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LE NEWSLETTER

February 15, 2007

Happy belated
Valentine's Day!  Yeah, whatever.  Try to shovel your way out of this winter dumping long enough to have a good read of all the hot news and events this week!

I have a special interview for you this week with
Canada's Tamia!  We had the opportunity to sit down for a few minutes last week to talk about many things - you'll fall in love with her!! 

Added to the list of events is the special HIV/AIDS fundraiser Oscar Goes to Africa Fundraising Event for the Stephen Lewis Foundation on February 25, 2007.  Come out and support!

Don't forget the artistic and athletic dance of the
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater on February 16-17.  Be sure to mark your calendars for the inspiring sounds of the Grammy-winning Soweto Gospel Choir on February 27-28.  Langfield Entertainment and The Hummingbird Centre have a special offer for you.  Check out the details below!

 

::HOT EVENTS::

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Toronto - Feb. 16-17!

Source: Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts

TORONTO, Ontario – For more than 45 years, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has dazzled audiences from New York City to South Africa to China with unparalleled artistry.  After a long awaited return, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is back at The Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts in celebration of Black History Month for three performances only from February 16 – 17, 2007.

Through captivating performances and unparalleled artistry, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has been fulfilling Alvin Ailey’s vision that “dance is for everybody… dance came from the people and it should always be delivered back to the people.”  From jazz-inspired works and intimate portraits to explosive epics teeming with passion, “one cannot deny the genius behind Ailey’s…stirring eloquence,” says the Washington Post.

Led by Artistic Director Judith Jamison, this magnificent company celebrates an exhilarating performance, drawing inspiration from a variety of experiences - life’s joy, sorrows, passions, beauty and ultimate truths.  Their unmistakable style and unsurpassed talent, continue to leave audiences breathless.  Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will perform several works from its classic repertory–including Revelations,
Ailey’s signature masterpiece that explores African American spirituals, encompassing songs of love, struggle, and deliverance.  The engagement will also include new dances by some of today’s most exciting, daring, and visionary choreographers.

 

"There are moments when you watch the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and begin to believe that the figures on stage are not quite real. The human body can't really move like that… defies human limits." 

Chicago Sun-Times


FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 16 AND SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 17
ALVIN AILEY AMERICAN DANCE THEATER
The Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts
1 Front St. East
Toronto, Ontario
Friday: 8:00 pm
Saturday (two shows) 2:00 pm & 8:00 pm
Ticket prices range from $55 - $75
Tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster by calling 416-872-2262 or by visiting www.ticketmaster.ca
Or in person at The Hummingbird Centre Box Office, 1 Front Street East, Toronto  
GROUPS of 10 or more call:  416-393-7463 or 1-866-737-0805

Oscar Goes to Africa Fundraising Event - Stephen Lewis Foundation – February 25, 2007

Source: 
Rispah M. Adala

**Win a Trip to
Kenya, London-Nairobi-London, courtesy of Kenya Airways**

The Oscar Goes to Africa fundraising event!  Your chance to have an amazing Oscar experience while supporting a unique fundraising initiative for HIV/AIDS in Africa through the Stephen Lewis Foundation.  Suggested minimum donation to attend is $100 per person, payable by cheque made out to The Stephen Lewis Foundation, or by credit card through Canadahelps. Tax receipts will be provided.   The organizers of this event are three Kenyan Canadians who are greatly committed to raising awareness on the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  Sub-Saharan Africa has just over 10 percent of the world’s population but is home to more than 60 percent of all people living with HIV---25.8 million. In 2005, an estimated 3.2 million people in the region became newly infected, while 2.4 million adults and children died of AIDS.  The Stephen Lewis Foundation provides essential assistance to those suffering from the crippling pandemic of HIV/AIDS in this region, currently funding more than 150 projects with more than 80 organizations in 14 sub-Saharan African     countries.

Africa has been the focus of two critically acclaimed films in the past year; The Last King of Scotland and Blood Diamond. The brilliant performances by Forest Whittaker and Leonardo DiCaprio have both been nominated for Oscar awards in the Male Actor in a Lead Role category.  The Oscar Goes to Africa fundraiser is an opportunity to watch the 79th Annual Academy Awards live on a big screen in a safari picnic themed environment.  Attendees will experience Africa-inspired music, cuisine and beverages at the beautiful Manyata Courtyard Café in Yorkville, Toronto.

Entertainment will be provided by Washington Savage, The Afro-Fusion Band of African Musicians,
DJ Kwame’s music - inspired by the soul of Africa and many more. 

All guests will receive a special “
Asante Sana” basket at the end of the evening.

100% of all funds raised will go to the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2007
OSCAR GOES TO AFRICA FUNDRAISING EVENT
Manyata Courtyard Café
55 Hazelton Lanes, Yorkville
Doors open at 6pm; screening commences at 8pm sharp
$100 per person (Tax receipts will be provided)
Tickets: visit www.manyata.ca; or Rispah Adala at 416.980.4494. Hurry as tickets are limited.

Complimentary Refreshments:
Full bar including special Maasai Martinis courtesy of AMARULA, the tasty WINES OF SOUTH AFRICA and Steam Whistle Breweries
Greg Couillard’s Samosas and Pakoras courtesy of the Spice Room and Chutney Bar
Safari Burgers and Fries courtesy of Hero Burgers
David Nganga’s Kebabs and Nyama Choma courtesy of Mobilemiser Inc.

About the
Stephen Lewis Foundation

The Stephen Lewis Foundation helps to ease the pain of HIV/AIDS in Africa at the grassroots level. It provides care to women who are ill and struggling to survive; assists orphans and other AIDS affected children; supports heroic grandmothers who almost single-handedly care for their orphan grandchildren; and supports associations of people living with HIV/AIDS. For more Stephen Lewis Foundation information please go to www.stephenlewisfoundation.org.

Soweto Gospel Choir Makes Its Triumphant Return To Toronto – Feb. 27-28, 2007

Source: Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts

Langfield Entertainment and The Hummingbird Centre have a special offer for you. The first 65 people who purchase tickets to Soweto Gospel Choir at The Hummingbird Centre February 27 & 28 will receive a copy of their new CD, Blessed. Blessed has been nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Traditional World Music Album category!  For February 27th, follow the link HERE and for February 28th, follow the link HERE and enter in the promo code blessed.  Act now - this offer is only available to the first 65 readers!

Soweto Gospel Choir is an awe-inspiring vocal ensemble, performing in eight different languages, in an inspirational program of tribal, traditional and popular African gospel.  Returning to The Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts after a standing room only performance in 2005, Soweto Gospel Choir will perform two shows only, from
February 27 – 28, 2007.

Soweto Gospel Choir
has achieved major success in
Europe and in South Africa.  Drawing on the best musical talents from the many churches and communities in and around Soweto, the concert will feature a dynamic four-piece band, traditional dancers and drummers.  Earthy rhythms, rich harmonies, acapella and charismatic performances combine to uplift the soul and express, through a vocal celebration, South Africa's great hopes for the future.  The most exciting vocal group to emerge from South Africa since Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Soweto Gospel Choir, will bring their magnetic energy, joyful spirits and beautiful harmonies to Canadian audiences.  They are much more than simply a musical phenomenon. 

Soweto Gospel Choir was created in 2002. 
David Mulovhedzi and South African Executive Producer Beverly Bryer held auditions in Soweto to form an all-star “super-choir.”  They were able to create a powerful aggregation made up of the best singers from his own Holy Jerusalem Choir, as well as various Soweto churches and from the general public, including a finalist on the nationally-televised South African equivalent of “Star Search.”  Adorned in traditional and beautifully coloured South African garb, the choir has been known to win audiences with their exotic blend of South African spirituals, traditional Zulu, Xhosa and Sotho gospel songs which are interspersed with popular songs and folk anthems.

"Nothing can really prepare you for the riot of exuberance and depth of emotion."  - The Scotsman

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 27 AND WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2007
SOWETO GOSPEL CHOIR
The Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts
1 Front St. East, Toronto, Ontario
8:00 pm
Ticket prices range from $35 - $75
Tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster by calling 416-872-2262 or by visiting www.ticketmaster.ca
Or in person at The Hummingbird Centre Box Office, 1 Front Street East, Toronto  
GROUPS of 10 or more call:  416-393-7463 or 1-866-737-0805

::EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW::

Between Friends Interview With Tamia

(Feb. 9, 2007) Tamia, Canada’s Own Wonder.  Not only is she a mother and wife, but she’s got an amazing sense of self and substance.  What a pleasure to interview one of Canada’s shining artists!  Tamia’s a Grammy-nominated artist and married to NBAer Grant Hill, and her latest offering Between Friends is one extraordinary and iPod friendly CD filled with tracks of real R&B that will move you and interludes that will amuse you.  Tamia chose her long-standing producer Shep Crawford and added Rodney Jerkins on three tracks as well.  This CD gets 5 out of 5 in my books!

For a little background, Tamia was bon and raised in Windsor, Ontario She still remains one of the only artists to have received Grammy nominations before even releasing an album, all at the tender age of 19.  She is best known for her 2001 solo hit Stranger In My House and for Into You, her 2003 duet with rapper Fabolous. After three successful albums, she left Atlantic Records and released her new album Between Friends independently.  Tamia only aspired to be a vocal coach, but a chance trip brought her to Los Angeles where she caught the attention of super-producer Quincy Jones at a 1994 awards show after party.

Tamia speaks to us about life, family, the music business and her battle with MS. 

Welcome back home!   Do you get a chance to visit us here in Canada often? 

Yes I actually do.  My family still lives in Windsor (LaSalle).  We go there all the time, at least every two months.  In the winter, they come and visit me since I live in Florida now.  Especially with my daughter, it’s important that she go there.  She always tells everyone, “I’m half Canadian and half American.”  She knows the Canadian anthem, she doesn’t know the American anthem.  She hears me singing it (the Canadian anthem).  I sang it for one of the All Star games that Grant (Hill) was playing in.  The Canadian anthem is a beautiful song. 

Your CD is so great – it reminds me of old skool days.  I’ve found something in every track especially Too Grown and When a Woman – there isn’t one I don’t like and unfortunately, I don’t get to say that often. 

Oh thanks.  It’s classic R&B.  I wanted to do a classic R&B album and not be about the producers and have so much music over the vocals.  Just really about the melodies and the songs and the emotion.  And making an entire album that you can listen to from top to bottom.  And not to take you on these big waves and dips – but very consistent.  Now we’re finding in picking second and third singles, it’s difficult because I didn’t want to do an album that had fillers.  I wanted to do an album that all songs were all good enough to be singles.  Luckily for me, when we went to work in the studio with Shep Crawford (who executive-produced the project). We have a connection – he’s a great writer and he writes for how I sing.  We write together very well.  It just kept flowing. 

Who was the male voice on the CD? 

The guy voice on the album was Grant, the male voice singing was Eric Benet

Vocally it’s really superior and I can’t say that enough.  What’s been the highlight around this project for you?

The highlight is going out there and singing live.  That’s been the highlight of the project.  The songs take on a different personality when you sing them live.  You love them in the studio and it’s great but when you get the live instruments and you get the vibe in the room – you can just feel the energy in the room, they take on a whole new energy.  I loved “Me” when we recorded it but I love it even more when I sing it live.  It comes alive and you could drop a pin in the room.  When you hear the piano and the guitar going … That’s the best part … loving songs you record on an album and loving to do them live.  And also being able to do them justice live because we use live instruments.  People actually leave saying “I liked it better live.” 

What are your thoughts about the music industry and what’s been the biggest challenge?

The industry has become very disposable for artists.  I’ve been in it for a while now (almost 11 years) and I’ve seen a lot of artists come and go and it’s not because they weren’t talented.  It’s because if the record doesn’t hit right away, then they (labels) want to move on to the next person and it’s become very disposable.  It’s important for artists to get a hold of their career.  For example, and I know you can’t always do this when you’re starting out, I put this album out independently.  I created my own record company, Plus One Music Group.  I do distribution through Universal in Canada.  I think that the only way you can make sure that you’re around is to make sure that you control the product and obviously that you have a good stage show – that sustains you. 

It’s called the music business, and there’s a lot of business that goes on.  Getting on stage and singing is such a small part – that’s why you’re so excited to get out there and you can’t wait.  That’s your release moment.  There’s a lot of things that go on behind the scenes to make that stage performance even happen.  I think we have to be in control more of our own destinies and not just give up our lives.  Just because someone says that you’re not good enough doesn’t mean that that’s the end.  You have to keep moving and try to have as much control over your product as possible. 

I’ve seen people who have had hits actually and you never hear of them again.  Even on the business side of it, in the major record companies, even those jobs are turning over very quickly.  I think my first contract was like a four album deal because they realized that it was going to take at least the first album to get to know you and to be drawn to you.  Now if they don’t know you after the first single … it’s very difficult to sell an album now. 

And people have way more access to music now.  But I don’t think the quality is there.  People that were in the top 10 five years ago wouldn’t have been in the top 30 if you look at album sales alone.  For people to go out and buy an album, which you can pretty much download for free.  If you don’t believe as an artist in what you’re selling, then you’re selling yourself short and the fans as well.  They’re not so forgiving and you’ve got to get it right. 

It’s become homogenized.  It’s the same ol’ thing.  Once they find a formula, let’s get a girl with blonde hair and let’s put her with this producer, this producer’s hot right now, and that’s the formula so let’s do it over and over again.  Then they’re over that formula.  Then whoever’s the next hot person, let’s get 10 other person to look like that hot person.  The only person that wins at that is the person that did it first. 

Who are some of your influences –musically or personally.  What’s the formula  that makes up your sound?

I grew up listening to a lot of gospel.  The first concert I ever went to was a Winans/Clark Sisters concert and so I grew up listening to them.  I love a lot of female singers as well, Gladys Knight, Chaka Khan, Yolanda Adams, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston of course.  I love those classic female voices.

Who are some of your favourite Canadian artists?  Favourite overall artists?

Deborah CoxDeborah has an amazing voice and she’s really really nice.  I like Nelly Furtado too.

If you could work with any artist, living or past, who would it be?

Oh goodness.  I’d love to do a song with Ella Fitzgerald.  That would be fun. 

What do you want people to remember you for?

I want to be remembered for things that I do musically but also I do outside of music in maintaining my family, my career and finding that balance.  My husband and I do charity work too.  I think it’s about finding a balance.  I could be the best singer in the world but if my daughter doesn’t know me and if she doesn’t think I’m the bomb, then what was it all for?

I’ve met a lot of singers who are really great and I’ve met their kids and I was like woooow.  You sacrificed all of that for your own greatness. There’s a sadness to me about that.  I’d like you to meet my daughter and say ‘You’ve done a good job’.  And then you would think even more of me as a singer!  (laughs)

How have you found your balance?

I think it’s what you want out of your life.  I’ve been fortunate to see the good and the bad and the ugly in having money.  Even before I was an entertainer, I got to realize that it’s not all about that.  I know lots of people who are very wealthy and very sad.  But I lots of people who are very wealthy and very happy as well.  There’s one common thing – they’re happy with their family and happy in their own skin.  So you have to have that happiness within yourself in order to be happy.  I think those are the important things.  If I didn’t think that daughter and my husband were cool at home, I wouldn’t be able to sit here and be calm, talking with you.  I’d be like, I gotta get home! 

But they’re fine.  She’s not brushing her teeth or combing her hair, but she’s fine!  (laughs)

How has having MS made you approach your career/life differently? 

When I was in the hospital and they were trying to figure out what it was, I wasn’t thinking ‘oh my career’, I was thinking ‘oh my family’.  I have to get better for them.  It really puts things into perspective.  At the end of the day, what are the things that are most important to you?  That’s the people and the love that you have from the people around you.  And those same people are the ones that rallied behind me.  They said’ let’s go, let’s get it going.  You’re not feeling sorry for yourself.’  My husband said ‘You should put this album out on  your own label, you should own it.’  So I thought I can do this!  And you need those people around you. 

What it changed about me is that it put everything into perspective.  I feel very fortunate and blessed that I have a job that I love to do.  And I have such a great family and they support me in what I do.  My parents both worked in factory and they both hated their jobs and I got to see that.  So, I feel very blessed.  I mean, there are days when I feel like ‘ahhh, this business!’  I have a job that I love and that I get to affect and touch people.  Music is such a powerful thing.  It speaks to the heart.  No matter where you are, no matter what country it is, it speaks to the heart.  It’s a powerful gift. 

I think God puts an anointing on certain voices and that anointing is what speaks to the heart.  You can feel it and when its in a room and you’re singing and you can feel the whole atmosphere like ‘whoa!’  Sometimes the atmosphere changes and you can feel it so heavy.  It’s an extremely powerful gift.  I just feel honoured to be able to share it with everyone. 

 

Special thanks to Daphne Gray of Universal Music Canada for hooking up the interview in the beautiful pink room of the Park Hyatt.  For more updates on Tamia, go to www.tamiaworld.com.

::JUST MY OPINION::

Ellen - Music Lover? Guilty!

I just love me some
Ellen!  No, not that way.  I've only caught a handful of episodes of the Ellen DeGeneres Show but I have to admire this woman who has not only defeated the odds by coming back after coming 'out' but who is still such a fan of music and the expression of it.  There's nothing that renews my love for my involvement in this industry, even though it's remote, than seeing a fan just embrace music.  Ellen often speaks on the power of music and the fact that she dedicates a portion of her show just to have people dance is more evidence of her love and attachment to it - it's just great! 

