Last Saturday, immigration reform advocates marched on Monument Circle asking Congress to approve an upcoming bill that would provide a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants residing in the Unites States. Reflecting on the contributions undocumented immigrants make daily in our country, it's clear we can no longer afford to ask if immigration reform is possible, but rather how soon can it happen?
Recent waves of Latino immigrants have exerted a particularly strong influence, revitalizing desolate neighborhoods through entrepreneurial investment. They've uplifted communities with their rich cultural tradition.
The music of Louisville's Appalatin provides a remarkably unique example of that Latino cultural influence at work right here in the heartland of the United States. With members representing Ecuador, Nicaragua, Mexico, Guatemala and Kentucky, Appalatin have reinvented traditional Appalachian music by infusing Latin rhythm and song into the rural folk form. It's a surprisingly seductive blend of bluegrass bolero and countrified cumbia.
I recently spoke with the band's two Kentucky natives, string player Yani Vozos and percussionist Steve Sizemore. Appalatin will appear at Birdy's on Thursday, June 20th.
NUVO: How did Appalatin form?
Yani Vozos: Steve and I had been playing music together in 2006. Around that time we met Marlon Obando who invited us to sit in on a gig he had at the Jazz Factory in Louisville. So we got together at Marlon's house for a rehearsal and we weren't quite sure what was going to happen.
We all like Latin music. So we started playing together - - it was a Cuban song we were playing on. We played the gig and didn't take it very seriously. We didn't say we're going to make a band out of it, but it happened. People who heard us kept calling us asking for more shows.
NUVO: Was the Latin-Appalachian fusion already in place at these early shows?
Steve Sizemore: It was never intentional in the beginning. I would say we've explored that more deeply in the last couple years. When you get a bunch of different musicians together, they kind of form their own language. It becomes a kind of pidgin or creole and we put our Kentucky twang on that.
Vozos: I remember a specific moment when it came together. At first we were just playing a lot of Latin music. When Fernando Moya joined the band he brought in a tune that mixed "Shady Grove," which is a traditional Appalachian style tune with a traditional Andean folk tune. When I heard that I was like "Wow, we've got something here that we can run with."
NUVO: Growing up in Kentucky, how did you two get into Latin music?
Sizemore: I started listening to jazz when I was thirteen. Through my interest in jazz I started listening to Latin jazz. Around that time I discovered Buena Vista Social Club and fell in love. Everything kind of branched out from there. Then I moved down to Argentina which completely entrenched the music in me.
Vozos: After college, I joined the Peace Corps and was placed in Honduras. In preparation for the move I made a lot of tapes of Latin music. Right about that time I heard the Buena Vista Social Club and was completely fascinated with their music. In the process of learning Spanish in Honduras I would reference their songs and lyrics to learn words. That's where it started for me, using music to learn the language and immerse myself in the culture. It's beautiful, passionate and emotional music. That's something I don't think anyone can resist.
NUVO: What sorts of instruments will we see in your live set?
Vozos: Everything from guitars and upright bass to charango, which is an Andean instrument that's a hybrid of the ukelele and mandolin. Fernando plays the whole gamut of Andean flutes, which are all handcrafted by him. He's a master musician. Steve plays a long list of percussion like guiro, congas, cajon and the Brazilian bass drum surdo. Our shows are almost like a Smithsonian Institute exhibition of musical instruments.
NUVO: You just released your second album?
Vozos: Yes, it's called Waterside. The album has a theme, which happened unintentionally. It's a theme of water - - the spiritual, healing power of water. Several of us came with songs we'd written and as we started working through them as a group we realized they were connected by themes or statements about water or rain. Every song touched on it.
Last Saturday, the Harrison Center's Independent Music + Art Festival celebrated its 12th year as one of Indy's most enjoyable music events. With mild temperatures and sunshine throughout the afternoon, the atmosphere at IMAF was nearly perfect. As I strolled through the friendly crowd I didn't anticipate that I'd be ruining anyone's day - - certainly not the mayor of Indianapolis.
This year's IMAF line up was particularly fun, featuring opening sets by Star Trek tribute band Five Year Mission and the wacky sound of Chicago's Lord of the Yum Yum. I arrived in time for a performance by one of my favorite bands, Sweet Poison Victim. The nine-piece ensemble mixes African highlife with various strains of indie rock and soul.
Sweet Poison Victim's shows inevitably end in a jubilant dance party. As their performance wound down I spotted my friend Isaias amongst the gyrating bodies. Isaias works for the Indianapolis Congregation Action Network, where he's an advocate for immigration reform. It's a position that frequently brings him into contact with Indiana politicians. As we exchanged greetings, he spotted Mayor Greg Ballard navigating through the crowd.
"I should go ask for his support on the immigration bill," said Isaias.
I agreed and decided to tag along for moral support. Also, I figured Mayor Ballard owed me a few minutes of his time. I've spent the last few years volunteering for his Sister Cities program.
As the duo of Luke Austin Daugherty and Ill Holiday played softly in the background, we made our move.
Things went smooth at first. Mayor Ballard graciously tolerated our interruption and entertained our request to share his thoughts on the congressional immigration bill. But I grew impatient with the his noncommittal response and decided to interject, mentally scrambling for a non-confrontational statement that would succinctly sum up my concerns.
"Mayor Ballard, sorry to interrupt you," I said, quietly. "I've been a volunteer with your mayoral administration. I was on the planning committee of your Sister Cities' Festival. I'm also a lifelong citizen of Indianapolis. I just wanted to ask that when you talk about the issue of immigration reform, that you think of the families who are suffering and speak with a voice of compassion."
It was a harmless request and I waited for what I assumed would be a rehearsed political reply thanking for me for my interest. But his actual response surprised me.
"I don't have a voice in this issue," he said.
I understood what he meant: Obviously, Ballard doesn't have a vote in Congress. But as the mayor of the 13th largest city in the most powerful country in the history of the world, he certainly has an influence. And it's an influence that stretches beyond the citizens of Indianapolis to the Republican Party of Indiana at large.
"That's a cop out," I said, in a more irritated tone than I typically employ. I continued lining out the points I mentioned above. But the mayor repeatedly insisted he had no influence on the issue and attempted to change the subject. "Did you hear our Sister City festival won a national award as the best in the country?"
I had. But I wanted to continue our conversation.
"If you're telling me you have no influence on this issue, I still say it's a cop out. If you have no influence, what chance does an average citizen stand to have their voice heard? None, and our whole democratic system is a failure."
At this point the mayor had heard enough from me, and abruptly made his exit. I didn't blame him for taking off. He was there to shake some hands and enjoy a sunny afternoon with his wife. But hearing a major American politician imply that he has no voice in determining the future of our country was too much for me to politely tolerate. I refuse to believe that we've totally lost control to the constantly expanding corporate plutocracy that currently dominates American culture.
