Amoeblog

FREDDIE HUBBARD R.I.P.

Posted by Billyjam, December 29, 2008 04:00pm | Post a Comment
Freddie Hubbard
Legendary jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, who had been hospitalized since suffering a heart attack and multiple organ failure a month ago, reportedly died earlier today (12/29) in Sherman Oaks, CA according to several sources including Billboard magazine, AP, and Jazz Chronicles. Hubbard was 70 years of age.

Born in Indianapolis, Hubbard moved to New York in the late fifties where his career took off soon after. Known primarily for playing in the bebop, hard bop and post bop styles from the early 60s onwards, Freddie Hubbard has played with such jazz greats as John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, McCoy Tyner, Art Blakey, Sonny Rollins, Bobby Hutcherson, Quincy Jones, Wayne Shorter, and Herbie Hancock during his illustrious career.
Freddie Hubbard Red Clay
Hubbard worked with Hancock on five albums over a dozen years, including on Hancock's 1964 Empyrean Isles which also featured Ron Carter on bass and Tony Williams on drums. The ever-prolific Hubbard played on more than 300 recordings, including his own solo output which included his acclaimed 1970 soul/funk influenced hard bop album Red Clay, marking a change in his style and a promise of what was to come from the artist who continued to record through the 80's and into the beginning of the 1990's. In 2006 Hubbard was bestowed with the National Endowment for the Arts' Jazz Masters Award.

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Cinema of Mali

Posted by Eric Brightwell, December 22, 2008 08:36pm | Post a Comment
Backrground of Mali

 

            750 - 1076                                   1230 - 1600                                              1340 - 1591

Historically Mali was part of three Sahelian Kingdoms. The Soninke-dominated Ghana Empire, the Mali Empire (which established Timbuktu and Djenne as major cities) and the Songhai Empire. These kingdoms controlled Trans-Saharan trade of gold, salt and other precious comodities. It collapsed following an Imazighen (aka Berber) invasion. When the European nations established sea routes for trade, the Trans-Saharan trade economy collapsed. To make things worse, the region grew increasingly desertified. France invaded the weakened nation and occupied Mali from the early 1800s until independence in 1959. Today, Mali is economically one of the poorest countries in the world.


Malians outside a cinema

Culturally, however, it's quite rich. Like its West African neighbors, it's also highly diverse. Most of its people are Bamana. There are also large populations of Soninke, Khassonke and Malink are all Mandé. There are smaller numbers of Peul, Voltaic, Songhai, Taureg, Bozo, Dogon, and Moor.  Altogether, more than 40 languages are spoken. 

 
                                Tellem (Mali)                                                                 Hohokam (Arizona)

The famed Dogon people based their calendar on Sirius B, a star not visible to the human eye. Their awareness of Jupiter and Saturn's rings preceded the invention of the telescope. They also lived in cliff dwellings, not unlike the aboriginals of America's southwest. What would Erich Anton Paul von Däniken  say?


Cinema of Mali

Mali's cinema is comparitively less known than the world famous movies of its neighbors, Senegal and Burkina Faso. But it's not for want of excellent films. Almost all of its key filmmakers were born in Bamako, the capital and largest city. After over a century of exploitation at the hands of the French, Mali initially cozied up to the USSR. Many of Mali's directors honed their craft at the world's oldest film school, the Всесоюзный государственный институт кинематографии (also known as VGIK, the All-Union State Institute of Cinematography) in Moscow. The school is the alma mater of Tarkovsky, Iosseliani, Eisenstein, Parajanov, Bondarchuk and Sokurov. The faculty included Eisenstein, Pudovkin, Dovzchenko and other noteworthy figures. Many Malian films incorporate Soviet-developed visual techniques to make films that are sometimes nearly wordless pieces of visual poetry which can overcome illiteracy and Mali's over 40 spoken languages.

