Saturday, July 31, 2010
Friday, July 30, 2010
ATH: US 20s win Milk Cup!
COM: Funny pt 1
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
World Music News Wire #16
Saintly Seducers and Iconic Iconoclasts: Pierre de Gaillande Spreads the Good Word(s) about France’s Unlikely Pop Idol Georges Brassens on Bad Reputation
Jailbait princesses and phonograph pornographers. Anarchists, atheists, and amputees. Humble farmhands who dig their own graves, and holy womanizers out to save the unlovable. Welcome to the wild world of Georges Brassens, as translated on the new album Bad Reputation and channeled by Pierre de Gaillande.
The Paris-born, California-raised singer, musician, composer, and translator found a kindred spirit in the pioneering pop star, ubiquitous in France but sadly neglected in America. Keenly in tune with Brassens’ timeless eloquence and timely grit, de Gaillande embarked on an epic two-year mission to translate Brassens’ work and evoke the legendary singer-songwriter for Anglophone audiences. The hard part: to keep Brassens’ melodies intact, de Gaillande had to keep the same syllable count, rhyme scheme, and other poetic parts in English.
De Gaillande spent his teenage years in California immersed in rock, laying out wacky punk anthems on his four-track and using guitar licks to woo girls at Sunday school. He later took these skills to New York, where he rocked with indie and folk-rock bands like the Morning Glories.
But he had a dark secret: He was French. His father, a teacher, made sure he never forgot it. “He likes to impart his wisdom,” de Gaillande muses. “My dad would make my sister and me sit down with a George Brassens song, asking us if we understood what it was about. He would bore us to death. We couldn’t enjoy the music because it was like school.”
The obsession that became Bad Reputation started when the senior de Gaillande sent his son the lyrics to “Le Mecreant,” a Brassens song calling for morality without the crutch of religious authority, a graceful statement of atheist philosophy. It struck de Gaillande and sparked a conversation with his dad that turned into a serious translating habit. “Over the years I had tried to translate the poetry of writers like Baudelaire, so I thought it would be interesting to try my hand at this song, which I loved,” recalls de Gaillande with a smile. “Then I went back to all these other cool ones with great melodies, and boom, it totally avalanched from there.”
Yet this nonchalance belies the task de Gaillande had set for himself: to adapt one of the biggest figures in French music and poetry without completely and utterly betraying Brassens in all his complexity: the iconic iconoclast. A dreamer who dominated the pop scene for decades. A highly individualistic man of powerful convictions—yet no patience with politics or intellectual fads. A proto-punk who worshiped 17th-century poetry, whose banned songs became national treasures, and whose moustache sparked a fashion craze.
It’s nearly impossible to explain Brassens’ significance in French culture—and nearly impossible to underplay it. He’s a teller of tales like Bob Dylan, if Dylan had come from a centuries-long line of satirical tunesmiths and bards. He sounds like Django Reinhardt swinging with an apolitical Woodie Guthrie. A voice like Leonard Cohen’s dominates sparse arrangements that managed to blast French pop apart the way the Beatles did Anglophone rock.
Yet de Gaillande has succeeded in invoking Brassens’ essence by painstakingly, playfully rendering his exquisite, unusual lyrics into English. Lyrics borrowing from the golden age of French poetry, the 17th century, chock full of colorful profanity and medieval references.
Brassens, in his meditation on the vagaries of celebrity “Trumpets of Fortune and Fame,” asks wryly, “I wonder, holy cow, who do I have to f*ck / To make the goddess of a hundred mouths speak up?” Yet he’s just as likely to reference the Old Testament (“Bad Reputation” speaks of the prophet Jeremiah) or 16th-century religious violence (the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of the Hugenots comes up in “Don Juan”) as to drop an “F” bomb.
De Gaillande relished the challenge. “I found that I was really well suited to it; I’ve been a songwriter preoccupied with lyrics, poetry, and melody for a long time,” de Gaillande reflects. “It was amazing to have this music that’s been in my head for so long come to life.”
A self-taught songwriter, the poetry-mad Brassens made music to fit the words. “He would write lyrics with rhyme and rhythm, and then cobbled the music together to fit,” de Gaillande explains. ”The music feels unpremeditated, fluid, and personal. Sometimes it makes no sense rhythmically, because it’s in service to the lyrics.” To do justice to the music, de Gaillande kept all the rhythms intact, finding the right number of English syllables, and maintaining the original rhyme schemes.
He also found, as he began working with New York-based musicians unfamiliar with Brassens’ songs, that these rhythmic subtleties had eluded most people who played songs like “Bad Reputation.” That is, until bassist Christian Bongers noticed something: Everyone was getting it wrong.
“That was the first Brassens song I ever learned, and I used to play it on guitar. Christian realized that I was playing it wrong, that there is this wild rhythm that’s hard to pin down,” de Gaillande notes. “It has a 5/4 moment that’s bizarre. It took someone with fresh ears to really get it.”
This peculiar sense of rhythm entwines with a quiet interplay between melodies, with little licks and flourishes in the originals provided by a second guitar. De Gaillande, while wanting to respect Brassens’ sonic sensibilities, used a broader, richer musical palette to bring out the many melodies: vibes, clarinet, dobro, another voice thanks to singer Keren Ann (“To Die for Your Ideas”).
But one thing was off the table: drums. “I’ve made a conscious decision to not have a lot of drums, even though I come from a folk rock or punk background,” de Gaillande says. “I didn’t want too many drums or any other instrument with rock connotations because Brassens ignored rock altogether.” Even though hints of rock sometimes shine through on songs like “Penelope,” Brassens seemed to have had little interest in the music taking Europe’s youth by storm.
That was typical for Brassens, a man who lived in a cold-water, no-frills Paris flat even at the height of his illustrious career, a place that had harbored him after he ran away from a German work camp and that he said taught him to appreciate discomfort. Living in his run-down apartment and his own dream world, the only rules he acknowledged were those of poetry. He ignored contemporary culture, politics, and even the bans on his songs, and instead mocked the scandal surrounding his off-color language with songs like “The Pornographer.”
“He uses all this dirty imagery, and then says, ‘See what you made me do?’” de Gaillande laughs. “I went full on with the obscenity.” He turned to the last remaining bastion of obscenity, the last dirty word standing: “Don’t ask me to compose a poem/ If it would upset you to know / That I sit and watch every day / The c*nts on parade / I’m the pornographer of the phonograph, sir / The perverted son of the sing-along.”
Brassens had no interest in being fashionable or cool, and yet defined coolness in a way that resonates for de Gaillande in our day and age. For de Gaillande, it boils down to language: “Using proper grammar, good spelling, and eloquent language is subversive and even sexy in this era of Tea-Party talk,” de Gaillande smiles. “That’s part of the mission of this project: to bring back that kind of sexy.”
“This project has been a real departure for me; it’s very adult and almost square,” de Gaillande laughs. “But I think it’s the hippest thing I’ve ever done. I draw inspiration from Brassens’ attitude: He didn’t care what people thought. He just got the poetry out there.”
