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Archive for the ‘Africa’ tag

Fela Kuti Vinyl Box Set Curated By Brian Eno

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Fela Anikulapo Kuti - complete works
Fela Anikulapo Kuti – complete works

Since I own these albums already on CD, this box set, while enticing, seems too expensive for me: $30 per LP.  If you are new to the delicious and infectious polyrhythms of Fela Kuti, Tony Allen, et al,  these are excellent albums to start with.

Via Pitchfork’s Evan Minsker

Knitting Factory have released two vinyl box sets reissuing Fela Kuti’s albums—the first was curated by ?uestlove, the second by Ginger Baker. On September 29, they’ll release a third, this one put together by Brian Eno. For Eno’s installment, he picked the albums London Scene (1971), Shakara (1972), Gentleman (1973), Afrodisiac (1973), Zombie (1976), Upside Down (1976), and I.T.T. (1980). It comes with a 12-page booklet with a foreword by Eno, song lyrics, and in-depth commentaries by Afrobeat historian Chris May.

(click here to continue reading Fela Kuti Box Set of Vinyl Reissues, Curated by Brian Eno, Announced | News | Pitchfork.)

Fela Kuti Box Set 3 - Brian Eno

For the same money however, you can purchase 27 Fela Kuti discs instead: The Complete Works Of Fela Anikulapo Kuti on CD

Also here’s Brian Eno discussing how he discovered Fela1 in a record store in London

This is the first in a series of videos presenting the salutations of celebrities on the occasion of what would have been Fela’s 75th birthday. Also on this day, 15th October, Knitting Factory Records are releasing Red Hot + Fela, a compilation album featuring interpretations of Fela songs by a raft of top drawer artists. All profits from this album go towards combatting AIDS.

Brian Eno, producer, thinker, conceptual artist and lifelong Fela fan has contributed this salutory message, talking about how encountering Fela’s music changed his life.

(click here to continue reading ▶ Brian Eno – Thoughts On Fela – YouTube.)

Footnotes:
  1. his music, that is []

Written by Seth Anderson

August 12th, 2014 at 7:53 am

The Black Hippies was uploaded to Flickr

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a vinyl re-release of the mid-70s debut album of a Nigerian funk band. From Reckless Records.http://ift.tt/1uKOabi

Rough Trade has this to say about it:
High quality reissue of great and unbelievably rare Afro Rock Lp. Appeals to fans of Psych, Fuzz, African, and Funk. Licensed directly from Pazy (Band Leader, Lead Singer and Guitarist). Pazy (real name Joseph Etinagbedia) started playing music in the Fire Flies in the city of Warri in Nigeria in 1973. The area was in the midst of an oil boom, and like most bands on that scene, the Fire Flies played American and European pop hits mixed with Jazz and Highlife for the largely expat audiences in local clubs. Along with an influx of foreigners, the oil boom also gave rise to an emerging Nigerian youth market, and soon Pazy formed the Black Hippies to play the uniquely African style of hard rock that was favoured by this new audience. They quickly found success and were appearing alongside other Warri-based artists such as Tony Grey. In short time, they came to the attention of EMI and their legendary producer Odion Iruoje, who recorded this album. By the time it was released in 1977, though, Disco and Funk were starting to take over and the hard fuzzy rock of The Black Hippies first album was somewhat behind the times. As a result, the album was barely released and is now virtually unfindable, unseen by all but a few of the most hardcore collectors. Pazy would go on to form a new line up of the Black Hippies that played mostly Reggae but this remains by far the best album. Featuring whiplash funk drumming, searing fuzz guitar, raw vocals and that uniquely West African organ sound, The Black Hippies first album is a definitive classic of the genre. Beautifully remastered with restored artwork, this release stands alongside our Ofege and Psychedelic Aliens releases as restored gems from a largely unknown but incredibly vital Rock scene in 70’s West Africa.

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/nTy4go

I took The Black Hippies on June 07, 2014 at 02:46PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on June 07, 2014 at 08:37PM

Written by eggplant

June 9th, 2014 at 8:37 am

2013 Year End Reviews – Joseph Kabasele – Le Grand Kallé: His Life His Music

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Joseph Kabasele – La Grand Kallé: His Life His Music

Rating – A

I’ll admit to knowing next to nothing about Congolese master, Joseph Kabasele, prior to purchasing this 2 CD set1, but I’m so happy I picked this diamond up. CD 1 is comprised of songs recorded from 1951-1962; CD 2 tracks were recorded from 1964-1970. If you are familiar with Brazilian samba, Haitian kompa, Dominican merengue, or Cuban rumba /  mambo you are familiar with Congolese music. New Orleans? Funk? Jazz? Likewise. Infectious, joyous, polyrhythmic bliss.

