Tag Archives: reggae

Martha Graham, The Dancing Diplomat. A Tribute To Toots.

 

 

Martha Graham’s Cold War frames the story of Martha Graham and her particular brand of dance modernism as pro-Western Cold War propaganda used by the United States government to promote American democracy. Representing every seated president from Dwight D. Eisenhower through Ronald Reagan, Graham performed politics in the global field for over thirty years. Why did the State Department consistently choose Martha Graham? As with other art forms such as jazz or avant-garde paintings, modern dance was seen to demonstrate American values of individualism and freedom; the choreographer used the freed body to make a new dance technique that could find the essence of human narratives. Graham targeted elites and its youth with modern dance to propound the ‘universalism’ of human rights under the banner of American democracy. In her choreography, argues author Victoria Phillips, Graham recast the stories of the Western canon through female protagonists whom she captured as timeless, seemingly beyond current politics, and in so doing implied superior political and cultural values of the Free World. Centering on powerful yet not demonstrably American female characters, the stories Graham danced seduced and captured the imaginations of elite audiences without seeming to force a determinedly American agenda. When her characters grew mythic on stage, they became the stories of all mankind, as Graham termed it. “My dances are ages old in meaning,” she declared. But Graham took the pro-American argument one step further than her artistic compatriots. She added the trope of the frontier to her repertory. In the Cold War, Graham’s particular modernism and the woman herself ossified, as did political aims of cultural diplomacy based on an appeal to foreign elites. Phillips lays bare the side-by-side trajectories between the aging of Graham’s choreography, her work as an ambassador, and the political dominance of the United States as a global power. With her tours and Cold War modernism, she demonstrated the power of the individual, immigrants, republicanism, and freedom from walls and metaphorical fences through cultural diplomacy with the unfettered language of movement and dance.

Toots Hibbert died of complications due to Covid-19 at University Hospital, Kingston, Jamaica on September 11, 2020. The 77-year-old reggae legend is widely credited as the genesis of the genre name reggae, after his 1968 song, Do The Reggay. The youngest of eight children, he became an orphan by the age of 11 and went to live with his brother John in the Trenchtown neighborhood of Kinston. In 1962, while working at a local barbershop, he was heard singing by Ralphus “Raleigh” Gordon and Nathaniel “Jerry” Matthias. They become a trio, The Maytals, named after Hibbert’s hometown May Pen. In 1962 the trio was discovered by producer Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, who signed them to his Studio One label.  Hibbert’s soulful lead vocals were often compared to US soul icons, Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett. After two years with Studio One, The Maytals briefly worked with producer and ska pioneer Prince Buster before signing on with another Jamaican record man of note, Byron Lee, in 1965. The Lee-produced material showed that The Maytals were developing a more mature and polished approach, but the group hit a serious roadblock in 1966 when Hibbert was arrested for possession of marijuana; he was convicted and would serve a year behind bars. This experience provided the inspiration for one of his best-known songs, 54-46 That’s My Number. Hibbert was one of the first artists to use the word “reggae”, in 1968’s Do The Reggay. Reunited with Matthias and Gordon, the trio became known as Toots & The Maytals.  Hibbert’s stay in prison coincided with ska fading from the musical landscape in Jamaica as the proto-reggae sounds of rocksteady took its place. The new style suited Toots & The Maytals, and they signed with producer Leslie Kong, with whom the band would record some of their biggest hits, including Pressure Drop, Sweet and Dandy, Monkey Man, and 54-46 That’s My Number. Chris Blackwell, whose Island Records label was enjoying success releasing reggae material in the U.K. and U.S signed Toots & The Maytals releasing a revamped version of the album Funky Kingston in the United States in 1975. By the mid-’90s Hibbert had assembled a new version of Toots & The Maytals without Gordon and Matthias and toured extensively while recording a handful of albums for various reggae specialist labels. Toots & The Maytals made a high-profile comeback in 2004 with the album True Love, in which Toots re-recorded a number of his best and best-known songs with a stellar collection of guest stars, including Eric Clapton, No Doubt, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Keith Richards, and The Roots. After this Grammy-winning collection of duets, Hibbert stepped back to the spotlight on his own for 2007’s Light Your Light, and in 2012 his latest edition of The Maytals set out on a global acoustic tour to commemorate the 50th anniversary of their recording debut. A pair of concert albums, Reggae Got Soul: Unplugged on Strawberry Hill and Live! appeared that same year. After a 2013 incident in which Hibbert was hurt by a vodka bottle thrown by an intoxicated fan, he eased back on his career, performing occasionally but staying away from the studio. However, when noted musician and reggae fan Zak Starkey launched a new label, Trojan Jamaica, one of the first acts he signed was Toots & The Maytals, and their first release for the company, Got to Be Tough, arrived in August 2020. Frederick Nathaniel “Toots” Hibbert, O.J. will be long remembered as one of popular music’s most important contributors.

Show #389

Reggae + Passion = Brighton

Brighton is a seaside resort on the south coast of England, located 47 miles south of London. Archaeological evidence of settlement in the area dates back to the Bronze Age, Rome and Anglo-Saxon periods. The area underwent various stages of development throughout the centuries, eventually becoming a fashionable seaside resort in the Georgian era, encouraged by the patronage of the Prince Regent, later King George IV. With the arrival of railways in 1847, Brighton became a popular destination for day-trippers from London. The town continued to grow in the 20th century and become renowned for its diverse communities, quirky shopping areas, large cultural, arts and music scenes. Perfect then, for the home-base of Roots Garden which began storming Brighton’s club night scene in 1995 by presenting authentic Reggae sound system culture. Roots Garden’s passion and dedication to representing the very best of Reggae music and its many branches have secured its name as an integral part of Brighton’s musical landscape. Established in 2005, Roots Garden Records represents many of the talented artists, musicians and producers had been club favorites over the years. Working closely alongside pioneering UK Dub/Reggae Producer, Nick Manasseh, the label has released music with the cream of the crop of Jamaican and British artists and musicians including, Johnny Osbourne, Earl 16, Cate Ferris, Luciano, Danny Red, Johnny Clarke, Richie Phoe, Dark Angel, Jah Mali, Brother Culture, Vin Gordon, Freddie McGregor, Josey Wales, Bob Skeng, and Tiawa and more.

Nick Manasseh & Tiawa in the studio

In the next edition of Life Elsewhere we welcome Roots Garden label honcho, Jon Jones, Reggae Producer, Nick Manasseh, and upcoming singer-songwriter, Tiawa. The trio select exemplary cuts from their label – Earl 16, Vin Gordon, Danny Red, Cate Ferris, and Tiawa. Make sure you listen carefully to Tiawa talk about her new release, Pain Killa. “People think it’s about love…a love song. It’s not a love song!” She insists. “It’s about dealing with the world we live in.” We were already bowled over with Tiawa’s superb recording, and Nick’s creative production, now after hearing her impassioned explanation we are raving. Our conversation with Jon, Nick, and Tiawa explores their passion for Reggae, how Roots Garden came about, making Reggae music, and why they love Brighton.

The Podcast is available at NPR One, Apple Podcasts & Mixcloud

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Show #333

The Latest Life Elsewhere Podcast Available Now!

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In the latest edition of Life Elsewhere, disappearing bees, a rapper and a folkie plus The Hit That Never Was.

Freelance writer and environmental journalist, Robert Hunziker talks to Norman B about a worldwide problem, bees are dying off like never before. Recent scientific research has zeroed-in on the culprits, which are neonicotinoids or “neonics,” which are pesticides manufactured by Monsanto and Bayer. However, the two manufacturers claim the pesticides are totally benign. A four-year study by the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides (“TFSP”), directed at how and why so many bees, butterflies and other insects, including earthworms, are disappearing so rapidly, according to a member of the task force, “Instead of wiping out the top of the food chain, killing hawks and eagles as DDT did, neonics are wiping out the bottom of the food chain.” Bees pollinate almost every fruit, nut, vegetable, and field crop, and honey fits in the mix consequently the loss of bees is equivalent to one giant step towards mass starvation. Albert Einstein is reported to have predicted that civilization will be over in four years if bees are no more.