I must admit that I felt bad after the exchange. As I said before, I wasn't there to ruin anyone's day - - certainly not the mayor of my hometown. But as I sat and listened to brilliant closing sets by Indianapolis rockers Pravada and Cincinnati ska band The Pinstripes, my mood changed.
I began to reflect on the evolution of reggae and rock and roll. These genres were popularized by artists like John Lennon and Bob Marley, who brought issues of social justice to the forefront of their music. We need the voices of independent artists and musicians to become the voices of dissent, to articulate and transmit the hopes and frustrations of the people.
Each edition of A Cultural Manifesto features a mix from Kyle Long, spotlighting music from around the globe. This week's selection features a variety interesting new releases.
1. Meridian Brothers - Niebla Morada (Purple Haze)
2. La Mecánica Popular - La Paz Del Freak
3. Setenta - Smells Like Latin Spirit
4. Karl Hector & The Malcouns - Ngunga Yeti Fofa
5. Bombino - Azamane Tiliade
6. Valerie June - Pushin' Against A Stone
7. Jungle By Night x Gaslamp Killer - Electric Funeral
8. Atoms for Peace - Before Your Very Eyes
9. Banda Westfalica - Carimbo
10. Bonobo - Cirrus
11. Kool & Kass - Peaceful Solutions
12. Helado Negro - Ilumina Vos
13. Mala - Changes (James Blake Harmonimix)
14. James Blake - Take a Fall For Me (feat. RZA)
15. Foals - Late Night (Koreless Remix)
16. Quadron - Better Off (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
17. Rhye - Woman
18. Sly5thAve & The Clubcasa Chamber - Don't Kill My Vibe
19. Sun Ra & the Lost Arkestra Series Part 1. - The Sky is a Sea of Darkness
Is Gogol Bordello frontman Eugene Hütz, the most charismatic rock star of the 21st century? Hütz has rocked stages with Madonna, inspired Gucci fashion lines and starred in Hollywood flicks - - but the singer has always remained true to the rebellious underground sounds that first inspired him to pick up a guitar and mic.
The Gogol Bordello punk rock gypsy caravan will stop at the Egyptian Room on Friday June 7.
NUVO: Tell me about the concept of the new album.
Eugene Hütz: Before you mispronounce it let me correct you - - the title is Pura Vida Conspiracy. I've been living in Latin America for the last five years and the title is obviously in Spanish. I looked at all the new songs and new material for a common quality that set it off. I actually didn't find any word in English, but I found it in Spanish - - every language has something to offer the another one can't.
Literally it means "pure life conspiracy", which points to the idea that generally people are constantly obsessed and concerned with things that are going wrong. As a matter of fact they see it as some form of analytical intelligence when they're so focused on things going wrong. But actually it's a huge error and I think it takes quite a bit more intelligence to see the things that are going right and that, my friend, is the direction of this album. It points to the positive force of human potential and what we as humans can do creatively, politically and spiritually.
NUVO: What has the band taken away musically from your experiences in Latin America?
Hütz: If I was making electronic DJ music, the influences would be right in your face and the album would start off with samples of sambas and so forth. But we're not making superficial, disposable music. We're making music that's first of all, our music. Influences are kind of invisible for us. Influences are are not really important for us in a genre sense; it's more like an energy. A new energy enters the Gogol Bordello laboratory and lives inside of it. So Latin America is pretty rambunctious in its temperament - - just like Eastern Europe. It's not about putting labels on a genre - - I'd actually prefer it to be untitled entirely.
But the cumbia rhythm has been an essential part of Gogol Bordello records for the last three or four albums.
NUVO: "Malandrinho" is the first single to be released from the album. The malandro is a popular figure in Brazilian sambas. Do you identify with that character?
Hütz: That's a good point. Now you're hitting it on the nail. A malandro is a very popular character in not just Brazilian, but Spanish and Italian folklore. It's a streetwise cat that gets around where he needs to go without using the official, approved ways. As soon as I came to Brazil people started calling me malandro right away. It's a song that celebrates that character and the character of our band. We're a band of malandros.
NUVO: You were part of the Boycott Arizona movement and you've also supported Romani rights in Europe. Do you see similarities between the struggle of undocumented Americans and the Romani?
Hütz: Yes, it's a very similar situation. But I must say in Europe it's in a much worse state than here. I would even say the Romani activist movement is in a state of defeat. In the beginning of the century it was a lot more spirited, but guys like Silvio Berlusconi have broken that spirit quite a bit.
NUVO: Any new music you're hearing that's inspiring you right now?
Hütz: I've been listening to a lot of hip-hop from the third world. It's a completely different form of music from American hip-hop. American hip-hop is in deep trouble, it's been looking for a new form for a decade and not finding shit. But in Latin America, Africa, Arabic countries and Eastern Europe, they have such a different take on it and it's so closely connected to folk music. People take their folkloric music and throw in new beats and the sound is so powerful and fresh.
NUVO: Any particular region?
Hütz: Yeah, the Chilean hip-hop scene is on the upswing. There's a lot of energy down there. Argentina for sure too. There's a lot of interesting things with people combining tango with punk rock and hip-hop and going beyond the Gotan Project stuff. They're taking it outside the laptop and making the music live again.
NUVO: I know you DJ a lot. Is that the sort of stuff you're spinning in your sets?
Hütz: Absolutely, there's a lot of roots sounding music in there. My main interest right now is in the cross pollination of Balkan root bands with Latin American root bands. By root bands I mean rock bands and punk bands that still have quite a bit of connection to the folkloric music.
An interesting thing that's been going on for the past few years is that Latin American and Balkan people have kind of discovered each other beyond a superficial level. So the bands from Ukraine, Hungary, and Romania have started to incorporate cumbia and other Latin American beats into their music and vice versa.
We'll be playing in Chile and a band of young kids will come backstage and say "hey, I'm from a local Balkan band." At first it sounds oxymoronic. "An Argentinian or Chilean Balkan band? Yeah right." But on second thought that's exactly what happened with reggae music. It was a local phenomenon, music from a tiny island. Now you go to Japan or Greece or Brazil and there's reggae music everywhere. People have embraced it and made it their own. Nobody needs to be Jamaican to throw down some serious reggae sounds. I think Jamaican reggae is still the best, but I have a lot of reggae from other places that is quite decent.
So all that Balkan-East European and Latin American cross pollination is very energizing. The main thing is that it has more energy than anything else really. It's so rich in rhythms. I'm sorry, but American beat is just one form and that's it - you're done.
Each edition of A Cultural Manifesto features a mix from Kyle Long, spotlighting music from around the globe. This week's selection features tracks exploring the Balkan-Latino connection.
