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Archive for the ‘Suicide’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: AURORA-Verftet Online Music Festival 2020 (April 20, 2020).

In April 2020, Norway’s Verftet Music Festival streamed an online concert:

Get ready for Verftet Online Music Festival, Bergen’s largest virtual concert festival, where we can enjoy great music together. We want to turn despair and frustration into innovation and positivity, and invite everyone to a digital festival experience out of the ordinary – right home in your own living room.

Aurora played a 45 minute home concert for Verftet which you can see online.

The show starts with her at the piano (an unusual sight), playing the lovely ballad “Animal Soul.”  Then the drums start and Aurora and her band play a fantastic cover of the Massive Attack/Liz Frasier song “Teardrop.”  It sounds pretty cool on piano and even though Liz Frasier’s voice is unique in the world Aurora sounds terrific.

“Warrior” sounds very different from the recorded version, because it’s still rather quiet (although louder than the other songs).  Silja Sol has taken over piano and sings absolutely gorgeous harmonies.  Hearing the song stripped down shows what a powerful song it i

“All Is Soft Inside” opens with quiet echoing guitars and features more great backing vocals from Silja.  Although when Aurora sings a capella for a few beats it shows how great her voice is.  This song is really terrific.

Then she says something very Aurora: “I’m itching on my bum but I don’t want to do it on camera,  can you just film Magnus while I scratch my butt.”

Followed by some sage advice for pandemic times: “Its okay to be worthless, no not worthless, unproductive… we don’t have to do more than just exist sometimes.”

“Through The Eyes Of A Child” is a beautiful with just her and Silja on the piano.  The a capella verse with the deep and high harmonies sounds wonderful.  The song builds with the rest of the musicians adding in the guitar and drums.

“The River” grows bigger but is still restrained.  As is “Queendom,” her huge dance hit.  But even in this stripped down very it is still catchy and super fun.

“The Seed” is a wonderfully dark and powerful song.  For this quiet version, Silja plays quiet echoing guitar and the song builds into an intense climax (which is still quite restrained compared to the original).  But we can’t overlook the deep vocals from Magnus on the drums.

The set ends with a beautiful cover of The Beatles’ “Across The Universe” a song that will “take us away, a dreamy song… a perfect world… a beautiful hippie paradise.”  It’s a lovely gentle cover with amazing harmonies from Silja.

[READ: July 20, 2021] “After the Movie”

This is a very dark story.  It’s about Ed, a writer and filmmaker whose recent books have flopped.

He and his wife had just come back from the movies and his mood was foul.  He went to bed without saying good night to the kids.  Instead of falling asleep, he found himself sitting up and crying,

He genuinely considered killing himself.  He had no money coming in, they had borrowed against the house.  They had nothing left.  He was nothing,

Muldoon had called him this afternoon from Amsterdam.

Ed sat in bed and remembered back to when he was trying to perk up his friend Muldoon who was then having a similar slump. Ed encouraged him to hang in there.  And look at Muldoon now. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FROM THE TOP-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #230 (June 30, 2021).

Here’s three young classical performers playing some amazing piece of music.

From the Top is the radio program (distributed by NPR) that spotlights today’s terrific young players.

Teenagers from three locales around the country – Chicago, St. Louis and Palo Alto, Calif. – invite us into their homes for fresh takes on vintage classics, contemporary sounds and sophisticated pop arrangements.

Up first is a cello from Ifetayo Ali-Landing.  The song is by Yebba called  “Evergreen” (arr. Charles Yang).  I don’t know this song, but I really like it.  The cello sounds fantastic and the melody is delightfully complex and yet not unmelodic. I love the way she occasionally bounces the bow off the strings, for a really neat effect–very percussive.

Ifetayo Ali-Landing, an outstanding 18-year-old cellist from Chicago starts us off. She’s already performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and given her own TEDx talk. One of her calling cards is this propulsive performance of “Evergreen,” a pop song by Yebba, arranged for solo cello.

Up next is a guitar duo by Jack and Elle Davisson.  They play Paulo Bellinati’s “Jongo.” This is their favorite duo performance because of the rhythm and the beat.  Jack opens with some wonderful classical fingering and then Elle follows with a similar melody.  Then Jack plays a lead while Elle taps out a rhythm on the strings.  But from there it’s hard to pick out who is doing what–each player has something special and complicated going on.  Elle plays some lovely harmonics and a kind of bass string solo while Jack picks the complicated lead.  And just when you think you get the whole piece, the two of them play a lengthy percussive section tapping and slapping on all parts of their guitars–a drum solo in the middle of this classical piece.

