Nova Ruth Wants to Free Us From the Bondage of Slavery

On YouTube you can find a video of Javanese soul singer Nova Ruth singing “Perbatasan” (Indonesian for “Borderline”) from the back of a pedicab driven by her American-born collaborator, Grey Filastine. Strings of lights draped on the pedicab illuminate a world of endless roads and fragile vehicles in an unnamed Indonesian city, while English subtitles translate lyrics about the alternating hope and despair of contemporary war refugees. The rhythmic and melodic structure of the song is based on the circular polyphonics of Javanese gamelan, while the digital loops and noise-filtered string mosaics evoke Migos as much as Philip Glass. Continue reading “Nova Ruth Wants to Free Us From the Bondage of Slavery”

Rakim, Marly Marl, Roxanne Shanté, and Other Rap Pioneers Celebrate Forty Years of Hip-Hop

Four decades ago, when the Bronx was famously burning, one nightclub brought together the boogie-down borough’s dancing queens, hustlers, graffiti kids, turntable ninjas, and fledgling MCs under one roof. “It was just Sal’s place up in the Bronx where it all went down, where everybody in the whole rap industry used to go hang out,” Marley Marl says. “Whenever Sal has a celebration, I’m always down to keep the Fever spirit alive.” Continue reading “Rakim, Marly Marl, Roxanne Shanté, and Other Rap Pioneers Celebrate Forty Years of Hip-Hop”

The Wildly Surrealist Stories of Leonora Carrington

The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington
By Leonora Carrington
Dorothy Project, 232 pp., $16
Down Below
By Leonora Carrington
New York Review of Books, 112 pp., $14
The Milk of Dreams
By Leonora Carrington
New York Review of Books, 56 pp., $15.95

April 6, 2017, marked the centennial of artist and writer Leonora Carrington’s birth. A British-born textile heiress who ran away from her parents, her inheritance, and bourgeois conformity to join the Surrealist carnival in Paris at the age of twenty, Carrington proceeded, like many iconoclastic Surrealist women, to build a legendary life around her own imagination. Although American biographers, art galleries, and museum curators have been raising Carrington’s public profile since the mid-1980s, she only continues to attract curiosity and admiration in the 21st century. Continue reading “The Wildly Surrealist Stories of Leonora Carrington”

These Must-Raeds Explore Dada, Futurism, Surrealism, and the Art of Opposition

Pirate Utopia
by Bruce Sterling
Tachyon Publications, $19.95, 192 pp.
The Last Days of New Paris
by China Miéville
Del Rey, $25, 224 pp.
Max Ernst and Alchemy: A Magician in Search of Myth
by M.E. Warlick
University of Texas Press, $32.95, 335 pp.

Well, it’s 2017, a century-plus since Zurich’s Cabaret Voltaire first raised the flag of Dada derision above the senseless carnage of World War I. The founding group of Dada expats soon attracted many other bohemian rebels seeking freedom from existing social, aesthetic, and governmental norms. Of course, as Bruce Sterling’s new novella, Pirate Utopia, points out, the pro-war, pro-nationalist Italian Futurist movement was winning followers at the same time, and their manifestos ultimately supported the rise of Italy’s Fascist Party. Continue reading “These Must-Raeds Explore Dada, Futurism, Surrealism, and the Art of Opposition”

Downtown Icon James Chance Cuts Loose

It was well after midnight last Thursday by the time James Chance and the Contortions took the stage of the Bowery Electric. Dapper in his dress jacket and dancing shoes, the 63-year-old Chance made it clear he was there to boogie. The grotto-like basement space was packed with people who clearly didn’t give a fuck about a day job. Feckless twentysomethings squeezed back-to-belly against grizzled survivors of three or more decades of musical nightlife, ready to spend the first minutes of a new day with a legendary downtown iconoclast. Continue reading “Downtown Icon James Chance Cuts Loose”

Still Beating: A Bronx Festival Celebrates Centuries-Old Puerto Rican Rhythms

Every two years since launching at Hostos College in 2000, the BomPlenazo festival has come to the South Bronx to celebrate Puerto Rico’s traditions of bomba and plena music. Through concerts, dance, film, and master workshops, New Yorkers experience firsthand how the twin art forms can create and empower communities. This year’s edition (October 6-9) adopts a theme of “Between Generations,” setting longtime masters alongside younger players for a dialogue that spans decades. Continue reading “Still Beating: A Bronx Festival Celebrates Centuries-Old Puerto Rican Rhythms”

Global Fest – Webster Hall – 1/13

Last night the multiple stages of Global Fest played host to more strong female headliners than ever before. This was deservedly a point of pride for the event’s co-producers. Earth Mother energy was so pervasive in this year’s lineup that even most of the bands led by men had the wisdom to include women as singers or dancers. This was also the most conceptually balanced roster of talent I recall seeing at any Global Fest. Moving from room to room throughout the evening you could often sense one performer’s key qualities instructively illuminating another’s. Continue reading “Global Fest – Webster Hall – 1/13”

Why “World Music” Doesn’t Mean Anything Anymore: What I Learned at APAP

If you ever had any doubts about whether the global pop promotion game was an intellectual enterprise as well as an entrepreneurial movement, this year’s 10th pairing of NYC’s annual Global Fest with the yearly Association of Professional Arts Presenters’ conference would set you straight. Continue reading “Why “World Music” Doesn’t Mean Anything Anymore: What I Learned at APAP”

Detox Rocks

As most practitioners of alternative medicine will tell you, a host of minor and not-so-minor illnesses can be alleviated by supervised fasting. The human immune system works 24/7, but if it gets overloaded it can’t do it’s job very well. A compromised immune system is often credited with triggering a host of debilitating symptoms in women, some of which are ultimately diagnosed as Lupus, MS, Fibromyalgia, Chronic-Fatigue Syndrome, or Rheumatoid Arthritis. Continue reading “Detox Rocks”

Live: Gonjasufi Presses On in the Midst of Technical Chaos

Better Than: Watching the corny parts of the “Watch the Throne” tour.

Hip-hop has always flirted with spirituality. The S.p.o.o.k.s. and Wu-Tang embraced a Buddhist vision; M.C. Hammer, God’s Property, and P.M. Dawn charted with Christian themes; and the 5% Nation attracted many gifted creators of beats and rhymes. But what’s most different about the combination of yoga-dharma, Sufism, Rasta altruism, and hip-hop purveyed by Sumach “Valentine” Ecks (a/k/a Gonjasufi) is the psychedelic aspect. Continue reading “Live: Gonjasufi Presses On in the Midst of Technical Chaos”