1. Šaban Bajramović - Kafava
2. Boban Markovic Orkestar - Latino
3. Señor Coconut vs Kocani Orkestar - Usti, Usti Baba
4. La Mano Ajena - Loco, Loco
5. La Internacional Sonora Balkanera - Púrpura
6. Balkan Beat Box - Balkumbia (Sub Swara Remix)
7. Sonora - Cik Cik
8. Chong X - Balkanizer
9. Shantel - Bucovina Cumbia
10. Mama Diaspora & Yuriy Gurzhy - Too Late
11. AlJawala - The Moombah Ride
12. Shazalakazoo ft. MC Maiquinho - Tô Com Saudade
13. SuperStereo feat. Szolga Józsi - Goran in the Disco Club
14. Kočani Orkestar - Gypsy Mambo
15. Boban Markovic Orkestar - Sanja Samba
"When a wise elder dies, a great library has been burnt to the ground."
I was reminded of this West African proverb when I first heard about the death of Gil Scott-Heron exactly two years ago. His death at age 62, shouldn't have been a great shock: Scott-Heron had publicly struggled with addiction issues for years and disclosed his HIV positive status in 2008. But for those of us who followed his work, the announcement hit hard.
Maybe it was because he was on the verge of a major comeback, having freshly released his first new album in sixteen years. But there was also a sense that a particularly unique flame of knowledge had been permanently extinguished.
He's best known for his 1974 anthem "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," a heady blend of spoken word and funk that laid the foundation for hip-hop music. The track epitomizes Scott-Heron's potent ability to critique societal ills.
I spoke with DJ Rasul Mowatt, a professor at IU Bloomington's School of Public Health, who suggested we take a deeper look at Scott-Heron's activism and the roots of his debilitating addiction struggles. Mowatt will be spinning at Old Soul Entertainment's tribute to Gil Scott-Heron on May 29th at the Jazz Kitchen. The evening will feature a variety of musicians, singers and spoken word artists performing music form the Scott-Heron catalog.
NUVO: Why was it important to you to be involved with this tribute?
Rasul Mowatt: I think it's important for those of us in the arts to recognize those who made an impact on the way we think about culture and society and Gil Scott-Heron is one of those individuals. When he died in 2011 he was not as well known as he was in the midpoint of his life, but his body of work is still having an impact on people today.
Whether he was playing in a blues, jazz or R&B style, the lyrical content was always squarely focused on mainstream society's relationship to race and poverty. That meant a lot to me personally. Even if you enjoy a wide range of music, there may not be a lot of artists that relate to where you're at politically. I appreciate listening to Wu-Tang for example, but they don't touch on issues that are important to me with the clarity of Gil Scott-Heron. Marvin Gaye, who was in some ways a contemporary of his, was similar. An incredible artist and an icon, but his body of work doesn't consistently touch on matters that are important to me personally.
NUVO: Gil Scott-Heron didn't create many songs for the dancefloor. What's your approach to spinning at this event?
Mowatt: My job as the DJ is to create a vibe or feel. So what I'm going to do is to try to recreate the feel of his era and reference other musicians like the Last Poets who were dealing with similar issues. These musicians weren't making songs like people do now, they were involved in what was happening and their music reflected that.
NUVO: What do you think Gil Scott-Heron's legacy is?
Mowatt: I think it's important that we view him as more than a musician. We should see him in the same vein as Fela, Bob Marley or Bob Dylan. They were journalists without a newspaper. They were all about using music as a vehicle for social commentary. They used music to bring that commentary to life. Gil Scott-Heron should be viewed in the same way. If we only view him as a performing artist we get caught up in the music of his social commentary and lose sight of the actual message.
It's easy to be political in your content as an artist. But it's different to be actually engaged in doing things that relate to what your commenting about. He was speaking not only from observation, but his involvement in the issues of his day. I think that's something artists need to connect to. Some artists may attempt to imitate him; they may sample his music to evoke his presence. But very rarely do you see artists imitate him in his actual involvement in important issues.
Also, Gil Scott-Heron represents to me a warning of the toll it takes on a person to engage in social criticism, particularly in relation to race and poverty. It takes an emotional and psychological toll. His drug addiction is quite well known, but the reasons for his drug addiction are not as widely known. If you understand the content of his music, not only was he a person experiencing racism as a black man in the United States but he was involved in a critique of it. To be always aware of how bad things are can really wear on a person.
It's time for us to look at his conflict. His body was worn out from years of drug abuse, but we need look at his drug addiction as a byproduct of his connection to and concern for the issues he was dealing with. This event is timely in that sense, as the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) just came out this week. In DSM-5 they finally begin to have a discussion dealing with the effects of racism, which fall squarely within general anxiety disorder but can also be linked to some effects of post traumatic stress disorder. He was suffering mentally from issues of racism as the DSM-5 now recognizes.
Gil Scott-Heron was troubled. We know there was an outpouring of drugs to artists and activists in the '70s - but why? Because there was a propensity to look toward drugs because you were distraught every day confronting the problems you were trying to resolve. For every one person you think you saved, you probably lost ten others. That took a toll, and people turned to alcohol and drugs. We need to somehow recognize that as opposed to viewing him as another victim of drug addiction.
Each edition of A Cultural Manifesto features a mix from Kyle Long, spotlighting music from around the globe. This week's selection features the best of Gil Scott-Heron.
1. Gil Scott-Heron - The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
2. Gil Scott-Heron - Home is Where the Hared Is
3. Gil Scott-Heron - Lady Day and John Coltrane
4. Gil Scott-Heron - Paint it Black
5. Gil Scott-Heron - Peace Go With You Brother
6. Gil Scott-Heron - Winter in America
7. Gil Scott-Heron - Did You Hear What They Said
8. Gil Scott-Heron - Rivers of my Fathers
9. Gil Scott-Heron - Who'll Pay Reparations For My Soul
10. Gil Scott-Heron - The Bottle (live)
11. Gil Scott-Heron - It's Your World
12. Gil Scott-Heron - Ain't No Such Thing As Superman
13. Gil Scott-Heron - Johannesburg
14. Gil Scott-Heron - South Carolina
15. Gil Scott-Heron - We Almost Lost Detroit
16. Gil Scott-Heron - The Summer of '42
17. Gil Scott-Heron - Not Needed
18. Gil Scott-Heron - Under the Hammer
19. Gil Scott-Heron - A Legend in His Own Mind
20. Gil Scott-Heron - The Klan
21. Gil Scott-Heron - Angel Dust
22. Gil Scott-Heron - Alien (Hold on to Your Dreams)
23. Gil Scott-Heron - 1980
24. Gil Scott-Heron - Shut 'Um Down
25. Gil Scott-Heron - Gun
26. Gil Scott-Heron - Inner City Blues
27. Gil Scott-Heron - Is That Jazz?
28. Gil Scott-Heron - Fast Lane
29. Gil Scott-Heron - Message to the Messengers
30. Gil Scott-Heron - Me and the Devil
31. Gil Scott-Heron - New York is Killing Me
32. Gil Scott-Heron - I'll Take Care of You
33. Gil Scott-Heron - Spirits Past
34. Gil Scott-Heron - Beginnings (First Minute of A New Day)
Last week The Guardian ran a thoughtful editorial about the New Orleans Mother's Day parade shooting. Writer David Dennis questioned why the incident had not been accorded status as a "national tragedy" in the way similar acts of violence in Boston, Newtown and Aurora have. It was a brief, alarming analysis of the role race and class play in determining what mainstream America deems as culturally important and newsworthy.
