Saturday, June 27, 2009

More Tattoo Fails/Humor plus Tramp Stamp Hall of Shame

This is from Cracked, who refer to tattoos a "reverse time machines." Why? Because "with time travel you can send a warning back to your younger self, with tattoos you send a mistake forward to your older self." They also provide a handy tattoo location meaning decoder chart (click to enlarge):

Also, from Whip It Out, 15 Tattoos that will prevent you from getting laid.

Finally, the Tramp Stamp Hall of Shame:
Here are the links, and there are so many more out there:
Here's twenty from Heavy.
Here's twenty from Rank My Tattoo.
Here's fifteen at POP Crunch.

And really, I don't know that this site can be topped: Ugliest Tattoos

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

35,000-year-old Flute Discovered in Germany


Professor Nicholas Conard of the University in Tuebingen shows a flute during a press conference in Tuebingen, southern Germany, on Wednesday, June 24, 2009. The thin bird-bone flute carved some 35,000 years ago and unearthed in a German cave is the oldest handcrafted musical instrument yet discovered, archeologists say, and offers the latest evidence that early modern humans in Europe had established a complex and creative culture. A team led by Conard assembled the flute from 12 pieces of griffon vulture bone scattered in a small plot of the Hohle Fels cave in southern Germany. (AP Photo/Daniel Maurer)

June 25, 2009
Flutes Offer Clues to Stone-Age Music

At least 35,000 years ago, in the depths of the last ice age, the sound of music filled a cave in what is now southwestern Germany, the same place and time early Homo sapiens were also carving the oldest known examples of figurative art in the world.

Music and sculpture — expressions of artistic creativity, it seems — were emerging in tandem among some of the first modern humans when they began spreading through Europe or soon thereafter.

Archaeologists Wednesday reported the discovery last fall of a bone flute and two fragments of ivory flutes that they said represented the earliest known flowering of music-making in Stone Age culture. They said the bone flute with five finger holes, found at Hohle Fels Cave in the hills west of Ulm, was “by far the most complete of the musical instruments so far recovered from the caves” in a region where pieces of other flutes have been turning up in recent years.

A three-hole flute carved from mammoth ivory was uncovered a few years ago at another cave, as well as two flutes made from the wing bones of a mute swan. In the same cave, archaeologists also found beautiful carvings of animals.

But until now the artifacts appeared to be too rare and were not dated precisely enough to support wider interpretations of the early rise of music. The earliest solid evidence of musical instruments previously came from France and Austria, but dated much more recently than 30,000 years ago.

In an article published online by the journal Nature, Nicholas J. Conard of the University of Tübingen, in Germany, and colleagues wrote, “These finds demonstrate the presence of a well-established musical tradition at the time when modern humans colonized Europe.”

Although radiocarbon dates earlier than 30,000 years ago can be imprecise, samples from the bones and associated material were tested independently by two laboratories, in England and Germany, using different methods. Scientists said the data agreed on ages of at least 35,000 years.

Dr. Conard, a professor of archaeology, said in an e-mail message from Germany that “the new flutes must be very close to 40,000 calendar years old and certainly date to the initial settlement of the region.”

Dr. Conard’s team said an abundance of stone and ivory artifacts, flint-knapping debris and bones of hunted animals had been found in the sediments with the flutes. Many people appeared to have lived and worked there soon after their arrival in Europe, assumed to be around 40,000 years ago and 10,000 years before the native Neanderthals became extinct.

The Neanderthals, close human relatives, apparently left no firm evidence of having been musical.

The most significant of the new artifacts, the archaeologists said, was a flute made from a hollow bone from a griffon vulture; griffon skeletons are often found in these caves. The preserved portion is about 8.5 inches long and includes the end of the instrument into which the musician blew. The maker carved two deep, V-shaped notches there, and four fine lines near the finger holes. The other end appears to have been broken off; judging by the typical length of these bird bones, two or three inches are missing.

Dr. Conard’s discovery in 2004 of the seven-inch three-hole ivory flute at the Geissenklösterle cave, also near Ulm, inspired him to widen his search of caves, saying at the time that southern Germany “may have been one of the places where human culture originated.”

Friedrich Seeberger, a German specialist in ancient music, reproduced the ivory flute in wood. Experimenting with the replica, he found that the ancient flute produced a range of notes comparable in many ways to modern flutes. “The tones are quite harmonic,” he said.

A replica has yet to be made of the recent discovery, but the archaeologists said they expected the five-hole flute with its larger diameter to “provide a comparable, or perhaps greater, range of notes and musical possibilities.”

This week, Dr. Conard began a new season of exploration at Hohle Fels Cave. “We’ll see how it goes,” he said by e-mail. “I never have expectations. One never finds what one is looking for, but one normally finds something interesting.”

Archaeologists and other scholars can only speculate as to what moved these early Europeans to make music.

It so happens that the Hohle Fels flute was uncovered in sediments a few feet away from the carved figurine of a busty, nude woman, also around 35,000 years old, noted Dr. Conard and his co-authors, Susanne C. Münzel of Tübingen and Maria Malina of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities. That discovery was announced in May by Dr. Conard.

