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Ike and Tina Turner do whiteface, ‘subtly’ allude to cunnilingus during performance
04.18.2013
11:35 pm

Topics:
Music
Race

Tags:
Tina Turner
Ike Turner

Tina in whiteface
  
In spite of Ike Turner… well, being a bastard, Ike and Tina are one of my favorite duos of all time (Fool in Love, anyone?). It’s a pity amazing albums like this (and their super-subversive artwork) are overshadowed by… you know… him being such a piece of shit human being. This biting little piece of minstrelsy satire is from the 1968 album Outta Season. It’s rumored that the album art was created as a response to the ongoing capitalization on black artists by white music industry honchos (That’s probably more than a rumor!)
  
Ike Turner whiteface
 
Their skill at using startling images was only surpassed by their startling performances. My favorite track is Tina’s version of “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” and while the album version is fantastic, what they did with it live was absolutely insane. Here’s a 1971 live version with some of the most explicit (and in hindsight, very disturbing) dirty talk I have ever heard in a song—or at least a good song.

Just forget that he’s a wife-beater for a brief moment and enjoy the subversive imagery and pornographic bridge!
   

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Ed Bland’s remarkable short film ‘The Cry of Jazz’: Real talk on race & music in 1959
03.28.2013
11:03 am

Topics:
Movies
Race

Tags:
The Cry of Jazz

image
Alex the musician breaks it down for the bohos in The Cry of Jazz
 
Ed Bland died on March 14 at 86. Here’s a piece from Dangerous Minds’ archives by Ron Nachman on Mr. Bland’s legendary short film The Cry Of Jazz.

With the supposed “national conversation on race” now devolved into a debate about who’s allowed to use the N-word, it’s instructive to have a look at Chicago musician and historian Ed Bland’s 1959 film polemic The Cry of Jazz

Co-written by Bland alongside urban planner Nelam Hill, novelist Mark Kennedy, and mathematician Eugene Titus, the half-hour-long Cry… is fashioned as an impromptu lecture by jazz musician Alex (backed by two fellow male African-American friends) to two male and two female white bohemians lingering after a jazz appreciation salon. Cut in to the lecture is footage of both Chicago inner-city life at the time, and early performances by Sun Ra and his Arkestra. As you’ll see below, the conversation—though generally civil and high-minded—gets frank and heated in a way that few would imagine it did back in the day.
 
In his recent introduction to a screening of the film, critic Armond White contends that Cry of Jazz has been “lost” because it’s retained its provocativeness. He also contended that it was a response to the romanticism of Norman Mailer’s essay “The White Negro” and a dramatized snapshot of the “tension and fractiousness” inside the bohemian community of the time.
 

Jazz is dead because the experience and suffering of American life on the Negro have to die. The spirit of jazz is alive because the Negro’s spirit must endure.

—Alex, from The Cry of Jazz

In strictly musical terms, Bland’s pronouncement of the death of jazz is both trenchant and puzzling. In one way, it seems literally true—the year 1959 saw the passing of Sidney Bechet, alongside the deaths under more tragic circumstances of Lester “Prez” Young and Billie Holiday. But Bland’s death warrant is also rather undercut by the release that year of canonic albums like John Coltrane’s Giant Steps, Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue, and—ironically enough—Ornette Coleman’s The Shape of Jazz to Come.

“Jazz is dead because the experience and suffering of American life on the Negro have to die,” says the Alex character. “The spirit of jazz is alive because the Negro’s spirit must endure.” With the Montgomery Bus Boycott and Little Rock in the background and the Woolworth sit-ins and Civil Rights Act in the offing, Bland outlines key sono-sociological points that would inform the freedom principle behind the soundtrack of both the civil rights and black power struggles.
 

Through melodic improvisation and the ever-present conflict in rhythm, the Negro makes an artform that insists on a deification of the present, and which—among other things—is an unconscious holding action until he is also master of his future.

