The Prince Concert…My Rapture

Prince at the Forum, Welcome 2 America Tour

Seeing Prince live was my kind of Rapture … the end of the world as I would know it. And it didn’t happen on May 21, but over a week later, at the last show of Prince’s 21-day Los Angeles residency at the legendary Forum. Original home of the Lakers and the Kings, the Forum is more importantly where the Jackson Five sold over 18,000 tickets in 1970, where Elvis performed his second and tenth tours, and where Barbara Streisand, Led Zeppelin, the Bee Gees and Kiss performed, in addition to countless additional artists over the years, not to mention a few services for the Faithful Central Bible.

Religious predictions couldn’t account for this kind of Day of Judgment. I was led down memory lane back to 1984 when I first heard “Purple Rain,” saw the movie and sang into my hairbrush all those fabulously high falsetto “ohhhs,” swaying from side to side, tears streaming down my cheeks with reverence and passion. At this show, Prince Rogers Nelson was actually right there in front of me, standing in his white furry snow boots with flashing red heels on top of the purple baby grand piano, stage-right (I think it was stage-right, but there really was no “right” or “left” since the stage was in the shape of the symbol that Prince formerly went by, so you could say “the curly part of the across section of the stage” or maybe just “the piano side of the stage”)… anyway, backlit, there was no one between him and me … he was of course singing to me, and the ground did move and I remembered being 11 years old again and the feeling of… Rapture, kinda like how Blondie sings abut it!

Just the day before, I was lamenting how all my friends had been to see him two or three times already and I was beginning to give up hope. They were telling me they had seen Byoncé, and Whitney Houston, Chaka Khan and Sheela E, all performing with Prince. Even Stevie Wonder came up to jam out on the purple platform for a while but time was running out and ticket prices were quickly climbing. How could I have been so uninformed when I planned my trip to LA? Did I read the wrong blogs? Did I talk to the wrong friends? What was the mishap? Maybe it was because I missed Prince’s interview on the George Lopez show, or maybe it was because I missed his announcement of the Welcome 2 America tour he gave in NY in December.

Peeka Boo!

Fortunately for me, I have a friend (who had already gone once already), and who just couldn’t stay away! He wanted more, so he stood on line for six hours the day of the show, risking sunburn, boredom and scalper threats but finally emerged victorious with three shiny white tickets. In the end, thanks to him, my friends and I walked down the purple carpet all the way to our front row seats and jumped up and boogied down when we heard “Purple Rain,” “Little Red Corvette,” “Raspberry Bourée,” “When Doves Cry,” “1999,” “Cream,” “Controversy,” “Cool,” and also when Maceo Parker graced the stage and performed “Pass the Peas” moving things in a definitively more funky direction. Three hours and five encores later, Prince had made at least seven costume changes and still looked as ready to rock as when he began. All that apocalyptic bang for only $25 a ticket (thank you, Live Nation)! Thank you Prince!

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World Music Wednesdays on WBAI: Show #2

After posting last week’s set list I realize what a polyglot show this is and how amazing it really is to have all this world music be at the same time somewhat local.  I know, I know, it’s NY, “the greatest city in the world,” but just looking at music like this really makes it clear.  People are not only from everywhere, they are also influenced by everywhere and everyone.  You can find enthusiasts for popular, traditional and folk genres from Africa, Colombia,  Japan, and even home grown music brews such as jazz, tin pan, Appalachian, and blues, all right here in New York City and it’s buroughs!

Today’s subway clip featured the band Tin Pan with the fearless leader Jesse Selengut dressed in white smacking around a trumpet in Union Square.  They play every few Mondays from 6-9pm at this locale, and they also play at Herald Square (with an “e”) when MUNY allows.  Swing dancers usually find themselves magnetically drawn out of work mode and onto the “dance floor”.  See more photos here and read more about the song Bei Mir Bis Du Schoen here!

