Danish Soul: Jonas – documentary on new album, WAITT

Danish soul singer Jonas drops his new album WAITT on May 25th - check out this very interesting, well-produced documentary about him, soul music in Europe, the former group he sang in and this forthcoming album, WAITT. Thumbs up.

Jonas WAITT documentary


REVIEW: Ìyà-ilé (the first wife) @ The Soho Theatre, London

Ìyà-ilé (the first wife)

By Oladipo Agboluaje
Directed by Femi Elufowoju, jr


Ìyà-Ilé (Yoruba for ‘the first Wife’) is the long-awaited prequel to ‘The Estate’ which enjoyed a successful run at the Soho Theatre, London, in 2006. Both written by Oladipo Agboluaje, the plays chronicle the lives and loves of a well-to-do Nigerian family, the Adeyemis of the Yoruba ethnic group from Western Nigeria.
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THEATRE REVIEW: Death and the Kings Horseman (@ The National Theatre)

Review: Death and the Kings Horseman
By Tola Ositelu

A play by former Poet Laureate Wole Soyinka, Death and the Kings Horseman is a clash-of-culture tale set in the land of the Yoruba people of western Nigeria circa early 1940s.

The Alafin, King of the Oyo people, dies after a lengthy reign. Tradition has it that his Horseman, Elesin (a dedicated performance by Nonso Anozie) is to commit ritual suicide to commemorate the death of his king and join the monarch on the other side. As Elesin prepares for his demise, he appropriates a new wife from her formerly betrothed and enjoys the lavish send-off the villagers bestow on him. However, colonial misgivings about the practice in the form of the District Officer, Simon Pilkings and his socialite wife, Jane, threaten to scupper Elesin’s plans before he can say his final goodbye.

deathofthekings_149fzxzdaHorseman… is a feast for the eyes from the moment the large ensemble cast dance, weave and glide their way onto the stage. The set is colourful and lush; opulent without being distasteful or over-indulgent. The show bursts to life with some energetic choreography, singing and light-hearted banter amongst the characters, the cast looking like they are having a genuinely good time.

However things soon grind to a halt as the dialogue between Elesin and his Praise Singer (played with gusto, despite a dubious Nigerian accent, by Giles Terera) becomes dangerously turgid. Their conversations are over-laden with adages and allegories. I know we Nigerians have a penchant for figurative language but too much of it becomes tiring on the ears. My eyes glazed over for a sizeable chunk of the first few scenes of Horseman... as it seemed that the play was falling victim to Soyinka’s verbose, slightly pompous writing-style, its pace being lost in an abundance of language.

Thankfully there are a few sonic interludes to break things up courtesy of the musical director Michael Henry. The multi-talented cast treat us to some acappella singing complete with delicious harmonies.Read more


Love Me by Gemma Weekes [Book Review]

love me by gemma weekes

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Love Me is the debut novel by London based singer/poet Gemma Weekes. It chronicles the loves and battles of 20- something Eden Jean-Baptiste. Her life is marred by the twin torments of her obsession with the handsome, emotionally distant Zed and being abandoned at 11 years old by her capricious, self-centred mother Marie. Eden lives with her long-suffering church going father. His burgeoning love affair with Ms Chanderpaul is only met with disdain by our heroine.

Frustrated with London living and feeling betrayed by Zed’s inchoate relationship with one of her work colleagues, Eden borrows money from her best friend and flees to New York to spend time with her spaced out Aunt K thinking she ‘s leaving her heartache behind. But she’s sorely mistaken. As the book progresses we discover how inextricably linked Eden, Zed and those closest to them are by the selfish decisions of Marie and the tragic consequences.

I was intrigued when I read the blurb for Love Me, in particular a glowing comment made by Diran Adebayo. Nevertheless, unlike Diran’s Some kind of Black Weekes first novel is not one of the most accomplished debuts I’ve read in recent years, despite the author’s obvious, if unpolished, talent. Weekes clearly has a love for language but she indulges too much, especially at the start of the novel, in an overzealous use of similes and metaphors - something I feel her editor should have tidied up. Dialogue is often clunky and lacking in realism in an attempt to explain too much, too soon. Weekes leans towards some unnecessary descriptive elements particularly in regards to the complexion of the characters.