—Alex, from The Cry of Jazz

There are tons of other highly memorable quotes in The Cry of Jazz. Do yourself a favor and check out this little-known but significant piece.
 

 
Thanks to Mixmaster Morris for the heads-up on this…

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Discussion
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Deep In Vogue: an introduction to ballroom culture and modern voguing


Throwing down at Vogue Knights, NYC
 
I have been a bit slack with my Notes column of late, and here’s the reason why.

I love voguing (and you should know this by now.) I love the music, the dancing, the style, the language, the queens (both butch and femme), the battling, the videos, the full length films, the drama, the energy, the past, the present and the future. Voguing and Ballroom culture a very significant and valuable part of the LGBT landscape, the serves to teach children self-respect and personal growth, and gives them a space to be accepted, and to thrive, in.

I love voguing so much that I have written a in-depth introduction to the culture for Boing Boing. Funny as it may seem, this wasn’t an easy piece for me to write—I started and scrapped 3 drafts, which just kept getting longer and longer—but I am happy with this one. There’s quite a lot of material that I just didn’t have the space to include in this piece, and my thoughts are now quite seriously turning towards a book documenting the culture. It really is that rich.

Like hip hop, ballroom encompasses many different elements of artistic expression, from music and language to clothes and design, and, of course, dance. It deals directly with some of society’s most controversial issues, namely sexuality, race, class, gender roles and expression, beauty modes, self-definition and competition. It doesn’t do this in the polemical style we may be used to from punk and political hip-hop, however, where topics are theorised and discussed. In ballroom these issues are lived and experienced, as a vast number of those taking part in this underground scene are transgender, working class, people of colour.

Ballroom includes society’s most marginalised: minorities within minorities within minorities, for whom voguing and ballroom culture is an important resource. In a world where they have been rejected, ballroom not only accepts these people for who they are, it celebrates them, in a variety of unique and different categories. The competitive, prize-winning aspect of ballroom gives some participants a sense of worth lacking in the “real” world (not to mention money), and the familial structure of the “houses”—mother, father, sister, brother—often acts as a real surrogate, as many in this world have been disowned by their biological families.

Here, voguing is not just a dance, and ballroom is not just a genre. It’s a way of life that brings pride, peer recognition and self-respect. The genre of music is one thing, but the culture which surrounds it is another; and both are intricately tied into one another.

...

To quote the late, great Willi Ninja, who is perhaps the greatest voguer the world has yet seen, voguing is like a challenge dance: instead of fighting you take it out on the dancefloor. Depending on who you ask, this uniquely stylised dance form arose either amongst the inmates of Ryker’s Island, or at gay Harlem dance parties in the sixties (it’s most probably a mixture of both). Voguing got its name from Vogue magazine, as the competing dancers would flip to pictures of models posing, and imitate them, trying to outdo each other in the process. As it developed the dancers became quicker and more agile, and incorporated other forms of dance such as waacking (high speed arm movements and hand gestures) and body popping (though some say that voguing actually pre-dates popping, and was itself an influence on the original b-boys). Fast forward to 2013 and voguing has come a long way, progressing through the styles of old way, new way, femme and dramatics, to today’s almost hyperactive, turbocharged version of the dance. Although key elements of old way voguing remain (posing, “face”), a much more frantic and stylised choreography takes precedence, with signature moves such as the dip (when a dancer falls flat on their back), the duck walk and hair control (using long hair as stylistic element of the dance, in essence whipping it back and forth).

There’s more to vogue culture than just the dancing and the dressing up, and if you have seen Paris Is Burning you only know the very tip of this glittering iceberg. If you want to know more, read the rest of Welcome to the Ballroom, where Voguing is always in style here.

To accompany the piece, here is a 13 minute dj mix I put together of “cunt” tracks, “cunt” meaning “fabulous” in the world of Ballroom. Yes, the c-bomb gets dropped quite a lot in this mix, so you’re getting a warning: it’s NSFW!

CVNT TR4XXX 13min Cunty Minimix for #FEELINGS
 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
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Meanwhile, in post-racial America…
02.20.2013
09:43 am

Topics:
Race

Tags:
racism

Jet Black
 
If you haven’t noticed, that is a row of men’s hair dye from a Wal-Mart Kroger store in Ohio, with only the “Jet Black” option locked in a theft prevention device. Some thoughts:

1) Damn Wal-Mart Kroger! Can’t you be discrete and just continue to dutifully conceal your racism in the most diaphanous shroud of corporate capitalism? I’m disappointed in this transparency!

2) Is that Walt “Clyde” Frazier?

3) (After googling.) That is Walt “Clyde” Frazier! What an amazing product endorsement!

4) Is theft prevention of a $7.24 item even halfway worth it when your company makes over $140 billion a year?

5) Why do men need manly hair dye? Will their dick fall off if they use a hair dye not endorsed with the virility of Clyde Frazier?

6) I hope some one organizes a mass theft of all the non-Jet Black men’s hair dye out of protest.

7) If they were really smart, they’d just separate the Jet Black option in a special “ethnic needs” section of the grooming aisle, making this way less obvious.

EDIT: This was actually taken at a Kroger grocery store, not a Wal-Mart. For shame, I have mis-identified the price tags of the anti-labor corporations sucking the life blood from my native midwest!

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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‘Stop that shit’: the people of Harlem weigh in on the so-called ‘Harlem Shake’ craze

The Real Harlem Shake
The actual Shake in action in the Bronx…
 
First, the good news: The “Harlem Shake” viral video meme is likely winding down pretty soon—at least we hope.

And as the excellent video below shows, lots of Harlem residents emphatically disapprove of the way that thousands have mindlessly helped appropriate the name of a community dance into some dopey shit.

If you’re not familiar with the meme, here’s the rundown. Last spring, Brooklyn producer Harry Rodrigues a.k.a. Baauer released “Harlem Shake,” a hugely catchy downtempo party track that very clearly samples a rapper saying that he does said dance. YouTube comedian Filthy Frank used the tune in a very silly costumed dance video that launched literally thousands of similarly silly copycats, full of mostly costumed people (many, notably, in white-collar office settings) flailing their limbs and humping the air.

Cue the analysis. The Fader contextualizes the details of the phenomenon, and The Gadfly has even framed its sociological potential as communal silly fun.

But of course it goes deeper. As writer Tamara Palmer eloquently put it in her article on the dance in The Root:

Popular culture is infamous for borrowing—and sometimes outright stealing—elements from a subculture and transforming them into something completely stripped of its origins. But it is still surprising to see how the current viral video craze called the Harlem Shake has managed to almost completely supplant a vibrant form of African-American dance that was born and bloomed in Harlem.

On the face of it, there’s absolutely zero wrong with limb-flailing and air-humping. But that’s not what the 30-year-old dance known as the Harlem Shake is about. Like most dance crazes cultivated by (and appropriated from) African-American communities, it requires a modicum of skill and, dare we say, pride.

Harlem itself is pretty unequivocal.

After the jump: want to know what the real Harlem Shake looks like? Check out this “shake cypher” video for some real context…

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Discussion
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‘Don’t let your children buy or listen to Negro records’
02.07.2013
11:58 am

Topics:
Music
Race

Tags:
Negro music


 
From the center of America’s Black music culture comes this warning.

Citizens Council of Greater New Orleans. Some time in the 1960s.
 
Via If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Trekkie!


 
Actress Nichelle Nichols tells the lovely story of how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. convinced her to remain on Star Trek after she had decided to leave the series for Broadway:

I was going to leave “Star Trek,” and [creator] Gene Roddenberry says, “You can’t do that. Don’t you understand what I’m trying to achieve? Take the weekend and think about it.” He took the resignation and stuck it in his desk drawer….

