With the Holidays in full swing, I find myself getting more and more cheer deprived... so we might all need a little energy boost. Here's some super-positive fuel from Blitz the Ambassador from his set at WOMEX 2011 in Copenhagen.
The multi-level Koncerthuset was the setting for four nights of world music of every possible shade, from ethnographic to eclectic. Blitz the Ambassador is surely one of the latter, and one of those hard to categorize artists; he's an amalgam of Ghanaian and Western influences, taking what he likes best from each to create his music and his message. If you think you hear Afrobeat, Hip Hop or HighLife coming off the stage, you're right. It's all there, and the music had the audience swinging and swaying.
"Akwaaba" from Blitz's most recent release Native Sun is a fairly straightforward song, that explains itself.
The Embassy Ensemble provided a tight backup (albeit a few a"brown notes" on the horns... but hey, it's hard to play and dance at the same time) and deserve mention: Ezra Brown on sax, Clemens Braun on trombone, the appropriately named Sydney Driver on kit, Raja Cassis on guitar and Ramon de Bruyn on bass.
To find out more about the artist go to blitz.mvmt.com
For more of Michal's original music videos, visit inter-muse.com
When we launched the ViewChange Online Film Contest we encouraged entries of all genres – and we got them! One of the most creative – and certainly the catchiest – entry was Peter Jansen’s “Trash is Cash,” which won the contest’s “Sustainability” award.
Peter Jansen has worked as art director and production designer in film and TV for 25 years. He now lives and works in Kenya, finding creative ways to combat poverty in the slums of Nairobi. There, Jansen discovered a group of motivated youth who use hip-hop music to call attention to an important issue in the city—recycling. Jansen writes in the Huffington Post about the youth group Walfame (the Kings) and the goal they are trying to achieve through hip-hop:
“They communicate through music: the message in this way is very powerful because music has long been a favorite pastime of teens and has influenced the minds of youths all over the world, and they use their music to raise awareness, inspire action, and accelerate the worldwide movement to reduce extreme poverty. Music meets life, seeing beauty, giving hope and alternatives. All eight of them are living in an African slum. Living on less than one dollar a day. Not turning to a life of idleness, drug abuse and crime but acting positively and being a positive example for all the youths who live in poverty.
Jansen created the music video “Trash is Cash” to highlight the positive, transformative powers of the music and activism. Watch the talents of these hip-hop stars below:
I first met Josh Norek about ten years ago when he sent me a low budget video of his Latino-Jewish band the Hip Hop Hoodíos. It was a song about Chanukah sung in Spanish and English, and there were plenty of surreal shots of the "Bagel Babe" - a hot young thing wearing a bra made from that circular staple - even in a Jacuzzi! I sensed there was an unusual mind behind this.
Further down the road, Josh sent me an email about a new event: the Latin Alternative Music Conference (LAMC) that he was co-organizing in New York City. I wished him well. He continued to send me press releases about bands I had never heard of but which were pretty damned good. I started to trust his taste.
Five years ago, he helped Tomas Cookman launch the company Nacional Records. Between them, they had tons of experience managing and promoting "Rock en Español" acts, and soon they began aggregating the strongest roster of Latin Alternative Music extant. Then, prior to the past presidential election, Josh sent an email around, saying he was taking a sabbatical (or should that be shabattical?) from the music biz, and donating significant time to his favorite grassroots organization, Voto Latino, working to register and activate young Latinos in battleground states to get the vote out. Since then he has also gotten his radio show "The Latin Alternative" up and syndicated. So when I heard that Josh was going to be in town, I jumped at the chance to interview him. His time as usual, was tight; we had just half an hour, so we plowed into it despite the noise from construction on an adjacent floor.
No matter where we fall on the immigration issue, the undeniable fact is that the burgeoning Latino population is changing the face and culture of the USA. I wanted Josh to talk about this, to reflect on the relationship between music, demographics and activism. He did that and more; his conversation was so far ranging that I may have to present those parts of it that dealt specifically with Rock en Español, Nacional, the LAMC and the state of the music industry in general, at a later date.
This post covers a lot of territory: electronica, performance art and hip hop!
