Thursday, December 20, 2007

Top Stuff

It's that time of year again. Is it just me, or do I seem way off in some bizarre left field...
Top 10 albums
Burial Untrue (Hyperdub)
Ghislain Poirier No Ground Under (Ninja Tune/Outside)
Tinariwen Aman Iman (World Village)
Mavado Gangster for Life (VP)
Vieux Farka Toure self-titled (Modiba)
Arcade Fire Neon Bible (Merge/FAB)
Andy Palacio & the Garifuna Collective Wátina (Combancha)
Skream Rinse 02 (Rinse FM)
Sdunkero Edladleni Vol. 1 (House Afrika)
King Jammy’s Selector’s Choice Vols. 1-4 (VP)

Bottom 3 albums
Bunny Rabbit Lovers and Crypts (Voodoo-Eros)
Sinead O’Connor Theology (Koch)
Shaggy Intoxication (VP)

Best song: Teddy Afro, “Abebeyehosh”/Mutya Buena and Groove Armada, “Song 4 Mutya” (tie)
Worst song: Natasha Bedingfield, “I Wanna Have Your Babies”
Best show: Ghislain Poirier, la Tulipe, Nov. 2
Worst show: Benga and Hatcha, Death of Vinyl, Oct. 27

“My cheerleading of Ghislain continues. Heaps of fun as always, his launch demonstrated just how much fun an audience crammed with Montrealers can be. Benga and Hatcha came out swinging, but the crowd was far less than stellar. It’s pot, not coke, that goes with dubstep, kids! If that’s my biggest complaint though, things seem to be quite all right. Now, if only I could convince someone to launch a kwaito/2-step night, this city would be perfect.”

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Yeah, I'm behind the times, but I'm Canadian... how can I keep up with the goings on in dance music around the world? Yes, bassline house has been around for quite some time, but it's not being played here. Yay for vocals! Even though I'm sure it's been done to death across the pond, "Heartbroken" by T2 is pretty terrific. The North of England seems all friendly like, and it appears that they make dancefloor-friendly songs to match.

It other related cute-girl-singing tunes that make me want to dance, there's the wonderfully precocious Rye Rye from Baltimore.

Both tracks also make me wish I had that radio show I used to have.

Monday, December 10, 2007

One More Colour

Interviewed Issa (formerly Jane Siberry) last week. Haven't done this for a while, but I'll post a director's cut of the interview after it's published this week. Jane Siberry was and Issa still is simply fantastic.

Monday, December 03, 2007

I'll dance to anything

Snow is everywhere right now. 30cm of it is blowing all around. I haven't gone outside yet today. Maybe I'll go for a little slog at dusk (which, in this part of the world will be at around 4pm). Anyhow, I liked Untrue when I first heard it last month, but today I love it.
I have to say, however, that all the folks who've written that it's headphone music, not meant for dancing, just might be wrong. I have found myself unable to focus on the writing I'm supposed to do because it's just so darned danceable. A track like "Archangel" is basically spooky Justin Timberlake--it almost begs for a full choreographed treatment with Usher-styled footwork. And I would have been much more likely to get up on my feet for "Near Dark" or "Ghost Hardware" or "Raver" than anything Benga and Hatcha played at that Hallowe'en thing at Death of Vinyl.
Tash just emailed to say she wants to hear it loud. So do I. Headphones just won't do it for too much longer.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Gotta love the pun

Here's a piece I wrote about Tinariwen. Their music is quite terrific, I think.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Ghislain and other stuff

Went to the No Ground Under lancement last week. It was tremendously fun. My camera is broken so I can't see what I'm taking pictures of, but I did get this photo of Ghislain looking like quite the rockstar. I hope everyone likes this record as much as I do. The guy's music is like Bounce le Gros. Just plain fun.

Unfortch, other stuff is not quite as fun right now. For numerous reasons, I'm feeling a out of sorts. I'm trying to write and it seems like it's just an endless exercise in everything unwriting itself as soon as it gets put down on the page. Argh. And I miss the delicious empanadas and cheesy breads from this terrific joint on Seven Sisters Road.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Loving the N15

Goodness me. How time flies. I apologise for the lack of blogging--the research trip to Africa made it a little difficult. I can't choose from the billions and billions of Abyssinia related photos, so I went outside and took a picture down the road.