As fate would have it, I was to be a celebrity guest at, I believe, it was an NAACP fundraiser in Beverly Hills. I had just been taken to the dais, when the organizer came over and said, “Ms. Nichols, there’s someone here who said he is your biggest fan and he really wants to meet you.”

I stand up and turn and I’m looking for a young “Star Trek” fan. Instead, is this face the world knows. I remember thinking, “Whoever that fan is, is going to have to wait because Dr. Martin Luther King, my leader, is walking toward me, with a beautiful smile on his face.” Then this man says “Yes, Ms. Nichols, I am that fan. I am your best fan, your greatest fan, and my family are your greatest fans…. We admire you greatly ….And the manner in which you’ve created this role has dignity….”

I said “Dr. King, thank you so much. I really am going to miss my co-stars.” He said, dead serious, “What are you talking about?” I said, “I’m leaving Star Trek,” He said, “You cannot. You cannot!”

I was taken aback. He said, “Don’t you understand what this man has achieved? For the first time on television we will be seen as we should be seen every day – as intelligent, quality, beautiful people who can sing, dance, but who can also go into space, who can be lawyers, who can be teachers, who can be professors, and yet you don’t see it on television – until now….”

I could say nothing, I just stood there realizing every word that he was saying was the truth. He said, “Gene Roddenberry has opened a door for the world to see us. If you leave, that door can be closed because, you see, your role is not a Black role, and it’s not a female role, he can fill it with anything, including an alien.”

At that moment, the world tilted for me. I knew then that I was something else and that the world was not the same. That’s all I could think of, everything that Dr. King had said:  The world sees us for the first time as we should be seen.

Come Monday morning, I went to Gene. He’s sitting behind that same dang desk. I told him what happened, and I said, “If you still want me to stay, I’ll stay. I have to.” He looked at me, and said, “God bless Dr. Martin Luther King, somebody knows where I am coming from.” I said, “That’s what he said.” And my life’s never been the same since, and I’ve never looked back. I never regretted it, because I understood the universe, that universal mind, had somehow put me there, and we have choices. Are we going to walk down this road or the other? It was the right road for me.

TV’s first interracial kiss—between Nichols and William Shatner—also occurred on Star Trek. America celebrates Martin Luther King Day on January 21.

Below, an excerpt from a much longer interview with Nichelle Nichols—who also toured with Duke Ellington as a vocalist—in the archive of The TV Academy Foundation’s Archive of American Television, on YouTube
 

 
Via Media Post

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘What are You Doing Here?’: The memoirs of a black woman in the heavy metal scene
01.14.2013
08:20 am

Topics:
Books
Music
Race

Tags:
heavy metal

Laina Dawes
 
While my interest in heavy metal music is peripheral at best, I’m incredibly fascinated by one of the great incongruities of music subcultures: how can an outcast group, formed on the margins, manage to marginalize people?

Much has been made of Riot Grrl, formed as a response to hyper-macho punk scenes, but Girlschool and Lita Ford, aside, metal has never really had its own ladies’ auxiliary, so to speak. Compounded with the fact that metal, of course has an overwhelmingly white fanbase, black women have certainly never had much of a visible presence in the scene.

Laina Dawes is a black music journalist from a small city in Ontario, and the author of What Are You Doing Here?: A Black Woman’s Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal. Adopted by a white Canadian family, and raised in a fairly monochromatic town, her musical tastes developed initially around pop radio. As she was exposed to the heavy metal bands favored by boys in her neighborhood, she quickly became a life-long fan.

Laina talks at length about her issues with the scene. Aside from a general lack of diversity, no subculture is immune to explicit racism or sexism. When there were women at shows, there was an expectation of a certain type of sexpot hesherette. When Dawes wasn’t the only black girl at a show, she often felt the palpable subtext of female competitiveness heightened, belying the comradely atmosphere she sought out in metal in the first place.