OK, so many of the audience members often remind me of people that I've witnessed gyrating and convulsing to some sort of beat on the dance floor which I've rolled my eyes at, I must admit that I can see now that they're just having a good time and letting the music move them.  Isn't that what music is supposed to do?  Perhaps I'm less of a cynic and accept the expressions of a fan. 

Have you noticed Ellen's inclination towards soul music (Aretha's her favourite) and even hip hop?  At the pre-Grammys, sshe bought
Luda a doo rag and said that hip hop artist Nelly is one of the sweetest guys she knows.  This week on her 'Ellen at the Grammys' show, she had Nelly Furtado on and it was great to see some Canadian talent on a U.S. national stage having a good time and doing us proud. 

Even Beyonce (sigggh!) credits
Ellen with getting her through her performance at the Grammys as she saw Ellen singing the words and dancing in her chair in her eye line while performing.  That's powerful stuff.

And that's just my opinion.

::TOP STORIES::

Denise Gillard Witnesses The Fruition Of A Dream For Her Children's Choir

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Val Ross

(Feb. 10, 07) She has a master's of divinity degree from McMaster University in Hamilton, a grandfather who fought at Vimy Ridge and was recommended for a Distinguished Conduct Medal, and a phalanx of ancestors in Nova Scotia graveyards from Springhill to Truro. On her mother's side, one line goes back through nine generations of Loyalist stock and
Mi'kmaq first nations. "Ten," her mother corrects her. But Rev. Denise Gillard, 45, laughs and shrugs that she's not sure how the older folks are really counting. "I'm Canadian, ninth or 10th generation," she says. "But people ask what island I'm from." Meaning Caribbean island -- because if you're an African-Canadian, you must be from Jamaica, or so the reverend senses her white neighbours feel. As she talks, she sounds easygoing. But her message isn't. "I often feel I am not at home in my own country." When you don't feel at home, you build a community. Ms. Gillard is the founder of the Toronto Children's Concert Choir and Performing Arts Company, TC3 for short. TC3's résumé will get a major boost on Feb. 27 and 28, when its 50 kids perform in the mezzanine lounge of the Hummingbird Centre, a pre-performance warm-up act to the Soweto Gospel Choir.

Tyra, 15, has been with TC3 since she was 8. She says what she likes is "performing and seeing the people's faces."
Gabby, 13, who sings and dances with TC3, says, "I come to this because it's like my family. People come together and support each other." Ms. Gillard listens approvingly, and then declares, with almost biblical cadence, that her group is open: "Whosoever will, may come." But most of the kids who come to TC3 are Christian and black. Canada is home to more than 660,000 people of African descent. In Toronto, about one person in 15 (more than 300,000 people) is black. The choir's centre is in Scarborough's Eglinton East/Kennedy Park district. Here, on an industrial street of small-scale manufacturing, wrecking yards, car mechanics and bargain outlets near the Lawrence East subway stop, is Ms. Gillard's congregation, the Living Hope Community Church, and TC3's rehearsal space. Every two weeks, TC3's full group, about 53 children and teens -- 80 per cent from single-parent families -- turn up to practise singing and dancing.  They also get fed and have academic tutoring; 11 TC3 "grads" have gone on to postsecondary education programs, from the University of Toronto to Ohio State. All this is accomplished in three rooms crammed with boxes, banners, keyboards and drums, costumes, a pulpit/lectern, a dining area and some used computers.  Coming up with the $1,600 a month in rent (plus utilities) for the place is an iffy thing for this group, but TC3's existence has always been a bit of a miracle.

In 2001,
Ms. Gillard says, "I was pastoring a mission at a bigger church, but it was very challenging for me as a female." One day, she got a call from a Baptist minister in Detroit. "He said, 'God told me to call you and bring my choir up to Toronto.' " Ms. Gillard retorted: "Well, God didn't tell me anything!"  Lest she sound too rude, she agreed to help book the Detroit youth choir into various Toronto churches. "But I am Canadian! I kept asking local kids to be the opening act. I told them, we can't let these Americans show us up."  So TC3 was born, and made a joyful noise unto the Lord, and it was good, and as the Americans were heading back to Detroit, the reverend remarked, "I think God wants you to do this on a more permanent basis."  "God hasn't told me that, either," Ms. Gillard bristled. ("Americans . . . always tell us, 'Why don't you all just -- .' ")  Still, she decided he was on to something. For six years, TC3 survived through the support of parents and local businesses. More recently, it has had some provincial money through the African-Canadian Christian Network. When it gave concerts in Nova Scotia in 2001, and last year went to London, the kids raised their own airfare by selling chocolate bars and the like.  By now the group has done enough performances and developed enough of a profile that Helen Nestor, head of promotions at the Hummingbird Centre, was able to find TC3 by Googling "church," "choir" and "youth."

The Hummingbird is in the midst of finding a new mandate and a new audience. Its recent headlining of Iranian pop stars and Bollywood road shows is part of that strategy. No longer drawing WASP establishment ballet and opera fans -- those companies have moved to the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts -- the former O'Keefe Centre has linked up with a developer, Castlepoint. The Hummingbird gets $15-million, while Castlepoint gets the right to construct a 360-unit condo tower designed by
Daniel Libeskind (the sales centre will be open by June; construction should begin by the third quarter of 2008). If all goes well, the Hummingbird's old performance space is to be rebuilt as a new, interactive multicultural "arts lab" with a video/film theatre.  And Ms. Nestor and her boss, CEO Dan Brambilla, are inviting community groups who have never been through its weighty brass doors before to come in and make themselves at home. It's a big deal and a sign of Toronto's social evolution. The youth of TC3, practising for Feb. 27, can sense that.  "I've been with TC3 to London, Memphis, Vancouver, Detroit, but no matter where you are, it's always butterflies," says Chris Thorne, 22, president of the TC3 youth advisory committee and the group's bass player. "The Hummingbird is a pretty big deal. If you haven't already made it, well, it's a sign that you're well on your way."

Aboriginal Youth Connect To Hip Hop

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Rhiannon Coppin

(Feb. 9, 07)
Nikky Ermineskin sits down in a sound-editing cubby at the Knowledgeable Aboriginal Youth Association centre in East Vancouver. Excitedly, she plays a track recorded by a group of 11-year-olds she is hoping to steer away from graffiti tagging and toward more constructive art forms. Ermineskin, 21, is the recording-studio co-ordinator for KAYA, an organization that advocates and runs programs for urban aboriginal youth. A repeated riff of "No one at home/ No one to hold" hooks into the tune, improvised around the theme of being left behind. The song could be an anthem for aboriginal people in Greater Vancouver, determined not to be left behind in the lead-up to the 2010 Olympic Games. To that end, the aboriginal hip-hop scene is taking part in the city's huge pre-Olympics ice-skating party on Feb. 17, called the Countdown at the Coliseum. "If we actually think about it," Jerilynn Webster, KAYA's director of programs, says, "in the Pacific Coliseum or any other venue, no Indian kids would be allowed on the stage speaking truth, like, 70 or 80 years ago." Ermineskin is quick to correct her: "How about 10 years ago? Five days ago? Yesterday?" Together, they laugh at the undeniable reality.

KAYA's showcase and Time 2 Shine CD release -- both at the Coliseum event -- will cap a week of after-school hip-hop workshops held by KAYA, starting Monday. Ermineskin has a simple explanation for why aboriginal youth are drawn to the inner-city cultural form: "Hip hop is the music for oppressed people." Though rap is sometimes frowned upon for its focus on "bling" and "bitches," the root of hip-hop culture is community, activism, musical talent and pride.
Webster, 22, explains that hip hop's four forms -- graffiti, breakdancing, MC-ing and DJ-ing -- mimic the traditional art forms of many first nations. By embracing hip hop, the youth are able to update and reconnect with aspects of their heritage. Dave Rudberg, the City of Vancouver's general manager of Olympic Operations, says he and his colleagues are looking at ways "to drive aboriginal business and opportunities as a result of the Games." Inclusive events like Countdown at the Coliseum are a first step. Despite four hours of performances by KAYA artists and collaborators, however, it's the ice rink that will take centre stage at the Coliseum event. Free public skating sessions will sandwich a two-hour display of pomp, featuring guests such as Mayor Sam Sullivan, MLA Colin Hansen, MP David Emerson and Tewanee Joseph of the Four Host First Nations Society.

Olympic skater
Mira Leung and 2006 Canadian Junior gold-winning ice dancers Allie Hann-McCurdy and Michael Coreno will perform, Kitsilano's Velocity Speed Skaters will demonstrate their sport. Meanwhile, the aboriginal hip-hop crews will be "keeping it real" on the lower concourse, away from the mainstream, which is right in line with the hip-hop ethos. Ermineskin says KAYA and its collaborators are consciously choosing not to be "tokenized or exploited." They see the event as an opportunity to reach out to an audience -- up to 5,000 over the course of the afternoon -- who might not otherwise attend an aboriginal event. Although she will ask performers to limit their swearing, Ermineskin says the aboriginal artists at the Coliseum will not be toning down their criticisms of society, governments and popular culture. "We don't want to disrespect anybody," she says, "but we have a right to use our voices."

The Countdown at the Coliseum is on Feb. 17 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Pacific Coliseum, 100 N. Renfrew St. Admission is free; see http://vancouver.ca/events.cfm. For details on KAYA's 1st annual Hip Hop Week, starting Monday, call 604-254-5513 or see http://www.kayaweb.ca.

Stunning Blow For Justice Happens Right On Camera

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -


(
February 11, 2007) It is the awesomeness of Mississippi that feeds our imaginations. The grass is as green as Ireland, whole rolling fields of it. The first shots are of vast pine forests so thick dead bodies could be easily hidden in them.    The next shots are of villages which seem set back in time at least 40 or 50 years, when the area was real Ku Klux Klan territory – the peeling paint on one tiny snack bar is the only sign of a way of life that once flourished here and has now retreated. And then a car stops. A handsome older black man, Thomas Moore, steps out and recollects. This is where his brother was dragged to his death more than 40 years ago.  Various white locals he talks to all remember what happened that day. A double murder was committed, and one victim was Moore's brother. Now, after 42 years of seething and internalizing all of this, Thomas Moore is back, not for vengeance but for justice. And so begins the extraordinary Mississippi Cold Case, directed by David Ridgen, a documentary to be sure, but with all of the melodrama of lurid fiction. It airs tonight on CBC. In one early shot Moore is lamenting the fact that he'll never be able to confront the chief suspect, James Forde Seale, who died years ago.

And then comes the kicker: "He ain't dead," chirps the old man at the gas pump. "His house is just over there." And he takes
Moore to a trailer right down the road. "Months of planning can't produce a moment like that," says director David Ridgen, wiping his brow, shaking his head. "It scared me that day, still scares me." In a striking moment, the cover of suspected killer James Ford Seale had been completely blown. Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Dee, both 19, were killed in May 1964, a month before the famous killings of three civil rights workers. Moore and Dee had been hitchhiking and were picked up, driven deep into the thick woods, tortured and killed. Consumed by the bigger case, the FBI dropped the first one but Canadian director Ridgen threaded together a narrative of what might have happened. About his job in the three years spent making the doc, Ridgen jokes, "I drove the car, asked the questions, was camera and sound at times."  Both Ridgen and Moore nod their heads when asked if it's a bit crazy the CBC stuck to this intricate production which American networks consistently ignored. There still has not been a major offer from an American network. Mississippi Cold Case is filled with great spontaneous moments. Moore confronts one man, a church elder, who insists he did not kill Charles Moore – and then he flees into the church with his wife, who bolts the door.  Moore points at Ridgen: "He got it made. Time was ticking out. I felt one of these fellas might die before I could get to them." Shots of the ringleader arrested and in prison orange awaiting arraignment are "satisfying, but I only wish it had happened decades before." Mississippi Cold Case is so well constructed that it plays like the first draft of a feature movie. Perhaps starring Samuel Jackson or Morgan Freeman. Says Ridge: "We're thinking about it."

Mississippi Cold Case airs tonight at 9 on Newsworld and at 10 on CBC.

Anna Nicole Smith Dies

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(February 08, 2007) HOLLYWOOD, Fla. —
Anna Nicole Smith, the pneumatic blond whose life played out as an extraordinary tabloid tale — jeans model, Playboy centrefold, widow of an octogenarian oil tycoon, reality-show subject, tragic mother — died Thursday after collapsing at a hotel. She was 39.  She was stricken while staying at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and was rushed to a hospital. Edwina Johnson, chief investigator for the Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office, said the cause of death was under investigation and an autopsy would be done on Friday.  Just five months ago, Smith’s 20-year-old son died suddenly in the Bahamas in what was believed to be a drug-related death.  Seminole Police Chief Charlie Tiger said a private nurse called 911 after finding Smith unresponsive in her sixth-floor hotel room. He said Smith’s bodyguard administered CPR for about an hour before she was declared dead.  Through the ’90s and into the new century, Smith was famous for being famous, a pop-culture punchline because of her up-and-down weight, her Marilyn Monroe looks, her exaggerated curves, her little-girl voice, her ditzy-blond persona, and her over-the-top revealing outfits.

Recently, she lost a reported 69 pounds and became a spokesperson for TrimSpa, a weight-loss supplement. On her reality show and other recent TV appearances, her speech was often slurred and she seemed out of it. Some critics said she seemed drugged-out.  Her former lawyer Lenard Leeds told the celebrity gossip website TMZ that Smith “always had problems with her weight going up and down, and there’s no question she used alcohol.”
Leeds said it was no secret that “she had a very troubled life” and had “so many, many problems.’’  “She wanted to be like Marilyn her whole life and ironically died in a similar manner,” Leeds said. Monroe died of a drug overdose at age 36 in 1962.  Her attorney Ron Rale told The Associated Press that he had talked to Smith on Tuesday or Wednesday, and she had flu symptoms and a fever and was still grieving over her son.  “Poor Anna Nicole,” he said. “She’s been the underdog. She’s been besieged ... and she’s been trying her best and nobody should have to endure what she’s endured.’’  The Texas-born Smith was a topless dancer at strip club before she entered her photos in a search contest and made the cover of Playboy magazine in 1992. She became Playboy’s playmate of the year in 1993. She was also signed to a contract with Guess jeans, appearing in TV commercials, billboards and magazine ads.

In 1994, she married 89-year-old oil tycoon
J. Howard Marshall II, owner of Great Northern Oil Co. In 1992, Forbes magazine estimated his wealth at $550 million (U.S.).  In a 2005 interview with ABC Smith recalled meeting Marshall at what she called a “gentleman’s club’ in Houston. “He had no will to live and I went over to see him,” she said. “He got a little twinkle in his eyes, and he asked me to dance for him. And I did.’’  Marshall died in 1995 at age 90, setting off a feud with Smith’s former stepson, E. Pierce Marshall, over whether she had a right to his estate.  A federal court in California awarded Smith $474 million (U.S.). That was later overturned. But in May, the U.S. Supreme Court revived her case, ruling that she deserved another day in court.  The stepson died June 20 at age 67. But the family said the court fight would continue.  She starred in her own reality TV series, The Anna Nicole Show, in 2002-04. Cameras followed her around as she sparred with her lawyer, hung out with her personal assistant and interior decorator, and cooed at her poodle, Sugar Pie. She also appeared in movies, performing a bit part in The Hudsucker Proxy in 1994.  After news came of Smith’s death, G. Eric Brunstad Jr., the lawyer who represented Marshall, said in a statement: “We’re very shocked by the news and extend the deepest condolences to her family.’’

In a statement, Playboy founder
Hugh Hefner said: “I am very saddened to learn about Anna Nicole’s passing. She was a dear friend who meant a great deal to the Playboy family and to me personally.’’  Smith’s son, Daniel Smith, died Sept. 10 in his mother’s hospital room in the Bahamas, just days after she gave birth to a daughter.  An American medical examiner hired by the family, Cyril Wecht, said he had methadone and two antidepressants in his system when he died. Low levels of the three drugs interacted to cause an accidental death, Wecht said. Last month, a Bahamas magistrate scheduled a formal inquiry into the death for March 27.  Meanwhile, the paternity of her now 5-month-old daughter remained a matter of dispute. The birth certificate lists Dannielynn’s father as attorney Howard K. Stern, Smith’s most recent companion. Smith’s ex-boyfriend Larry Birkhead was waging a legal challenge, saying he was the father.  Debra Opri, the attorney who filed his paternity suit, said Birkhead “is devastated. He is inconsolable, and we are taking steps now to protect the DNA testing of the child. The child is our No. 1 priority.’’  She was born Vickie Lynn Hogan on Nov. 28, 1967, in Houston, one of six children of Donald Eugene and Virgie Hart Hogan. She married Bill Smith in 1985, giving birth to Daniel before divorcing two years later.  “From my professional exposure to Anna Nicole, I can say she was always personable, down to earth and driven. All in all, a joy to have as a client,” said Wayne Munroe, her Bahamian lawyer who has overseen the aftermath of her son’s mysterious death in Nassau.

Akon and Geffen Records Present Brick & Lace

Source:  Yardflex.com

(Feb. 8, 2007) Part urban singers and part urbane songstresses, sibling duo
Brick & Lace are genre-busters who staunchly defy the 30-second pitch. The amalgamated sound that makes up their 180/Geffen debut, Love Is Wicked, is unique, though also at once very familiar.  Born to a Jamaican father and an American mother and raised predominantly in Kingston, Jamaica, on an opulent musical diet of reggae, R&B, hip hop, pop and country, 26-year-old Nyanda and 24-year-old Nailah Thorbourne couldn't help but be trans-eclectic. "We are a hybrid," affirms Nailah in her effortlessly sexy West-Indian lilt. "It's not fabricated at all; it's who we are."

Indeed, who they are is evident in their moniker: "Our mother came up with the name 'Lace' and we immediately liked it," explains the incisively passionate Nyanda. "But we still felt that there was an edge missing, so I came up with 'Brick.' It has stuck with us ever since and has evolved with us."  To the ladies of Brick & Lace, their name represents the duality and complexity of the every woman. "Sometimes you want to wear a cap and sneakers and look grimy," Nyanda tells. "And sometimes you want to wear your sexy dress and heels and look cute." Nailah puts it all in perspective: "People always ask: 'Who is Brick & Lace?' And we always tell them it depends on the day!"

This unpredictability and uncompromising expressiveness makes Love Is Wicked (which features the production prowess of
Akon, Raphael Saadiq, Will.I.Am, among others) an aural delight. On their agile down-bottom introductory single "Never," over Akon's seething sonic brew, Brick & Lace caution wayward suitors to behave themselves if they want a chance with the sisters. "The track's so grimy that the lyrics and the arrangement just came to us," Nailah recalls enthusiastically. "It was a very collaborative effort that was fun and exciting to record all the way."

'Rocket' Scores Genies Triple Hat Trick

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Peter Howell, Movie Critic

(February 14, 2007) It shot ... it scored!  The Rocket, the Quebec-made screen story of Montreal Canadiens great Maurice “The Rocket” Richard, slapped nine awards into the net last night at the 27th Genie Awards for Canadian film.  Known as Maurice Richard in its home province, The Rocket was the most valuable player of the evening by any name and its nine wins symbolically matched the No. 9 on the late Richard’s famous jersey.  The film took the gold for Best Director (Charles Binamé), Actor (Roy Dupuis), Actress (Julie LeBreton) and Supporting Actor (Stephen McHattie), plus Cinematography, Art Direction, Costume Design, Editing and Sound Editing.  Dupuis fought back tears as he accepted his Best Actor award and spoke of his friendship with hockey legend Richard, who died in 2000.  “He opened up to me and we became friends, and then he died. But I think he’s not really dead, because he’s still winning. So I’ll just say what Maurice would have said: thank you.”  The ceremony at The Carlu came with a classic Canuck snowstorm raging outside for added realism — and indoors a sudden-death finish for Best Motion Picture.

The top Genie went not to The Rocket, but rather to its nominations rival Bon Cop, Bad Cop, the bilingual buddy comedy that has the distinction of being the top-grossing Canadian film of all time, earning more than $12.5 million at the national box office.  Its financial success was enough to earn Bon Cop the non-competitive Golden Reel Award for top Canuck ticket seller, in a year when several Canadian films did uncommonly brisk box office.  The Rocket director
Charles Binamé said he had mixed emotions losing the Best Motion Picture award to Bon Cop, Bad Cop. He wanted the prize, but he’s friends with the makers of the buddy cop movie. He was happy to see them get the award, “because it’s good to recognize comedy as a legitimate contender.”  But he had one small dig for the story about rival cops across the Ontario-Quebec border: “I don’t buy the storyline,” he said with a smile.  But the rest of the evening was mostly bad for Bon Cop, which took just one other Genie, for Overall Sound. The final score for Bon Cop was two wins for 10 nominations.  The Rocket fared much better, with nine wins for its leading 13 nominations, just one Genie less than last year’s big winner C.R.A.Z.Y. And it joins a Quebec winning streak, where two films from la belle province share the record for Genies: Denys Arcand’s Jesus of Montreal and Jean-Claude Lauzon’s Un zoo la nuit, both of which won 13 trophies.  The Rocket may just be the first movie to win the most Genies while at the same time losing the most prestigious prize of all.  But it escaped the more ignominious fate of a shut-out, which other contenders suffered.  Tideland, a head-tripping coming-of-age saga, was 0-6. Cheech, about chaotic affairs in an escort agency, was 0-4. And the TV comedy spin-off Trailer Park Boys: The Movie, which set a Canadian box office record for its opening week, was 0-3.  All of the other winners besides The Rocket and Bon Cop had to be content with single Genies.

B.C. native
Carrie-Anne Moss, best known for her work in the sci-fi franchise The Matrix, was the sole actor not to win for The Rocket. She won for the bittersweet comedy Snow Cake, set in Ontario’s north.  She was a no-show at last night’s events but sent her thanks via video, saying she values her Canadian homeland and the luck she has had as an actress. “I just feel like the luckiest person in the world to do this for a living.”  Toronto’s Jennifer Baichwal, director of Manufactured Landscapes, the winner for Best Documentary, said she feels her film about manmade changes to the natural world is in tune with greater public concern for the environment.  “I think the fate of the Earth is top of mind right now with many people, I really do.”  They’re starting to realize they have no choice but to care about the natural world, she added.  “If we don’t, we’re all going to perish.”  Patrick Roy, executive producer of Bon Cop, Bad Cop, was upbeat about the prospects for a sequel (“as soon as possible”) and also the franchise potential for the chemistry between stars Colm Feore and Patrick Huard, who play rival cops in Ontario and QuebecRoy was equally enthusiastic about the prospects for Canadian films in general, which historically have struggled in the shadow of Hollywood.

The key to success is to continue to make movies that celebrate Canadian culture, he said.  “I think the biggest mistake we can make is to try to copy what the Americans are doing.”

::MUSIC NEWS::

Don't Give Me That Jazz

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail -
J.D. Considine

(Feb. 10, 07) 'I believe the
Bad Plus is jazz," says Ethan Iverson. "But if people say it's not jazz, it's fine. It's the Bad Plus." Given that the Bad Plus -- with Iverson on piano, Reid Anderson on bass and David King on drums -- looks like a classic jazz piano trio, with no electric instruments, and a penchant for lengthy improvisation, it's hard at first glance to imagine why anyone would not consider them jazz. But because the trio doesn't stick to traditional, swing-derived rhythms and likes to play tunes by alt-rockers such as Nirvana, the Pixies and Blondie, some jazz critics and fans have written the Bad Plus off as a rock band in jazz clothing. To a certain extent, that has more to do with the trio's media profile than with the music it makes. "We got a lot of press for the rock covers," says Iverson, over the phone from his home in Brooklyn, N.Y. "But the covers are fairly deconstructed in a normal jazz way. Like on our first major label album, These Are the Vistas, there's a Blondie tune and a Nirvana song. But the Nirvana is swinging 4/4, and the Blondie is free jazz." Iverson and his band mates aren't complaining about the press coverage, by the way, because on the whole, the media have been very, very good to them. "We got a sort of old-fashioned, high-profile publicity send-off in 2003 that was beyond our wildest dreams," the pianist admits.

"There were things even in the mainstream press about us. It really took us by surprise. It took the label by surprise. And we're eternally grateful for that. In the postmodern world, fewer and fewer artists are getting that type of chance." Part of what makes the Bad Plus so accessible to non-jazz fans is that it doesn't work like a typical jazz combo. For starters, says Iverson, "the music of the Bad Plus is aligned with indie rock. Absolutely. We really believe in the song, first and foremost, and the emotional connection we try to establish is, I think, philosophically similar." Then there's fact that this isn't "The Reid Anderson Trio with
Ethan Iverson and David King." It's a band, with all three members taking an equal share in the writing, playing and decision-making. "It can be a bit leader-centric in jazz, and at one point that was fine. But I think it's very hard for people to keep working groups together today," says Iverson. "And in that sense, I think we also have something out of the rock tradition in the fact that the three of us are all three composers, just sort of doing this thing, splitting everything equally." Iverson credits some of that to the fact that the Bad Plus aren't part of "the cool New York jazz tradition" -- although he adds, "To be honest, if I could be part of the cool New York jazz tradition, maybe I would go for that. But since I wasn't born here, I'm not part of that. And neither are Reid and Dave. We just have to do what we do.

"See, one of the things about our aesthetic is we grew up in the
Midwest, and we've never tried to be anything other than who we are. We've checked out a lot of music, and are reasonably fluent in many different genres. Between us, Reid has played in symphony orchestras, I've played in tango bands, Dave's recorded hip-hop records -- we've done all sorts of stuff. But when we come together in the Bad Plus, it's just sort of like the old Minnesota chums, hanging out and doing their thing." By any standard, jazz or rock, their thing is doing quite nicely. Since 2003, the Bad Plus have released three albums -- These Are the Vistas, Give and Suspicious Activity? -- with a fourth due in early May, and the band has toured extensively. "We've been playing upwards of 150, 200 gigs a year, all over the world, trying to jump through the window while it's open," Iverson says. "All three of us quit or tabled our other projects -- we knew that this was our chance to sort of try to have a proper career in music." But on a certain level, what pleases Iverson most is the kind of audiences the Bad Plus have been reaching. "There is a lot of music in the Bad Plus that has a beat that has more to do with rock, or electronica, or something not related to the swing beat," he says. "So as a result, we somehow managed to reach people who love rock -- of all ages, but especially youth. "It has happened to me more than once that a teenager has come up to me and said, 'I didn't know I liked jazz. Now I'll have to check it out.' Then I really feel like I can die in peace, because no one ever had to tell me how deep and mystical and wonderful jazz is. "I mean, I've been listening to Thelonious Monk since I was 10 or 11," he says.  "But in America, you probably won't be that exposed to jazz unless someone leads you to it. So sometimes the Bad Plus leads people to it, and that's great."

The Bad Plus performs with the
Roy Hargrove Quintet at Toronto's Massey Hall tonight at 8 (416-872-4255).

Aguilera Looking Ahead As Spring Tour Looms

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Gary Graff, Detroit

(February 07, 2007) The North American leg of her Back to Basics 2007 tour is still as couple weeks away, but
Christina Aguilera says she's already looking further into her future.  "I'm already exploring new ideas for what the next look is and what the next sound will be, which I'm really excited about," Aguilera said on a conference call yesterday (Feb. 6). "I have to put it on the back burner and finish with the tour, but I definitely have ideas for the next (project)."  But, she added, "I can't give away what they are. There always has to be that element of surprise and really giving my audience something to be excited about for next time. What I can tell you is, yeah, I am extremely driven. It'll always be inside of me to keep that focus ... of bettering myself and constantly evolving and changing and seeing what the next time has to offer."  Aguilera did let on that she does have acting ambitions. "Like music, it's another art form I want to take seriously," she explained. "I've been reading scripts and whatnot. I want to make sure it's the right role and, if I want to act, to do just that, not just play myself as a singer."

One of those places will be the Grammy Awards ceremony on Sunday in
Los Angeles, where Aguilera is nominated for two trophies and will perform -- another secret that she promised will be "a special treat for everybody, including myself. It's something I've never actually performed anywhere before." She's also slated to sing at halftime of the NBA All Star game on Feb. 18 in Las Vegas -- two days before Aguilera kicks off her North American tour in Houston.  She'll visit 41 cities into early May with an extravaganza that includes 92,000 pounds of equipment, 10 costume changes, 820 pounds of confetti, several stage sets and a vintage carousel horse -- not quite "basics." "If I play an arena," she noted, "I don't think it would be fair to my audience to just kind of sit on a stage with a mic."  Off the stage, however, Aguilera said she'll continue plotting her next move. "When you're on tour you learn so much about yourself (and) have a lot of time for yourself," she said. "You get a lot of time to write, write in my journal, express myself, so by the time the next record comes around, I have a good idea of a head start of where to go next."

Common: Getting Some Props

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Feb. 7, 07) Hip-hop artist
Common will be among the honourees duringthe 5th annual AEC Grammy Luncheon, to be held Feb. 11 at the Beverly Hilton hotel.  R&B hottie Chris Brown and original 'Dreamgirls' star Sheryl Lee Ralph will also be feted by the not-for-profit Artists Empowerment Coalition, which considers itself the urban music industry's leading social responsibility organization. "The AEC Brunch is a wonderful celebration and acknowledgement of those who use their creativity, music, art and culture to "give-back" to the community and inspire others to do the same," offered respected entertainment attorney L.Londell McMillan, who founded the organization in the early 1990s. "The event represents the soul and faith of a creative people hoping and working to improve the quality of life for our community. It also brings so many wonderful and talented people together to congregate and fellowship."  Through the years, McMillan --through his New York City-based law practice The McMillan Firm, and NorthStar Business Enterprises -- have represented some of the biggest names in music, including Prince, Michael Jackson, Spike Lee and Lil' Kim, among many others.

Legally known as Lonnie Rashied Lynn, Common is a hip-hop pioneer who brought the
Midwest rap scene into the mainstream with a slew of albums released in the 1990s via the now-defunct Relativity Records. Currently a spokesperson for Gap clothing brand, and a staunch advocate for AIDS/HIV Awareness, the single father has been a shining example of evolution and progression -- without all of the pomp and circumstance of many of his platinum-plated colleagues. "Common has been an innovator and shining example of maximizing both street credibility and social consciousness by performing great music and demonstrating his love and commitment to his community," McMillan said. "He has authored children's' books, makes himself available to speak to the youth, established an admirable HIV awareness and prevention program and more. He has also been a long-time AEC supporter and we respect and honour Common for all his gifts." According to event spokesperson Nicole 'Nikki Marz' Marzan, rootsy rapper Mos Def will do a special presentation to Common during the ceremony.  Additionally, 'Dreamgirls' movie star Jennifer Hudson will reportedly present Ralph with her award. And Jive Records labelmate Ciara will be on hand to support Brown. Previous honourees at the exclusive event have included entertainment icons such as Stevie Wonder, Kanye West, Queen Latifah, Chaka Khan, Tyra Banks, Danny Glover, Prince, Roberta Flack, Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige, and Nas.

Report: EMI Considers Mp3 Sales Without Copy Protection

Source: Associated Press

(Feb. 9, 07) NEW YORK — Music company
EMI Group PLC — home of the Rolling Stones and Coldplay — has been talking with online retailers about possibly selling its entire digital music catalogue in MP3 format without copy protection, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday, citing numerous people familiar with the matter. The MP3 format, which can be freely copied and played on virtually any device, would allow consumers to play music purchased from any online store on any digital music device. Currently, music purchased at Apple Inc.'s iTunes Store, for example, is wrapped in Apple's proprietary version of Digital Rights Management technology known as “FairPlay” and can only be played on the company's iPod devices. Songs purchased from rival online stores that carry different DRM technology cannot be played on iPods. That has caused some to wonder whether it might be hampering sales. According to the people familiar with the matter, London-based EMI asked the retailers to submit proposals by Thursday telling the company what size advance payments they would offer in exchange for the right to sell EMI's music as MP3s, the Journal reported.

One of the unidentified people said EMI would decide whether to forge ahead with the strategy based on the size of the offers. A decision about whether to keep pursuing the idea could come as soon as Friday, the Journal said. When asked about the report, EMI spokeswoman
Jeanne Meyer told The Associated Press, “We're not commenting on speculation.” Earlier this week, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs called on record labels to abandon their requirement for online music to use DRM, which is designed to limit unauthorized copying. Jobs said such restrictions have done little to slow music piracy and eliminating them would open up the online music marketplace. One person familiar with the matter told the Journal that several major music companies have recently floated the idea of scrapping copy protections, but none appears to have gone as far as EMI, and some maintain that copy-protection software is critical to stop piracy. EMI is the world's third-largest music company by sales and home to acts ranging from The Beatles to the Beastie Boys. But some of its performers — notably including the Beatles — do not yet sell their music in any digital form. EMI has experimented with releasing singles in the DRM-free MP3 format. In the past few months, the company has released tracks by Norah Jones, Lily Allen and the band Relient K. Meyer said Thursday night: “The results of those experiments were very positive, and the fan feedback has been very enthusiastic.”

On The Scene At Air Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By DeBorah B. Pryor

(February 9, 2007) Montego Bay, Jamaica was the place to be recently as the 10th Anniversary
Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival descended upon the island, bringing with it 40,000 music lovers from around the globe, anxiously anticipating the arrival of their favourite artists from the genres of Jazz, Blues, Reggae and Pop.   Themed "The Art of Music" anticipation surrounding this year's festival was high for many reasons: An artist line-up that read like an entertainment Dream Team with performances by the incomparable Earth, Wind & Fire, Chuck Mangione, Roy Ayres, Michael Bolton, Pieces of a Dream, Kenny Rogers, The Robert Cray Band, Christopher Cross, Monty Alexander, the soulful Anthony Hamilton and Russell Thompkins, Jr. and The New Stylistics, and that's just to name a few.  A new seaside venue customized with the event in mind set amidst a clearing next to the ocean utilizing natural ruins from an ancient aqueduct.  An expanded program featuring the music intrinsic to the island nation brought an eclectic mix of reggae artists including Shaggy, Freddie MacGregor, Luciano and Wayne Wonder together for "A Tribute to Reggae"; and a regional U. S. talent competition that held auditions in a variety of U.S. cities and offered local artists an opportunity to perform before a panel of celebrity judges; with the winners traveling to Jamaica to play in a series of satellite concerts that led up to the big event.

"The Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival have a special aura to it unlike any other event that I've produced or experienced," says
Walter Elmore of Turnkey Productions, the hardworking organizers of this massive event. "It is a combination of the musicians, the people, the setting and the infectious vibe of Jamaica that create an almost spiritual experience for anyone who attends..." Backstage in the Press Room, the buzz was on high as artists found their way to eager journalists representing esteemed media outlets throughout the country. To bear witness to Russell Thompkins, Jr. and The New Stylistics as they break into an impromptu acappella rendition of "People Make the World Go Round" is an indescribable delight, especially following their wonderful onstage performance. The impeccable choreography, the harmony; that memorable Thompkins, Jr. falsetto, all of it - had the audience eating out of this group's hands. "It's a blessing. Everything is a blessing," exuded Russell Thompkins, Jr. when this writer asked how he manages to maintain his voice. As the original lead vocalist for The Stylistics, it is that voice impeccable falsetto which has lead the group to international fame, accolades too numerous to name, a plaque on The Walk of Fame and an induction into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.  Two years following the Thompkins, Jr. departure from the original Stylistics in 2000 brought about the release of "A Matter of Style," his first solo album and the formation of his current group, The New Stylistics. "We are two different groups," he stated backstage when asked why "New" was necessary. "There are two guys that I used to sing with, that are The Stylistics...We [the new group] are going back into the studio to start a new album between the four of us…I am starting my second solo album…and there is a DVD that we've cut already that's being finished." There was no denying the excitement from Jamaica's native son Shaggy, who was returning to the event for the second consecutive year as part of the "Art of Reggae tribute."

"
Jamaica has created some incredible superstars," he bragged confidently. Shaggy started his career as a reggae DJ and moved from Jamaica with his family to the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, New York before enlisting in the military. "Bob Marley, myself, Sean Paul, Shabba Ranks, Jimmy Cliff…these guys have paved the way for us and I've had the opportunity to be onstage with them, apart from Bob Marley, of course."  I asked Shaggy, who had to cut his interviews short much to the disappointment of other waiting journalists, to complete a sentence for me that began, "One hundred years from now, say, your name comes up, and people remark 'Shaggy is one artist who never...' (Finish the sentence) "I'd like to say, 'quit' - one artist who never quit because it's been a turbulent type of journey for me. It's had its ups and downs." When asked if he ever thought of giving it all up? "Never," he replies. "This is what I do. I'm horrible at everything else," and added, "To the EUR readers I'd like to say thank you very much for the support over the years and I hope you come to Jamaica and enjoy the jazz festival one of these days (laughs)." True to his word, Shaggy returned the following evening to speak with the journalists he had previously missed; and then went on to blow the audience away during his set with the reggae all stars; into the wee hours of the morning..  "Reggae is so vital to the identity of Jamaican people, our spirit, our culture," says David Shields, Deputy Director of Tourism for the Jamaica Tourist Board; who was one of the sponsors of the event. Mr. Shields was especially excited about this aspect of the program. "It is an art form that has…introduced the world to Jamaica and Jamaican people. It is one of our great ambassadors to the world."

iTunes The Problem, Say Record Labels

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(February 08, 2007)  LOS ANGELES – A recording industry group fired back Wednesday at Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs, suggesting his company should open up its anti-piracy technology to its rivals instead of urging major record labels to strip copying restrictions from music sold online.
Mitch Bainwol, chairman and chief executive of the Recording Industry Association of America, said the move would eliminate technology hurdles that now prevent fans from playing songs bought at Apple's iTunes Music Store on devices other than the company's iPod. "We have no doubt that a technology company as sophisticated and smart as Apple could work with the music community to make that happen," Bainwol said in a prepared statement. In an essay posted Tuesday on the Cupertino-based company's Web site, Jobs called on record labels to abandon their requirement for online music to be wrapped in Digital Rights Management, or DRM, technology, which is designed to limit unauthorized copying.

The major record labels – Universal Music Group, EMI Music, Sony BMG Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group – control some 70 percent of the music market and have maintained that DRM safeguards are needed to stave off rampant piracy. Jobs said eliminating such restrictions would open up the online music marketplace. Songs purchased on iTunes are wrapped in Apple's proprietary version of DRM technology, known as "FairPlay." Songs purchased from rival online stores that carry different DRM technology cannot be played on iPods. In his essay, Jobs said Apple is against licensing "FairPlay'' as an alternative method for making iTunes accessible to all portable players, because making the technology widely available would make it easer for hackers to figure out how to bypass it. Calls to Apple were not immediately returned Wednesday. Several analysts suggested the record companies should follow Jobs' suggestion.

"Clearly, DRM is not working," said
Ted Schadler, an analyst at Forrester Research. "It sends a message to the customer that 'we don't trust you.''' Phil Leigh, senior analyst at Inside Digital Media, suggested that removing copy restraints would give the labels' music more exposure. "Digital music has entered the mainstream," Leigh said. "The restrictions (the labels) require Apple and others to carry are preventing the market from developing to its full potential – it's retarding the growth.'' Not everyone agreed that dumping DRM is the best strategy for the record labels. "Eliminating online DRM appears to us to be an overly risky move that eliminates the potential for a future digital-only distribution model free of piracy," Deutsche Bank analyst Doug Mitchelson wrote in a research note. Jobs could have just as easily lectured the software industry, which includes Apple, for its unwillingness to pursue an industrywide DRM standard or work to make media players recognize and not play pirated songs, Mitchelson wrote. Copy protection is necessary to make other digital music sales models work, such as an all-you-want music subscription offered by Napster and the limited song-sharing features of Microsoft Corp.'s Zune player. "All these music services wouldn't work without DRM," said David Card, music and media analyst for Jupiter Research. "(Music labels) are very nervous about distributing content that is unprotected. They think that everybody will share music, and there's evidence that a lot of people will.''

Other analysts pointed to the success of eMusic, an online service that sells music in the MP3 format, which is free of anti-piracy restrictions. The service, owned by New York-based Dimensional Associates Inc., offers downloads from a catalogue of more than 2 million tracks by independent artists through a subscription plan.
Britain's EMI Music is experimenting with releasing music in the DRM-free MP3 format. In the past few months, the company has released tracks by Norah Jones, Lily Allen and the band Relient K. "The feedback from fans (has) been very enthusiastic," EMI spokeswoman Jeanne Meyer said. Leigh believes older music could be made available without copying restrictions. "I think the labels will release selected back-catalogue stuff, to see what happens," he said.

Coleman Still Ahead Of Jazz Curve

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(February 08, 2007) NEW YORK –
Ornette Coleman has always kept ahead of the curve, even as a teenager back in Fort Worth, Texas, when he'd play hot jazz licks on the saxophone and get a scolding from his church band leader. Today, at 76, the jazz visionary is not slowing down to let others catch up, launching his own record label with his first disc of new music in nearly a decade – the Grammy-nominated CD "Sound Grammar.'' As a largely self-taught musician who dared to be different in the late 1940s and '50s, Coleman suffered worse indignities than even the most hapless "American Idol" contestant. One bandleader paid him not to solo; others simply fired him. Musicians walked off the stage when he showed up at jam sessions. Coleman was told he played out-of-tune and didn't know the basics of jazz improvisation. One incident remains deeply ingrained in his memory. That was the night circa 1950 when the saxophonist was playing with an R&B band at a Louisiana road house and his unconventional bebop-inspired solo stopped the dancers in their tracks. Coleman was dragged outside the club, roughed up and his horn was thrown over a cliff.

"One guy kicked me in my stomach ... and said, `You can't play like that!' He didn't even know what I was doing," recalled
Coleman, perched on a stool in the music room of his Manhattan loft. "I think with dance music it's the rhythm that people like and I was just playing musical ideas. But I really did grow when I realized that all music uses the same notes whether it's classical or religious or funk. ... And when I realized that ... I decided to take my beatings until I can establish where people can say, `Oh don't beat him, listen.''' Coleman now is regarded as one of the greatest innovators in jazz history along with Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker. In the late '50s, he originated "free jazz," challenging the bebop establishment by abandoning the conventional song form and liberating musicians to freely improvise off of the melody rather than the underlying chord changes. Coleman broke down the barrier between leader and sidemen, giving his band members freedom to solo, interact and develop their ideas. "In order to play with Ornette, you have to listen to every note that he plays as you're playing, and you really learn about concentration and listening in that way. ... Ornette approaches improvisation completely different than most people," said bassist Charlie Haden, a member of Coleman's original quartet that rocked the jazz establishment when it burst on the scene in 1959 with the aptly titled album "The Shape of Jazz to Come.'' The jazz revolutionary has now become a respected elder statesman with the accompanying honours, including membership in the elite American Academy of Arts and Letters.

This year, even the Grammys have finally gotten around to recognizing
Coleman with a lifetime achievement award, even though he has never won a Grammy. But Coleman feels an obligation to his musicians and audiences to write new music for every concert he performs rather than play his old compositions or jazz standards. "`Tea for Two' – I don't do that," he said. Frustrated by dealing with fickle record company executives, he started his Sound Grammar label because he wanted "to put out lots of music and some people's tastes might not be the way mine is.'' "Sound Grammar," nominated for a Grammy as best jazz instrumental album, is Coleman's first live recording in nearly 20 years. Its unusual sonic mix includes two acoustic bassists – the classically trained Tony Falanga, who mostly uses the bow, and Greg Cohen, who plucks his bass. Coleman not only plays alto saxophone but also trumpet and violin, two instruments he taught himself to play in an unorthodox style in the 1960s to give himself a more colourful sound palette. The drummer is Coleman's son, Denardo, who has developed an intuitive interplay with his father since his controversial debut in the saxophonist's band at age 10 in 1966. The recording, from a 2005 concert in Ludwigshafen, Germany, features six new Coleman compositions, including the heart-wrenching ballad "Sleep Talking" on which he again shows his uncanny ability to make his saxophone cry out like a human voice with a full gamut of emotions. He also revisits two older pieces –the frenetic "Song X," the title track from a 1985 album with guitarist Pat Metheny, and "Turnaround" from his 1959 album ``Tomorrow Is The Question" on which the alto saxophonist's bluesy wails reflect his R&B roots with some quotes thrown in from ``Beautiful Dreamer" and "If I Loved You.''

"I want everyone to have an equal relationship to the results," said
Coleman. "I don't tell them what or how to play. ... Sometimes the drum is leading, sometimes the bass is leading. ... I don't think I'm the leader, I'm just paying the bills.'' Coleman may be one of the most controversial figures in modern American music, but in person the slightly built musician comes across as a modest, gentle revolutionary – soft-spoken with a high-pitched voice that still bears a trace of a Texas twang. "I don't claim at being the best at anything," said Coleman, whose moustachioed angular face is deeply lined. "But I do know that I have learned how to avoid making musical mistakes.'' In conversation, Coleman shapes his responses almost as if he is improvising a jazz solo in words rather than notes, stating a theme and stretching it out in an unpredictable way, then returning to it and taking off in a different direction, occasionally bouncing an enigmatic question off of his interlocutor (``What is the purpose of human beings?''). One theme he constantly returns to is motherhood, and he likes to recall what his mother told him whenever he sought her approval: ``Don't worry Junior, I know who you are?'' Coleman credits his mother with giving him the strength to overcome the adversity he faced growing up in a largely segregated Fort Worth. Coleman's father died when he was 7, and his mother supported the family on her seamstress earnings. She bought him his first saxophone when he was 14 from money he earned shining shoes.

"At that time bebop was just being born and
Charlie Parker was the main man," said Coleman. "I said, `Oh man, what kind of music is that?' And I thought I'm going to play that.'' Coleman's bebop solos made him a poor fit with the R&B bands dominating the local circuit. Tired of rejection, he moved to Los Angeles in 1952 where he got a job as a department store elevator operator, studying music theory on his breaks. Coleman, who a decade before the Beatles had shoulder-length hair and a beard, soon found a like-minded group of musicians, including Haden, who had performed in his family's bluegrass band back in Missouri; Don Cherry, who played a tiny pocket trumpet, and drummer Billy Higgins. "I wanted to play on the inspiration of a composition rather than on the chord structure ... and every time I tried to do this the other musicians that I was playing with would be upset with me," said Haden. "And the first time I played with Ornette all of a sudden the lights were turned on for me because here was someone else who was ... doing the same thing I was trying to do.'' Coleman recorded his first album "Something Else" for Los Angeles-based Contemporary Records in 1958. The new sound caught the attention of the Modern Jazz Quartet's pianist and musical director John Lewis, who introduced Coleman to Atlantic Records producer Nesuhi Ertegun. The November 1959 New York debut of Coleman's quartet at the Five Spot set off a musical firestorm. Coleman's radical new approach had its champions, including the classical composers Leonard Bernstein and Virgil Thompson. But many leading jazz musicians denounced him as a charlatan.

Miles Davis remarked that "psychologically, the man is all screwed up inside.'' Undaunted, Coleman went on to release a series of groundbreaking albums for Atlantic, most notably the double-quartet recording ``Free Jazz" with a nearly 40-minute collective improvisation. Coleman has always considered himself more than a jazz player. He has journeyed to Morocco to play in a mountain hut with the Master Musicians of Joujouka, performed with Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, and composed works for string quartet, woodwind quintet and even a symphony, "Skies of America," that he performed with the New York Philharmonic and his own electric free-funk fusion band Prime Time. Coleman, who previously called his musical system ``harmolodics," now prefers to call it "sound grammar." He is seeking to decode that universal musical language that crosses all borders. "I would like to go around the world and play with people that don't worry about the key they're in or the song they're playing ... because I really do play from sound," said Coleman, who has decorated the main room of his loft with folk art he has collected on his musical odysseys to Morocco, Nigeria, India and elsewhere. ``To me sound is eternal ... and there are still some notes that haven't been heard. I don't know where to find them, but I know they are there.''

2,000 Musicians Take Up Challenge To Record Album In A Month

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Philip Elliott, Associated Press

(February 08, 2007) CONCORD, N.H. — Guitarist Mike Samborn used to sketch out a song, play it, decide he didn't like it and toss it in the trash. But this month, he doesn't have that option. Samborn is one of more than 2,000 musicians worldwide facing a March 1 deadline to write and record an entire album as part of the second
RPM Challenge. There are no prizes or winners, but the participants' works will be uploaded to an online jukebox. “Once I signed up, I realized I had to finish this thing,” said Samborn, a 34-year-old from Dover. “The panic is a big impetus.” Last year's effort brought 165 finished album entries, ranging from a 35-minute instrumental work to a 10-song tribute to Annie Oakley and Bonnie and Clyde. Most were submitted by musicians in the Portsmouth area, where the RPM Challenge is based.

“People took chances they wouldn't normally take,” organizer
Dave Karlotski said of last year's contest. “Instead of over-thinking what their next album should be, they did what they wanted to do.” The program is similar to a San Francisco-based effort to get would-be authors to write a novel in November. Last year, almost 80,000 people participated worldwide. In the campaign's eight-year history, a handful of books have found publishers, though most find only a handful of readers. Before signing up to record an album in a month, guitarist and singer Michelle Moon, a 37-year-old education director at a living history museum, had booked minor gigs and played for friends. But she had never written music and certainly didn't record it. Last year, she wrote the tribute to Annie Oakley and Bonnie and Clyde. This year, she has 12 songs started, though she expects about a third of them to be set aside. “I'm no longer as afraid of writing. I know now I can write those songs,” said Moon, whose tunes this year are in the vein of Hank Williams and honky-tonk love ballads. Samborn, who records as Floppy Jalopy, works on the project after his two children are in bed. “I do this all at night between eight and midnight,” he said. “If I don't have any deadline, I'll throw away a lot of stuff. When you have that deadline looming over you, you throw away that inner critic.”

Tony Matterhorn Visits U.S.

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By
Kevin Jackson

(
February 8, 2007) Dancehall artiste Tony Matterhorn to make first visit to the US in three year.  Selector-turned- dancehall deejay Tony Matterhorn describes himself as a big kid at heart.  However it’s his four children including his latest offspring, a sixth month old boy named Rich, who keep him grounded. The man, who shook the dancehall by storm last year with the sizeable hits Dutty Wine and Goodas Fi Dem, enjoys watching cartoons and playing his PST games. ‘I love the PST games. I have six of them since they came out’, Matterhorn confided in an interview with this writer recently. Matterhorn who is currently in London, recently obtained a work permit to re-enter the United States. It was in 2003 that he last visited the US and in another week’s time, his fans, specially invited guests, top hip hop and R&B stars and the media, will get a chance to meet and greet the man, who has dubbed himself ‘The Man From Mars’. A big celebration is being planned for MARS 2112, a trendy hot spot in Times Square, New York to host a welcome back party for him.  ‘I didn’t get to travel the US for three years. I went in to the US embassy in Jamaica and they cancelled my visa. I have never had a police record in Jamaica or in any other country for that matter’, Matterhorn explained. He said contrary to rumours, he was never involved in any illegal or criminal activity that resulted in the cancellation of his US visa in 2003.

