.”
The tightening of the guidelines was commissioned by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS). A spokesperson for VWS also points to the shortage of interpreters as an explanation for the new guidelines.
The Van family is appealing the decision of the UWV. The hearing is this Monday. Mats is not the only one affected by this. His father even had to ask the court for a larger hall, because “at least forty people” wanted to come and watch. They also want to be able to go on holiday abroad – and for many that is impossible without compensation. Deaf or hard of hearing people more often live on benefits or part-time work and an interpreter easily costs 60 euros per hour.
Advocates such as Dovenschap are a petition started against the new guidelines. The petition has now been signed 2,519 times. The organizations will soon have a meeting with the UWV, with which, according to Van der Mark, who is also deaf, communication has been “stiff” until now. Due to the new rules, the deaf and hard of hearing must be extra careful with the standard hours, says Van der Mark. “As a result, we can no longer spontaneously participate in activities. When the hours are up, we are no longer equal. We can no longer determine for ourselves how we lead our lives and how we use communication.”
Can’t they just go on holiday in the Netherlands, where the interpreters are reimbursed? Yes, that would be possible. But the Van family has been doing the cycling holiday with other families for ten years now. August Van: “It has become a group of friends.” Moreover, says Van der Mark van Dovenschap: “A holiday abroad can do so much for you: it is a cultural trip, enrichment of the mind, a different environment.”
The Van family is primarily conducting the proceedings for their son Mats, but they also hope to be able to mean something for the entire community. August Van: “We are fortunate that I have a legal background, which means that we do not have to pay for a lawyer. That is expensive, many deaf people do not have those resources. It is a vulnerable group.”
The bathing suit is, well, an important moral-philosophical theme. There are no rules around the bathing suit, I read in the newsletter of the Open Air Museum. The dress code by the sea was unwritten in the past century or did not exist at all: you had to figure out for yourself what was and was not possible. In 1941, the Tweka company placed full responsibility on the individual. “When choosing a bathing suit, it comes down not only to taste, but also to self-knowledge.”
Anyone who thinks I’m going to pull the strings here is mistaken. On the contrary, I am going to sing a song of praise for the absence of rules. Of course you hope that this column with its fixed system of standards will be your lifeline in times of moral decline and regression and, trust me, it will be. Only you will soon emerge from this part more unruly than you went in.
With this new preference for rulelessness, I simply follow fashion. We have been complaining in unison about increasing rigidity for some time now and as a result you are now clearly seeing a turnaround. Recently I heard music company Pynarello play a symphony by Beethoven. “Pynarello is a rebel collective cut from flexible foam rubber,” the group says on its own site. “Classical music can be more adventurous, spontaneous, and direct.”
To begin with, the rebel collective of flexible foam played by heart, standing, and without a permanent conductor on the trestle. The effect was that all the orchestra members had to figure out for themselves who they were targeting: you saw the violins looking now at the clarinets, then at the trombones. In the absence of a leader to beat the beat, the sound came to life organically and as a listener, you didn’t feel like you were being tapped with a teaspoon, to quote Dodie Smith.
In Antwerp all city poets resigned togetherbecause the city government was cold and the poetry warm. Writer Arjen van Veelen reminded us that our whole society is cold, subject to rigid time divisions and norms. “And we’re all stuck in it.” But there is a turning point, he wrote. The spirit of resistance is alive. People are saying no to productivity demands again. He wrote warmly about “all the dropouts, naysayers and obstacles that make life more beautiful.”
At the University of Amsterdam, Professor of Scandinavian Language and Literature Henk van der Liet said goodbye with a reason which was called “Track Search”: “On Writing Vagabonds in Modern Scandinavian Literature.” The story was about the work and life of the artistic vagabond and about the cross-border élan in it. About the vagabond as “subcultural avant-garde”.
The vagabond lifestyle has been on the decline in Europe for decades, said Van der Liet. This has to do with „increasingly implemented regulation and surveillance of social intercourse”, and with the rise of the automobile, which is the enemy of the vagabond. But in the 21st century, the vagabond seems to be revived. That’s a reason to be thankful, because the vagabonds, with their distaste for rules and borders, are a threat to the establishment, but they also provide innovation.