Tags: blogs, culture, music, milkriverblog
Monday, July 26, 2010
REV: Two Left Feet
“Two Left Feet” Terrific
CURRENT REVIEW by Jacquie Bovée
The world premiere of the witty comedy-drama "Two Left Feet," directed by Heather Cunningham, opened at the Cailloux Theater last week. The sophisticated, yet extremely humorous plot, is as tightly crafted as many Broadway productions . . . and the cast is sensational. A must see ticket!
Playwright Jeff Cunningham’s entertaining comedy-drama is centered around Nancy Skelton, an exceptionally successful, but ever-so-clumsy, corporate accountant who dreams of being a ballerina. When Nancy finds herself in Southern California on business - in the same town as the renown Le Fleur Dance Academy - she enrolls and discovers the truth behind her Grandmother’s advice “Let your passion drive the bus, but let God steer you home.”
What better way to describe the plot than quoting Neil Simon, who once revealed, “My view is ‘how sad and funny life is.’ I can’t think of a humorous situation that does not involve some pain. I used to ask, ‘What is a funny situation?’ Now I ask, ‘What is a sad situation and how can I tell it humorously?” Cunningham adds a hearty dose of solid integrity and some good old fashioned “goodness.”
When Nancy auditions for admittance to the prestigious dance academy she encounters Rachel, a hostile instructor with secrets of her own. Both Nancy and Rachel are superbly portrayed by Amy Goodyear and Heather Cunningham.
The Le Fleur is run (after a fashion) by a bumbling businessman and his eccentric European dancer wife . . . Dexter Nixon (perfectly played by Brian Bondy) and Bridget (marvelously portrayed by Ahita Ardalan).
The somewhat goofy husband and wife team are assisted by Ned, a well-meaning nephew who falls for Stephanie, a charming ballet student. Ned a gentle sober soul and Stephanie a clever ingenue are wonderfully portrayed by Dale Green and Sloan Frierson.
The shows includes a delightful bunch of Play2K Academy students playing ballerinas. Rachel Jordan as Mean, Megan Simon as Pretty, Shirley Dixon as Blonde Girl, Amanda Radkiewicz as Dumb, Erin Bondy as Tiny and Natalie Tonner as Goth Girl who performs a lovely ballet solo. Guest performer and educator Ardalan worked with the Academy girls, teaching them ballet, movement and body awareness.
Tony Gallucci's appearance, in a cameo performance as the IRS Chief Auditor, is hysterical. And Jane Angelus (Auditor), Pam Frierson (Auditor 1), Judy Jordan (Auditor 2) and Rachel Stone Boland (UPS Girl) round out the talented cast.
Jeff Cunningham's scenic design is, as always, a feast for the eyes. The brick work is amazing, and Nick Boland's clever lighting design moves the action seamlessly.
Do yourself a favor and find out how Nancy, and some w friends, learn the valuable lessons behind, “Let your passion drive the bus, but let God steerfar-out ne you home.” Maybe you will agree with this reviewer - that "Two Left Feet" is not just a very well written comedy-drama - it is truly a mystic experience.
See you at the theatre!
The show runs thru July 31, with evening performances on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm. There will be a Sunday matinée on the July 25 at 2pm. For reservations and information call Cailloux Theater Box Office at 896-9393 ext 223.
From the left: Ned (Dale Green), Stephanie (Sloan Frierson), Heather Cunningham (Rachel), Nancy (Amy Goodyear), Bridget (Ahita Ardalan), Dexter (Brian Bondy) and IRS Auditor (Tony Gallucci) - Photo by Jacquie Bovée
Tags: blogs, culture, theatre, milkriverblog
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Friday, July 23, 2010
COM: CBS' turn to be ignorant
Besides the silliness of the story behind this, the typo in the headline makes it even funnier . . . gotta love edit-free CBS!
Dog Mistaken for Coyote, Released into Wild
Kentucky Police Helping Owner Search for American Kennel Club-Registered Dog that Human Society Staffer Thought was Coyote
Tags: blogs, culture, milkriverblog
Thursday, July 22, 2010
The Daily Silliness
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
The Daily Silliness
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
World Music News Wire #15
San Francisco’s Musical Sweet Spot: The Admission-Free Stern Grove Festival Unites Art, Nature, and Bay-Area Music Lovers for Over 70 Years
A soul diva tosses aside her mic and lets her passionate voice roll over the audience as a hawk looks on. A stray sunbeam breaks through looming clouds and dashes across a renowned Indian master’s tablas as he strikes up the beat. A jubilant crowd of thousands dances to electronica-laced tango, swaying as one and leaping joyfully on stage. Butterflies and dragonflies flit past acclaimed symphonies, opera companies, and ballet dancers.
Magical moments happen regularly at Stern Grove Festival, San Francisco’s premier admission-free outdoor performing arts festival, a gem at the city’s heart. The 73rd Stern Grove Festival takes place Sundays at 2:00 p.m., June 20-August 22, 2010 (Sigmund Stern Grove, 19th Ave. & Sloat Blvd., San Francisco; www.sterngrove.org).
I loved playing Stern Grove. It’s a beautiful wooded enclave in the middle of a big city, with a great laid-back atmosphere. — Aimee Mann
Majestic yet intimate, Stern Grove Festival’s eclectic renowned performers are encircled by its unmatched outdoor venue: a resonant natural amphitheater among century-old redwoods and eucalyptus. Here, urban and pastoral, cosmopolitan and communal, nature and art, mingle.
I looked out there at those trees…you almost think you’re in heaven. It’s like hugging me, this venue is hugging me. I’ve never seen a place like this and I’ve been singing for a long time. — Mavis Staples
Though minutes away from central San Francisco sights, Stern Grove feels like a world apart and attracts world-class artists and hosts annual performances by the acclaimed San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Symphony, and San Francisco Ballet. Its verdant performance meadow, surrounded by towering trees, may sound like other major outdoor concert venues, but don’t be fooled. Stern Grove revels in the openness of the great outdoors while retaining a singular sense of intimacy.
Part of Stern Grove’s secret lies in its acoustics, as Rosalie Stern, founder and first benefactor of the Festival and its striking site, discovered in the 1930s. Mrs. Stern placed the stage with help from opera tenor Lawrence Strauss: The two wandered around the Grove arm in arm, in search of a sweet spot. They found it, as any Stern Grove Festival regulars can tell you (and decades later, laser acoustic analysis confirmed it).
Some places you just feel good. This is one of those places. — Femi Kuti
Regulars abound, from all generations and backgrounds, and they know just how to enjoy Stern Grove Festival. “People often come first thing in the morning and stake out their favorite spot. They’ll hang out all day until the show is done, with picnics and their families,” smiles Director of Marketing Monica Ware, who first experienced the festival as a young child accompanying grandma and grandpa to the Symphony. ”You meet people sitting next to you, and you get to know them. You share food and talk and dance together and experience these incredible performances.”
Performances by artists ranging from Los Lobos, Lucinda Williams and Arrested Development to Diana Krall, Carlos Santana, and Hugh Masekela to Isaac Stern, Denyce Graves, and Joan Baez in years past, and this year, from They Might Be Giants to the San Francisco Symphony, from Afro-pop chanteuse Angélique Kidjo to folk-rock icon Rickie Lee Jones.