Suffice it to say that my time in Ethiopia was wonderful, challenging, exciting, fun...actually, I probably experienced all of the adjectives. It was super duper wonderful to have Julie stop by for a visit.

I'll try and think of more articulate and interesting things to say in the near future.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Pop goes what?

I spent the past weekend in what I considered to be great weather, until I returned back to my beloved Montreal only to find that it had transformed into wonderful spring. My trip was to Seattle and the Experience Music Project's 6th annual Pop Conference to present a paper, alongside the talented Mr. Dave Stelfox, entitled "'Screwing up the world': Hip Hop Slows Down And Makes Do In Houston, Texas."

I've been forcing people to listen to plodding hip hop and R&B for quite some time, insisting that everything really does sound better slow. Dave and I had a bit of a time of it trying to figure out how to bring together a journalist (him) and an academic (me) to cook up something that might explain the whys and hows of a genre of music that, upon first listen, defys explanation. If I may say so myself, after much consternation, we did a good job.

There were some spectacular papers at the conference. I'll prolly tell all of you about them when we sit down and have a glass of wine on a terasse. Soon.

Until then, here's Dave's and my abstract:

Michel De Certeau speaks of divining "ways of using the constraining order of place.” In the case of Houston, not only do we find oppressive heat, the city’s hometown rap scene also comes under similar pressure. Texan hip hop is squeezed between the east and west coasts. The "art of being between" and the "unexpected results" of which De Certeau speaks, are evidenced here—in the form of gorgeous tonalities and deep, vulnerable strains, all created by taking regular hip-hop and simply slowing it down.

Far from being an underground phenomenon, slowed music represents a genuine “alternative mainstream” culture, enjoying massive audiences throughout the Southern states. A rudimentary, yet dazzlingly effective way to recontextualize existing records in a truly original way, it also lays claim to this region’s own special place in wider hip hop culture. Taking into account the spatiality of these recordings, this paper will explore what happens when the world turns slow.

DJ Screw, originator or slowed or “Screwed” remixing, becomes not simply a turntablist, but a revolutionary. The desire is not to rework a track, but to let it breathe, to open it up. The integrity of the song is maintained—it is the same product as before, but the way that it is experienced changes. It's filtered through heat, through drugs (don't think that the screwed and chopped style isn't also a manifestation of the codeine cough syrup so popular in Houston), through America, through hip hop, until it begins to "function in a different register." If Paul Virillio believes that speed is the essence of American life, screwed tunes present a response.

The legendary story of DJ Screw's accidental discovery of the transformative power of slowness is a profound act of "making do." That screwed music has become a genre now entering the mainstream demonstrates the momentum of a movement, or a need, as opposed to a considered idea. The existence of hundreds (if not thousands) of Screw's mixtapes is evidence of this need to make do. Screwed and chopped music, as representative of a reaction to a space and place is essentially an example of just doin' it because they are, they can and they do.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

So it goes

I was about to leave the house to engage in a wonderful combination of working out and doing taxes, when I decided to check the news and discovered that Kurt Vonnegut had passed away. It sort of shocked me in a way that the death of an 84-year-old human being I never knew really hasn't in quite a long time. That's an awful sentence, but I don't really know how else to express the sentiment.

I think that Vonnegut was the first writer that really made me feel smart. My grade nine history teacher--a man I thought was quite possibly the smartest man alive, and perhaps still very well might be--told me about Vonnegut. I then remember reading Breakfast of Champions and feeling like I was in on some secret society of hilarious smart people. It was as if I snuck in through the back door and, after finding me out, the hilarious smart people let me stay. I sped through book after book, devouring Galapagos, obsessing over Slaughterhouse Five.

In around grade eleven, I read an announcement for a talk by Vonnegut at the Metropolitan United Church in Toronto. I was super excited, and, of course, had more luck convincing my parents to let me go and see a real live author than my normal desperate requests for permission to see hardcore punk bands. They even let me drive the car into the city for the occasion.

