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Archive for the ‘Native Americans’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MUMU FRESH Feat. Black Thought & DJ Dummy-Tiny Desk Concert #765 (July 11, 2018).

I recognized Mumu Fresh from when she appeared at a Tiny Desk with August Greene a few months ago.  Mumu Fresh was a true highlight of that show–her rap was political and personal and powerful.

Here she’s got her own concert (and DJ Dummy is back with her for this as well).

A regal combination of black power and Native American pride, Mumu Fresh — also known by her birth name Maimouna Youssef — is an abundantly gifted singer and emcee who prances between genres and styles. The Baltimore native fuses her rich multi-octave range and ferocious rap delivery with spiritually inclined lyrics so potent and mindful they precipitated a wellspring of emotion throughout the room.

Mumu began her own Tiny Desk in her native Lakota tongue with “Ink Pata,” signaling a call to prayer in a sacred ritual. Looped tribal chants of her own harmonies set the mood as delivered a stirring spoken word performance that journeyed through her ancestral lineage to the struggles of the present day.

Her looping is outstanding–she harmonized with herself perfectly.  After a minute and a half she speak/raps/reads a lengthy piece that is really powerful.

With a buoyant and thoughtful spirit, Mumu and her band transitioned into the classic-sounding “Miracles” from Vintage Babies, her collaborative album with group mate DJ Dummy. Declaring it a celebration of soul music, she mixed sweet tender melodies with lyrics to empower those devoid of hope.

She introduces “Miracles” by saying, we are always waiting for something to happen.  But what if your miracle is waiting for you to be prepared: “the teacher arrives when the student is ready.”  It was great having live strings on this track: Chelsey Green (violin), Monique Brooks-Roberts (violin), Kevin Jones (cello) and the backing singers (Amber Harmon) gave an excellent soul sound.

This song segued into the awesome “Work in Progress.”  Accented by the feel-good chords of The Roots keyboardist Ray Angry, and Chris Dave (drums) and Romier Mendez (bass), Mumu speaks t he truth.  With some of my favorite lyrics:

I wanna be a good role model to girls coming after
but sometimes I slip up and say some shit that’s wretched
Forgive me, I’m a work in progress

I don’t give a fuck about what you’re saying to me.
If I’m too big for my britches then give me a sheet.
I need room to grow I’m still figuring it out,
If you say you ain’t, you lying–what you talking about?

and my personal favorite

I’ve been through so much shit I’m surprised I’m still standing
so every time I see a mirror I pose dammit!

The set concludes with a new version of “Say My Name,” a song Mumu wrote about Sandra Bland, who died in police custody in 2015, and the impact it had on her. Starting off with a 1950s doo-wop circle, she blends traditional soul elements with politically relevant lyrics.

It opens with doo wop vocals and lovely pizzicato strings:

If I should die tomorrow at the hands of the policeman
and the papers say, hey, we’re going to call it as suicide
would you even question why?

We watched a woman get drug out and beaten
filmed on a highway
and all y’all could say was black women too mouthy
I’m vexed searching my timeline
See if people find time to criticize and villainize, call that shit a suicide.
What if Sandra Bland was your child

Audacity of hope
to believe you can succeed when everybody and their momma say no
Well fuck y’all. I’m different descendant of the fittest
I’ve been reincarnated just so i can handle business.

Black Thought comes out for a final verse, but it’s hard to hold a candle to what Mumu just laid down.  His flow is great though.  And she even tacks on an extra verse after the credits.

[READ: February 1, 2018] “The Requirement”

I rather enjoyed this simple story, told simply.  It begins with the narrator talking about how when you get older, you lose people.  You don’t care about people who have died until people your own age start leaving.

He says that when people who mattered to him died, he began to feel something was required of him. If he could do it, he did, but sometimes he didn’t know what the requirement was.

When his good friend Bog Ellis got sick he felt a requirement but had no idea what it could be or how to do it.

She tells us some great Big Ellis stories. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FROM THE TOP-Tiny Desk Concert #758 (June 22, 2018).

From the Top is a radio show (and podcast) which showcases young, talented classical musicians.

For over 20 years, From the Top (distributed by NPR) has built an impressive platform to celebrate the music, lives and stories of youngsters playing classical music. That’s right. Young people in this country love classical music.  We invited three talented From the Top musicians to the Tiny Desk. No squeaky violins here. These kids are terrific players.

From the Top alum Derek Wang is our good-natured emcee, in addition to serving as a sensitive accompanist for two of the pieces.

The first piece is played by 12-year-old violinist Kaia Selden–sparks fly (and bow hairs, too) when  she tears into

  • Henryk Wieniawski: “Scherzo-Tarantelle, Op. 16”

A bouncy piano opens up this amazingly fast violin piece.  Selden plays with fire and passion as her fingers fly over the fretboard for these incredibly fast notes and runs.  It’s stunning how composed and confident she is.

