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Archive for the ‘Langston Hughes’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: DANIEL CAESAR-Tiny Desk Concert #750 (June 4, 2018).

Boy I did not like this Tiny Desk Concert at all.  I don;t like Caesar’s voice, I don’t like his lyrics and I don’t care for the backing singers.

This would be why his three most-streamed songs have a combined 249,000,000 plays on Spotify alone.  I just do not like this kind of music.

And of course it went on for nearly 17 minutes. So I’ll let the blurb say nice things

Daniel Caesar [real name Ashton Simmonds] and his band had a clear vision for their Tiny Desk performance. While already confined to a small space, they opted to congregate at the piano, where producer and music director Matthew Burnett sat to create what feels like a fly-on-the-wall moment. We’re presented a purity that’s nearly impossible to capture on an album.

The years of training in church, fused with natural talent, is on full display. Supporting vocalists Camille Harrison, Danah Martin and Nevon Sinclair are in tow for the whole ride, providing some of the richest harmonies we’ve heard at the Tiny Desk. I found myself fixated on the playful manner in which the band members interacted with each other.

I will agree with the intimate nature of the show.  He’s leaning on the piano, largely unaware of the surroundings.  And the piano sounds good. I also won’t leave out Adrian Bent on drums.

They play three songs.

“Japanese Denim”  I hate the opening lyrics: “I don’t stand in line / I don’t pay for clothes; fuck that yeas.  But I would for you.”  Good grief.

“Get You” I like the acoustic bass by Saya Gray on this track.

“Best Part (feat. H.E.R.)” H.E.R. (Gabriella Wilson) has a nice voice and they sing well together: “You’re my water when I’m, stuck in the desert / You’re the Tylenol I take when my head hurts.”

[READ: January 12, 2017] “Seven People Dancing”

Langston Hughes died in 1967.  This story was written in 1961.  It’s fascinating how a word can change in 50 years.

The story begins by telling us that “It was Marcel’s apartment and he was a fairy.”  Given my daughter’s age and the prevalence of magic-related stories out there, and the fact that no one uses that word anymore, I certainly never thought he meant that Marcel was gay.

Also telling about the fairy: “Nobody esle was unusual in that regard.”  Also, that he had inserted a “de la” in his named Marcel de la Smith as an indication of French Creole origin.  Although he had never be to new Orleans.

So it was Marcel’s apartment and seven people were dancing–three couples and Marcel.  Six of these people were colored and one was white.  “Marcel was colored, a muddy brown and not good-looking…. His dancing was too fanciful to be masculine and too grotesque to be feminine.  But everything he did was like that, so it was very easy to tell that he was a fairy.”

Marcel gave parties to mixed couples which many places would not do.  And why?  He was an old fairy who had lost interest in uniforms.  In fact, his interest now was money. That was why he gave parties primarily for people who did not touch his heart.

A few paragraphs in and a narrator enters the story who comments “the reason I say ‘perhaps’ about the white girls is that I do not know the ultimate why of anything.”  Her name was Joan and Claude had brought her.  He had introduced her to Harlem in the first place.

Hughes has a fascinating way with words.

The other couples laughed and the laughter bounced, like very hard rubber balls, around the room, not like tennis balls but like solid hard rubber balls, and Marcel laughed, too. Marcel’s laughter was like a painter’s ground cloth that protects the furniture and anything else under a ceiling being painted.

One of the men was a very dark, very handsome hard-rubber-ball man of indefinite age, maybe young, maybe fifty, but too dark to tell. (I know that he was thirty-eight). The woman with whom he was dancing was the color of green tea in an off-white cup.

But he also repeats information a lot:

Seven people were dancing, three couples and Marcel. Midnight.

It was Marcel’s apartment, and seven people were dancing. Six were colored and one was white. Marcel himself was colored, a muddy brown and not good-looking. It was he who danced alone.

Marcel’s laughter somehow cleared the air of evil and left only the music and the seven people dancing, including himself.

Otherwise, why did the laughter ring out again, louder than the music, and bounce, like a dozen hard rubber balls, around the room after 2 a.m.,

And why did Marcel’s laughter stop being a ground cloth and start bouncing like a rubber ball, too, and a very hard one at that?

The “Oh, but” identified her as having been around at least a little in Harlem, and therefore the laughter bounced like rubber balls.

This story nears its end with the dark man saying how much he wanted to dance with the white woman.  And then there’s this paragraph which I don’t understand at all.

It was a Dizzy Gillespie record, and what it said without words summed up the situation pretty well. It was not that room but the world in that room that was in the record. The music was uranium, and those seven people, had they been super-duper spies, could not have known more about atomic energy—that is, its reason for being a mighty way of dying, “Oh, but I do” being a component.

Being fifty years old and startlingly out of date, this story was hard for me to parse.  Surely the mixture of dark and white people and a gay man must speak to something–I love how progressive it is.  But why the repeated rubber balls and why keep telling us it was seven people?  This was a short piece and there was so much was repeated.

The ending was comical but serious and again, it seemed really spare.

I’m not really familiar with Hughes, so I can’t even say anything by comparison to his other work.

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[ATTENDED: April 16, 2018] Hurray for the Riff Raff

 I knew of Hurray for the Riff Raff (I love the band name) from a couple of songs, but it wasn’t until their most recent release that I learned that lead singer (and really the constant of the band) Alynda Segarra was not only Puerto Rican (she calls herself Nuyorican) but was active in her commitment to Latino causes.

This commitment is evident on their new album The Navigator which explores many aspects of Puerto Rican culture  and music, but keeps it wrapped in a rocking New York vibe.  Segarra is also a striong feminist, writing songs for an about women.  Her stage presence is a striking combination of “don’t fuck with me” and “I’m going to have a good time.”

Segarra is an excellent front woman. She commands a room and gets everyone involved in her songs.  She told empowering and infuriating stories to introduce the songs which made them even more engaging.

Most of the set came from their new album The Navigator which was great because I love the diversity of the disc.  There were a couple of songs in the middle of the set (which turned out to be older songs I think) that were a little flat musically, but the rest of the set was dynamite. (more…)

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