Entries from April 2010 ↓

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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Enraptured in the Harmonies of Winters’ Bittersweet Song.

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Cellist Stephanie Winters describes the sound of her 2004 debut album, Through the Storm, rereleased in an expanded version last year, as “beautiful sadness.”

In Portuguese the word is saudade—a sadness that makes one want to live again. In a spiritual sense this recording is my “blues”. I do not use that word to describe a musical style, but to suggest the transcendent honesty which musical expression enables.

seatedbywindow-lowIndeed, Winters, right, through often bottomless multitracking, saturates the newly added “Mercy Street,” made famous by Peter Gabriel; her vision of Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman”; or Thomas Dorsey’s renowned gospel standard, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” with a somber cry. The whole work breathes deep mood, yet not melancholy. In a way, it feels like a film, a wordless one, perhaps, telling a story of love found, made, lost, and unforgotten.

Winters has performed and recorded with Richie Havens, Enya, Corrine Bailey Rae, Anne Murray, Paula Cole, and the O’Jays, among many others.

Stephanie Winters is the guest today on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, April 23, at 2 pm ET.

You can hear her ideas and music 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.

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.

How I’d Like To Fly the Friendly Skies.

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This week, Miramar, FL-based Spirit Airlines announced that, beginning in August, passengers would be charged up to $45 per bag, not to check luggage, but to carry it onto the plane.

Their foul money grab puts a cherry on top of what airline passengers have known, seemingly, for a generation: Unless you’re rollin’ solo, above, flying is the pits.

Not from outside the plane, however. It’s in that world, where flying’s grace and beauty is palpable, that aerial photographer Erik Hildebrandt reigns.

erikHildebrandt, right, has released over half a dozen books of his work through his own company, Cleared Hot Media, Inc. (The title is a military expression meaning one has permission to engage a target.) These include Anytime, Baby: Hail and Farewell to the U.S. Navy F-14 Tomcat and his Front Row Center: Inside the Great American Air Show series, now up to four volumes.

Erik Hildebrandt is the guest today on this rebroadcast from my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, April 9, at 2 pm ET. During our talk, we discussed the process of making pictures, how airplanes are built, the notion of warfare and the reasons for it, and more.

As well, in a few weeks, in a never-before-aired, upcoming piece, I’ll talk to him about his work as a self-publisher, that being an increasingly meaningful preoccupation in this era of media independence.

You can learn more about his work by visiting his Vulture’s Row web site, or by tuning in today 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.