I remember sitting next to my boyfriend at the time--he was equally impressed with Vonnegut--hanging on the man's every word. Incidentally, at the end of Vonnegut's talk, which was interrupted every fifteen minutes or so for a smoke break, members of the audience were allowed to ask questions. My boyfriend lined up dutifully, but the fellow right before him was given the pleasure of asking the last question.

The best part of the talk was when Vonnegut discussed literature. I have repeated his explanation of what makes good books good ad nauseum, to every literature class I've taught. Anyone who saw Vonnegut speak probably has heard this, but I'll repeat it here for those who weren't so lucky.

Drawing intersecting X and Y axes on an old, rickety freestanding blackboard, Vonnegut labelled the X as representing the range of negative to positive events and the Y as representitive of time. He then announced that, in order to evaluate meaningful literature it would require him to graph them on the board. He began with "Cinderella".

Cinderella, you see, starts with the title character in somewhat of a bad state of affairs, lower down on the graph. She then has the magical opportunity to go to the ball, which improves her lot substantially. Then, at the stroke of midnight, all is lost, so the line dips back down. Fortunately, we find out that the prince will search his kingdom for the girl whose foot fits a shoe left behind as his beloved rushed out the door. Upon locating the beautiful Cinderella, the story ends with the line of the graph travelling up towards infinity.

Now, let's take a look at, say, Kafka's "Metamorphosis". The story opens with an introduction to main character Gregor Samsa, an insurance salesman who lives with his parents. Perhaps this might be someone's idea of a good time, but for the majority of people, this might not figure so highly on the graph. Samsa wakes up one morning and finds he's been transformed into a hideous bug. We don't really need to continue too much longer to conclude that we're looking at a graph that plunges downwards, infinitly.

Okay. What about Hamlet, say? The tale of everyone's favourite Danish prince begins with a visit by the ghostly apparition of Hamlet's father, detailing his death at the hands of Claudius. Hamlet is then charged with avenging his father's murder. How does one graph this chain of events? Good? Bad? Seems like it might be best to run the line down the middle. How about the relationship with Ophelia? Good? Bad? Killing Polonius? Good? Bad? Is revenge wrong? Does Hamlet go to heaven? Hell? The whole darned play is ambiguous, leaving us with a straight line across the middle of the graph.

Hamlet, suggested Vonnegut, demonstrates what makes good literature meaningful. We, as readers, are stuck living lives in which we've got no real idea whether the graph should be drawn up or down. Life is ambiguous.

Though a humanist, Vonnegut ended his discussion by saying that if, at the end of life, he should find that the whole God thing wasn't a fiction, he'd ask the following question: "What was the good news and what was the bad news?"

I hope he's finally got his answer.

Monday, April 09, 2007

So I did it

As indicated by the title of this blog, for better or for worse, I tend to agree to things that sound like fun. I agreed to dj Bounce le Gros for exactly that reason. Then it sunk in--I've agreed to dj Bounce le Gros.

After much hand-wringing and nervousness, I actually did dj for the first time in a while, and it wasn't a complete fuck up. Ms. Sarah, who told me I need to have a little more "performance based art" in my life (and less "thought based obsession", I'm sure) woulda been proud.

Thanks to everyone that helped me prep and those who came--it was very kind of y'all! Also, thanks to Ghislain for giving me the opportunity to play my favourite dancehall tunes really loud for a crowd that always seems ready and willing to dance. Shame there's only one Bounce le Gros left!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Review that wasn't printed, yet is relevant at the mo

Ghislain Poirier
Bounce le Remix, Vol 2
What is there to say about Ghislain Poirier except that he's a gem and, thank goodness, he's ours. Montrealers who religiously flock to see the scruffy Mr. Bounce le Gros know what to expect, and the man never dissapoints. This remix record is hardly an exception--no matter what Ghislain seems to touch, it comes out ridiculously, painfully danceable, and he seems to be having a ridiculously fun time doing it. Sparse, weird, and, dare I say, smart booty shakers abound here, and the list is not without a few surprises. It's an energy that's so infectious that allows for a beyond kicking-it-up a notch energetic remix of Bunji Garlin to be the type of thing that I leave on friend's answering machines.
Erin MacLeod

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Skating in the pre-Tonya Harding era

In a previous life, I used to figure skate. My idols were Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay, a brother/sister dance team from Aylmer, Quebec that skated for France after being criticised for being too weird by the Canadian figure skating establishment.