With the exception of the dark and lovely Zed, Weekes spends a lot of time extolling the aesthetic virtue of those of a lighter hue (or blonde in the case of Zed’s girlfriend, Max). This would be understandable if the author wanted to explore some of the social complexities surrounding skin tone within certain communities. Bar one or two notable exceptions, this is not the case. I suspect this fixation with complexion reflects some of the issues, perhaps the author herself might have about race.

The characterisation is a mixed bag. There are one too many stereotypes for comfort; as if some demographic boxes needed to be ticked. Aunt K and her pseudo-Afrocentricity, spouting irritating platitudes that would do any American talk show host proud. Spanish, Eden’s would-be revolutionary boyfriend, whose angry rhetoric about the state of African-Americans is a response to his confusion over his mixed-heritage. There’s Brandy/Brandon, cross-dressing lodger of Aunt K. Weekes puts political correctness into overdrive stressing that Brandon is straight and that when he’s in a dress, he must be referred to as ‘she’. Maybe it’s the feminist in me, but there’s more to being a ‘she’ than just wearing high-heels and skirts. The list goes on.

However, when Weekes does get the characterisation and dynamic of relationships right, she’s on fire. As the novel gets into its stride there are real flashes of inspiration. Zed is splendidly complex. Sometimes he comes over as callous and arrogant; other times the reader can sympathise with his frustration as Eden seeks from him something he doesn’t appear to be able to give her. At times I was both annoyed with Eden and feeling desperately sorry for her.

There’s much of the book that captures the hopelessness of infatuation; the way an obsession can squeeze the health and joy out of a friendship... that, often, our flights of fancy are less to do with the object of our affection and more to do with us projecting insecurities and desire for acceptance onto that person.

When Weekes exercises a more subtle approach to her writing – trusting the natural poet within her, instead of being too self-aware -she comes up with some, excuse the pun, gems. On assessing one of his live rap performances Zed opines...

‘...The only thing they (the crowd) love is fashion and fashion’s a painted whore who...loves nobody but her damned self...’

Also...

‘...Your posture is horrible, like you’re afraid if you took it up a notch and were sexy...that you actually wouldn’t be able to compete with other women...’

This short statement by Brandy is the most accurate summation of insecurity over body image, I’ve read.

Another highlight for me were the many sly references to Kate Bush lyrics, I felt it added a connoisseur’s flair to Love Me.

Just when my hopes for the novel were restored they were squarely dashed to the ground by the disappointingly clichéd, unrealistic ending. What was developing into a serious, pathos-driven discourse about the self-destructive ways we deal with loss and rejection descends into a middle-of-the-road love story.

The characters - Eden in particular - deserved better than such a contrived resolution. Whereas an ambiguous ending can be the most realistic and satisfying for a reader even if it’s not ‘happy-ever-after’. I also didn’t appreciate what I perceived as Weekes ‘moral’ to the tale, something along the lines of ‘It’s OK to go with the feeling, even if it hurts others unnecessarily, because, hey, you’ve gotta do for you’. Yeah, right.

I have no doubt that, if she continues to make forays into writing prose, Miss Weekes has the acumen to produce something truly special, maybe 3 or 4 books into her career. There’s definitely room for her to grow with her next offering. It would be great if future projects see the seeds of promise shown in Love Me come to fruition even though this debut does not fully showcase Weekes’ potential.

Gemma Weekes’ debut novel, Love Me, is out now; published in paperback by Chatto & Windus, £12.99
Find out more about the author at myspace.com/gemmaweekes

TOLA OSITELU


Mike Tyson documentary: A revelation of a film

'Tyson' the documentary, directed by James Toback, a personal acquaintance of the man himself, is a surprisingly candid and moving look at the former heavyweight boxing champion of the world, once known as 'Iron Mike'. Unfortunately it is on such limited release in London, with only 3 cinemas carrying the film and showings mostly after 9pm, I had to go half way across the city to see it. I went with my lovely mum who sees Mike like the little brother she never had. Things got off to an auspicious start as we only paid a nifty £3.50 to get in! The audience in attendance was diverse, from elderly Caucasians to young men and women of varied ethnicity.


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PRINCE LIVE ON JAY LENO (VIDEO)

prince_close

PRINCE LIVE >>>>>>>> MICHAEL THIS IS IT CONCERTS!!
FACT BITCHES!!
But seriously..
Micheal needs to contact Prince's plastic surgeon..
The man doesnt age!!