She explains that the song is a tarantel, a kind of dance, named after when you are bitten by a tarantula–you have to dance really fast and crazy to get the venom out of your system.

Up next is cellist Noah Lee who uncovers fascinating new sounds on his instrument

  • Mark Summer: “Julie-O”

The piece opens with plucked notes and strummed chords.  He pays what sounds like rock riffs and then after a minute or so he picks up the bow and begins playing the instrument conventionally–with some quick runs and cool sounds.  Then he adds new sounds–slapping the strings with just his left hand and then using his right percussively.  There’s some more plucking notes and full chords before ending with more bowed music.  It’s a mesmerizing solo piece.

The third musician is Javier Morales-Martinez who makes his velvety clarinet sing in elegant music:

  • Francis Poulenc: “Clarinet Sonata, II. Romanza”  The

The juxtaposition of piano and clarinet is quite lovely and Javier greats some amazing sounds out of the instrument,.

Javier says that when he was 7 or 8 he used to play music with his dad from Mexico.  He was later introduced to classical music and has been playing it ever since.

It’s an inspirational set from amazing young musicians.

[READ: February 9, 2016] “The Flower”

Erdrich had a short piece in the previous issue of the New Yorker, and here she gets a full short story.

I was really surprised to find this story set in 1839 in Ojibwe country (although I see that Erdrich has written extensively about Okibwe country, so that’s my bad, clearly).

The story is a fairly simple one.  There is an older Ojibwe woman, Mink, who is wailing and carrying on, demanding the trader’s milk –a mixture of raw distilled spirits, rum, red pepper and tobacco–from Mackinnon.  It was driving Mackinnon crazy, but Mink was from a family of healers and could not be denied.

The other man in the tent was Mackinnon’s clerk, Wolfred Roverts who was trying his best to get the sound out of his ears. Wolfred aged 17 was from Portsmouth New Hampshire.  He missed his home terribly but there was no life for him back there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RAUL MIDÓN-Tiny Desk Concert #718 (March 15, 2018).

I had never heard of Raul Midón before this Tiny Desk.  So I’ll use the blurb for an explanation of who he is.

Raul Midón lives in a world of sound — blind since birth, Midón’s interpretation of his surroundings is borderless. He sings with the passion of the best classic soul singers, and his instrumental chops stand along side the most accomplished jazz musicians.

Normally backed by a band that straddles styles just as well as he does, for his turn behind Bob Boilen’s desk Midón stripped it down to just voice and guitar, the musical equivalent of tightrope walking without a net.

You could choose any of the songs he performed, listen on repeat and continuously discover layers of musicality — the nuance of a bent note in his vocals, a burst of perfectly placed guitar notes.

Midón played five songs.

For “Gotta Gotta Give” he primarily uses a kind of slapping guitar style for his chords–he slaps all of the strings with his palm making a kind of gentle but loud sound.  But he also does some great picking on the descending chords.  I love the little harmonics he throws in a the end of the verses.  For this song he plays a trumpet solo with his mouth which is pretty cool.  Later he does a solo duet with his mouth-trumpet and the guitar.  His voice is powerful and soulful.  It’s a great song.

He says that he wondered how to address the fact that he was blind. He wanted people to talk about the issue but no one every would, so he called his new album Badass and Blind and people talk about it now.

“Sound Shadow” has a more abrasive picking style–almost like a slap bass but on all of the strings.  It’s a very different sound form the first song.  The solo is a mixture between very fast picked notes and some really fast pick-less strumming.  Vocally he really mixes things up as well, with some nice falsetto at the end.

“If Only” was inspired by Tin Pan Alley stylings which you can hear in the chords.  “Bad Ass and Blind” has a bluesy sound with some more cool harmonics and some dramatic minor chords.  I like the way the chorus is very different from the staggered melody of the verses.  The second verse is all rapped while he plays that guitar.  And his delivery is solid.  It’s got an even better sounding trumpet solo.

For “Mi Amigo Cubano” he switches to a nylon stringed guitar.  He says he wrote this song with Bill Withers, who wanted a song written sin Spanish–basically Raul translated what Bill wanted He asked how do you say “Hows your wife?” “Como esta tu esposa?”  “Well put that in there!”  This song has Spanish soul.

I really enjoyed this set a lot.

[READ: March 20, 2018] “The State”

I didn’t really enjoy this story.  It felt kind of slow and meandering and the ending was really bland.

But I have learned though, that if I don’t like a New Yorker ending because it doesn’t feel like an ending, it is probably an excerpt–which this was.  Knowing that now changes my opinion of the whole thing.  And reading a bit about the novel it sounds multifaceted and really quite interesting.  Now I feel badly for judging it harshly at first.