Was this evidence of happy hours after the hunt? Fertility rites or social bonding? The German archaeologists suggested that music in the Stone Age “could have contributed to the maintenance of larger social networks, and thereby perhaps have helped facilitate the demographic and territorial expansion of modern humans.”

Friday, June 19, 2009

Poem for the Rooftops of Iran - June 19th, 2009

My heart is broken by the sad, poignant beauty of this poem. Will she be hunted down by paramilitary militias? Will she live to see the sun set tomorrow?

Waiting for Iran News

It's morning in Tehran, and I am anxious as to what the day will bring. I hope those brave people find some key piece of the Iranian institutions that will support them. I hope for a better world for them and us all. I hope.

Sarod master Ali Akbar Khan (1922-2009)

Times of India

Sarod maestro dies at 88
20 Jun 2009, 0447 hrs IST, Namita Devidayal, TNN

NEW DELHI: Ustad Ali Akbar Khan once said that music is the only thing that you can share with a million people and you don't lose, you gain. After sharing his music all over the world, the sarod maestro died in San Francisco on Friday morning, following a prolonged kidney ailment.

He was 88. He is survived by his wife Mary, 11 children, and an extraordinary musical legacy that includes the Ali Akbar College of Music in San Rafael, California.

Ali Akbar Khan was born in 1922 in East Bengal (Bangladesh) and, like so many children born into musical families, learned how to play various instruments before he could spell. His father, Baba Allauddin Khan, was one of the great names of Hindustani music. "For us, as a family, music is like food. When you need it you don't have to explain why, because it is basic to life," Ali Akbar Khan had said.

In his early twenties, he made his first recording in Lucknow for HMV. He then became the court musician for the Maharaja of Jodhpur where he worked for seven years.

In 1955, on the request of violin master Yehudi Menuhin, Ali Akbar Khan first visited the US and performed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. By the sixties, the West was clamouring for more and he pushed India on the world music map, with a little help from his friend Pandit Ravi Shankar (who was earlier married to Khansahib's sister, Annapurna Devi).

Responding to a wave of interest in the West, he began teaching and living in the US and, in 1967, founded the Ali Akbar College of Music in California, where he had been teaching since, along with tabla stalwart Ustad Zakir Hussain. Khansahib also opened a branch of his college in Basel, Switzerland, run by his disciple Ken Zuckerman, where he taught when on his world tours. Speaking from London, Ustad Zakir Hussain said, "He was one of the greatest musicians ever, a musician's musician.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sunday, June 14, 2009

NYT Profiles Five Jazz Drummers To Watch


June 12, 2009
Five Drummers Whose Time Is Now

Drumming is jazz’s foundation, but it’s also where the music makes its deepest adjustments.

Ten years ago jazz suddenly started to sound different, and drumming had a lot to do with it. Not everything, but a lot. At the time Nasheet Waits, Rodney Green, John Hollenbeck, Eric Harland and Daniel Freedman were among those developing their own identities but also connecting everything through groove and pulse: making traditional jazz rhythm fit with free improvisation, Afro-Cuban music, funk, Middle Eastern music, classical percussion.

Those five, whom I wrote about in 1999, have helped widen the language of jazz. Here are five who have come to light more recently. They’re all finding new ways to look at the drum set, and at jazz itself. Despite the demise of the JVC Jazz Festival, which would ordinarily run this month in New York, this city is a jazz festival year-round. They’re part of what makes it so.

Marcus Gilmore

Marcus Gilmore, 22, is the grandson of Roy Haynes, jazz’s most important living drummer, but he has proved his own virtues quickly. Around the winter of 2004-5 he created that pleasant citywide buzz when someone new and special blows through New York clubs and jam sessions. Now you can hear him regularly, playing with Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Nicholas Payton, Vijay Iyer, Ambrose Akinmusire, Yosvany Terry, Gretchen Parlato and others.

Before graduating from LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in Manhattan, Mr. Gilmore had serious nonacademic training; his bandleaders were some of his teachers. One was the saxophonist Steve Coleman, who uses the Afro-Cuban clave rhythm in unusual patterns. At 15, Mr. Gilmore started rehearsing and performing with Mr. Coleman.

“I met Steve through my uncle,” he said last week in a cafe near his apartment in Harlem. (His uncle, Graham Haynes, is a trumpeter.) “Steve introduced me to concepts that I really wasn’t used to. He’d play me a line on the saxophone, a low note for the bass drum and a high note for the snare. And he’d just keep looping it till I got it. I guess his type of structures are kind of abnormal. The first time I finally got one of those tunes down, my head hurt. But I felt like I was smarter and stronger.”

Mr. Gilmore tends to work for bandleaders who write complex music, which he phrases with a rolling grace and swing, adding furtive microfills of funk. The demands of the compositions have shaped his style; it sounds natural and never looks easy.

“I always wanted to be a drummer who knew how to get around the drums,” he said, “but also I wanted to be a taste drummer — someone who knows how to interact, as opposed to bashing out everything. I want to be musical.”

Kendrick Scott

Kendrick Scott writes a prayer on all his drumsticks. “Lord, Make Me an Instrument of Thy Peace,” it reads.

Mr. Scott, 28, moved to New York in 2003. He plays with the trumpeter Terence Blanchard; he also leads his own band, Oracle, for which he writes all the music, edging into various kinds of slow-moving, harmonically sophisticated, twice-removed pop.