Malian Directors

Souleymane Cissé with Fatih Akin and Marty Scorsese

FIENDIN' FOR THE DIRTY SOUTH: NEW ORLEANS' FIEND

Posted by Billyjam, December 2, 2008 11:40am | Post a Comment

fiendReading yesterday's great Eric Brighwell Amoeblog about New Orleans rapper Lil Slim reminded me of another great and oft slept-on New Orleans rap artist -- Fiend, whom I first met back in the nineties when he initially hooked up with Master P's No Limit label, and with whom I last talked around this time last year when he released his recommended career retrospective CD on Priority Mr. Whomp Whomp: The Best of Fiend (look for it and other Fiend releases at Amoeba Music).

That best-of collection, which features collaborations from the likes of Master P, MIa X, Snoop Dogg, Mac, and Kane & Abel, ably displays Fiend's trademark gruff, growling, gravelly Nawleans rap drawl and the rapper's edgy lyrical style, coupled with his skill for creating killer hooks (often behind-the-scenes, fueling others' success including Silkk the Shocker, Snoop Dogg, and Master P for whom he heavily contributed to the runaway MTV/crossover hit "Make Em Say Uh").

Fiend initially earned his Rakim inspired name (as in "Microphone Fiend") coming up as a distinctive young hip-hop voice in both New Orleans' 3rd Ward and 17th Ward Districts.  Born Richard Jones, he grew up in what is known as the Hollygrove area, where, from his early teens onwards he spent any free time, "Making music whenever and wherever I could. I would record all over...at people's houses," he told me, citing as among his early the best of fiend mr whomp whompinfluences: Rakim, Con Funk Shun, Earth Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, Big Daddy Kane, and Public Enemy. However even more profound an influence on his craft and his life was the sudden death of his younger brother Kevin, who was killed when Fiend was only sixteen years of age.

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Lil Slim

Posted by Eric Brightwell, December 1, 2008 03:15pm | Post a Comment

Lil Slim was one of the first artists to be signed to Cash Money Records. After a series of underground classics, he parted ways with the label. A couple of years later, CMR signed a multi-million dollar deal with Universal and the label's star, Juvenile, carried the new roster to success whilst Lil Slim receded into the shadows.


Lil Slim lived way out in the 17th Ward on New Orleans's western edge in Hollygrove, a small, lower middle class neighborhood that also was home to Big Boy (and later, No Limit) artist, Fiend. Representing the Apple and Eagle intersection, he brought his raps to audiences at Club 49, where he performed alongside UNLV and Soulja Slim. One day, Ziggler the Wiggler introduced them to Mannie Fresh, a young DJ from the 7th Ward who'd gained a measurable degree of local fame with rapper Gregory D. Shortly after, Lil Slim was introduced to Baby and Slim, brothers and co-owners of the fledgling Cash Money Records label. They signed Lil Slim and recorded his first album in Baby's kitchen.

The album was The Game is Cold (1993). One highlight is "Hoes I U's 2 Sweat." Another is "Bounce Slide Ride," a Bounce classic in the vein of DJ Jimi and Juvenile's "Bounce for the Juvenile" which name-checked Juvie and echoed his taste for Reeboks and Girbaud. Lil Slim's style was sing-songy, reggae-informed, repetitive and heavy on chants -- somewhat similar to Pimp Daddy, UNLV and early Juvenile. One thing that set him apart was his exaggerated Yat accent, in which the familiar interjection "Ya heard me?" sounded like "Ya hoidz me?" Cash Money was then primarily a Bounce label and a good deal of the lyrics amounted to little more than calling out wards and projects. Expecting lyrical complexity out of Bounce is missing the point, however, and the album is emphatically danceable. Its Intro and Outro tracks allowed Mannie Fresh to cut snippets of Slim's already sparse prose and make them almost completely abstract.

His sophomore release, Powder Shop (1994) moved a bit more into a more narrative, Gangsta territory, creating a Gangsta/Bounce hybrid made popular by his labelmates, UNLV. Some of the highlights include "Eagle St. Bounce," "True to the Game" and "Powder Shop," the latter about a heroin operation. Like a lot of early-'90s New Orleans rap, heroin is the drug most often referenced -- which is a bit unsettling, especially when the rest of the rap world was melloThug'n & Pluggin' lil slimwing with Indo, Chronic and gin 'n' juice. I guess all that dope in the Grunge scene had to come from somewhere. Listening to it now, it's shocking how much Lil Wayne and, even more so, (Young) Turk owe to his sound.