Today’s set list:

1. Andy Statmen (Brooklyn) 2. Sheila Chandra (UK & S. India) 3. Tom Ze (Brazil)  4. Lucha Reyes (Peru)  5. Chico Trujillo (Chile)  6. Kalyi Jag (Hungary)  7. Mycale (NY) 8. Chicha Libre (Brooklyn)  9.  Munequitos de Matanzas (Cuba – performing May 5-7 at Symphony Space)  10. Dengue Fever (Cambodia / LA)  11. Chicha Libre (Brooklyn)  12. Ana Tijoux (Chile / France)  13. Beirut (Albuquerque)  14. Antibalas (Brooklyn)  15. Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey (Nigeria)  16. John Carty & Brian Rooney (UK/Ireland) 17. Jorge Ben (Brazil) 18. Le Trio Joubran (Palestine)  19. Tin Pan (subway musicians of the week, Jesse Selengut, band leader – performing at Bowery Poetry Club this Saturday 4/16) (Brooklyn) 20. Cat (Thailand) (Thai Beat a Go Go Vol.1)  21. Las Rubias del Norte (Brooklyn)  23. Kelli Rae Powell (Brooklyn)  24. Gato Loco (performing at Nublu 4/14 at 9:30) (Brooklyn)  25. Ayde Mori (Turkey)  26. Rahat Fateh Ali Khan (Pakistan)

Today’s Haiku written from song titles, album titles or band titles from today’s set:

Mr. Orange Paz

And If The Sea Was Whisky

Speaking in Tongues III

Send in your own Haiku from this show or any show (doesn’t have to be in English) and post it here!  Some guidelines to help you write your Haiku: use 5-7-5 syllable pattern, use season words, use two contrasting sensory images, and the last line should tie it all up in a surprise ending!  Go here to read more about Haikus.  Contact me with any questions about the show or World Music in general!

World Music Wednesdays on WBAI: Show #1

I had a great time DJing last week on WBAI for their World Music Wednesdays show.  As promised, I have the set list here for you just in case there was something that I forgot to back announce or in case you were spacing out when I announced the song and musician.  Overall it was a great experience, and the listeners who called in were thoughtful and appreciative with their comments.  I gave away tickets to see Zlatne Uste perform at the Hungarian House.  If you went, tell me how you liked it?  Did they knock your socks off or what!?  The Balkan scene in New York is second to none, I would have liked to have gone, but hopefully I can hear from you and find out all the dirt!

1.  AE (pronounced “Ash”)(Brooklyn)  2. Kotorino (Brooklyn) 3. George Brassens (France)  4. Emily Pinkerton (Pittsburgh) 5. Hawk and a Hacksaw (Albuquerque) 6. Zlatne Uste (NY) 7. Csokolom (Germany) 8. Lucho Bermudez y su Orquesta (Colombia) 9. Onuma Singsiri (Thailand) 10. Dimba Diangola (Luanda, Angola) 11. Quim Manuel o Espiritu Santo (Luanda, Angola)  12. Forro in the Dark (NY)  13. Habib Koite (Mali)  14. Olivier Mtukudzi (Zimbabwe)  15. Jali Muhammed Salieu (featured Subway Musician of the week! Also in the above photo at Union Square with his Kora)(Gambia) 16. The Mandingo Ambassadors (playing every Wednesday at Barbes in Park Slope) 17. Gato Loco (giving away tickets on show#2)(NY)  18. Chico Trujillo (Chile) 19. Afro Sound (Colombia) 20. Anti Social Music (NY) 21. Galeet Dardashti (NY)

The resulting Haiku from song titles for these artists (according to me) goes like this:

Slow Song Wind and Rain

Hero Cops Olympic Gold

Dia de Roda

Send in your own Haiku from this show or any show (doesn’t have to be in English) and post it here!  Here are some guidelines to help you write your Haiku: use 5-7-5 syllable pattern, use season words, use a two-part juxtapositional structure, and use primarily objective sensory imagery.  Go here to read more about haikus.

Golden Festival 2011

Alternate title: How I Developed Tinnitus!

