Monthly Archives: September 2009

Are You Game?

It could happen. I could actually enter the world of gaming. Beatles Rock Band is luring me. And I have a birthday and Xmas coming up. So gamers, what system do you recommend? wii, xbox, playstation? You all helped me out with my Apple decision (I think you were right, though I did have to spend 4 hours on the phone with technicians to get my new scanner and laptop to talk). Survey says?



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Brazilian Girls Are Back

“Television,” Baaba Maal featuring Didi and Sabina of Brazilian Girls

My love for the New York-based art-dance band Brazilian Girls is legion and legendary, though I have to admit, I wasn’t so wild about their last album, New York City. I miss crazy bassist Jesse Murphy, even if he was crazy (he liked to play in his underwear; he was cute enough that he could almost get away with it. He also seemed to drink a lot. He was a party naked kind of guy, which probably gets real old real fast in a van driving across country.) But I’m relieved after hearing their recent collaboration with great Senegalese singer Baaba Maal to realize that the Girls (only one of whom is female, and none of whom are Brazilian) have not lost “it” — whatever “it” is exactly. Certainly, singer Sabina Sciubba was the It Girl of 2005, when the band released its delicious first album, and she became famous for crafting the coolest outfits this side of Grace Jones and Bjork.

“Television” is the title track of Maal’s latest album. It’s been out for a few minutes, but I just heard it recently on Morning Becomes Eclectic, the KCRW radio show that has made LA worth the move. It’s a lovely, loping, long track, in which the two singers bounce off each other in measured melodies. Both have voices that are strong on tonality but not on force. They sing in French; it’s one of four languages Sciabba knows. This is a postcolonial polyglot collaboration. The rhythm is African, but club worthy. This is a great trend of the year, the meeting of singers from the dark continent with dance tracks: “Sabali” from the Amadou & Mariam album Welcome to Mali is one of the best songs of the year. (I’m hoping to make it to the blind couple’s Oct. 2 show at the Henry Fonda Theater.) Of course, this isn’t a new type of fusion: Hugh Masekela brought African beats to world pop decades ago. DJs spinning grooves from Africa helped fuel the rise of disco. When it comes right down to it, you can pretty much trace most modern dance music back to African drumming. But on the day of President Obama’s first speech to the United Nations, let’s acknowledge the importance of transcontinental meetings of the minds — and bodies. The video for “Television” shows Maal walking through a cartoon Africa, then telescopes out to show him walking around the globe. Then it’s one cultural postcard after another, plus planes and trains. Welcome to the new world beat.

Brazilian Girls are coming to LA’s Avalon Oct. 19, one of four shows they’re doing, their first of 2009. Then they’re recording their next album — yeah! While their CDs may have slipped somewhat, I have never seen the band not put on a great show. Sciabba is just too mesmerizing to watch, and Aaron Johnston just too much the John Henry drummer, outmanning the presets every time. And of course, Didi Gutman is the mad dreadlocked Argentine genius, pulling together all the different genre strains and then sending them out to space. See you there?

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David Byrne Review in LA Times: More Words about Buildings and Food

Ex-Talking Head David Byrne offers a travelogue and eco-exercise musings in his new book, Bicycle Diaries. I reviewed it for the Los Angeles Times. But they took out my favorite line, where I refer to the writings as “more words about buildings and food.”

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A Talk and a Reunion

Wells College is a beautiful campus arranged on a hill overlooking a finger lake in upstate New York. I spent a lovely day there Sept. 11, giving a presentation and meeting with students and faculty. It was the first time I gave this talk, Mom and Pop: Real Life Adventures of a Music Critic, and it seemed to go really well. Good turnout, applause and laughter, lots of books signed. I want to thank the Arts and Lecture committee at Wells for inviting me, and my old friend Chris Bailey for helping me get the gig and setting up my Power Point. It was the first time Chris and I had seen each other since we dated 30 years ago. He’s been immensely helpful to me in my transition into academia. Life is strange.
Evelyn 029

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Support Your Local Newspaper

Hilarious video about the newest charity case: journalists. Sally Struthers eat your heart out.

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VMAs: Were we Punk'd?

Am I the only one who thinks that whole Kanye/Taylor/Beyonce VMAs stunt was staged? I kept expecting Ashton Kutcher to walk out. It all ended too perfectly, with both ladies in their red cocktail dresses. I know Kanye can be an idiot, but even he knows some bounds. Why was Taylor waiting backstage when Beyonce called for her? It’s like the Eminem/Insult Dog brouhaha last year.

I don’t think the Green Day stage takeover was planned though. The bouncers looked annoyed. Loved it if it wasn’t.

Fave performances: Beyonce, Pink, Muse. Yours?

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Moore is less

Lorrie Moore can be an arch, acidic writer. In her new novel A Gate at the Stairs, that acidness makes her her characters’ own worst enemies, as I recently wrote in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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