I’m not sure if King Léopold II of Belgium2 has a direct effect on the life of Joseph Kabasele, though it is plausible. An essay for another time perhaps, including discussion of Zaire, Mobutu, and colonialism.

From the Amazon listing:

In the turbulent and euphoric times that surrounded Congo’s independence in 1960, Kallé and his rumba band, Orchestre African Jazz (which included such luminaries as Manu Dibango, Dr. Nico and Tabu Ley Rochereau) was the most influential in Africa. Their sound has rung around the world ever since.

Le Grand Kallé is the latest in Stern’s Africa’s acclaimed series of boxed sets devoted to the greatest Congolese stars. (Previous titles include Francophonic, The Voice of Lightness and Bel Canto.) Graced by recordings that have been out of print for decades as well as Kabasele’s most famous and enduring works, this double album features a keenly researched and illustrated 104-page book that reveals the man, his music and its context as never before.

(click here to continue reading Amazon.com: Le Grand Kallé: His Life His Music (2-CD + Book): Music.)

The Guardian U.K. is where I heard of this album:

If Franco was the finest musician in the Congo, and indeed Africa, then his rival Joseph Kabasele was the most influential band leader. Known as Le Grand Kallé, he was a singer, songwriter and businessman whose band African Jazz were the best-known exponents of Congolese rumba, and included such celebrities as guitarist Dr Nico, singer Tabu Ley Rochereau and saxophonist Manu Dibango. They all feature on this 38-track set that includes intriguing sleeve notes detailing Kallé’s sometimes controversial life, friendship with Lumumba and uneasy dealings with Mobutu. It starts with a charming track from 1951, previously available only on a shellac 78, and ends with his final recordings with Dibango in 1970, including the funky Africa Boogaloo. And it of course includes Indépendance Cha Cha, the delightful soundtrack to Congo’s bloody and chaotic independence in 1960, and the glorious dance song Tika Ndeko Na Yo Te. An African classic.

(click here to continue reading Joseph Kabasele: Le Grand Kallé, His Life, His Music – review | Music | The Guardian.)

Footnotes:
  1. with a 102 page booklet – 46 in English! []
  2. Heart of Darkness, and inspiration of Apocalypse Now []

Written by Seth Anderson

December 17th, 2013 at 7:05 pm

Posted in Music

Tagged with , , , ,

Republished at Cassava virus resistance breakthrough for Africa « The Plantwise Blog

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Yucca Root

My photo was used to illustrate this post

One of the worst diseases of the tuber crop, cassava, in sub-Saharan Africa is Cassava brown streak disease (CBSD). Since its resurgence in East Africa in recent years, it is now spreading to Central and Western Africa. The other major disease of cassava in this region, Cassava mosaic disease (CMD), can also cause widespread damage to the crop, however there already CMD-resistant varieties of cassava available. Until now, very little natural resistance to CBSD has been found. Plant scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich have combined natural resistance to CMD with modifications of the cassava genome to develop a variety of cassava resistant to both CBSD and CMD that can be grown in Africa. As cassava is a staple food to millions of people, this new variety has the potential to halt the spread of the disease and prevent famine from crop losses.

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Cassava virus resistance breakthrough for Africa « The Plantwise Blog

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Written by eggplant

October 8th, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Posted in Links

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Group Doueh – Treeg Salaam

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Feeding My Addiction

Desert blues news from all over…

Western Sahara’s story is a sad but typical one for a post-colonial land with bigger, stronger neighbors. In the ’70s, a nearly century-long episode of Spanish occupation gave way to bruising jockeying for possession between Morocco (which currently holds sway), Mauritania, and the homegrown Polisario movement of nationalist liberation. Episodes of war have generated a civilian diaspora that’s spread from refugee camps in neighboring countries to Cuba, but life for the people who have stayed behind carries on like it does anywhere. Folks still like to marry and party, and if they do so in the coastal city of Dakhla, they’re likely to hire Group Doueh to bring the tunes.

The group is part of a family entertainment business run by Doueh, a Dakhla native whose birth name was Salmou Baamar. As a youth, he took a shine to the sounds of James Brown and Jimi Hendrix, which he heard on cassettes imported from Spain. His first experiences as a professional musician playing at local parties coincided with Mauritania’s occupation of Dakhla, and you can hear both Western rock sounds and Mauritanian rhythms in his music, which he’s been performing throughout the region and marketing on cassette for over a quarter century. Doueh plays the tinidit (a.k.a. tidinit), a Moorish four-stringed lute, and electric guitar; according to a recent Wire article, he favors a Fender run through a few pedals. The rest of the group includes vocalists Bashiri Touballi and Halima Jakani (his wife) and keyboardist Jamaal Baamar (his son). Rhythm duties are shared between collective handclaps, Halima’s tbal (a hand drum), and the keyboard’s drum programs.