What Cheer? Brigade at Golden Fest 2011

Last night was The Golden Festival, sponsored by the Balkan band Zlatne Uste, which means “Golden Lips”.  It was held this year at the Grand Prospect Hall, an incredible Easter egg of a building with four floors of elegantly decorated and chandelier bedecked rooms complete with dance floors.  A big improvement over last year’s venue at the high school in Washington Heights, people were lined up and down the block to get in, dance, play and see old friends.  Who goes to Golden Fest? Everyone, young and old, fancy and casual, musicians and dancers, fans and volunteers.  The entire event is run by volunteers and for the cost of the ticket you also get middle eastern fare, deserts and midnight snacks.  Here is a photo of the Grand Ballroom where the What Cheer? Brigade is performing, and to see a video collage I shot on my eye-phone you can go here.

I found a well written article from Lucid Culture that explains the music of a few of these bands better than I could.  I woke up this morning with a certain throbbing in my ear drums.  Could it be the onslaught of tinnitus?  Note to self: remember not to dance in front to the tuba.

A Very Zen New Year

I’m on the list serve for the artist who goes by Paleo.  I saw him perform at SXSW last year under a Portuguese music showcase, as his name might suggest, but as far as I can tell he lives in Iowa City and his name is David Strackany.

Anyway, he sends out an email once a month about nothing in particular…. This time he started off with a memory of asking his brother when they were kids…

“you think if I practice I could be the best in the world?” And I remember him really taking it for a spin up there in his head. He tucked one cheek into the corner of his mouth and he said, “yes, David, I suppose you could.”

He was talking about ping pong, but I suppose he could have been writing about anything really, like soccer, meditation or even music.  If you practice, you could be the best in the world.  It might take 10,000 hours, but you’ll never know if you could be the best if you don’t start putting in the time.  So I guess it might start with an intention, an idea, or a spark.

Patti Smith writes about the St. Mark’s Poetry Project.  She says…

I wanted to be a poet but I knew I would never fit into their incestuous community.  The last thing I wanted was to negotiate the social politics of another scene. I thought of my mother’s saying, that what you do on New Year’s Day will foretell what you’ll be doing the rest of the year.  I felt the spirit of my own St. Gregory, and resolved that 1973 would be my year of poetry. (Just Kids p. 214)

Patti chose poetry for 1973, and she ended up not only being a great poet, but also a great musician, performer, mother, friend, and probably a host of other impressive titles too.  I had to look this one up but it turns out that St. Gregory (Pope Gregory I) is the patron saint of musicians, singers, students and teachers and died in the beginning of the 7th century.

Snow covered ravine in Litchfield, CT.

This week I had the good sense to take myself to the Village Zendo’s end of year retreat or Sesshin at Wisdom House in Litchfield, CT.  We arrived just as the blizzard was getting started and the winding country roads were lightly dusted with snow.  For the following few days while we settled into the austere practice of about 6 hours of sitting meditation per day, the wind “blew an opera” around the old monastery, as one of our teachers so poetically described it, and we sat inside the silence and music of it, counting our breaths, and opening to the palate of sensations which for me included thoughts, hopes, desires, expectations, aches, pains, grief, and joy.

By the end of six days we came up with our own vows to make silently in a ceremony to top all ceremonies.  We sat in the sound of 108 hits on the large metal bowl that is a bell, and let the waves of energy from each hit move through the group, uniting us in our combined intention to bring in the new year with clear and steady minds and open hearts.  We then stood up and one at a time took turns hitting the bell for ourselves to the internal recitation of our vows.

On New Year’s Day, we slept in until 6:30am, sat in the zendo, chanted again in Japanese and English the words of the sutras, and Roshi delivered some parting words to send us into 2011.  We ate a light breakfast, packed our things, cleaned up and each person went their separate ways back to their various and distant lives.  I got a ride back to Washington Heights with fellow meditators and hopped on the A train downtown toward my transfer at 14th Street to take the L back to Bushwick.

Manhattan had been through the blizzard too and the snow was piled high in dirty piles on the sides of the streets.  Heading into the belly of the subway, the dirt and grime and dampness of it contrasted with the pristine snow covered paths we had just walked along for walking meditation or kinhin at Wisdom House.  At the retreat, after every sit, it is expected that you smooth the wrinkles from your cushion and mat, and brush off any lint or dirt, making the space spotless and ready for the next sitting period.  I came back to my tiny Brooklyn apartment, where the building door had been recently jimmied and was in the process of being fixed, where the furniture doesn’t match and the primary colors seem to clash, where the floor hadn’t been swept and the cat box needed changing.