The vibe is incredible. And I can’t believe we’re in the middle of the city. — Bela Fleck
“We often think in terms of accessibility. The Festival is admission-free and outdoors, so it breaks down many barriers,” Executive Director Steven Haines notes. “Stern Grove Festival, because it is so accessible, can offer world-class performances but still be a tastemaker, introducing people to music and dance they haven’t experienced before.”
This mixture of family-friendly yet adventurous, of high-quality yet open to all, reflects the special spirit of San Francisco itself, a city known for embracing diversity, eccentricity, and creativity. “Stern Grove Festival concerts cut across a wide variety of genres. That resonates with people in the Bay Area,” explains Judy Tsang, Stern Grove’s Director of Programming. “Our audiences are open-minded and trust us to put on a great show at Stern Grove Festival.”
San Francisco is a cosmopolitan place, but it also has the great natural beauty of Northern California and you get to experience that here in a setting that’s in the city, but like in a rainforest. It’s a magical place. — Michael Franti
Visitors can dive into this San Francisco experience and get a chance to unwind, party, and savor the arts the way locals do. “Stern Grove Festival audience members intermingle, and it creates a virtual kind of community in that moment,” Ware reflects. “You don’t normally get that shared experience at most venues, when you just show up, watch a concert, and leave. It’s really unusual in that regard.”
Planning a Perfect Stern Grove Day
Most important is to get there early; the park opens at sunrise and occasionally, a few hearty souls are already there with sleeping bags and thermoses of coffee, staking out their favorite spots.
Bring plenty of provisions–your favorite picnic fare, water, sunscreen, board games, books, and blankets. Regulars try to outdo each other with everything from linen napkins, flowers and wine glasses to platters of the Bay Area’s finest culinary treats; goat cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, sourdough from Acme Bakery, and cupcakes from Miette. And don’t forget a Napa Valley Chardonnay to round out the afternoon. There is also a food vendor on-site, but alcohol is not sold at the Festival.
Wear layers–Unpredictable is the best way to describe the micro-climate of Stern Grove. It can be cool in the morning and blazing hot by show time.
Take public transportation. There is no parking at Stern Grove, so do yourself and the environment a favor and don’t drive to the Festival!
Tags: blogs, culture, music, milkriverblog
Monday, July 19, 2010
COM: Outgoing-nos - Who's teaching our children?
Apparently no one . . . this from a professional photographer's blog . . . there is so much wrong here that it'd be nearly impossible to blame spell check . . .
"We all have shared an awkward silence with perfect strangers on an elevator. We’d just assume stair at our feet then initiate a conversation. There’s some unwritten elevator law that says no eye contact or talking is allowed.
"I’m the wacky person, who actually says, “Hey there, how you doin’?”! I suppose it’s my outgoing-no holds barred style, that helps break the ice."
Tags: blogs, culture, milkriverblog
FAM: ZsaZsa's Hip
Publicist: Zsa Zsa Gabor's surgery went well
Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- Actress Zsa Zsa Gabor underwent successful hip replacement surgery Monday morning to repair damage suffered when she fell out of her bed Saturday night, her spokesman said.
"We're all very relieved," publicist John Blanchette said.
Gabor, 93, is likely to remain hospitalized at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center at least four more days, Blanchette said.
The surgery lasted more than three hours, he said. "Her doctors are happy with the results."
Gabor was sitting in bed and fell reaching to answer the phone, he said. She was watching the television game show "Jeopardy" at the time of the fall, he said.
Blanchette said Gabor has been frail and "pretty much confined to a wheelchair" since a 2002 car accident. The crash occurred when the car in which she was riding with her hairdresser slammed into a light pole on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles.
Gabor's husband, Prince Frederic von Anhalt, has been caring for her at the couple's Bel Air, California, home, Blanchette said.
"She has an active mind. She's very bright. She's funny. She always makes me laugh whenever I talk to her," Blanchette said. "Her body's failing her."
The glamorous Hungarian-born actress, the second of the three celebrated Gabor sisters, is most famous for her eight marriages. Among her husbands were hotel millionaire Conrad Hilton and Oscar-winning actor George Sanders.
Her more prominent films include John Huston's 1952 Toulouse-Lautrec biopic, "Moulin Rouge;" "The Story of Three Loves," 1953; "The Girl in the Kremlin," 1957; and Orson Welles' classic "Touch of Evil," 1958.
In 1989, Gabor was sentenced to 72 hours in jail for slapping a Beverly Hills police officer after a traffic stop. She also had to perform community service at a battered women's shelter.
The other Gabor sisters were Magda, the oldest, who died in 1997 five days shy of 83, and Eva, the youngest, who died in 1995 at 76.
Magda, an occasional stage actress, also was married to George Sanders at one time. [tg note: and to the uncle for whom i am his namesake]
Eva is probably best remembered for her role as a socialite turned farmer's wife on the 1960s TV sitcom "Green Acres."
Tags: blogs, culture, theatre, film, milkriverblog
MRF: Inception numbing
COM:: Living History Day on the Horizon!
UPDATE: Texas Heritage Music Day (formerly Texas Heritage Living History Day) on September 24th honors September as Hispanic Heritage Month and as the birthday of the Father of Country Music, Jimmie Rodgers!
KERRVILLE, Texas—The Texas Heritage Music Foundation is proud to announce that the 14th annual Texas Heritage Music Day (formerly the Texas Heritage Living History Day) will be presented on Friday, September 24 at the Robbins-Lewis Pavilion on Schreiner University campus in Kerrville from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event, billed as “Another Way of Learning Using Stories and Songs,” will be open to the public and admission will be free. From 4-6 p.m. in the historical Union Church on the festival grounds the Texas Folklore Society and THMF will co-host a panel on the songs of Texas. All events are free and open to the public.
For Heritage Music Day, more than 50 performers and presenters will be spread throughout the park surrounding the pavilion to both entertain and educate, including Aztec Dancing, chuck wagons, Native American exhibits and stories, Texas singers and songwriters and more. Central to the event will be the annual noon tribute to former Kerrville resident and “Father of Country Music” Jimmie Rodgers. Food and drinks will be available for sale at the event. A take home educator’s packet will be available to all teachers.
The Texas Heritage Music Day is part of the new Texas Song Series, beginning August 5-7 with a songwriter’s festival in Con-Can and September 1 Texas Music Coffeehouse. All three events feature Adam Carroll and Owen Temple.
For more information about Texas Heritage Music Day, go to the foundation website at www.texasheritagemusic.org. This event is co-sponsored by THMF and Center for Innovative Learning at Schreiner University.
Tags: blogs, culture, music, literature, milkriverblog
COM: You would think, in the 21st Century . . .
Liberian elephant rages against timber company
Animal airs rural Liberians' frustrations with country's timber industry
MONROVIA, Liberia — The unlikeliest of activists — a rampaging elephant that locals claimed was supernaturally possessed — has aired rural Liberians' frustrations with the country's profitable timber industry.
The elephant killed a logging worker in June when it charged onto the local company's property, and had also been known to menace other employees and local farmers in previous weeks.
This unlikely confluence of superstition, corporate activity and a big, mad, male elephant ended last week in a macabre draw, when logging officials killed the elephant after it killed the logging company employee.
