Channa Vithana / Heroes and Villains?

A Villain?

Unlike some people today, I do not roll my eyes skywards at the mention of any genuine religion or vent any personal failure at the practitioners and worshipers in our society who demonstrate true faith. On the contrary,

I find that the rare-breed of individual, who inspires through example, by giving themselves wholly to their god(s), is the one to be admired as they put the rest of us sinners (and hypocritical preachers) to shame.

I own music that features active, passive or converted members of each established and recognised religion – not out of choice, but rather as a mere coincidence because I simply enjoy the music.

A deeper luxury of life like religion should not be confused with the carrion forms of politics, but invariably it is. And as such, I am especially sensitive to the stench of a duplicitous ‘holy agent’ who wrongly pushes confused politico-religious machinations in the name of their creed.

Unfortunately …

one such possible duplicity has taken some of my time lately by means of a friend’s music collection - as almost all of it is somehow connected to her faith. Not that any of the music was at all religious or thought-provokingly political in content; rather, over the course of several long visits, I was able to scan the entire collection and found, quite uncannily, that 80 percent of the titles featured at least one person from her faith. Had my friend acquired the majority of her music collection based purely on the qualification that it must be religiously genetic, I wondered?

Would the artists in this collection want to be appreciated for their religious background or their music? And, surely, wasn’t she missing out on so much other non-conditional music?

To compound matters there was …

a systematic order to what my friend had been lending me, where all of this music had her religion somehow contained within it. At this realisation I was feeling rather nauseous. Why was this affecting me this way? I shouldn’t judge someone on their record collection (!) even though it might be politically motivated - because that makes me just as political doesn’t it?

I know this all sounds utterly ridiculous – but alas really stupid things, somehow, can be true.

I felt that however unwittingly (does 80 percent constitute coincidence?) that when it came to listening to or purchasing music, it was her religion (and sadly not the music) that was the distinguishing requirement.

So why is this story an example of villainy?

Well, at the time, I didn’t know if I was the victim of a sly but confused political hegemony, feebly masqueraded through religion with the pathetic use of music as the disease carrier (unlikely) or if I was actually the villain (more likely) by silently judging my friend for ‘pushing’ her religion onto me via her music.

I quickly realised that these asinine thoughts had wasted my time. But it was ever so easy to fall into the trap of shadow-chasing political conspiracy, even with a subject as seemingly innocent as a musical collection. And if I did fall, then my friendship would be in flames and the music would become a political barrier and not something to share and treasure. I shudder to imagine if these foolish thought processes or ridiculous qualifying conditions have actually been applied to the hi-fi industry…

From this experience I have reached a few conclusions.

Firstly, though regrettable, it is understandable that some people, like my friend, cannot seem to transcend beyond the comfort and security of their roots, while still acknowledging where they come from... And secondly it has been a salient lesson for me, with the realisation that the rotting corpse of politics has clearly entrenched itself into nearly every aspect of my life. So my retreat away from as much politics as possible, using the sanguine pleasures of music, free of any criteria, is even more important now.

Some Heroes …

Sheila Jones at Naim Audio is a very pleasant and important member of the Naim Service Department. I met her several years ago (before I became a reviewer) when I had brought in some Naim Audio hi-fi for adjustment. I had a Nait 3, which remains an outstanding integrated amplifier and not long afterwards, a NAT 03 tuner which was absolutely perfect for my needs – while obviously sounding wonderful; it was also elegantly, devastatingly simple using a solitary tuning knob and a simple, clear display that indicated tuning strength via the intensity of its brightness.

Soon after I bought it, I realised that the Naim Audio logo on the NAT 03 was slightly faint compared to my Nait 3 and its front panel had minor cosmetic damage to the right corner (it was a demonstration model). The NAT 03 was still under warranty so I delivered it to Naim HQ. When I went back to collect the two components (I had also left the Nait 3 for logo brightness reference), I was greeted by Sheila and she took me to their service department.

Without any prompting she gave me a superb factory visit where I met some of the staff and she described the various processes and manufacturing facilities, which was an unexpected but pleasant surprise.

I asked Sheila about her job - she was responsible for the repair, servicing, and upgrading of old Naim equipment. One of her colleagues gave me the relevant papers and showed me my NAT 03 complete with new front panel, and in combination with the Nait 3, the now fully logo-matched Naim Audio duo (they must have thought I was really fussy but didn’t bat an eyelid) before sending them to be packaged.

While waiting Sheila showed me the various products that had recently come in for servicing or repair and some went right back to the original 70’s models. Sheila said that the Naim Service Department could handle the majority of older Naim components that came in from around the world. I asked her what was the trickiest component to service or repair and she said (at the time) it was the (original) CDS CD Player because of its complex power supplies and circuitry design.

I think the Naim Service Department (including Sheila) …

do an amazing job of repairing, servicing and upgrading the majority of Naim Audio equipment from almost their entire back-catalogue because not all hi-fi manufacturers can do this. My experience of them, as a standard customer, had been very convivial, and I am not the only one who feels this way. Consequently, this service support system is probably a factor as to why many older Naim Audio components carry such good second-hand value.

Here is what Naim had to say in their summer 2006 newsletter, “Beverley Haysom heads the Service Department, overseeing the day-to-day engineering work, while the public face of the Service Department continues to be Sheila Jones. Sheila is one of our longest serving employees and her knowledge of Naim products from the last twenty-five years borders on the uncanny.”

The Naim Service Department has been recently integrated with their Customer Relations Manager Adam Meredith (a former hi-fi journalist and retailer) who joined Naim in around 2004.

Adam, like Sheila is an information hub for all things Naim and is a very useful person to know, for customers and reviewers alike. He was very helpful with technical details for an old CD2 CD Player I featured in a system review as he went through the different and specific iterations of this model, including detailed information on the various DACs, filters and transports used as well as its hierarchy in comparison to other Naim Audio CD players – information that would have taken me a long time to research.

Last but not least, I would like to …

convey my best to Anna Tooth of the Naim Label as she is set to leave shortly. The Naim Label; originally started by the late, great, Julian Vereker has successfully continued to release many fine and varied recordings, especially in the jazz idiom. It has also championed better sound-quality recordings than the recording industry norm and this includes the True Stereo methodology – for more information check the website (see below).

Anna, who studied photography, was involved right at the inception of the Naim Label. She also shot the cover photography for ‘None But The Lonely Heart’ by Charlie Haden (bass) and Chris Anderson (piano) which is an excellent and wonderfully minimalist set of recordings released on Naim 180gm virgin vinyl (and a subject for a future post).

Though we had corresponded previously, I met her for the first time earlier this year at an Antonio Forcione semi-acoustic guitar live event, and we had a great evening talking mostly about music and photography during intervals and post show. She was a lovely person to meet, and like the other Naim people mentioned here, easily qualifies for hero status.

CV 20th October 2006.

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