Amoeblog

Catching Up With Wheelchair Sports Camp's Kalyn Heffernan on New WSC Album, Youth on Record Program, and More

Posted by Billyjam, December 12, 2014 02:01pm | Post a Comment

In her hometown of Denver, charismatic hip-hop artist/activist/educator Kalyn Heffernan is well known. She is also much loved and respected for her talents, her warm personality, endless energy, and the passion for everything she embraces in her life. She is also an instantly recognizable figure. She may only be three and a half feet in height, weigh less than sixty pounds, and need the use of a wheelchair to get around, but the ever-active Kalyn Heffernan (who has the brittle-bone disability osteogenesis imperfecta) is a commanding persona who always has words of wisdom and encouragement to impart with those who cross her path.

The always good-humored, weed-smoking, queer, hip-hop artist/front person of the live hip-hop group Wheelchair Sports Camp (WSC) counts among her many admirers music fans, fellow protesters in the Denver Occupy movement, and the recent anti-police demonstrations in the Mile High City as well as all the inner-city kids at the programs she tutors (when not on tour). She also has many fans in the LGBT community won over by her out, loud, and proud positive attitude as witnessed in the WSC song "Madd" with the lyrics, "Everyone here is mad / Everyone here is queer and perfectly glad!"

The Denver Colorado artist's accolades are lengthy. She's been featured in her hometown's The Denver Post a few times, been featured in Spin, Vice, and the Huffington Post, as well as gracing the cover of the NYC weekly The Village Voice in 2011 when she only had some demos and no album yet. In September she was among the contributors in the ten-day NYC arts festival Photoville where her video piece 4TheHomies (see below) was part of the exhibit. As a teacher/mentor she works in a couple of youth empowerment programs including Youth on Record at Youth Media Studios where various areas of music production are taught with an emphasis on hip-hop and its four elements (see video interview below that I conducted with her recently at the space).

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"Forever-Land" Animated Film Premiere and Kounterclockwise & Jim Lujan Interview by Leroy Moore

Posted by Billyjam, March 11, 2014 09:00am | Post a Comment
        

Premiering today on YouTube and here on the Amoeblog (above) is Forever-Land: the Jim Lujan made full-length, animated film starring Kounterclockwise that has the distinction of being the first single hand drawn, animated, Sci-Fi film based on location in Cleveland, Ohio. The 56 minute movie is also the first one to feature a disabled hip-hop "inter-galactic animated hero" in a wheelchair.  Billed as "a hidden dimension where strange characters, creatures, and lands exist under the iron harsh rule of Infinitus…destroyer of all things funky" Forever-Land is an inspirational tale by the animation filmmaker Lujan with a lot of input from Kounterclockwise whose two members co-wrote the script with the filmmaker. The movie's 17 track soundtrack was co-produced by Lujan wtih Kounterclockwise's Deacon Burns.

Featured here on the Amoeblog back in late 2011, when they released their album Daylight Savings Time, the group that identifies as both "Krip-Hop" and "alternative punk hop" Kounterclockwise is the Cleveland Heights based duo comprised of Deacon Burns and Kaya "Rouge" Carine Gabriel (read their Amoeblog interview/profile here). Meanwhile underground animation filmmaker Jim Lujan's resume includes such works as Freakdaddy, Spike and Mike, Sanjourno Must Die (popular on YouTube animation channel RugBurn). He is currently working on the feature film Revengeance alongside renowned independent animator Bill Plympton, and with music by Kounterclockwise. Uploaded two days ago as a private invite only YouTube stream Forever-Land is as of today (March 11th) available to the general public to view on Lujan's YouTube site with links from such select sites as here. For more background on the film frequent Amoeblog contributor and founder of Krip-Hop Nation, Berkeley CA based author/activist Leroy Moore caught up with filmmaker Jim Lujan and Kaya and Deacon of Kounterclockwise to interview them for the Amoeblog. His insightful conversation with these three talented individuals follows immediately below the Jim Lujan produced Kounterclockwise "Whip" video.

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The Music Side of Sins Invalid, the Film Documentary - by guest Amoeblogger Leroy Moore

Posted by Billyjam, October 10, 2013 10:45am | Post a Comment

While typically documentaries make the rounds of the film festivals circuit, college circuit, and (in the case of a big release) in theaters and/or on television. Hence people get to view or at least know of a film.  However, most of the time, if that film is a documentary and has music in it and is not solely about a musician, you don’t get to know the story regarding the music in said documentary.  The documentary Sins Invalid, which previews in Oakland this weekend (Oct 11th & 12th) at the New Parkway Theater, is a documentary about a performance project that celebrates artists with disabilities, centralizing artists of color and queer / gender-variant artists. Since 2006, its performances have explored sexuality, beauty, and the disabled body. Sins Invalid is an entryway into the taboo topic of sexuality and disability, manifesting a new paradigm – disability justice. Here I will focus on some of the music in this film that was produced by artists who are from the Bay Area and elsewhere.