V


14th Tale @ Arcola Theatre

Discover the soul and culture behind visual and word artist Inua Ellams.

14thTale

Something to see this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday @ Arcola Theatre, London.

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REVIEW - Pied Piper: A Hip-Hop Dance Revolution

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The Pied Piper currently running at the Barbican Theatre [London] until 14 March is an up-to-date version of the well-known children’s tale and Robert Browning poem, ‘The Pied Piper of Hamlin’. But it’s the Pied Piper with a Hip-Hop/Nu-style dance twist.

The show is the brainchild of director Ultz and choreographer-extraordinaire, Kenrick ‘H20’ Sandy. It is the latest offering from Kenrick's production company Boy Blue Entertainment, set up with his best friend and Producer Michael ‘Mikey J’ Asante.

Between them, Kenrick and Mikey J have worked alongside some of the most popular artists of recent years including Duffy, Kano, The Sugababes and Fergie. Ultz has done extensive work with the Theatre Royal Stratford East, where Pied Piper premiered in 2006, as well as turning his hand to Opera on several occasions and various other productions.

The Pied Piper story has been brought right up to the 21st Century, with the rats that torment Hamlin depicted as po-faced hoodlums called, rather topically, Asbos. The Pied Piper dazzles from the jump - from the initial scenes in the dirt ridden, graffiti-illustrated streets in which the Asbos haunt and terrorise the citizens of Hamlin, to the glow in the dark costumes.

The dancing is exquisite, proving that Nu-Style can be worthy of the respect afforded to more established dance forms such as ballet or contemporary. The choreography is both edgy and graceful with some hair-raising acrobat-esque moves from the likes of Mark ‘Swarf’ Calape, Kofi ‘Klik’ Mingo and Jeffrey Felicisimo.

Then there’s the man himself, Kenrick. Kenrick is known in the Hip Hop dance world for his commendable work ethic and professionalism and this is evident in ‘Pied Piper’. His high-octane performance means he spends most of the show on stage but his energy doesn’t waiver. His movements are beautifully fluid and lithe.

Using very little dialogue, the show somehow manages to give the Piper a back-story highlighting his past extermination successes and the varying aspects of his own personality symbolised by different creatures such as the Scorpion. Ultz keeps the audience visually stimulated by alternating between live dance scenes and pre-recorded footage of mock newsreels.

The show is not devoid of humour either. The distressed governors of Hamlin, with their hand wringing and papier-mâché heads, provided much mirth. Their stuffiness is highlighted superbly in their awkward dancing and stiff movements. Special mention should also be given to some of the amazing skills showcased by the child members of the cast. Although their moments on stage were brief compared to their adult co-stars, they still made an impact.

Without a shadow of a doubt a massive part of Pied Piper’s appeal is the soundtrack composed by Mike J. Any assumptions that the cast will be dancing to familiar if unimaginative Hip Hop tracks were soon proved wrong. Mikey’s compositions are replete with an ethereal quality, some 80s electronica and no compromise on the bass lines.

I managed to catch a quick ad hoc interview with Mikey J after the show and was eager to pick his brain. The soundtrack took about a month altogether to compose, he revealed. I asked him the obvious question about his inspiration for the music. He explained that the word ‘Piper’ conjured images in his mind of Shaolin monks and Pan Pipes – themes which were apparent in the aspects of the choreography and music that paid subtle homage to the Far East, Capoeira and some other martial arts.

Mikey J expounded on the creative mechanisms at work behind the scenes as he and Kenrick worked on the ‘Pied Piper’ stage by stage. Mikey wanted each piece of music to stay true to the characters in each scene so that the music would be ever-relevant to the rest of the spectacle. I for one think he succeeded.

At less than 90 minutes long and no interval ‘The Pied Piper’ wasn’t going to be taxing on our attention spans. It is often difficult for dance productions to completely engage the audience throughout and prior to the show I did have my concerns about getting bored at some stage. I need not have worried because ‘Pied Piper’ was long enough to tell the story well, without over-staying its welcome.