When they aren’t playing at local festivals and weddings, Doueh runs a cassette dubbing shop, and that’s where Sublime Frequencies’ Hisham Mayet located him after a search up and down Morocco to find the musician responsible for “Eid For Dakhla,” the raucous, backbeat-heavy ruckus that opens Doueh’s first LP Guitar Music From the Western Sahara. That record also kicked off Sublime Frequencies’ series of vinyl-first releases of contemporary guitar music heard around the Maghreb. Although Group Doueh’s music enjoys the same no-budget recording quality as the rest of the series, it differs significantly from the Touareg-rooted approaches of Group Inerane and Group Bombino. The music of the desert interior sounds like the blues, sometimes jacked up to rock distortion and intensity; Doueh’s has a more complex rhythmic underpinning, closer to the Master Musicians of Jajouka or flamenco, and adheres to traditional Mauritanian modes that spin the melodies down different paths than those of their deep Saharan brethren, more elaborate but less open-ended.

(click here to continue reading Dusted Reviews: Group Doueh – Treeg Salaam.)

Interview:

It’s hard to imagine what the four Muslim members of Group Doueh thought about their first gig outside Western Sahara, playing inside an Anglican church that served cold lager within the gay neighborhood of one of the most flamboyantly gay cities in Europe, Brighton, England. A couple of hours beforehand, Terminal Boredom got a few moments to sit down with the band in the church basement after sound check as the musicians ate takeout chicken and tabouli. Sublime Frequencies Co-founder Hisham Mayet translated from English to Arabic and back: vocalist Bashiri Touballi provided answers on the band’s behalf while guitarist Salmou “Doueh” Baamar stood squarely in front of and pointed a video camera directly at their English-language-only interviewer. Outside, a peculiar mix of middle-aged, upper-middle-class world music fans and scruffy weirdos on drugs lined up — an audience peculiar for most bands, sure, but not a Sublime Frequencies one.

 

(click here to continue reading Terminal Boredom – DOUEH.)

I’d usually link to Amazon’s copy of this album, but since they ended my affiliate program in a tax-dispute snit with the State of Illinois, I’ll let you discover the album on your own, from wherever.

Written by Seth Anderson

March 24th, 2011 at 9:55 am

Posted in Music,Suggestions

Tagged with ,

Cocoa Exports Banned From Ivory Coast

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Cacao Beans - Blommer Chocoalte

[Cocoa beans being unloaded at Blommers]

Even as a ban on cocoa exports was declared Monday in the West African nation of Ivory Coast, the largest cocoa ship ever to sail from there to the United States was in Camden, unloading 18,600 metric tons of the beans destined to become succulent chocolate, creamy icings and cakes.

The effects of the one-month ban are unclear, but officials say the maiden voyage of the Atlantic Tramp still bodes well for the Camden and Philadelphia ports, which receive 70 percent to 80 percent of all U.S. cocoa bean imports from Ivory Coast – the world’s largest cocoa producer – Ghana and Indonesia.

…The Tramp brought 283,360 140-pound burlap bags of cocoa worth $60 million and representing 150,000 small farms in the Ivory Coast.

It docked Saturday night and will be unloaded over seven days by more than 100 longshoremen, dock and warehouse workers.

“We have three gangs working 10-hour days on this vessel because of the size and the amount of cargo,” said Michael Billups, vessel operations manager for Delaware River Stevedores. “This ship is three times bigger than a typical cocoa bean ship.”

Jeffrey Wheeler of Camden International Commodities Terminal, the warehouse distribution operator, said, “Every bag will have two people touching it. The supply chain itself is pretty amazing.”

(click to continue reading Chocolate port; cocoa ship unloads in Camden | Philadelphia Inquirer | 01/24/2011.)

Discarded Burlaps at Blommer Chocolate

[cocoa bean sacks, piled up at Blommer’s]

Meanwhile, political tension in the Ivory Coast threatens to disrupt future shipments, after the president-elect Monday ordered a ban on cocoa and coffee exports for a month – to cut off funds to the incumbent president, who refuses to step down. There was no guarantee that growers would comply, but cocoa climbed in New York Monday to its highest price in almost a year.

