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SOUNDTRACKSAMPA THE GREAT-Tiny desk (Home) Concert #173 (February 23, 2021).

I thought that Sampa was actually Sammus, the indie rapper named after the character in Metroid.  So I was a little bummed to find out I had the wrong Sam… rapper.  But I quickly came over to Sampa’s style.

Sampa Tembo is better known as Sampa The Great, an understated title. In her Tiny Desk (home) concert, the poet, rapper and singer-songwriter delivers evidence that it’s more like Sampa the Greatest.  Initially raised in Botswana, Sampa moved to Australia as a young adult and established herself in Sydney’s hip-hop scene. There, she released two mixtapes, 2015’s The Great Mixtape and 2017’s award-winning Birds and the BEE9, all the while generating buzz. She had been based in Melbourne for the last four years, but the next chapter of her musical journey will find her at home in Zambia.

She plays four tracks and her live band is really solid.  She opens with “Rhymes To The East” which features a nice guitar riff by Samuel Masta.  I like the way the backing singers (l-r: Joy Tusankine Namwila, Mwanje Tembo, Tio Nason) sing the end of the rapped lines.

When Sampa really starts flowing her voice is great–a rough gravelly cadence with a Southern African/Australian accent.  It’s especially cool when she introduces the third verse with a snarl

Rhymes beast mother fucker
Tembo from the east put the beast in a trucker
Timbuktu, as I question all the loyalty
Build a big wall when you stole all of the royalties

The end of the song is really catchy, too.

The next three are from her 2019 album The Return.

“Mwana” opens with a drum solo Kasonde “Tek1” Sunkutu.  The song is mostly sung by the backing singers.  Then Sampa starts her flow.  Musically this song is much more spare with gentle keyboards Lazarus “Lalo” Zulu playing around the drums.

As she introduces the band, they jam, with some funky bass from Mapalo “Mapskeys” Mapalo which leads into an improv  that sounds like an island fun.

“Freedom” is up next.

Sampa Tembo is in Lusaka, Zambia, her landlocked African home country.  [She says] “Freedom is what we feel when we perform. And freedom is what the world is in need of right now. In this pandemic it feels like we all need a sense of freedom.”

“Freedom” features some terrific backing vocals. The end has a rocking jam as the singers all give up whooos and Masta plays a ripping solo.

When the camera is in full frame you can see that Sampa’s dress has a really long train which covers almost the entire floor (no wonder she sits through the whole set).

The set ends with “Final Form,” my favorite song of the set.  It’s got a big, heavy noisy riff with thumping bass and wailing guitars.  Her delivery is raw and raspy and really affecting.

The end is particularly cool as the band rocks out punctuating along and singing “Black power!” “Louder!” “Black power!”

Sampa is pretty great, indeed.

[READ: April 12, 2021] Parable of the Talents [2032]

Parable of the Sower ended on a vaguely optimistic note:  Lauren felt that they were ready to set up Acorn, the home of her Earthseed community.  Bankole thought there was no chance it would work.  But this is Lauren’s story, so we’ll assume that the story is tipped in her favor somewhat.

Plus, there’s a sequel, so things must work out reasonably well, right?

Well, surprise!

Parable of the Talents opens up with the news that Lauren is dead.

She is mostly called Olamina during this book because Bankole “doesn’t like my first name, so he ignores it.  That’s fair.  I didn’t like his first name either. It’s Taylor, by the way and I ignore it” (122).

This book is narrated by Olamina and Bankole’s child–unspecified gender and age in the Prologue, although by the end of this week’s reading we can assume the writer is their daughter [Bankole wants her named Beryl and Olamina wants her named almost anything that isn’t Beryl–“such an old fashioned name” (122).  The narrator later says something about high school, so it must be around 2050.

The child shares Olamina’s diary entries, but her basic attitude is that she hates her mother and thinks well of her father and wishes she knew him.

The book opens with this narrator saying “they’ll make a god of her” and the continues with something surprising about that

I think that would please her, if she could know about it.  In spite of all her protests and denials she’s always needed devoted, obedient follower–disciples–who would listen to her and believe everything she told them.  and she needed large events to manipulate.  All gods seem to need these things.  (7)

I never got the sense that Lauren wanted to be a god.  But maybe Olamina does.

