Tuesday, 28 May 2013

New Doukhobor Song Book, with CDs

Traditional Selections compiled by The Calgary Doukhobor Cultural Society (CDCS), with 36 songs on 2 CDs. 2013. 84 pp. (letter-size pages) $25 + $10 postage. E-mail: tradselect@gmail.com, or phone Don Cheveldayoff at 403-288-0058. 160 published, 30 available as of today. Wire bound.

Though an admirable effort, the first edition reviewed is an amateur work-in-progress, with many flaws. The project appears to have been rushed for this year's Union of Youth Festival held in B.C. in May.

I know well from the projects that I rushed, that flaws are bound to appear. Future buyers should wait for an updated edition.

In 2011, a small group of active Doukhobors in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, decided to publish a songbook with traditional hymns, psalms, peace songs and folk songs. They explain their reason on page 2 in Introductions and Acknowledgments.

The CDCS felt that a songbook needed to be developed that would function primarily as a teaching tool to accommodate the diversity of our group in terms of language — Russian/English and other cultural considerations. We concluded that a songbook with Russian, English, transliterations and accompanying CDs would serve such a need as well as be a legacy to future generations — our children, grand-children and great-grand-children.

Hopefully, our effort to present accurate and clear lyrics, translations and comments has been fulfilled. We apologize if any errors or omission are identified.

The CDCS team selected 36 previously recorded songs and hymns on themes of peace, love and goodwill which were copied onto 2 CDs. The book is well planned and organized to explain each song to those who do not read Russian, and may not know the significance of these selections. Each song is presented on two facing pages in 4 columns — (1) Comments, (2) English translation, (3) Russian lyrics, and (4) an inconsistent transliteration or a somewhat phonetic pronunciation guide.

The book cover shows a rough sketch of downtown Calgary overlaid with the Canadian Doukhobor symbols for peace (dove), and the staff of life (khleb-sol : bread, salt, water). The cover shows an archaic spelling of 'Doukhobour', not the standard Canadian 'Doukhobor' universally used today, and as spelled correctly inside the book. Several photographs of choirs and a map provide some useful context to the reader.

Sample pages 35 and 36
The Comments column explains the song context. For example, several of the songs were performed by Doukhobors and Friends of Peace at the World Peace Forum held in Vancouver, British Columbia in June 2006. With a little more research, the compilers could have added an important historical fact — the Forum continued to Victoria, BC and led to the creation of the Canadian Department of Peace Initiative (CDPI) in which Canadian Doukhobors are active today.

The selection of psalms and songs were good. I especially appreciated these 4 of the 36:
  • Pages 43-44 — Bставайте, Силы Новые (Arise Ye Youth, the Time Has Come), performed by the Blaine Lake Doukhobor Choir in the 1960s, is a nice Prygun hymn calling on the youth for a spiritual awakening.
  • Pages 73-74 — Однозучно Звенит Колокольчик (Monotonously Rings the Bell) is Peter Voykin's exceptional solo, with accompaniment, on the traditional Russian folksong about a lonely coachman.
  • Pages 63-64 — В Честь Победы (In Honour of Peace and Freedom) is an excellent performance of the traditional Doukhobor hymn by the Friends for Peace Choir at the World Peace Forum in 2006.
  • Pages 71-72 — 'Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream' is a classic Canadian folk-song, written after World War II, about universal peace, sung by Tom Hawken in 1999 in Vancouver. This is one of a several non-Doukhobor numbers included.
Two glaring assumptions of the meaning of the Doukhobor Movement appear, as if they are fact, without question, comment or discussion.
  • Pages 31-32 — Do Doukhobors believe in Jesus Christ as portrayed in Biblical stories? Such as 'how Christ lifts us and leads us in our times of darkness and need', 'of Christ suffering on the cross', and the story of heaven above. (See: Myth No. 5, in my Spirit Wrestlers: Doukhobor Pioneers' Strategies for Living (pp. 380-381)
  • Page 59 — Are Doukhobors Christians, as assumed in many of the hymns? Or are they universalists, of the Tolstoyan and Unitarian type? Ron Kalmakoff, singer, elegantly answers this on page 59 — 'The Kingdom of heaven is within'. That is, 'heaven' in not out there in space; it is here within us, reflected in our conscience and in our good behaviours.
The English translation is essential for the majority for whom this project was intended — descendants of Calgary Doukhobors who grew up hearing some of these songs, but no longer have much contact with their heritage community. Translation aids wider understanding.

The Russian lyrics are what my generation sung and memorized, but my main problem is with the inconsistent transliteration of the Russian. Using the sample pages 36-37 (shown above), compare a popular standard transliteration of Russian to that published.