There were some aspects of the routines that needed tightening up and more synergy between the dancers. Still, I believe that could have been a case of first night jitters. My only real gripe with the show was how the ‘Viper’ scene was depicted; scantily dressed female dancers writhed against Kenrick, in a replication of an inner city red light district. It looked more like yet another excuse to unnecessarily objectify the female form and I found this disappointing, especially in light of how sophisticated and original the production was otherwise.

Yet this in itself could not spoil an overall good time had by all. Looking at the cross section of those in attendance, Pied Piper has a universal appeal. You don’t have to be an aficionado of Nu-Style dance or Hip Hop music to enjoy the show and anyone who appreciates good theatre is in for a quality night.

The rapturous applause from the warm, responsive audience left me in no doubt that this run of ‘Pied Piper’ will equal, if not surpass the Olivier-Award winning success of its 2006 run at the Stratford Royal.

TOLA OSITELU

Pied Piper - A Hip Hop revolution is on at the Barbican Theatre, 5 - 14 March (tickets from £10, Book Now at www.barbican.org.uk/piedpiper)


FILM REVIEW: CADILLAC RECORDS

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Somewhere within the desperation, excitement, misery and sheer exuberance of the musical/financial enterprise which was Chess Records lies the momentous turning point in the history of popular music when Chuck Berry was said to have ‘integrated the airwaves,’ literally turning thousands of white suburban teens into addicts of what was in the 1950’s still considered a ‘black’ sound.

The music was eventually called Rock and Roll and the rest of the story is history. In her new film Cadillac Records Writer/Director Darnell Martin strives to retell the opening chapter.

Starting with the founding of Chess in 1950 by Polish Jew immigrant Leonard Chess (played here by Adrien Brody) and the signing of Muddy Waters (Jeffrey Wright) a smooth talking, guitar-playing busker just arrived in Chicago from the South.

The two of them show contrasting motives; Chess wants to make enough money to earn the respect from his father in-law he feels he’s worth, while Waters longs to earn the appreciation for his music he feels he’s worked hard to achieve, along with all the liquor and women he can carry at once.

Soon enough the positive chemistry, which Waters and Chess’ working relationship elicits, sees them cashing the checks and driving around in the Cadillac auto mobiles which gave the record company its sub-name. At least that’s how the story goes in what is, overall, a discontinuous and dramatised take on documentary facts.

In reality, as always, the story was a little more detailed. Here Leonard’s brother Phil’s involvement in the label is rendered insignificant, while artists of notable stature such as Bo Diddley and Eddie Fontaine never seem to emerge. Despite losing sight of these and other attributes of the Cadillac Records venture, Martin approaches her subject matter with a care which is rather bold considering the complexity and depth of the historical period at hand, plus the colossal panoply of artists involved.

Columbus Short is convincingly edgy and disconcerting as Little Walter: the blues legend whose talent is consumed by drink, drugs and insecurity. Wright plays Muddy Waters with an enthralling mix of sensitivity and indifference, while Mos Def and Beyonce Knowles are both in good form. The latter as soul songstress Etta James and the former as Country and Rock pioneer Chuck Berry.

Both Knowles and Mos Def have recorded remakes of songs that their on screen personas originally performed and when these emerge in the latter half of Cadillac Records we are reminded of why these actor/musicians were successful in the first place.

Moreover the presence of the two in the film are charged with significance because both have endeavoured to continue the musical journey which began at Chess and other recording companies in the 1950’s. Beyonce recently sung a version of Etta James’ classic “At Last” during the Inauguration of President Barack Obama. While Mos Def’s last two albums have resounded with Muddy Waters style Blues references.

On his well known track “Rock and Roll” the rapper professes that “Elvis Presley ain’t got no soul / Bo Diddley is Rock and Roll” and that popular white Rock artists “never came up with that style on their own” thus venting his fervour at the commercial industry and the manner in which it has duplicated, diluted and capitalised on the sound of black American culture for so long.

In ways less convincing, Cadillac Records attempts the same. As the company begins to reap the consequences of poor record sales and self indulgence Elvis, The Rolling Stones and numerous other white artists are heard on the radio performing music and winning acclaim for rehashing ideas that Chess Records had already introduced years earlier.

Not only do these scenes come too late in the film, they are not conveyed with the kind of visual intelligence that such emotive events seem to demand. When Leonard Chess strives to rescue Etta from drug addiction and then decides that he’s ‘in love,’ we know that we are supposed to be enthralled by his honesty, but he merely comes across as desperate and the scene, like most of Cadillac Records, is insightful yet emotionally impotent.