In 1990, they performed an incredible program entitled "Missing", choreographed by Christopher Dean (of Torvill and Dean fame), a piece calling attention to the dissapeared of Argentina. In 1991, their free dance was a sequel. When I found this on the gold mine that is YouTube this weekend, the shivers I experienced while watching it were the very same as when I saw the program the first time, over 16 years ago.

If there was ever an argument for the artistic potential of figure skating, this is it. There is nothing particularly spectacular about any element of the program, but it's just amazing overall. Now that there's all sorts of new rules governing ice dance, folks like the Duschesnays would never be able to perform something like this.

I 've always said that figure skating would be so much better if it weren't a sport. There's a whole lot of artistic potential that is lost in lieu of the conventions of competition. There's just no room for the Gary Beacoms of the world. Sure, Beacom is a rather eccentric fellow who, among other things, was jailed for refusing to pay taxes and insists on keeping his money in gold coins rather than relying on banks. He also doesn't believe in stop signs and speeding limits. But man oh man, he's incredible. His understanding of the physics of skating is apparent from his programs. No jumps, no spins, just the use of his clues you in to why it's called "figure skating."

When I used to skate we had to do what was called "patch" session. Each skater got a patch of clean ice to use to do what is called compulsory figures. You'd basically draw various shapes and loops on the ice, making sure to balance your weight just so, in order to make sure that the turns and loops you drew were precise. The jumps that are so popular are simply these "figures" done in the air. A loop jump, for instance, employs the same body positioning as a loop drawn on the ice. In fact, compulsory figures were worth 60% of the marks in figure skating for quite some time. Sure, figures aren't particularly fun to watch on TV, but they are incredibly hard to do. In what I think was a big mistake (though probably good for business), figures were completely eliminated from competition in 1990--and this meant that new skaters stopped practicing them altogether.

What makes Gary Beacom amazing is that he is able to demonstrate just why it's a shame that figures are no more. He's a master of the discipline...I remember when I first saw him skate. I couldn't believe it. See what you think...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The City that MOTO-vates Canada

How fitting that the day I discover the craziness that is Facebook and end up reliving my teenage years in the Shwa is also Stephen Colbert Day and Mr. Darrin Rows, the man who used to be the boy who prevented me from entering Madame Hoef's French class, is opening the festivities.

I have to say though, I am rather distressed to find out that they've dispensed with the old motto for "Prepare to Be Amazed". Amazed by what, pray tell? The Oshawa Centre? The Genosh? The Automotive Museum? Oshawa never even had Wheelies or Stairways. If they did, that'd be another story.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

"It was planned that way, carefully worked out. These people are scientists, ladies and gentlemen."

In the wake of a computer disaster, Red X, the CD king, is keeping my hope alive. His 30th mixed CD, A Different World, simply rules. Sure, it'd be nice if he left some fo the tunes for more than 45 seconds, but it's a pretty wicked mix. And man, Red X's anthem on his myspace--wicked.

If you too are stressed out, listen to to "Rationalize" by Brian and Tony Gold: "No matter what the tribulations in life, just hold tight". Gotta live the Di Ting riddim.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

A man after my own heart

In a moment of insanity I did a google search for "I hate comprehensive exams." This is what I found.
I also found a picture of someone's shelf, full of books for their comps. Maybe I should do a photo shoot of my stacks.

Also: note the sun outside the window in the photo. I saw this and realized that there is a bright side to all this. At least it's not June.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Purty as a picture

This piece looks pretty, dontcha think? I really think the picture is quite beautiful. Folks should really come out to see her at the Goods this weekend. I do have an unedited version if anyone's interested. Voice does, most certainly, have plenty to say and it was tough as all get out to cut anything...thanks to Dave for the help--I know you were wicked busy!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Radio Gaga

Thanks to Robert for commenting on the last post, I spent some time learning about Gaga in addition to Rara. I'm just a beginner here, so thanks!

