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Archive for the ‘Anne Fadiman’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: FLATBUSH ZOMBIES-Tiny Desk Concert #64 (August 13, 2020).

download (93)I’ve never heard of the Flatbush Zombies, but I really like their chill rap style.  Musically the songs are groovy and complex and the live backing vocalists (l-r: Danielle Withers; Nayanna Holley; Stevvi Alexander) really flesh out the sound.

Plus, there’s three lead rappers who have very different vocal styles and combine wonderfully.

Most of the music comes from keyboardist Brittani Washington and bassist Robin Bramlett.  But its the live drums (Drin Elliott) that really punch these songs (the cymbals sound really sharp and clean).

You’ve never really experienced Flatbush Zombies if you haven’t been to one of their live shows. The hip-hop group’s knack for tearing down festival stages is well documented and the energy transfer between members Zombie Juice, Meechy Darko and Erick Arc Elliott and their crowds is ferocious to put it lightly. So when I heard that they were recording a Tiny Desk concert from home, I was curious as to if and how that energy would manifest in a confined space.

It’s fun watching the band perform in this socially distanced house–everyone is far apart but clearly jamming off of each other, and the camera(s) are all over the room.

The Zombies present themselves like we’ve never seen or heard. Stripped down versions of “when i’m gone,” fan favorite, “Palm Trees” and the brand new James Blake-produced “Afterlife” are almost completely different from the recorded versions.

This may be yet another instance where a Tiny Desk Concert brings out the best of a rap band.  I don’t know what their recorded versions sound like, but the live band is great.  If this is really the first time they’ve played together, it’s a testament to how good they can all play together.

“when i’m gone” song starts out with Zombie Juice rapping.  He’s got a soft but intense delivery that I really like.  The backing vocals are really lovely.  Erick Ark Elliott takes the second verse.   His delivery is also quiet.  But it’s the addition of Meechy Darko’s gravelly, intense rapping that sets the song apart.  There’s also a nice instrumental breakdown at the end.

Between songs, the guys introduce themselves.  Erik says he is Erik The Architect and Meechy says his government name is Dimitri Simms (which makes everyone laugh).

Introducing “Palm Trees” Erik says this is the first time you’ll hear this song in this way.  Meechy sings the first part with his deep gravelly Jamaican vocals.   For the second half, Zombie Juice raps in a kind of comical falsetto that I really like.

Meechy is a hilarious hype man, making all kind of hype sounds [Blap blap. gaboom, r-r-r-rah, bakka, bakka] as they introduce the band members.

The guys stand up for “Afterlife.”  Erik takes the lead and the other two guys back him up nicely.  There’s fantastic backing vocals on this song and it’s pretty clear that these guys are terrific live.

I really enjoyed this set and am looking forward to hearing more from these Zombies.

[READ: August 15, 2020] “All My Pronouns”

This essay kind of updates the prescriptivist/grammar article that David Foster Wallace wrote in Harper’s almost 20 years ago.

Anne Fadiman addresses the increased usage of they/their as both a singular pronoun and for nonbinary persons.

She explains that she is a classic prescriptivist when it comes to language and to life.  She sorted her M&Ms by color before eating them.  (Apparently 18% of respondents to a survey responded that they did this while 82% said “no, that’s weird”).  I think that’s weird, but I do go along with her on some other “splitter” attitudes.

She separates splitters vs. lumpers.  Splitters makes distinctions rather than finding commonalities.  Splitters don’t say you’ve seen a bird, or even a hawk, say a red-shouldered hawk.  Splitters enjoy organization; splitters enjoy grammar.

Splitters tend to be presciptivitsts–this is how people should talk.  While lumpers tend to be descriptivists this is how people actually talk.

Prescriptivists are called (usually by descriptivists) elitists, killjoys, curmudgeons, cranks, fussbudgets, old farts, usage nerds and grammar fascists.  Descriptivists are called (usually by prescriptivists) corrupters, miscreants, barbarians and vulgarians.

But now prescriptivists have to address the issue of the pronoun “they.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DEBO BAND-“Ney Ney Weleba” (Field Recordings, May 16, 2012).

This is yet another Field Recording [Debo Band: Ethiopian Funk On A Muggy Afternoon] filmed during SXSW at the patio of Joe’s Crab Shack.

I was not familiar with Debo Band.  They are led by Ethiopian-American saxophonist Danny Mekonnen and fronted by magnetic singer Bruck Tesfaye.  The group infuses its dance-friendly songs with the Ethiopian pop and funk music of the 1960s and ’70s.

Compared to a dark club full of dancing fans, a muggy Austin afternoon with the sun peeking out over our isolated spot at Joe’s Crab Shack isn’t the ideal setting for a Debo Band performance. But once the group began digging into “Ney Ney Weleba” — a classic song by Alemayehu Eshete — it didn’t take long to get caught up in Debo Band’s deep, infectious groove.

This is a bizarre song to write about because there are just so many elements and so many things going on.  Lead accordion, violin, horns and lyrics in Amharic.  But with guitar, bass and drums and a rocking beat.

This vibrant 11-member group collects its influences like trading cards: It finds common ground in jazz, classic soul, psychedelic rock and New Orleans party bands, playing with song forms, manipulating rhythms and finding space for improvisation.

Plus, the fact that the band is signed to Sub Pop — a label more known for indie-rock and pop — represents something of a statement. Debo Band is a rock group first and foremost, and one that can bring joyful intensity to listeners who might not otherwise naturally gravitate to this music. It’s a winning cross-cultural stew of sounds that grabs you instantly, and ought to have you bobbing along and sweaty in no time.

The whole song lurches along with a really fun beat, and then there’s a trumpet solo and a very psychedelic echoing guitar solo.  It ends with a rocking jam from the two saxes and then a re-visitation of the opening.

I have no idea what the song is about but I like it.

[READ: November 2008] “It All Gets Quite Tricky”

I thought I had read everything that David Foster Wallace had published in Harper’s but as I was going through back issues, I found this little thing.  It’s basically correspondence between Wallace and some students.

These letters were written about in the David Foster Wallace Reader.

Anne Fadiman’s Afterword about the State Fair (which these letters reference) in the book is my favorite because she talks about using the essay in her classes. She focuses on just one section (the one about food) and asks them to really parse out its structure and content.  She also says that one student got to write to DFW each semester and that he would answer their questions for him.  His letters always ended with, “Tally Ho, David Wallace.” (more…)

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dfwreadSOUNDTRACK: CHRISTIAN SCOTT aTUNDE ADJUAH-Tiny Desk Concert #477 (October 9, 2015).

aacsChristian Scott aTunde Adjuah and his septet play what he calls stretch music: “the particular type of jazz fusion he’s up to: something more seamless than a simple collision of genre signifiers.”

They note that even his appearance stretches traditional jazz: “You may note that he showed up in a Joy Division sleeveless T-shirt and gold chain.” It’s sleek and clearly modern, awash in guitar riffs, but also bold and emotionally naked.

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah (not sure how to abbreviate that) is a trumpeter and he can hit some loud powerful and long –held notes.   It’s funny that when he bends over the trumpet grows quieter—those ic really are direction-based.

For the first song “TWIN” he does some impressive soloing over a simple and cool beat—piano and delicate guitar riffs (there’s also an upright bass and drummer).   After his lengthy solo there’s a flute solo that also works perfectly (if less dramatically) with the background music.  (Christian plays tambourine during her solo).  He says that this song is about being a twin.  His brother, Kyle Scott is a film director and for whom Christians scores the music.  Christian also explains that he comes from an African-American and Native-American background and that this song has rhythms as a sort of history of his family that touches on Mali, Senegal Gambia and The Ivory Coast and makes its way to the Caribbean, Cuba and into New Orleans.

He’s pleased to play the Tiny Desk Concert for an audience that appreciates “Music that has nutritional value.”

For the second song, “West of the West” he brings on a young alto-saxophonist who plays with his drummer in a different band. The song opens with a rocking electric guitar solo and then the jazzy band kicks in behind it.  The instrumental features a couple of solos by the saxophonist, the pianist and the bassist.

“K.K.P.D.” is a dramatic song for which he gives a lengthy back story.  Many years ago in his home of New Orleans, he was stopped by New Orleans police late at night for no reason other than to harass and intimidate him.  he was coming back from a gig.  He resisted and was in a serious situation and was seriously threatened—the story is long and very affecting, especially given how articulate (I know, terrible word, but true) and calm he is about retelling this horrifying story.  His pride almost made him do something ill-advised, but instead he channeled that pent-up frustration into a piece of music whose long-form title is “Ku Klux Police Department.”

He adds that we see things on TV about inner cities or the ninth ward and we believe them to be true.  Like that the neighborhood is happy that the police are clearing out the youth there.  We begin to think that the narrative is true, although the people who live there can tell you otherwise.  Despite the title and the origin, the is song is designed to reach a consensus to move forward –not to build derision or hate.  He says that we have to start working on that now, because if it doesn’t start now then our children will continue to inherit this situation.

It opens with a noisy guitar wash and fast drums.  It’s quite noisy and chaotic although it resolves very nicely into an almost sweet piano-based song with slow horns.  The middle of the song ramps up with some intense soloing from Christian.  I love how that segues into a very different section with an electronic drum and delicate piano.  Chritsian’s next solo is much more optimistic.  The final section is just wonderfully catchy.

When he introduces the band, he points out just how young some of his newest members are: Drummer Corey Fonville (another new member) used a djembe as a bass drum, and also brought a MIDI pad so he could emulate the sound of a drum machine; Lawrence Fields, piano; Kris Funn, bass; Dominic Minix , guitar (21 years old); Braxton Cook, saxophone (24 years-old) and Elena Pinderhughes, flute: 20 years old!

I don’t listen to a ton of jazz, but I really liked this Tiny Desk Concert a lot.

[READ: July-October 2016] The David Foster Wallace Reader

I’ve had this book since Sarah bought it for me for Christmas in 2014.  I haven’t been in a huge hurry to read it because I have read almost everything in it already.  And some of that I have even read recently.  But this summer I decided to read some of my bigger books, so this was a good time as any.

One of the fascinating things about reading this book is the excerpting in the fiction section.  I have never really read excerpts from DFWs longer books before.  And once you decontextualize the parts, you can really appreciate them for themselves rather than as a means to the end of the story.  This is especially true of the excerpts from Broom of the System and Infinite Jest.  But also just reading some of these sections as a short story makes for an interesting experience.

It was also very interesting to read the non-fiction all together like that.  These pieces come from difference anthologies, but they have thematic similarities  So, placing them together like that allows for really comparing the stories.

And of course, the selling point for most DFW fans is the teaching materials in the center of the book–an opportunity to look into the man’s mind at work shaping younger minds.

I have written about virtually everything in this book already (title links refer back to previous posts), so mostly these are thoughts about the pieces themselves and not a part of a whole. (more…)

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