Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

This Dec. 10, a Global Dance Party with Real Live Music – Who Knew?

A lot of people know about this, actually – but there’s always room for more. Scott Kettner and Mehmet Dede are the brain trust behind the frequent Is America Part of the World? global dance parties around New York. For awhile they did them at the Brooklyn Yard; this time out they’re at Littlefield. Scott plays drums in the excellent, absurdly eclectic Brazilian-flavored Nation Beat; Mehmet holds down a corner of the Drom nightclub empire and produces music festivals including the NY Gypsy Festival. Here’s their take on their next show, Friday, December 10:

Lucid Culture’s Correspondent: The club’s going to keep the floor open, people will be dancing just as they usually do at your shows, right?

Mehmet Dede: Yes, absolutely. Our series is about the heart and mind as well as the feet – it’s a global party. Dancing and having fun is an important element for us.

LCC: All this is happening Friday, December 10 at Littlefield, showtime says 8 PM, is that actually the time the bands start?

MD: Doors are at 8 PM; the first band, Tall Tall Trees, will go on at 9. After midnight we’ll continue with DJ Turnmix, who is an excellent dj from Barcelona. Did I say this is a global dance party?

LCC: What’s the deal with tickets? Thirteen bucks, that’s about four dollars a band…

MD: Yes, we wanted to keep the ticket prices down to give people more for their money. In this economy, I think people will appreciate it.

LCC: Let’s see if I got this right, first band is Tall Tall Trees, who are a very funny, wry sort of acoustic Americana jam band with banjo and guitars and upright bass. True?

MD: That’s a pretty good description. Scott?

Scott Kettner: Yes, they’ll be the first band. They are a really high energy band that take Americana and rockabilly to a whole new level. I think they are using electric bass now.

LCC: The second act is Brooklyn Qawwali Party, at ten, right? I’m personally not a fan of qawwali music so I was very surprised to see that these guys are a funk band, from what I’ve seen on youtube they’ve got about 50 people in the band and they really rock the party. Do they also do the hypnotic sufi chanting stuff?

MD: It’s not exactly 50 people, but yes they are a crowded band, and they love to jam onstage. Some songs can easily top 10 minutes. They’re both hypnotic and transcendental, but also groovy and danceable. They are a party band with a spiritual vibe. It’s a joy to see them on stage.

LCC: Scott, I have a bit of an inside track on your band Nation Beat because I’ve seen you a bunch of times – with Liliana Araujo your Brazilian chanteuse, and with Jesse Lenat the country crooner for example. You play country, and Brazilian styles, and funk, and soul, and I’ve even seen you go into a surf groove. Do you have a favorite of all these styles, and what is it?

SK: My favorite is when all of this music blends and there is not a “style.” That’s what really gets me off about drumming and music…when it can’t be defined. I love hearing a band play and walking out wondering what the hell it was. That’s partly the purpose of this festival, to bring together groups who are blurring the lines of genre and just pulling together the music they love to create a sound that isn’t contrived. When I was in high school I played in a surf punk band called Liquid Image and also played in some local funk and blues bands. Then I moved to NYC to study jazz and developed a passion for Brazilian music. So when I sit behind the drums or compose a song I’m always searching for a way to bring all of these musical experiences together.

LCC: A surf drummer: I knew it. Very very cool, as you probably know we are huge surf music fans here. Now out of all those Brazilian genres you play, what would you say is your specialty? Forro? Frevo? What does Nation Beat bring to it that’s original, that makes it all yours?

SK: I really love maracatu and forró. I moved to Brazil specifically to study maracatu back in 2000 and have developed a very deep relationship with the music and culture of this rhythm. Nation Beat is a collaboration between Brazil and the US. We’re a band that seeks the similarities between the music and culture of the northeast of Brazil and the southern United States. We play a lot of rhythms from the northeast of Brazil; maracatu, forró, coco, cirando and frevo, all music that Liliana Araujo grew up listening to. When her and I get together we bring our musical backgrounds to the table and the result is Nation Beat. This is what makes it OUR music, the fact that we’re not trying to imitate a style but rather bring our musical backgrounds together to create OUR own music.