Anyhow, Michele Wucker writes that "when Haitian migrant cane cutters transplanted the rara to the Dominican Republic, the Spanish attempt to pronounce the French 'r' turned the word into gaga, an unintentional but appropriate play on the word's other meaning, 'crazy.'" There's also Gaga that goes on in NYC.

For an example, check this video of Grupo Kalunga Nèg Mawon by Dennis Flores. These folks aim to both preserve an demonstrate the collective identity/ies in what is now Haiti and the Dominican republic. They also sound wicked.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Dancing in the Streets

The other day I was talking on the phone with Symon Warwick, a.k.a. A Man Called Warwick. I was supposed to be interviewing him, which happened, but then we just went off in all directions talking about music. He's got an infectious excitement about music that makes me want to run out and listen to all sorts of new stuff. We got on to the topic of Rara, a type of Haitian processional music that's made with drums, horns called vaksin, cymbals, and tons of energy.

As Elizabeth McAlister, author of Rara! Vodou, Power and Performance in Haiti and its Diaspora, writes, Rara "is at once a season, a festival, a genre of music, a religious ritual, a form of dance, and sometimes a technique of political protest." Raras move people--both literally and figuratively. Dancing through the streets and countryside of Haiti, leading up to Easter, raras have made it to New York city, moving thousands of people through Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Rara is able to encapsulate the movement of a diaspora in a fitting cultural celebration. Hearing the kids saying "when we grow up, we're going to take over and continue this" is a demonstation of how Rara not only moves through the park, but it moves through generations. As someone who is interested in what music can actually do, Rara clearly is fascinating to me.

I'm hoping that the documentary The Other Side of the Water will makes its way to Canada soon, because I simply can't wait. The clip on the site isn't enough. Thankfully, McAlister has a treasure trove of rara photos and video on her website companion to her book.

Dancing in the street simply doesn't happen enough here in Montreal. In January, in Ethiopia, I was lucky enough to time my visit so I could be part of the Timkat (epiphany) celebrations. Each Ethiopian Orthodox church has a replica of the Ark of the Covenant. On Timkat, these Arks travel to large fields--in Addis the field is called Jah Meda (no relationship to the Jah of which Rastafari speak)--where they stay until the ceremonial sprikling of Holy water over the gathered crowds. After, the Arks are carried back to their respective churches, accompanied by dancing and drumming youth groups. Check around the 3:45 mark of the film below to see one of the dancing processionals. Frankly, the whole short is pretty great--it's a demo reel for a longer film about Ethiopian traditional music. I've searched around for more info about the film, but can't seem to find any...looks like it'll be pretty interesting.
In related street dancing news, Dave sent me the following video of what happens on Saturday afternoons in his neighbourhood. Clearly, Heringey is the place to be. I wanna know more about this, and I want to master the dance moves featured in the last few seconds of the video.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Why I wish I was in Germany tonight

The legendary King Addies performs alongside Shashamane Sound (Kenya represent!), Sentinel and Supersonic. Killer. Seriously. As a result of writing my public declaration of love for the soundclash, I 've been hankering for a good dance...

King Addies is a sound that would be wicked to see. Someone wrote me about them after the aforementioned piece. Addies ran Brooklyn in the 90s and provided a training ground for the now legendary Tony Matterhorn. The famed JA vs USA clash against mighty Killamanjaro saw Jaro come out on top, but Addies gained quite a bit of respect. As Fyah Mikes reports (here's some credit for you, you silly), it's really Addies' Toni Braxton dub that has put them over the top in many a clash.

Though Danny Dread is the original Addies selector, in the later 90s, Tony Matterhorn, who, with Babyface, had become the voice of Addies, left to form his own, now terrifically successful, sound.

Coming back in 2006, Addies fought valiantly against Blunt Posse in a November clash and, though arguably winning the most rounds, flopped in a final, tune-fi-tune round.

