Entries Tagged 'Pop Culture' ↓

When DAM Breaks, the Sound of Palestinian Freedom Gets Unleashed.

Palestinian hip-hop trio DAM, above, wield the power of hip-hop as a force against the Israeli occupation of their homeland—the world’s longest—and their minds as well.

Formed in 1998 by brothers Suhell and Tamer Nafar, center and right (friend Mahmoud Jreri, left, was added later), they initially sought to make party records that would earn them cool points with peers and the ladies. Then it was still “just for fun,” says Tamer. They completed a six-track EP titled Stop Selling Drugs, the first time any Palestinian had ever recorded rap music.

What politicized them, however, was the Second Intifada of 2000…and the music of 2Pac. As Tamer poignantly told me, for my March 2008 piece in VIBE, “Straight Outta Palestine,”

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Wish You Were Here.

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The disappearing landscape is an issue in all communities, and the question of how to preserve the visual character of towns, cities and rural areas is always pressing.

This is even the case in Havana, Cuba’s capital and largest city, where political and economic isolation have compelled Cubans to retain the use of structures longer than many urban centers might.

Yet Havana is, indeed, changing. It’s a turn that Cathryn Griffith, in her new book, Havana Revisited: An Architectural Heritage, covers through an unusual technique of matching early 20th century postacards, bought primarily through the internet, to modern-day views, like these of Cuba’s famed Centro Gallago, above. Through this unusual technique, Griffith not only documents the historical form of the island’s architectural heritage, but creates a template for how communities may, perhaps, preserve that tradition in any place.

Cathryn Griffith is a guest today on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, April 16, at 2 pm ET.

screen31But first we’ll speak with Peter Pennoyer and Anne Walker. Pennoyer is the principal partner of Peter Pennoyer Architects and chairman of the Institute for Classical Architecture and Classical America. Walker holds a degree in historic preservation from Columbia University, and has co-authored three books with Pennoyer. Their newest, The Architecture of Grosvenor Atterbury, tells the story the late 19th / early 20th century architect whose classical forms, resistant to modernist trends developing in Europe and other places, led to some of the most beautiful structures of his era. Many are well-preserved, even now, and commissions like these stone barns for the Rockefeller family, right, or his design of New York City’s Forest Hills Gardens, continue to delight and inspire.

You can hear Peter Pennoyer’s, Anne Walker’s, and Cathryn Griffith’s ideas by tuning in at 2 pm ET. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our live stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.

Malcolm McLaren, 1946-2010

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The New York Times reports the death of svengali, impressario, and iconoclast Malcolm McLaren, above, today, at the age of 64.

His companion of many years, Young Kim, confirmed that Mr. McLaren died on Thursday, and said that he died of mesothelioma at a hospital in Switzerland.

never_mind_the_bollocksMcLaren is best known, and will be most remembered, for assembling and managing the sneering punk prototypes, the Sex Pistols. Fearsome and outrageous, especially in an era that had just come through yacht rock and disco, the quartet’s sole, 1977 studio album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, right, remains one of the most influential rock albums ever. (This fact later led McLaren, with typical, consumate bombast, to declare himself “the inventor of punk.”)

I didn’t know about any of that, however, until much, much later. I didn’t know who McLaren even was until one afternoon in 1982, when driving down Commercial Ave. in Freeport, listening to my ’75 Impala’s radio, I heard the opening wails of his agglomeration with New York’s World’s Famous Supreme Team, “Buffalo Gals.”

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“Funny, when my dad talks to me from the Great Beyond in a Nike ad, he says ‘Mostly, we watch people make whoopie.'”

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That’s author Colson Whitehead (John Henry Days) in the hed, on Twitter, taking a little spit out of Tiger Woods’s new Nike ad, above.

In the spot, the disembodied voice of Woods’ late father and golf mentor, Earl, who died of a heart attack in 2006, is heard urging the athlete to deeper self-examination and introspection:

“Tiger, I am more prone to be inquisitive, to promote discussion. I want to find out what your thinking was. I want to find out what your feelings are. And did you learn anything?”

And that’s it. That, and a very controlled, low-key camera dolly-in to Woods’ expressive, soulful eyes.

The spot, which ran before and after Tiger teed off during the Masters Tournament, is the first Nike piece with Tiger to air, post the golfer’s massive Bimbo-gate sex scandal. (During the controversy, over a dozen women surfaced, claiming they’d slept with the married superstar.)

don_kirshner_2_120This commercial moves me to ask the question my sister and I always did after watching each lame Kansas video on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, right, late Saturday nights when we were kids: What does it mean?

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A Public Enemy Sure Shot.

screen1Photo by Christy Aumer/The Daily Iowan—Inset photo by Harry Allen

screen2You’re watching one of the highlights from a great day in Iowa City, and Fear of a Black Planet, Twenty Years Later, right, hosted by the University of Iowa last week.

As yours truly gestures, above left, event organizer Kembrew McLeod, Keith Shocklee, Hank Shocklee, and Chuck D eye a monitor from the table. It displays that black & white, composite photo, by me, of momentary levity from our WBAU days in the early ’80s. In that image are, l-to-r, Chuck, Keith, radio show host Bill Stephney, Andre “Dr. Dré” Brown, Flavor Flav, Tyrone “T-Money” Kelsie, and his unidentified friend. Good times, friends, front and back.

Kaiku: The Sensual Sound of Cold Finland’s Hot Heart.

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finlandmapNew York-based vocalists Jaana Kantola and Paula Jaakkola, above, record as Kaiku (“echo”), mostly singing in Finnish, the vowel-rich tongue of their icy, Northern European homeland, right. (Fully 25% of Finland rests within the Arctic Circle. In winter, at the country’s most boreal point, the cold season lasts seven months, void of sunrises for 51 days.)