The vagabonds in Van der Liet’s definition differ from Van Veelen’s naysayers or obstacles in that they move. “Everyone can wander around in your own head, but only when it really becomes spatial travel and searching, I want to call it vagabonds.” Medieval itinerant beggars, students, clergy and robbers were forerunners of later writers who went off the beaten track.
At the end of the 18th century, the romantic life artist vagabond emerged. He rebelled against the bourgeoisie and liked to think of himself as an outsider and a good-for-nothing. The more orderly and hardworking the nation became in the 19th century, the more critical and deviant the vagabonds. If they were attacked by the strict authorities or the decent citizenry, they had two important defense mechanisms, says Van der Liet. Humour. And the talent to shrug and to travel on to a more pleasant place.
Viewed in this way, there has been a wave of emerging capitalism and resistance against it, of increasing mass behavior and shrugging shoulders for centuries. From strict beating versus playing. Of chill versus poetry. And now you only have to read around for a week and see if you also see the adventure cautiously rearing its head in the midst of surveillance in our time.
“Not infrequently, vagabonds end up in the gutter,” warns Van der Liet. But hey, what does that really matter? That’s where the establishment finally ends; that’s where we all end.
Maxim February is a lawyer and writer, www.maximfebruari.nl.
A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper of November 12, 2022
Dressed in a black gladiator suit, ending in a frayed short skirt, a wide, big guy raps slowly about sex and love. After a few minutes, the ominous beat turns into Lesley Gore’s unannounced It’s my party full of sixties teenage pain. The gladiator does not sing too cleanly, skipping and dancing.
This is Zebra Katz. Part of a universe that is as dark as it is surprisingly versatile, where the audience of the festival Le Guess Who? could lose themselves in Friday evening. A universe created by the trio clipping., guest curators of the festival.
If you please the musicians, they will please the visitors. The organization of Le Guess Who? knows that all too well and is therefore partly handing over the festival to the musicians. So the experimental hip-hop group from Los Angeles received the keys to various halls in TivoliVredenburg, pop stage Ekko and club BASIS. The consequence? No drum pattern remained intact, no genre remained unexplored, no gender identity remained.
Dark doom guitars
The widely diverse programming of the fifteenth edition of the Utrecht four-day festival can be a difficult beast to tame, spread over many locations and with mostly unknown acts. Following a curator then offers some guidance, but even then the mind must be completely freed from all expectations. Because in the universe of clipping. In addition to Jeff Parker’s contemplative jazz, the dark doom guitars of Divide and Dissolve, or an abstract audiovisual composition by the French-Kenyan duo KMRU & Aho Ssan, also fit.
And so the Jamaican-American Zebra Katz, whose rap is provided with increasingly harsh breakbeats after the cheerful sing-along. His performance peaks when he swaps his gladiatorial suit for a hooded chain mail and the beats sound even more industrial. All that is then only a stepping stone to the concert of clipping. yourself. With them the beats are even more ominous and almost without melody.
The two producers Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson look at dark club sounds from all sides, while rapper Daveed Diggs impresses with accelerations and decelerations. The versatile Diggs may be known to a wider audience from the acclaimed Broadway musical Hamilton, but on Le Guess Who? After all, Diggs is mainly the narrative rapper who draws his dark inspiration from terrifying scenes of horror films.
Where Le Guess Who? also fails after fifteen editions, is to get the audience as mixed as the program. There are many international visitors, but almost all of them are over thirty and white. Perhaps this is an unwanted by-catch of the speed with which the festival sells out in advance among loyal visitors.
Opening act Noori & his Dorpa Band embodies the artistic vision of Le Guess Who? perhaps the best. Noori is reviving the Beja music of the Sudanese region on the Red Sea coast, a culture that has been suppressed for decades and probably unknown to most visitors. He does this on a homemade tambo guitar, a two-necked hybrid of electric guitar and a traditional Sudanese lute. Just like Noori’s richly decorated new instrument, the festival treats traditions as a starting point for innovation and every movement is equal, no matter how small. Obscure? No, the Sudanese tradition turns out to be based on blues, jazz and Arabic mysticism.
Traditionally, Le Guess Who? not headliners, although on Saturday the endearing electro-pop show Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul secretly was, as well as the Swedish GOAT. But those who were there did not see the international debut of the collective of friends Speakers Corner from the London underground. The challenging jazz and electronica with flute and strings was one of the many great discoveries of this year.