Pairing up in Palo Alto, the Davisson Guitar Duo features Jack, 16, and his sister Elle, 13. Their signature piece is the rhythmically driven Jongo, which offers flavors from composer Paulo Bellinati’s native Brazil. The siblings finish each other’s musical phrases with startling lyrical precision.

The final piece is solo piano by Jerry Chang.  He performs Franz Schubert: “Impromptu Op. 90, No. 3.”  It sounds amazing and his description of the song that it reminds him of being in a garden, is really interesting.

Seventh-grader Jerry Chang, clad in his comfy exercise shorts, closes this cross-country Tiny Desk from home, playing Schubert’s G-flat major Impromptu like someone twice his age. The gentle, rippling effects he gets from his still-growing 13-year-old hands, and the way he makes Schubert’s wistful melody sing, is astonishing.

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “Now We Are Five”

Only Davis Sedaris could find humor in his sister committing suicide.  This piece is very poignant and quite moving but there’s still dark humor in there.

I begins by saying that his parents had six children and people were always startled to hear his.  Six kids!  But now that Tiffany had killed herself, they were only five.

Six months before she killed herself David rented a house on Emerald Isle in North Carolina.  The family had gone there when they were kids and he thought it would be a fun way for the family to get together.

When they were kids David always grabbed the master bedroom until he was kicked out.  Then he often wound up staying in the maid’s room–which was usually outside. The others banded together against him, since he was clearly the weakest at this point. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NENNYTiny Desk Meets AFROPUNK: #202/196 (May 1, 2021).

Tiny Desk Meets AFROPUNK was the opening event of AFROPUNK’s “Black Spring” festival. The virtual celebration, hosted by Jorge “Gitoo” Wright, highlighted outstanding talent in Afro-Latin and Afro-Caribbean music across the globe. Our showcase featured four artists who honored their homes and celebrated the art their heritage has inspired.

With warm maroon box braids nearly sweeping the floor and glitter adorning her eyes, NENNY’s presence demands full attention before she even opens her mouth. Dressed in a flowy, all-white outfit accented with a pastel checker pattern and surrounded by a matching four-piece band, the 18-year-old Portuguese singer-songwriter and rapper appears otherworldly, almost heavenly, as she harmonizes with electric guitar and jumps across the room, dancing with her entire body. NENNY first appeared on heads’ radar in 2019 with her single “Sushi.” She’s continued to impress with several more singles and the release of her debut project, 2020’s Aura.

I love that her band is all dressed with the same fabric–pants on the guitarist, shirt on the bass player and sash on the drummer.  They play three songs.  I have no idea what she’s rapping about, but the flow in Portuguese is pretty great.

Jonatas gets some really great guitar sounds in the solo of “Bússola” and I love the deep bass that Peterson gets.

When she talks you can tell just how young she is.  She’s full of energy!

“Wave” opens with sampled acoustic guitar as Nenny sings this ballad.  I like that she switches from rapping to singing and her singing voice is really good.

Keyboardist Gui Salgueiro starts “Tequila” with an acoustic guitar sample and Ariel plays some cool percussive sounds while a spoken word (in English) interview plays.  When the song kicks in she’s rapping in Portuguese again and the electric guitar plays leads while the acoustic is still looping.

She really does seem to float around the room in this high energy Concert.

[READ: June 1, 2021] “Walkabout”

The June 11 issue of the new Yorker had several essays under the heading “Summer Movies.”   Each one is a short piece in which the author (many of whom I probably didn’t know in 2007 but do know now) reflects on, well, summer movies.

It’s interesting to me that Roger Agnell wrote about Quest for Fire, a small French Canadian production (with full nudity) and Jeffrey Eugenides writes about Walkabout a small Australian movie (with full nudity).

[This movie is permanently lodged in my own consciousness because I was living in Boston when it came out and it screened at the Brattle Theater for seemingly ever.  I often thought about seeing it, but never did].

Eugenides says that he saw it at his family’s yacht club (!).  His father and brother were sailing so he and his mother went to this movie that they knew nothing about.