Sins Invalid, the entity, is a Bay Area-based performance project that incubates and celebrates artists with disabilities, centralizing artists of color and queer and gender-variant artists as communities which have been historically marginalized. Our performance work explores the themes of sexuality, embodiment, and the disabled body. Conceived and led by disabled people of color, we develop and present cutting-edge work where normative paradigms of "normal" and "sexy" are challenged, offering instead a vision of beauty and sexuality inclusive of all individuals and communities.  Patty Berne, Todd Herman, Amanda Coslor, and myself (Leroy Moore) started Sins Invalid in 2006.  Since then it has grown from one annual performance to a year-round program with different kinds of performance workshops, disability justice education at colleges, and local and national organizations. In 2007 the beginnings of work on the Sins Invalid film, a documentary about our annual performances, took root.  Throughout the seven years of Sins Invalid we have worked with dancers, poets, performance actors/actresses, visual artists, and musicians from Canada, the United Kingdom, and all over the United States.  Poetry and music were always a part of Sins Invalid, since our first show back in 2006 with the soulful voice of Lee Williams, a wheelchair user who played Porgy in George Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess at the Black Repertory Theater in Berkeley, CA and who has appeared on the big screen in Made in America starring Whoopie Goldberg and Ted Danson.  Williams’ CD of spoken word & music, Phase V, was released in 2006.

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Amoeblog Interview with Kalyn Heffernan of Wheelchair Sports Camp

Posted by Billyjam, June 12, 2013 10:47am | Post a Comment
Kalyn Heffernan and Wheelchair Sports Camp (WSC) are currently in the midst of their intense two-month, cross-country US tour opening for Flobotson which they'll have covered 10,000 miles by the time it ends up back in WSC's home state of Colorado on June 28th and 29th. The first leg of the tour the Denver CO act played San Francisco's Cafe Du Nord which is not wheelchair accessible - something Kalyn, who has the brittle-bone disability osteogenesis imperfecta and is in a wheelchair herself, was unaware of until it was brought to her attention right before the show date. Her solution? Do an impromptu free show outside the venue for those in wheelchairs who were denied denied access. "Since this tour a lot more disabled people have been coming to see me that I've never met which is awesome to me. But it seems like the most inaccessible places is where they want to come," said Kayln who weighs just over 50 pounds and is 3 1/2 feet tall and can easily be carried up and downstairs with her small wheelchair at the SF venue and other venues that are non-wheelchair accessible.

I talked with Kalyn via emails back last month at the time of the Bay Area WSC date for an Amoeblog. And last week (June 4th), when Wheelchair Sports Camp arrived in New York City for their gig at Santos Party House, I caught up with the rapper/producer who loves to smoke the weed, clearly loves life and music, and proudly sports a CRIP LIFE tattoo on her stomach. When we met up the upbeat good-humored Kalyn was wearing a black T-shirt with the bold pink lettered message "Blow up dolls, Not countries." The video interview was conducted with Kalyn just as she had arrived with her crew (including her longtime girlfriend and assistant on the road Jennah Black - pictured above) outside and round the corner from the downtown Chinatown district Manhattan club before their concert - which was off the hook.

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Krip-Hop Nation's Seed Growing Roots in Africa by Guest Amoeblogger Leroy F. Moore

Posted by Billyjam, June 6, 2013 09:00am | Post a Comment

Prudence Mabhena  "Ipi Ntombi"

Ever since I was ten years old I wanted to visit South Africa.  I was involved in the anti-apartheid movement in the US and always thought about my brothers and sisters with disabilities who lived under apartheid and even wrote a paper in high school but back then and even now there is very little information here in the US about South Africans with disabilities.   Now I’m an adult in my forties and still haven’t made that trip to South Africa, however nowadays because of the internet, my journalism and the creation of Krip-Hop Nation, I’m getting closer to finally making that trip to South Africa.   My interest now is connecting disabled artists/activists/poets/musicians who are African Americans to our brothers and sisters who share the same talents and identities in South Africa under Krip-Hop Nation and an organization in South Africa.  The bigger picture/plan is to have an event and networking session in South Africa between Krip-Hop Nation and South African organizations that share our mission. 

As a journalist, I kept in contact with some musicians/poets/activists in South Africa by interviewing them for my columns.  In 2009 I interviewed South African Disabled Musician's Association and in 2010 I interviewed South African Deejay Kabila, and recently I interviewed poet  Mak Manaka.   I was one of the first journalists with a disability in the USA to write about the now famous  African musicians with disabilities like Oscar winner Prudence Mabhena (see video above) and award winning Staff Benda Bilili of the Congo.  Mabhena is even writing for my Krip-Hop book. Krip-Hop Nation’s internet radio started by Binki Woi of Germany has played the music of musicians with disabilities in South Africa.  We are excited about these connections and with our new partnership with G-Tazz Records and the Zululand Gospel Choir of South Africa (as seen in video below). 

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