But the dead elephant - which officials said Thursday was killed by sandwiching it between two industrial logging machines - trumpeted a growing unease between nature and industry in rural Liberia, a tiny West African country still struggling to recover from a 14-year civil war.
Locals said the elephant was possessed by human spirits and had channeled their frustrations into its rampages.
A local advocacy group says the logging industry decimates their forests while leaving no social development behind. Timber is one of Liberia's main exports and draws millions of dollars in foreign investment.
Elephants are endangered and protected in Liberia, but a forestry official said the animal had to be killed for residents' safety. In what appeared to be an attempt at reconciliation, officials have distributed elephant meat to locals. It was unclear whether residents ate the meat or not.
"We regret the two incidents: the killing of a person by the elephant and the killing of the elephant, which means we have lost an endangered species," said Theophilus Freeman, a deputy chief of Liberia's forest management agency. "We don't want to lose any of our endangered animals, but the law says if any of them becomes destructive and deadly, we get rid of it fast."
He added that authorities in Rivercess became convinced, through powers of deduction, that the elephant was not possessed by humans.
"Some people said there was a human being or two working in the elephant, but it's been two days since the killing of the elephant," he said last week. "If this was true, one or two persons would have died by now."
But local advocacy group leader Hilary Mentoe reacted indignantly to these assertions and threatened legal action over the suggestion that locals would use supernatural tactics to make their case against the logging industry.
"We are proud and decent people; how could we transform ourselves into an elephant to destroy lives and properties?" he told a local newspaper.
The timber industry in Liberia was placed under a United Nations embargo in 2007, when ex-president Charles Taylor was accused of looting the forests and using proceeds to fuel wars. Taylor denied the claims.
The ban was lifted in 2007 when a postwar election followed the stepping down of Charles Taylor and the election as president of an ex-World Bank executive Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
Tags: blogs, culture, environment, milkriverblog
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Friday, July 16, 2010
COM: Blog Wars
THE: Two Left Feet!
THE: Jacquie Bovée CATS Review
The "Cats" Meow at The Point
A CURRENT REVIEW
by Jacquie Bovée
The Point’s Smith-Ritch Outdoor Theatre has been magically transformed into a cosmic rubbish heap and T.S. Eliot’s Practical Cats appropriated the dump for their Jellicle Jubilee. And why not? Every conceivable, self respecting cat loves to roll in grubby newsprint, rummage in debris, toy with trash cans, fiddle old bicycle wheels, and just plain amuse themselves playing in and out of old car carcasses.
As the music swells and a moonlit night falls, cats’ eyes shine and dozens upon dozens of leaping, whirling and slinking shapes strut their stuff on director Jim Weisman’s brilliantly designed scenic wasteland. Sit back and let the outrageously amazing costumes of Linda Koehler Messina, the delicious makeup illusions of Emily Houghton and the superb musical direction of Luke Cummings catapult you on a psychedelic fantasy flight into the mad, mad world of “Cats.”
London’s award winning musical "Cats," with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and story line loosely based on “Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats” by T.S. Eliot, opened on Broadway in 1982. New York Times theatre critic Frank Rich predicted that the production would run for a long time. This was, he noted, not because it's a brilliant musical, but because it "transports the audience into a complete fantasy world that could only exist in theatre.” His vision came true, with a run of 21 years in London and 18 years on Broadway.
Supervising the once-a-year nocturnal jam-session is Old Deuteronomy (talented Jim Wooten), the ancient vicarage cat who buried nine wives and will, after it’s over, choose one cat for redemption. He listens as Gus the Theatre Cat (sensational T.J. Ashabranner), whose real name is Asparagus, weaves his stories of days past. And as Muckustrap and Jellylorum (musical veterans Graydon Vaught and Nancy Regan), conduct the festivities, musically inviting us to enter a world that only “see-in-the-dark” creatures can see.
There’s Bustopher Jones the Cat About Town in white spats (marvelous Kirk Logan) who is not skin and bones. In fact he’s remarkably fat. And Rum Tum Tugger the Curious Cat (delightful Corey Weaver) who wears rhinestones and leather together.
And there’s a host other of talented Cats: Demeter (Deanna Brandt), Cassandra (Shayna Architect), Jennyanydots (Tyla Stephens), Skimbleshanks (Ian Banchs), Bombalurina (Reilly Downes), Coricopat (Jesslen Clark), Tantomile (Brandi Neely), Jemina (Nicole Moody), Mistoffelees (McKinsey Lowrance), Mungojerrie (Trevor Stewart), Rumpleteazer (Hannah McDonald),
And plenty of Kittens, too: Alexandria Architect, Elise Architect, Tiffany Ayala, Page Bacon, Gabi Banchs, Hannah Johle, Rianna Mathews, Jacob Mizell and Casey Weaver.
Plus some great outcast Cats, Macavity the Mystery Cat (Taylor Spelvin) and Grizabella the Glamour Cat (Joan Bryson) who could even be the one who ascends into feline paradise.
Kudos to Weisman and choreographer Lynn Wickham Bacon for wondrously arranging and rearranging the multitude of cats that never seem to leave the stage. And to Lorenzo Nichols for lighting it all so perfectly.
The show runs thru July 24 with evening performances on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8:30pm. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for youths 17 and younger. For reservations and information call the HCAF box office at 830-367-5121
T. J. Ashabranner (center) as Gus The Theater Cat. From the left (clockwise): Jellylorum (Nancy Regan), Kittens (Hannah Johle & Casey Weaver), Jemina (Nicloe Moody) and Electra (Gabi Banchs) - Photo by Jacquie Bovée
Tags: blogs, culture, theatre, milkriverblog
EDU: Another knock on NCLB
NCLB Seen Impeding Indigenous-Language Preservation
By Mary Ann Zehr, Washington
Native American leaders pressed members of Congress and federal education officials this week to provide relief from provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act that they see as obstacles to running the language-immersion schools they need to keep their languages from disappearing.
As part of a two-day national summit here on revitalizing native languages, three founders of immersion schools that are teaching children Cherokee, Ojibwe, and Native Hawaiian contended that some No Child Left Behind provisions present huge hurdles for language-immersion programs or schools and conflict with schooling rights spelled out in another federal law, the Native American Languages Act. That 1990 law says it is U.S. policy to “encourage and support the use of Native American languages as a medium of instruction.”
In a face-to-face interaction at the summit, the founders of immersion schools petitioned Charles P. Rose, the general counsel of the U.S. Department of Education, to give them a legal interpretation that exempts their schools from having to meet provisions of the NCLB law that require them to test their students in English, particularly in the early grades, and ensure that teachers are “highly qualified.”
Since the immersion schools typically don’t introduce English until the 5th grade, their founders argued that it’s unfair that those schools can be penalized if their students don’t test well in English in the early grades. They added that the federal law—the most recent version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—makes it hard for them to expand their schools beyond the elementary grades because to do so they must hire teachers who are both fluent in an indigenous language and “highly qualified” to teach math, science, or another content area.
The language advocates are also asking Congress to target more of the money authorized by the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act of 2006 to immersion schools rather than to less intensive efforts to teach the language. And they are preparing to ask President Barack Obama to issue an executive order that supports the revitalization of Native American languages, which is being backed by the National Congress of American Indians, a Washington-based organization for leaders of tribal governments.