I thought back to a quatrain Roshi had talked about from the 7th century Chinese Zen master Yung Chia’s Song of Enlightenment.  He says…

We know that Shakya’s sons and daughters

Are poor in body, but not in the Tao.

In their poverty, they always wear ragged clothing,

But they have the jewel of no price treasured within.

I can’t remember exactly how she put it, something about how we all have imperfect bodies, but we have rich minds.  The ragged clothing that we wear may not look so great, with all the errors and mistakes and flaws and regrets that our lives seem to encompass, but often without realizing it, we help those around us just by showing our rough patches, showing our vulnerability.

Patti Smith is that person in ragged clothing too with a great big jewel in her heart for sharing herself with the public across the decades, and showing us how to be a grown up and an artist at the same time.  Paleo does that for me too.  He takes his creative voice seriously and shares it with those of us who want to hear him.  Even a small voice becomes a big inspiration when it tickles the vocal chords to create sound.

Sesshin Schedule

Sesshin Schedule

This was my first lengthy experience with Zen meditation and the many beautiful ceremonies of the Sesshin, which means literally “touching the heart mind.” When you sit zazen you take all the stormy weather with the fair weather and together they create your experience on the cushion.  Also from Yung Chia’s Song of Enlightenment, he says “To be mature in Zen is to be mature in expression.” I couldn’t have said it any better!

If Patti’s mother is right (and they usually are), this year will be about getting up early, cleaning my house, clearing my mind, doing some traveling, some learning, some writing, and some loving.

What will 2011 be for you?

Just Kids

Patti Smith's book Just Kids

I am just finishing this book, going slowly now to make it last.  I love being in the the late 1960s and early 1970s with Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, and their host of friends who are play writes, curators, poets and musicians, hearing about their lives and coincidences, they seem to run into everyone who becomes anyone in the music and art scene in New York at that time.  This book makes me want to watch Godard films, read Rimbaud and buy all of Patti’s poetry books too.  I love how she recognizes auspicious dates, for example she travels to France in October the month of Rimbaud’s birth just to visit his grave and the museum dedicated to him in Charleville.  And fortunately for all of us she’s still around in all her respectful restlessness giving us lessons on how to work hard and try to do what we were born to.  On November 6th she sang a salute to the world of Kubla Khan and the poetry of Samuel Taylor Coleridge at the Met.  On December 19th she performed a 15 minute set in honor of Jean Genet‘s 100th birthday at MOMA.  I’m sorry I missed them both.  Here’s a link to a review of her speaking at the Whitney Humanities Center.  What’s your favorite Patti Smith song or story? when was the last time you saw her perform?

Bad Reputation

Pierre De Gaillande's new album of Brassens tunes

I met Pierre De Gaillande last week at The Snow show at Pete’s Candy Store, where he told me about his latest project, an assignment in French translation, the album Bad Reputation, music of the popular French bard from the 1950, 60s and 70s George Brassens.  He grew up listening to George Brassens in France and when he recently came across his father’s record collection he couldn’t resist the idea to create his own versions of those popular tunes.  The songs maintain rhyme scheme in English and the same melodies as much as possible while incorporating new instrumentation and arrangements.  I really liked hearing the track “Public Benches” because I was already familiar with the tune and I like the image it creates  of teenagers making out in public.  My first boyfriend also grew up in France and would sing these songs at top volume regularly, ever successful at making that characteristic gurgle that Brassens has… (and maybe all French speakers have?) that always makes me feel like I am going to disappear in a pool of abundant saliva ….overflowing, overflowing, overflowing.  I also like the dark feeling of the song “Bad Reputation,” orchestrated with clarinets, guitar, and bell set.  Pierre’s voice is simple and clear, his English thankfully lacks the gurgle, and his lyrics give a whole new meaning to the music that I’d never quite understood before.  The word “bawdy” has a whole new meaning.  De Gaillande has a show tomorrow, Friday, December 17 at the 92 Street Y in Tribeca, 9pm.  Read more about him here.

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