He came from the same performing arts high school in Houston that produced Eric Harland. Mr. Harland, whose nearly orchestral drum style became immediately influential, is two years older than Mr. Scott and had gotten professionally situated a little earlier. In 2007 Mr. Scott replaced Mr. Harland in Mr. Blanchard’s band.

“When I joined Terence’s band, I tried to play like Eric,” he said. “Eric has a certain openness to his sound. I always say he plays from underneath: from the drums up, not from the cymbals down. He uses the cymbals as more of a color rather than as a primary timekeeper. He takes the rims of the drums, the side of the drums, all these other things into account.

“But now I’m always thinking, what is my contribution going to be to the music, not just to the drums? If I can give my soul to it, that’s going to fulfill my calling to play the music.” He says the prayer on his drumstick helps him let go of playing like anyone else, as well as the demands of the moment when he’s on the bandstand; he wants to think several paces ahead.

He articulated the challenges for himself and his age group, drummers operating in the wake of Mr. Harland, Antonio Sanchez and others from that late-’90s efflorescence.

“I cling to that bottom-up philosophy too,” he explained. “But one of the things that’s different with my generation is that people are writing in all these odd time signatures” — 7, 11 and so on, instead of 3-beat or 4-beat rhythms — “but now the odd time signatures sound free-flowing. Whenever I look through someone’s music that’s really complicated, that’s the first thing I do: look for the common denominator. So even if it’s in 19, it can sound like 4.”

Dan Weiss

Afro-Cuban rhythm became increasingly important and specific in jazz in the 1990s, but it had been a part of jazz from the start. Newer to it, in the music of Mr. Iyer, Rudresh Mahanthappa and Dan Weiss, among others, are Indian rhythmic cycles.

Mr. Weiss is 32. At 14, growing up in Tenafly, N.J., he saw a video of Ravi Shankar performing at the Monterey Pop Festival, with Alla Rakha playing tabla. It stayed with him as he learned jazz drumming. Twelve years ago another drummer, Jamey Haddad, put him in touch with the tabla player Samir Chatterjee, who became Mr. Weiss’s musical guru.

“I’m trying to get to the point where I feel as comfortable on tabla as I do on drums,” he said, quiet and sanguine, with a chuckle. “It might take another 15 or 20 years.”

Part of the diversification of jazz drummers — learning from hip-hop, clave and tabla rhythm, from rock and classical percussion — has to do with job opportunities. But it’s not so much that bandleaders want drummers who can play a given language correctly. It’s that compounds of rhythmic ideas lead toward originality.

“Bandleaders want to hire people who have their own voices, more so than in the past,” Mr. Weiss said. “If they have a drummer with a strong personality, they might feel that their music is limitless in where it can go.”

Mr. Weiss plays with the bandleaders David Binney and Miles Okazaki, among others; he’s also led his own trio, with the pianist Jacob Sacks and the bassist Thomas Morgan, for which he writes long-form music with careful rhythmic subdivisions, influenced by late-20th-century classical music, Indian rhythm and metal.

Until a year and half ago, Mr. Weiss also played in the doom-metal band Bloody Panda. “It was too much physical stress, too much volume, playing really hard,” he said. “I love the music, but I couldn’t do it all. I fainted after one gig.”

Tyshawn Sorey

Sometimes Tyshawn Sorey’s drumming, big and precise, threatens to take over a band completely, to pick it up like a backhoe and swing it around. But more recently his playing has been surprisingly quiet, drawing you into small, rhythmic clicks and the decay of cymbal sounds.

These are the consequences of an idea Mr. Sorey, 28, picked up 10 years ago from Kenny Washington, one of his early teachers. “I was very heavy-handed then,” he remembered. “Kenny encouraged me to get a big sound without putting so much force into the instrument. Thanks to him, I can expand my dynamic range. Him, and Morton Feldman as well. I realize I can go to extremes, playing with the same intensity while playing very quiet as while playing very loud.”

Mr. Washington, the traditionalist drummer, and Mr. Feldman, the minimalist composer: not often put in the same sentence. But this is how Mr. Sorey thinks. The other day at a Manhattan coffee shop, he spoke in complete paragraphs for two hours about his inspirations, and he mentioned the drummer Vernell Fournier, the composer Anton Webern, the rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard, the rock drummer Dave Grohl and the comedian Andrew Dice Clay (for his improvisations). He is a constant learner: this fall he will start a master’s program in composition at Wesleyan University.

More serious on the trombone than on the drums until he was 19, Mr. Sorey, a native of Newark, moved quickly once he finished his studies at William Paterson University in 2004. Like Mr. Gilmore, he has worked with Mr. Coleman and Mr. Iyer. He can play complicated swing as well as his own version of electronic drum-and-bass rhythms, more funky and more spartan.

In general he doesn’t like to play a role. (He doesn’t identify himself as a jazz musician per se.) Especially in his own band, Oblique, he might do anything for a particular sound: play an upturned cymbal with mallets, scrape the legs of his snare-drum stand on the floor, throw sticks at the wall. He tries not to use the standard drum tuning or cymbal tones for jazz. He doesn’t like to play with sticks on the high hat during a bass solo. Etc.