A coalition called the National Alliance to Save Native Languages, founded in 2006 and based in Washington, hosted the July 13-14 summit. Sponsors of the meeting included the National Congress of American Indians, the National Indian Education Association, the National Indian Gaming Association, and Cultural Survival.
The United States has from 139 to 155 indigenous languages that still have fluent speakers, but for about half those languages, only a handful of elderly speakers remain, said Jennifer Weston, a program officer for Endangered Languages for Cultural Survival, a Cambridge, Mass.-based organization that aims to preserve the cultures and languages of indigenous peoples worldwide.
“About 70 indigenous languages in the United States have only about five to seven years with their elders,” Ms. Weston said in a presentation at the summit.
Donna Starr, an indigenous-language teacher at a school run by the Muckleshoot tribe in Washington state and the Bureau of Indian Education, an arm of the U.S. Department of the Interior, said that time is running out for her to learn from the only person in her tribe who is fluent in her tribal language—Whulshootseed. Ms. Starr said that person is a woman in her late 80s. Ms. Starr teaches an hour of Whulshootseed lessons each day to middle and high school students.
But for tribes that have a critical mass of fluent speakers, launching an immersion school is the best educational approach to prevent the disappearance of languages, language advocates said.
Leslie Harper, the director of an Ojibwe immersion school in Leech Lake, Minn., said that only about 200 of the 100,000 Ojibwe living in the United States and Canada are fluent in their tribal language. She said her extended family lost its only fluent speaker of Ojibwe with the recent death of her grandfather.
“My parents just had remnants of the language,” she said, “It’s a common tale.”
But Ms. Harper helped to start an Ojibwe immersion school that now has 25 children in grades 1-6, some of whom are highly proficient in the language, she said. The school provides a place on the reservation where everyone speaks Ojibwe.
At the same time, Ms. Harper, who is in her 30s, and some others in her generation have worked hard to acquire proficiency in the language. She said that with the help of the immersion school, she’s raised her 10-year-old son to speak Ojibwe.
A Bureau of Indian Education school hosts the immersion school and requires it to adhere to all the provisions of the No Child Left Behind law, she said.
Gloria Sly, the director of the cultural-resource center for the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, spoke at the summit about her tribe’s funding of a private immersion school, started three years ago, to teach Cherokee.
“The parents of our children are not speakers,” she said. The school now has 80 children in preschool through 4th grade who receive all instruction in Cherokee.
Immersion schools to revitalize the Native Hawaiian language have an even longer record than the schools aimed at saving the Ojibwe and Cherokee languages.
William H. “Pila” Wilson, the head of the academic-programs division for the University of Hawaii’s College of Hawaiian Language, in Hilo, helped start the first Native Hawaiian immersion school since public schools were barred from teaching the language in 1896. He said the school graduated its first high school class in 1999.
Mr. Wilson, who is not Native Hawaiian, and his wife, who is, both learned the indigenous Hawaiian language as a second language and speak it with their two children.
The College of Hawaiian Language creates curricula and certifies teachers for immersion schools in Native Hawaiian. Mr. Wilson said Hawaii now has Native Hawaiian immersion strands in 22 public schools.
But he said it can be hard to convince even Native Hawaiians that Native Hawaiian students have better academic prospects in the immersion schools than in regular public schools because parents are worried their children won’t learn English.
Mr. Wilson said he tells parents that their children are so surrounded by English in their lives outside school that they will succeed in learning English even though they are taught all their subjects in Native Hawaiian.
He maintains that intensive immersion is needed for youngsters to truly become fluent in an indigenous language and combat the powerful forces around them to speak only in English. Mr. Wilson noted that the immersion school his children attended had a 10-year record of having every student graduate up until this past school year, when one student dropped out to work in construction. Typically about 80 percent of students graduating from that school go on to college, he said.
Problem With NCLB
In a question-and-answer session at the summit, Mr. Wilson explained to Mr. Rose of the Education Department, a panelist, how provisions in the No Child Left Behind Act create obstacles for language-immersion schools.
He said students of such schools test well in English in the upper grades, after they’ve acquired literacy in English, but not in the lower grades, because at that point they’re receiving all their instruction in an indigenous language.
Mr. Wilson said parents at some of the immersion schools in Hawaii are refusing to let their children be tested in English because they believe the required testing in English is unfair.
The state, however, has not permitted the immersion schools to use tests in the Native Hawaiian language for accountability purposes under the federal law, according to Mr. Wilson, and when educators complain, the state officials say they’re just following the direction of federal officials.
On another point of contention, Mr. Wilson asked Mr. Rose for flexibility for immersion schools not to have to comply with the provision of the law on hiring “highly qualified” teachers because it’s hard to find such teachers at the middle and high school levels who are also fluent in Native Hawaiian.
Mr. Rose promised he would research Mr. Wilson’s observation that provisions of No Child Left Behind Act, which was signed into law in 2002, are in conflict with those in the Native American Languages Act. He said he would schedule an opportunity for more discussion about how the Education Department can address the issue.
Mr. Rose said he’s heard the message from tribal leaders across the country that the pending reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act needs to be more supportive of helping Native Americans preserve their languages and cultures than the NCLB version is.
Across the United States, Mr. Wilson said, about 5,000 children are attending schools where they are fully immersed in instruction in indigenous languages. More than 2,000 of those children are learning Native Hawaiian, he said.
The immersion-school opportunity “is very rare and precious,” Mr. Wilson said, “and we need to support it.”
Tags: blogs, culture, milkriverblog
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
ATH: Post-Cup Rankings
FIFA has announced the post-tournament rankings, with the United States in 12th after winning their group and exiting in the knockout round. England finished 13th and Mexico finished 14th. 2006 winners Italy are 26th, with '06 runners-up France in 29th.
FIFA World Cup Finishes
15. South Korea
17 Ivory Coast
20 South Africa
22 New Zealand
32 North Korea
World Music News Wire #14
Sanctuary on the Dance Floor: Skirball Cultural Center’s Sunset Concerts Series Revels in Global Sounds and Bringing People Together
July/August 2010 Thursday night concerts feature Parno Graszt (7/22), Natacha Atlas (7/29), Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys (8/5), La Excelencia (8/12), the Jews on Vinyl Revue (8/19), and Kenge Kenge (8/26).
The open expanse of the Skirball Cultural Center’s courtyard looks peaceful nestled under the Santa Monica Mountains, but in summer, it bursts with the raucous and joyful noise of the best of the world’s musicians: Hungarian gypsies bang milk cans and Kenyan bards wield handmade fiddles, while nonagenarian Yiddish-singing piano bar veterans and soulful Cajuns, hip salsa activists, and trans-cultural divas rub shoulders with dancing neighbors of all generations, backgrounds, and lifestyles.
This fun-loving, open-hearted haven is the Skirball Cultural Center’s Sunset Concerts Series, one of Los Angeles’ rare opportunities to embrace local, community, and global possibilities in a welcoming outdoor setting designed for dancing, celebration, and engagement. In its fourteenth year, this free Thursday evening series (July 22–August 26) aims to connect people to one another by embracing a panoply of sound that spans the planet, with emphasis on L.A. and California debut performances.