Lim Geong was the first person I absolutely knew I wanted to interview when I went to Taiwan, because his work is right up there with the best electronica, and it always retains a strong Asian flavor. His story is unusual too, in that he started out with huge success as a pop singing star, and rejected that role to, as he says, "go from the front of the stage to behind the scenes." He has since scored many movies, and even appeared as an actor in quite a few. To me, he's practically a metaphor for what Taiwan has gone through: he expressed the freedom from martial law when he sang his big 1990 hit "Marching Forward" and then followed his star reaching out to the rest of Asia and the world, with music of the digital age.
On the other hand, the gentle acoustic venture "A Moving Sound" is the baby of Scott Prairie and Yun-Ya Hsieh, aka Mia. Mia studied interdisciplinary arts with Meredith Monk in the USA where she met Scott, and together they have brought the rather Western concept of performance art to the island, bringing dance, theater, music and plenty of audience participation together.
Hip-hop is of course no stranger to Taiwan, but Kou Chou Ching are the pre-eminent conscious rap band there. I first learned about them through their wonderful video "Black Heart", a computer-generated animation based on Chinese puppet theater (still a high art in Taiwan) and flavored with both classical and traditional sounds. But the song is an indictment of amok capitalism that creates the black-hearted businessman, who in turn sends poisonous products into the marketplace. Kou Chou Ching is gradually tuning in Taiwanese youth to the need for more engagement with their world.
The Hip Hop Hoodios are a unique band who layer Latin and American Jewish cultures over rap. We've broadcast their videos "Ochos Kandelikas" and "Gorito Cosmico" and thoroughly enjoyed the band's cheesy, smart (and smartass) attitude. I really like their latest video "Times Square," but it simply won't fit into the definition of "world music" with a shoehorn. And you KNOW I'm a moderate when it comes to that category. But still, the subject is close to my heart, so I'm presenting it here anyway.
I went to high school in Manhattan, on 46th Street and 6th Avenue, and so I have watched the gentrification of Times Square with a combination of nostalgia and unease. I don't know if it makes sense to mourn the passing of an area that was admittedly dangerous and seedy. It's easy to say the place has "lost its edge" and is now totally "Disneyfied." Yet, for some reason, I do feel that there is something that has been lost...and what about the ongoing re/de-construction on the Bowery (lower 3rd Avenue) where a new generation of young professionals will soon be living in renovated flophouses? On the bright side, maybe they can exorcise the sad karma of a million ruined lives. But what has happened to those souls who used to inhabit both of these urban areas; the impoverished, the hopeless and the addicted. Where do they go now? Is our trend towards gentrification simply putting a bandaid over a larger social wound?
This week we are showing Democracy in Dakar about the role that Hip Hop culture played in the last presidential election in Senegal. Even if you are not a fan of Hip Hop I think you will find this to be a meaty, thought provoking documentary, particularly in the light of the recent US election. Our own ambivalence toward the US system was in full evidence prior to November 4th. There were fears of vote tampering, election rigging, and the campaign itself had many of us tearing our hair over any number of issues-- whether it was smear tactics or the unbelievable fixation of our media on trivialities… or our fears that the media itself was a pawn of darker forces. So it is fascinating to get this insight into what was happening on the ground in Senegal through the eyes of MCs both established (Xuman, DJ Awadi) and on the rise. Perhaps it will stimulate you into researching the track record of the current president there; or maybe get you wondering about the nature of power; how one gets it, and how one keeps it.
This kind of documentary that straddles entertainment and issues, is typical of Link TV. I hope you'll take a moment to make a pledge while our Music and Culture mini pledge is still running, and show that you understand and support this very important and unusual programming.
This week, to coincide with our coverage of the Democratic convention, we are rolling out programming about positive change. My favorite (but of course, I am somewhat biased towards music) is Fangafrika, about a Hip Hop festival in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. In this documentary you will meet passionate, engaged, and engaging young people who are dedicated to using the microphone as a platform for social comment. You won't see any bling, but you will hear a lot of singing, rhyming, and improvising about serious issues. The film is a Who's Who in African hip hop, from veterans like Pee Froiss, the members of Daara J, and Positive Black Soul to up and coming hot acts. And while it's true that the countries of Africa still have their problems, I'm an optimist, and think that we are going to see a steady improvement. Maybe it's the inevitability of the globalized economy - or maybe the MCs of Fangafrika give me hope.