But if your stereotype of Scandinavia is frigid weather; clean, efficient municipalities; socialized medicine; and people whose dispositions are as nippy as the climate, Kaiku’s new, self-produced album, Usva, may send you for a delightfully ecstatic loop.

l_a92d0c320d5c4781b7835b4bd5dd1f2fUsva—the word means “mist,” evoking the hazy confusion of unrequited love—layers lush soundscapes that more evoke a warm Mediterranean sun than a distant, gray, Nordic light.

Artfully blending accordion, cello, piano, and bass on compositions like “Stay Your Hand,” “Illusions,” and the title track, Jaakola and Kantola, above, consider their ardent, “organic sound,” not some Culture Day demo but, “a mixture of rhythmic world music and traditional Finnish songs.” “Sure we come from Finland,” Kantola notes, “but our music is more like via Finland.”

Jaana Kantola and Paula Jaakkola are the guests today on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, April 2, at 2 pm ET.

Further, if you’re in New York City next week, Kaiku will be playing, Wednesday, April 7th, 8 pm, at Fat Baby (112 Rivington Street; corner of Essex).

You can hear these thoughtful artists’ ideas by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our live stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.

Black is Definitely Back: Chuck D, Hank & Keith Shocklee, and I Invade the Heartland, Armed with Historic Photos and Fear of a Black Planet.

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250px-jamestkirkThis is amazing: I’m back in Iowa; the Breadbasket of the Nation; the state that Ashton Kutcher, Ann Landers, Slipknot, T-Boz, gymnast Shawn Johnson, and Elijah Wood all call home, and that, in 223 years, will be the birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise, right.

Why am I here? Well, tomorrow, April 1st, marks one year to the day since I last visited the University of Iowa, to screen photographs that I took during my early life with Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Hank Shocklee, and others who formed our pre-Public Enemy crew.

I do this as part of a presentation I’ve been giving at schools around the country, titled Shooting the Enemy: My Life in Pictures with the People Who Became Public Enemy. (For example, last week I spoke at the University of Wisconsin: Madison, and had an excellent time.)

Well, this time, the University of Iowa has upped the doggone ante: For three months, now through June 27th, prints from my archives—ranging in size from 11 in. x 14 in. to 30 in. x 40 in.— will be shown by the University of Iowa Museum of Art (UIMA).

It’s part of UIMA’s exhibition, Two Turntables and a Microphone: Hip-Hop Contexts featuring Harry Allen’s “Part of the Permanent Record: Photos from the Previous Century,” curated by UI professors Kembrew McLeod (Copyright Criminals) and Debroah Whaley, and on display at the Iowa Memorial Union’s Black Box Theater. (Here’s an interview with me about the images, my thoughts on hip-hop, and more.) That morning, I’ll even be talking with a photography class about the work!

800px-herky_and_tigerhawkThis, in and of itself, is incredible to me, and would have been more than reason enough to return to the original home of the indigenous Ioway people, and now the Hawkeyes, right. This is the first showing of my work since the 2007 Eyejammie show that got the ball rolling.

But McLeod didn’t create that über-cool graphic, above, just for me. Here’s the really ill part; the detail that throws this all up to the level of major sickness:

today2At 7:00 p.m. in Iowa City’s historic, 98-year-old, recently restored Englert Civic Theatre,
right, I’ll be lecturing and showing some of those those images, again, but with a twist: I’ll be doing it as part of a live panel, featuring Chuck, Hank, and Keith Shocklee, that then leads into a discussion on the making of P.E.’s 1990 album, Fear of a Black Planet.
Released on April 10 that year, this new month marks the work’s 20th anniversary.

publicNot only have I never done a, no pun intended, public event on Fear, right, not to mention one with its original creators, but I’ve never presented my photos—of them—with them in the audience! I may break down in tears from the emotion of it all, y’all. Then, to top it off, there will be a rare, live performance by the Bomb Squad…which definitely takes me back to the era of my original pictures of Hank, below, Keith, and Chuck.

Though I know some of you won’t be in Iowa today, check this out: the four of us will be appearing on KRUI, the university’s excellent, student-run radio station, at 1:30 pm ET/12:30 pm CT, and the conversation will be streamed live, so definitely hit that.

hankwtmk0000And, don’t forget: If you go to, or are associated with, a university that would welcome seeing Shooting the Enemy, right, please get at me. Or, if you’re a scholar or programmer who values primary voices, and would like to have me present at your school or in concert with your department, this year or next year, please let me know: Drop me a note at HAllen@HarryAllen.info, or tweet me @HarryAllen, and, as Chuck D says, let’s get it on.

The Official Iowa Caucus: The State That Elected Obama Casts Their Vote For Public Enemy, Chuck D, the Bomb Squad, and the Media Assassin in a Black Planet Summit.

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Stay tuned! More details tomorrow!

“Scarface School Play.”

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That’s the title of this YouTube, above, and I’m not even going to try and top it with a clever pun. (Thanks to Erica K. of The Feminista Files for forwarding it, though.)

In the short, tykes recreate legendary moments from Brian De Palma’s 1983 classic, including the bloody shootout climax and demise of Tony Montana. (As you can see, above, a mound of popcorn makes a life-sized stand-in for Scarface’s desktop supply of coke, and the tiny actor has channeled the narco-mogul’s contemptuous sneer perfectly. Also, here, the word fudge repeatedly replaces a shorter, punchier expletive.)

From where the hell did this piece of genius, albeit evil genius, come?

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Witch Better Have My Potion.

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Rumpelstiltskin reappears as the central villain in Shrek‘s fourth installment, Shrek Forever After (formerly Shrek Goes Fourth). Looks like he brought the whole coven for yo’ behind.

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

[via IMP Awards]