“We’re always looking for the perfect outdoor concert,” says Sunset Concerts curator Yatrika Shah-Rais, the Skirball’s music director. “People like to be outdoors and move. So we offer something that people can get involved in and really dance to. It’s festive and boisterous.”
The vibrant community spirit of Sunset Concerts, which includes a lively dance floor and, for many, a family picnic, is habit-forming, with concertgoers marking their calendars months in advance and stopping Shah-Rais on the street and asking for the line-up. It is yet another harmonious facet of the Skirball’s welcoming, community-minded mission.
“Though many think of the Skirball as a primarily Jewish organization, our mission is about inclusion,” explains Skirball Director of Programs Jordan Peimer. “World music celebrates people’s cultural heritage, the history and ideas they bring with them when they encounter new communities, the universal values that transcend time and place. We want people of all backgrounds to invest in their ethnic and cultural identities and to celebrate them within a society where all of us can feel at home.”
The series kicks off with Hungary’s Parno Graszt (July 22; L.A. premiere), known not just for finding the source of the traditions they relish; they are the source. With the distinct Roma scat-singing rhythms of their native land and their magical ability to turn everyday objects into the source for irrepressible percussive beats, the group can fill a dance floor in a heart beat—and will often come out to join their dancing fans even after their concert is supposedly over.
The Skirball’s mission runs through all the Sunset Concerts, but shines through with performers like Natacha Atlas (July 29). Her work moves from edgy Arabic-flavored electronica to poignant acoustic ballads that capture the full breadth of the singer’s multicultural heritage: Belgian-born to an English mother and a father with diverse Arabic and Sephardic roots. “In her music and in her role as UN Goodwill Ambassador against racism, she embraces the fact that diversity gives us strength and that our differences should be celebrated rather than feared,” Shah-Rais explains.
With a similar ear for reimagining their roots, the rowdy mastery of Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys (August 5) rethinks the Cajun and Creole sounds of Southern Louisiana, creating rollicking music that dares listeners to keep from trying the two-step. “Even at their most traditional,” Shah-Rais notes, “they have such a diversity of harmony and rhythms, with a rock feel.”
New York-based salsa crew La Excelencia (August 12; L.A. premiere) also gets crowds moving with their hard-hitting dance-or-bust vibe—and gets them thinking at the same time. Committed to social justice in the barrio as well as intense beats, the 13 young members of this rising salsa dura band stay true to their roots while engaging both salsa tradition and their audiences with their unflagging energy and stellar musicianship.
Unexpected musical connections will be showcased at the Jews on Vinyl Revue (August 19; L.A. premiere), a unique chance to catch some of Jewish music’s most revered veterans playing alongside up-and-coming musicians. Tying into an exhibition at the Skirball curated by music researchers and writers Josh Kun and Roger Bennett, audiences will have a rare chance to catch performers like maverick nonagenarian Yiddish songwriter Irving Fields, known for his Bagels and Bongos records; Fred Katz, who introduced solo cello into jazz and was so committed to the music that he taught jazz to nuns at a Benedictine convent; and Yemenite-Israeli diva Hedva Amrani, whose velvet voice has scored major hits from Cairo to Tokyo.
“There will also be multi-media presentations and two outdoor listening parties connected to this exhibition,” Shah-Rais relates. “It’s about bringing Jewish American pop history to life in sound and images.”
Kenya’s Kenge Kenge, the group behind the YouTube video phenomenon “Obama for Change,” (August 26; California premiere) bring an entirely different viewpoint to vibrant, exuberant life. The group transforms the traditional instruments of the Luo people, even building some instruments like orotu fiddles themselves. Fans of the Congolese musical group Konono No. 1 will instantly fall for the raw, hypnotic, and exhilarating sounds of Kenge Kenge as they combine the immediacy of an old-school field recording with the hardcore funk of the best dance tracks.
The liveliness of the music and dancing characteristic of the series is beautifully augmented by the Skirball’s spectacular setting. Concertgoers can come early and enjoy a picnic supper or make reservations for the delicious buffet dinner at Zeidler’s Café. Fans have been known to bring their own instruments for an impromptu jam session as dancers move and groove and kids play. It’s a space designed to welcome and embrace people from all walks of life, while making room for artists to push the musical envelope.
“When I’m considering who to invite to perform, there is no limit,” Shah-Rais reflects. “The more diverse we are, and the more exposure we have to other cultures, the richer we become. I’d like to share that with other people and to encourage people from totally different backgrounds and places to start enjoying each other’s culture.”
All shows begin at 8:00 p.m. General info: (310) 440-4500 or www.skirball.org. Parking is $5 for cars containing three or more people, $10 per car otherwise.
Tags: blogs, culture, music, milkriverblog
Monday, July 12, 2010
THE: Two Left Feet Opens Thursday!!!
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Friday, July 09, 2010
COM: Stupid People's Deathwishes
the local version of the Darwin awards maybe . . .
last week i was sitting on my jeep in the courthouse parking lot, taking pictures of the demolition of the old Sid Peterson Hospital (since they tried to kill me there twice, there was more than a little sense of elation about the whole thing) . . . lots of other folks were parked there as well, most with cameras, some just sitting around like it was a fourth of july picnic sans beer . . . and then some guy in his 20s or so drove past, did a double take and began rubbernecking . . . at first he seemed bewildered by all the people parked there, as though completely ignorant of the five stories worth of bricks tumbling to the ground across the street . . . and then he seemed to recognize someone in the crowd, and started waving and shouting, and plowed right into someone stopped at the red light at the intersection . . . i took a couple pics, but was too far away to capture the absolute humiliation on his face . . . priceless
then yesterday, a bit more scarily, i was driving to town (to pay my insurance incidentally) when an elderly person in a bright shiny black VW bug came sliding out of Gold's Body Shop without any look back at all that i could see . . . i was doing about 50 and left skidmarks, and off they toodled, apparently oblivious . . . i had no trouble understanding why they were leaving Gold's, and i'd almost bet they've already wrecked again . . .
Tags: blogs, culture, milkriverblog
COM: Worst Boss Ever!
THE: Two Left Feet Premiere's Thursday!
THE: Cats! Opening tonight at The Point!
MSC: Whitewater with Robert Earl!
ENV: Dragons on the Red One!
ATH: Zack Fickey's crew . . .
Thursday, July 08, 2010
COM: More from the weird murder capital of the world
MSC: Dana Cooper coming to Kerrville!
From Dana's newsletter . . .
Happy July! Are you managing to stay cool? Thermometer in my Toyota kept bouncing between 100 and 101 all day. Sometime when you are chilling out check my website for a couple of new posts. There you can listen to two of the songs I performed last March on KUT in Austin. You can also read another of my ongoing stories, "The Accident Prone Priest."
I drive north today for two shows in Minnesota with the remarkable singer songwriter Brandon Sampson. Brandon, along with his band Six Mile Grove, has done a remarkable job of organizing Americana Showcases throughout Minnesota. This Friday, July 9 Brandon and I play a house concert in Roseville, MN along with Darren Jackson. The three of us perform the following night, July 10 at Jitter's Java Cafe and Wine Bar in Saux Center, MN. All details listed below.
