Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Bob _______ of Haiti

In the wake of the earthquake that hit Haiti, many Americans are learn more about the country that has benefited little from its wealthy neighbor. During the Hope for Haiti Now telethon, in addition to Wyclef Jean and other well-know performers, many heard the voice of Emily Michelle, a Haitian singer, for the first time. The musical introductions have not ceased since the telethon ended.

The other day, NPR ran a story about the famous Haitian singer, Manno Charlemagne. He is a singer who has always stood up to power and has paid the price in several ways. As an old article in the Miami New Times stated, Charlemagne’s music is about “Raking tyrants over his jagged lyrics. Shoving dignity down the throats of a vast underclass. Inciting the people to justice.” He has been called the Bob Marley/Dylan of Haiti.

He has been on both sides of the political spectrum serving time as a political prisoner and being elected mayor of Port-au-Prince. During one of his troubled times, musicians such as Bob Dylan, Bono, Jerry Garcia, and David Byrne petitioned on his behalf.

Often times, we think of singers and artists as having little to lose other than a couple of album sales; however, Manno Charlemagne shows that some artists must face life or death decisions in order to have their message heard. His music, sung in French and Creole, recalls passion of the great French chansons George Brassens and Leo Ferré. Although Charlemagne now sings to a few dozen people at a time in a restaurant in Miami, his voice, and the message that it carries, should be heard by all.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The White Stripes Defend Themselves Against the US Miltary

Super Bowl! Geaux Saints! The Who! The White Stripes! "What," you're saying. "The White Stripes weren't at the Super Bowl." Well, if that is what you think, you would be mistaken. Everyone's favorite branch of the US military, the Air Force, used the Super Bowl as marketing opportunity like Coke and Doritos (well, maybe Coke and Doritos are less dangerous).

The ad, which minimizes the fact that being in the Air Force means your job is bombing other people, features some music that is oddly familiar. At least that's what the White Stripes think. They are accusing the Air Force of misusing their song, "Fell in Love With a Girl." So they've ordered the Air Force to stop the airing the ad. The Stripes wrote, "We simply don't want to be a cog in the wheel of the current conflict."
The ad will no longer be used.
White Stripes--Mission Accomplished!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Is Kayne West keeping us down???

Pitchfork recently announced that Kanye West is back on the scene. Granted he wasn’t at the Grammy Awards, but he is back in cyberspace blogging away.

There’s nothing like stirring the pot to keep your name out. As usual, Kanye seems to be defensive; this time, it appears to be about some fashion criticism. And although Kanye seems to have a problem with coloring inside the lines, what I want to focus on is the beginning of his ramblings. He writes “REMEMBER THE DREAMERS, REMEMBER THOSE WHO REPRESENT THE GHETTO...THE FAIRY TALE OF NOTHING TO SOMETHING.” What I find interesting is that in this, he evokes two things that are, by definition, illusions—dreams and fairy tales. In particular the fairy tale of the nothing to something, the rags to riches story which, to me, is one of the great ideological fantasies, actually functions as a tool for entrapment instead of emancipation. The system benefits if we all think that by following the rules of the game that we will make it. However, it is the exception to the rule—the rule of work hard for someone else—that proves the rule. Who benefits from everyone working hard to make it? The owners of the means of production. Instead, we should be focused on how to change the system so that our hard work benefits all of us. The rules are stacked against us. Art should work to liberate us not to enslave us. Maybe Kanye is the new “OPIATE OF THE MASSES”?