This week’s Hit That Never Was features the late Hugh Mundell, the highly regarded reggae artist who performed publicly just a few times in his short career, yet he garnered the  attention of many critics, causing one to write that “he had the purest voice in popular music”. Mundell recorded for the legendary Dub producer Augustus Pablo, under his own name and also using the pseudonym, Jah Levi. On October 14, 1983, twenty-one year-old, Mundell was shot to death while sitting in his car. When you go to the Hit That Never Was page, you will discover we have included the 12′ mix of Feeling Alight Girl, complete with the extended dub version.

In the second half of the program, Norman B talks with George Fuller a talented singer-songwriter and aspiring rap artist Anonymous (And.On. I. Must). George sent a copy of his very personal album to Life Elsewhere, requesting an honest appraisal. His efforts impressed Norman B enough to invite the musician into the studio for an interview to find out more about the man and his music. During the pre-interview conversation,  Fuller nonchalantly mentioned that he had recently been on tour with rap artist Anonymous (And.On. I. Must). This caught Norman B by surprise, knew he had to learn more about this unusual mixing of musical genres and generations. The self proclaimed old-dude-folkie, George Fuller and exuberant rapper, Anonymous (And.On. I. Must) explain toNorman B how they came to work together and play examples of their musical collaboration.

The Life Elsewhere Podcast is available here

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Real Talk For Real Teachers & The Invisible Gorilla

Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 1.05.23 PMThe latest edition of Life Elsewhere was prompted by two occurrences that happen to be interconnected. First, as parents and teachers prepare for the rigors and rituals of children returning to school after the summer recess, Norman B talks with Rafe Esquith, who documents his 30-plus years of teaching experience in Real Talk for Real Teachers”. Then, with education in mind, Christopher Chabris, co-author of The Invisible Gorilla joins the program to explain why our brains often do not see the obvious. Such as the deliberate and the not-deliberate spelling mistakes we here at Life Elsewhere made in two recent email blasts.

Rafe Esquith’s offers interesting and some might suggest controversialScreen Shot 2014-08-11 at 1.06.15 PM teaching ideas for not only educators but also parents. Mr. Esquith, also authored the New York Times bestseller, Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56. Norman B cites examples of not realizing mistakes, including his own spelling faux pas. Christopher Chabris helps us understand the complexities of how we evaluate and learn, which is the focus of his book.

Also in the program, The Hit That Never Was, featuring a rambunctious and rare reggae cut.

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The Hit That Never Was

The latest Hit That Never Was features the great Dennis Brown, the sadly departed reggae artist, Brown was loved by his legions of fans, including Bob Marley who dubbed him the Crown Prince of Reggae“. Dennis Brown had a prolific career which began in the late 1960’s when he was aged eleven. Brown recorded more than 75 albums and was one of the major stars of Lovers Rock, a sub-genre of reggae. After long successful but often tumultuous career, Browns’s health began to deteriorate in the late 1990’s. He had developed respiratory issues, probably exacerbated by longstanding problems with drug addiction, namely crack cocaine. On the evening of 30 June 1999, he was rushed to Kingston’s University Hospital, suffering from cardiac arrest. He died the next day, the official cause of his death was a collapsed lung.

Dennis Brown’s vast body of work includes superb covers of internationally
well-known songs, not least of all is his impassioned version of Peter Green’s, Black Magic WomanA major figure of the British Blues movement and founder of Fleetwood Mac, Green has often been lauded by the likes of Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page and was 38th in Rolling Stone’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”. Norman B had the honor of going to high school with Peter Green.

The Life Elsewhere Podcast is available here

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