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Archive for the ‘Racism’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: TRUPA TRUPA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #44 (July 3, 3030).

Trupa Trupa is a band from Poland who play some really great indie rock.  They were supposed to be touring the U.S. and doing a Tiny Desk, but instead they are home.

In a little dirty rehearsal room basement in Gdańsk, we find Poland’s great rock band Trupa Trupa on lockdown. Had it not been for COVID-19, this band would have been behind my desk this week, but as it is, they’ve settled into their rehearsal space.

Their songs are pretty intense, but this Home Tiny Desk features lighter versions of the songs.

They open their set with “Another Day,” from the 2019 record Of The Sun.  It has a great throbbing bassline Wojciech Juchniewicz while singer Grzegorz Kwiatkowski plays acuostic guitar.  He says its the first time he’s played the acoustic guitar in a really long time.

There’s a cool theremin-type sound that is coming from Rafał Wojczal.  The credits say the instrument is called an ondes Martenot, but this is a homemade device–and it sounds pretty cool.

I’ve seen them perform this; it’s always had an apocalyptic feel, but now the words “another day, waiting for another,” prompts Grzegorz to mention how this has turned into a quarantine song.  Grzegorz tells us that life in Poland has been difficult in this young democracy, but they are staying optimistic and playing music.  There’s darkness in the basement, yet their music is a bright beacon.

“Dream About” starts with a snappy drum from Tomasz Pawluczuk.  Kwiatkowski plays as scratchy rhythm on the guitar before  Juchniewicz plays a great rolling bassline that runs throughout the song until it abruptly stops for a some single notes.  Then it resumes again.  Wojczal adds some guitar before bringing that Martenot back.

“None of Us” is slow and deep basslines.  Initial vocals come from Juchniewicz who has switched to guitar.  The acoustic guitar is more prominent on this song.  And Juchniewicz’  fuzzy electric guitar sound is deep and menacing.

Their U.S. Tour was cancelled, but they weren’t going to play near me.  Maybe when they come back they can squeeze in a Philadelphia date.

[READ: June 20, 2020] Bagombo Snuff Box

This is a short story collection that I read when it came out.  When I read all of Vonnegut’s books a few years ago, I decided to re-read this collection.  It has only taken me several years to get to it.

But what a great bunch of short stories.

The Preface explains that these stories were written in the 1940s and printed in magazines before he had written his first big novels.  After the War, there were many magazines that featured fiction, so Kurt was able to make some good money on the side while he worked at General Electric.  He left the company in 1950.

Vonnegut has an introduction as well.  He talks about the beneficial effect short stories can have on a person.  He also says he generally feels good about these stories although he feels a bit badly for the way some (many) of the women are treated–not that Vonnegut specifically treated them badly, but that was sort of the way it was then. (more…)

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50093048._SX318_SY475_SOUNDTRACK: COREYAH-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #41 (June 30, 2020).

Watching Korean bands mix traditional and modern instruments is really cool.  Korean traditional instruments (like the geomungo) are really quite unlike anything the West has produced so I love seeing them in action.  But merging them with electric guitar (and plastic hand clappers) makes for such an interesting juxtaposition.

This week we’ll publish four Tiny Desk (home) concerts from around the world. We begin in South Korea.  Today [is] the music of Coreyah. According to the band, the name represents “inheritance,” and that’s evident in the way this six-piece presents old or traditional Korean music with a modern twist.

If you’re going to mix up such disparate elements you can pretty much do anything.

It’s an uninhibited vision of Korean traditional music with some psychedelic rock, Balkan gypsy, even sounds from South America and Africa. You’ll see and hear instruments including the daegeum, a large bamboo flute and geomungo, a large Korean zither that lays on the floor.

When translated into Hangul, the Korean alphabet, Coreyah means “whale,” which is the group’s good luck charm. The music was recorded in the band’s music studio in Seoul, with COVID-19 shutting down most of the country. Strict social distancing is still ongoing in South Korea, though they are streaming their concerts to fans.

And just a note from the band: The geomungo player in this video is Park Dawool, as Coreyah member Na Sunjin was forced to miss this recording due to a personal emergency.