It's a paradigm one can see at work in the Indianapolis music community - - where the contributions of our city's legendary African-American musicians never seem to receive a level of recognition on par with their historic achievements.
I could fill this column every week with profiles of brilliant Indianapolis musicians who've gained worldwide recognition, yet remain virtually unknown in their hometown, both a testament to our city's extraordinary musical heritage and our deep cultural neglect.
Chief among these under-appreciated musical giants is the Indianapolis-born singer, songwriter and bandleader Noble Sissle. An important figure in the early days of jazz, Sissle's accomplishments transcended music impacting civil rights and and American pop culture.
Born in 1889 Sissle was a graduate of Shortridge High School and briefly attended both DePauw and Butler before turning his attention to music full time. Lured away from academics by a job offer from Indy's Severin Hotel, Sissle was hired to lead an orchestra for the Severin's ballroom - - a facility that catered exclusively to white patrons. It was the first of many occasions where Sissle and his music crossed Jim Crow-era segregation lines.
Sissle's prodigious talents quickly pulled him out of Indianapolis, leading him to join forces with James Reese Europe, leader of the premier African-American orchestra of the era. In 1913 Sissle took part in a historic recording session with Europe's Society Orchestra. These landmark sessions resulted in the first recordings made by an all - black band. Some jazz scholars have also credited these releases as the first jazz recordings ever issued.
As the United States entered World War I, Sissle enlisted in Europe's military band. The acclaimed group was acknowledged for introducing jazz to the European continent. "The jazz germ hit France and it spread everywhere," Sissle later said. When the war ended Sissle returned to the U.S., forming a vaudeville act with pianist Eubie Blake. The duo's decision in 1921 to transform that act into a musical revue developed into the artistic highpoint of both musician's careers.
The result was Shuffle Along, the first Broadway musical written, starring and financed by African-Americans. Shuffle Along was a smash hit, representing a milestone in African-American entrepreneurship comparable to the formation of Motown Records nearly forty years later.
The success of Shuffle Along launched the careers of several cast members, including Josephine Baker and Paul Robeson. It also helped to open the doors of mainstream acceptance for many other African-American performers.
Sissle and Blake's score produced several period hits, but today Shuffle Along is primarily remembered for one number: "I'm Just Wild About Harry." The song permanently etched its place in history when it was selected as the campaign theme for Harry Truman in the 1948 presidential elections.
Sissle and Blake produced several more Broadway reviews, but nothing came close to matching the success of Shuffle Along and the duo parted ways.
Sissle relaunched his career as a bandleader, touring extensively throughout the United States and Europe. Sissle's Broadway success endeared him to white audiences and he tailored his music to their interests. With a repertoire leaning heavily toward vaudeville-styled songs, Sissle and band were the first black orchestra booked in many American dancehalls.
Always demonstrating a keen eye for talent, Sissle's band featured many notable jazz sidemen - - from Buster Bailey to Tommy Ladnier. The group also provided a start for a few future superstars. A teenage Lena Horne made her recording debut with Sissle in 1935 and a young Charlie Parker spent several months touring with the band in 1942.
But the legacy of Sissle's band was defined by an ongoing association with master New Orleans jazz musician Sidney Bechet. The Sissle and Bechet collaboration produced a handful of classic jazz recordings, like the crazed 1938 ode to marijuana "Viper Mad" or the frenzied surrealism of the 1937's "Characteristic Blues."
As the big band era arrived, Sissle's brand of hot jazz and vaudeville became passé. But his contributions to American culture continued. Sissle played for the inauguration of President Eisenhower in 1953, served as the President of the Negro Actors Guild and received an honorary title "Mayor of Harlem."
Sissle died at his home in Florida in 1975, and 38 years later he has yet to receive serious recognition in his hometown. Let's change this.
1. Noble Sissle and his Orchestra - Characteristic Blues
2. Noble Sissle and his Orchestra - Viper Mad
3. Noble Sissle and his Orchestra - Blackstick
4. Noble Sissle and his Orchestra - Sweet Patootie
5. Noble Sissle and his Orchestra - Okie Doke
6. Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle - Waiting for the Evening Mail
7. Noble Sissle and his Orchestra - Basement Blues
8. Noble Sissle and his Orchestra - Got the Bench, Got the Park
9. Noble Sissle and his Orchestra - In a Cafe on the Road to Calais
10. Noble Sissle and his Orchestra - Roll On Mississippi Roll On
11. Noble Sissle and his Orchestra - Wha'd Ya Do to Me
12. Noble Sissle and his Orchestra - Loveless Love
13. Noble Sissle and his Orchestra - Dear Old Southland
14. Noble Sissle and his Orchestra - I Take to You
"I come only with my sorrow
and carry only my sentence
running is my destiny
to escape the law
I went North to find work
a ghost in the city
my existence is forbidden
say the authorities
lost in the heart
of the great Babylon
they call me clandestino [undocumented]
because I have no papers"
These lyrics are a rough translation of the title track from Manu Chao's debut solo LP Clandestino. The album is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. Released to little fanfare in 1998, Clandestino developed a word-of-mouth cult following, eventually selling over 5 million copies establishing Chao as a global music icon.
Chao has described the album as a treatise on the "problems of borders." A child of political refugees who escaped Franco's Spain for a new beginning in France, the singer has personally experienced the dehumanizing struggles of the displaced, a subject he explores to haunting effect on the above quoted title track.
Musically, the song takes form as a somber, reggae-tinged cumbia. A by-product of the African slave trade in Colombia, cumbia has defied the constraints of cultural and geographical borders to become one of the most popular genres of music in the Americas.
Lyrically, the song is a simple, poetic description of the perilous fate awaiting all undocumented immigrants. Driven into unfamiliar lands by a basic need for survival, life for the undocumented is never certain. They exist in a shadowy world, falling between the cracks of the law. It's a place where the rules of logic often fail and last week I was reminded of just how strange and fragile that world can be.
When I heard that my friend Sayra Perez had been arrested, I knew something wasn't right. Sayra is a highly respected young woman known for her work as a volunteer and activist in the Indianapolis community. I'm a member of an organization Sayra co-founded, the Indiana Undocumented Youth Alliance. The group advocates for the rights of young undocumented Hoosiers - - of which Sayra is one.