“I see my instrument as being an extension of me,” he said. “I don’t see the drum set as a musical instrument anymore.”


“No,” he said. (He meant that it shouldn’t have prescribed functions.) “There are so many colors I can get out of the snare drum, or any one component of the drum set,” he elaborated. “For me it’s more about awareness of my instrument. I always know there’s so much more.”

Justin Faulkner

One recent surprise in New York’s jazz life was Justin Faulkner, positioned high over his drums and playing them with an almost obsessive sense of narrative evolution, at Jazz Standard last month. Mr. Faulkner, 18, replaced Jeff (Tain) Watts in Branford Marsalis’s quartet three months ago. Even before the job started, Mr. Faulkner loved Mr. Watts’s playing; since March he has had to become more familiar with the older drummer’s polyrhythmic language to understand its function within the band. The two have still not met.

“My approach isn’t cymbals-and-drums,” he explained on Monday by telephone from Philadelphia, soon after his high school graduation rehearsal. He warmed into an intense monologue about his style. “It’s just music. Servicing the song, having the song rise to a certain point. It’s like parabolas: up, down, up, down. You get to a peak of excitement, and then you come down. And you have to make the big peak become one solid thing with the small peaks.”

What are the preconditions to modern jazz drumming? “No. 1,” Mr. Faulkner said, “you have to know the vocabulary, and No. 2, you have to understand that you’re making music. So what you’re feeling and hearing should go from within to the drums. If you’re not feeling what you’re playing, then you’re just meandering.”

Like Mr. Sorey, he sees Fournier’s drumming with Ahmad Jamal as a model. “In ‘Ahmad’s Blues’ he’s just swinging his behind off, but the next chorus he changes it, adding some little piece to make the music build,” Mr. Faulkner said. “It’s all about that. If the music doesn’t build, what’s it going to do?”

Punk, and Jewish: Rockers Explore Identity

NYT [see original for additional media]
June 13, 2009
Punk, and Jewish: Rockers Explore Identity

Who knew?

Punk is Jewish.

Or, anyway, these fellows are: Tommy Ramone, Chris Stein, Lenny Kaye and Handsome Dick Manitoba, four New York godfathers of punk who packed an auditorium Thursday night at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research to excavate the unlikely roots of the rebellious and stripped-down 1970s rock genre, replete with fascist trappings.

“People don’t associate punk rock and Jews,” acknowledged Mr. Ramone, born Tamás Erdélyi in Budapest. He is the sole survivor of the Ramones, whose other members — Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee — he joined in taking the same stage name.

Yet connection there indisputably is, Steven Lee Beeber argued in his 2006 book “Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB’s,” subtitled “A Secret History of Jewish Punk.”

“The shpilkes, the nervous energy of punk, is Jewish,” Mr. Beeber wrote. “Punk reflects the whole Jewish history of oppression and uncertainty, flight and wandering, belonging and not belonging, always being divided, being in and out, good and bad, part and apart.”

Punk’s New York origins as a do-it-yourself, three-chorded return to music basics — and a fashion style and attitude — were no accident, said Richard Bienstock, a senior editor at Guitar World magazine who curated the forum. “It’s New York,” he said, “and anything that starts here, there’s a good chance Jews are involved.”

So there they were, onstage at 15 West 16th Street — “Loud Fast Jews,” as YIVO billed them — Mr. Ramone, 60; Mr. Stein, 59, of Blondie; Mr. Kaye, 62, of the Patti Smith Group; and Mr. Manitoba, 55, né Richard Blum, bar owner, radio host and lead singer of the Dictators.

The program raised some eyebrows at the Jewish institute, said YIVO’s cultural director, Harold Steinblatt, a former Guitar World editor.

But Mr. Manitoba dismissed concerns. “You can do what you want with your own people,” he said. “It’s the law of the playground.”

And if at times the byplay seemed to take on the zaniness of “Spinal Tap” — one questioner misheard Mr. Kaye’s reference to “the germination of punk” as “the German nation of punk” — there was also a serious issue in contention: how did Jewish punk rockers defend their use of Nazi symbols and other shock imagery?

It was a complex matter, allowed Mr. Ramone, who had family members who were killed in the Holocaust. “To bring forbidden things, horrible things, and make art of it was basically an artistic thing,” he said. “There’s an aesthetic effect when you take your deepest fears and try to get a grasp on it and try to make humor out of it.”

Mr. Manitoba conceded doubts. “I cried at ‘Schindler’s List,’ ” he said. “I don’t like to think I caused pain with ‘Master Race Rock.’ ”

“The sensitivity thing is a difficult subject,” he added. But the Dictators’ stage persona “has nothing to do with Nazis or people’s pain.” Instead, he said, it had everything to do with snotty young New Yorkers “doing it to get attention.”

Mr. Kaye said, “Sometimes, using forbidden imagery makes it your own.”

He added, “Punk rock really took a lot of symbols and turned them on their back.”

Either way, the uglier trappings were not to be taken seriously, Mr. Kaye said. “The Dictators were humorous in some ways.”

Mr. Manitoba rose up in mock protest. “What do you mean ‘in some ways’?” he said.