US Library of Congress standard        As Published in Doukhoborese
     Spite orly boevye,
     Spite s pokoinoi dushoi;
     Vy zasluzhili rodnye,
     Pamiat' i vechnyi pokoi.
     Speete arli boeviye,
     Speete s pokoynoy dooshoy;
     Ve zasloozheelee rodniye,
     Pamyat ee vechniy pokoy.

Just in this one song there are 3 Doukhoborese (Doukhobor Russian) sounds shown for 'o' and 2 sounds for each of 4 other Russian letters. Russians can vary the sound of the vowel 'o' depending on its location in a word, and the regional dialect of Russian they speak. These varying phonetic sounds depend on the 'ear' of the person writing them.

The published book transliteration only uses a Southern Russian dialect 'h' sound for the Russian letter г (g).

It is noteworthy to look at the foremost Doukhobor linguist Dr. Alex P. Harshenin (1930-1977) and his work on 'English loanwords in the Doukhobor dialect'. In a letter to the editor of Iskra (January 4, 1974: 17-19), the UBC professor wrote: '.... In fact, Doukhoborism cannot be bound to any particular language, although everyone is aware that there is one language in which it finds its richest expression even to the present day, and that is in the broadcast sense "Russian." And it is the learning of Russian that will preserve the better aspects of the dialect, and consequently, of the entire culture as well.'

See my blogs:
  • The authors should have consulted and copied existing Russian-English songbooks online, like Rubin, R.N., M. Stillman, and J. Silverman. A Russian Song Book, 1989, 99 pages. For each of 44 Russian folk songs, some sung by Doukhobors, lyrics are in 3 columns — English, Russian, and Romanized Russian, and the musical notation has the same lyrics in 3 lines. Excellent!
  • In my opinion, the most glaring is the varied phonetic transliteration of Doukhobor Russian (Doukhoborese). I found dozens of errors and stopped counting. The correct (US-LOC) transliteration of Russian г is g (not h). Мир is Mir (not Meer). Though many Doukhobors may consider such transliteration as a display of their colloquial dialect, in my opinion it shows poor scholarship and undermines the seriousness of this volume. The compilers failed to consult a standard professional transliteration system as used by scholars throughout the world.
  • Redo the Bibliography (p. 84) with correct precision and accuracy, e.g. No. 6: 'Plakun Trava.' 1982. Koozma Tarasoff. p.26. Redo it as: Tarasoff, Koozma J. Plakun Trava: The Doukhobors. 1982. p. 26. e.g. No. 10. 'Spirit Wrestlers'. 2002. Koozma Tarasoff. p. 109. Redo it as: Tarasoff, Koozma J. Spirit Wrestlers: Doukhobor Pioneers' Strategies for Living. 2002. p. 109. Use one style for all the references.
  • I would recall all of the books sold (but let them keep the CDs), and send the customer a new corrected version.
In summary, the package of 36 selections for the CDs and accompanying volume is admirable. The format could be used for many more songs. However, this text is highly flawed and should be replaced as soon as possible with corrections and notations. Our children and the public deserve better.

From the Doukhobor Music website

Traditional Selections compiled by The Calgary Doukhobor Cultural Society (CDCS), with 36 songs on 2 CDs. 2013. 84 pp. (letter-size pages) $25 + $10 postage. E-mail: tradselect at gmail.com, or phone Don Cheveldayoff at 403-288-0058.

While some have chosen to offer a less-than-stellar review of this ensemble, we at DoukhoborMusic.ca whole-heartedly applaud the efforts in preserving the Doukhobor singing culture. Kudos to the Calgary Doukhobor Cultural Society!

Friday, 24 May 2013

Privatization Threatens Canadian Medicare

Raging Grannies
The Ontario Health Coalition held an emergency summit in Ottawa on hospital cuts and privatization on May 22, 2013. Its gravity was expressed as follows as some 70 people watched and listened:

'Ottawa is Ground Zero for hospital privatization in Ontario. The Ottawa Hospital is facing among the harshest heath service cuts of anywhere in the province. Thousands of surgeries and hospital procedures are being offloaded, cut and privatized to for-profit clinics (day hospitals). The privatization of clinical hospital care is unprecedented. It threatens the start of for-profit hospitals. It must be stopped.'

Speaker Maude Barlow of The Council of Canadians pointed out that every person has the human right for health care. She urged Canadians to fight privatization. In closing, she paid tribute to Tommy Douglas (1904-1986), the recognized father of socialized medicine in Canada who also paved the way for bargaining rights for civil servants.