Ironically, Sayra was arrested while on her way home from the Indiana Women's Prison. She volunteers there, training seeing eye dogs for the Canine Assistance Network. Perhaps more ironically, Sayra was the victim in the incident that led to her arrest.
The car Sayra was traveling in was struck by a reckless driver. It was a minor fender bender and an IPD officer was dispatched to the scene to file an accident report. He asked for Sayra's papers, and after failing to produce sufficient documentation the officer made the decision to cuff and arrest her. He cited Sayra for disorderly conduct and as I read his arrest report, I failed to find any description of her behavior to justify that charge.
What I did read, written in the officer's own words, was a portrait of an understandably distressed young woman struggling to defend her rights. Indy's immigrant community has good reason to be fearful and suspicious of the Indianapolis police. It was just a few months ago that IPD officer David Butler was convicted on charges of robbery for stealing money from immigrant drivers pulled over for routine traffic violations.
There was one particular passage in the arrest report that really caught my attention.
"I took her by the left arm and pulled her out the car," the officer writes. "She started yelling that I had no right."
He justified the arrest by characterizing Sayra's complaint as a defiant outburst, but to me it read much more like an anguished cry.
It was the cry of a frustrated young person trapped between two worlds, a victim of the political malaise that has so far failed to introduce sensible immigration reform. Like many young undocumented Americans, Sayra was brought to the U.S. as a small child. Our culture is the only world they know and to deny them the same rights as their U.S.-born peers is a cruel and unusual punishment for an offense they had no choice in committing.
Sayra was correct: the officer had no moral right to physically violate her space. But thanks to our broken system, he had the legal authority to do so.
The immigration problem is so much larger than any simple reform can fix. We need to examine those giant multinational corporations who are being granted a form civic personhood so often denied to our flesh and blood immigrant neighbors. The same corporations that are destroying families with starvation wages in factories across Latin American are luring workers to cross the border for low-paying jobs. It's a devastating cycle that we must end if we ever hope to stop the outrageous injustices endured everyday by undocumented Americans like Sayra.
No podcast this week, instead stream Manu Chao's Clandestino album here:
3. Bongo Bong
4. Je Ne T'Aime Plus
6. Lágrimas de Oro
7. Mama Call
8. Luna y Sol
9. Por el Suelo
10. Welcome to Tijuana
11. Día Luna... Día Pena
13. La Vie a 2
14. Minha Galera
15. La Despedida
16. El Viento
You probably haven't heard of Indianapolis based musician Mannish Boy. The Gary, Ind. native has spent most of his life locked away in his bedroom, quietly amassing a huge library of self-produced recordings. "I like being behind the scenes; that's where I have fun. I've been writing and recording my own songs since I was 11. I'm 25 now and I'm just getting to the point where I'm comfortable sharing my music," he says.
Mannish Boy is wrapping up production on his debut music video "Crazy," but set aside a bit of time to speak with me. We discussed his life in Gary and how it shaped his musical vision - - a unique blend of streetwise hip-hop, psychedelic guitar riffs and sugary pop hooks.
NUVO: What was your life like growing up in Gary?
Mannish Boy: It was not a great time. I was very happy to leave. There were a lot of negative things going on around me. I saw a lot of bad things very early and learned a lot at a young age. I saw where I didn't want my life to go. I lost friends and family members to gang violence and drugs. My own father was very dominant in that world. Not to disrespect Gary, because there's a lot of good people there. But it made me view Gary as a place I didn't want to be.
NUVO: Was music your escape from that world?
Mannish Boy: Oh, yeah, I remember listening to doo-wop after losing my great grandmother. That's how I dealt with it. Listening to that music changed my life. I loved the harmonies and the emotion. When you hear a doo-wop song, it transports you to another time. It was like being in another world. I would sing along with it and eventually I realized I could make my own music.
NUVO: What other things were you listening to that shaped your music?
Mannish Boy: I started out listening to hip-hop, because that's what I grew up around. Later on I discovered rock and roll, doo-wop and jazz. My tastes progressed and eventually I developed an obsession with '60s psychedelic rock. Now I listen to a wide range of music. As long as it sounds good, I love it.
NUVO: How do you describe your sound?
Mannish Boy: It's a mixture. I love rock, so you'll hear guitar riffs. I listen to hip-hop and those beats show up. I love the way folk music tells stories, so a lot of my songs tell stories. I'm into experimental music in the way a solo can change the flow of a composition.
I love music so much, I go off in a lot different directions. I started out as a rapper. Then I was a singer. Then I was a rocker. Now I'm a rapper-rocker-singer. I was trying to figure out what direction I wanted to go in. Now I'm comfortable with what I am and the direction my music is going.
NUVO: I've heard you have a large catalog of music you've written and recorded.
Mannish Boy: I have so much material it's ridiculous. I set a quota of writing one new song a day. I've written close to a thousand songs and I have eight CDs full of music.
NUVO: You record everything yourself at home. What's your process and how many instruments do you play?
Mannish Boy: I can play guitar, bass and piano. Does making beats count? Because I also make beats. Usually I start with the drums. I get a beat I like and listen to it over and over. Then I add guitar, build the music and write the song around that.
NUVO: What do you want to accomplish with your music?
Mannish Boy: I want to change the music game. Sometimes you hear an artist that inspires you. Their music is alive; it's real and powerful. That's what I want to do. I want to be able to save lives with my music. All my music music is personal. It comes from all the things I've done and been through. Some of it's about obstacles I've overcome and decisions I've made that led me to where I am now.
I've overcome so much, I feel like if there's something I want bad enough I'm going to have it. My message is never give up on anything you want to do with your life. If you've got a dream, live it. That's what my life is about, that's what my game is about and that's what my music is about.
The independence of Bangladesh in 1971 was ushered in by one of the most spectacular concerts in musical history. George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh featured a supergroup of rock and roll royalty, including fellow ex-Beatle Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton, as well as performances by Indian classical music icons Ravi Shankar and Ali Akhbar Khan.
"In one day, the whole world knew the name of Bangladesh," Shankar later said of the event. Shankar conceived the concert with Harrison as a fundraiser for Bangladeshi refugees. The brutal atrocities of the Bangladesh Liberation War combined with the devastating effects of the Bhola cyclone had forced millions of Bengali people to flee the emerging nation.
Today, Bangladesh is facing a very different sort of threat. As of this writing nearly 400 workers have been confirmed dead in a tragic garment factory collapse in Dhaka, with hundreds more still unaccounted for.
The tragedy in Dhaka is not an isolated event - - it's merely the latest in a series of deadly industrial disasters that have claimed the lives of hundreds of Bangladeshi workers over the last several years. After China, Bangladesh has become the world's second largest garment exporter as corporate vultures have flocked to the impoverished nation to take advantage of the rock bottom wages and low safety standards.
Accounting for 80 percent of the country's exports, the garment industry has started to define Western perceptions of the South Asian nation, and for many Americans, Bangladesh is nothing more than a name on a clothing label. But the Bengali region - - which includes Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal, is home to one of the richest cultural heritages in the world.