He summarizes the little I know about it.  A father drives his children–a teenage daughter and young son–into the outback.  He then sets the car and himself on fire. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MANIC STREET PREACHERS-“Die in the Summertime” (1994).

I really liked the Manic Street Preachers in the late 90s.  Perhaps ironically, I learned about them after the strange disappearance of lyricist and guitarist Richey Edwards, and really liked the first few albums that they put out without him.  I went back and listened to their older stuff later, but I still prefer Everything Must Go.

Nevertheless, The Holy Bible (where this song comes from) is a pretty great album.  And “Die in the Summertime” is really cool.  It opens with tribal drums and a nifty almost Middle Eastern sounding guitar riff.  When it kicks in after a brief intro, it’s more raw and heavy than their later stuff–was that Edwards’ influence?

I listened to this song a few times and will clearly have to dig out The Holy Bible for another listen.

Obviously Edwards looms over the band and clearly looms over this story.

The guitarist vanished on 1 February 1995 and is widely presumed to have taken his own life, but a body was never found and there is no definitive proof that he died by suicide.

[READ: May 31, 2021] The Forevers

This was a fairly simple (and familiar) story, but it was told in a very interesting way.

Ten years ago seven friends (or maybe not friends exactly) made a pact. They performed a ritual asking for fame and fortune.  And it worked.  They have all become very successful.

Each chapter has a title from a song.  The first is “Die in the Summertime” (3:07) [by Manic Street Preachers].

Ten years later we cut to Jamie Ashby–a strung out superstar singer (who looks an awful lot like the Irish guy from Lost, who was also a strung out rock star).  He is in a bad way.

Then we meet Daisy Cates.  She is a successful model,  But the person who takes her home does not have good intentions for her.

I liked the way their two stories paralleled on the same page with a different background wash of color.

Jamie does a show and when an old geezer says he’s washed up, he punches the guy and makes tabloid headlines,  We find out in the next chapter that the geezer was Robert Plant–ha!

Chapter 2 is “The Drugs Don’t Work”  (5:05) [by The Verve]. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RINA SAWAYAMA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert (April 19, 2021).

Rina Sawayama had one of the most compelling album covers of last year (see below).  I expected her music to be out of this world.  The little I heard was a little disappointingly poppy.  But this Tiny Desk Home Concert perks things up a bit

Rina Sawayama is back in the office, clad in a periwinkle blazer with waist cut-outs and a high ponytail cleaner than the view of the city skyline. Make no mistake: even in fluorescent lighting, the Japanese British pop star performs with the same tenacity and drama you hear in her 2020 debut album, SAWAYAMA, a lustrous pop epic peppered with early aughts R&B, nu-metal and classic rock.

She starts with “Dynasty” which has some deep keyboard bass from Geordan Reid-Campbell and strings from the string quartet (Braimah Kanneh-Mason: violin; Ayla Sahin: violin; Didier Osindero: viola; Jonah Spindel: cello).  Then Vic Jamieson adds a quiet sense of distortion with the electric guitar.

Tears calcify in “Dynasty,” a song like a salve to wounds inherited from generations past. The heaviness of the music never overshadows her voice, which ascends heroically. “Won’t you break the chain with me?” she belts out.

Heavy drums from Simone Odaranile shifts the song to a more rocking orchestral sound.  Backing vocalists Phebe Edwards and Desrinea Ramus add some lovely additions.  Jamieson solos and then the song gets big and intense with some impressively powerful vocals.

She says she’s been dying to play this.  She was meant to go on tour last year–this is the first time we’ve played “Dynasty” live.

As if turning the other cheek, Sawayama swiftly moves into the sweet, cha-ching pop of “XS.”

I would never describe this song as sweet or cha-ching.  “XS”  opens with deceptively quiet strings and Jamieson on the acoustic guitar.  She speaks quietly and the song jumps to the main heavy descending powerful riff.  The chorus is stop and start and full of hooks.  It’s a pretty great song.

She ends the set with “Chosen Family.”  She says that the song is dedicated to people who are not accepted by their parents for who they are: their sexual orientation or gender identity or anything else–and this is a pure and honest love song to my friend (my chosen family) who have gone through this.  Then amazingly she says she got a call from Elton John who said he wanted to work on the song with her!

the soft-hearted ballad “Chosen Family,” rendered in the style of her 2021 collaboration with Elton John. The song was reborn, in part, because of John’s admiration for Sawayama and her ability to cross-pollinate genres, but also because the two held “Chosen Family,” both the song and concept, dearly.