“We don’t expect any interruption,” Camden International’s Wheeler said. “The cocoa we are dealing with in our next few ships was already bought and paid for. They are saying they will load anything that’s been contracted. But new contracts, they won’t.”

… All cocoa on the Atlantic Tramp has been bought by Blommer Chocolate, North America’s largest cocoa processor. “The majority of the cocoa on board comes from local farmers and farmer cooperatives in the region that Blommer has direct relationships with,” said Kip Walk, director of Blommer’s cocoa department.

What happens if the embargo continues long enough to shut down production in America? Will it effect the situation in Ivory Coast? And just last summer, a guy by the name of Anthony Ward tried to purchase all the cocoa beans he could, remember?

Blommer

From the NYT 1/24/11:

The bank1 governor, Philippe-Henri Dacoury-Tabley, had allowed Mr. Gbagbo2 to withdraw as much as $200 million despite the ban, according to a spokesman for the man the world recognizes as the winner of Ivory Coast’s presidential election, Alassane Ouattara.

Late Sunday, Mr. Ouattara called for a one-month halt to coffee and cocoa exports, the main source of revenue for the government, which draws about $1.6 billion a year in taxes and duties from cocoa alone. “Those who violate this measure will be considered as financing the activities of the illegitimate administration of Mr. Laurent Gbagbo,” said a statement from Mr. Ouattara’s government, which operates from a hotel in Abidjan.

It was unclear how Mr. Ouattara intended to enforce the measure, as state institutions — the military, the civil service and the ports — are in the hands of those loyal to Mr. Gbagbo, and cocoa companies have so far not halted their business. Still, the price of cocoa shot up on Monday.

Last week, the European Union imposed a ban on doing business with the country’s ports, as well as the freezing of the European-held assets of various Ivorian firms and banks, including the ports, the state broadcasters and the national oil company.

(click to continue reading Call for Tougher Measures Against Gbagbo in Ivory Coast – NYTimes.com.)

Footnotes:
  1. Central Bank of West African States []
  2. Laurent Gbagbo who lost a presidential election in Ivory Coast last year but refuses to step down []

Written by Seth Anderson

January 26th, 2011 at 9:08 am

Posted in Business,News-esque

Tagged with ,

links for 2010-09-14

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Written by swanksalot

September 14th, 2010 at 7:03 am

Posted in Links

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Nneka: In the Footsteps of Fela

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Being in the footsteps of Fela is high praise, and not at all like being labeled as The Next Dylan1

Nigeria has a storied legacy of fierce anti-government musicians, most famous among them the Afrobeat king Fela Kuti (currently enjoying a posthumous popular revival with the hit Broadway show “Fela!”). But since Fela’s death in 1997, there hasn’t been an obvious heir apparent to his musical prowess and political agitations, even among Fela’s two musician sons.

In the magnetic singer Nneka (Nneka Egbuna, 29), the opening act for Nas and Damian Marley’s Distant Relatives summer tour, Nigeria has found another performer capable of drawing global attention.

Nneka pulled herself up from a hardscrabble background in the oil-producing Niger Delta region of southern Nigeria and with no family support emigrated to Germany when she was 19 (her father is Nigerian and her mother is German). After years spent struggling to earn a living – including a stint cleaning bathrooms – Nneka found music.

While she has been recording for years in Germany, her first U.S. album, “Concrete Jungle,” was released just last year. Give it a listen and just try not to have it’s hard-driving first single, “Heartbeat,” get stuck in your head.

(click to continue reading Nneka: In the Footsteps of Fela – Speakeasy – WSJ.)

 Sounds worth a listen at least

2010 album from the Nigerian-German Hip Hop/Soul singer/songwriter. Concrete Jungle is a collection of songs that put the singer/songwriter at the forefront. The album is an offering of love, hope and optimism dedicated to the people of Warri & the Niger Delta of Nigeria. Holding it all together is the emotional focus of her beautiful voice, located in a place somewhere between yearning and rage.

Footnotes:
  1. well, let’s hope so anyway []

Written by Seth Anderson

June 2nd, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Posted in Music,Suggestions

Tagged with ,

Tezeta – Ethiopian Blues and Ballads

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“Ethiopiques, Vol. 10: Tezeta – Ethiopian Blues & Ballads” (Tezeta)

I’ve been slowly acquiring the complete set of the Ethiopiques, which is simply a stunning1 collection of music from Ethiopia. Volume Ten is a collection of Tezeta songs2, which was a term I was unfamiliar with. Here’s what Allmusic’s Don Snowden had to say about Tezeta:

Tezeta, an Ethiopian style with a relatively strict format built on repeated circular riffs, relies on the singer to put his stamp on the form with improvised verses and the up-and-down vocal spirals characteristic of Arabic music. The word itself means something like memory or nostalgia — in musical terms, it’s similar to saudade in Portuguese music, duende in flamenco, or blues and soul in the U.S. music world. It’s that indefinable something that separates the great musicians from the merely competent — you can’t exactly say what it is but you know when someone’s got it.