She portrays the scene unflinchingly, despite her connection to it. Black fans and artists were sometimes subject to racism from white fans and artists, alike. When actress (and part-time metal singer) Jada Pinkett-Smith got on the Ozzfest bill with her band, fans noted a sudden volley of unselfconscious racist diatribe, the likes of which hadn’t been overt in shows past. Dawes compellingly compares the presence of black women in metal to the election of Obama: while it may be progress, it still exacerbates the nastiest of reactionary tendencies.

Ultimately, however, Dawes is writing about her love of heavy metal, and the community she seeks to foster within the scene:

I was dying to find other black female metal fans who were equally passionate about their ethnicity and their metal. I was always proud to be a black girl, but I struggled with people perceiving me as not being black enough. I traveled to as many concerts I could afford, and I collected albums, concert t-shirts, and metal buttons. I encouraged others to use the music to create personal freedom, to get them to acknowledge their feelings of anger and aggression. There was a lot of rage around me, and I knew that it could be channeled into the positive energy that I found through metal.”

What Are You Doing Here? isn’t an academic study, just a memoir of how one music fan navigated a scene, and an interesting look at how it feels to be an outsider in a culture already on the outside.

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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A brief primer on Black Power Christmas music

album cover
 
Turkey Day has passed us by, and it is officially the Christmas season. And, as the Pamplona of Black Friday reminded us, this means an onslaught of fevered consumerism, fetishizaton of commodities, conspicuous consumption, and all that other icky stuff that turns our red little stomachs stomachs. Exacerbating that nausea is the hallmark corniness of the holidays. “Peace on earth and goodwill towards men” can feel so cliched and forced when contrasted with the materialism of the spectacle. It’s easy to get a little contemptuous at Christmas.

It’s all reminiscent of George Orwell’s essay, “Why Socialists Don’t Believe in Fun.” A self-identified socialist, Orwell begins the piece with an anecdote on Lenin, who was, as the story goes, reading Dickens’ A Christmas Carol on his death bed. It’s said that communist revolutionary denounced the feel-good classic as full of “bourgeois sentimentality.” A fun guy, that one.

Orwell goes on to bemoan the kind of cynicism exhibited by Lenin and his ilk, noting that we dour anti-capitalists can’t seem to enjoy anything nostalgic or sentimental. I think anyone with much experience in radical circles has recognized the tendency. So in the interest of subverting our fuddy-duddy dispositions, allow me to show you one of my favorite Christmas music sub-genres: The Black Power Christmas Song.

Now, I’m not just talking about a Christmas song performed by a black artist, or even a Christmas song performed in a black genre. I am talking about a Christmas song that portrays Christmas itself as explicitly black. Let’s start with “The Be-Bop Santa Claus,” by Babs Gonzalez.

 
This 1957 update of T’was the Night Before Christmas starts out with the line, “T’was the black before Christmas.” Now Babs was a bebop pioneer and poet, and used to go by the name “Ricardo Gonzalez” in an attempt to get into hotels that discriminated against black people; that coy little line is an incredibly personal one. What follows is a perfect depiction of the Reaganite’s boogeyman, complete with suede shoes, Cadillacs, and Applejack; it’s fantastically subversive, unapologetic, and totally self-aware.
 
Of course, I can’t resist including the 1958 white hipster rip-off, “Beatnik’s Wish,” by Patsy Raye & the Beatniks.
 

 
It’s quite the (ahem) “homage.” Paging Norman Mailer…

If “The Be-Bop Santa Claus” alludes to urban poverty, James Brown’s “Santa Claus, Go Straight to the Ghetto” leaves nothing to the imagination.