Lil Slim's final album for Cash Money was Thug'n & Pluggin (1995) which saw him (and especially Mannie Fresh's production) making more concessions to West Coast styles on G-Funk flavored tracks like "Bitches Ain't Shit," "Gangsta Day," "Shakem Up Shakem," "Time to Murder" and the excellent "Hands on My Gun." "Live in Club Rolex (Real High)" with its heavy use of the triggerman beat from the Showboys' "Drag Rap" was a throwback to Lil Slim's straight Bounce beginnings. "Neighborhood Terror" is another highlight.


Like all Cash Money productions, other artists from the roster make frequent guest appearances. In the pre-Hot Boys era that means B-32 (Birdman), PxMxWx, Kilo G (Cash Money's first signing) and Mr. Ivan. Of course, Lil Slim appeared on albums by other Cash Money artists such as Mr. Ivan, PxMxWx, Pimp Daddy and UNLV. He also brought an artist to Cash Money's attention that today is the CEO of the label. In 1994, Lil Slim heard his eleven-year-old neighbor rapping at a block party. Born D'Wayne Turner, the Eleanor McMain Magnet Secondary School student was calling himself "Shrimp Daddy" and owed a considerable stylistic debt to Lil Slim and Pimp Daddy, whose "You Gotta Be Real" he re-did as "You Gotta Be Lil." Lil Slim was suitably impressed and promised to introduce the child to Baby and Slim. Then, at one of his autograph signings in a record store, the little kid performed a rap where he spelled out Hollygrove. Paired with the twelve-year-old rapper Doogie (aka Gangsta D) and rechristend "Baby D" in a duo called The B.G.z, they ultimately went on to find more fame under their subsequent handles, B.G. and Lil Wayne, respectively.


In 1995, Lil Slim parted ways with CMR. According to Lil Slim, it was over contractual problems, including unfair payment of royalties; Baby being a student of the Suge Knight school of label-running makes that charge pretty likely. In addition, almost everyone that's left the label since has made the same allegation, sometimes suing and winning. On the other hand, Slim and Baby maintain that they dropped the original line-up of artists for not being disciplined or hungry enough, spending any money they got on dope... which, given their brown-centric lyrics, may have a grain of truth to it too. Whatever the reasons, the members of CMR's original line-up fared poorly after their departure. Kilo-G, Pimp Daddy and UNLV's Yella Boy were all murdered. Mr. Ivan died recently. I suppose PxMxWx, Miss Tee, Magnolia Shorty and Lil Slim can at least count their blessings that they're still alive, gone from the spotlight but not forgotten. Cash Money, on the other hand, went on to sign a multi-million dollar deal with its new signings, all (save Lil Wayne) of which left echoing Lil Slim's claims of unfair payment.


Lil Slim's final release was Lil Slim's Back (1998-Franchise Player), a six-track mini-album that I've never heard. About five years later, Lil Slim relocated to Northern California, where he currently lives. His current obscurity is shocking given his importance as a rapper both artistically and historically. For better or worse, without him we probably never would've heard from Lil Wayne or Turk. I contacted him with the hopes of an interview and he never got back to me.

(Update: Slim did attempt to get back to me and I to him but it didn't happen. Now he's got a proper website on which he tells his story in his own words so check that out here).



*****

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What is the deal with Somalia?

Posted by Eric Brightwell, November 26, 2008 01:35pm | Post a Comment
Somalia in the news
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.


Introduction
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). 


Tubeec & Magool

Ancient Beginnings

In ancient times, the region was widely known and valued by its neighbors, from China to Rome (who referred to the Horn of Africa as "Regio Aromatica"), for its dragon's blood, frankincense, and myrrh-- two of which were good enough for the Christ child and which remain popular commodities today. For a while, everything was apparently chill and, for centuries, Muslim Somalia maintained good relations with Christian and Jewish Ethiopia. The prophet himself commanded Somalia to never take up arms against Ethiopia... unless (foreshadowing here) Ethiopia drew first blood.
 

(Left) A giraffe bought in Somalia by Zheng He. (Right) Ibn Battuta.