Michael McBane, National Director, Canadian Health Coalition, cited peer-reviewed evidence to show how private for-profit delivery of health services is inferior to public not-for-profit delivery. The ten critical items are as follows:
  1. Higher costs.
  2. Higher death rates.
  3. More serious deficiencies in staffing and resources.
  4. Marketing of inappropriate services.
  5. Conflict of financial interest.
  6. Longer wait times for those who can't afford to queue jump.
  7. Cherry-picking to shift cost, risk and liability to public system.
  8. Opportunities for fraud.
  9. Breaking the law against extra-billing and queue-jumping.
  10. Opening up health care to international trade agreements.
  11. For-profit health care is an attack on democracy. (Added by member in the audience) 
The last speaker, Natalie Mehra, Director, Ontario Health Coalition, explained how the proposed 2-tiered system as advocated by the provincial and federal governments is having a negative effect on many aspects of health care, such as seniors. She ended by saying: 'These are human decisions that can be changed, as Noam Chomsky used to say.'

The Ottawa Raging Grannies were on hand at the entrance to the meeting hall with singing and a sign. One of their three numbers ended with: 'Get sick, you'll make somebody richer. It's for-profit health care now!'

Another song was a challenge to the politicians

Politicians, give back our Medicare
It's time the best thing Canadians get to share!!
Just tackle the two-tier question,
It gives us indigestion.
You want our vote — just take this note:
Give back our Medicare.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Q56: Help For Struggling Artist?

Doukhobor Artist in U.S. Wants to Study in Canada

From: Michael J. Koftinow, Manteca California

.. I am an artist born and raised in California but whose origins are Doukhobor. My family moved from Russia, to Canada to Manteca, CA and settled there in the early 20th century.

I am interested in the history of the Doukhobors (especially their philosophies on life) and would like to personally learn more about it all.

My artwork relates to the Doukhobor ideals (and I've been doing this for years without even knowing it, I guess the spirit thrives in me) but I was wondering if there are any outlets for a poor artist like myself to visit Canada and learn more about my cultural heritage while making artwork about the Doukhobors philosophies on life, government, and the spirit in us all (like artist residencies/ research grants/ways to get to Canada and learn more about the group).

I know its somewhat of an open ended question, but I am fascinated by the culture and would like to learn more about them. Although the Internet is good for reading about the Doukhobors, I haven't found much in grants or artist residencies for our illustrious culture. If you have any thoughts, I would love to find out.

Update May 24: My motivation for creating art is to investigate the accountability and legitimacy of global policy barons. Therefore, my art objects are about society and sustainability. I combine a variety of media such as: drawing, painting, print, sculpture and installation to create imagery that have a topical narrative to it. The imagery chosen and the way the works are presented is a discussion on contemporary life and current affairs. Topics such as water, environment, economy, waste and abuses of power fluctuate with a cast of characters that range from popes and presidents to peasants and paupers.

Too Big to Fail
In the past, my imagery has focused on challenging authority, corruption, hypocrisy and the big bank rollers who finance it all. However, lately, I am increasingly interested in exploring specific sides of these issues. In concepts that are more focused on the, who, what, when, why and how we can fix it. Nonetheless, my ultimate aspiration is to offer imagery that creates a dialogue with the viewer without jeopardizing personal or artistic integrity.

My work can be considered satirical, topical or political but I think of it as cultural commentary. It is looking at leaders and society with an inquisitive point of view. It is the way I understand the world and I illustrate it with a pop-journalistic point of view.


Michael Koftinow's request is genuine. In my experience, most aspiring artists in North America have difficulties in making a living in a free market environment which tends to favour profitability over serious creativity. I applaud Mike's intent to learn more about the philosophy, culture, and inner spirit of the Doukhobor Movement.

There are a number of Doukhobor artists (professional and striving) who are scattered mostly in Western Canada. Perhaps they or their friends can provide a place to stay for this California artist as he further explores his roots and 'the illustrious culture' as he stated. You may respond to him by contacting me at kjtarasoff@gmail.com.

Another opportunity is to attend the 66th Annual Doukhobor Youth Festival at the Brilliant Cultural Centre, Castlegar, British Columbia, May 18-20, 2013. The sponsoring group (the Union of Youth, USCC) will no doubt invite visitors on stage to say a few words of greetings. Here, then, is an opportunity for Michael Koftinow to make his intent known.

Michael is a graduate with distinction from Sonoma State University with BA's in Painting, Art History, and Art Studio. His Senior Honors Thesis was on 'Jacques-Louis David in Exile'. While working as an educator and art instructor at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in San Rosa, California, Michael was known for his skills in learning new concepts quickly and thinking outside the box. He has also worked as an assistant creative director of a nonprofit group Artstart, helping children to achieve their artistic goals.

  1. Read Koozma J. Tarasoff's Spirit Wrestlers: Doukhobor Pioneers' Strategies for Living (2002). Find articles about many Doukhobor artists.
  2. Write to the editor of Iskra, 1876 Brilliant Rd, Castlegar, British Columbia, Canada V1N 4K2, email at info@iskra.ca, Phone: (250) 365-3613 ext 27 or (250) 442-8252. Iskra needs helpers.
  3. Many articles are online on my website Spirit-Wrestlers.com, and links and stories at Jon Kalmakoff's website Doukhobor.org, like The Manteca Russian Colony. Also search for the names of the few Doukhobor artists I named above. Check Larry Ewashen's website for other stories on the Movement.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Book Review-Editorial: The End of War

John Horgan. The End of War. San Francisco, California: McSweeney's Books, 2012. ISBN: 9078-1-936365-36-4. 228 pp.

The End of War is close to my heart and mind as a Doukhobor. I cannot review this book without also adding my own editorial comments. So this is a review-editorial about abolishing war.

Horgan argues that there is no future for this diabolic institution. War will vanish like cannibalism and slavery. He believes as I do, that we can abolish war if we make our minds to do it and set up the structures to make it happen.

Using the collective wisdom of many scholars, Horgan urges us to stop using mines, bombs and other weapons that kill indiscriminately. This includes drones that US President Obama's administration has deployed to carry out assassinations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere. Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper is planning to order combat drones — a backward step in world civilization. We Canadians ought to rise up and speak up against this dangerous policy. As well, we need to stop selling weapons to other nations, and to their adversaries.

Much of the arguments on ending wars can be summed up in a meeting in Seville, Spain in 1986, when scientists under the auspices of the United Nations, drafted a statement that begins with five propositions:

It is scientifically incorrect to say that ..
  1. we have inherited a tendency to make war from our animal ancestors.
  2. war or any other violent behavior is genetically programmed into our human nature.
  3. in the course of human evolution there has been a selection for aggressive behavior more than for other kinds of behavior.
  4. humans have a 'violent brain'.
  5. war is caused by 'instinct' or any single motivation.
The statement concludes 'that biology does not condemn humanity to war, and that humanity can be freed from the bondage of biological pessimism. ... The same species who invented war is capable of inventing peace. The responsibility lies with each of us.' UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, approved the Seville Statement in 1989 and has circulated it around the world and many professional organizations have endorsed it.

I appreciated the many quotes from prominent world scientists, philosophers, neurophysiologists, anthropologists and activists, as well as military figures in support of his thesis, such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Lev N. Tolstoy, Margaret Mead, Gene Sharp, John Mueller, David Grossman, and others.
  • There is 'powerful human resistance toward killing one's own species' (p.60). That is why almost 30 percent of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. 98 percent of World War II veterans who endured sixty days of combat suffered a psychiatric breakdown (p. 63).
  • As Grossman notes, 'training and propaganda can overcome men's sympathy for the aversion to harming others' (p.66). Also 'violent media, and especially extremely realistic "first-person shooter" games, condition users to overcome their natural aversion to killing"' (p.120).
  • There is 'no clear-cut correlation between resource scarcity and warfare' (p.86).
  • Not all societies wage war. War has never been observed among a Himalayan people called the Lepchas or among the Eskimos (p.101). Margaret Mead's most powerful account of war is her 1940 essay Warfare is Only an Invention — Not a Biological Necessity (p. 101). Mead believes that for the invention of peace to work, 'the first requirement [is] to believe that such an invention is possible' (p.122). Another way to say this is: 'Where there is a will, there is a way' (p.124).
  • 'Docility and bounded nationality — or stupidity, to put it bluntly — help explain why young men throughout history have embraced the terrible lie of the Roman propagandist Horace: ..."It is sweet and honorable to die for one's country"' (110).
  • In any society, there are 'bad apples' that kill. But 'war is the ultimate bad barrel' (114). The institution of war is the main culprit. Abolishing war should be our first priority.
  • Costa Rica, a small county in central America, abolished its army in 1949. In the World Database of Happiness, Costa Rica has received the highest score, while the United States ranked much lower down.  Horgan writes: 'Instead of spending on arms, over the past half century, Costa Rica's government invested in education, as well as healthcare, environmental conservation, and tourism, all of which helped make the country more prosperous, healthy, and happy. There is no single way to peace, but peace is the way to solve many other problems' (p.148).
Politicians, take note. Be brave and make ending war a priority. By ending the war and even the threat of war will transform the world in many creative ways. Your contribution to this process will make you one of the pioneers in getting rid of this diabolical institution.

As an interim step, the creation of Departments of Peace in each country, at the cabinet level, could be a great stimulus to peace-making instead of empty rhetoric. Canadians need to support Bill C-373, an initiative to establish a Canadian Department of Peace. Also we need to look at the new support in this long road to peace called Center for Global Nonkilling. I am surprised that John Horgan missed these two very important references in his learned volume on war.

Readers, please read this book. It has wings. Dream a little and imagine a better future in a world without wars. This one is for you, your children and your grandchildren.

Find more about this book.