LCC: Is it ok if I ask some hard questions now? For example, how effectively do you think “Is America Part of the World?” comes across? What I mean is that the idea is pretty funny if you think about it – obviously, America is part of the world, we’ve got just as much a right to make “world music” as anybody else. But is it good branding? Something people are going to remember?

SK: I think it’s a great name…thanks for the idea! [grin]

LCC: At this point in history, is Brooklyn really part of the world? You’re playing a club in Gowanus where there are all these hideous gentrifier condo buildings sprouting up amidst the warehouses, rents are rising, destroying the neighborhood. How would you respond to a cynic who might say something like, “These guys are just a bunch of rich white kids ripping off styles from around the world, if they really cared about the world they’d bring in a real qawwali band?”

SK: First I’d say I’m not rich and not even close to it and I think I can speak for all of the musicians on the event. Second I’d say if all you really want to hear a “real” qawwali band you probably won’t come to our festival and probably shouldn’t. The whole point of this festival is to bring together bands who are interpreting the music that they have a passion for. We’re searching for the point of convergence where our musical backgrounds meet with our musical passions. That’s it. If you think about the history of all music in the new world; jazz, blues, salsa, merengue, samba, maracatu, rock and roll, etcetera, you will not be able to define this music without realizing the fact that it took many cultures, many people coming together and mixing their musical and cultural backgrounds. None of this music would exist if it weren’t for Europeans, indigenous and African people being thrown into a turbulent culture where they had to find common ground to communicate together with music. So what’s the difference if we choose to do the same thing today?

LCC: I’m always impressed with how diverse the crowds are at your shows: at least they’re part of the world. Beyond the usual Bushwick blogs, how do you get the word out about them? Or is it a word of mouth thing, either you know or you don’t?

SK: I send out a big newsletter every month announcing our gigs and we also do the social networking song and dance. There’s a community of people who are really interested in what we’re doing so they just keep tuned in to what we’re up to.

LCC: How’d you end up at Littlefield this time? I like the place a lot – the sound is good and there’s none of the disrespect you get on the Lower East Side for example…

SK: My partner Mehmet and I checked out the club and really liked the vibe of the people and the room. It also has a great sound.

LCC: After this, when’s the next show and who’s on it?

SK: This will be Nation Beat’s last show in town until 2011. I have a brass band playing forró music on December 14th at Barbes.

Is America Part of the World starts at 9 on Friday, December 10 with Tall Tall Trees, Brooklyn Qawwali Party at 10 and Nation Beat at 11 at Littlefield, 622 Degraw St. (3rd/4th Aves.) in Gowanus, Brooklyn, easy to get to from the F or R trains. Tickets are $13 at the door and will probably sell out: early arrival is advised.

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December 2, 2010 Posted by | concert, funk music, interview, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, rock music, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Dende & Hahahaes at Lincoln Center 4/15/10

Dende & Hahahaes have a stylistically diverse new album out that highlights their ability to shift energetically between samba, roots reggae and a whole lot of other tropical styles. Thursday night the crowd at the Atrium at Lincoln Center didn’t start dancing until the band’s first salsa groove, but most of them stayed on their feet for the rest of the show.

A big man with a megawatt grin, percussionist/singer Dende led the band from behind his congas – and played acoustic guitar on one song, a bracingly catchy minor-key vamp lit up by a long wah-wah solo by their electric guitarist. The rest of the vocals were supplied by a soulfully brassy singer who played boomy pan percussion when she wasn’t on the mic. With the relentless beat coming from band’s front line, their drummer got the chance to add some nimble counterrhythms when he wasn’t putting up with Dende’s playful showboating (there was a point where Dende demonstrably decided to adjust the drum volume, which drew plenty of laughs). Their keyboardist swayed in her seat, alternating between hypnotic latin vamps and bouncy samba lines in addition to some slyly woozy synthesizer settings – one of their several catchy Bahian numbers saw her playing through a fluttery flute patch, another with a reverberating Rhodes sound.