Mattehorn says that the opportunity to travel to the
US again will give him the opportunity to rekindle with fans from his sound system days on the Addies disco. New fans will now get to see and hear him perform his hit songs. ‘I can now reach out to my extended fans. The real Matterhorn fans. It feels good to be able to reunite with them. But in some ways I have been interacting with them on my space a lot’, said Matterhorn. He added ‘Having your own page on myspace.com has given me the ability to link with my fans. They post messages and its really good to kick back be interactive with them sometimes’. Matterhorn pointed out that since the success of the Dutty Wine single, a number of young fans have reached out to him. “They are always emailing and making a link. From Fully Loaded days and RAS parties, I realized that the younger fans were into what I was doing. On New Years Day I was in Canada and I couldn’t get my hair cut because the barber shops were closed. I went to a barber’s house and his children started to demonstrate the Dutty Wine song when I came in. It was really surprising’, said Matterhorn. Julie Lexy Brooks, CEO of VIP Connected Entertainment, the agency that handles management, bookings and promotions for Matterhorn, was very instrumental in helping him regain his travel/working privileges to the US. She commented ‘ First let me say how really excited I am that Tony now can travel and work in the USA again.

I know it was a very, very long wait but fans stateside will soon be graced with his presence and the opportunity to see him perform live. I know the
United States; specifically New York is one of Tony's favourite places’. Asked how difficult it was to secure his US visa, Ms Brooks said ‘It was quite a long and at times tedious task to secure his visa. At times it seemed almost impossible but we kept the faith. My company first started working with his immigration case a little over 3 years ago. Although the hopes of him getting his visa looked bleak, we really believed that there was no legal reason to keep him from coming and working in the states .So we kept working on it, believing that one day he would once again return to the US. After all, there are thousands of adoring fans who are anxiously waiting to see and enjoy his live performances. We brought the attorney's office of Spar and Bernstein on board to assist us. They worked hard and for this we would like to thank them for their kind assistance. We would also like to thank the office of Congressman Gary L. Ackerman and the Jamaican Consulate for the role they played as well. But just to be clear at the end of the day the reality of what Tony has been preaching all this time came to pass and that is he has done nothing wrong and he stuck to his argument’. After his celebratory party in New York, Matterhorn will head back to London to fulfill performance obligations. He returns to the island in time for a guest shot on the Jim Brown Memorial dance. March will see him marking his birthday celebrations with parties planned for several Caribbean countries. In April he will commence a tour of Europe. The trek will culminate with several dates in the US in May.

Asked what became of the publicized interest that Atlantic Records had shown in signing him during the height of the Dutty Wine craze,
Matterhorn (real name Dufton Taylor) said ‘It was pure politics when it came to my career. I was supposed to do an album but someone foiled the attempt. The delay in Atlantic Records working with me as basically because I didn’t have a US visa. But for now I am only concerned about making hit singles’. Mattehorn recently hit the charts with Man from Mars and Wickedest Ride (featuring Mr. Easy). He is currently working on a slate of singles. He predicts collaboration with singer Alaine titled On Your Knees will be a big hit over the summer. “the song is like a man and woman fuss. It was produced by Daseca. I also have a song on the pepper spray rhythm from DJ Karim.  I have always thought about things in a futuristic way. Look at the song Man from Mars. Everything that I said in that song is coming to pass’, Matterhorn concluded.

Modern Vieux Of His Father's World

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Staff Reporter

(February 08, 2007) A young African guitarist has come out of nowhere to seize the mantle of his famous father, stirring excitement over the continuation of a rich musical legacy.
Vieux Farka Touré, a 25-year-old from the West African country of Mali, plays Harbourfront Centre on Saturday to headline the three-day Kuumba Festival, the city's premier cultural event celebrating Black History Month. He is the son of Ali Farka Touré, the eccentric guitar genius who died of bone cancer 11 months ago and is still being mourned. Until now, it was assumed that long-time protégé Afel Bocoum would take the successor role. Bocoum is from Touré's village of Niafunké, on the Niger River near Timbuktu. He performed on some of Touré's recordings, used some of the same musicians for his own band and recorded with the same London producer, Nick Gold of World Circuit Records. At one point, the elder Touré named Bocoum his musical heir. Attempting to rise to the honour, Bocoum performed at a world music convention in Spain last October, delivering a faithful rendition of Touré's "desert blues" but failing to command the stage like his mentor. At the same gathering, young Vieux announced himself. He had a representative distribute hundreds of advance copies of a debut album, Vieux Farka Touré, released officially this month. Until recently, Vieux had been playing in secret, worried about his father's disapproval. Then – bizarrely – a visiting Torontonian talked him into making a CD, the ailing father conferred his blessing, and the young guitarist brought his act straight to the United States and Canada. As though to contain expectations, he also issued a news release both honouring his father's work and staking his own territory.

"Everyone has their own ideas and their way of doing things," he stated last month. "I am working to follow my father's path but that path continues into new areas.  "I am of a new generation, so there are things that inspire me in today's world that I put in my music, just as he did in his time."
Vieux Farka Touré was born in Niafunké, the second son of Ali's 12 children by four wives. At birth, he was named for his grandfather and inherited the grandfather's nickname Vieux, meaning "old man."  He also assumed his father's moniker Farka, meaning "donkey" in the Sonrai language, apparently a compliment to the father's strength and determination. Vieux spent his early years with an otherwise childless aunt and uncle, at a village several hours south of Niafunké. "I would see (my father) every time he would pass on his way to Bamako (the Malian capital)," he said in a telephone interview from New York last week. "He would stop and spend time with us." At the age of 9, Vieux moved home. He began to soak up his father's guitar playing, he says, and at 13 joined his dad's band as a calabash (percussion) player.

"I was close to my father," he says. "We would fish on the
Niger River and go hunting together. When I joined the band, I travelled with him all over Mali and to South Africa, France, England and a few other places (but not North America)." All the while, he continued to absorb his father's playing technique.  Touré children learned by being shown something once, the son says. Vieux learned guitar not from lessons but by watching, and when his father discovered Vieux practising he discouraged him. "He was serious," Vieux says. "Basically, he stopped doing me favours. He stopped giving me money to go to school and he started to refuse me things he never refused me before. He wanted me to become a soldier." Vieux continued to play in secret, however, and began to master his father's music, played on the five-note blues scale with punctuated rapid-fire fingering. In 1999, at age 18, Vieux moved to Bamako. He continued to play more or less secretly for a while and worked part-time in a cinema to help pay for studies at the national arts institute, in Mali. There, in 2003, he met Eric Herman of Toronto, now 23.

Herman grew up near Spadina and St. Clair Aves., and was by then a music student at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. He had come to Mali on a research project to deepen his knowledge of African music and to pursue a fantasy to jam with Ali Farka Touré. The two in fact met and played guitar together, and afterward Herman became friends with Vieux. "By the time I met him, he was a virtuoso," Herman says. "He could imitate his father's playing brilliantly and knew his whole repertoire." Herman returned to Connecticut to finish his studies, but two years later graduated and went back to Mali.  By then, he had also founded a record label, Modiba. His idea was to produce an original Malian record to raise money for malaria prevention.  He reconnected with Vieux, who had started playing under the tutelage of Toumani Diabaté, foremost master of the 21-string West African kora. Both musicians agreed to contribute to the disc, as did Ali Farka Touré. But when the sessions started, attention quickly shifted to Vieux. "He was ready," Herman says. "He had the material and he certainly had the ambition and the talent." On the album the elder Farka Touré features in two tracks, his last recording session performed in great pain but with equally great conviction. Toumani Diabaté also features in two, also performing brilliantly. The rest of the album belongs to Vieux, playing with confidence and verve with different combinations of musicians, sometimes in a deeply traditional vein, sometimes experimenting with elements of reggae and American blues.

On the disc, and in his YouTube video postings, he at once conjures up the ghost of his father and declares his own independence.  Watching him, it is hard not to feel nostalgic for
Ali, to long for the return of his charisma, his charm, his elaborately mystical world view and his unwavering conviction that in the roots of his music lay the source of all blues music. "I am the root," he would say. "The rest are the branches." But it is also easy to admire Vieux. His licks are similar but not the same. Some he finishes faster. Others he leads with a more modern edge. All carry a sense of a musician who wants something for himself and is prepared to take the music in new directions, no matter what anybody else thinks. The Saturday show promises to be even more adventuresome than the album – "more a fusion of different styles converging," Herman says.  The touring band is a five-piece: Vieux on vocals and guitar; Secko Touré, no relation, on vocals and calabash; Ali's former lead guitarist Mama Sissoko (a man) on guitar and ngoni; Herman on bass; and fellow Wesleyan alumnus Tim Keiper on percussion and drum kit. Sales from a T-shirt during the tour, and a percentage of CD profits, are to go toward protecting the people of Niafunké from malaria. "Every time you hear somebody has died, you say, `Malaria?' and they say, `Yes,'" Vieux says. "AIDS is chronic. Malaria you die." The goal is to distribute 1,200 and 1,500 mosquito nets to residents of the area and to educate people in their use. Ali Farka Touré, a magnanimous philanthropist to Niafunké, would be proud.

Panel On The Same Wavelength

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Pop Music Critic

(February 08, 2007) There isn't much but good to be said for what
Wavelength has done to nurture Toronto's independent music scene. Surely it's no coincidence that the weekly music series, which marks its seventh anniversary with its 350th instalment beginning tonight, has mirrored the city's emergence as a hotbed of popular music, having played an integral role in introducing local scenesters to the Constantines, Broken Social Scene, Final Fantasy and countless other artists. Co-founder Jonathan Bunce (a.k.a. Jonny Dovercourt) is rightly proud of that legacy, but not to the point where he's ruled out the possibility of improvement. Last year, Wavelength introduced a panel discussion as part of its anniversary shows, specifically a stock-taking investigation into the meaning and value of artistic independence. It was, Bunce acknowledges, a necessarily reflective, inward-looking debate. "It indicated that Wavelength had grown up to the point where it's about more than music and a party," says Bunce of last year's event. "There are serious things going on around our scene that we want to talk about."

Now it's time to broaden the conversation.  Specifically, Bunce is seeking ways to build bridges between
Toronto's monochromatic indie scene and the city's larger, multicultural reality. "Part of the mandate of Wavelength was to bring a diversity of styles of independent music together," says Bunce, a 33-year-old cultural activist who also serves as co-artistic director of creative music centre the Music Gallery and as guitarist for indie rockers Republic of Safety. "We feel we've failed a bit at the mission, to the extent that the series has become identified with the white, indie rock scene. It's too bad, when there are so many different types of indie scenes happening in Toronto." Participants in the panel discussion, which gets underway at 7 p.m. at the Music Gallery, include Bunce, David Dacks of CIUT and Exclaim!, hip-hop MC More or Les, south-Asian influenced musician Rosina Kazi of the group LAL, Sara Saljoughi of Fig Records and moderator Misha Glouberman, host of the Trampoline Hall lecture series. The two-hour format will include a Q&A session, as well as smaller group discussions incorporating the audience. "The point of the panel is not to just wring our hands and say, `We're so bad for not being more diverse,'" Bunce says. "It's not about finger-pointing. For whatever reason, there is a disconnect between different parts of the city in a cultural sense. But there's more to be excited about than there is to be upset about, so what can we do to make things better?"

The program will be followed by a concert featuring performances by Wyrd Visions, Double Suicide and
Laura BarrettBarrett's inclusion loosely fits the evening's theme, in that she has adapted an African instrument, a thumb piano called the kalimba, to the western singer/songwriter format. "We've been talking about getting Laura Barrett to do a concert with some traditional kalimba players at some point in the future," Bunce says. "We think that what she's doing would be interesting to people from the African community. "I'm also trying to figure out how to book an Ethiopian band at Wavelength. I love Ethiopian music. And I love the Ethiopian bar scene. But the paradigm is totally different.  "They don't have bands in the way that the indie scene has bands. They have a bunch of individual working musicians who play at different clubs on regular nights of the week. It's a rotating cast of people. "So there are structural obstacles that need to be worked around.  "At the same time, the Wavelength audience is so open-minded that if they were presented with that music I know they'd go crazy for it."

Arcade Fire Fans Its Red-Hot Flames With A New CD

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -

(February 11, 2007) MONTREAL -- From the moment that its 2004 debut Funeral catapulted
Arcade Fire from local club heroes to international indie rock phenoms, the Montreal band has constantly adjusted to the shifting realities imposed by its sudden popularity. "During the Funeral tour," recalls guitarist/percussionist Will Butler, "it seemed like every week was a transition. We started playing for 50 people. Then it was 100. Then 200, then 400, then 800, then 1,600, then 3,200." In that sense, the five-night, hometown residency that wrapped up last night at the Ukrainian National Federation, a 650-seat community centre located in the city's downtown, was an arrangement of choice rather than a matter of necessity. Arcade Fire is more than plenty big enough in Montreal – and a lot of other places – to have graduated to larger venues.  Not only were all five shows sold out, desperate fans huddled overnight outside a local CD store, in temperatures approaching -20C, to lay their hands on one of the 50 tickets set aside for sale on the morning of each show. The record shop initiative aimed to keep a lid on potentially extortionist prices demanded by scalpers, but that didn't prevent at least one pair of $25 tickets from being sold for 10 times its $50 face value on eBay.

More of the same can be expected this week when Arcade Fire launches another sold-out-in-advance, five-night stand at the 400-seat
Judson Memorial Church in New York's Greenwich Village. The venues are small partly because Arcade Fire views these gigs, along with a previous run of comparatively intimate shows that received rave reviews in the U.K., as a touring equivalent of spring training. The set list leans heavily toward the new Neon Bible – a sequel to the half-million-plus-selling Funeral – due out March 6. The music is demanding and the band is still working out the kinks before heading back to Europe next month and then returning in April to California's Coachella music festival, where the group performed for an estimated crowd of 15,000 last year. Coachella and other outdoor music festivals aside, Arcade Fire still doesn't see itself as an arena act – even if a show at Montreal's Bell Centre, home of the Canadiens, is theoretically within its grasp. Although nothing is official, Massey Hall is said to be the Toronto stop on a yet-to-be-announced North American tour.

"It's a question of balance," says Butler, during an interview, alongside Régine Chassagne, a multi-instrumentalist and singer who fronts the band with Win Butler, who is both Chassagne's husband and Will's brother. "You want to fit as many people in as want to see you, but you also don't want to play the Bell Centre," he continues. "It's not the greatest ambience. So you end up playing more nights in a smaller venue like a nice theatre, but then you don't get to as many places. You end up playing three nights in
Chicago, instead of one night in Chicago and another in Champlain." Adds Chassagne: "I don't know if it would actually help for people to see us in a gigantic venue, where we would look like ants and you can't really hear much. "Would that be better?" she asks, imagining herself as a member of the audience. "I don't know. I wouldn't like it." The irony, perhaps, is that if any band seems built for a big podium it is Arcade Fire. During last week's Montreal shows, the stage was barely big enough to accommodate the musicians and their instruments. The group's core membership – also including Richard Reed Parry, Tim Kingsbury, Sarah Neufeld and Jeremy Gara – ballooned to 10 with the addition of a two-member horn section and a second string player. The performances were characteristically exuberant, with band members wailing away with customary abandon on instruments freely traded between them. At Wednesday's show, the audience responded with particular enthusiasm during a mid-set revival of barnstorming anthems from the half-million selling Funeral, while also heartily endorsing the newer material.

On that night, the title track from Neon Bible was saved for the end of the second encore, presumably in the hopes that the down-tempo number would dampen the raucous and apparently tireless crowd's demand for more. It didn't work. Fans kept chanting and clapping long after the house lights came up, the crew began clearing the stage and, finally, recorded music was turned on. It's possible the audience was reluctant to leave until they were treated to the kind of signature, show-ending finale for which Arcade Fire is known. In 2005, for instance, the band concluded a show at the
Danforth Music Hall by exiting up the aisle and busking on the sidewalk outside. "You should be pleased when things like that happen," Butler says. "But you shouldn't expect them to happen." Besides, on Wednesday the wrinkle came at the start of the show when the young daughter of a friend opened the proceedings by reciting a passage from "The Wolf and the Fox," the 17th-century French fable that inspired one of Neon Bible's 11 tracks, "The Well and the Lighthouse." The new album, which will be released as a regular CD, a deluxe CD with a 32-page booklet and a double LP, was recorded throughout 2006, mostly in a small church outside of Montreal but also in London, New York and Budapest, where orchestral passages arranged by violinist and band friend Owen Pallett, of Final Fantasy, were tracked. Generally, the sonic canvas is even busier than it was on Funeral, the album which earned the band its reputation as purveyors of elaborate chamber pop, bolstered by strings, horns and booming backing vocal choruses. "No Cars Go," a song which originally appeared on an early EP, has been reworked for the new album to reflect its evolution as a long-standing staple of the live show.

"I always had an orchestra in my mind from the conception of that song. I always heard it like that in my mind," says Chassagne, who creates the skeletal frameworks for the songs with Win Butler before inviting input from the rest of the band. "But there was no way we could have done it like that back then. I was using the accordion to imitate the strings, but I imagined it with an orchestra. Then it became an option and I wanted to do it." Chassagne, even more than most of her bandmates, seems to revel in her role as an interchangeable musical part. A backing and sometimes lead vocalist, she started Wednesday's gig behind the drum kit before turning to the keyboards, the accordion and her current infatuation, the hurdy gurdy, a stringed instrument with a crank at one end. "It's still new for me," she says with obvious relish. "When you're playing it, it feels like you're playing a cranking keytar. And it sounds like a bagpipe violin. "It's very high maintenance, especially the way that I use it. I treat it pretty rough." Not as roughly as percussion instruments are handled by other band members, who occasionally bash maniacally at anything within striking distance. In performance, Arcade Fire doesn't so much play their instruments as play with them, sometimes with little apparent regard for the niceties of note-perfect execution. "There's a long and fruitful history in rock 'n' rock of not being able to play your instrument,"
Butler says. "This isn't the band's ethos or anything, but in my mind the first rule is to be interesting and then to be memorable and then to be good, in that order."