I'm interested in the fact that Danny Dread is selecting in Deutcheland. I'd heard that King Bo has been working with Addies--lots of complaints about him not knowing the dub box, just being a good voice, etc. I can't say, but I would like to be in the position to judge. Maybe Addies should make their way to Mtl soon. I think I might be dreaming in technicolour with that statement.

Anyhow, to those who are lucky enough to be in Stuttgart tonight--I am jealous!

Classic Addies: UK World Cup Clash 1994. Do it inna cowboy style!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

That's just what I'm looking for!

I have to begin writing comprehensive exams any moment now. Given my history with writing and stress, wish me luck! Hopefully I won't be turning to what Homer Simpson calls "the cause of, and solution to, all life's problems..." Then again, if I do, perhaps I should stick to Dashen!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Ich bin Canaderin, Canadawi gneng

When it's flipping freezing outside, it's easy to want to get the hell out of this god forsaken country. My reaction, instead, seems to be simply glorying in all things Canadian. In the darkest depths of February, pretty much every year, I go through a short (yet intense) period of listening to Tragically Hip, Grapes of Wrath, Lava Hay, Gordon Lightfoot, and other Canuck luminaries. This year, with the advent of Youtube, I can satisfy my desire for Canadiana by watching the snow-covered videos for "Bobcaygeon" and "Lovers in a Dangerous Time" (the Barenaked Ladies version, of course).

I also tend to watch A LOT of CBC during this time. So last night, whilst watching Strombo interview British celebrities he clearly knew nothing about (not that this was a bad thing--it was kind of great), Aurora and I got into a oh-so-Canadian oriented discussion about former MuchMusic VJs. Wikipedia being the wonderous tool that it is, we began with the Hour's noble host, and continued through Steve Anthony, Kim Clark Champniss (did you know he was the manager of Images in Vogue?), Simon Evans (who seems to have fallen off the face of the planet), Michael Williams, Ziggy Lorenc, and then, oh yes, Tony Young, a.k.a. Master T.

Get this: buddy has, as Tash has hilariously written, Extendamix-ed his career by being a part of the new VH-1 show I Love New York-a spin-off from Flavor Flav's Flavor of Love. He's ditched Roxie and alter egos such as T-McGee, and is now referring to himself as the 32-year-old hottie "T.Weed." If you don't believe me, check

This would have been a wonderful addition to the autobiography released by the publishing company I used to work for in a prior life. Oh yes, not would you get to read about the pleather pants Master T wore to an interview with Sade or Dr. Dre's bathroom proclivities, but you would also get such gems as are found on his myspace: "One man pretends to be rich yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth. A man's riches may ransom his life, but a poor man hears no threat." What wisdom!

Now, of course, there is a chance that this is all a giant mistake, but until I discover otherwise, I am going to continue chuckling every time I think about this! Teehee!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Putting on the Red Light

Okay, so I just finished watching the Police perform their comeback on the Grammys. Yes, I'm still attracted to Sting, but damn, I wish they'd of played "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic."

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

I'm behind the times--or really ahead, depends on what you're talking about

Ok, I've decided that I'm going to eat crow and admit that the self-titled record by the annoyingly anonymous "Burial" is actually spectacular--contrary to statements made to one Dave Stelfox and another tvv. I still think it sounds dated, that I like stuff with lyrics better (oh the humanity!), and that the third track, "Spaceape," is utter trash. Thing is, I can't stop listening to the damned thing.

Sure, people who are less fraudulant music journalists than I have been writing stuff like the following for ages (the record was the Wire's best of 2006):
"Far from speaking of final resting places, the overriding vibe is one of homelessness and rootlessness, and the nagging feeling that something important has been mislaid."

"This album actually comes complete with a concept (it's a sound-portrait of a near-future south London submerged under water, New Orleans-style) while the most compelling readings of its theme hear it as a requiem for the lost dreams of rave culture. But the non-specific sadness that shimmers inside this music ultimately transcends attempts to pin it to a place, period, or population."

