In the first track, “Fight for You,” he raps over a beat and sample mix played by his DJ (DJ Slow Motion, who is behind the desk with him). It’s interesting in that he raps with himself (his voice is played by the DJ as well, not looped). His singing voice in this song tends towards the whiny which I don’t care for, especially since his main voice is so powerful.
The second track, “Make It In” he plays on an acoustic guitar. The song is clever with lots of amusing asides and slight laughs in the lyrics too. he more or less raps the verses but sings the chorus.
For the final song, he switches to keyboard (he says he learned piano at a very young age) and he plays a simple, uplifting ballad called “Beautiful.” There’s a funny moment when he asks the crowd to sing along and then the DJ plays a sample of a crowd singing a long, which makes Mali laugh.
Mali is a pretty positive guy–he talks about things getting better and about himself really making a difference through his music. It sounds like prideful boasting (and it will be interesting to see if he really does take off), but he also seems sincere in his desire for happiness. The set reminds me a little of K’naan, at least in spirit.
[READ: June 19, 2014] “The Christmas Miracle”
After really enjoying “The Toast” a few months ago, I was delighted to get another story from Rebecca Curtis and her bristly narrator.
The story opens with the comment that cats were dying, “This happens, of course.” But in this case they were dying in gory ways not to mention the cats belonged to her nieces. The girls had seen the dead cats. The narrator also points out that it is now Christmas, “The most magical, horrible, spiritual, dark, and stressful time of the year.”
Like with another Curtis story, this one is being told to someone, in this case, someone named K, a Russian Communist and “Jewish person who doesn’t believe Jesus was the son of God.”
The narrator explains her situation–she was teaching creative writing but hadn’t written anything herself in years She had contracted Lyme disease (does this all sound familiar from her other stories?). The disease causes inflammations and bouts of madness and “frank or rude speech, usually set off by eating carbohydrates.”
I love the way that Curtis writes although I’m unclear what Curtis herself believes because her narrator is just so contrary. Like this awesome sentence:
“If cake was nearby I wasn’t always able to prevent myself from having one bite, then the sugar fed the Bartonella bacteria, which commanded me to eat more, and I would, and then I’d go insane.” So she asked her sister not to have any sugar filled treats at Christmas. Which her sister ignored, of course.
Added to this fun Christmas is their uncle whom the narrator believes is a pedophile (she’d caught him rubbing the butt of the six-year-old niece). There’s an interesting aside when she addresses K “that you cringe whenever I mention the pedophile thing, and feel that it should not be placed in any story, because it overwhelms it and is too terrible for words.” The story is fun enough but this direct address just makes it all the more unusual.
Then we learn about the cats. Clara died first–eaten by a coyote. Indeed, the coyotes were the death of all the cats–not some weird mystical thing as the beginning hinted at. The other cats were Chocolate, Patches, Simmy and Crow. Each cat was different with unique personalities. Patches was killed next. So their mother institutes a new rule: no cats outside. But then two weeks later Simmy sped past someone who left the door open, and was not seen again.
It’s interesting as the narrator tells this story how disinterested she is in the cats (which is after all the impetus of the story). She’s not even sure if she likes her nieces. When her niece was two years old and said of her, “Sometimes when your heart is big, all you really want is Aunt D, and I was like, “Great, I’m fucked, I’m going to like this kid, this nice thing, forever.”
During all of this, there is yet another character who comes in, their sister-in-law, Kunda who is trying to conceive. Kunda is a
hot, nice, Hindi immigrant who had put herself through college by waitressing and …worshiped her husband, a pimply blond government Secretary in her department. She met him when she was thirty-seven and after they started dating she told me, “I love him.” I said, “Really? He’s so ugly, pink-faced and blond.” And she said “He’s a good one, a keeper.
The narrator’s sister insists that the narrator say nothing to Kunda. Nothing. The narrator is offended because she has helped many people conceive through her holistic nutrition (although she can offer no actual proof).
The story grows in tension and uncomfortableness as many Christmas stories do, but this one has unique properties with the narrator interfering slightly with her sister’s parenting and her life in general: “You’re not supposed to eat wheat!…the guests might like gluten-free lasagna, and she said that No one likes gluten-free lasagna.” She also allows the Bartonella bacteria to make her do things she knows she shouldn’t: “At 3AM I woke and ate half the gingerbread mansion. I’m not proud of that, but I do blame it for the rest of the story.” When a cat walks into the room later and farts, Curtis has totally earned that potentially cheap joke.
The story goes on with more very funny lines and increasing agitation until the Kamikaze Cat Training comes up–the girls try to teach Crow to attack a fake coyote. Sadly, it doesn’t help Chocolate who is killed next when their mother left the door open.
As Christmas dinner subsides, the Bartonella attacks the narrator and she starts hallucinating and we get this wonderful description: “I don’t know, K, why my inflamed brain turned my district medical officer sister-in-law, a tall Hindi woman with wide cheeks and curly black hair, into an elephant–I think it was the association of elephants and Hinduism, plus I’m racist.” And soon all of he relatives are various animals. And she can’t control herself with Kunda or anyone else. And then Crow gets out.
Oh my goodness I was in stitches through the whole thing–despite the cat killing–and I am encouraging other readers with a love of a dry wit to give this story a try, it was so dark and so funny, it could become a Christmas classic. I’d love to hear it read aloud (or even acted out).