I've always believed that if we took took time to enrich ourselves by learning about the cultures of our neighbors around the globe, we would be less likely to remain indifferent as they experienced suffering and exploitation. So in the spirit of that thought, I'd like to share a few of my favorite Bengali musicians with NUVO readers.
At 80 years old, Purna Das is the greatest living representative of the Bengali Baul music tradition. A syncretic religious sect merging elements of Vaishnava Hinduism with Sufi Islam, the Bauls are famous for their mystical repertoire of song.
The Bauls live outside the constraints of conventional society, leading a nomadic existence as they travel the countryside performing their ecstatic music rituals. Purna Das has described the music of the Bauls as, "The fastest way to get close to god and find the divinity in human beings."
Known for his fantastic soaring vocals and brilliant artistic improvisation, Das achieved his greatest notoriety in the late '60s when a U.S. tour brought the singer in contact with Bob Dylan. Intrigued by Das and the Baul culture, Dylan featured Purna Das on the cover of his 1967 release John Wesley Harding while inviting Das to record an LP of Baul music at his famous "Big Pink" studio.
Born in Kolkata in 1939, the late R.D. Burman became one of the most influential music directors in Bollywood history. A gifted composer and songwriter, Burman was known for his unique ability to integrate international pop music trends with traditional Indian melodies and rhythms.
Rockabilly, funk, bossa nova, psychedelia, jazz and disco are just a few of the styles that Burman explored. He left behind a massive catalog of recordings and his best work is on par with the greatest pop artists in Western music.
A nephew of Ravi Shankar, Ananda Shankar explored a more unconventional method of sitar music than his famed uncle. Like R.D. Burman, Ananda's atmospheric sitar soundscapes embraced the Western influence of funk and psychedelic rock.
Largely unknown during his prime years, Shankar's groundbreaking fusion of electronic music instrumentation and Indian rhythms would provide significant influence for a future generation of musicians, inspiring artists from Talvin Singh to Thievery Corporation. He also pops up in numerous DJ sets and hip-hop samples.
These artists represent just a brief snapshot of the extraordinary world of Bengali culture. My intent in presenting this information is an attempt to provide an identity for a people who are so often portrayed as a faceless and nameless industrial commodity.
What happened in the Bangladesh garment factory last week was not an accident - - it was the inevitable byproduct of a system that puts profit ahead of human welfare. As media reports continue to expose the links between the deadly Dhaka production facilities and retail outlets like Wal-Mart, JC Penney and H&M, it's becoming clear that American consumers have a complicit role in the Dhaka tragedy.
Each edition of A Cultural Manifesto features a mix from Kyle Long, spotlighting music from around the globe. This week's selection features work from Bengali musicians Ananda Shankar and R.D. Burman.
1. Ananda Shankar - Streets of Calcutta
2. R.D. Burman - Dum Maro Dum
3. Ananda Shankar - Dancing Drums
4. R.D. Burman - Shalimar Title Music
5. R.D. Burman - Aaj Ki Raat
6. Ananda Shankar - Jungle Symphony
7. R.D. Burman - Chura Liya Hai Tum He
8. Ananda Shankar - Sa Re Ga
In modern fashion, I first heard about the tragic Boston bombings on Facebook. Hoping to keep up with the situation, I flipped on my car radio as I left home to run my daily errands. Local talk radio fixture WIBC was the only station regularly broadcasting live updates, so I parked my dial there.
The coverage I heard over the next few days deeply saddened me. Before any substantive information had been released, the station's commentators were connecting the incident to Arab terrorist organizations. In line with a shocking number of national media outlets, the station also repeated false claims that the suspected perpetrators were "dark-skinned" males.
And things only got worse when the suspect's identities were revealed. With their Chechen heritage hinting at possible links to Muslim extremism, the station's commentators pushed their hysterics into overdrive.
I certainly didn't expect WIBC's conservative voices to remind listeners that the vast majority of Muslims are rational, peace-loving people - - but I was shocked to hear one pundit claim that the Muslim population was out to "destroy Western civilization." At a time when passions are running high, this rhetoric is dangerously irresponsible and certainly contributes to the type of racially motivated hate crimes that became all too common in the weeks and months following 9/11. In fact,there's already been a violent backlash as multiple incidents of "revenge" attacks have already begun to surface. Like the Bangladeshi native mistakenly identified as an Arab and beaten down by a group of thugs in New York's Bronx borough. Or the Syrian-American doctor who was assaulted in Massachusetts while pushing her baby stroller down a sunny suburban street.
I had a flashback to my childhood growing up during the 1980s on the suburban fringe of Indy's Westside. News of the Islamic Society of North America's intention to establish a mosque in Plainfield ignited a simmering discontent among elements of Hendricks County's predominantly white Christian population. By the time I reached my teens, I knew every pejorative racial epithet for an Arab or Muslim - - but I knew nothing substantive about their culture. The schools and local media had failed to effectively counter the ignorance and fear that consumed a large segment of the community. As an impressionable young person, I may have ended up on the same path as some of my xenophobic Hendricks county neighbors, if not for an unexpected discovery.
I vividly remember spotting the white cassette tape abandoned in the dirt along the highway side. As a young music obsessive trapped in the barren artistic landscape of Hoosier suburbia, I was starving for any outside cultural stimuli - - so I immediately grabbed the tape and continued home.
The titles were written in a mysterious Eastern language that I now recognize as Urdu, the national language of Pakistan. Although I didn't fully appreciate or understand the music at the time, the tape became an object of fascination for me. Somehow listening to this music engendered within me a sense of connection to Hendricks County's emerging Islamic community, revealing the humanity of a population that had once seemed so foreign.
Years later I would learn that I'd been listening to qawwali, the devotional music of South Asian Sufi Muslims. As an adult I became a great fan of the genre and attempted to learn as much as I could about the 700-year-old qawwali music tradition.
Contrary to everything I'd heard about Islamic values in American media reports, the lyrics of qawwali spoke of peace, compassion, love and tolerance. It encouraged Muslims to question the orthodoxy of institutional Islamic practices. And the music was just as enthralling. Often featuring spare instrumentation, qawwali is propelled by rhythmic ensemble clapping and ecstatic vocal improvisations. Musicians are encouraged to enter a trance-like state, building in intensity as the performance progresses, reaching breathtaking levels of artistic climax.
As of this writing, one Boston bombing suspect is dead and one is in police custody. While it's still unclear what role religious motivations played in the attack, it seems inevitable that elements of the U.S. media will continue to exploit this tragedy to demonize Islam and its followers.
In defiance of the hateful rhetoric, I'd like to use this space to quote a work by Sufi poet Bulleh Shah, whose words have been sung by all the qawwali masters, from the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to Abida Parveen. Composed in the 18th century, the verse speaks to the sacredness of all human life within the Islamic tradition. I can only hope the uplifting spirit of Islamic music and art will enlighten another soul as much as it did mine.