Medieval Times
Jump forward a couple of centuries to early 1331. The lengthily-named Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Abdullah Al Lawati Al Tanji Ibn Battuta, a famous Muslim explorer and historian, documented the known Muslim world from Mali to China and, hence, visited the area. He wrote of Mogadishu:

     It is a town endless in its size. Its people have many camels, of which they slaughter hundreds every   
     day, and they have many sheep. Its people are powerful merchants. In it are manufactured the clothes
     named after the city, which have no rival, and which are transported as far as Egypt and elsewhere.


In the early 1400s, the Muslim Chinese scholar, Zheng He, also visited the area. He famously purchased a giraffe which he took back to China.



The Seeds of Enmity
Around this time, Ethiopia began to launch efforts to subjugate the Somali kingdoms, going to far as to execute the Somali king Sa'ad ad-Din II and establish tributary kingdoms which resulted, quite understandably, in Somali revolts and enmity toward their neighbors which is still strong. 
 

Omar Dhuule

In 1527, Imam Ahmad ibn Ibrihim al-Ghazi, armed with guns and backed by the Ottomans, led a scorched earth invasion of Ethiopia, attempting to force conversion there to Islam. The Ethiopians, faced with likely annihilation, appealed to the Portuguese, who sent fleets from occupied India, hoping to enlarge their comparatively tiny colonial presence in Africa. The Portuguese-Ethiopian force crushed the Somali state and the Portuguese attempted to absorb it into their empire. Instead it was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire.

Hibo Nuura

Colonialism & Post-Colonialism
In 1875, following Europe's abolishment of slavery, the European powers attempted to exploit Africa through colonialization. Britain, France and Italy all staked their claims and set about carving up Somalia.
Some Somali in happy times
 
In 1900, Ethiopia under Emperor Menelik II again invaded Somalia's Ogaden region. Somalia's nationalist Sayyīd Muhammad `Abd Allāh al-Hasan (called "The Mad Mullah" by the British) retook the area for Somalia... which was then given back to Ethiopia by the British in 1945 and remains a barren patch of symbolism that Somalia and Ethiopia still trade fire over.
 
Some really cheerful Somali pirates
 
Independence
In 1960, both Italian Somaliand and British Somaliand gained independence and unified as Somalia. Following independence, Somalia was fairly liberal for a short time. However, Somalia remained a state whose unity was fragile. Things quickly went south with heavy-handed dictators leading Somalia down the road of repression. In 1976, Somalia went back into war against Ethiopia over the barren, largely uninhabited, contested Ogaden region. Communist Ethiopia was backed by Soviet and Cuban troops who practically obliterated the out-gunned Somali forces. They in turn appealed to the U.S. for help but, under Jimmy Carter, America declined the offer to get bogged down in another Cold War front.


Somali street scene

Civil War & the Descent into Chaos
The weakened Somali state began to fall apart, descending into a civil war, openly encouraged by Ethiopia. Somalia's government grew increasingly totalitarian. By 1990, Somalia was under the thumb of a repressive dictatorship and suffering from a lack of resources. Somalis weren't allowed to assemble in groups exceeding three, fuel lines were long and the currency was worthless. In 1991, Ethiopia-backed clansmen toppled the government and Somaliland, in the north, declared its independence (although it's yet to be recognized by any government). The government splintered and the country, once again, descended into civil war. At this point, piracy grew rampant in the face of a powerless government. Famine resulted from the war as well and, due the volatile instability, the UN proved unable to provide humanitarian aid. The US sent in troops to secure the south. It didn't go well.


Ahmed Cali Cigal
 
In 1993, under Mohamed Farrah Aidid, fighting escalated between Somali and American troops, resulting in 1000 Somali casualties and 18 American. The foreign forces withdrew and the state collapsed completely. Mohamed Farrah Aidid was killed in fighting three years later. Since then, the country has divided along tribal and factional lines, with so-called Islamic fundamentalists attempting to impose their medieval codes through force while a central government exists only in theory and exile. In 2006, Ethiopian forces again intervened, supposedly to help the Somali government, but were mistrusted by many Somali for good reason.