The record is, yes, haunting and "shimmery", but I don't know from North, South, East, or West London, be it underwater or above ground. Nor, frankly, was I ever involved in rave to have the music thereby elicit a sense of mournful loss. As I mention, the music is very firmly dated, in my mind, but this isn't really a bad thing, unlike when I had to review the anniversary edition of Endtroducing and found it really tough to get myself and my ears back into the time of its release. It feels very pre-millenial (perhaps as a result of a track like "Prayer," which, to me, is a complete reiteration of Massive Attack's "Teardrop," a.k.a. the theme song to House), and, strangely, provided an excellent soundtrack to my field note writing in Ethiopia this January. Perhaps this speaks of it's "transcendental" nature, but I think that it is music that is less sad than bored, perhaps more non-specific than gloomy; music that speaks of ennui. I guess that's what might have created my original resistance, but now seems to make some sense. Then again, the whole keeping-the-artist's-identity secret is a little silly. It seems more of a response to boredom or an inspired attempt at pr. Whatever it is, it's quite emblematic, to me of the UK. More on that, perhaps, in another post, if I decide to get testy.

Recently, though, as much as it wants to be headphone music, I do, shame on me, increasingly want to dance to this stuff. This means that she who tells me I shouldn't be so down on dubstep is prolly right.

In news that I'm not behind the times, yet instead might perhaps be ahead of the game, do read what I think is a hilarious post by Houston hip hop impressario Matt Sonzala. I don't know this guy, but he's ridiculously funny. In the post that follows, he's talking about what I believe might be the most Oshawa of events (Oshawa being my wonderful southern-Ontarian hometown), save for it being in New York, Brooklyn specifically. His post CMJ "Sabbath in the Park" party, Prospect Park specifically, is pretty much classic, early 90s bush party action, without the bush. Turns out the folks involved got arrested and ticketed for their 'shwa action, and then had to return recently for court appearances that would have really been non-events, had Matt not been there. The post-"Sabbath in the Court" is, of course, one of the best parties ever and for making all this possible, Mr. Sonzala, I salute you!

We Fought the Law and Won, cuz like the Geto Boys, We Can't Be Stopped

Monday, January 29, 2007

Buna and Big Business

$1.10: Amount per pound of coffee that growers receive after deducting costs

$160: Amount that retailers can make on a pound of coffee

Those who know me know that I'm a big fan of Stephanie Black's Life and Debt. It's a stunning film that addresses trade issues and their impact on Jamaica. The brilliance of the film is that it provides a direct connection between the real people who have been impacted so proundly negatively by world trade policy and those who come to vacation and experience overwhelming beauty of Jamaica. Utilizing a narrative adapted by Jamaica Kincaid, from her pointed and poignant essay on tourism in Antigua, A Small Place, the film attempts to break down the barrier between the resort compound and the reality many lives lived beyond those walls.

If globalization is supposedly about linking countries together in some economic matrix of sorts, Life and Debt presents an analysis of just how and for whom these linked relationships work. It's a moving piece of film making that forces the view to recognize his or her place in the matrix and encouraging awareness as a means to work towards change. Also, it's got a wicked soundtrack.

Much to my absolute and total delight, a new movie looks to provide an analysis of these very same relationships. In the director's statement for Black Gold, a film about coffee growers in Ethiopia, Starbucks, and supposed fair trade policies, the filmmakers write the following: "Our hope was to make a film that forced us, as western consumers, to question some of our basic assumptions about our consumer lifestyle and its interaction with the rest of the world." Now that's what I'm talking about.

It's all about making connections, and Black Gold looks like it'll do this. Now bring the film to Montreal already. Until that happens, watch the trailer.


Not surprisingly, Starbucks has issued statements addressing some of the points raised in the film, and they've done this using the warm-and-fuzzy tool that is youtube.

Guardian Article on Black Gold and the response

Sunday, January 28, 2007

I'm a dirty foreigner

When I was in Ethiopia over the past month, I kept a little journal, lovingly titled "complaining and field notes." There was so much to say that the journal rapidly stopped being so little. Anyhow, to keep from complaining about how sick I am right at this very moment, and how I wish I felt like I know I did in the attached photo (taken at Entoto in Addis, fyi), I'll provide a wee excerpt from my journal. It's not the most exciting...All the names have been changed, just because I'm that ethical. :)

By this point, it was 1pm and Tegistu thankfully gave me a ring. I met up with him on “the new road” and we went to Tele Club for lunch. I’ve been there with him for lunch before. As usual, the food is really good but the washing/washroom facilities are disgusting. I had a discussion with him about this and he said that it’s not in the culture to really care about that type of thing—though he did insist that in his new house, he is going to keep the shinte-bete clean!