She also tells us that Lauren’s middle name “Oya” is the name of a Nigerian Orisha–goddess f the Yoruba people (goddes of the wind, fire, and death, more bringers of great change (50).

Butler wrote this book five years after the Sower.  As I read Talent, I wondered what the intent of this story was. Had she planned all along to have a follower (child or otherwise) criticize Earthseed?  Had five years of thinking about Earthseed made her question the validity of Lauren’s ideas?  I don’t know anything about Butler, about whether she “agreed” with Lauren’s ideas or not.  I don’t have anything besides textual evidence to know how she felt about religion in general.  So was this book a commentary on her own ideas/ideals from five years earlier?  Or is this just interesting storytelling by having a new protagonist dispute the doctrine of the previous protagonist.  Especially if the bulk of this book is made up of Olamina’s diary entries (just like the first book was).

That’s right, even though the book is set after Olamina has died, the book so far is primarily her own diary entries from 2032, By the end of 2032, she is pregnant with, presumably, the person who is narrating this book and criticizing Olamina’s ideas. Continue Reading »

SOUNDTRACK: JACK HARLOW-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #176 (March 3, 2021).

Tiny Desk had posted exclusively black artists for Black History Month.  So it feels really weird to follow that up with a white rapper.  And, yes, it feels even weirder to see him surrounded by all black musicians–although they seem to be really into it, so clearly I’m the only one who finds it odd.

Jack Harlow is apparently huge, but I’ve never heard of him.  I am greatly puzzled by his outfit in this video.  Are those leather pants?  I can’t tell.  And with that jacket–he looks really uncomfortable.

The Louisville, Ky., emcee delivers a performance with the confidence of an old pro. His set, however, is the first time he’s relied solely on live instrumentation to bring his songs to life. “It’s been a long time since I had a chance to perform and I’ve never done it like this,” he says.  Over the past few years, the 22-year-old rapper has steadily ticked the boxes for a successful career, and this showing undoubtedly checks the performer section.

Indeed, for my mocking in the first paragraph, his flow is really smooth–and apparently more than a bunch of his fans didn’t realize he was white.

I’m disappointed, though, to hear that he doesn’t normally play with a band because this band is tight a anything.  Bassist Joe Cleveland is hot throughout playing some great riffs and runs and “Rendezvous” is a good opening for showcasing his skills.

He says he’s going to play a few songs that he hasn’t played before.

“21C / Delta” really shows off the backing vocalists (Erik B, Chimera Patrice, Porcha Clay) who sing the final word of each line and sing the chorus.  “21C” segues into “Delta” which has some cool improvised keyboard melodies from O’Neil “Doctor O” Palmer.

The orchestration underscores his sentimental and introspective side on songs like “Same Guy” and “Funny Seeing You Here,” but it also elevates the melody, which is the true hero here.

“Funny Seeing You Here” is a quieter song (he sits on a stool for that one) and has a thoughtful side.

He used to say her man was trash and tell me ’bout the way he’d act
I would shake my head until I realized I’m the same as that
Now I wonder, did she tell her man that I’m a trash dude?

“Same Guy” is one of the most honest songs he’s ever written.  It’s got some really great basslines and big vocal flourish from the backing singers.

“Creme/ONCE MAY COMES” features some great drumming from Rico Nichols (his drums sound great throughout including the electronics–the reverse cymbal sound is particularly cool and the big bass really pounds.  “Creme” segues into “ONCE MAY COMES” which is a slower jam.

There’s an awkwardly fake moment before the last song, where he says “I can’t lie fellas, I’m having a really good time. You think we could do one more, maybe?”

Harlow landed a big hit last year in “WHATS POPPIN.” That performance earned him a Grammy nomination ahead of his very impressive debut album, Thats What They All Say.  [I can’t IMAGINE the outrage if he’d won]

Musically this song is really catchy–it’s understandable why this was big hit.  Throughout the set guitarist Rob Gueringer has played some great solos and chords in the background, but he never gets a moment to show off how good he is.  Except near the end of this song when he gets to play a ripping solo to end the set.

[READ: March 31, 2021] “Lunch”

The September 3, 2007 issue of the New Yorker contained several essays by their writers about the subject “Family Dinner.”

Cristina Henriquez details the joy of a family dinner held at lunch time.  This was either a Panama tradition or a family one–she was never sure which.

Every summer Cristina’s family would summer in Panama where her father grew up. It was very different from the Unites States but it was the same every year.

They stayed at her grandparents’ house and as Cristina woke up, she would smell the garlic that her grandmother was cooking in preparation for the lunch time feast. Continue Reading »

SOUNDTRACK: RICK ROSS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #169 (February 16, 2021).

I’ve heard Rick Ross’ name a lot although I don’t remember why–do people love him or hate him?  I can’t remember.

This Tiny Desk is fascinating because Ross is clearly in charge (he sits in the golden throne for some of the set), but the stars of this set are really Ross’s backing singers.  Elijah Blake (with the pink hair and muscles) and Troy Tyler have fantastic voices–singing backing and lead for most of the tracks.  And, actually I’m even more fond of his hype man DJ Sam Sneak, who is saying all kinds of things in the background in a kind of growl.  I’d love to hear his vocal track without Ross’ to really get all the things he’s shouting.

He starts with “Super High.”

This Tiny Desk marks just the second time Ross has performed with a live band. On “Super High,” from his Teflon Don album, drummer Rashid Williams and bassist Thaddaeus Tribbett lay down the foundation for Ross’ smooth cadence and signature nonchalance. Background singer and Ne-Yo protege Troy Tyler projects the lead vocal lines originally sung by his mentor.

I really like the intensity of the music in “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast).”  The heavy bass works well.  Sam Sneak is going to town with the responses.  Meanwhile, Elijah sings along accenting everything Ross raps. The live drums from Rashid Williams are great for this with heavy thumps and cymbals at the end of each line.

Blake sings lead on “Aston Martin Music.”  He has an impressive, delicate falsetto.

Monty Reynolds drops in with the sparse, yet catchy key melody that made it the contagious hit single it was in 2010.

Then Ross pauses.

At one point, Ross pauses between songs to speak on his inspirations. “So many inspired the Boss,” he says. “I could look at any brother on the street and get some inspiration from them, regardless of how many followers you got on social media, regardless of what you’re riding in. I could learn something from you. I ain’t scared to. Let’s make sure we keep building.”

“I’m Not A Star” is my favorite track–it’s got great intensity and it’s fun to watch everyone bouncing to the song.

“F*ckwithmeyouknowigotit” opens with samples from the DJ then adds low bass and sprinkled keys.  Ross says, “If you remember the Blockbuster days right now you’d be recording this with your VHS.  And I know you was one of them who never rewinded your shit after you watched it it and they charged you that extra $3 at Blockbuster.”

“Tears of Joy” ends the set with nice use of floor toms by Williams.  Dj Sam Sneak is hyping behind him.  And Troy sings backing on this one.  He’s really impressive.  The song ends as Ross rests in his chair while Elijah takes us out accompanied by grooving bass work.

[READ: March 31, 2021] “Rationed”

The September 3, 2007 issue of the New Yorker contained several essays by their writers about the subject “Family Dinner.”

Aleksander Hemon starts his essay talking about his family routine when he and his sister were adolescents.  His parents returned from work at 3:45PM.  They ate their dinner at 4PM.  [Four PM?  That is so early!]  Did they go to bed at 6?

They listened to the news on the radio, their parents asked them endless questions about school and the whole thing was done at 4:30 after the “you must be silent” for the four twenty-five weather report.

It was like a horrible oppression.  The childrens’ ideal meal would involve Bosnian fast food, comic books, television and no parents.

Then he was conscripted into the Yugolsav People’s Army. Continue Reading »

SOUNDTRACK: RAE KHALIL-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #171 (February 18, 2021).

Rae Khalil was a contestant on Netflix’s music competition show, Rhythm + Flow.  I distrust anyone who wins a music TV show, but I really liked Khalil’s music.

She is recording in Harun Coffee in the historic Leimert Park neighborhood of South Los Angeles.  Khalil’s set is a colorful explosion of talent, perfectly complimenting the funky patchwork and textures of her attire.

She calls her band The ill, and they are pretty great, in particular the fantastic bass work from both Dominick Cruz and special guest Kelsey Gonzalez of The Free Nationals (they switch mid set).

“Way Down” opens with retro keys from Elyzr and grooving bass (from Gonzalez) and a fiddly guitar solo from Takoda Barraza (on a nifty green Steinberger guitar).  Khalil has a great delivery throughout–quiet, understated and yet powerful too.  Drummer Nico Vasquez sets a killer rhythm throughout, too.

“Tiny Desk! Happy Black History Month!,” rapper, singer and songwriter Rae Khalil exclaims before gliding into “FATHER,” from her LP Fortheworld.

“FATHER” has a lengthy jazzy keyboard intro from Elyzr.  When Khalil sings, her delivery is understated on this one as well, although she occasionally lifts her voice into a kind of croon.  Dominick Cruz plays a jazzy guitar solo.

Sticking to the “inspiration” theme of our Black History Month celebration, she recites an excerpt from Langston Hughes’s “Let America Be America Again.” The 86-year-old words still read painfully relevant for many Black people in this country today.

Her reading of this poem is really good.  I wasn’t familiar with it and I can’t believe it is 86 years old.  I thought it was quite possible she had just written it, it felt so disturbingly contemporary.

The Torrance, California native’s musical theater background shines through here; she exudes an array of emotions in a span of minutes on tracks like “UP LATE” and “MARIA,” making it impossible to look away.

“UP LATE” has an outSTANDING bass line from Dominick Cruz.  Rae starts the song singing softly , but with speedy delivery.  Then she takes off!  Dramatically singing/rapping/laughing/pausing and then on a drop of a hat, “MARIA” shifts tones and she starts scatting along to the gentle jazzy music.

Vasquez get a few mini drum solos in the middle before the song takes off again and then ends with a jazzy bass solo from Cruz.  It’s fun watching her dance in he big bell bottoms.

This was a really great Tiny Desk and while it won’t get me to watch any reality music programs, I will acknowledge the success of this performer (although she didn’t even come in the top 8, so the heck with that).

[READ: March 30, 2021] Charlie Thorne and the Lost Island

This is the second book in the Charlie Thorne series.  I had not read the first one but S. told me that I would love it and that the first book wasn’t necessary for the enjoyment of this book.  And that was absolutely true.  This story does follow that one, but it is wholly independent and anything that needs to be filled in from the previous adventure is dealt with pretty handily.

So who is Charlie Thorne?  She is a genius.  She is a fugitive.  She is not yet thirteen.

I have not read any Stuart Gibbs before (except for one short story), but I understand his Spy School is a great series.  I have to hand it to him right away for writing such a cool and compelling protagonist for this series.  And also for having a story with so much fascinating information included.

As the book opens, Charlie is surfing off a small island near the equator.  She chose this location because it is very remote.  She needs to be remote because of what happened in the previous book (she has a piece of information that everyone from the CIA to a dozen other international cartels would kill for).

She assumed she was safe, but knew she wouldn’t be for very long–nowhere was totally hidden.  But while she’s here, she’s going to learn to surf.

Gibbs using surfing to show off Charlie’s brain power.  She has never surfed before but because she is so smart–so good at using numbers to read nature–she never misses a wave and never wipes out.  The locals think she might be a demon.  I enjoyed the way he uses her skill at figuring out angles and pacing and such in several later scenarios. Continue Reading »

[POSTPONED: April 6, 2021] Waxahatchee / Fenne Lily [rescheduled from August 14, 2020; moved to July 16, 2021]

indexIt took a pretty long time for this show to get officially postponed.  AS of a week or so ago, the date hadn’t been changed.  But I see now that it has been pushed just a few months away.  July seems REALLY questionable for a new show.  Although i will be vaccinated by then so…

Waxahatchee was supposed to play Union Transfer back in April.  That show was rescheduled to October.  But in the interim, she scheduled this date at Asbury Lanes.

Union Transfer holds about 1,000 people.  Asbury Lanes holds about 100.  What a different experience that would be.  Even if you went to both shows.

The one real difference though is the opening act.  OHMME is in Union Transfer, Fenne Lily is here.  I loved OHMME when I saw them and want to see them again.

I saw Fenne Lily open for Lucy Dacus and I really enjoyed her.  In fact, I would enjoy seeing her again as well.  So, her as an opening band isn’t a bad thing by any means, It’s just not as good as OHMME.

I’ve seen Waxahatchee twice–once with a full band and once solo.  I like her, although I wasn’t sure I wanted to see her again.  She has a new album out and I’ve heard it’s much more mellow than her last couple, so that doesn’t really appeal to me.

I’m curious if this show will be rescheduled.  It would be fun to see her in a small space (with social distancing).

wxa

SOUNDTRACK: ADIA VICTORIA-“South Gotta Change” (2020).

Adia Victoria is a singer songwriter who describes her music as “Gothic blues” and that’s pretty apt.  She has two albums out.

On her first album Beyond the Bloodhounds, she has a song entitled “Stuck in the South” (she is based in Nashville).  This song featured a wonderful couplet:

“I don’t know nothing ’bout Southern belles / but I can tell you something ’bout Southern hell.”

Her voice is raspy and powerful and she’s not opposed to letting that raspiness really shine through–especially when her songs rock out (which some do).

“South Gotta Change” is her latest single (not attached to a third album yet) and it is a moody piece of perfection which she describes as a

promise to engage in the kind of ‘good trouble’ John Lewis understood necessary to form a more perfect union.

The song opens with a six-note echoing reverbed guitar and Victoria’s clean vocals

You’ve been running from the ghost
You keep it hidden in your past
The veil before your face is falling, and it’s falling fast

When she gets to the direct chorus

“The South gotta change”

a guitar solo rips through the quiet and then a chorus of voices sing “Change!”

She sings the same verse several times throughout the song with each version changing somewhat.  By the end when she sings

‘Cause I love you, I won’t leave you
Won’t let you slip away
Come what may
We’re gonna find a way

Her voice is imploring and demanding.

[READ: April 3, 2021] “Let America Be America Again” 

Rae Khalil read part of this poem during her Tiny Desk (home) Concert.  I had never heard of this poem before and I was sure that she had written it because it seemed so pertinent.  The title alone seemed like a n excellent response to what we’ve just been through.

Then she said it was by Langston Hughes and I had to look it up.  And I saw that it was 86 years old.  And it is staggeringly apt.

Whether or not you can say you have the same experience as the narrator (America never was America to me)–and I can’t say that I can–it is certainly easy to empathize with him.  As more and more injustice comes to light and as public figures are more upfront about their racist hearts than they have been in eighty-some years, this poem needs to be more prominent.

“Let America Be America Again” 

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

SOUNDTRACKKeiyaA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #168 (February 11, 2021).

I had not heard of KeiyaA (and have no idea how to say her name), but i was quite stuck by this performance.

KeiyaA is a new performer, and her debut album

Forever, Ya Girl, appeared last year with kismet timing, unveiling her as a fully formed star. The 2020 release is a meditation on the thin line between solitude and loneliness, one that KeiyaA traces and teeters on while defining her Black womanhood.

The set opens with “Do Yourself a Favor.”  For this track KeiyaA sits behind the keyboard a while 13th Law plays a slow funky bass line plays accompanied by finger snaps and backing vocals from the amazingly named Nelson Bandela.

KeiyaA comes out front for the rest of the tracks.

Cornrows braided back with the precision of an architect. Stiletto nails commanding a sampling machine. Gold-glinted lids to match her light-up Beads Byaree earrings. With every move, KeiyaA shines so bright, it’s impossible to look away. And while your eyes are fixated on her person, the music KeiyaA conjures inside Brooklyn’s Electric Garden is what leaves you completely spellbound.

On “Hvnli,” Nelson Bandela plays keys behind a new slow funky bass line.  Keenyn Omari played guitar on the first song but he plays saxophone on this one.  It starts with soft bursts and then he really starts wailing.  With the sax and the syncopated drums from Buz “Hvnli” sounds like a spare jazz song.  She sings:

Gone for so long I prefer to spend time in my pain, hey / Gone for so long I can barely recall the last my phone rang,” she sings on “Hvnli.”

Her album

is a meditation on the thin line between solitude and loneliness, one that KeiyaA traces and teeters on while defining her Black womanhood. Whether it’s through jazzy woodwinds, heavy synths or prickly staccato, the singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist shares waves of anguish, depletion, love and elation in a swirling stream of consciousness.

She says that “Most of the work that has carried me has been the writing of Black women Jayne Cortez and Ntozake Shange [she holds up their books] who both speak unabashedly of the plight and joys and general experiences of the Black femme woman.  And those writings are paramount in my work.”

She opens “Finesse Without a Trace” with a wobbly sample and The 13th Law plays some bass chords and splashy drums.  The sample turns into some quotes while Omari plays some wild distorted flute.

The song ends with an improvised flute solo which KeiyaA accompanies with samples and some oohing.  The song slowly morphs into “Rectifiya” a funky piece with response vocals on the chorus.

She ends the whole set with the sampled quote from Nina Simone.

“Everybody is half-dead. Everybody avoids everybody. All over the place…in most situations, most of the time. I know I’m one of those everybodys. And to me it is terrible. And so all I’m trying to do, all the time, is just to open people up so they can feel themselves and let themselves be open to somebody else. That is all. That’s it.”

Apparently the album sounds very different than this Tiny Desk: (The “album version of these tracks boast much of KeiyaA’s own production, affirmations and layered vocals in chorus”).  Perhaps I’m better off just enjoying this and not looking further.

[READ: April 5, 2021] Parable of the Sower [end]

The end of the book provides something of a skeptical feeling of hope for our travelers.   I read in the Foreword that Earthseed was meant to be a trilogy; however, Butler only finished a sequel (and an unrelated novel) before she died.  The Foreword (by N.K. Jemisin also gives a spoiler to Parable of the Talents–uncool!  Even if the books are over twenty years old.

By the way, Jemisin sounds pretty interesting.  Anyone read her?

To me, it is astonishing how many big questions go unanswered in the book.

I had mentioned wondering about the Mars mission and there’s no mention of that again.  We never find out anything about any state east of Central California and we never find out What Happened.  Obviously that information is irrelevant for the characters–they just have to move on–but it’s frustrating not to have even a hint.  [I accept that it wasn’t relevant to Butler, but I’m still curious].  We never hear anything about the community that the corporation bought, either–although there is a kind of follow up with someone from a similar community telling about how badly it turned out for the people living there.

This section starts off with an earthquake.  Earthquakes are bad news in general but in this situation they are much worse because earthquakes tend to cause fires.  And we know who fires attract.  Zahra thinks that they might be able to scavenge for something they can use, but Lauren suspects, rightly, that it would be a dangerous thing to do–druggies and people more violent than they are would be there.  And this proves to be true.

In fact, it proves to be very smart to move on because they wind up putting some distance between themselves and the violent crowds that scavenged the burnt out houses. Continue Reading »

SOUNDTRACKDAVIDO-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #174 (February 24, 2021).

I thought I knew what Afrobeat was and that I was really starting to enjoy it, but Davido plays something other than what I was expecting.

Nigerian Afrobeats star Davido comes to us from his estate in Lagos with an intimate four-song performance that takes us on a mini-retrospective of his career.

He and his band create a sultry vibe with a unique rendition of “Gobe,” his smash 2013 single, to open the set.

“Gobe” doesn’t have the percussion and bounce that I thought it would, although drummer Stanley Unogu is pretty sharp.  The lyrics are pretty funny, though

Girl your behind is a killer
I can see you’re sensual
See gobe
Omo see gobe eh
When you wiggle and waver
You must be intentional

Bassey Kenneth and Sylvia Asuquo sing nice backing vocals.  Then he says that “Aye” is dedicated to his father.

Davido has long expressed pride in his father’s success. He titled his 2012 debut album Omo Baba Olowo, meaning “son of a rich man” in the Yoruba language. In his (home) concert, Davido cites his father as his inspiration in a sweet and tender moment: “A Nigerian American like myself that studied in the States…I went to an HBCU, you know… My dad went to one as well and my dad used to work at Burger King. … To become what he’s become today as a Black man starting off in America has been very, very inspiring to me.”

A cool bass slide and generally fun bouncy bass from Kenneth Ogueji make “Aye” a fun track.  The rest of the song is all keys from Gospel Obi and Orowo “Roy” Ubiene.

In collaboration with the Alternate Sound band, Davido strips back “Aye,” a hit from 2014, with an unfettered rendition showcasing his natural voice devoid of any vocal effects.

It’s followed by “Risky” which is a bit more poppy.

Rounding out this Tiny Desk (home) concert, he concludes with “Jowo,” a single from the album that of conjures hope for better times ahead.

“Jowo” is a sadder ballad.  I like the song, but I cant help but think that by the end the backing singers are off key.

[READ: March 24, 2021] This is Not the Jess Show

I subscribed to the Quirk books newsletter some time ago.  And that explains why I received so much promotion for this book which I’d never otherwise heard of.

I read the blurb and it sounded fun, so I checked it out of the library.  And I was hooked instantly.

The book set in 1998 and it rather revels in 90s culture.   I though this was a lot of fun (since I am quite fond of the 90s myself).  At times it seemed like the book was maybe overdoing it with the 90s love (how many reference points are there: Titanic, Jewel, Scott Wolf, Savage Garden, Chumbawamba, Tori Amos), but whatever, Jess is a teenage girl and pop culture is pretty important in a teenager’s life.

As are crushes.  Her oldest friend Tyler has suddenly become… more interesting to her.  When they were younger, Tyler had buckteeth and rust colored hair.  He was fun but dorky.  And yet suddenly, she couldn’t stop thinking about him.

Her two best girl friends Kristen and Amber just didn’t get it.  They still thought of Tyler as a dork and they really discouraged Jess form pursuing him.  They teased her that she was like the song “Lady in Red”

It’s like, really?  You’ve known her this whole time and you’re only into her now, after seeing her in a red dress?  Isn’t that a little …fickle?

In fact, they know that Patrick Kramer, the hunky soccer player (and local hero!) is going to ask Jess to the spring formal.  How could she pass this up?  (Because Jess thinks Patrick is dull as dirt). Continue Reading »

SOUNDTRACK2 CHAINZ-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #170 (February 17, 2021).

I’ve never heard of 2 Chainz, but I love that his Tiny Desk comes from Pamper Atlanta–his nail salon!

He’s a pretty fascinating dude

Colored in royalty, neon hues of lavender, fuchsia and violet, in his high-end nail studio Pamper (yes, he owns it, and he’s not shy about letting you know), 2 Chainz is feeling himself throughout his five-song set. Getting a champagne-soaked pedicure, rolling one and periodically shouting out his sixth and latest studio album, So Help Me God!, the rapper exudes Black excellence in the way of luxurious comfortability.

“Southside HOV” is a fascinating brag track with lines like

I’m from the gutter, diamonds studded, I am too for real
Name another rapper that got a Versace shoe deal

His unbridled braggadocio so clearly comes from the freedom of security after being denied opportunities, not just individually but generationally.

He ends the song with a statement to the little ones:  “Listen carefully, this is a grown man speaking to you … pedicure in this bitch. too.”

“Vampire” is another new song that he casually raps while getting his legs massaged.

Then the set jumps to another room with 2 Chainz sitting in the spotlight as his partially obscured band plays.

He rewinds the clock and samples [his] stacked discography (“Good Drank,” “I’m Different”)

“Good Drank” has a grooving bass line from Tyler Sherard with some cool soloing from Josh Sneed.  “I’m Different” opens with a quiet piano melody from Mark Polynice–it’s almost like a horror movie.  Most of the songs have a chill rap style, but in the middle of this one he really lets it fly for a verse–rather impressive.  There’s some great drumming from Alex Turner on this track too.

The set ends with “Grey Area” and good grief with these lyrics, so much for inspirational).

All this sh- that I have done, I can not believe in karma (yeah)
Old enough to be your Daddy
Young enough to f- your Mama (boom, boom, boom!)
Young enough to f- your sister, young enough to f- your auntie
I ain’t messing with your Grannie, I just juuged her out them Xannies (true!)

It’s surprising then, that he gets all thoughtful at the end of the set.  As Polynice plays some backing chords, 2 Chainz says “Let me inspire.”

“There are a lot of people who have been moving the needle forward for Black people. And they have been for some time,” says an earnest, almost plaintive 2 Chainz. In a heart-filled sermon, he cites Martin Luther King Jr., Tyler Perry and Puffy as trailblazers, practicing gratitude for Black leaders who inspire him and the world at large. It’s a sober moment of euphoria — and a drastic shift from the first 17 minutes of the Grammy winner’s flashy Tiny Desk.

When thinking of inspirations he thinks of Martin Luther King, Jr. “I played from M.L.K.” he says (this must be metaphorical since King died almost ten years before Chainz was born).  Then when asked to name names of black people “who are currently like breathing and accessible in entertainment and tech” he says there’s so many who have inspired him he really can’t think of any names, even though there are so many black billionaires … “their names logged in my phone.”

The jump from M.L.K. to Tyler Perry may be the only time that connection was ever made.  But at the end he admits

I wasn’t specific when answering the question.  I just said what my heart told me to say.

But damn, if Pamper Atlanta doesn’t look really nice.

[READ: March 31, 2021] Klawde: Evil Alien Cat 3

While I enjoyed Book 2, I thought that Book 3 was a bit more fun.

Because it has dogs!

Raj’s parents are heading to Hawaii for a dental conference (Raj’s dad is a dentist, which you know because he is wearing a “plaque is wack” shirt.  Dad said it was work, but Raj was pretty jealous.  He wasn’t allowed to go because he was in school.  And that could mean only one thing: his ajji (grandma) was going to come stay with him.  Ajji was old-school Indian and brought three suitcases worth of cooking supplies.  And a dog.

Ajji doesn’t have a dog, but she was foster sitting this fluffy creature named Wuffles and brought it with her.  Since Wuffles needed a seat, Raj’s appi (grandfather) had to stay home!

Obviously Klawde is not happy to see that the “mortal enemy of all felines” was going to stay with them (the drawing of Wuffles on the “mortal enemies” page is hilariously adorable.  As Klawde sneaked up to get a better look, Wuffles exploded, snarling and barking right in Klawde’s face.

Klawde surveys the creature from atop the fridge:  It has the good sense to walk on four legs and has proper anatomical parts: fur, tail, whiskers and claws. But the whiskers were short (and couldn’t possibly be intergalactic sensors) and the ears were flopped over–clearly broken. Continue Reading »

[POSTPONED: April 2, 2021] Dance Gavin Dance / Animals as Leaders / Veil of Maya / Eidola / Wolf & Bear [rescheduled from April 3 then August 27, 2020; moved to October 1, 2021]

indexThis show has been rescheduled one more time–this is now the third date change.  Boy I hope October 1 is not too soon.

Over the changes, the lineup has had some minor tweaks.

Now, Issues is out and Eidola is in.

Eidola is a bit more math rock, with some pretty complex rhythms, and soaring high vocals.  They seem like they’d be a good change up in the middle of this set.

~~

This show was rescheduled from April and I recall that when it was rescheduled, some people online joked that it was too soon.  I guess they were right.

I still wasn’t sure I was going to go to this show.  It depended on what else was going on that week.  But i would love to see Animals as leaders again for sure.

I saw Animals as Leaders at TLA last May and I was amazed at the show (including the opening bands), but the crowd was really rowdy and I wound up far back behind a lot of tall guys.  I wanted to see them again, so when I saw that they were playing at Franklin Music Hall, I was surprised that they had moved up to such a big venue.

I had no idea that Dance Gavin Dance was the headliner, not Animals as Leaders.  In fact, when I later saw a poster for the rescheduled show(s) I thought Dance Gavin Dance was the (admittedly strange) name of the Animals as Leaders tour.

I don’t think I would have gone knowing that Animals as Leaders were one of (the four!) opening acts, but who knows.

So Dance Gavin Dance has been around since 2005 and I’ve never heard of them?  Apparently there are eight guys who have already left the band over the years.  People are quite divided about them.  Maybe I’ll give a record a listen.

Issues is another band I’ve never heard of although they have been around for eight years. They are described as combining metalcore, nu metal, pop and contemporary R&B.  Woah.  I don’t love the whole clean/unclean vocal thing–small doses are fine, so this might not be the band for me.

Veil of Maya have been around for six years (clearly I don’t follow this genre at all).  They are another metalcore band and I think this show might have been exhausting if I stayed for the whole thing.

Royal Coda shares (past and current) members with Dance Gavin Dance and is described as post-hardcore, progressive and math.

For this rescheduled show they were dropped for Wolf & Bear.  They play some aggressive progressive metal with growly vocals–a mix of things I like with things I don’t.  They also have a clean vocalist who sings some rather poppy sections.  They;re pretty interesting.

It would definitely be an exhausting night.

dgd