It’s a beautiful straightforward ballad.  And if you’re at all human, it will easily tug at your heart strings.

[READ: May 9, 2021] “Future Selves”

This story opens with a young married couple looking for an apartment to buy.  They had been renting but were looking to upgrade–get a real kitchen, a bathroom without chipped tiles.

They looked at smaller, impeccably restored places, but they seemed too small; they looked at a loft ion factory building–it was spacious and allowed for lots of privacy for each of them but there was no community around it–no café for them to sit in and talk .

It was a tough decision.

Around the same time, she had gone to visit her cousin at college.  Tara was fully enjoying herself and had lots of friends–boys and girls (one of whom she had a crush on). There was also Simon, a kind of hanger-on. He was soft spoken and friendly, but a step behind everyone else.

When she returned home, Tara had posted some pictures of them together.  Tara said that when they finally settled on a place, she’d love to stay with them. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LUEDJI LUNA-Tiny Desk Meets AFROPUNK: #203/196 (May 2, 2021).

Tiny Desk Meets AFROPUNK was the opening event of AFROPUNK’s “Black Spring” festival. The virtual celebration, hosted by Jorge “Gitoo” Wright, highlighted outstanding talent in Afro-Latin and Afro-Caribbean music across the globe. Our showcase featured four artists who honored their homes and celebrated the art their heritage has inspired.

I don’t really understand why this is called AFROPUNK, as there is nothing even remotely punk about any of the music here.  I thought maybe it was a typo, but this music isn’t even terribly funky.  This music is very smooth jazzy

It is quite good though and Luna’s voice is understated and pretty as she sings in Portuguese.

Luna performs from her coastal hometown of Bahia in the city of Salvador, Brazil, where African culture flows in abundance. She is a powerhouse, entrancing and elegant, soulful and spiritual, as she uses her platform to discuss individual and systemic forms of anti-Blackness.

“Lençois” opens with some gentle piano from Gabriel Gaiardo and washes of cymbals (struck with mallets by Sergio Machado).  Then Luna starts singing in a kind of raspy, seductive whisper.  After a verse, Weslei Rodrigo (and his spectacular beard) lay down a smooth, anchoring bass line.

After the first song, she introduces the band.  After she introduces guitarist Vinicius Sampaio, he plays a solo and sings along with himself in a particularly jazzy way.

Elements of jazz and blues are infused with African rhythms as Luna uses music to express her ongoing struggles for autonomy as a Black woman.

She says,

“I feel that we are living in a crazy moment in a crazy time and music has been a safe place for me — the only safe place for me,” Luedji Luna says in a low, alluring voice as she explains the purpose of her latest album, Bom Mesmo É Estar Debaixo D’Água.

“Erro” opens with a slightly more rocking sound and a guitar solo intro.  I appreciate how different these songs sound from each other while still maintaining her overall vibe.  “Chororô” is a little funky, at least from Rodrigo’s bass.  But jazz is the overall vibe.

I really like the way the song’s chorus plays a five note and pause refrain to give a dramatic opening for the piano and guitar solo.  It’s also fun watching Luna dance.

[READ: May 3, 2021] Parable of the Talents [end]

I wound up reading this book very quickly.  I finished it before the deadlines of the first week’s read.  I was totally sucked in.  I hated parts of it–the woes of 2033 were unbearable–but I couldn’t stop reading it.

And wow, did Butler mess around with my head.

Contradict the first page of the story late in the book, but have it be a totally justifiable reason!  Check.

Not reveal why one of the character has a book published until almost the very end and have it be a real surprise!  Check.

Make me completely reassess the tone of the book and why Butler was writing it?  Check.

This break was a pretty fortuitous one because this week’s reading starts with a lengthy introduction from Asha Vere.  She began making up her own Dreamasks when she was 12.  When she was discovered he was punished. But that didn’t stop her from writing fictions to escape her own life.

When she was 15, an enemy in her school told her that her mother was a heathen and a whore–Asha punched the girl and broke her jaw.  She was spared detention by her stepfather who mostly just liked to molest her.

Once the diaries resume, we see what Olamina’s dealing with.  She is desperately seeking her daughter and is still trying to build up Earthseed.  Allie has actually been settling down with Justin.  She’s making furniture and instructing younger kids how to make it as well. But Olamina can’t stay in Georgetown.  She has decided to head up north.  Inexplicably she is going to go to Portland to find her brother–the brother who disagrees with everything she stands for and who ran away from her.

Allie has arranged a traveling companion for her–against her wishes.  Her name was Belen Ross but she went by Len.  She was born to a rich family; however, she was born from a surrogate and once the family had a natural birth, they gave the cold shoulder.  At 18 ,she was kidnapped and held for ransom.  But her family never paid it.  Eventually her captors just abandoned her.  When she returned home she found that her parents has moved to Alaska.  She had no other option but to go to Alaska.

So here were two people going in search of those who don’t want them. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKDUCKWRTH-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert Meets SXSW: #189 (April 5, 2021).

Every year, NPR Music participates in the SXSW music festival, whether it’s curating a stage or simply attending hundreds of shows at the annual event in Austin, Texas. Last year, the festival was canceled due to the pandemic, but it returned this March as an online festival. We programmed a ‘stage’ of Tiny Desk (home) concerts and presented them on the final day of the festival. Now, we present to you Tiny Desk Meets SXSW: four videos filmed in various locations, all of them full of surprises.

DUCKWRTH decided to do something special for Tiny Desk Meets SXSW: brand new music. The dynamic R&B singer proceeded to debut two exclusives: a slow jam titled “make u go,” which he dedicates to the “lovers and freaks,” and the upbeat “Birthday Suit,” which KCRW astutely compared to Estelle’s “American Boy.”

The new material wasn’t the only thing that made this Tiny Desk such a treat. For this funky and flamboyant performance, DUCKWRTH dressed his backing band entirely in white and switched up the lighting for each song so that the hue matched the mood he was laying down.

“Kiss U Right Now” [red lights] opens with a muted guitar line from Justin “Jhawk” Hawkins.  After a  soft “Okay” from DUCKWRTH, a kind of sci-fi warbly keyboard comes in from Devin Smith.  And then with a slide on the bass from Solomon “Solo” Smith the song bounces to a start.  DUCKWRTH has a soft croon that he intermixes with rapping verses.   It’s quite inviting and not given to histrionics.

Before “make u go”  [purple lights] he says “Welcome to my Tiny Desk,” he says. “We are gonna play some new songs for y’all if that’s OK. Y’all ain’t got no choice!”  This is mostly gentle keys and then backing vocalists Olivia Walker and Amber Olivia Kiner start by singing the chorus.

He says “Birthday Suit” [white lights] is morning music.  With this amusing line “Meet me in my birthday suit / This ain’t Gucci, it’s way more cute.”  Amber Olivia Kiner sings the lead lines.  The song ends with this refrain:

we look better naked / better in the nude / bend it over baby while in public / we may end up on the news.

“Super Good” [blue lights] is a slow jam with an interesting drum pattern from Darryl Staves Jr.  I really enjoy the simple but synchronized dance steps at the end of the song.

[READ: April 19, 2021] Parable of the Talents [2035]

When this book started I thought that it was an interesting idea to have Lauren’s child go wholly against her.  I even wondered if it was Butler’s rethinking about Earthseed.   Larkin’s attitude about her mother doesn’t exactly change over these chapters, but it does morph a bit.  So much so that by the time chapter seventeen rolls around, Larkin comes across as a bit more of a petulant, jealous person than a critical thinker.

I wonder what my life would have been life if my mother had found me.  I don’t doubt that she would have stolen me from the Alexanders–or died trying.  But then what?  How long would it have been before she put me aside for Earthseed, her other kid?  I was her weakness.  Earthseed was her strength.  No wonder it was her favorite. (265)

2033 was a terrible time and, frankly, a painful read.  The chapter of 2035 tells us that all of Olamina’s diaries from 2034 are lost.  Which is just as well for me since 2034 was a year of the same torture and hellishness and I’m just as happy to not have to read it.

Larkin writes that she met some people who were at Camp Christian (we don’t know how yet) and spoke to a woman named Cody Smith who told her about the attempted uprising by Day Turner and his people–an uprising that failed and that caused a massive increase in suffering for everyone there.