I return to Nashville for a few days then down to Texas for a great string of concerts, parties and the Kerrville Kids Music Camp. I will be in Galveston, Houston, Kerrville, Tomball, San Antonio, New Braunfels and Amarillo. If you live in Texas chances are I will be singing somewhere nearby. See all the details for shows below.
Have I mentioned lately how much I love playing house concerts? Well, I do. This is the most intimate, memorable way to hear some of your favorite singer songwriters in your own home surrounded by people who share your love for live music. All you need do is invite 20 or more friends who can toss $10 to $20 in the hat, gather everyone in your living room and the concert is yours. I want to play for you and your friends, so please contact Terri Stewart at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell her if you are interested. She can compare calendars and let you know when I can be in your area.
Thank you for your support of independent music. Special thanks to all those good folks in radio who are playing tracks from "The Conjurer" all over the country and around the world.
Tags: blogs, culture, music, milkriverblog
THE: Cats at The Point!!!
CATS Pounces On Stage Friday
Andrew Lloyd Weber's whimsical musical "Cats" pounces onto The Point Theatre outdoor stage Friday, July 9 at 8:30 p.m. The play, which will be produced for the first time in the Hill Country, is directed by Jim Weisman, who brought to the stage last summer's hits, "Treasure Island", Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," and 2008's "Robin Hood."
Opening night festivities include a pre-show reception at 7 p.m. in the gallery in honor of the current exhibit Hill Country Chronicles.
The Tony Award winning musical is the second longest running show on Broadway and is based on T.S. Eliot's "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats." The show is appropriate for all ages.
"Cats" follows seven generations of cats that have gathered for a family reunion and celebration called the Jellicle Cats Ball. The Point cast includes 18 adult cats and 9 kittens.
CART Services for the hearing impaired will be offered at the Saturday, July 10 performance. Family Night is Sunday, July 11 when all tickets are priced at only $8. For more information, call the box office at 830-367-5121 or visit www.hcaf.com.
Tags: blogs, culture, theatre, milkriverblog
Wednesday, July 07, 2010
The Daily Soccer
ATH: A few little observations . . .
. . . with more to come later
a) my dream final is in place! i don't believe i could have picked it to shape up better than this . . . and it's more than a couple of faves wending through the brackets . . . a change here and there in group standings could have altered everything . . . but had you asked me what final i would most like to see a month ago, this would be it . . .
b) i already imagine that there will be no way, no want, to pick a winner . . . i am simply going to sit back and enjoy my two favorite teams (yes, in addition to the US) play what i hope to be more brilliant soccer . . .
c) Spain simply dominated
d) American commentators are blisteringly shallow, especially the columnist types . . . one of those blind spots has to do with coaches shifting lineups in order to adjust to the opposition, often not for punishment or for slumps . . . so, i'll say again, Torres is not at top form, BUT he changes the game . . . against Paraguay i believe his play in the first half created a pattern for Paraguay, and when Spain shifted they found a wide open situation that led to the winner . . . today was the opposite, Spain set up so that Villa was focused on, and allowed Puyol and others, subs included (Torres too), to be free . . . you saw the two should have beens in the final minutes . . . that all came from knowing Germany's likely response, especially in light of missing Muller . . . i am sure Torres would like to find the goal as much as anyone, but he's an incredible workhorse who changes the dynamic of the game, and i think commentators have just been stupid about this, as if he had no value at all except by scoring . . . so enough of that rant, at least until sunday when we show our ass again with our unknowing view of the game . . .
e) those same commentators need to brush up on the stunningly simple offside rule . . . today there was a round of mea culpas after yesterday's game when everyone insisted Holland's second goal was offside -- it wasn't, and a correct reading of the rule would have made that obvious . . . you won't see it mentioned as "controversial" in the foreign press, or in today's American press once they realized how goofy they were . . .
f) which finally brings me around to my final comment of this initial post -- that i think Germany suffered more from the loss of Muller than anyone, me included, thought would be the case . . .
g) i will be sky-high until, through and long after sunday's game . . .
more, later notes:
g) i forgot to point out the New York Times' inability to grasp that Holland has been in the final twice before -- they repeat ad infinitum that it was once, in 1974 . . . . wondering if the NYT was around in 1978 or did they take a hiatus?
h) and the Times twice today has confused Ronaldo and Ronaldinho . . . hard to do on so many levels . . . except i guess similarity of spelling . . .
i) the three most talked about 'hand of God" offenders are all out of the cup -- Suarez, Maradona and Henry . . .
more later, later notes:
j) still much debate about the Suarez handball and how to handle that . . . a lot of the debate has to do with whether it was cheating . . . well, i, like many others, think that it IS cheating in a way, but aren;t most things called for fouls? there are accidental things that happen where still the fair thing to do is to award a kick -- caught by offside trap (in which case i'm not sure which side is the 'honest' side), legitimate charges on the ball in which momentum just takes a toll . . . what i see as the Suarez difference is that it transcended cheating -- it was theft, depriving a nation, a continent, of their fair right to play . . .
k) and if a ball is put in the net, and can be called out for a handball . . . why can't you call one in that was prevented by a handball . . .
Tags: blogs, culture, soccer, milkriverblog
The Daily Soccer
The Daily Soccer
The Daily Soccer
The Daily Soccer
The Daily Soccer
The Daily Stuff
The Daily Soccer
The Daily Stuff
The Daily Stuff
Tuesday, July 06, 2010
The Daily Stuff
The Daily Soccer
The Daily Silliness
The Daily Soccer
The Daily Soccer
World Music News Wire #12
White Skin, Black Blood: Salif Keita’s Golden Voice Transforms Social Stigma into Global Grooves on La Différence
The descendant of warrior princes, the son of two black African parents, Afro-pop pioneer Salif Keita was born “white.” Inheriting albinism, a lack of skin pigmentation, Keita instantly stood out among other Africans and stood out as a spokesperson for tolerance in all forms.
La Différence, the legendary singer addresses this deeply personal issue–albinism in Africa—and gives it an urgent global resonance that takes his songs from Bamako to Beirut. As Keita’s famed “golden voice” cathartically croons in the title track, "I'm a black man, my skin is white and I like it, it's my difference/I'm a white man, my blood is black, I love that, it's the difference that's beautiful."
The distinction is often interpreted as an ill omen in his native Mali, and invited a life of ridicule, making Keita an outcast in his own community. Society, including public schools in Mali, perpetuates harmful beliefs about albinos, and they are often shunned, ridiculed, and even killed for superstitious purposes.
Although he and others have come to terms with albinism, Keita has struggled long and desperately with the stigma attached to his skin color. Though born into a noted caste of musicians with direct links to Sounjata Keita–the heroic 13th-century warrior-prince who edified the ancient Malian Empire–Keita was forbidden to play music growing up. He was also disowned by his father, kicked out of school, and rejected by the local aristocracy.
Filled with unrealized musical ambitions, Keita had no choice but to leave Mali as a young man. Armed with the strength of his convictions, he travelled to neighboring Ivory Coast, then Paris, London, and New York, where his skin color could not keep him from expressing his artistic vision. His perseverance paid off throughout the 1970s and 1980s, as he became an internationally recognized icon thanks to his gravely voice, innovative musical arrangements, and profoundly poetic lyrics.