 

 
“Say It Loud—I’m Black and I’m Proud” was released as a two-part single in August of 1968. This song was released a few months later on James’ full-length, A Soulful Christmas, which was the first LP to feature “Say it Loud.” Meaning James Brown, already a floating signifier for the Black Power Movement, released “Say it Loud—I’m Black and I’m Proud,” on a fucking Christmas album. Take that, Lenin! It acknowledges black poverty as a pressing matter of social justice in a seemingly incongruously celebratory song. Second, the song applies radical Black Power politics to something as traditional as Christmas. (If I could add a third, I’d also say that this is just a sick jam, but I digress.)

This one, however, is my absolute favorite.

 
Performed by Teddy Vann and his daughter, Akim, “Santa Claus is a Black Man” is arguably the most adorable product of Black Power. I mean look at that album cover! Look at her wee little Black Power fist! Listen to her sweet, spastic, bubbly little voice!

Not only can I not overemphasize the significance of radical children’s art being sung by an actual child (we so rarely give children the reigns, so to speak), “Santa Claus is a Black Man” is a brilliantly executed piece of kid-sized politics. You have a black child satirizing “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” which was originally sung by Jimmy Boyd, arguably the whitest damn child in the world. And the hook is, “and he’s handsome, like my Daddy, too,” an joyous assertion of “Black is Beautiful.”

Interestingly, towards the end, Akim says, “I want to wish everybody Happy Kwanzaa.” When Kwanzaa was first introduced in 1966, founder and activist Maulana Karenga promoted the holiday as a way to “give Blacks an alternative to the existing holiday, and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society.” Much to Karenga’s surprise, African Americans were rarely willing to give up the holiday of the oppressor, and eventually Karenga softened his position to allow Kwanzaa to be celebrated alongside Christmas, though not before “Santa Claus is a Black Man” was released in 1973. In the grand scheme of things, people don’t really want to be sectarian when it comes to Santa Claus.

Of course, none of this music succeeds in making Christmas cool. Even though these are great, subversive little songs, they’re also rife with the exact sort of schlocky sentimentality we’ve come to expect from Christmas music. And why shouldn’t they be? What’s so bad about sentimental and schlocky, anyway? Does Wal-Mart win if we enjoy a little syrupy holiday cheer? Will a few tender moments soften our anti-capitalist resolve? These songs are all navigating a very old tradition in order to reflect the radical ideas, the radical ideas we hope will become our new traditions. They use Christmas to represent the underrepresented and condemn racism and poverty, and they do it all with a little bit of mawkish sincerity and delight.

This Christmas, let’s resist our inner-Lenins, and let’s wallow in a little sentimentality. Hey, it was good enough for James Brown.

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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English Disco Lovers - bumping the English Defence League off of Google


 
Big up to whoever it is who has started the English Disco Lovers social group.

A retort to the extreme right wingers, the nasty English Defence League (who I am not going to provide a link to here) the EDL—Disco Division—have been recruiting members on their Facebook page, as one race and one world united under the banner of beautiful disco music. Here’s a brief blurb:

The English Disco Lovers (EDL) are a pro-disco, anti-racism group.

We aim to spoof the slogans and emblems of The English Defence League, showing them for what they really are - racist, outdated and not the type you’d invite to your disco!

Unus Mundas, Una Gens, Unus Disco (One World, One Race, One Disco)!

Recently, the EDL—Disco Division—have passed round a new manifesto, which states their aim to supplant the English Defence League as the top search result for “EDL” on Google, and to get more likes than the English Defence League on Facebook.

Here’s the manifesto, or the disco statement as it has been labeled by the group, in full. It’s well worth a read:
 

 
This is a noble and worthy cause and I tip my hat to the English Disco Lovers.

We may all be losing heart over the wonder of Facebook these days, but if you want to see the Disco Lovers achieve their goal of more FB likes than the English Defence League (they are about half way there already) you can like the group on their page. You can also find them on Twitter.

And in the meantime, here’s some classic disco with a message of social unity:
 
The O’Jays “Love Train” (1972)
 

 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
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