Like Jews elsewhere, the four represented varying degrees of Jewishness. Mr. Manitoba recalled losing his place reading his portion of the Torah at his bar mitzvah. “After the bar mitzvah?” he said. “I bought a pound of pot.”

Mr. Ramone said he attended a yeshiva of the Lubavitch Hasidim in Brooklyn, “but I really didn’t fit in — there were no girls in the class.”

Mr. Stein, who grew up in Flatbush, Brooklyn, said: “Religious affiliation didn’t mean anything to me and my friends. I’d be hard pressed to think ethnicity has something to do with my music.”

Mr. Kaye said he was “raised traditional,” but later went to synagogue only on the holidays.

“Actually,” interjected Mr. Manitoba in a burst of clarity, “several pounds of pot.”

Many of the 250 in the audience thronged the foursome afterward, soliciting autographs. “This was fantastic,” said Fritz Freidenberg, 49, a musician from Los Angeles wearing the T-shirt of his band, the Bloody Brains. Before the show Mr. Freidenberg had not known of the group’s collective heritage.

“I knew that Tommy was Jewish, that’s all,” he said.

Shari Saffioti, 52, a graphic designer who worked at Max’s Kansas City in the early days of punk, said she was thrilled to learn of the Jewish roots of punk. “Nobody really knew other of us were around,” she said. “We felt like oddballs. It turns out there are so many.”

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Iran Election and the Failure of the Media News Industry

If you want an example of why traditional American media is in trouble, take a look at the biggest story of the week, the protests of the election results in Iran. Americans wanting to find out the latest can't get much of anything from the so-called news networks are are going to the internet. From one of Andrew Sullivan's readers:

"So all day long, I'm glued to your blog, Juan Cole's blog, Josh Marshall's blog, and a couple others reading as much as I can about the (stolen) Iranian election.

I turned on CNN, and they were going three rounds about some idiot Republican operative in South Carolina who called Michelle Obama an ape. Nothing on Iran.

MSNBC was in the middle of one of its hour-long crime documentaries.

FNC was showing a pre-taped piece on Bernie Madoff.

And I realize that it's the weekend and they usually take the weekend off, but over at NRO, the only thing they've managed to post about Iran today is a link to Daniel Pipes' piece cheering on an Ahmadinejad victory because otherwise his dream of a massive Israeli air assault would be dashed. That's it...a staff of 10+ regular bloggers, and all they can come up with in the midst of an Iranian revolution is a single piece cheering for the status quo?

Thank God that you, Juan, and Josh are on the story."

Indeed. And while the Iranian government cut cellphone and texting communications and has enforced a media blackout, news is getting out not only from the foreign media but from Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. The American news media have fallen asleep at the switch having taken the weekend off and running pre-determined crap or talking head punditry debates. Exceptions are blogs run by media outfits, just as the NYTimes online. Apparently, as Sullivan posts, the revolution will be twittered and YouTubed.

Artist Banksy strikes again

Banksy's provocative art is the subject of an MSNBC story (you have to wait through an ad).

Monday, June 08, 2009

Jesús Alfonso Miró, Director of Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, Dies at 60

From Ned Sublette:

At 6:45 a.m. today, June 3 2009, at 60 years of age, Jesús Alfonso Miró,
musical director of Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, exceptional composer and
percussionist, died in his home town of Matanzas, Cuba. The only son of the
Alfonso Miró family, he was the father of 8 children, all dedicated to the
rumba as musicians or dancers. Two of them have been members of the
Muñequitos and at present, Freddy Jesús Alfonso Borges, a practitioner of
his father’s art, plays the quinto of the group and has begun to follow as
well in his path as the composer of heartfelt rumbas.

As a musician of Los Muñequitos Jesús traveled to almost all the continents.
Wherever he went he left friends and disciples. He shone on every stage he
played on, but he never forgot his roots and lived a full life, proud of his
lineage as a rumbero, enjoying the flavor of every corner of his barrio, la
Marina. Beginning at the age of seven, he participated as a musician and
dancer in the Comparsa La Imaliana, founded by his father and by Félix
Vinagera. For a time he was a member of the Orquesta de Música Moderna of
his city and of the Papa Goza group. From 1967 he was musical director and
quinto of Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, a group which he profoundly loved and
to which he dedicated the greatest part of his life.

As a composer he was indispensable to the repertoire of the group, with his
works known worldwide. He was the author of “Congo Yambumba,” “La Llave,”
“Chino Guaguao,” “Lengua de Obbara,” “Saludo a Nueva York,” and many others
that are now classics of Cuban rumba. Prestigious interpreters including
Eddie Palmieri took note of his sabrosura and the popularity of his works,
including them on their records and mentioning him as indispensable to the
music of our continent.

When Jesús Alfonso was still very young, together with another of the great
figures of Los Muñequitos, Ricardo Cané, he went to the mountains of Cuba to
teach literacy to the people of the countryside, graduating later as a young
revolutionary teacher. For his great contributions to music and to his
community, he received the title of Hijo Ilustre (Illustrious Son) of

Jesús Alfonso, member of the Matanzas society Efí Irondó Itá Ibekó and
respectful observer of the regla de Osha, will be remembered by all his
community and especially by rumberos around the world. His name will never
be forgotten. His strong voice and the sound of his hands on the skins will
remain in the memory of those who knew him and recognize him as one of the
most celebrated musicians of all time, because Jesús was to the rumba as was
Cuní or Chapottín to the son. Jesús gave his entire life to the rumba. His
name is next to Chano, Tata, Papín, and all the greats of Cuban music.

Viewing will be in the place where Los Muñequitos de Matanzas rehearse every
day, at 7906 Matanzas Street, between Contrera and Milanés. After respects
are paid, he will be buried in the early hours tomorrow.

To his wife Dulce María Galup, to his children and other family members, to
Diosdado Ramos and all his compañeros in the rumba who have so much admired
him and are today feeling his loss, we send our heartfelt condolences.


As per Ned's List (Sublette)

Saturday, June 06, 2009

The Nicholas Brothers in Stormy Weather (1943)

Behold the spectacular genius of the Nicholas Brothers in 1943's Stormy Weather in a sequence that was reportedly shot in one take.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Grunge's Long Shadow: In praise of "in-between" periods in pop history


music box
Grunge's Long Shadow
In praise of "in-between" periods in pop history.
By Simon Reynolds
Posted Friday, May 29, 2009, at 7:02 AM ET

Pop music history is biased toward "the right place and the right time." Just like its respectable elder relative, rock history, with its decisive battles and seismic elections, pop history fixates on origins and breakthroughs, magic years of transformation, cusp points when undergrounds go overground. It gives far less attention to those stretches of time between the upheavals—years of drift and diaspora, periods without an easily discernible "vibe," zeits devoid of geist. Geographically, too, pop historians favor major metropolises over the provinces and suburbs. Time and again, they locate the motor of pop change in small cliques operating out of major cities like New York and Berlin or secondary cities like Manchester, U.K., or Seattle that briefly assert themselves as the place to be.

I've been an obsessive music fan for 30 years, a "professional fan," aka critic, for 22 of them, yet I've ever managed to be in "the right place at the right time" only once, maybe twice. Pretty poor going for someone living first in London and then in New York. But partly because of this recurrent feeling of belatedness and partly because I spent my teenage years in a suburban commuter town, I've long had a special interest in those expanses of pop time that get skipped over quickly by pop chroniclers.

Makers of rockumentary series for TV are the worst offenders. It rankles a bit that the late '80s are now treated as a mere prequel to grunge. The recently aired Seven Ages of Rock on VH1 Classic was a marked improvement on earlier TV histories of rock, which tended to jump straight from Sex Pistols to Nirvana. But its episode on U.S. alternative rock nonetheless presented groups like the Pixies, Dinosaur Jr., and Sonic Youth as preparing the ground for Nirvana. That's not how it felt at the time: Sonic Youth and the rest seemed fully formed significances in their own right, creative forces of monstrous power, time-defining in their own way (albeit through their refusal of the mainstream). My Melody Maker comrade David Stubbs wrote an end-of-year oration proclaiming 1988—annum of Surfer Rosa, Daydream Nation, My Bloody Valentine's Isn't Anything—to be the greatest year for rock music. Ever!

We actually believed this, and our fervor was infectious, striking an inspirational, Obama-like chord with young readers heartily sick of the idea that rock's capacity for renewal had been exhausted in the '60s or the punk mid-'70s. Yet that period will never truly be written into conventional history (despite efforts like Michael Azerrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life) because it doesn't have a name. It's too diverse, and it's not easily characterized. For instance, the groups were "underground," except that by 1988 most of them—Husker Du, Throwing Muses, Sonic Youth, Butthole Surfers—had already signed, or soon were to sign, to majors. Finally, it'll never get fairly written into history because, damn it, grunge did happen.

Being turned into a prequel isn't the only indignity that can befall one of those in-betweeny phases of rock history. The other humiliating fate is to be deemed an aftermath. Reclaiming one such period of "fallout" was the polemical drive behind my post-punk history Rip It Up and Start Again and its new companion volume Totally Wired. It was an attempt to challenge the perennial fixation on punk as the Big Bang and the corresponding tendency to see what came next as a scattered diminuendo, an entropic dissipation of focus and energy. Instead, I wanted to recover my own lived sense of the period not as a dwindle into disparateness but as the true fruition of punk's ideals. The after-zones of rock history are hard to grasp precisely because they're so various. This rich muddle demands identifying labels that are umbrella-broad and open-ended. Hence post-punk, not a genre so much as a space of possibility, out of which new genres formed: Goth, industrial, synthpop, mutant disco, and many more.

I can think of at least a couple more "post-" terms that could usefully redraw the map of pop music history:

Post-disco. Disco is often said to have died in 1979. That's when the "disco sucks" backlash peaked with the infamous July 12 "Disco Demolition" night rally at Comiskey Park in Chicago, when thousands of disco records were blown up on the field midway between a double-header; it's the year when radio dropped the disco format en masse as opportunistically as it had jumped on the bandwagon in the first place, the year when record sales for the genre began to slide precipitously. Casablanca, disco's leading label, started to get into financial difficulties, while Studio 54, its most famous club, closed in February 1980. But people didn't stop dancing, and disco music didn't vanish from the Earth. Instead, the genre mutated while the movement itself fragmented into a panoply of subscenes that appealed to specific tribes of the once-united disco nation, styles like hi-NRG (a tautly sequenced, butt-bumping sound big in the hard-core gay clubs), freestyle (beloved by Hispanic youth in New York and Miami), Italodisco (the bastard bambino of Giorgio Moroder), and electrofunk (a sound associated with New York labels like West End and Prelude, artists like Peech Boys, and producers like Arthur Baker). With these and other post-disco offshoots, the classic sonic signifiers of heyday mid-'70s disco—the shuffling high-hat driven beat, walking bass lines, tempestuous string-swept orchestrations—faded away as the music became increasingly electronic, based around drum machines, sequenced bass lines, and synth-licks. But the torrid diva vocals endured, as did disco's raison d'être (igniting the dance floor, providing release on the weekends), along with much of the infrastructure of a clubbing industry that disco had built during the '70s.

Bridging the so-called death of disco and the birth of house, all this early-to-mid-'80s music lacks a name beyond drably functional and neutral terms like "dance" or "club music." Post-disco is better because this was music created by and for people—in New York, Miami, Montreal, and, if truth be known, most of the United Kingdom and Europe—who refused to accept the official decree of disco's demise. But they didn't just stick with the classic disco sound frozen forever as golden oldies; their restless demand for "fresh" forced the music to keep moving forward. And it wasn't the case that disco went completely underground during this period, either: The careers of Madonna, New Order, and the Pet Shop Boys were largely launched off the back of ideas spawned in the post-disco era.

Post-psychedelic. The reigning view of psychedelia, at least in America, is as a slightly embarrassing fad that was served notice early in 1968, when Bob Dylan released the recorded-in-two-days simplicity of John Wesley Harding. Dylan acolytes swiftly followed suit, from the Band, with their equally steeped in rootsy Americana Music From Big Pink, to the Byrds with their country-rock album Sweetheart of the Rodeo. The sharp critical view to take on Sgt. Pepper's has long been that it's a pretentious mess compared with its predecessor Revolver; sharper still is the claim that Rubber Soul is better than the already-getting-quite-psychedelic Revolver. The stance is strengthened by the Beatles' own rapid retreat circa 1968 from studio-as-instrument frippery with the Chuck Berry-styled "Back in the USSR," the 12-bar bluesy "Revolution," and the gritty "Get Back." Likewise, the Rolling Stones followed Their Satanic Majesties Request, their debacle attempt to match Sgt. Pepper's, with the stripped-bare virility of "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and "Street Fighting Man," while the Doors recovered their mojos with the hard, bluesy Morrison Hotel. In the final year of the decade that had once hurtled full-tilt into the future and out into the cosmos, Creedence Clearwater Revival's faux-Southern rock 'n' roll dominated American airwaves, while the United Kingdom was overrun with blues bores.

But just as disco never died in a lot of hearts, there were plenty of people active at the end of the '60s and into the early '70s who kept faith with the visions of 1967. They kept on making music that, while not always blatantly trippy, nonetheless took its bearing from landmark psychedelic records like Pink Floyd's The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and A Saucerful of Secrets, the Incredible String Band's The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter, Traffic's Dear Mr. Fantasy, Donovan's A Gift From a Flower to a Garden, Soft Machine's self-titled debut. I'm not just talking about the obviously out-there kosmische rock and space rock of the era (Tangerine Dream, Can, Faust, Hawkwind, Gong) but some of the maverick singer-songwriters of the early '70s: the late John Martyn with his rippling after-trails of echoplex guitar, Robert Wyatt's astral scat song and tape-as-canvas daubing, Tim Buckley's zero-gravity vocal acrobatics on Starsailor. Ex-Soft Machine singer Kevin Ayers' solo career flitted between Donovan-like ditties full of quaint English charm to transcendental tapestries of guitar-flicker such as his Nico-paean "Decadence." Even certain artists we normally file under "glam" were indelibly marked by psychedelia: Roxy Music's personnel included Brian Eno, a Syd Barrett admirer and believer in using the recording studio to create sonic phantasms, and the obviously Hendrix-damaged Phil Manzanera.

Like the after-disco and after-punk phases, this is a rich, diffuse era that suffers for the lack of a name. It's not exactly "progressive," although at various points it overlaps the terrain we generally think of as "prog rock," while at its other boundaries it intersects with "folk" and "singer-songwriter." What unifies it more than style or sound is a shared infrastructure (the artists were mostly clustered around certain key labels—Harvest, Island, Charisma, Virgin, UA, Elektra), along with a common set of preoccupations, values, and approaches: the classic 1967-style fascination for the bucolic and the childlike, a spirit of gentle and genteel experimentalism, a whimsical sense of humor tinged with melancholy. At the time, people often talked of "the underground"—a nebulous concept at best, based around sensibility more than anything, but again speaking to these artists having a common departure point circa 1967. This underground blurred into the mainstream: Most of the groups were on "head"-oriented boutique imprints of major labels (Harvest, for instance, being a sub-label of EMI) or on large independent labels like Island that, while aesthetically autonomous and highly adventurous, relied on major-label distribution. Moreover, some key figures from this quasi-underground—Kevin Ayers' former sideman Mike Oldfield, Pink Floyd—would eventually release some of the biggest-selling albums of the era while never totally losing their links to their old comrades.

Post-punk, post-disco, post-psychedelic: Ungainly as they are, these terms seem necessary to me, providing a handle on elusive but fertile regions of music history. Fuzzy at both temporal ends (they slow-fade into indistinctness while never totally going away), they're hard to perceive as distinct eras in their own right. Their richness challenges history's fixation on the "event," the "turning point," the "revolutionary moment." And their diversity challenges the historian: How to locate and convey the "feel" of an era, the communality of consciousness shared by all those belated souls who lived and created under the sign of the "post-"?

P.S. There are some other "post-" genres out there, but to my mind, they describe something quite different from the above. Take post-rock, a term that mysteriously emerged in the early '90s to describe experimental guitar bands that increasingly abandoned guitars altogether. (Oh, OK, it was me who came up with that one.) But post-rock doesn't have the same temporal aspect that post-disco or post-punk have; it's not about the ripples set in motion by a galvanizing "event." Rather, it evokes a sense of "going beyond" the strictures of a genre of music without completely abandoning its legacy of attitudes and assumptions. For similar reasons, the term post-metal seems increasingly useful to describe the vast and variegated swath of genres (the thousand flavors of doom/black/death/grind/drone/sludge/etc., ad infinitum) that emerged from the early '90s onward. Sometimes beat-free and ambient, increasingly the work of home-studio loners rather than performing bands, post-metal of the kind released by labels like Hydra Head often seems to have barely any connection to metal as understood by, say, VH1 Classic doc-makers. The continuity is less sonic but attitudinal: the penchant for morbidity and darkness taken to a sometimes hokey degree; the somber clothing and the long hair; the harrowed, indecipherably growled vocals; the bombastically verbose lyrics/song titles/band names. It's that aesthetic rather than a way of riffing or a palette of guitar sounds that ties post-metal back to Judas Priest and Black Sabbath.

Simon Reynolds is the author of Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-84.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Misspelled Tattoos, Courtesy Of Fail Blog and Ugliest Tattoos

Most of these beauties come from the indispensable Fail Blog and Ugliest Tattoo, which you should visit for a variety of fail examples. On to the tattoo spelling fails... because life does not come with a spellchecker.

Sweet Pea FAIL

"You're" FAIL

"Jealous" FAIL

"Extreme" FAIL (double fail because of the mirror pose shot)


"memories" FAIL

"System" FAIL (attitude fail as well)

Be sure to check out FAIL BLOG.

Some of the following examples do not come from fail blog. This is one of the famous misspellings of Chi-town:

And more...Judge FAIL

their FAIL

Life/Live FAILS

Strength FAIL

Lovable FAIL (with FB commentary)

apostrophe FAIL

precious FAIL

I don't even know how to label this except to add FAIL

Through FAIL

Stronger FAIL

learned FAIL

Yeah, I know, blogger format FAIL (guilty)

< More HERE.

and post dedicated to tattoo spelling errors on the words your and you're HERE.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

In Praise of Sly Stone

I'm going through a bit of Sly & the Family Stone revival, mostly due to a surprise interview done on KCRW over Memorial Day weekend. Sly's daughter has been getting him back into things gently, and KCRW's Chris Douridas had the enviable job of speaking with Sly Stone for nearly an hour. You can hear the interview HERE AT KCRW. You can podcast it too.

Sly & the Family Stone TV medley back in the day (check out the priceless reaction shot to Sly's vocal intro at :27-28 [I feel ya, girl!]):

Some interview Sly, guessing mid-80s:


1970s rehearsal footage:

I wanna take you higher (on Dick Cavett):

If You Want Me To Stay (solo piano on Mike Douglass show) (sorry about the overdubbed talk)

Monday, June 01, 2009

Unusual LA Band Dewanatron

Dewanatron's Melody Gin instrument.


Shine on, Dewanatron

By Dean Kuipers, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
June 1, 2009
If you've got a melody gin, it only takes two little musical tones to make a song, a really good party, or even a strange and ever-changing career as a musician. Sunday night at Ghettogloss gallery in Silver Lake, the duo known as Dewanatron made a rare appearance with their handmade instruments, pulled together a bunch of L.A.-based musicians and a birthday cake, and left the local hip-oisie gaping in wonder.

"Much like a cotton gin weaves together strands to make cloth, the melody gin weaves together a melody," explained Leon Dewan in between sets. One half of Dewanatron, Leon makes the "guts" of their handmade analogue electronic instruments, while his cousin Brian Dewan makes the cabinets. Leon's father was an inventor and worked with high-voltage equipment. "It's better to work with low-voltage, solid-state parts," nodded Leon, "and not risk death every day."

The Dewans' melody gins come in various sizes and shapes – some, like the Dual Primate Console, are too big to transport easily. Others are gallery installations or meant to hang on walls, where they generate tones on their own. Leon explained that the particular gin he was playing that night, which was about the size of an old reel-to-reel tape machine, generated sets of two toggling tones – up to sixteen total – that could then be modified with banks of knobs and dampening keys.

At full roar, the Dewanatron experience howled and warbled with demented mid-1960s fervor, all simple rhythms laced up with complex and freakish electronic wails, a retrofuturistic journey to the reinvention of the synthesizer.


Read the rest at HERE AT LAT.