All ten tracks here date from the early ’70s, when versions of the tezeta were an innovative force in Ethiopian pop’s golden age. There’s a surprising variety: swirling accordion handles the circular riff accompanied only by minimal percussion on Fréw Haylou’s opening “Eyètègnu Nègu,” but an almost ’50s rock ballad feel pervades Alèmayèhu Eshèté’s “Tèrèdtchéwalèhu” and Menelik Wèsnatchèw’s “Tezeta” is tranquil and dreamy. Tezeta is also an excellent launching pad for saxophonists Tèsfa-Maryam Kidané (featured on his own “Heywèté”) and Tèwodros Meteku to provide backing fills and solos behind the singers. It’s instrumental storytelling and the breathy saxes achieve that smoky, brooding flavor that seems unique to Ethiopian music, shading the music with a deep indigo to purple color. The slow, mournful versions really bring out that smoky trance sensation here.

Sèyfu Yohannès is the first singer to really stand out on his nagging “Tezeta,” supported by Meketu’s fills and Mèssèlè Gèssèssè’s prominent piano. Moges Habté and Feqadu Amdè-Mèsquèl duel tenor saxes over a mysterious Fender Rhodes lick and Andrew Wilson’s sharp wah-wah guitar on Mulatu Astatqé’s instrumental “Gubèlyé.” And Mahmoud Ahmed’s “Tezeta” runs for 12 and a half gripping minutes with swirling organ, muted sax, and bubbling bass runs supplementing the voice of the most expressive singer in Ethiopian pop music. With nearly 75 minutes of music and extensive liner notes, Tezeta is another impeccable release in the outstanding Ethiopiques series. But even more than earlier soul-influenced compilations geared toward dancing, these brooding love blues laments cut to the emotional core essence of the country’s music. This music sounds distinctly Ethiopian, like it could be from no other place on the planet.

[Click to continue reading allmusic ( Ethiopiques, Vol. 10: Tezeta – Ethiopian Blues & Ballads > Overview )]

Such beautiful music, other-worldly is an apt description. Highly recommended.

Footnotes:
  1. mostly, there are a few tracks I cannot listen to very often []
  2. sometimes spelled Tizita []

Written by Seth Anderson

February 8th, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Posted in Music,Suggestions

Tagged with , ,

Kiva Loan Number 2

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Location: Buluk, Juba, Southern, South Sudan Repayment Term: 13 months

Activity: Mobile Phones Repayment Schedule:

Monthly Loan Use: To buy more phones to sell

Victoria Stephen is currently in the business of selling mobile phones and is requesting a loan to stock more phones to sell. Victoria is 25 years old and is married to an electrical engineer. She has two children and her children go to school. With the extra profits from her loan, she hopes to be able to build up an internet cafe.

BRAC’s holistic approach to poverty alleviation and empowerment of the poor encompasses a range of core programs in economic and social development, health, education, human rights and legal services which are delivered through an extensive network of village organizations. BRAC has become one of the world’s largest NGOs as measured by the scale and diversity of its interventions. In 2007, BRAC started operations in Southern Sudan. The microfinance program, which is targeted towards returning war refugees, has already formed 418 village organizations with more than 14,000 women members.

(click to continue reading Kiva – Victoria Stephen from South Sudan is repaying a Kiva loan.)

Country: South Sudan
Avg Annual Income: $600
Currency: Sudan Pounds (SDG)
Exchange Rate: 2.2371 SDG = 1 USD

Written by Seth Anderson

December 16th, 2009 at 12:08 pm

Posted in Photography

Tagged with , , ,

Fela Kuti Biopic

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“Fela: The Life And Times Of An African Musical Icon” (Michael Veal)

Certainly looking forward to seeing this, whenever it gets released. Any sour mood can be alleviated by playing Fela Kuti1 at high volume and dancing around, shaking one’s hips with abandon.

Focus Features has set Steve McQueen to direct “Fela,” a feature film based on the life of African musician and activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti — the subject of the recently opened Broadway musical “Fela!”