"God can not be found in the mosque,
Nor is god in the Kaaba of Mecca
Nor is god in the Quran
Nor is god found in prayer rituals
Demolish the mosque
Tear down the temples
Destroy anything that can be destroyed
But don't destroy anyone's heart
For that is where god lives"
Each edition of A Cultural Manifesto features a mix from Kyle Long, spotlighting music from around the globe. This week's podcast features a selection of soulful and psychedelic songs from across the muslim world.
1. Gaslamp Killer - Nissim featuring Amir Yaghmai (U.S.A.)
2. Emmanuel Jal & Abdel Gadir Salim - Asabi (Sudan)
3. Ali Hassan Kuban - Tamin Qalbak ya Habibi (Egypt)
4. Omar Souleyman - Hafer Gabrak Bidi (Syria)
5. Hassan Hakmoun - Nadiyan (Morocco)
6. M. Ashraf Feat Nahid Akhtar - Good News For You (Pakistan)
7. Ahmad Zahir - Nishe Gazdom (Afghanistan)
8. Iftin - Haka Yeelin Nacabkeenna (Somalia)
9. Malouma - Lebleïda (Mauritania)
10. Cheba Fadela et Cheb Sahraoui - N'Sel Fik (Algeria)
11. Ahmed Fakroun - Njoom al lyel (Libya)
12. Cheikh Lô - Bama Sunu Goorgui (Senegal)
Percussion maestro Bobby Sanabria tells me he's "a beneficiary of growing up in tumultuous times." The Bronx native came of age in the rich New York scene of the late 60s/early 70s, experiencing the highs and lows of the civil rights era while absorbing the cities' diverse musical heritage. "In terms of variety. New York radio was at its zenith. You would hear Miles Davis, Carlos Santana and Mahavishnu Orchestra," Sanabria says. While those influences played a role in his musical development, it would ultimately be the Latin sounds of his Puerto Rican heritage - particularly Latin jazz, that drew Sanabria to pursue a career in music.
Sanabria has now joined the ranks of the percussion giants who inspired him as a bonafide icon of Latin jazz, establishing himself as a formidable leader with his critically acclaimed, Grammy nominated big band recordings.
Sanabria has also become a major advocate for music education. His tireless campaign to expand the audience for jazz and Afro-Cuban music finds him regularly performing at free concerts and benefits, while holding down teaching gigs at institutions like the Manhattan School of Music.
"I always tell my students that jazz is the last hope for humanity. Jazz exudes four things: truth, freedom, revolution and virtuosity," Sanabria states with grave sincerity. The comment is representative of Sanabria's deep passion for music, which he consistently demonstrated during our ninety minute conversation.
I recently spoke with Sanabria via phone. The world renowned percussionist will be performing with the Butler University Jazz Ensembles this Saturday, April 20 at the new Howard L. Schrott Center for the Arts.
NUVO: You spend a lot of time working in academia. You could certainly make a living off touring and recording - what draws you to music education?
Bobby Sanabria: It's the only way the music will be preserved and passed down to the next generation. Afro-Cuban jazz and Latin jazz are the most marginalized forms of jazz and jazz itself is a marginalized music these days.
Most people in the mainstream today don't listen to jazz, or even know what it's about - which is sad because it's America's greatest art form. The institutional activities I do help to combat that.
NUVO: Your time in Mario Bauzá's band was very influential for you. Can you talk a bit about Bauzá's importance in American music?
Sanabria: He's one of the most important musicians of the 20th century along with people like Igor Stravinsky, Jimi Hendrix and Louis Armstrong. The scope of Mario's influence is very wide. He was the co-founder of Machito and his Afro-Cubans. Machito was his brother-in-law, he was a great vocalist and together they formed this orchestra in 1939. They were the first orchestra to fuse jazz instrumental techniques with Afro-Cuban rhythms. Thus creating the first form of Latin jazz and they did it in New York City which means Afro-Cuban jazz is an American art form.
Mario performed with many of the great big band leaders of the 1930's: Chick Webb, Noble Sissle, Jimmie Lunceford, and Cab Calloway. So he had experience playing with all the great black jazz bands of the day. He brought that to the table in addition to his Cuban heritage and his experience there with the son and danzón. This experience put him in a very unique position to form this orchestra with Machito and realize his vision which was to have a big band, but with an Afro-Cuban rhythm section. He showcased the virtuosity of jazz soloists and used jazz arranging techniques, but it was still a dance band at the same time. He really advanced culture and music.
He was also very important in terms of the civil rights movement. Just the name of the band - Machito and the Afro-Cubans, up to that time nobody had used the title of a band to make reference to Africa. Also, they were a fully integrated band. They started with Cubans, Puerto Ricans and African Americans, but eventually they had Jews, Italians and Irish people in the band.
NUVO: In 2009 you reproduced Machito's classic 1957 LP Kenya in its entirety. Why is that album important to you?
Sanabria: It's considered the greatest album Machito and the Afro-Cubans ever recorded. By 1957 the band had been around 18 years and they were being taken for granted as the elder statesman of the music. At that time Tito Puente and Tito Rodriguez were on the rise as hot young bandleaders. Morris Levy, who was president and owner of Roulette Records loved Machito's band and he was upset that Tito Puente was getting so much publicity. At the time Puente was signed to RCA and he was releasing albums like Cuban Carnival, Night Beat and Puente Goes Jazz that were making a big, big ruckus.
So Morris went to Mario and said I want you to record an all instrumental Afro-Cuban jazz album and don't worry about the expense. So he spared no expense and the orchestra was reinforced with some great talent, like Joe Newman form the Count Basie Orchestra on trumpet, Cannoball Adderley who at the time was a hot young alto sax player from the Miles Davis group and Candido was brought in as a soloist. It was a powerhouse list of A players on this album and the result was an incredible album that has stood the test of time. On every level this album is of the highest caliber, from the playing to the writing. It's required listening for anyone that's into this music.
NUVO: Many casual Latin music fans who dance salsa or listen to reggaeton are unaware of the music's deep African roots. Can you talk about that African influence?
Sanabria: Africa has influenced everything we do in American popular music - from jazz to rock to hip-hop to funk. It all basically comes down to the clave, which is a five beat rhythm we inherited from West and Central Africa through Cuba. For people who aren't familiar with clave, it's a rhythmic mantra we use as a foundation in Cuban music. If you've ever hear that phrase "shave, haircut - two bits," that's the basic clave of son which is the foundation music of what we call salsa today.
You can hear that rhythm in every style of American popular music today. It's very pronounced in New Orleans second line music, in funk and hip-hop. You hear it in all genres of rock, from punk to heavy metal. This rhythm really unites us and ties us to the music's roots in Western and Central Africa.