Arcade Fire's reputation for memorable performances is partly what propelled its original success, initially as a word-of-keypad phenomenon of the indie music blogosphere which exploded the band becoming cover fodder for the Canadian edition of Time.  Since then, things have moved so far beyond the word-of-mouth stage that anything related to the band, such as the release of a homemade video to YouTube in December, is viewed by some as a manipulative marketing ploy. A
Montreal daily newspaper recently linked a story about so-called "stealth" or "viral" marketing – essentially an orchestrated campaign designed to generate buzz – to events around the forthcoming release of Neon Bible. "We made that video in an hour with a camera and a laptop," says Chassagne, scoffing at the suggestion that the stunt was cynically conceived or premeditated. Adds Butler: "Yes, we're orchestrating things. But we're orchestrating them in the sense that: Here's a stupid joke. Let's put this stupid joke online." Which is not to say that Arcade Fire isn't interested in maintaining control over what it does – as well as how and when it does it. When the post-Funeral media frenzy threatened to get out of hand in 2005 – round about the time Coldplay's Chris Martin took to calling them "the best band in history" – members simply stopped granting interviews. "If I exhaust myself with 6,000 interviews a week, then it's totally not worth it," Chassagne says. "It gets in the way of what I love, which is writing music and playing it for people." "It's an attitude thing," Butler says. "I don't think we should have the attitude of sticking it to the press any more than we should have the attitude that we're going to get press to become celebrities. Either way, it takes up too much space in your mind. It's not what you should be thinking about. "You should be thinking about how good the cup of coffee you're drinking tastes. Everything figures itself out from there. At least it has up to this point. And I assume it'll keep figuring itself out without too much bother."

Hargrove Draws Diverse Crowd

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry, Jazz Reporter

(
February 12, 2007) No longer a young lion, not yet a legend, literally and figuratively, trumpeter Roy Hargrove bridges the gap in jazz. The Wynton Marsalis protegé is a 37-year-old Texan who earned his stripes collaborating with stalwarts such as Sonny Rollins, Shirley Horn and Oscar Peterson. His current band includes musicians who would have been in diapers when the Grammy-winning player embarked on a professional career 20 years ago. Though he's played Massey Hall on several occasions, Saturday was the first time headlining there with his quintet, comprised of bassist Joe Sanders, pianist Gerald Clayton, drummer Montez Coleman and alto saxist Justin Robinson. The leader took the stage wearing a stylish black suit, red satin tie and a smile.  He launched into "Autumn Leaves" with a stirring solo reminiscent of Miles Davis's classic 1958 recording of the ballad: long, haunting tones and soft, fluttering strokes courtesy of a mute.  Then he moved to the sidelines, where he would spend much of the 90-minute set.

Saxist
Robinson was most deserving of the spotlight yielded him. He counteracted Hargrove's relaxed intro on the first song with big, blustering commentary, and matched his imagination and intensity when they traded and dueted on subsequent tunes.  Clayton, the classically trained son of acclaimed bassist-bandleader John Clayton, sounded the most inspired notes in the rhythm section, which was adept if not always innovative. The collective supported Hargrove's warm, soulful sound and the menu he dished up from his genre-expanding repertoire. Cool '50s-era Miles Davis-like jazz? Check. Spontaneous free playing? Sure: a frenzied version of "Cameraderie" from last year's Nothing Serious, which featured a fanfare opening and long circuitous ride back to the opening statement.  Fusion? Yeah, a bouncing, funk-based original that wouldn't be out of place on a smooth jazz radio station or Hargrove's next record with his R&B band, RH Factor. Standard? That was the lyrical and elegant flugelhorn rendering of "Fools Rush In."  Post-bop romp?

Doesn't get much better than the brisk delivery of Nothing Serious's Latin-flavoured title track. The people at the Massey Hall show comprised one of the youngest and most ethnically diverse audiences at a non-festival, non-club jazz event in this city. Even though the venue was only 60 per cent full, it included a good chunk of the younger demographic that local jazz promoters are keen to engage. Hargrove doesn't interact with his audience– no song titles, he barely mentioned his own name in the band intros – but he's not aloof. He laughed, danced, urged on the other players and reacted with mock horror when a cellphone went off in the audience.  Also making their Massey Hall debut were The Bad Plus, a traditional bass-drums-piano trio with an avant-garde approach. This entertaining group, defined by precision timing, a sense of humour and penchant for Nirvana and Blondie covers, has scored fans amongst the rock and jam band set.

Randy Crawford And Joe Sample Are 'Feeling Good' About New CD

Source: J'ai St. Laurent-Smyth, Inque Public Relations, inquePR@comcast.net

(February 13, 2007) On Tuesday, February 20, 2007 PRA Records will release Feeling Good, a new album from Randy Crawford and Joe Sample.  This Tommy LiPuma-produced CD marks a return collaboration between vocalist Crawford and pianist Sample who first worked together 30 years ago. To celebrate this special reunion, the album's upbeat title track and lead single received a literal around-the-world launch in December of 2006, as the song accompanied NASA astronauts on the Space Shuttle STS 116.  Astronaut Joan Higginbotham took the song "Feeling Good" with her on the shuttle, which launched from Kennedy Space Center, and the song was selected by NASA as one of the official songs used by Mission Control to wake the astronauts for their daily chores during the 12-day mission. From the first downbeat of "Feeling Good" through the last note of "Mr. Ugly", the listener is drawn into the warm embrace of Joe and Randy's musical heritage, a mixture of soul, jazz, gospel, pop, and a touch of the blues.  One of the premier songstresses in contemporary music, Crawford showcases her versatile vocal instrument on songs such as "All Night Long", "End of the Line", and the moving ballad "Save Your Love for Me".

The lasting mastery of Sample's piano playing skill is evident through each of the album's 13 songs.  From their interpretation of
Peter Gabriel's "Lovetown" to the Latin-flavoured "Rio de Janiero Blue", to a modernly funky but also softened reading of "See Line Woman", Sample's work on the keys surrounds, highlights, and compliments Crawford's voice exquisitely.  Some of the other covers chosen for this album include a seductive take on Billie Holiday's "Tell Me More and More and Then Some", a breezy run through "Everybody's Talking", the tune made famous by Harry Nilsson and the film Midnight Cowboy, and a heartfelt version of  "When I Need You", written by Albert Hammond and Carol Bayer Sager.  A special sentimental choice is "Last Night at Danceland", a song written by Sample and originally recorded by Crawford in 1980. The keen interaction between Sample and Crawford throughout the album is a clear testimony to a musical friendship that began 30 years ago when Joe played on Randy's debut CD, Everything Must Change. Soon after, when writing songs for his influential band The Crusaders, Sample invited Crawford to be a guest on their record and wrote the song "Street Life" especially for her (1979).  Of course, that tune went on to become an international hit, and the two collaborated on and off for years afterwards.  With both artists having worked previously with GRAMMY®-winning producer Tommy LiPuma, the three coming together to record Feeling Good was a natural fit.  Also the joining the team was multiple GRAMMY®-winning engineer Al Schmitt, whose inimitable touch gives the album its flawless, crystal clear sound, along with Steve Gadd on drums and Christian McBride on bass.

Gerald Levert’s Last Interview

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By
Bonga Percy Vilakazi

Note: With the release today of his new CD, "In My Songs," EUR is proud to pay tribute to Gerald Levert with this interview between the singer and Bonga Percy Vilakazi. It is the final interview Gerald did before his death

(February 13, 2007) Editor's *I still remember the day like it was yesterday, when I received the sms, informing me about Gerald's untimely passing. That day, the music world almost came to a stand-still. It hadn't been that long since Luther Vandross died. Now, one more of our greatest soul artists, Gerald Levert, had left this earth.  South Africans were still mourning Lebo Mathosa's death, our own talented diva… I suppose what saddened me the most about Gerald's death was the fact that it had hardly been two weeks since he and his dad Eddie were here in South Africa, to perform. Those that attended the show will testify that it truly was one of greatest, most remarkable shows ever to be staged in this country. No fancy fireworks, no bikini girls - just great, soulful music. Gerald and Eddie took us right back to memory lane. Below, is the FINAL interview that Gerald gave, just before he died at age 40. I should also add that this interview almost didn't happen, as Gerald wasn't feeling well on this day. I was told that he was too tired to give any interviews. As if that wasn't enough, my day was just chaotic, almost preventing me from meeting Gerald & Eddie. Stubborn me went to him anyway - I knew the restaurant he was in, and all I needed were just ten minutes, I told his PR person. When I got there, it seemed like Gerald wasn't aware that I'd be interviewing him, but being the polite person he was, he smiled and agreed to it. Unbeknownst to him and his camp, this would be the very last interview he'd give.   In that very brief time, I saw in Gerald a very gentle man, who was very passionate about music. Full of life, laughter and jokes. Speaking to Gerald's family member James, a week after Gerald’s funeral, he said, "I just wanted to thank you for your blessings and condolences, from all of Africa and South Africa."  I have no doubt that Gerald is at peace, as his final memories were created in Africa, his homeland. At his death, Gerald was busy recording his new album.

Welcome to
South Africa!

Thank you so much! This is truly a beautiful country, and I love being here. It's so hot though! But I'm okay with that.

You've been here before, hey?

Yes, in 1999 for the Kora Awards, but I wasn't here for long. This time, I'm here to perform!

Before you came here (the first time), did you have a preconceived perception about
South Africa?

You know what, I've never really believed all the things that we're used to seeing in the news, those that just elaborate on how bad this place is - I've never believed that. I've met a lot of people from Africa. I know that (we) Americans tend to be arrogant, and at times think that the world begins and ends in the States. But I guess it's because I've always been a person that's always had my own opinions. So for me, my thinking was I can't really say much about a place that I've never been to. So this is a learning curve for me. I'm learning about the South Africans, their cultures and beliefs

You have an album with your dad, and you've been touring with him for quite some time. Do you ever differ artistically, and fight?

Oh hell yeah! All the time. My dad's old school. We interpret a lot of things differently - his definition of hip-hop differs from mine completely. He thinks what was hot five years ago is still hot! And I'd be like, yo dad - that's history. A lot has changed…

True!

But we always meet each other halfway. We need to. And I think another thing that helps us is that we both listen to a lot of music, every type of music.

What do you listen to? Who are your favourites?

Marvin Gaye is number one. I love Stevie Wonder, The Ojays and a lot of soul singers. I've met a lot of great singers, and obviously, they've had a lot of influence on me.

I think as far as the world is concerned, you've had a great career. How do you see it?

I've been really blessed. I mean, I've been able to do so many great things, met a lot of great people. It's been amazing.

Is there anything else that you'd like to do on earth - something you feel like you haven't done, perhaps a dream or an achievement?

I've done a lot of things, which I'm really happy about. But if I'd choose, I'd wanna do more music. Music that is just universal. Music that everyone would get to listen to, cos right now, that's not happening. For example, with radio stations, there are stations that only play R&B, or Country or Rock - so people don't really get to hear something other than what's being fed to them. So I'd like to be a part of that group, if I may call it that, that will bring about that revolution. I've been in the industry for a good twenty years…

Does it feel like twenty years?

Nope. It doesn't. Everything just happened so fast.

I can imagine.

Yeah. I've sang with my brother, my dad, and I was with LSG. So I've done a lot in a very short time. But to answer your question, I guess what I wanna do is to make a difference.

I think you have made a difference.  You've given us great memories, you've entertained us, you've sung amazing songs. On top of that, you've also written a number of great songs for other artists. I'm gonna ask you about two particular songs, that are my personal favourites. The one song, Shoe Was On The Other Foot, which you wrote for
Patti LaBelle… How did you come up with that song?

Miss Patti and I have toured together a lot of times, and those that have seen her know too well that she tears the place down every time she performs. She'll kick off her shoes and roll on the floor. So, I called her one time and said, Mama Patti, I have a song for you. I then played it for her over the phone and she loved it. Patti's an amazing woman.

How are you guys doing, as far as
Luther is concerned? Cos we were very saddened this side to learn about his death. He was really loved in SA.

You know what, strange as it may sound, we weren't really surprised. We knew that he was very ill. Inasmuch as that was the case, we were still very, very sad.
Luther was the man. No one sang love songs like Luther. I guess all we have t do is just accept that these things happen. It's sad, I know. What's also sad is that it's all the soul singers that are leaving us.

A few years ago, I think it was 1992 when I first heard your song I'd do anything. Now I didn't understand half the things you said cos I was still learning English, but I knew that that was a great song. And that voice! Where did you get that song from?

That is a great song. I remember, there was a group back then that was in the same label with me - All 4 One - and they were very talented. They came to me, presented me with a song called I Swear. I listened to that song and I said 'I can't sing this! It's  too pop'!  So they went ahead and sang that song themselves, and it became a huge hit. It was number one on the charts! So, the next time those guys came to me with I'd Do Anything, I quickly grabbed it and told them I'd do it. I didn't wanna be wrong again. That's still one of my favourite songs. It has a lot of meaning to me.

And then you later formed and joined LSG…

Yes. Now what happened there, Keith (Sweat) and I were on the phone and he told me how much he'd wanted to form this group - something that had never been done before - get some of the greatest singers and record a few albums, so that would be me, Keith and two other people. I loved the idea, so I said cool. Who do you have in mind? He said I don't know, man. Think of names. I called
Johnny (Gill) and he was sold. Then I called R. Kelly, and he also thought it was a great idea. So we got on the phone and started talking. Robert (Kelly) just got on a roll and said: Guys, this is what I wanna do, you guys are gonna come to my studio and we're gonna do these songs that I wrote, and this is what I want you guys to do. So we were like what?! We also write our own songs.

Of course!

So we reached some sort of conclusion, and we ended the call. We never called
Robert again. I mean, he's an amazing artist, and I'm not taking any credit from him. It's just that we didn't think he shared our vision at that time.

Well I suppose things happen for a reason, cos you worked perfectly as a trio.

Yeah. And our debut album was a smash. It did very well.

You also had a second album with LSG...

That didn't do as well as the first one (commercially), because at that time, I think we all had our solo albums that were out, and we were busy with our own things, but nevertheless, we were happy with that album.

And a new album from you? When can we expect that? It's been a while.

I've actually been working on it. I've got a couple of finished songs, and hopefully, the album will drop early 2007. There's really some amazing songs in that album.

That's amazing! Can we expect any duets? You do some kick-ass duets.

Not at the moment. It's just me.

Cos I loved the duets you did with
Yolanda Adams - I Believe I Can Fly.

We had fun doing that song.
Yolanda's like my little sister. I love her. We've always wanted do work together, and then when the opportunity came, we had to find a song quickly.  We had a good time though.

I know I said I'd be here for ten minutes but I've just gotten on and on. I have one last question. You're performing in a day's time. What can your fans expect?

They can expect a damn good show! As you know, I came with my dad
Eddie. So, we're gonna do all our hit songs, the songs we recorded together, some of the O'jays songs and many songs that they're familiar with. We've put a lot in this show. Everyone's gonna have a great time. I'm actually tired of talking. I wanna sing!

About
Bonga Percy Vilakazi: He is currently the entertainment editor of SOUL magazine and the Language Advisor/Dialogue coach for a successful TV show in South Africa. He also acts as a Publicist for a number of the country’s musicians and actors. Contact him via: percival@starmail.co.sa.  

Omarion Winning Big With ‘21’

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M Yarbrough

(February 14, 2007) *R&B sensation
Omarion has really been breaking out of the teen-pop iconic role he garnered as the lead singer of boy band B2K. With the follow-up from his 2005 debut album “O,” aptly titled “21,” Omarion has gone and “growed up.” The smooth and sexy disc debuted at #1 and is maintaining a hold on radio – single after single. The disc title, “21,” has a two-fold meaning. Omarion recorded the set in his 21st year (he’s now 22) and the issues covered on the album are based on the experiences he had or dealt with at 21. But the title also mirrors the albums attraction. It’s named after an age that those younger can’t wait to be and that those older wish they could go back to. It all makes sense because the disc is a favourite among the new and old school.  “It’s a milestone in everyone’s life,” Omarion said. “It’s an age that you can remember and you have great memories.” For the singer, turning 21 was a pretty easy transition and the milestone, ironically, wasn’t such a big deal. He explained that his celebrity status gave him the perks that most had to wait for.

“I’ve never really been big on age anyway,” he added. “I’ve always been mature for my age. When we started doing the record and felt how mature it was, we decided to call it that.” His maturity is pretty evident on this self-described “coming-of-age” album that he said was really created off-the-cuff.  “Everything was created in the moment. When we got in the studio, that’s when [the producers] would say, ‘Ok, Omarion, what do you want to talk about?’ They’d pick my brain and I started to talk about this… that’s how the concepts came about. That’s pretty much how we got the gist of what I was going through in my life.” The first single from the disc, “Entourage,” reflects a bit of the mature, old school rhythm that the young artist hoped to have achieved. He told EUR’s
Lee Bailey that legendary influences helped shape the track as well as his career.  “A lot of people don’t know that I’m really familiar with the history of music. They wouldn’t expect me to know about Sammy Davis Jr., the Nicholas Brothers, Cab Calloway…I can go on. I understand the history, especially the performing and dance, but the music, too. I really wanted to convey that I had some history and I had some background. These are the guys I looked up to – Michael Jackson, James Brown – all the greats. With ‘Entourage’ I felt like that’s what music was missing. It was missing the feeling and the funk. I wanted to bring that element back.” The follow-up single, “Ice Box,” also maintains mature subject matter. The song reflects a serious broken heart – that Omarion experienced himself.