“Hunger (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]” (Steve McQueen)

McQueen, the British artist who made his feature directing debut last year on the Irish hunger strike drama “Hunger” will write the script with Biyi Bandele, based on the Michael Veal book “Fela: The Life and Times of an African Musical Icon.” Cine Mosaic’s Lydia Pilcher and Leigh Blake are producing. The musical has spurred a resurgence of interest in Fela, who died in 1997, and his Afrobeat musical style, which is a fusion of American jazz, funk and West African drums.

The musical is not connected to the film project: Focus is basing its pic on a rights package consisting of screen rights to Fela’s music and his life story, plus Veal’s book.

Fela lived large — with some 27 wives — and paid a high price for speaking out against oppression in Nigeria. In one attack on his home, Fela’s 78-year-old mother was killed after being thrown from a second-story window. Fela responded by placing her coffin on the steps of the Nigerian leader’s residence.

“Fela might be the most globally influential pop artist outside the Beatles in the last 50 years,” said Focus topper James Schamus.

[Click to continue reading Focus to film ‘Fela’ feature – Entertainment News, Film News, Media – Variety]


“Opposite People/Sorrow Tears and Blood” (Fela Kuti)

I’ve also heard rumors that all of Fela’s albums are going to be remastered and released, soon, but haven’t run across any details about the release schedule yet.

Footnotes:
  1. Sorrow Tears and Blood, for instance []

Written by Seth Anderson

December 15th, 2009 at 11:10 am

Posted in Film,Music,Suggestions

Tagged with , , ,

Netflixed: God Grew Tired of Us

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“God Grew Tired of Us: A Memoir” (John Bul Dau, Michael S. Sweeney)

[the book version]


“God Grew Tired of Us” (Christopher Quinn)

[Film]

After raising themselves in the desert along with thousands of other “lost boys,” Sudanese refugees John, Daniel and Panther have found their way to America, where they experience electricity, running water and supermarkets for the first time. Capturing their wonder at things Westerners take for granted, this documentary, an award winner at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, paints an intimate portrait of strangers in a strange land.

[Click to Netflix Netflix: God Grew Tired of Us]

Wow, what a moving film. Not treacle, but still caused us to weep a few times. Don’t expect the film to fill in much of the historical backdrop of the Sudan war, nor the Darfur refugee crisis, that is not contained in the scope of the movie. Instead, just marvel at the resiliency of the human spirit.

Stephen Holden of the New York Times:

“God Grew Tired of Us,” a sober, uplifting documentary that follows the resettlement in the United States of three young men uprooted as children by the civil war in Sudan, is the softer, Hollywood-sanctioned version of an earlier documentary, “The Lost Boys of Sudan.”1 A National Geographic production, directed by Christopher Quinn and narrated by Nicole Kidman in her loftiest A-student elocution, “God” won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. How could it not? Handsomely photographed and inspirational, but not cloyingly so, it is the rare contemporary documentary that doesn’t leave a residue of cynicism and outrage.

As it balances excruciating images of hardship, suffering and starvation with wry observations of newly arrived immigrants learning to use electric appliances and visiting their first supermarket, you are won over by the charm, good manners and nobility of its three subjects, John Bul Dau, Panther Bior and Daniel Abul Pach. Each is a member of the Dinka, the Christian, animist, agricultural people in southern Sudan driven from their land by Islamic government forces from the north. Except for a couple of sentences about the hasty British partition of Sudan, the film offers no historical background.

[Click to continue reading Movie Review – God Grew Tired of Us – After a Struggle to Escape Comes an Effort to Adjust – NYTimes.com]

Andrew O’Hehir of Salon.com:

“Does Santa appear in the Bible?” wonders a recent Sudanese refugee, confronting the bewildering spectacle of Christmas shopping at a mall in Syracuse, N.Y. He knows what Christmas is; it was celebrated with rituals and dancing every December in the Kenyan relief camp where he has lived for the previous 10 years. But what is the connection, he wonders, between this fat man in a red suit and the birth of Jesus Christ?

For American viewers, moments like those may be the most pungent in Christopher Quinn and Tommy Walker’s documentary “God Grew Tired of Us,” which follows a small group of Sudan’s “lost boys” into their new American lives. The young men in the film have never operated an electrical appliance or a water faucet, never been inside a building of more than one story. On their first plane voyage, they clownishly stumble on and off escalators, eat the margarine and salad dressing out of their little plastic pouches, wander through the vast corridors of airports in Nairobi, Brussels and New York in single-file amazement.

But the comedy of their journey from one world to another is not cruel. Instead it is wrenching, pathetic and noble, and along the way the three men at the heart of “God Grew Tired of Us” come to stand for more than themselves. Like all of humanity, they have come out of a pre-industrial age and into a postmodern one rapidly. For most of us in the West, the process began with the birth of our grandparents or even great-grandparents. The lost boys made the journey in two days instead of 100 years or more, but their dislocation in the world of swimming pools, supermarkets and Santa Claus is nonetheless familiar to us.