In 1997, Keita’s fame helped him to overcome the stigma attached to albinism that persisted in West Africa, allowing him to make a triumphant return to Mali. Cautiously re-entering a community that once shunned him, he discovered a newfound acceptance, which allowed him to re-establish roots there, including building a studio in the capital of Bamako.
La Différence is the latest in a trilogy of acclaimed acoustic oriented recordings (Moffou 2002, M’Bemba 2006) that were primarily recorded at Keita’s Bamako studio. The intimate acoustic environment of La Différence allows Keita’s vocal timbres to shimmer and soar, highlighting their poetic nuances and the poignant themes of his lyrics. While the album is dedicated to the plight of albinos in Africa, leading with its title track that aims to increase the global awareness of this cause, the remainder of the album delves into a wide range of social and political issues.
Over a thick sanguine female vocal chorus and rhythmic guitar riffs, “Ekolo d’Amour” seeks to inform listeners about the ecological devastation that has befallen Africa. Fusing the powerful traditional tones of the 21-stringed kora with a contemporary guitar-rich, down-tempo, polyrhythmic groove, “San Ka Na” cites a specific example of ecological destruction, alerting audiences of the need to protect Africa’s Niger River, upon whose banks Keita played as a child. With a rough and urgent voice, Keita scorns local politicians for their neglect and complacency regarding such problems.
These compositions also point to the global nature of this album, which was recorded across three continents, including sessions in Los Angeles, Paris, and Bamako, among others. String arrangements written by noted producer Patrice Renson (M., Vanessa Paradis, Ben Ricour, Amadou and Mariam) and recorded in Beirut with Lebanese trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf give the album a subtle orchestral depth. On several songs, the plucked strings of a Middle-Eastern oud mingle with the West African ngoni (lute), creating a swirling melodic texture of Arab-infused African tones.
La Différence also finds the singer re-imagining a few previous recordings with a new palette of sounds. Harnessing the deeply echoing, bluesy textures of guest guitarists Bill Frisell and Seb Martel, an intimate rendition of 1995’s “Folon” offers a stripped-down, horn-absent version that allows Keita’s haunting voice to pierce the mellow cosmopolitan soundscape. With producer John Henry, Keita reaches back to the 1970s, recalling his days with the Ambassadeurs du Motel band in Bamako, with a new incarnation of “Seydou.”
Departing from the original track (“Seydou Bathily”), this softer version bathes Keita’s voice in a rich sonic world of resonant vocal refrains, Arabic-tinged string arrangements, interlocking guitar tones, and a multilayered percussion ensemble that merges sounds from Africa and the Middle East. Given that these songs have been refined by Keita and his band over the course of many years, some for decades, it is no wonder why his delivery comes across with a relaxed, sophisticated confidence.
Further linking La Différence with Keita’s long musical career, the melody of “Djélé” is decorated by the intricate balafon work of Keletigui Diabaté, a monumental figure in Malian music and one of Keita’s most faithful musical partners, helping him to develop as a guitarist over the course of almost four decades. Drawing on his international sojourns, “Djélé” reinforces Keita’s cosmopolitan approach to this album as the breathy tones of an accordion dance with a concert piano over top a bed of deep electric bass, legato orchestral strings, plucked African lutes, and a global array of polyrhythmic percussive timbres.
While listeners may lose themselves in the sophisticated blend of sounds found on La Différence, Keita has not lost site of the ultimate inspiration for this project–the men and women who still suffer with the stigma and health risks of albinism in Africa. As Keita remarked in a recent Mondomix interview, “It’s very, very important for me to help albino people, because they need help, and it is my duty, because I am albino, too.”
To combat the prejudices that regularly threaten albino Africans, the singer has pledged that all the proceeds from this work will be funnelled into his foundation, Salif Keita pour les Albinos.
Since 2001, this charity has tirelessly worked to erase the stigma attached to albinos in Africa, and provide care and assistance to albinos in need of refuge and medical attention, including protection from the sun. Keita knows its dangers first hand, losing his sister to skin cancer in the 1990s. Over the past four years, Keita has donated proceeds from record sales and tours to purchase sunscreen for Africans in need, and build a school and health clinic in Bamako.
La Différence is an intimate journey into Keita’s personal struggles. Singing a hymn of universal tolerance Keita poetically claims, "some of us are black, some are white/all that difference has a purpose…for us to complete each other/let everyone receive love and dignity/the world will be a more beautiful place.”
ATH: Some Last Minute World Cup Thoughts
Down to four teams, and this afternoon we will be down to three . . . here's a few notes beforehand . . .
A) i'm rooting for the Netherlands and Spain. i have a soft spot for Germany as well, but it's larger for Spain . . .
B) why? . . . Holland was the team that changed the game of soccer forever, and for the better in my estimation, and that was during my playing and early coaching years. i was on to Clockwork Orange, long before most Americans had any clue what was going on and were mired in 60's British soccer (where some of them still are) . . . needless to say all of my coaching since evolved from those early ideas -- first touch, first opportunity, changing shape and positions, the tornado, multiplying forwards, etc., etc., and so it should come as no surprise that i credit them with all the successes i had . . . and Johann Cruyff was my favorite player, along with Pele, both for his magic on the ball and for his classiness as a human being . . . no secret too that i consider those two the best players the world has ever even seen . . . Spain i like because they were coached by Cruyff who initiated the fluid and fast style they play now, because i am enamored of Iniesta and Torres, and am a new convert to Villa . . . and because i think if there is an up and coming heir to the title of best player it is Bojan Krkic, who is young, but i was dismayed to see him not included on Spain's cup roster . . . nevertheless, the team comes closest to my style of play, and i'd love to see them win . . . nothing against Germany, they are a machine, and a pretty dang exciting machine . . . Uruguay, Forlan is fun to watch, but i am in no forgiving mood for their lousy handball against Ghana . . . the wrong team advanced there . . .
C) was really nice to see Fernando Torres start the other day . . . he created no real chances, but i thought he was dangerous every time he touched the ball, which was a lot as he was far and away the hardest working human on the field for his half . . . he is amazing to watch, and i hope he gets his time in tomorrow . . .
D) i think i'll post a long blog sometime this week about the mistaken belief that soccer still has to catch on in America . . . part of the problem is all the old-school writers with big columns getting to write about something they are ignorant of . . . let someone write who gets it . . . more to come
E) which partly brings me to the idea that the beauty of soccer, and it's difficulty for old-school Americans, is that it's a players' game, not a coach's game making an understanding of the game (not just the rules) crucial to its enjoyment . . .
F) another of those things Americans don't get is that offsides is NOT a difficult or complex rule to understand, not at all, it takes me sixty seconds to explain it . . . the complexity of it comes from the calling of on the field in play . . . a linesman has to be focused in two places -- the line and the touch of the ball in order to make a correct decision . . . you never know in advance which that touch is, even on set plays, so in effect every touch of the ball has to be compared to player position . . . it is nerve-wracking, exhausting, delicate, and pretty impossible to get right most of the time . . . i think we should be applauding the ones they get right . . . and maybe using replay if (and only if) a push results in a goal, to check that all folks were in place -- easy to do post-goal when time is being tracked . . .
Tags: blogs, culture, soccer, milkriverblog