“Till the Dawn” features some great flute playing from Kim Dong Kun on the tungso.  There’s a heavy riff on the geomungo from Park Dawool while Kim Cho Rong plays the double headed drums.   Kyungyi  play a more stanadrd-looking drumkitm but it is hardly typical.  I really like the instrumental break that is just flute and geomungo.

For “Yellow Flower” Ko Jaehyeon plays jagged guitar chords accented with flute.  This song is quieter and singer Ham Boyoung has some kind of device that she is holding, but I can’t tell its purpose.

For the final song, “Good Dreams” percussionist Kim Cho Rong moves to the front to play the chulhyungeum which turns out to be like a slide guitar geomungo.

I could watch them play all day.

[READ: July 2, 2020] Weird Al: Seriously

I had been seeing ads for this book in my Instagram feed for months.  So I decided to finally check it out.

Back in the day, I used to really enjoy reading academic books about non-academic subjects.  There was a whole series of “The Philosophy of” various pop culture things that was fun.  It often seems like these books overthink their subjects. Not that the subjects aren’t doing the things that the authors suggest, but I do have to wonder if the authors see a lot more than the subjects do.

That certainly feels true here.  I’m not saying that Al doesn’t think about race or gender when he writes songs, just that he probably thinks “this will be funny” a lot more. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: M. WARD-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #39 (June 25, 2020).

I don’t really know all that much about M. Ward. I was supposed to see him live on many occasions that never panned out (I think at least three shows were either cancelled or I couldn’t go).  But then I did get to see him live at the She & Him Christmas show.  I was really impressed with his guitar playing in that set.  And I’m even more impressed in this set.

He opens here with two beautiful finger-picked songs.  The first is “just” an “Instrumental Intro.”  I don’t know if it’s an actual song or just an improv, but it’s terrific (with nice harmonics).  It segues seamlessly into “Duet for Guitars #3.”  I’m not sure how you play a duet with just one guitar but it, too, sounds wonderful.

His tuning is nonstandard for all of these songs, which somehow makes them more chill and pretty.  His playing is effortless and really fun to watch.

For me, M. Ward would be the perfect artist to sit next to while he played his songs, perhaps on a couch in a small room. And that’s pretty much what you get with this Tiny Desk (home) concert. We see M. Ward in the lounge of BOCCE, a recording studio in Vancouver, Wash.

I didn’t really know his singing voice, but the blurb sums it up nicely:

That tender wispy-rasp in his voice and flowing acoustic guitar make M. Ward a musician I’d want to hear up close.

He explains that he took requests from various social media for this set.  He plays four requests and one new song.

Ward’s delivery reminds me of Sandro Perri, although a little more conventional.  “Chinese Translation” and “Requiem” are softly strummed songs and his vocals are mostly deeper with an occasional high note added in.

In between the requests he plays a new song.

Those songs fit so well with music on his new record, Migration Stories, from which he plays “Coyote Mary’s Traveling Show.”

This song sounds a little different in style–a more traditional bluesy style, I guess.  Then it’s on to

 comforting and memorable older tunes like “Poison Cup” (2006)

for which he switches to a different guitar–this one smaller (and presumably tuned differently).

Then it’s back to the first guitar for “Voice at the End of the Line” (2003). There’s some really lovely guitar work in this song.  I’m not sure I’d go out of my way to see him live but maybe one of these opening gigs will actually happen someday.

[READ: June 22, 2020] “Grief”

This story is about genocide and how to cope with it–especially if you are far away from when it happened to your family.

The narrator found it worse that no one would say the word genocide, just wry observations like “weird stuff goes on in your country.”  She had not given up hope that he mother, father, brother, sisters, her whole family back in Rwanda might still be alive.

In her homeland, the word was

gutsembatsemba, a verb, used when talking about parasites or mad dogs, things that had to be eradicated, and about Tutsis, also known as inyenzi—cockroaches—something else to be wiped out.

A Hutu classmate once told her he  had asked his mother who those Tutsi people were that he’d heard about and his mother said, they were nothing–just stories.

The narrator tried to get in touch with her family but heard nothing.

Finally, she called her older brother in Canada.  He told her that he was now the head of the family.  She received a formal letter in June confirming the deaths.  Why didn’t she have a photo of any of them? (more…)

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julyaugust200SOUNDTRACK: HAMILTON LEITHAUSER-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #37 (June 21, 2020).

hammyHamilton Leithauser seems to always be on the periphery of my listening experience. I hear his name a lot and hear his songs a bunch, but I’ve never actually looked for him.

And yet, I like him and his music.  And, indeed, as this blurb says,

This is the most adorable thing you may see all day.

Known best as the The Walkmen singer, Hamilton Leithauser is the singer of The Walkmen, although I know him better for his solo work.

Here he plays songs from his 2020 solo album, The Loves of Your Life.

Leithauser’s voice is a solid folk-singer voice and he hits a lot of high notes (with a deliberate straining style).  “In a Black Out” features his father Mark Leithauser on harmonica.  It’s a very touching Father’s Day moment.

But it’s made even more magical when for “The Garbage Men” he calls out his band: his daughters Georgiana and Frederika Leithauser and his nieces May and Lucy McIntosh.  The kids sing backing ahhs (quite well) and they all enjoy singing “till the garbage men go by!”  They also do the quiet “oohs” very nicely as well.  And they dance on haystacks.

“Here They Come” is about a friend who would go to the movies and sneak into film after film to avoid going home.  The kids sing the lyrics (pretty well) and dance even more adorably for this rocking song.  It’s important not to forget his wife, Anna Stumpf on congas and percussion way in the back for the middle three songs.

His daughter makes fun of him introducing the tiny desk “Dad you sound so stupid” and Hamilton laughs at the mocking.  They also show that they have a tinier tiny desk from the Calico Critters.

Then he introduces “The Stars of Tomorrow” by saying he and his girls met a Polish woman on the beach.  The woman told them her life story (they’d hadn’t asked).  It had a lot of drama and a lot of contradictions.  Everything in the story is true from what he can remember she told him, “but I can’t vouch for her story.”

The final song “Isabella” is, to me, the most Leithauser of the five songs.  A real folks song slow and passionate.  The girls do a fantastic job singing the “they all go riding home” responses in the chorus.  I’m very impressed with how well they sing.

There have been a lot of cute and sweet Tiny Desk’s but none have been as adorable.

[READ: June 23, 2020] “Lottery Poetry”

This month’s issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue and features two pieces of fiction, one memoir and three poems.

The fifth piece is fiction and it is very timely.

Maisy Wu learned fortune-telling from her mah-mah who’d read faces and palms in a stall in Hong Kong.  Maisy had been doing fortunes at college parties and eventually decided to quit her job at the Vancouver Public Library and go public with her talents.

She read palms and offered her own variation on Kau chim or lottery poetry.

Then the pandemic hit. At first people still came–they wanted her reassurances.  But when she was declared nonessential, she was financially hit hard.

She decided to go mobile with her skills, inspired by take out drivers.  She called it Curbside Divinations.  She received some likes on social media but no calls.  She imagined them saying, “If you’re so good at predicting the future, why did you book a  trip to Mexico in March?”

Then she had a request from a man named Pete.   He was a white man in sweats somewhere between forty-five and sixty-five.

She almost lefty when he asked “If you Chinese were so good at predicting the future, how’d you all get us into this in the first place?”

But as she turned to leave, he said he’d already paid.  And she needed the money.  (more…)

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julyaugust200SOUNDTRACK: PHOEBE BRIDGERS-“Kyoto” (2020).

phoebeI’ve heard this song a bunch and I like it more each time.

Phoebe Bridgers’ songs tend to be sad lyrically (and sometimes musically), but this song just overflows with wonder, melody and (apparent) happiness.

The song starts with a gentle keyboard but soon adds a fast bassline as Phoebe sings quietly.  Then pow, a big joyous chorus comes in.  Horns play a gorgeous melody and Phoebe harmonies (with herself?).  The way she sings “tokyp skies” gets me every time.

When the verse returns it feels a bit louder.  But the song is about her complicated feelings for her estranged father:

With my little brother
He said you called on his birthday
You were off by like ten days
But you get a few points for tryin’

The chorus resumes feeling even bigger and happier and yet the outro, featuring those same ebullient horns:

I wanted to see the world
Through your eyes until it happened
Then I changed my mind
Guess I lied
I’m a liar
Who lies
‘Cause I’m a liar

Phoebe said that this song was originally slow but she was tried of singing slow songs so she punched this one up.  It really reflects the mixed feelings you can have for someone.  And if you don’t care so much about the words, it’s a catchy gem.

[READ: June 23, 2020] “Dancing Bear”

This month’s issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue and features two pieces of fiction, one memoir and three poems.

The first piece is the memoir, written by Dimitri Nasrallah.   I had assumed that this would be a First Nations piece with a title like that.  But it is far from that.  It starts in Beirut.

The neighborhood where Dimitri grew up was a battleground between the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Israel military so his family left for Greece when he was four.

He stayed quiet while they tried to acclimate–they felt covered by the stench of war and wanted to keep a low profile. Then one night his father took the family out to the square.  As they walked around marveling at the sights, he saw a crowd gathered a round a man.

He was showing off a giant brown stanigng on its hind legs, muzzled.  The man made the bear “talk” and dance  Everyone laughed.  But that night Dimitri couldn’t get the sight of the bear out of his mind.  He imagined that he was the bear–muzzled, not wanting to dance.

The next day he told his father that he felt bad for the bear. (more…)

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waljuneSOUNDTRACK: KEVIN DEVINE-“Freddie Gray Blues” (2016).

a1265312378_16This week, Rough Trade and Bank Robber Music released a compilation on bandcamp called Talk – Action = Zero: A Compilation Benefitting Black Lives Matter.   On one day they raised $12,000 for Black Lives Matter, which is pretty fantastic.

The record features 100 songs, a majority of which are previously unreleased and some of which seem to have been written in the past week.

This Kevin Devine song is not new.  In fact, it has been recorded twice.  First with a band on his Instigator album and then reimagined as an acoustic song on his We Are Who We’ve Always Been record.  The acoustic version is included on the compilation and it really allows you to hear these lyrics.

It’s depressing that he wrote this song four years ago after the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old Black American man who was arrested by Baltimore Police for allegedly carrying a switchblade on April 12, 2015.

Gray fell into a coma in the back of a police van and passed away on April 19.  An investigation found that the arresting officers failed to follow safety protocols “through acts of omission” due to the spinal injuries Gray received during the police transport, which led to his death.  The six police officers were not convicted but faced various charges from second degree-murder to manslaughter.

Here it is four years later and the song is just as relevant and fits in this compilation all too well.

The lyrics are straightforward, the melody simple.

I’m talking Freddie Gray blues
I’m talking what happened to you
You were just 25
When they ended your life
When “to serve & protect”
Meant break your leg, snap your neck
Meant to kill you, to sever your spine
No matter what, there’s no good reason why

Devine also speaks from personal experience because of his family’s association with the police:

When I’m talking these killer cop blues
I’m kinda talking my family to you
See, my dad was a cop
And his dad was a cop
And my uncles were cops
And my cousins were cops
I’m partly here because of cops
And I love all those cops
And I know not every cop
Is a racist, murdering cop
But this is bigger than the people I love
The system’s broken
Not breaking
It’s done

And then, like any white person who is an ally, he realizes his position.

I’m talking white privilege blues
I’m talking confession to you
I don’t know what it’s like
To be afraid all my life
Looking over my shoulder
Behind each officer, a coroner
Entrenched inequality
No access, no empathy
Crushed in stacked decks
Institutions & death
This is not my reality
I’m afforded the luxury
Of shaking my head
I shut the screen, go to bed
I can turn off what you never can
And watch it happen again and again (and again and again and again and again, and again).

[READ: June 5, 2020] “Rookie”

I can’t get over how many stories there are about tree-planting, something that I feel like no one in the States ever does but which seems to be a rite of passage in Canada.

Every story talks about how horrible it is.  You can make a lot of money if you can put up with the conditions.  The cold, the backbreaking work, the pressure, living in a trailer or hotel for months.  Although you could make $10,000 in two months if you were good. And, pretty much everyone there let the drugs and drink and sex flow.

There’s always people who thrive and can plant 4,000 trees a day (at 9 cents per tree) called highballers.  While a rookie is lucky to plant 1,000 (which would mean breaking even after camp costs, like food).

In this case the highballers are Skye and Jen who seem to be a couple.  The rookie is Jake and the story is mostly about him.  Jake is a religious twenty-something.  He is God-fearing and serious.  He intended to go tree-planting with his friends from Bible College.  Elmer was the group leader and they would keep tabs on each other to make sure they didn’t smoke, do drugs or have sex.  Jake decided to join up, but by that time, Elmer’s crew was full, so he wound up with another crew in Ontario. (more…)

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alcaterlSOUNDTRACK: SA-ROC-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #30 (June 4, 2020).

sarocI have never heard of Sa-Roc, but I was blown away by her lyrics and delivery.  I really enjoyed that her delivery was intense and serious, even angry, but her delivery was so thoughtful.

If you want protest music for the uprising of the American consciousness, then look no further. Sa-Roc (born Assata Perkins) is an emcee from southeast Washington, D.C.

Sa-Roc bears her heart and soul here, weaving together influential threads from her upbringing; Pan-Africanism, the hardship of her father’s experience as a sharecropper in Virginia and her own childhood in Congress Heights, D.C., an area ravaged by violence and the crack epidemic in the 1980s.

In this Tiny Desk (home) concert, she debuted two exclusives, “Deliverance” is about reassessing where you are in making a commitment to change things. I love the beats and the lyrics.  She references Posdnous and De la Soul and then has this moment where she says this is the world’s tiniest violin and a violin sample plays.

After the song, she lights some sage to clear the energy.  She wants her space to experience joy and to be a stress-free peaceful environments.

“Hand of God” is her latest single about staying true to yourself.  It has a sung chorus and Sa-Roc has a pretty singing voice along with her flow.  In the second verse she raps with a sped up version of herself which is pretty neat.

“r(E)volution,” is from her upcoming album, The Sharecropper’s Daughter, which is produced by her partner in life and DJ, Sol Messiah.  It starts with a pretty guitar and a great bass line

On “r(E)volution” she spits bars: “Embedded in the home of the brave, the darkest of interiors. / Saw street scholars and soldiers defect cuz they post-traumatic stressed from the American experience.”

“Forever” is for little girls who ever felt like they were held to impossible societal standards; and if the world told them they weren’t good enough, weren’t valuable enough, weren’t worthy enough, weren’t dope enough to take up space or use their voice; they didn’t come from the right area or the right class or education; didn’t have the right skin tone or complexion; anything that made them feel less than.  This is about how dope you really are with all of your perfect imperfections.

I love that after a quiet clapping moment the song soars with guitars and bass.

[READ: May 8, 2020] Kitten Clone

In the Douglas Coupland collection Shopping in Jail, there was an essay called “All Governments Seem to Be Winging it Except for China.”  The essay said that it came from this book: Kitten Clone.

I wasn’t sure how interested I really was in reading about the history of Alcatel-Lucent, but I should have known that Coupland would do his thing and find an interesting and unique way to write about something that should be dull.

The only weird thing is that Coupland implies that he is alone on this excursion, but the photographs are not his (which is surprising since he loves art) the pictures are by Olivia Arthur.

This book is part of a series called Writers in Residence created by Alain de Botton, with the slogan: “There are many places in the modern world that we do not understand because we cannot get inside them.”  Coupland’s book is the third in the series.  The other two are Geoff Dyer: Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H.W. Bush and Liaquat Ahamed: Money and Tough Love: On Tour with the IMF.

This book looks into the past, present and future of Alcatel-Lucent and the cover of the book sets the stage: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DAVE-Tiny Desk Concert #908 (November 8, 2020).

Usually if you go by a mononym, your name is unique.  This British rapper goes by “Dave,” which seems rather bold since it’s hardly unique.  It also seems like it would be very hard to find in a search engine.

Perhaps the understated name applies to his understated delivery.  He has a lot of great things to say, but he’s not grandiose about how he says them.

He also seems very nervous (you don’t mind if I steal one of these waters, do you?).

 Dave made a special trip all the way from the UK just for his Tiny Desk performance. If that isn’t proof that it was a big deal, his nervousness before the show confirmed it. But he powered through in a performance that puts his gift for making the personal political on full display.

“Location” is first.  Tashera Robertson sings the introduction. There’s quiet but somewhat complex guitar work from Markelle Abraham.  Daves’ rapping is very understated almost quietly rhymes.  His delivery is almost mumbly because it is so quiet, but her remains clear.

He shares the inspiration behind the aptly-titled song “Black” from his opus of a debut. “It’s just about the black British experience,” he says. “Everyone’s experience of being black is a little bit different, but this is my take on it. I wanted to deliver it to the world and here it is for you guys.”

“Black” starts with a spooky piano melody Aaron Harvell and a very simple drum beat Darryl Howell based around rim shots.  The bass from Thomas Adam Johnson punctuates the melody.  There’s cool scratching sounds from Abraham on the guitar which add a spooky texture.  Robertson sings backing oohs and ahhs.

But the lyrics are fantastic

Look, black is beautiful, black is excellent
Black is pain, black is joy, black is evident
It’s workin’ twice as hard as the people you know you’re better than
‘Cause you need to do double what they do so you can level them

With family trees, ’cause they teach you ’bout famine and greed
And show you pictures of our fam on their knees
Tell us we used to be barbaric, we had actual queens
Black is watchin’ child soldiers gettin’ killed by other children
Feelin’ sick, like, “Oh shit, this could have happened to me”

Black is growin’ up around your family and makin’ it
Then being forced to leave the place you love because there’s hate in it

Her hair’s straight and thick but mine’s got waves in it
Black is not divisive, they been lyin’ and I hate the shit
Black has never been a competition, we don’t make this shit

Black is my Ghanaian brother readin’ into scriptures
Doin’ research on his lineage, findin’ out that he’s Egyptian
Black is people namin’ your countries on what they trade most
Coast of Ivory, Gold Coast, and the Grain Coast
But most importantly to show how deep all this pain goes
West Africa, Benin, they called it slave coast

Black is like the sweetest fuckin’ flavour, here’s a taste of it
But black is all I know, there ain’t a thing that I would change in it

The song builds slow and dramatically with more guitar work as Dave’s delivery gets more powerful.  It’s really intense.

But the climax here comes near the end, when Dave takes a seat at the piano to accompany himself while rapping his 2018 hit, “Hangman.” In the moment before he plays the opening keys, he pauses to take a breath before channeling the weight of the world through his fingers.

“Hangman” is more of the intense personal political storytelling.  His delivery is so perfect for this power of his lyrics.  This song has a few extra musical elements–some cool bass lines and guitar fills.  It also has an instrumental interlude at the end which allows Robinson to sing wordlessly.

I’m not sure if he has earned his mononym, but it’s a great show.

[READ: April 30, 2020] Bitter Root

I was drawn to this book by the outstanding cover art.  A 1920s era family dressed to the nines standing around a robot-like creature.  It’s sort of steampunk, but with a Harlem Renaissance twist,

In the essays in the back, the style of this book is described with a bunch of awesome phrases: cyberfunk (black cyberpunk), steamfunk (black steampunk) and dieselfunk (black dieselpunk).  There’s also EthnoGothic and ConjurePunk.

This story starts in 1924 indeed, during the Harlem Renaissance.

The story opens with music and dancing in full swing until something terrifying happens.

Next we see some police officers.  The black officer saying that “these people” give me the creeps.  A white police officer says “these people?” and the black officer says “The Sangeyre family ain’t my people. My people don’t mess with this mumbo jumbo.”

So then we meet the Sangeyre family.  Blink Sangeyre says she doesn’t like it that the police just bring them to their store. But Ma Etta Sangeyre says it’s better they bring them in before the kill someone.

We cut to the roof where Berg Sangeyre, a very large man with a wonderfully expansive vocabulary says “Cullen, might I offer you a bit of sagacious insight to your current predicament.  My assistance would hardly prove heuristic to your cause.”

Cullen Sangeyre is a skinnier, younger gentleman and he is fighting a bright red, horned demon known as the “Jinoo.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CHIKA-Tiny Desk Concert #959 (March 13, 2020).

I’ve never heard of Chika, but she proves to be really fun and funny (while rapping some serious topics).

Her band is jazzy and stripped back:

Chika was also the first hip-hop act to anchor her set with just a Peruvian cajón instead of a full, hard-hitting kit. The surprisingly stripped-down performance allowed her lyrics, with all their nuance, to take center stage — and the result was remarkable.

In addition to the band, were her terrific backing vocalists

The impressive harmonies from Chika’s four backup singers brought all the feels right out of the gate.

She starts with “Industry Games.”  Lovely ooohs from the backing vocalists then David Levitan plays an echoing guitar (“both catchy and eerily haunting” that I found reminiscent of the Close Encounters melody).  Up comes that cajon with gentle thumps from Dominic Missana.  Then she starts rapping.

Moving seamlessly between rap verse and melodic hooks, Chika showcased her unusual tonality, multi-cadence delivery and vocal range, with an effortless, double-time lyrical bounce.

She has a fantastic fast flow (smiling as she goes).  It’s interesting hearing the gentle backing vocals that repeat her (sometime harsh) final lines.

She even starts giggling in the middle.  She explains later “I say ‘tightest around’ and they sing ‘hottest around’ and it is hysterical to me.”

Before the next song she says, “Everyone brings nice things to the Tiny Desk, like lights…  I didn’t bring anything, or so you thought.  I brought this Chapstick and I’m gonna place that right here.  Fuck anyone who underestimated me.”

She says that “Songs About You.”  No shade to anyone.  It’s not about y’all. its about you.  The song features more nice backing vocals and then a grooving bass line from Chris McClenny.

Before the third song she sends a shout out to her sister who is there.  “Shout out to our parents… genetics!”  She asks, “What kind of shows are you wearing?”  “Puma…”  “You should have been wearing ‘Balencies,’ which is the name of the next song. She pauses and waits for the laughter.  Then says, “I’m funny.  We’re not gonna argue about that.  You all didn’t want to laugh… something about that felt racist.”

The backing vocals are wild and weird as it starts, Danielle Withers sounds like a perfect loop of an eccentric vocal line.  It’s pretty magnificent–I really hope she goes somewhere with a distinctive voice like that (I see that she has sung with some pretty big names already).

The other singers are (l-r) Jabri Rayford; Darius Dixson and Rachel Robinson (she’s standing on a box).

“Crown” has some great lyrics

I got a habit of rapping ’bout tragic sh-
I think I’m just passionate
Tryna steer the way while in the dark
Hope I ain’t crashin’ it (Woah)
Now my little hobby turned to cashin’ out
Thinking ’bout who I’d be if I listened to doubt
Said I’d never do it, well look at me now

Okay
This is for the kids with depression
The one’s whose parental expectations got them stressin’ (Woah)
The one’s who would rather persevere, bust they ass, tryna make it ’cause-
They ain’t really livin’ in the present

The set ends, oddly enough with “Intro” which is a very quiet song.  Gentle guitars and  a quiet rap.

This was a really satisfying set.  her songs were short and to the point.  The lyrics were powerful and affecting and the music was a nice accompaniment.

[READ: April 2, 2020] Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier

Jim Ottaviani & Maris Wicks worked together on the awesome book Primates.  Now they are back sending some primates into space.

I just love Wicks’ artwork.  She manages to do such amazing things with such simple-seeming drawings.  Her eyes are (mostly) dots, the faces are almost all simple shapes and yet everything she draws is so expressive and conveys exactly what she wants.  It is a pleasure to look at anything she draws.

Ottaviani did a lot of research for this book (obviously) and the end is chock full of resources that you can look at to learn more.

As for the book itself, it is “told” by astronaut Mary Cleave.  It starts with young Mary being told (by the President) that she was too young for the Astronaut Corp.  The letter (from President Eisenhower) did not go on to say that no women were accepted into the Corp, she had to find that out herself.

She was already a practicing pilot at age 14, but that wasn’t good enough.  She then jumps over to another girl her own age over in the Soviet Union.  Valentina Tereshkova was jumping out of planes and training to be a pilot, because the Soviet Union did not have a sexist component in their system.

But in 1959, even though women like Jerrie Cobb were certainly (physically) capable of becoming astronauts, women simply weren’t chosen.  Jerrie Cobb and Janey Hart testified before Congress where sexism (and simple, painful examples are provided) ruled the day.  They were even shut down by Jacqueline Cochran, a director at an airline, who said women should not even be pilots because they get married and leave after two years. (more…)

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