Larkin tells us that everything that was done at Camp Christian was illegal–despite what Jarret tried to make legal. The one thing that seems to have been made legal was the removal of children from their families at the Mexican border because of vagrancy laws. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LIAM BAILEY-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #184 (March 23, 2021).

I had heard of Liam bailey but I didn’t really know anything about him.  I’m fascinated by his voice because his British accent comes through as he sings (in the way that Billy Bragg’s accent is quite audible).

For this performance, Bailey teeters between belting and crooning, with emotions that ignite the screen from the top of “Fight” to the closing notes of “Paper Tiger.”

“Fight” is a short song that is primarily made of percussive chords and slaps on the guitar.  For most of the songs, he is playing the chords and you can hear them change but there’s no ringing notes, just muted chords.  Until the very last lines when the music resumes and he sings powerfully.

So it’s all about his voice.

Wiping the sweat from his brow between songs, he exclaims, “We don’t normally have these glaring lights in my living room.  This is my front room by the way welcome. We’re not doing no studio productions. We’re keeping it real. Keeping it raw.”

I don’t know what “Vixit” means.  He says he wrote this and the next song in upstate New York.  The music is a little darker. Trying to figure out he lyrics:

I still have my memories I still hear your song. They were always so vindictive, you always got me wrong. I cherish every day now I’m happy to be alone.  I get every thing I want and I still get stoned.  I’m out of love, I’m out of love never seemed to make sense.

If only I had realized the other side was fine.  If only I had realized.

“Paper Tiger” is another powerful song and once again, the guitar is the vehicle for his voice and lyrics.  Which is not to say the song isn’t good, just that the melody is not as important as the words.

Perched atop an amplifier in front the peeling walls of his living room, he presents three selections from his latest album, Ekundayo, accompanied by one acoustic guitar. Ekundayo, which means “sorrows become joy” in Yoruba, fittingly describes the Nottingham, England, native’s music industry journey thus far. After various projects and record deals, he found it impossible to operate under the confines of a major label. He finally found the liberation he yearned for on Leon Michels’s Big Crown Records, which released Ekundayo last November.

This set is not even ten minutes long, but it’s really solid.

[READ: April 12, 2021] Parable of the Talents [2033]

2033 is a brutal year for Acorn and Earthseed.  The end of the section was really hard to read.

As the year opens, our narrator, who we later learn is named Larkin Beryl Ife Olamina Bankole says that her mother should have left Acorn and gone to Halstead like Bankole asked.  It makes it seem as though perhaps Bankole went without her, but he did not.

“Larkin” is a derivative of Lauren and from the Greek Laurel ,  “Beryl” was his mother–emerald is type of beryl.  “Ife” is the Yoruba word for “Love”

Olamina dna Bankole had actually stayed in Halstead for a short time.  A family was moving from Halstead to Siberia (!) for a better life.  The election of Jarret was the last straw for them.  Bankole is amazed:

If [when I was a boy] anyone had said that Americans would be giving up thier homes and their citizenship and going to make new lives in Siberia, the rest of us would have looked around for a straightjacket for him (130).

Olamina and Bankole stayed in the family’s house while Bankole was trying to decide if he should move there.  Well, he knew he should, he was trying to convince his wife.  She doesn’t want to move but says it was a good trip for her.  Living in a modern house with plumbing.  Being so close to the Ocean.  She could see the appeal.

Bankole had told people that they were leaving.  Or, more specifically, Marc was telling people they were leaving and the faithful were understandably freaked out.  But she convinced them, and herself, that she wasn’t leaving.

When I started this year I was taking notes on things that interested me, but after having finished it and reading all the horrors, it seems bizarre to include little observations about things that made me smile.  But I get to throw this one in because I am a cataloger for a library.

Olimani and Channa have been sorting and cataloging books for their library and Olamina hated to be interrupted, but not too much: “Still, cataloging is tedious” (137).

The first bad news comes from Marc.  After he had been rescued by Olimani and taken in by  Acorn, he decided that he wanted to preach his own Christian beliefs to the people.  He was going to do it without asking his suiter, but Olamina found out and told him to preach at their next Gatehring.  She warned him that he would be questioned about what he said and he was cocksure enough to go on with it. (more…)

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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. (more…)

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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. (more…)

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