A trio of songs worked a hypnotic midtempo afrobeat groove; a couple others had an amped-up jangly, guitar-driven forro feel. The singers would take turns running a simple, insistent lyrical line, in Portuguese, many of them becoming singalongs with the large and exuberant expat crowd. Bassist Ze Grey hung back and provided fat, catchy hooks all night, waiting til the end where he’d finally cut loose with a blast of chords and fiery, melodic riffage. And when they finally closed the set with a catchy, irresistibly bouncing minor-key disco number – the Gap Band gone to Bahia – Grey played delicious variations off the central hook while the keyboardist turned her synth all the way up for a crazy, distorted texture. They encored with a cut off the new album that sounds like a Brazilian adaptation of Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean, Dende working the crowd in the front and on both sides of the stage (one woman he enticed up onstage was clearly out of her element, but another seized the moment and wowed the crowd with her moves). The free Thursday concerts here continue on April 22 at 8:30 with intriguing Chinese-American avant jazz chanteuse Jen Shyu.

April 17, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: The Inbreeds at Banjo Jim’s, NYC 12/9/07

The evening started an hour earlier across the street at Esperanto, where a forro band was playing unamplified in the window. Forro is Brazilian rainforest dance music, under ideal circumstances with acoustic stringed instruments like cuatro and guitar, and accordion. At its best, forro is the South American equivalent of Balkan gypsy music, as haunting as it is rousing. “What’s this band’s name? Mike’s band,” their leader, percussionist Nanny Assis joked. He’s been playing SOB’s for a long time: this is his weekly Sunday early-evening project, just two percussionists and accordion. They sound best at the bar where you can hear them over the yuppies chowing down on overpriced Spanish food. It was nice to be able to get out of the rain and hear this for an hour before splashing across the street. And it’s always fun to go out on a rainy night: you can always get a seat.

The Inbreeds played an absolutely hilarious set of country song parodies. It’s as if somebody in the band heard Tammy Faye Starlite’s Used Country Female album and said, hey, we can do this too. This show was that good. They’re very theatrical, and their act is very visual: imagine the best thing you’ve ever seen at Fringe Festival, only better. It wouldn’t be fair to give away their jokes, but over the course of an hour, they did spot-on spoofs of the country eulogy song, the American Idol ditzy country girl song, the dead dog song, the religious song, the Charlie Daniels clan-versus-clan epic, the sentimental those-were-the-days ballad, the one-night-stand song, the faux-country stadium rock song and finally the right-wing political song that closed the set, in which it was revealed at the end that the continued health of the American consumer economy is completely dependent on the availability of Chinese slave labor. Topics covered in the process include masturbation, teenage homosexuality, abortion, masturbation again, sexism, racist bigotry, religious intolerance and musicians’ inability to resist the urge to ham it up (one song featured banjo played with a bow like Jimmy Page used to play guitar). The material may frequently be sophomoric but the songs are very thoughtfully composed – whoever writes them obviously has the source material down cold. The humor extends to the music as well: even when nobody’s singing, the band is still trying to pull laughs and for the most part succeeded, even if the sound was as awful as it usually is here. Why the club can’t make it work in such a cozy, comfortable space is hard to understand.

The musicians in the Inbreeds are excellent. Haunting accordionist Annette Kudrak predictably steals the show, even if just she’s sitting in the back playing and contributing the occasional vocal harmony. There are two frontmen, one alternating between guitar and banjo, the other playing a standup drum kit. Both are a little stagy and very funny. The unit also has bass, violin (which was pretty inaudible throughout the show) and a woman on backup vocals who took a couple of breathtakingly good, twangy turns on lead vocals.

Where this really ought to be is Broadway: not off-Broadway, but in one of the big Broadway theatres, where wide-eyed tourists from the heartland can pay a hundred bucks a head so this talented crew can earn union scale and maybe teach the out-of-town crowd a thing or two. The ultimate irony here, of course, is that most country musicians go into music for the same reason that nonconformists in the Middle Ages did: to find a safe haven within an oppressive society. Just like five hundred years ago, most musicians, wherever they are, still swing hard to the left. Nashville included. The Inbreeds play Hank’s in Brooklyn on January 17 at 9 PM.

December 10, 2007 Posted by | concert, country music, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment