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NEW DOORS OPENED IN LONDON – Part 41

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CONFESSIONS OF A GLOBAL GYPSY

By Dr. Chandana (Chandi) Jayawardena DPhil

President – Chandi J. Associates Inc. Consulting, Canada

Founder & Administrator – Global Hospitality Forum

chandij@sympatico.ca

Trust House Forte

I arrived in London during the summer of 1979 to undergo a special Management Observer/Trainee program with the largest hotel chain in the United Kingdom – Trust House Forte (THF). I had worked at their hotel in Sri Lanka, the Pegasus Reef Hotel, during my first year at the Ceylon Hotel School seven years before as a part-time bus boy. What I did not know about THF was that by 1979 it had emerged as the largest and the most profitable hotel and catering company in the world.

As required, I went to the THF Personnel Division on my first Monday in London. “I am Geoffrey Pye, the Director of Personnel for THF hotels in London. I will personally conduct your orientation to THF”, a well-dressed and kind gentleman informed me. “Meet Miss Linda Woodhouse, the new Training Officer of the Cumberland Hotel.” He introduced a young and friendly lady who was assigned to coordinate my management observation/training program.

Linda informed me that by staying at the Regent Palace Hotel I would be a guest observer there. My main assignment was at the Cumberland, a 900-room hotel located above the Marble Arch underground station. “Chandi, you are lucky to be able to understudy Mr. Bejaramo, our famous Catering Manager”, Linda told me. It was my first orientation program.

As a British-owned group, THF’s presence in the United Kingdom was clearly visible with massive contract catering operations, large restaurant chains and some of the most iconic hotels. In London, THF owned and managed some of the greatest hotels in the Commonwealth, such the Grosvenor House, Hyde Park Hotel, the Cumberland, the Strand Palace, the Browns, the Russell, and the Waldorf. THF also owned and managed the famous banquet venue – Café Royal situated very close to the Regent Palace Hotel and Piccadilly Circus.

Linda provided me with many interesting facts about THF’s history and current operations. Sir Charles Forte had become the CEO of THF in 1971. He was an Italian-born British caterer and hotelier who founded the leisure and hotel conglomerate that ultimately became known as the Forte Group in later years. When he was four years of age, Charles had migrated from Italy to Scotland with his family. After working in milk bars operated by his father in Scotland, at age 26 Charles moved to the capital city with £2,000 borrowed from his father to set up his own first milk bar in London in 1935. Having expanded his business into catering and hotel businesses, in 1970 he orchestrated a clever merger of the Forte Holdings with an older hotel and catering group, Trust Houses Ltd. That merger resulted in the formation of Trust House Forte or THF.

In Britain, THF continued its hotel expansion with various ambitious acquisitions including the 1976 purchase of the Lyons Hotel Group, a substantial assortment of first-class hotels including the Cumberland and the Regent Palace. For decades, Sir Charles attempted to take control of, arguably, the most famous hotel in the United Kingdom since 1889 – Savoy Hotel. The vision, hard work and business acumen of Sir Charles resulted in THF managing over 900 hotels in 44 countries by the year 1979.

Sir Charles’s only son, Rocco Forte, an Oxford‐educated linguist and a chartered accountant, was expected to eventually succeed his father to lead the THF empire. A subsequent acquisition of Le Meridien from Air France was a prestigious addition to the group. For decades the Forte family was successful in keeping hostile takeover bidders at bay, until 1996. I never had the opportunity of meeting Sir Charles, but in later years, as the general manager of two Forte hotels in South America, I had the opportunity of welcoming and hosting Sir Rocco Forte (he was knighted in 1995). Sir Rocco established his own company – Rocco Forte Hotels in the year 1996.

Building an International Career

In professional life, opportunities gained, contacts made and relationships nurtured can significantly and positively impact career progression. After 1979, I kept in touch with Linda Woodhouse, who helped me by arranging two more useful management observer assignments in London with THF. These were during the mid-1980s at the Grosvenor House Hotel and the Hyde Park Hotel. That exposure opened another door for me to secure a position as an internationally mobile expatriate hotel general manager of THF/Forte PLC in 1994, with special help from Mr. Bodhipala Wijesinghe, who worked at the TFH head office in London.

In that capacity I managed three of their hotels – Forte Crest/Guyana Pegasus Hotel, Timberhead Eco Resort in the Amazon Rainforest and Forte Grand/ Le Meridien/Jamaica Pegasus Hotel. In 1994, out of nearly 1,000 hotel general managers in the group, only four came from developing countries, and I was one of them. Sri Lankan accountant and hotelier, Ranjan Nadarajah (Nada) who passed away last week in UAE was another. In the year 1998, the two hotels managed by Nada and I became the first hotels to be awarded ISO 9002 certifications in our two regions (The Middle East and North America). Nada was a very nice colleague, and I did a short mystery shopper assignment for him at Le Meridien Dubai in the year 2000.

I also did the General Manager’s Foundation study program at the Forte Academy in the UK. I shadowed some of my peers, general managers of sister Forte Hotels in the UK, Barbados, the Bahamas, Bermuda, USA and Canada. In 1998, the group kindly arranged for me to have a two-year sabbatical leave in order to complete my doctoral studies in the UK. “This is a very unusual request! You are one of our best GMs, so why do you need a PhD?” a confused Human Resource Vice President of the corporate office of Forte PLC asked me, prior to approving my request for the sabbatical leave.

After successfully defending my doctoral thesis in London, in the early 2000s, I declined three lucrative offers from Forte PLC/Rocco Forte Hotels to work in Egypt, India and Russia. That was due to my family commitments in Canada and my new desire to pursue a second career in post-secondary education and management consulting. In 2002, I did a long mystery shopper assignment with my wife, at Le Royal Meridien King Edward Hotel in Toronto, Canada. Altogether I gained some type of work experience at 14 Forte hotels located in ten countries between 1971 and 2002. In the years 2003 and 2004, I also did a leadership development consulting assignment for Rocco Forte Hotels in England and Scotland. Thank you for all these amazing opportunities, THF/Forte PLC/Rocco Forte hotels!

A Guest at the Largest Hotel in the UK

In 1979, being the manager of the small 52-room Hotel Swanee in Sri Lanka, staying at THF as well as UK’s largest hotel (1,068 rooms), the Regent Palace was overwhelming for me. The hotel looked after me very well by providing full board accommodation on a complimentary basis for two months. Like most of the major hotels of THF chain at that time, the Regent Palace offered a carvery buffet every day. I was a frequent diner at that sumptuous carvery whenever I did not have my meals at the Cumberland Hotel where I worked.

Although it was the largest hotel in Europe when it was opened in 1915 by J. Lyons & Company, most of the rooms at the Regent Palace were very small, similar to hotels opened before or during World War I. I was surprised that some rooms did not have attached bathrooms, only wash basins. In spite of some shortcomings, I was very happy staying right in the heart of London. It was the most convenient location for me.

The Regent Palace was within close proximity to the Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, West End theatres, Leicester Square movie theatres, Regent Street shops as well as to many museums and art galleries. I was very happy to be there and walked all over London. If it was not raining, I walked to the Marble Arch to work. On rainy days I took the subway or a bus.

Some weekends I had many invitations from Sri Lankan friends, members of my family, a few former guests of Hotel Swanee, and the Swedish and Sri Lankan couple who worked at the Tjaereborg Tour Company’s office in London – Kurt Hansen and Bobby Jordan, who were my friends from Ceysands days. I had a busy social calendar during the evenings and free weekends. I also visited a few of my younger Sri Lankan friends who worked at Wimpy Bars in the West End.

Ranjith Dharmaratnam (Assistant Manager of the Village, Habarana), who travelled to London with me, was trained at the accounts department of another THF hotel – Grosvenor House. As he had family in London, he did not stay at the Regent Palace. One day I unexpectedly met a former work colleague of mine from Bentota Beach Hotel who had moved to the Pegasus Reef Hotel to be the Front Office Manager. Having noticed his potential, THF had sent Srilal Mendis (Menda) for training in London. A few years after his training Menda also became an international hotelier. Menda and I explored most of the tourist attractions in London and surrounding areas during weekends. I also travelled to Windsor, Winchester, Portsmouth and South Hampton.

The late 1970s were not always a peaceful era in the UK. I was shocked to see on TV, that the Irish Republican Army (IRA) claimed responsibility for the August 27, 1979 murder of Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten. As the supreme allied commander for Southeast Asia, he had commanded the British troops from his base in Ceylon during the latter part of World War II. For a few days I was glued to the TV in my hotel room, watching news about that shocking assassination.

A Management Trainee of a 900-room Hotel

My work at the Cumberland Hotel was mainly in the Food and Beverage department. It was much grander than the Regent Palace and had a very busy catering and banqueting operation. The public rooms, restaurants, banquet hall and grill room were located centrally. I also spent some time observing and working in the catering department as well as the kitchens, purchasing, receiving, stores, payroll and accounts departments.

I was a regular at management meetings, simply to observe. The most useful meeting I attended was a top-level meeting among managers of 20 THF hotels in London, to coordinate their Christmas and New Year’s Eve events. This was one best practice I implemented soon after returning to Hotel Swanee. I loved to talk with all levels of employees and gathered interesting, historical information of this grand hotel.

Stemming from that interest, five years later in 1984, I wrote a 100,000-word (353 pages) master’s dissertation at the University of Surrey about British five-star hotels. I did my field research at all 16 five-star London hotels. Most parts of my master’s dissertation were later published as a text book for British universities, with my supervisor, Professor Richard Kotas of the University of Surrey, as the co-author. In the early 1990’s I succeeded him as the Director of the Hotel School at Schiller International University’s London Campus.

The island site bounded by Oxford Street, Old Quebec Street, Bryanston Street and Great Cumberland Place, had been acquired around 1925, by Lyons for building the Cumberland Hotel. It eventually opened in 1933. The hotel was a pioneer by including many luxurious features at that time, such as sound-proof, double glazed windows, air conditioning and 900 bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms.

The Cumberland had been acquired by THF, two years before I did my management training there. I found that some of the old-timers from Lyons had doubts about the changes implemented by THF. During some good weather days, I spent my lunch breaks seated at the nearby Hyde Park observing birds, playful pet dogs and at times listening to speakers on soap boxes attempting to attract larger audiences. I found every corner of this great city interesting.

With my invaluable experiences of luxury hotel operations at the Cumberland Hotel, I began dreaming of one day becoming the General Manager of a large international five-star hotel. As I looked around, I was disappointed that none of the General Managers, at that time, looked like me or came from developing countries. Most of those General Managers in the London five-star hotels had the British professional qualification – Member of the Hotel & Catering International Management Association (MHCIMA). As the HCIMA head office was in London, I decided to visit them to check on my chances of becoming an MHCIMA.

Door Closed at HCIMA

HCIMA had an impressive total of 23,000 members (21,000 British) professional members. It usually took four years of undergraduate degree level studies plus five more years of post-qualification management experience to obtain the professional title of MHCIMA. Then it was the highest qualification in the United Kingdom for hospitality managers. One day, a little bit nervously I visited the HCIMA head office in South London to check my chances of becoming an MHCIMA.

The HCIMA officer who interviewed me, rejected my application, as she did not recognize my three-year diploma from the Ceylon Hotel School, as compatible to a British HND or OND. She insisted that I complete four years of studies with HCIMA, before being considered for MHCIMA qualification. To me a rejection is always a great motivator, which inspires me to do better and at times, find practical short cuts. After that meeting, I decided that I will eventually earn this qualification, to lay a stronger foundation to become the General Manager of a five-star international hotel.

After a few years of further studies and numerous communications with HCIMA, finally I managed to become an MHCIMA in 1984, and a Fellow (FHCIMA) in 1992. In 2004, after serving HCIMA Board as an elected International Zone Representative for three years, I was elected as the worldwide President of HCIMA (now the Institute of Hospitality, UK), and appointed Chairman of HCIMA Ltd, UK, the commercial enterprise of the professional association.

In those two roles, I was fortunate to get a unique opportunity to lead the world’s largest professional body for hospitality managers in 104 countries with 25 international groups and 26 British chapters. For 84 years since the inception of this professional body in 1938, all Presidents were Europeans, except when a Sri Lankan was elected in 2004.

It was exactly 25 years after arriving in the UK as a first-time visitor and a nervous management trainee in 1979, that I was elected by my British hospitality management peers, as their President. The lesson here, for aspiring young hospitality managers, is that: “Treat the sky as the limit. As long as you have a vision for the future combined with hard work and passion, you can make things seem impossible to eventually happen”. At times the light may not be visible at the end of the tunnel, but that should not be an excuse not to dream big and work hard to achieve unprecedented goals. Go, open new doors!



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THE DEMOCRATIC PARADOX OF SRI LANKA

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by R.J. de Silva, Attorney-at-law

In the distant past, there were many approaches to running civilizations. Cruel and ruthless dictators perpetrated assault on human rights, with impunity. The best known among these tyrants were ATTILA the HUN (AD 434-453 of present day Hungary ), GENGHIS KHAN ( 1206-1227 in Central Asia and China ), TIMUR ( 1370-1405 of modern Syria, Iran , Afghanistan) and QUEEN MARY alias ‘Bloody Mary’(1553-1558 in England ).

The combination of divine or absolute power and lack of contact with people made Dictators and Autocrats fascinating as well as terrifying. It is unclear if such characters suffered from mental illness as defined by current standards or whether their lives were marked by incidents that made them ruthless.

Hadenius and Teorell ( 2007 ) identified distinct dictatorships in monarchies, military regimes, one party regimes and restricted multiparty regimes. Studies have revealed that many dictatorial regimes, have democratic facades or some functioning democratic institutions, some holding regular elections and some having operational political parties and legislatures.

Dictatorships are a form of government in which all power remains in the hands of one person enjoying unlimited governmental power obtained by force or fraudulent means in sham elections. Dictatorships are often characterized by deaths or killings because of greed, hatred, pride and yearning for power. For instance, Hitler caused millions of deaths of Jews, Pol Pot killed millions of Cambodians to forcibly change its culture and Idi Amin was responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of Indians in Uganda.

Autocracy is very similar to a dictatorship. Here too, the supreme power lies in the hands of an individual with some supported by a slavish political party. Autocrats use little or no consultation when making decisions and exercise independent authority over policies and procedures. Their decisions are not subject to any legal restraints. The system suppresses public debate and makes criticism of the government, a criminal offence.

Like in dictatorships, autocracies also use force and punishments to those who disobey the leader’s commands. Autocrats manifest in many ways in despotism, oligarchy and fascism.

In the ideology of benevolent or enlightened despotism (popular in the 18th Century Europe),a absolute monarchs enacted a number of changes in political institutions and enlightened governance. Most of the despots started their careers as “freedom fighters”. Many of them amassed wealth abroad while the world was in denial.

An oligarchy is a form of government where power is in the hands of a small group of elite people, holding wealth or family or military prowess. Oligarchies are where a small minority rules the government and exercise power in corrupt ways. Such governments are frequently ruled by prominent families whose children are raised and coached as oligarchy’s heirs.

Fascism is a political ideology that elevates the nation and race above the individual and advocates a ‘Consolidated Autocratic government’ led by a dictator under strict economic and social regulation while suppressing the opposition. Fascist administrations were seen in Italy’s Fascist Party under Mussolini ( 1925-1945 )and the National Socialist German Worker’s Party ( Nazi Party ) under Adolf Hitler ( 1925-1943). Interestingly, the majority of the modern dictatorial regimes refer to their leaders by a variety of titles such as President, King and Prime Minister.

The 20th and 21st Century dictators and autocrats ruled with tyrannical power and never tolerated dissent. Some of them were VALDIMIR LENIN ( 1917-1924 Russia ), JOSEPH STALIN ( 1924-1953 Russia ), BENITO MUSSOLINI ( 1925-1945 Italy ), ADOLF HITLER ( 1933-1945 Germany ), FRANCISCO FRANCO ( 1939-1975 Spain ), MAO ZEDONG (1949-1976- China ), IDI AMIN (1971-1979 Uganda), AUGUSTO PINOCHET ( 1973- 1990 Chile ), GEOGIS PAPANDUPOULUS ( 1967-1974 Greece ), COL MUAMMER GADAFI ( 1969-2011 Libya ).

Dictator led countries are also associated with severe poverty, repression, decreasing health and life expectancy, famine, poor education and rising mental illnesses. Eight of these brutal and repressive autocracies which caused poverty in their countries were : KIM JONG UN since 2011 ( North Korea- 40% poverty ), NICOLAS MANDURO since 2013 with his Presidency in dispute ( Venezuela – 82% poverty ) , BASHA AL ASSAD since 2020 ( Syria -82% poverty ), PAUL KAGME since March 2000 (Rwanda -39.1% poverty ), RECEP ERDOGAN since 2014 ( an elected President in Turkey- 21.9% poverty ), and NGUEMA MBASOSGO longest standing President in the world since 1979 for 40 years to date ( Equatorial Guinea -76. 8% poverty). Two of them – PIERRE NKURUNZIZA ( Burundi ) and IDRIS DEBBY ( Chad ) died in June 2020 April 2021 leaving 64.6% and 46.7% poverty respectively, in their impoverished countries. However, VADIMIR PUTIN (since 2000 Russia ) and XI JING PING ( since 2013 China ) are leading economic powers, but these two countries have also never tolerated dissent.

It is common to see dictators and autocrats appointing prominent members of armed forces in civilian positions and show disrespect towards the independence of the judiciary and freedom for the media. Such systems and their rulers show no concern for human rights or dissent. For instance in China, when a popular national movement for democracy was precipitated by Chinese youth and students calling for greater accountability, constitutional due process, freedom of the Press, speech and association drawing about one million people to the Tiananman Square and about 400 other cities, China’s Paramount leader Deng Xiaoping violently suppressed the movement in one day on June 4, 1986, similar to what happened in Rathupaswela in Sri Lanka, subsequently.

The suppression of the Pro- Democracy movement by the use of the army was followed by the wide spread arrest and deportation of foreign journalists and the strict control of the Press. In Russia, VADIMIR PUTIN, characterized his rule with endemic corruption, jailing political opponents, intimidating media freedom and free and fair elections. When Russia invaded Ukrain in February 2022, Putin ordered the arrest of thousands of its own citizens for protesting against the war. Tsarist minded Putin decreed that the independent media and journalists will be will be given 15 year jail terms if the cruel destruction of Ukrain’s infrastructure, historical monuments, hospitals and bombing civilian targets are reported to the Russian people.

Dictators and Autocrats are prone to create personality based autocracies surrounded by family members. Family bandyism weakened State infrastructure in Sri Lanka after 2005. The Rajapaksa family based autocracy weakened the State, democratic practices and institutionalized corruption. Family members and lackeys of Iraq and Libyan leaders weakened the State apparatus of Iraq and Libya. The weakened States of Iraq and Libya were such that, it failed to produce nuclear weapons as planned, to meet the threat of Israeli expansion. Saddam Hussain ( Iraq ) appointed his son- in- law and notoriously brutal Hussein Kamil, to fast track the production of nuclear weapons. That resulted in scientists in Iraq intentionally further slowing down the programme and nicknamed it the “unclear power”.

In contrast, the tyrant Gadaffi ( Libya ) was surrounded by ‘yes men’ and female bodyguards and an ego trip as a result of which, had no inclination to produce scientists and engineers for the country capable of dealing with complex technicalities associated with the production of nuclear power.

Dictators and Autocrats are prone to interfere with the sovereignty of other countries. Chinese dictator XI JING PING despite being an economic power, is accused of subtle problematic debt trap diplomacy since 2018 in many poor countries in Africa and Asia ruled by corrupt and mismanaging leaders. PUTIN is facing credible allegations of gross violation of human rights in Ukrain and widespread calls for investigation leading up to a trial for war crimes.

Citizen tired of being oppressed and controlled made widespread demands for democracy and the creation of independent Nation States in Europe. Those revolutions popularly known as the ‘Peoples Spring’ in 1848, brought upheavals in Europe mainly due to the dissatisfaction with monarchies, which were at the helm of each country. The revolution started in Sicily and spread to France, Netherlands, Italy and Hungary, Austrian Empire, German Empire and the whole of Europe. Monarchies were replaced by Republics. Old leaders were forced to grant liberal constitutions.

Caught off guard, aristocracy and their allies plotted to return to power and many leaders of the revolutions went into exile. In the decades after 1848, little had changed. Many historians considered the “People’s Spring” a failure, due to the seemingly lack of permanent structural changes. Karl Marx, disappointed with the bourgeois character of the revolution, expressed the theory of a permanent revolution according to which the proletariat should strengthen democratic bourgeois revolutionary forces, until the proletariat itself was ready to seize power.

The Autumn of Nations between 1981 and 1991 (143 years after the political upheavals in Europe), brought down the former Soviet Union (USSR) which was beset with economic stagnation, mismanagement and excessive dogmatism of the Communist Party. It disintegrated USSR without bloodshed to endorse democratic reforms in their countries. Poland was the first to shrug off communism in 1989 after almost a decade of struggles. It was followed by Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Romania.

Another wave of pro- democracy uprisings began in Muslim countries such as Morocco, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Bahrain in 2010/2011. It was named the “Arab Spring” and started in December 2010 from Tunisia. However, not all the nations that witnessed such social and political upheaval changed for the better. Some of the very same leaders who fought for democracy in the Muslim world (and in many other parts of the world), presided over the gradual decline of democratic rule in their countries.

In Egypt for example, despite the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, authoritarian rule returned after the controversial election of Morsi in 2012 leading to a coup by his Defence Minister Abdel Fatah El-Sisi in 2013 and he remains in power till today. Libya, since Col Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown violently in October 2011, has remained in a state of civil war with two opposing governments ruling separate regions of the country. The civil war that began in Syria with the Arab Spring has lasted for several years due to ISIS declaring a CALIPHATE governed by Islamic Law in North East of Syria. The ISIS has been effectively defeated, but the oppressive regime of BASHAR AL ASSAD continues with Russian support.

Democracy

In modern times, generations have rebelled against dictatorships and autocrdacy and fought for human rights and respect for the Rule of law. DEMOCRACY is the method of rule most countries have begun to approve. Although democracy is vulnerable it is very resilient. Mahatma Gandhi said: “Democracy and violence go ill together. States that are today minimally democratic have either to become frankly totalitarian or if they must become fully democratic, they must become courageously nonviolent” and Langstone Hughes ( 1902 – 1967 ) wrote “Democracy will not come today, this year, not ever through compromise and fear. I tire so of hearing people say, let’s things take its own course. Tomorrow is another day. I do not need any freedom when I am dead. I cannot live on tomorrow’s bread.”

To be continued

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My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgment says Beyonce

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Beyonce, shown attending the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards, is slated to release a new album in July 2022

Beyonce’s soaring vocals have their place on “Renaissance” but it’s the rhythmic, urgent call to the dance floor that stands out, with a tapestry of influences paying homage to pioneers of funk, soul, r Six years after she shook the culture with her powerful visual album “Lemonade,” Beyonce’s seventh solo studio work is a pulsating, sweaty collection of club tracks aimed at liberating a world consumed by ennui.

Beyonce, the paradigm-shifting music royal whose art has long established her as one of entertainment’s seminal stars, released her hotly anticipated album “Renaissance,” a house-tinged dance record primed for its summer needle drop

Eminently danceable and rife with nods to disco and EDM history — Queen Bey interpolates Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder along with James Brown and the archetypal synth line from “Show Me Love,” the 1990s house smash by Robin S — the 16-song album is poised to reign over the season.

Prior to releasing her opus Beyonce had dropped “Break My Soul” to acclaim, setting the tone for her house revival that highlighted the Black, queer and working-class artists and communities who molded the electronic dance genre, which first developed in Chicago in the 1980s.The megastar has indicated that “Renaissance” is but the first act of three, in a project she said she recorded over the course of three years during the pandemic.

“Creating this album allowed me a place to dream and to find escape during a scary time for the world,” Beyonce on her website.

“It allowed me to feel free and adventurous in a time when little else was moving,” she continued. “My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgment. A place to be free of perfectionism and overthinking.”

“A place to scream, release, feel freedom. It was a beautiful journey of exploration.”

– ‘Expansive listening journey’ –

In the weeks preceding the release of “Renaissance” Beyonce teased the album with the steady stream of glossy, curated portraits of herself that over the past decade have become her signature.But though she’s received wide praise for keeping the world of music videos on the cutting edge, Beyonce put out her latest record sans visuals (they’re promised at a later date.)

In a statement her label Parkwood Entertainment and Columbia Records lent insight into the decision, saying the artist “decided to lead without visuals giving fans the opportunity to be limitless in their expansive listening journey.”

Beyonce’s soaring vocals have their place on “Renaissance” but it’s the rhythmic, urgent call to the dance floor that stands out, with a tapestry of influences paying homage to pioneers of funk, soul, rap, house and disco.

“Unique / That’s what you are /Stilettos kicking vintage crystal off the bar,” she sings on “Alien Superstar,” which samples Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy” in a sonic ode to voguing, the stylized house dance that emerged from the Black LGBTQ ballroom culture of the 1960s.

That song closes by sampling a speech from Barbara Ann Teer, who founded Harlem’s National Black Theatre.

On “Virgo’s Groove” Beyonce gets raunchy with an unabashed sex anthem, adding a titular nod to her star sign — the Virgo turns 41 on September 4.Along with a smattering of deep house cuts as well as tributes to gospel, funk and soul, Beyonce’s collaborators on “Renaissance” include Nile Rodgers, Skrillex, Nigerian singer Tems, Grace Jones, Pharrell and, of course, her rap mogul husband Jay-Z.

– Album leaks, Beyhive stings –

Beyonce has long bucked music’s conventional wisdom, and is credited with popularizing the surprise album drop.She later made waves by releasing “Lemonade” — the groundbreaking work that chronicled her own emotional catharsis following infidelity within a generational and racial context — first on cable television, and limiting its streaming availability.

Since “Lemonade” she’s released “Homecoming,” a live album and film featuring footage from her mythic 2018 Coachella performance, as well as the critically acclaimed song “Black Parade” — which dropped amid mass protests ignited by the police murder of George Floyd.

That song saw the megastar, who first gained fame as a member of Destiny’s Child, become the winningest woman ever at the Grammys with 28, and the gala’s most decorated singer.But for all her cultural clout and an indisputable throne in music’s pantheon, Beyonce’s songs have not seen the same commercial dominance as other contemporary global stars — her last number one solo hit was 2008’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).”

That’s poised to change with “Renaissance.”

The album’s release saw Queen Bey return to music business as usual, deploying pre-sales, a lead single drop, a tracklist and polished social media fodder.But it wasn’t without a hitch — in the days prior to the official release, the album leaked online.

Bey thanked her hive for waiting, and added that “I appreciate you for calling out anyone that was trying to sneak into the club early.”

“We are going to take our time and Enjoy the music,” the megastar told her fandom. “I love you deep.”–AFP

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Are we to burn borrowed dollars just to cook a meal?

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Eng. Parakrama Jayasinghe

How many of the consumers who opt to use LPG for cooking, realize that they are burning the dollars borrowed with difficulty, just to cook a meal, while the use of LPG hardly brings in any foreign exchange? The reality is that while the country is struggling to raise the dollars even through loans to import adequate supplies of transport fuel, taking loans to import LPG, which will not result in any Forex earnings could hardly be considered ethical or a priority.

The CBSL data below shows the immense amount of dollars drained out of the country in the past years, purely due to the high powered promotions to coerce and trap the consumers to this non sustainable consumption.

With the escalation of world market prices and the depreciation of the rupee , the impact in rupee terms in year 2022, if we are to import the same quantities, would be much greater as estimated. The Governor of the Central Bank has quite rightly stated that

Sri Lanka will have to manage with available dollar inflows, not bridging finance: CB Governor

By Economy Next • Issue #391

However, the attempt by the government appears to be determined to continue this practice at whatever cost and detriment to the economy, to perpetuate a practice foisted on the people by unscrupulous officials, and thereby try and pretend that the gas queues are over. This has been achieved for the present, thanks to a further loan of $ 70 Million from the World Bank, to import 30,000 tons of LPG recently. Perhaps the daily visuals of the gas queues, that the electronic media took pleasure in broadcasting, may also have pushed the government to this short sighted move.

The other side of the coin is that, before the arrival of this load of LPG, while the empty cylinders remained in the queues, the people were absent. No doubt they sought and found alternative means of cooking their meals, albeit with less convenience than using gas. Obviously they would also have been helped in this by the intrepid efforts of many Sri Lankan entrepreneurs who designed and manufactured cooking stoves to use either fuel wood or charcoal, which do not require any dollars.

The novel stoves are yet to be available in adequate numbers in the market, although the manufacturers are running long waiting lists. As such some consumers may have been forced to revert to direct use of fire wood, accepting the disadvantage of smoke and soot. But Sri Lanka has already introduced most acceptable models of cooking stoves to use wood and wood charcoal, devoid of any smoke and soot. These have proved to be acceptable alternatives to the use of gas stoves for the daily cooking needs, even in high rise apartments.

The reality is that the consumers have recognized the fact that the government or the officials cannot be relied upon to provide their essential needs, and their salvation lies in seeking indigenous alternative solutions themselves which have proven to be equally effective.

But shouldn’t this positive change have been noted by the authorities and fostered with the same vigour with which the use of the imported LPG was promoted? What about the media? They diverted their cameras to the petrol and diesel queues, obviously the emerging negative scene of news value.

The officials of the Litro gas company are heard to give assurances of continued supply of LPG in the future, while they admit the loan received is adequate for supplies up to October only. According to their web page their customer base exceeds 4,000,000. The consumption in 2020 was 437,000 tons, purchased at a cost of $ 236 Million. By now it would exceed 450,000 tons annually. How far would the $ 70 Million loan go at present day gas prices? What happens next? Are they hoping to get yet another loan, when the Ministry of Power and Energy is forced to restrict the issue of essential transport fuels to a minimum, due to lack of dollars? Isn’t this a willful deception of the consumers?

Therefore, the discerning consumers are well advised to consider the following points in their decision making for the future.

  • = The import of LPG is possible only through loans which will have to be paid by our children and grandchildren
  • = Continued dependence on LPG is a never ending problem and will need more and more loans with no chance of the LPG used leading to any foreign exchange earnings
  • = The loans taken have to be repaid by the entire country ,while the benefit is enjoyed by only a limited section of the society, which is morally unacceptable
  • = For those fortunate to get even a cylinder of LPG, adopting the already available options of stoves using either charcoal or wood , for the cooking of the main meals , would substantially reduce the monthly expenditure as shown below. This would preserve the LPG cylinder bought with difficulty, to be available for any limited usage in between and for any emergencies for many months
  • = The consumers can be the drivers of the change which would reduce the demand for LPG and thus save the country millions of dollars year after year
  • = This would create a significant indigenous industry whereby the millions of dollars sent out would flow to the local industrialists and rural communities supplying the charcoal and wood. Even a 50% reduction of the imports could result in a local industry worth over Rs 80 Billion annually.

These are indeed practical and worthwhile contributions to resolve a national problem. Are each of us ready to commit to extend the use of our LPG cylinder to last several months, thereby reducing the demand to 50% or even to 25% in the coming year? This should be considered a national duty by all of us.

Just to assuage any fears of deforestation, contrary to popular belief, Sri Lanka already has adequate renewable and sustainable biomass resources formally counted as over 12,000,000 tons annually, contributing to 50% of the total primary energy demand. Simultaneously, a practical program of social reforestation has to be encouraged where the user of charcoal, plants wherever he can, plants trees to compensate for the charcoal he uses. In this way the next generation will also be assured of their own sustainable supply with absolutely no impact on the forest cover. A plant that can be recommended is Gliricidia Sepium among others, which can be harvested in two years, and thereafter every eight months.

(The writer is past president of the Bio Energy Association of Sri Lanka www.bioenergysrilanka.lk
Email: parajayasinghe@gmail.com)

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