Cadillac Records is in cinemas now.
www.sonypictures.co.uk/movies/cadillacrecords
DAVID MENSAH


Review: Cadillac Records

scrate3

Somewhere within the desperation, excitement, misery and sheer exuberance of the musical/financial enterprise which was Chess Records lies the momentous turning point in the history of popular music when Chuck Berry was said to have ‘integrated the airwaves,’ literally turning thousands of white suburban teens into addicts of what was in the 1950’s still considered a ‘black’ sound.

The music was eventually called Rock and Roll and the rest of the story is history. In her new film Cadillac Records Writer/Director Darnell Martin strives to retell the opening chapter.

Starting with the founding of Chess in 1950 by Polish Jew immigrant Leonard Chess (played here by Adrien Brody) and the signing of Muddy Waters (Jeffrey Wright) a smooth talking, guitar-playing busker just arrived in Chicago from the South.

The two of them show contrasting motives; Chess wants to make enough money to earn the respect from his father in-law he feels he’s worth, while Waters longs to earn the appreciation for his music he feels he’s worked hard to achieve, along with all the liquor and women he can carry at once.

Soon enough the positive chemistry, which Waters and Chess’ working relationship elicits, sees them cashing the checks and driving around in the Cadillac auto mobiles which gave the record company its sub-name. At least that’s how the story goes in what is, overall, a discontinuous and dramatised take on documentary facts.

In reality, as always, the story was a little more detailed. Here Leonard’s brother Phil’s involvement in the label is rendered insignificant, while artists of notable stature such as Bo Diddley and Eddie Fontaine never seem to emerge. Despite losing sight of these and other attributes of the Cadillac Records venture, Martin approaches her subject matter with a care which is rather bold considering the complexity and depth of the historical period at hand, plus the colossal panoply of artists involved.

Columbus Short is convincingly edgy and disconcerting as Little Walter: the blues legend whose talent is consumed by drink, drugs and insecurity. Wright plays Muddy Waters with an enthralling mix of sensitivity and indifference, while Mos Def and Beyonce Knowles are both in good form. The latter as soul songstress Etta James and the former as Country and Rock pioneer Chuck Berry.

Both Knowles and Mos Def have recorded remakes of songs that their on screen personas originally performed and when these emerge in the latter half of Cadillac Records we are reminded of why these actor/musicians were successful in the first place.

Moreover the presence of the two in the film are charged with significance because both have endeavoured to continue the musical journey which began at Chess and other recording companies in the 1950’s. Beyonce recently sung a version of Etta James’ classic “At Last” during the Inauguration of President Barack Obama. While Mos Def’s last two albums have resounded with Muddy Waters style Blues references.

On his well known track “Rock and Roll” the rapper professes that “Elvis Presley ain’t got no soul / Bo Diddley is Rock and Roll” and that popular white Rock artists “never came up with that style on their own” thus venting his fervour at the commercial industry and the manner in which it has duplicated, diluted and capitalised on the sound of black American culture for so long.

In ways less convincing, Cadillac Records attempts the same. As the company begins to reap the consequences of poor record sales and self indulgence Elvis, The Rolling Stones and numerous other white artists are heard on the radio performing music and winning acclaim for rehashing ideas that Chess Records had already introduced years earlier.

Not only do these scenes come too late in the film, they are not conveyed with the kind of visual intelligence that such emotive events seem to demand. When Leonard Chess strives to rescue Etta from drug addiction and then decides that he’s ‘in love,’ we know that we are supposed to be enthralled by his honesty, but he merely comes across as desperate and the scene, like most of Cadillac Records, is insightful yet emotionally impotent.

Cadillac Records is in cinemas now.
www.sonypictures.co.uk/movies/cadillacrecords
DAVID MENSAH


Blu is Finally Major..

...Not a surprise to the residents of SoulCulture.co.uk..
blu
(Photo by Tamar for US!!!)
Cali rhyme animal Blu has recently announced that he has signed a record deal with Sire Records.
Congratulations sir.

If you dont know about Blu..
GERROFF THIS BLOG NOW!
lol

I'm half kidding
Listen
[audio:http://soulculture.com/10 Vanity.mp3]

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