If you're like me, you may feel like the media only provides confusing, fragmented glimpses into what remains, by and large, an obscure part of the world that makes regular appearances in the news regarding (usually) famine, war or piracy. And yet, the newscasters seem perfectly content to repeatedly ask, "What's going on?" and "Why do they kill us when we bring aid?" and (most inexcusably stupid) "Aren't pirates a thing of the past?" Yet they seem content merely to ask and never to attempt an answer. So, in the face of another wave of gawking, 30 second snippets provided by the news, here's my humble attempt to shed a little light on the region; one where long-simmering tensions and colonialist pressure have caused the Somali people considerable strife and difficulty for centuries, with no hope of apparent change in the future. And yet, I hope the music and cultural bits I've thrown in will provide a balance to all the misery.
Somalia's history (and the horn of Africa, for that matter) for the last few centuries has been a familiar history of extreme hostility and violent retribution. Begrudging neighbors are made pawns of European powers and played against each other with suffering resulting on all sides. Somalia, whilst one of the only countries with only one ethnic group, has never very unified. Originally the Somali people organized themselves on the coasts of the mostly barren country in tiny city states (and later, after conversion to Islam, Sultanates).
Last night as I was listening to, and really really trying to like, T. Pain's latest over-produced and overly guest heavy new album Thr33 Ringz I quickly determined that Mister Pain is still painfully over-using that vocoder like voice altering program which I had hoped would have stayed back in the summer of 2007 when near every damn rapper had some digitally altered ear-piercing robot voice effect prominent in their sing-songy rap hit single/video. I thought or rather hoped the fad was long over. But I was wrong.
Apparently here at the end of 2008/cusp of 2009 this gratingly annoying vocal effect is still very much alive as proven by such current hits as the T. Pain featuring Lil Wayne single "Can't Believe It" -- found on the R&B singer's aforementioned recently released new album.
But let's leave T. Pain alone. Even more painful to these hip-hop loving ears is Kanye (the artist formerly known as a hip-hopper) West, who recently, in an interview about his rap-free new LP, announced that "hip-hop is over for me" and who dedicates his heartbreakingly-hard-to-listen-to entire new album (808s and Heartbreak) to (like T.Pain) singing through the vocoder like autotuner effects. Jeesh. I guess his hanging out with Daft Punk just rubbed off on him way more than anyone could have ever anticipated. Below is a clip of Kanye performing a track off this new album on Letterman earlier this week. Disappointing? Hells yeah and not coz the autotuner is a bad piece of musical recording/performing equipment. But like anything in music, as in life, it comes down to how you use it, or rather don't use it (3 words Kanye: "less is more").
Saturday November 29
Vanity Insanity Triple Feature!
3 Action Packed Films Starring Vanity!
Never Too Young To Die 8pm
dir. Gil Bettman, starring John Stamos, Vanity, Gene Simmons, George Lazenby
John Stamos is Lance Stargrove, star gymnast & son of top secret agent George Lazenby. Gene Simmons is transsexual singer / evil-doer Ragnar out to poison the Los Angeles water supply. Throw in Vanity as Stamos' love interest (you'll never eat an apple the same way again), Peter Kwong (one of Big Trouble In Little China's elementals) as Stargrove's fun-loving computer nerd pal and a plot to retrieve a mysterious computer disc and you don't even have half the "I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS MOVIE EXISTS" that is NTYTD.
Action Jackson 10pm
dir. Craig R. Baxley, starring Carl Weathers, Vanity, Craig T. Nelson, Sharon Stone, Bill Duke, Robert Davi
Craig R. Baxley (stunt coordinator for tv's The A-Team) directed one of the last truly-80s action films that showed that Carl Weather (Apollo Creed from the Rocky movies) could & should have been one of the great action stars of the decade. As Detroit cop Jericho Jackson, Weathers battles evil auto magnate Craig T. Nelson (take THAT bailout plan!) with the help of Vanity & a seemingly never-ending stock of one-liners.
The Last Dragon Midnight
dir. Michael Schultz, starring Taimak, Vanity, Julius Carry
Motown records founder Berry Gordy produced only one Martial Arts / R&B epic and this is IT! Trainer to the stars Taimak (playing Leroy Green aka Bruce Leroy!) searches for his inner master, meets-cute with Vanity and battles the Shogun of Harlem (Julius Carry in a career defining role, RIP) to pulse pounding sounds by Debarge, Rockwell, Stevie Wonder & more! This may be your last chance to see this in the theater before the remake hits in 2010!