It begins “before you were born, you were a head and tail in a milky pool.”  Your history goes back further and further, but then returns to your birth when your heartbeat was arrhythmic.

Your dad said “maybe he as a drummer.”  And in the womb, you did begin to kick to any beat offered.  Your dad is 100 per cent Indian–a recovering alcoholic medicine man from Oklahoma.  Your mom is white but there is too much and not enough whiteness to know what to do with it.  You were raised Christian although you enjoyed your father’s powwows more–but your mother became more and more opposed to them as she got older. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKPHISH-“The Unsafe Bridge” (MGM Grand Garden Arena, Friday 10, 31, 2014).

In honor of Halloween, these Ghost Box stories will be attached to a recent Phish Halloween show [with quoted material from various reviews]. 

Known for dawning musical costumes to celebrate [Halloween], Phish broke with tradition last year to offer a set of original music.  The Phish Bill read that Phish’s musical costume would be a 1964 Disney album of sound effects – Chilling, Thrilling Sounds Of The Haunted House.  But it wasn’t a cover set. Phish played original music set amongst an incredibly psychedelic, theatrical graveyard stage accentuated by zombie dancers and a ghoulish MC.  At the start of the set, the stage was cleared before a graveyard came to the foreground.  Smoke filled the air, zombie dancers appeared, and music filled the venue. A haunted house was brought to the front of the stage, which eventually exploded, and all four-band members appeared, dressed in white like zombies. 

“The Unsafe Bridge” was Phish’s version of a Spaghetti Western soundtrack with elements of Genesis and The Beatles worked in. While the band played these songs, lasers and other effects not usually seen at a Phish show were added to the insane spectacle.

This song definitely a spaghetti western vibe from Mike and some appropriate piano from Page.  Trey plays some simple guitar melodies.  And then a pretty solo.

This piece is nicely catchy but also really short at only 3 minutes.  I could have listened to this one for longer.

[READ: October 16, 2017] “The Late Shift

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar comes The Ghost Box.

This is a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening) that contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

A collection of chilly, spooky, hair-raising-y stories to get you in that Hallowe’en spirit, edited and introduced by comedian and horror aficionado Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, on the inside cover, one “window” of the 11 boxes is “folded.”  I am taking that as a suggested order.

This story started in an amusing way–kids returning from a 2 AM screening of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre stop at a convenience store to but some alcohol.  It’s Macklin and his friend Whitey (who is Native American–real name is White Feather).  At the store, the clerk is acting really weird, just repeating “Please, thank you, sorry” and seeming to be really out of it.

They recognize him as Juano, a guy they know from another store, but he seems to have really hit the skids as they say. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Copps Coliseum, Hamilton, ON (December 11 1996).

This is the final show on Rheostatics Live in which the band is opening for The Tragically Hip.

For this show, the intro music is also from The Wizard of Oz, but this time it’s Judy singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”  It’s just one verse before fading out and then guitars fading in for Martin to play “A Mid Winter Night’s Dream.”

Turns out that this setlist is similar to the one from Buffalo with a lot of new songs.  Although there are a few older/more popular songs in places.

The new songs include “Fat” which sounds great of course.  I gather they are maybe sharing a microphone because at the end Dave says “See you in the next song, Martin.”  “Okay, Dave.”  This leads into a perfect version of “All the Same Eyes.”

Martin says “We are the Rheostatics.”  Dave says “We are the Rheostatics, not to be confused with The Howell Brothers (?).  They couldn’t make it but we got their jackets.  It’s nice of you to come out early.  We’re playing selections from our new record. Get it before it’s reduced to clear.”  (You can hear someone laugh on tape).

This is a segue into the single “Bad Time to Be Poor.”  It’s followed by another Tim song, “Claire” with the acoustic guitar opening in place.  There’s another lengthy guitar solo, although it’s not quiet as exciting as some of the other ones.  But Martin was saving up for a spirited version of “California Dreamline.”

They end their set with a rough rocking “Feed Yourself.”  During the spoken part, they slow things down to just a bass and washes of guitar.  It’s a pretty intense ending and a good preparation for The Tragically Hip.

[READ: June 25, 2017] The Story of Canada in 150 Objects

In celebration of Canada’s 150th year, Canadian Geographic and The Walrus created this special issue–a fun way to describe many elements of Canadian culture through “objects.”

The objects are grouped in vague categories.  Some have just a few words written about them while others get a few pages.  Some are humorous, some are more serious.  Most are happy or amusing, some not so much.  And all of it together paints a diverse and complex portrait of the country–as well as teaching this person from South of the border a number of things I did not know.

It’s with comic pride and humility that the first object is politeness (which is not an object at all, of course).  The amusing thing about this article about “politeness” is that while the author of it is very pleased to be so polite, he also can’t wait for his fellow Canucks to forget to be polite so he can rub it in with a extra smarmy “You’re Welcome.” (more…)

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thrilignSOUNDTRACK: ADIA VICTORIA-Tiny Desk Concert #545(June 30, 2016).

adiaAdia Victoria has a rough, raw voice that goes well with her simple, exposed guitar sound.  The blurb says her music “carries the singular perspective of a Southern black woman with a Seventh Day Adventist upbringing, who never felt like she’d fit in.”

She sings three song, mostly in a great, raspy voice.  For “Stuck in the South” she actually seems to be gritting her teeth as she sings: “I don’t know nothing ’bout Southern belles / but I can tell you something ’bout Southern hell.”  When the first verse ends, and her band kicks in, it adds such interesting textures.  a distorted bass and a lead guitar playing quietly distorted sounds.  This song is really captivating.

“And Then You Die” with its swirling sounds and keyboards has a very distinctly Nick Cave feel–gothic in the Southern sense of the word.  Indeed, the first verse is spoken in a delivery that would make Nick proud. This is no to say she cribbed from Cave but it would work very well as a companion song  I really like the way it builds, but the ending is so abrupt–I could have used some more verses.

After the second song the band heads away and Bob says “They’re all leaving you.”  She looks at them and growls, “Get off the stage!” to much laughter.

She sings the final song “Heathen” with just her on acoustic guitar.  It is a simple two chord song.  It’s less interesting than the others, but again, it’s the lyrics that stand out: “I guess that makes me a heathen, something lower than dirt / I hear them calling me heathen, ooh like they think it hurts.”

I’m curious to hear just what Adia would do with these songs when she’s not in this Tiny format.  I imagine she can be really powerful.

[READ: November 23, 2016] McSweeney’s Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales

For some reason or another I have put off reading this McSweeney’s volume for many years.  This is technically McSweeney’s #10, although it was also released in this printing from a  major publisher. Sadly for me, my McSweeney’s subscription had expired sometime around here so I’ve never actually seen the “official” Volume 10 which I understand has the exact same content but a slightly different cover.

One of the reasons I’ve put off reading this was the small print and pulpy paper–I don’t like pulpy paper.  And it was pretty long, too.

But I think the big reason is that I don’t really like genre fiction.  But I think that’s the point of this issue.  To give people who read non-genre fiction some exposure to genre stuff.

Interestingly I think I’ve learned that I do enjoy some genre fiction after all.  And yet, a lot of the stories here really weren’t very genre-y.  Or very thrilling.  They seemed to have trappings of genre ideas–mystery, horror–but all the while remaining internal stories rather than action-packed.

Which is not to say I didn’t enjoy anything here. I enjoyed a bunch of the stories quite a bit, especially if I didn’t think of them as genre stories.  Although there were a couple of less than exiting stories here, too. (more…)

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dawnSOUNDTRACK: BANKS-Tiny Desk Concert #401 (October 30, 2014).

banksI’d never heard of Banks before this Tiny Desk Concert.  The blurb says that “Banks’ terrific full-length debut, Goddess, is constructed out of layer upon layer of electronics, beats, samples and other means of submerging the singer’s voice in swirling accoutrements…. On record, she’s placed at the center of lavish productions, each suitable for throbbing remixes and banks of swirling lights.”

In this version, it is just a keyboard and a drum box, so her voice is exposed.  But I actually found her voice was a little annoying.  Especially during the verses, where she uses too much vibrato.

On the first song, “Beggin For Thread,” I enjoyed the choruses where she sang loudly and with less affectation.  Although it was during “Alibi” that I particularly didn’t like her voice–too much yea yea yea with a ton of vibrato.

For “Brain,” the accompaniment is acoustic guitar rather than piano.  It has a very different feel although I liked it even less.  I’m curious to see what their record sounds like with her voice buried, but I’m not going to find out.

[READ: June 1, 2016] Dawn Land

Dawn Land was a novel that Joseph Bruchac wrote in 1993.  The novel (as explained in the afterword) details the oral traditions of his people as filtered through a fictional story that he was inspired to write over a burst of about six weeks.

I may have enjoyed this graphic novel more if I’d known the original story first (I also didn’t know that Bruchac was Abenaki Indian, so I wasn’t sure what to think about the story in the first place–appropriation is such a hot topic these days.  Of course having said that, I’d never heard of the Abenaki Indians before either (they lived in what is now New England).

I found the story a little confusing.  But before getting into the story, I loved the artwork.  In black and white, Will Davis conveyed so many amazing scenes and scenery–perfect depictions of people and animals and yes, giants. (more…)

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