Mohamed Nuur Giriig - Dayaxa idhibay Xala

Piracy

Lately the news has been all about pirates, who are discussed like they're from the pages of some 17th century adventure novel. Unlike the sex trading slavers in the Pacific or the the Disney-glorified serial rapists of yore, Somali pirates are mostly fishermen who turned to piracy in desperation and have a reputation for humane treatment and big spending. By some accounts, they treat their captives relatively well, feeding them Western food and providing plenty of smokes. The pirates, who've netted $150 million in ransom money in the last twelve months, are largely credited with turning the coastal villages they patronize boomtowns. The freewheeling, khat taking, booze swilling pirates help create, in the eyes of many, an oases of liberalism at odds with the Islamofacist-terrorized world beyond their influence.


Fadumo Qasim - Habiibi
 
Fragmentation
Nowadays (although there is on paper an official Somali government) the north is run by local leaders in the fairly autonomous states of Galmudug, Northland State, Maahir and Puntland and Somaliland. The central and southern parts of the country are run by the so-called Islamic Courts who brutally apply Sharia law to the suffering people.

Old Music - Hasan Adan Samatar
Uploaded by bishaaros

Black Hawk Down & Iman... all most of us know of Somalia

Somalia in Film and Somali Film
Not surprising, perhaps (due to the harsh conditions of Somalia), the country has produced very little cinema. Most Somali are content to watch Bollywood films and musicals like Riwaayado reflect the influence of India's film-making. In 1988, Abdulkadir Ahmed Said released the 23-minute Geedka Nolosha which won Best Short Film that year in Turin. But that's about it for homegrown cinema.

With millions living abroad, Somali's diaspora make up large minorities in cities like Toronto, London and Minneapolis (as well as neighboring countries like Djibouti, Kenya and Yemen). Therefore, it's not completely strange that the so-called Somaliwood film industry is centered in Columbus, Ohio. Out of the Midwestern town came Warmooge, the first animated Somali film, Rajo, the first feature-length Somali film and the thriller, Xaaskayga Araweelo. There, directors like Iman Abdisalam Aato and Abdi Malik Isak as well as the actress Fathiya Saleban have achieved a level of fame impossible in their homeland.
 
 
Ahmed Gacayte & Amina Abdilahi

Somali Music

To my western ears, Somali music sounds a great deal like most music in the Horn -- lurching, funky, jazzy and with a tonality that probably connotes something completely different to its main audience. And yet Somalia hasn't received the exhaustive Western attention that Ethiopia has. My guess is that part of this is because most modern Somali music uses cheap synthesizers instead of cost-prohibitive, large bands with expensive interests. Ethiopiques producer/cultural watchdog/apparent douche, Francis Falceto has already vocally criticized modern Ethiopian music for not being authentic enough for his patronizing ass so it's unlikely that he's going to embrace a group of musicians even less able to afford to entertain him with music suitably stuck in the past to please his tastes -- especially when music has been repressed and many artists have moved to London, Columbus and Toronto. 

Some of the better known artists to check out (if you're willing to accept the modernization of third world music as you do your own) include Maryam Mursal, Abdi Sinimo, skyhigh family, Waaberi Horseed, Xaaji Baal Baal Dance Troupe, Cabdillahi Qarshe, Hibo Mahamed Hudoon (Hibo Nuura), Ahmed Cali Cigal, Haliimo Khalif Magool, Mohamed Nuur Giriig, Madar Ahmed Mohamed (Madar Yare), K'Naan, Hasan Adan Samatar, Ahmed Mooge Liban, Mohamed Mooge Liban, Abdiqadir Sheikh Ali Sanka, Yusuf Jamac Ganey, Mohamed Saleebaan, Omar Dhuule, Mohamed Mooge, Ahmed Gayate, Mahamoud Mohamed Cige (Buuse), Mohamed Yusuf, Ismail Yare, Amina Abdilahi, Fadumo Qasim, Abdihakim Mohamed Warsame (Calaacal) and Hasan Haji Abdilahi (Hasan Ganey). If you don't live in a town with a large Somali population, the best thing to do is probably check out Amoeba's Somlia section.
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