Why is it, as one of them wonders aloud, that using Palmolive dishwashing liquid does not turn everything in your kitchen green? Why is it green at all? During a tour of an enormous Pennsylvania grocery store, they commit the phrase “hoagie rolls” to memory as an important element of American culture. One man peers dubiously at a mountainous pile of waxy, green cucumbers and inquires, “Is this edible?” Another comes to understand that Americans prefer potatoes that have been cooked, sliced into fine slivers, heavily salted and stored in a colorful plastic bag.

So much history and geography is covered in “God Grew Tired of Us,” and the human story it conveys is so moving and so charged with ambiguous moral lessons, that it seems almost irresponsible to complain about it on formal or historical grounds. Let’s put it this way: This is an important film. It’s amazing that it exists, and the events it recounts are still more amazing. Everybody should see it.

[Click to continue reading Beyond the Multiplex – Salon.com]

It isn’t relevant, really, but the Chicago Bulls starting small forward, Luol Deng, is also from the Dinka tribe of the Sudan. What a difference of circumstance from the Lost Boys of Sudan.

Wikipedia:

When he was young, his father Aldo, a member of the Sudanese parliament, moved the family to Egypt to escape the Second Sudanese Civil War. In Egypt, they met former NBA center Manute Bol, another Dinka, who taught Deng’s older brother, Ajou Deng, how to play basketball while also serving as a mentor for Luol himself. When they were granted political asylum, his family emigrated to South Norwood in London, England. Deng developed an interest in soccer and basketball, and was invited to join England’s 15-and-under teams in both sports. During this time, he began his career at Brixton Basketball Club. At the age of 13, he played for England’s squad in the European Junior Men’s Qualifying Tournament, averaging 40 points and 14 rebounds. He was named the MVP of the tournament. Next, he led England to the finals of the European Junior National Tournament, where he averaged 34 points and earned another MVP award.

Deng is involved in numerous charities. He has been noted for his work on behalf of the Lost Boys of Sudan and other refugees. During the summers of 2006 and 2007, Luol went to Africa, Asia and Europe with the NBA for their Basketball Without Borders Tour. He is also a spokesperson for the World Food Programme. “He really does epitomize everything I had hoped for as a person and a basketball player,” general manager John Paxson said. “I think it’s one of the reasons we’ve gotten to the level we’re at this year. I’m truly proud of him. I think the world of him as a person and as a player.”

[Click to continue reading Luol Deng – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]

Footnotes:
  1. available at Netflix []

Written by Seth Anderson

November 29th, 2009 at 3:16 pm

Posted in Film,Suggestions

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Soul Power Sounds Spectacular

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I can’t wait to see this film, sounds spectacular.

Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, the director of the new documentary “Soul Power,” was a film editor in 1995 for “When We Were Kings,” the Oscar-winning documentary directed by Leon Gast about the Rumble in the Jungle, the 1974 heavyweight world championship bout between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Kinshasa, the capital of Zaire (now Congo).


“When We Were Kings” (Leon Gast)

That fight had a huge sideshow: Zaire ’74, a three-day music festival of American soul alongside African music, headlined by James Brown and filmed by the same crew that was in Zaire for the fight. “Soul Power” presents that festival from its precarious beginnings to the finale of a shirtless, sweating James Brown singing to an African audience, “Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud.”

The festival was a striking sociocultural moment. African-American and Latin musicians were being introduced to Africa and African musicians amid Mr. Ali’s black-power politics and a hodgepodge of visiting music, sports and literary figures. “There was a lot of deeper meaning about why people went there and what it evoked for them,” Mr. Levy-Hinte said.

Brown and other headliners, including B. B. King, Celia Cruz and the Fania All-Stars, the Spinners and Bill Withers, performed at their peak, flaunting bright-colored, sharp-collared, bell-bottomed 1970s outfits that are a fashion show themselves. Americans shared the lineup with African musicians, like the South African singer Miriam Makeba and the top Zairean groups T.P.O.K. Jazz (featuring the guitarist Franco) and Tabu Ley Rochereau.

[From ‘Soul Power,’ Documentary on the Zaire ’74 Music Festival – NYTimes.com]

but who knows when the film will ever be released:

His plan was to put out concert DVDs of the festival’s performances, a fairly straightforward process. Then “I committed the original sin of filmmaking,” he said. “I fell in love with the material instead of following this rational business path.