“A lot of the reasons why that’s my personal favourite is because it’s a personal experience. Most people can tell -- the way I’m singing and expressing myself – that I know it’s hard for men out there. We don’t talk about it all the time and we may say we don’t get hurt, but it happens. It puts up a wall like we’re not really able to love strongly again after having loved like that,” he reflected. “It was a very recent experience where I was involved with this young lady and I didn’t plan on falling for her the way I did, but I did. She knows the song is about her. I told her. And I told her, ‘Thank you.’ I don’t know if I had been able to find that feeling inside of me and getting into the booth and really making it come to life if it wasn’t for that.”  “21” covers the gamut of experiences that generations can relate to and that has made all the difference for the album, which is a winner for VH1 Soul and MTV. Omarion said that keeping in touch with the history of music, the legends of music, and learning from the past while melding into the soul of the new millennium is just what he tries to represent in his music, as well as how he lives.  “In music and a lot of different aspects in life, there’s so much to learn, so much knowledge. If you keep yourself in a humble state and you keep yourself a student, there’s no limit to the things you can learn. And I’m always going to strive to be better.” Apparently, there is life after 21. “21” is in stores now. For more on Omarion, check his website at www.omariononline.com.

MUSIC TIDBITS

New Dion Song At Oscars

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(February 08, 2007) LOS ANGELES –
Celine Dion will sing her new song, "I Knew I Loved You," during a tribute to Italian composer Ennio Morricone at this year's Academy Awards, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said Wednesday. Morricone, who will receive an honorary Oscar at the Feb. 25 awards, orchestrated the song for 1984's "Once Upon a Time in America," directed by Sergio Leone. Songwriters Alan and Marilyn Bergman wanted to write lyrics for the song but the film's producers felt none were needed. The Bergmans got their chance with Dion's version. Morricone, 78, has received original score Oscar nominations for ``Days of Heaven," "The Mission," "The Untouchables," "Bugsy" and "Malena." The new rendition of "I Knew I Loved You," produced by Quincy Jones, will appear on Morricone's upcoming greatest-hits album and on Dion's forthcoming record.

Kid Capri Releases the 'Budda Early' Mixtape

Source: The Pulse of Entertainment, By Eunice Moseley,Freeassocinc3@aol.com

(February 8, 2007) DJ turned radio personality turned producer turned record label owner,
Kid Capri, recently released the first album off his label, No Kid'N Records.  That release is "The Budda Early Mixtape." It highlights the awesome material of rapper Budda Early. He has a flow and lyrical content I haven't heard since Tupac. "He (Budda Early) got so much music," Kid Capri says in amazement of Early as to why there are 23 selections of the album. "We have 250 songs so it's not a real issue." Capri met Budda Early about nine years ago when they had did some work together. "He started rolling with me," Capri says. "I had two artists ahead of him that I had to develop." So that left it open for Early to go first. Of course Capri can be seen on Russell Simmons' Def Comedy Jam. He has been there since the concept in 1992. "It was Martin Lawrence and Russell's idea," Kid says about the comedy show's birth. "Russell was at one of my shows and seen the pandemonium and asked me (to come aboard). It's been number one for eight years." Capri says he started his label three years ago to produce good music "people want to hear." He believes that music is changing ... that there is what's called Street Rock now (rap with rock) that’s different and breaking ground. "We gave it (the release) to all the DJs, the college campuses," Kid Capri says about his plans to promote the album as an "indie" label. "It's a slow process."

The Police Planning 30th Anniversary World Tour

Source: Associated Press

(Feb. 9, 07) Toronto —
The Police, still preparing for their Sunday-nightgig at the Grammy Awards, will stay reunited and launch a 30th-anniversary world tour, music-industry publication Billboard reported yesterday. The tour will be announced at a press conference in Los Angeles on Monday, Billboard said. The band will also celebrate their anniversary at the Whisky A Go Go the day after the Grammys, and 20 lucky contestants will win a spot in the audience. To enter the drawing for a spot, fans must be "legacy members" of Sting's official website, Sting.com. Twenty winners will be notified today. "After the event, we would like the winners to each submit to us 250 words that describes their experience of the day -- we can say with some certainty that none of you will be lost for words!" the announcement said.

Three Canadian Dates Set As Police Announce Tour

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail – Canadian Press

(Feb. 13, 07) Los Angeles -- On the heels of their much-ballyhooed reunion at Sunday's Grammy Awards, the Police announced yesterday that they will reunite for a tour set to kick off in Vancouver on May 28. Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland will play Toronto on July 22 and Montreal on July 25. Tickets for all three Canadian dates go on sale this Saturday. A show in Edmonton is expected to be announced in the next few weeks. The trio scored a string of hits in the early 1980s, including Don't Stand So Close to Me and Every Breath You Take. They broke up 23 years ago, but reunited to open Sunday's Grammy telecast with their smash song Roxanne.

?uestlove To Produce New Al Green Album

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(February 9, 2007) *Al Green is currently in the studio recording his upcoming album for Blue Note Records over tracks produced by Ahmir “?uestloveThompson of the rap collective The Roots. According to Billboard.com, the unlikely pairing came about after Thompson "ran my big mouth" and told [Blue Note senior director of A&R] Eli [Wolf], "'Yo, man. You want a real Al Green record? Come see me.' So now I've got to live up to that." ?uestlove had some initial reservations in tackling the production for Green’s follow-up to 2005’s “Everything’s O.K.”  "If it were up to me and it was absolutely totalitarianism, I would live all my derivative fantasies out on this record," he says. "It would be 1974 all over again, sonically. I think they're still getting used to that." One of the frustrations, according to Thompson, is that veteran artists find it hard to resist teaming with younger, hotter talent in an attempt to reap commercial acceptance. "If you're going to compete with T.I., Chamillionaire and Jay-Z, then by all means, let's try and reach the kids of today," he tells Billboard.com. "But if you put the dart in your hand and you're not going to hit a bullseye, you're better off just doing what you know best." "I'm not saying Al Green wants to do his version of [Chamillionaire's] 'Ridin',' but for veterans, their examples are the Santana of 1999 and the Tony Bennett and Rod Stewart of today," he continues. "They're thinking, 'Okay, that is going to get me to the Grammy podium. Someone phone up John [Legend], Alicia [Keys] and Corinne [Bailey Rae] and let's get on Adult Contemporary radio.' I'm trying to get them out of that mode. It'll be a struggle but I think at the end of the day it will be a quality record."

Marcus Houston, A ‘Veteran’ At Age 25

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By
Kenya M Yarbrough

(
February 9, 2007) *Marcus Houston will have new material in the streets on March 20th under his new T.U.G./Universal album, “Veteran.”  The set features production from Bryan-Michael Cox and the Underdogs, who also produced the singer’s prior hit track, "Naked." “Veteran’s” first single is "Favorite Girl," with a video directed by Chris Stokes and starring "Clueless" actress Stacey Dash. Stokes also directed a video for "Circle," a piano-based love song intended as the second single from the album.  Among other tracks on “Veteran,” Yung Joc teams with Houston for "Like This," while Mya and Shawnna jump on the song, "Hold N' Back." “Veteran” is the follow-up to 2005's "Naked," which peaked at No. 5 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and No. 13 on The Billboard 200.

Gordon Chambers: Ready For 'Love'

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Feb. 9, 07) Pursuing passion has turned out to be quite a good thing for
Gordon Chambers -- the former 'Essence' magazine editor who became a sought after, award winning songwriter for Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Beyonce, Anita Baker, Patti LaBelle and Yolanda Adams, to name a few. On March 27, the Brooklyn native will release his sophomore opus, entitled 'Love Stories.' Released via his own label, Chamber Music, the 14-track project exudes the joy and celebration of love in the classic soul tradition. It's a follow-up to his acclaimed 2005 debut, 'Introducing Gordon Chambers.' The new disc, however, focuses more on upbeat songs, such as the 'Get To Know,' a stepper's delight, co-written and produced by Barry Eastmond (with whom Chambers collaborated on the Grammy-winning 'I Apologize' for Baker); 'Stay Together,' a funky track produced by India Arie's writing team, Drew Ramsey and Shannon Saunders, featuring a live horn section; and the pop-flavoured 'Unfair' (co-produced with top Swedish hit-maker Arnthor Birgisson).  Vocal powerhouse Melonie Daniels show up on the inspirational ballad 'Still Blessing Me,' and Chambers reworks his original composition of 'If You Love Me,' which was a chart-topping crossover hit for Michael Jackson's female soul trio Brownstone in the mid-1990s. To support the promotion of the new disc (which will be available online on Feb. 14), Chambers will showcase selections at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Feb. 23 during the inaugural borough-wide celebration "Brooklyn Next."

Kanye West: Mama's Boy

By
Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Feb. 9, 07) The apple didn't fall too far from the tree in the case of hip-hop superstar
Kanye West. Wonder where he got all of his wherewithal and gumption?  No one knows more about the multiple Grammy Award winning musical wunderkind better than his beloved momager, Dr. Donda West, who is putting the final touches on a forthcoming memoir, titled 'Raising Kanye.' Yes. We've should've seen this coming. But I am never mad about someone going for theirs. Now, if Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie can write books, why can't The Good Doctor? In the tome, co-written with best-selling author Karen Hunter, West talks about her life as a single mother and the difficulties she faced in raising a son in the African-American community, The BV Newswire has learned today. She not only worked full time as a teacher but also attended night school to achieve her doctorate, and will share personal and private stories of her life with her son and her later experiences as his manager as he rose to superstardom.  According to a spokesperson at Simon & Shuster's Pocket Books imprint --who will release the book May 15 -- 'Raising Kanye' will also include never before seen photos and personal anecdotes of mother and son. Dr. West worked as the Chair of the English Department at Chicago State University before retiring to serve as Kanye's manager.

Legend, Bailey Rae Make Spring Touring Team

Excerpt from www.billboard.com -
Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

(
February 09, 2007) John Legend and Corinne Bailey Rae will join forces for a month-long spring tour of North America, beginning April 3 in Irvine, Calif. The outing will play theatres and a handful of outdoor venues through a May 4 finale in Atlanta. The next day, Legend will perform at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.  Both artists are in line to win Grammy gold Sunday (Feb. 12) in Los Angeles. Legend is up for best male pop vocal performance, best male R&B vocal performance and best R&B performance by a duo or group with vocals, while Bailey Rae is nominated for record of the year, song of the year and best new artist.  In addition, Legend and Bailey Rae will perform together along with John Mayer during the Grammy telecast. 

SXSW Finally Confirms First Round Of Artists

Excerpt from www.billboard.com -
Katie Hasty, N.Y.

(
February 08, 2007) Bloc Party, the Good, the Bad & the Queen, Taylor Hicks, Daniel Johnston (with the Nightmares), Mastodon, Lily Allen, Paolo Nutini, Spoon, Mogwai, the Stooges, the Apples In Stereo and Amy Winehouse are among the first acts confirmed to appear at the 2007 South by Southwest conference and music festival, which will be held March 14-18 in Austin, Texas.  This year's diverse line-up includes more than a dozen notable Mexican artists, including Rodrigo Y Gabriela, Canseco, Mexican Institute of Sound, Panda and Zoe. Over 1300 musicians have been scheduled thus far, with more acts to be announced.  As previously reported, the Who's Pete Townshend will deliver the festival's keynote address, while country star Emmylou Harris, Gilberto Gil and the Stooges' Iggy Pop are also scheduled to speak. Other previously confirmed performers include the Comas, Tom Morello, MSTRKRFT, RJD2, MuteMath, Ben Jelen, Money Mark and Tommy Ramone's new project Uncle Monk.  The line-up also features the usual slew of buzz-worthy acts from the U.K., including the Cinematics, ex-Tricky singer Martina Topley Bird, Mika, the View, Field Music, the Fratellis and Fujiya & Miyagi. All confirmed artists can be seen on the South by Southwest Web site.

Whitney Houston, Jennifer Hudson Albums Shaping Up

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(February 13, 2007) *News is beginning to trickle out regarding two highly-anticipated album projects under the stewardship of record mogul Clive Davis. According to Fox411 columnist Roger Friedman, seven songs have been chosen for Houston’s comeback album, while Oscar nominee Jennifer Hudson is in the process of choosing songs and producers for her debut album, due later this year.  Friedman writes of Houston’s project: “The songwriters include Dianne Warren, R Kelly, Jermaine Dupri and Kenny ‘Babyface’ Edmonds. Warren’s song is titled ‘I Didn’t Know How Much Strength I Had.’”  As for Hudson’s potential producers, Friedman writes:  “I’m told their first choice comes from hip hop star Ne-Yo. Davis — whose ears are nearly never wrong — hears a match with the phenomenal Oscar winner-to-be.”

::FILM NEWS::

Bollywood Director Says Lack Of Incentives Mean He May Not Return

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Staff Reporter

(February 10, 2007) Bollywood actor
Dharmendra sits pensively on a Toronto park bench as snowflakes, appearing on cue, float through the air. "Cut," yells director Anil Sharma, grinning because he got the one thing he came all the way from India for: snow. "It was a perfect shot for me," he says. In five days of shooting in the GTA, a stand-in for Manhattan, Sharma and his crew of 50 filmed on the waterfront, at a Raptors game, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, and in various spots in Mississauga. His $7 million Apne caters to the Bollywood appetite for "exotic" locales. Toronto is cheaper than New York, and it's easier to get Canadian visas.  But Sharma isn't sure he'd come here again. "Quebec City, Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Banff – such beautiful places God has given Canada. They're perfect film locations. But this country should be a little more film-friendly."  Sharma's disappointment – despite that overly broad generalization – suggests that while Hollywood is turning its back on Toronto, the city may also be missing out on opportunities in India, with the biggest movie industry on the planet.

The value of film and television production in
Toronto dropped from $928 million in 2001 to $773 million in 2005. Another decline is expected when 2006 figures come in, and 2007 began with an actors' strike.  Significantly for Bollywood, countries such as Switzerland, Australia and Ireland lure productions with deep discounts on flights and hotels and other subsidies Canada doesn't offer. Like Toronto, they will help filmmakers seek out locations, but also go the extra step of negotiating for them, another perk Sharma says he didn't get here. The paucity of the incentives puzzles him, because exposing huge Bollywood audiences to a location boosts tourism.  "About 50 Bollywood films have been shot in Switzerland. Now, in India, couples go to Switzerland on honeymoon or Australia on vacation because they have seen it on the movie screen." Donna Zuchlinski, acting director of industry development at Ontario Media Development Corp. (OMDC), says the province's incentives to Bollywood films "are very similar to the marketing efforts we use for all production we're encouraging to shoot in Ontario."  That includes free help to scout locations from a database containing 130,000 images, a federal tax credit of 16 per cent and a provincial 18 per cent tax credit on the labour component. The city pegs the exchange rate for its services at a generous 78 cents U.S.  But other Canadian cities offer that and more: Ontario provides domestic productions with an extra 10 per cent tax credit for shooting in locations outside the GTA, and Ottawa offers similar incentives to shoot outside southern Ontario, according to Toronto film commissioner Karen Thorne-Stone: "It makes it tough for us to compete."

Additional discounts or subsidies aren't in the cards at the moment, though a Canada-India co-production treaty needed to bypass Canadian-content rules is in the works. "I don't think we can just talk about, `If we give away flights, we'll get the show,'" says Zuchlinski.
Cameron Bailey, international programmer for the Toronto International Film Festival, regularly previews movies in India and sees the potential.  "The Swiss figured out there was a great market for Indian films, so you see the Swiss Alps in a lot of Bollywood movies. The Indian film industry likes to shoot internationally, especially song sequences. One song sequence can start in Mumbai and go to Switzerland and then Niagara Falls. It's globetrotting in one scene.  "Toronto and Ontario could definitely be part of that, and there's a lot of room to grow." Film officials in Canada do appear keen to crack the Bollywood market, which churns out more than 900 productions a year, compared with Hollywood's 500. Representatives from Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec have joined recent trade missions to Mumbai. James Weyman, manager of industry initiatives for OMDC, was on Premier Dalton McGuinty's trip to India last month.  "Not only is India on our radar, we're on theirs," says Weyman, who discussed joint ventures with film executives in Mumbai.