Tegistu and I did a bit of a language exchange and then went to see Hailemariam to repay him for monies provided to the municipal government as reagrds the establishment of the school we're planning to build. This was cool because I also got to take a short trip to see the land for the school. It looks pretty good and is really close to a residential area so that kids won’t have to walk that far to get to the school. After joking around with some locals using my extremely limited Amharic, Tegistu and I went to the town bazaar. It was really weird when I got there because all sorts of people--and by this I mean hundreds--were waiting to get in and me, the white girl, drove straight in on the back of Tegistu's motorcycle. He told the guards that I was an honoured guest--"a friend to the community," if you trust my translation. I thought he was joking around, as he normally does.

The bazaar was made up of a bunch of business tents—like a chamber of commerce fair. You could buy pretty much everything: tvs, soap, shoes, raw beef, sheep, refridgerators, and beer. My favourite was the advertisement for Dashen beer: "Hangover Free!" As we walked around, the deputy mayor, Ato Wubatu, whom I'd met in previous municipal government meetings, walked up to me and said hello. I introduced Tegistu, but Ato Wubato dragged me over to see this large group of men in suits and asked me to sit down one of what appeared to be gilded thrones. All I could think of was how dirty--koshasha--my feet were and how my hair looked ridiculous. At this point, who sits down next to me but the Mayor, the Zonal Chair, and the public relations head for the region. I sat in the fancy chair for a while, was introduced to a whole lot more people as "the foreigner who is building a school in our town," which I tried to consistently correct. It's not just me, I said! It's Schools for Humanity!

I turned around to look for Tegistu—he'd been relegated to the back. “Na!” I called, ushering him over. He was laughing at how uncomfortable I looked. "See," he chuckled, "told you you were an honoured guest." I asked if we could go and get my filthy feet washed before I had to teach that evening. We then got up, walked around a little more, and then left, but not before the Zonal chair could say “see you at the office.” I suppose this means I must visit him tomorrow.

I washed my feet at Tegistu's house. He laughed at my inability to wash using a pitcher and basin without making a giant mess. I should probably practice this skill--it might make me a little better at it. As it stands, if I don’t have a shower or a bathtub, I’m a little lost. I asked if I'd looked stupid in front of the government officials. Tegistu's response: "You've looked better, especially your hair. But you're a forenge (foreigner). You all dress weird and don't seem to care."

The classes went well, considering there are about 100 students in each one (some sitting on other student's laps, the ground, anywhere really) more coordinating conjunctions and independent clauses. I’d really like to start at the beginning with the students and see if I could make any difference with them. It’s hard to tell after two classes, but the fact that they all remembered my name demonstrates that they’d probably remember a whole lot more if I was there for longer.

Tegistu and I were planning on going back to the bazaar, but it was closed. We tried the Fasil hotel for dinner, but it was also closed. I asked Tegistu if he wanted to come back to my hotel for food. "It's okay," he replied, yet I knew he meant "Yes." I tried to explain the difference between "it's okay" and "okay," one means no, the other means yes. In the middle of my explanation, we both agreed that English is really annoying. Regardless, we ended up back at my hotel for tibs. Pretty good food and good conversation, nonetheless. I ended up explaining chicken with stuffing, pork roast, Yorkshire puddings, bacon, and hotdogs to Tegistu. He’d never heard of them before. His final comment was hilarious: "I think that's the kind of food habesha (Ethiopian) ladies eat when they go to America. They all come back wofram." You can probably guess what he means.

Friday, January 26, 2007

I'm back

Well, sorta. I'm in Hackney at the moment, but will be back in Montreal tomorrow. Can't wait. I'll write a longer post then. Until such time, however, here's some photos of where I was yesterday.