But nobody knows about this in this country. Unfortunately, teaching about this culture or sharing it with young people is frowned upon. All of us in jazz education and all of us jazz musicians, we're all representatives of this music and we need to take a more revolutionary advocacy position for this music.
NUVO: You work a lot with big bands. You grew up during the 60s and 70s, a period when big bands weren't exactly the hot new thing. I'm curious what attracted you to that form?
Sanabria: You have to understand, I come from a different culture. I'm Puerto Rican and in New York City we had big bands in the Latin scene. Most salsa bands have eleven pieces with horns. So your hearing horn music in that culture constantly. Also the great funk bands of that time had horns sections, groups like Mandrill and Brass Construction. So that always attracted me.
The big bands in terms of orchestration, composition and just the majesty of power is something that is very godly. When you hear a big band that's really swinging it's the most powerful thing on planet Earth.
Also, I grew up hearing this music on TV. All the cartoons had big band jazz. All the talk shows and variety shows featured jazz bands. I was lucky because my generation was exposed to it. But in today's generation some young people don't know the difference between a trumpet and a trombone.
That's why I'm so adamant about music education, because today we live in a culture where DJs are more respected than musicians. I have nothing against DJs, but it takes years and years to master an instrument, learn composition and in terms of the jazz tradition to learn to improvise. Mastery of improvisation is an ongoing process that takes a life time. Basically, anybody can take a computer and be a DJ in half an hour. There is some skill involved, but it's a mechanized skill.
Some people might think what I'm saying is controversial, but it needs to be said because our music is dying in terms of the mainstream American culture. Music programs are being cut all across the country. We have less and less people in tune with what a melody is, or what harmony is. The way you fix that is by talking about it and addressing the situation.
I'm a big advocate of politicians being held accountable. The first thing I ask when I meet a politician is what are you going to do for the arts? One of the things I'm championing is that jazz needs to be a part of the curriculum of every social studies class on the public school level. So when you're in 5th grade and start learning about the Louisiana Purchase you also start learning that this incredible music was born in New Orleans from the African American experience.
I'm probably going to piss a lot of people off by saying this, but most people in jazz education are in a bubble. Not all of them, but most of them. They don't see the bigger picture. In other words they're not actively out there trying to get new fans to the music. They're just teaching and doing concerts at whatever institution, but they're not out in the community trying to get the community involved in the music and to expand the audience of the music. They only way jazz will survive is to expand the audience. Otherwise it becomes a museum piece.
NUVO: How do you feel about DJs and producers fusing Afro-Cuban rhythms with electronic music? For instance, last year I interviewed British dubstep pioneer Mala who went to Cuba and recorded an album with pianist Roberto Fonseca and his band. Can projects like that help expand the audience?
Sanabria: I'm all about expanding the parameters and I'm not against using technology. I have nothing against technology, but when the technology takes over the music making you have to start questioning things.
Right now you have to look at the computer as a musical instrument. Anything we record today uses digital technology. Even if you're recording an acoustic jazz quartet, you're using digital technology to record. The problem is the equation is askew. The way popular music today is produced, everything is done in a cut and paste manner. In other words, gone are the days when Frank Sinatra sings with a whole orchestra live in a recording studio. The performance had to be spot on and impeccable. The artist had to be on point and professional. Today if the singer sings out of tune, they can autotune it. There's no accountability in terms of professionalism. What that leads to is lack of emphasis on musicianship and the production values of arranging and composition. I'm very concerned about that.
NUVO: I wanted to ask you about a recording you played on early in your career, Mongo Santamaría's 1984 album Espiritu Libre. That record is a favorite of mine and it has a cult following among Latin jazz fans. Any memories of that session?
Sanabria: I remember we did the whole album in one afternoon. We did it live with no overdubs. The next day we were leaving on a four week tour of Europe and we had to get that recording in fast. It was one long five or six hour session.
That album was important for me because I took a big timbales solo on "Power Struggle" and people started talking about me because of that solo. In the insular world of the Latin Jazz scene people were saying "yo, did you hear that guy Bobby Sanabria on that solo?"
NUVO: As a young man, you played with many icons of American music from Tito Puente to Dizzy Gillespie. Was that intimidating?
Sanabria: It wasn't intimidating because I'd been dreaming of playing with those people since I was a young person. I'd been preparing myself for that. I always dreamed about what I could contribute to those groups. So when I played with them, I was ready. But it's very profound meeting your heroes.
I'll tell you one story. Dizzy Gillespie used to play a lot with us when I was in Mario Bauza's Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra. One concert we did for Mario's 80th birthday, we did the original version of "Manteca." What I mean by the original version is that Dizzy walked into the studio and started handing out the sheet music. I started examining it and it looked very old. I said "Diz, is this the original copy?" He goes "yeah, so don't lose it." It was the original arrangement Walter "Gil" Fuller did. I don't know where that music is now, but hopefully it's in the Smithsonian.
It was always gratifying to be in these groups with musicians who changed the course of music history. But that doesn't mean I made a lot of money, because nobody makes a lot of money in jazz. I remember Dizzy told me, "you want to be a jazz musician? You're going to be paying dues for the rest of your life."
Each edition of A Cultural Manifesto features a mix from Kyle Long, spotlighting music from around the globe. This week's podcast features a selection contemporary and classic Latin jazz.
1. Art Blakey - Cubano Chant
2. Bebo Valdés - Mississippi Mambo
3. Cachao y Su Ritmo Caliente - A Gozar Timbero
4. Machito - Congo Mulence
5. Dizzy Gillespie - Manteca
6. Sabu Martinez - I Remember Carmen
7. Kenny Dorham - Basheer's Dream
8. Mongo Santamaria - Che-Que-Re-Que-Che-Que
9. Cal Tjader & Mongo Santamaria - Afro Blue
10. Tito Puente - Ti Mon Bo
11. Tito Rodriguez - Descarga Cachao
12. Ray Barreto - Acid
13. Bobby Matos - Raices
14. Dave Pike - Latin Blues
15. Pucho & His Latin Soul Brothers - Psychedelic Pucho
16. Willie Bobo - Psychedelic Blues
17. Clark Terry & Chico O'Farrill - Spanish Rice
18. Mulatu Astatke and His Ethiopian Quintet - Shagu
19. Gato Barbieri - Merceditas
20. Eddie Palmieri - Comparsa De Los Locos
21. Irakere - Bacalao Con Pan
22. Los Reyes 73 - Un Lamento Hecho Cancion
23. Mongo Santamaría - Espíritu Libre
24. Roberto Fonseca - Yemaya
25. Rubén González - Cumbanchero
26. Harold López-Nussa - La Jungla
27. Roy Hargrove - Mambo for Roy
28. Bobby Sanabria - El Saxofon Y El Guaguanco
29. Bobby Sanabria - The French Connection