It cost about half a million dollars, including licensing the music, to make “Soul Power.” So far there’s no deal for a soundtrack album. The DVDs will be assembled “as soon as humanly possible,” Mr. Levy-Hinte said, though that may well be next year.

“The vast majority of the material has still not been used,” he added. “There may be a whole other movie in there.”


“20th Anniversaire, Vol. 2” (Franco & T.P.O.K. Jazz)


“1972/1973/1974” (Franco & T.P.O.K. Jazz)

Written by Seth Anderson

July 5th, 2009 at 11:03 am

Group Doueh: Guitar Music From The Western Sahara

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Guitar Music From The Western Sahara

If you think you’ve heard all the great electric guitar styles in the world, think again. This Saharan sand-blizzard of fine-crushed glass will grind your face to a bloody pulp. Group Doueh play raw and unfiltered Saharawi music from the former colonial Spanish outpost of the Western Sahara. Doueh (pronounced “Doo-way”) is their leader and a master of the electric guitar. He’s been performing since he was a child playing in many groups before finally creating his own in the 1980’s.

Doueh says he’s Influenced by western pop and rock music especially Jimi Hendrix and James Brown. His sound is distorted, loud and unhinged with an impressive display of virtuosity and style only known in this part of the world. His wife Halima and friend Bashiri are the two vocalists in the group. Saharawi songs are from the sung poetry of the Hassania language. The music is based on the same modal structure as Mauritanian music, however, Doueh’s style is a looser appropriation infused with a western guitar scope, one that relies, in his words, as much on Hendrix as it does traditional Sahrawi music. It also adds a playful pop element that rarely filters through in this region. Doueh has turned down countless offers from Morocco and Europe to release his music but he decided to offer us access to his homemade recordings and photo archive for this amazing debut release. This is a CD reissue of the sold-out LP edition and comes with great photos of the musicians and liner notes by Hisham Mayet.

[From Group Doueh: Guitar Music From The Western Sahara CD SF030 Reissue]

Right-o. Face-melting is apt: this music has not been filtered by Auto-Tune that is for damn sure. Hypnotically listenable, full of inventive trills, but not for the faint-of-heart, or those put off by lack of musical fidelity.

Written by Seth Anderson

June 10th, 2009 at 8:49 pm

Netflixed: Xala

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A high-ranking official loses the respect of the community in Ousmane Sembene’s comedy. Set in a newly independent Senegal, the story centers on influential official El Hadji, who decides to take advantage of the rampant corruption by using government funds to marry his third wife. But on his wedding night, El Hadji discovers he has xala, the curse of impotence. With his virility in question, he tries a number of ridiculous and bizarre cures. [Netflix Xala]

Not sure how I heard of this 1975 film, but it looks interesting.

Roger Ebert wrote of it:

The white members of the local chamber of commerce have been ordered out of office, and now African businessmen take their places. But one of the whites returns to place attache cases in front of each seat. The Africans open the cases and nod solemnly, impressed by the neat stacks of bribe money inside. The old order has been replaced by the new, but it’s business as usual.

So begins “Xala,” the newest and most disturbing film by the Senegalese director Ousmane Sembene. His story follows the decline and fall of one of the African businessmen, who sells rice on the black market to finance the addition of a third wife to his family. But in a larger sense, Sembene also is commenting on the failures of African capitalism and on the legacy of corruption inherited from colonial times.

This is new ground for Sembene, who is the best of the handful of African film directors.

[Click to continue Xala :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews]

While Richard Eder of the New York Times wrote:

Dancing and jubilation in the seaside African capital, where coconut-icing skyscrapers loom over the shanties, the trees are gray with dust and the bougainvillea is like a terminal illness.

Africans in bright-colored togas move into the big building in the main square, order out the white men and remove the busts of Napoleon. Next scene: the Africans, in expensive European suits, sit around the table, the white men stand importantly behind as “advisers” and pass them briefcases stuffed with money, the black soldiers push back black crowds and rid the streets of unsightly beggars.

In a way, therefore, Osmane Sembene’s cutting, radiant and hilarious film “Xala,” … is “Animal Farm” applied to Africa independence.

It is part fable and part satire, but it is much more: with the greatest fineness and delicacy, Mr. Sembene, the Senegalese writer and director who made this picture, has set out a portrait of the complex and conflicting mesh of traditions, aspirations and frustrations of a culture knocked askew by colonialism and distorting itself anew while climbing out.

[Click to continue Movie Review – Xala – Film Festival: Cutting, Radiant ‘Xala’ – NYTimes.com]

Written by Seth Anderson

June 10th, 2009 at 2:21 pm

Posted in Film,Suggestions

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