"Bollywood is ... evolving into an international industry, whereas it was primarily (focused) on the domestic market in the past. It's not so much a question of how big is it now but how big will it be in the future, particularly as Bollywood producers seek to shoot in international locations." Weyman believes "we're reaching out in an appropriate way to Bollywood.
Ontario doesn't have mountains so we can't compete with Switzerland. Ontario doesn't have jungles so we can't compete with New Zealand" – though the CN Tower and Niagara Falls, Bollywood's No. 1 Canadian location, are iconic, he adds. Of 196 foreign movies filmed in Ontario from 1995 to 2006, 14 were Bollywood productions; most of the rest were from Hollywood, according to the OMDC. "We're right next to the U.S., so our bread and butter in terms of foreign productions is Hollywood. People are very geared to that. It would take a switch in mindset to say, `Oh yeah, there's also a big market in Indian films to be served, too,'" says Bailey. And there's the bang-for-the-buck factor.  "Bollywood budgets aren't that large by international standards, and so I think we look at our activity in terms of marketing and outreach in relation to the overall return on our investment and energy," says Weyman, a view Zuchlinski shares. "We're servicing a tremendously large volume of production here, so we have to devote our resources appropriately to the size of the industry and the size of the production," she says.  Sharma figures he spent $1 million in Toronto. If he hadn't needed snow in an urban landscape, he would have gone to Switzerland instead, he says, "where they welcome Bollywood with wide-open arms."

Justice Critic To Meet With Law Officials

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Alex Dobrota


(February 08, 2007) OTTAWA -- Calls to criminalize camcording in movie theatres have reached Parliament this week, as one opposition MP vowed to embark on a fact-finding mission to assess the magnitude of the
DVD-piracy problem in Canada. Liberal justice critic Marlene Jennings said she would meet with law-enforcement officials, theatre operators and movie-industry representatives. Jennings will then decide whether to push the government to include the offence of camcording in theatres in the Criminal Code. Justice Minister Rob Nicholson will also study the issue, said his spokeswoman, Geneviève Breton. "The minister is aware of the problem of DVD piracy and the role of camcording in contributing to that problem," Breton said in a statement. Both Jennings and Nicholson have received letters from industry lobbyists urging them to stiffen penalties for pirates. Their comments come on the heels of a Globe and Mail report last month that uncovered lax copyright laws in Canada. For a third year in a row, the U.S. government has lumped Canada with Russia and China on a piracy "watch list." In theory, camcording movies in a theatre is an offence under the Copyright Act punishable with up to $1-million in fines and up to five years in prison, according to the Department of Justice.

But prosecutors must first prove a culprit's intent to commercialize the recording in order to obtain an indictment under that act. And police rarely charge moviegoers who sneak a camcorder in a theatre, said
Gary Osmond of the Canadian Motion Picture Distributors Association (CMPDA). For instance, Osmond has been monitoring a group of pirates currently operating in Montreal theatres. While Montreal police stopped one of the group's members in December as he was recording a screening of Martin Scorsese's The Departed, officers could not simply arrest the man, Osmond said. "The camcorder had been so brazen as to tell the manager, 'There's no law, there's nothing you can do to me,' " said Osmond, himself a retired RCMP officer. An added difficulty stems from the fact that the Copyright Act is federal legislation and can be enforced only by the RCMP, Osmond said. Enshrining piracy as an offence in the Criminal Code would empower local police to tackle pirates operating smaller-scale ventures that often pass under the RCMP's radar. In one such example, a pirate has started to peddle DVDs to staff in a hospital, Osmond said, refusing to disclose the name or location of the hospital so as not to compromise the ongoing investigation.

The Motion Picture Association of America claims that in 2005 piracy cost American studios $6.1-billion (
U.S.). In Canada, the CMPDA estimates that its members lost $118-million the same year. Only last year, police seized 120,000 counterfeit DVDs in raids across the country. More than half were new releases not yet available on DVD that could be traced to a camcorder file, Osmond said. But some observers remained sceptical. One law professor said the calls to get tough on camcorder piracy serve only to draw attention away from the movie industry's inability to deal with theft from insiders who start circulating movie copies before their official release. "Much of the problem . . . is an internal issue, not a camcorder issue," said Michael Geist, the research chair in Internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa. With respect to movies pirated with a camcorder, "we already have in Canada laws that deal with this issue," he said.

Lights, Camera And, Finally, Some Action

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Gayle Macdonald


(Feb. 10, 07) Toronto filmmaker
David Weaver was given strict instructions by his Los Angeles agent: When you enter the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, go through Gate B, make sure you park in the visitor's lot, not the space reserved for the studio executives. Anxious to please, Weaver dutifully wheeled his rented Kia into the appropriate space, the white compact standing out like a sore thumb in a sea of Mercedes, BMWs and Hummers. For a moment on that day last fall, Weaver just sat there before embarking on the long walk through Warner's backlots and sound stages, past the production offices of Clint Eastwood and Superman Returns director Bryan Singer, before finally ending up at his destination — the office of Hunt Lowry, a veteran producer interested in optioning Weaver's screenplay, Superhero, about a little boy obsessed with a comic-book saviour. A few hours later, Weaver had a handshake deal to sell the rights to the family movie with Lowry, who has produced over 30 feature films, including White Oleander, Donnie Darko and The Last of the Mohicans. “It was a real historical trip to be on the Warner Bros. lot,” says Weaver. “But I've had a fair number of those meetings now, so I'm not that intimidated.” The deal — which officially closed last week — is the kind of break the 41-year-old director of such art-house films as Siblings and Century Hotel has been waiting for. It also comes with a healthy cheque that gives him the breathing space to keep doing what he loves: the cinematic telling of quirky stories that speak to him as a Canadian, and as an artist.

For the past several years,
Weaver has been at the centre of a group of young, hard-working Canadian filmmakers who often get critical praise for their small-budget films — but often can't generate enough buzz (or exhibitor/ distributor interest) to get substantial audiences. Among them are Sarah Polley, Andrew Currie, Paul Fox, Philippe Falardeau, Reg Harkema and Julia Kwan, to name a few: steely talents just now starting to muscle into the feature-film territory so far conquered by only a handful of Canadians, including David Cronenberg, Atom Egoyan and Deepa Mehta (this year nominated for an Oscar for her film Water). They've battled government agencies like Telefilm Canada for better financing. Watched projects they'd nurtured implode or just die off. Many — including Polley, a couple of years back — have toyed with moving south because English Canada's moribund movie industry seemed to be in a downward spiral no government was inclined to fix. But remarkably, of late, Weaver and some of his peers say they've noticed a definite shift. Pride and optimism among English-Canadian filmmakers, they say, seems to be slowly returning. Among the proof they offer: Canada's strong showing of independent titles (Polley's Away from Her; Currie's horror-comedy, Fido; and Falardeau's picaresque Congorama) at such festivals as Cannes, Sundance and Berlin. “So many filmmakers I know feel galvanized these days,” insists Weaver, who believes a lot of it has to do with the fact that Telefilm's new head, Wayne Clarkson, has significantly diluted the strategy of his predecessor, Richard Stursberg, to make American-style, blatantly commercial films that, ironically, often don't end up being commercial successes. “Clarkson,” says Weaver, “seems to understand we want a better way to get our voices heard.”

As an example, he points to last year's off-beat, decidedly Canuck-heavy success stories Bon Cop, Bad Cop, which beat every Canadian box-office record, and the hoser-heavy Trailer Park Boys: The Movie.  The latter had the biggest opening weekend of any Canadian film ever. Both are nominated for best picture at next week's Genies (along with The Little Book of Revenge, The Rocket and A Sunday in
Kigali). The momentum began improving even more, say some, at the start of the year, when Robert Redford's Sundance Film Festival announced it was programming several Canadian titles, including Away from Her, Fido, Jennifer Baichwal's Manufactured Landscapes, Ian Iqbal Rashid's How She Move and S. Wyeth Clarkson's Sk8 Life. The industry got another lift when the Berlin Film Festival — which opened Thursday — chose 11 Canadian titles, including Bruce McDonald's The Tracey Fragments and Clément Virgo's Poor Boy's Game. Polley is thrilled, but bemused, by the industry's emerging profile: She hazards a guess that the outlook for making commercially viable English-Canadian film has improved simply because morale had no place else to go but up. “It's just been such a hard time, for so long, and now there seems to be this little window opening, of hope, to get our movies financed. “Maybe everyone's in a slightly better mood than they were a few years ago,” adds Polley. “For a while it was a nightmare, and I'd been floating around in the system so long, I was losing hope. But I'll continue taking on this challenge, because even though it's hard money to get, when you finally do, at least you end up with the film you wanted to make. The Canadian system, for all its flaws, provides creative autonomy that is pretty much non-existent anywhere else in the world.”

Besides the sale of his Superhero screenplay (which he may be tapped to direct),
Weaver is busy with two major independent Canadian projects. The first is a feature-film version of a short, Moon Palace, which premiered at TIFF in 2000, and tells the story of a man who gets a job at a Chinese restaurant where all the tables are bugged, the better to produce well-informed fortune cookies. The other involves a consortium of young directors and Weaver friends — Sook-Yin Lee, Andrea Dorfman, Aaron Woodley, Sudz Sutherland and Weaver himself — who will each produce a “Toronto story” as part of a cinematic anthology. A diehard optimist, Weaver began insisting things were looking up for English-Canadian filmmakers around the same time that Telefilm was weathering an embarrassing low. Last April, an elite gathering of filmmakers and producers came out to a Telefilm press conference at Toronto's members-only Spoke Club to meet Michael Jenkinson, a Toronto-bred, L.A.-based studio exec whom Clarkson had just hired as the go-to man for anglophone filmmakers seeking government cash.  The hire was a disaster, with Jenkinson bailing on the position (due to “business complications in California”) the day he was slated to start. Clarkson was left red-faced. The industry — used to mayhem and missteps at Telefilm — was wryly amused. But since that monumental gaffe, many in the industry say Telefilm has been taking some encouraging strides, including the recent launch of a marketing strategy called Engaging the Audience, whose goal is to improve the domestic market for homegrown English-language films over the next one to two years. Certainly such movies could use some help. Last year, they carved out a meagre 1.7 per cent of the domestic market (which, to be fair, was a rise from 1.1 per cent in 2005) thanks in large part to Bon Cop, Bad Cop taking in $13-million, and Trailer Park Boys earning $4-million (98 per cent of it in English Canada). Still, not everyone is as optimistic as Weaver and Polley about Telefilm's support for younger filmmakers. After the 2003 debut of his film, Twist, which screened at festivals in Venice and Toronto, Montreal filmmaker Jacob Tierney says he approached the federal funder for help with his second feature, only to be roundly rebuffed. “I found it incredibly difficult,” he says. “. . . The biggest problem now is the astounding seven-year average between your first and second film. I think it's a crippling way to treat younger artists who often have a lot to offer.”

Aaron Woodley, who directed 2003's charmingly askew Rhinoceros Eyes, also got fed up with trying to scrounge money through Canadian sources for the film, and eventually turned to American financiers. His second feature, Tennessee (currently in production, and starring Mariah Carey as a waitress who dreams of becoming a country-music star) has also been financed by Americans. “You take what you can get,” says the 35-year-old York University film grad and nephew of David Cronenberg.  Still, unlike Tierney, Woodley believes the Canadian English-language film industry is on the cusp of a significant mend. “I feel a huge groundswell,” he says. “I had to go to the States to get my movies made, but as soon as I can start making films in Canada, I will. I refuse to get sucked into the [American studio] system.” Like Woodley, Toronto-based Brad Peyton is a director who's finding it wise to split his focus between the United States and Canada. A graduate of the Canadian Film Centre, where he won acclaim for a short called Evelyn: The Cutest Evil Dead Girl, Peyton now has three scripts in the works with Hollywood studios — and is also working on a dark fable, to be shot in Toronto with producer Gabriella Martinelli, called A Troll Under the Table. “For anyone who is auteur-minded, or someone with an eclectic vision, or detail-oriented, Canada is great because you feel a part of the process,” says the 28-year-old native of Gander, Nfld. As he contemplates his recent deal to see Superhero made, Weaver says his biggest challenge now is making the leap from a filmmaker who makes pictures under $1-million to a director with a budget in the $4-million-to-$6-million range, which is what he's hoping to pull off with Moon Palace.  “Of course, reaching an audience will still be a struggle for us,” he says, “but at least the mountain won't seem so high.”

Producer William Packer: King Of The 'Yard' Readies Next Feature

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By
Kenya M Yarbrough

(
February 9, 2007) *Producer Will Packer is riding high on the success of his latest film “Stomp the Yard.” The electrifying dance flick is the biggest success so far for the young filmmaker and his company Rainforest Productions, though the celebration for Packer and the crew has already been subdued by production on the next project called “This Christmas.”  “I’m real blessed to have this latest success,” Packer said about his film “Stomp the Yard” taking the #1 slot at the box office. “I’m ecstatic; my feet haven’t touched the ground. It’s validation because you work so very hard. And this was a project that was real near and dear to me and it was one that I’d been trying to get off the ground for a while. I pitched it to Hollywood and found a studio that believed in the project. I took it to several studios and several studios passed on the project and now they want to do a film with me. Strange how that works.” Packer said that the greatest thing about the film doing so well, is that it was catapulted to the top by the specific targeted audience. “To do a project like this and have the audience respond – the real people that I made it for respond – is just tremendous. And to get a #1 hit, things have to fall in place, it’s hard – things that you can control and things that you can’t control. Everything has to line up. It’s gotta be the right weekend, the other competition has to be a certain way, your marketing has to work.”

Everything certainly fell into place. “Stomp the Yard” held the #1 position for three weeks and still remains in the Top 10. It made $16 mil in its first week and to date has pulled in $51 mil. Packer is shooting for at least $60 mil. Not bad for a film that took $12 to make. “It’s not that we were surprised that the movie opened at #1,” he said though still thrilled at its status. “We always expected it to open at #1, but when it actually did we were like, ‘Whew, we were right!’” Another triumph for the film was its crossover appeal. A third of the opening weekend’s viewers were non-black, with other urban films claiming a 90% black audience. “I think audiences found it because it was something new,” Packer theorized. “This [film] was based on reality. It was based on something that had a hundred years of history and depth and I think that’s why audiences found it; especially crossover audiences because they find it interesting. It’s always interesting to people when it has real depth and they don’t know about it and they feel like they’ve discovered it on their own.”

Probably didn’t hurt that the film was packed with some explosive dance scene visuals, either. Nevertheless, Packer is on to his next project; a film called “This Christmas,” which stars
Loretta Divine, Mekhi Phifer, Nia Long, Regina King – and reunites Packer with “Stomp” star Columbus Short. “This is a project that I’m really excited about because we want to make stories that have universal themes, and just have African-American faces in them. They’re not necessarily African-American stories,” Packer said. “This is a story about a family that goes through trials and tribulations under extraordinary circumstances, but they make it because of their faith and the family bond that they have. Anybody can relate to that. It’s the story of a family that succeeds against the odds.” “This Christmas” is a holiday drama centered on the Whitfield family's first holiday together in several years where they are faced with certain crisis and circumstances. The film is due out Christmas 2007.

Sk8 Life: A Connection With A Piece Of Wood

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -

(February 11, 2007) On the issue of why Vancouver enjoys a skateboarding Shangri-La rep that Toronto never will, S. Wyeth Clarkson gestures at the snow blowing fiercely outside of his second-floor office in downtown Toronto. "You can't skate in this," he says. Over the past couple of years Clarkson, a filmmaker and producer whose skateboarding movie
Sk8 Life recently played at the Sundance Film Festival and is now screening here at the Royal, has at age 34 become something of a late-blossoming expert on matters pertaining to the board.  But even "expert" may be too mild a word. By the filmmaker's own account, he's lost to the life himself. "I wasn't a big skateboarder before this movie," he says. He had dabbled and toppled a bit in his past, but it wasn't until he found himself on the far side of 30 that he got it. "I was in Vancouver with my first movie," says Clarkson, whose father is veteran Canadian film honcho S. Wayne Clarkson, current chief at Telefilm Canada. "And I noticed something.  "In Vancouver you just see skateboarders everywhere. In global terms, it's probably second only to L.A. and on a par with Barcelona. And every skateboarder had their own skateboarding style. But as well they had their own personal style, whether that was clothing or hairstyle or just the kind of energy they gave off."

An avid student of youth subcultures, Clarkson became fascinated by this largely self-sustaining urban tribe, with its own codes, language, behaviour and star system. But what made it so interesting was also what set it apart: within the urban jungle, it was an enclave unto itself, and it didn't allow just anybody inside. "I can write or produce just about any topic," says Clarkson. "But if I’m going to direct something it really does have to come from a personal place." Thus, having decided to direct a movie about the
Vancouver skating scene that would feature real boarders like the Vancouver legend Kris Foley playing themselves, Clarkson was faced with a daunting proposition. To both know his topic and bond with his subjects, he had to get out there and roll. "My only criticism of skateboarders," says the filmmaker with a grin, "is that when you see videos of them they make it look too darn easy." He recalls the typical newbie humiliation of standing and looking nervously at a ramp while "some 5-year-old flies past you." But eventually the answer presented itself: Don't think. Do. By way of preparing Sk8 Life, the filmmaker not only auditioned approximately 150 skaters, he auditioned himself. If the kids had to prove to him they could perform on-camera, he had to prove to them he could perform on the board.

If he was game but nervous at the beginning, something odd began to happen the more skating he did. "For the first time in my life," he says, "I understood physical addiction. "You'd be lying in bed and thinking, `Wow, I wish I felt like I did when I was on a skateboard.'" He describes it in almost mystical terms, this "visceral connection with a piece of wood." Once fused with both his board and his cast, Clarkson was able to make the inside-skate-culture movie he wanted: an account of the Sk8 Life from the perspective of those who live it, and for whom that addiction is a defining condition of existence. But if the movie's over, the dependence it activated would seem to be lingering. Back when he first saw the skaters careening around the streets of
Vancouver, Clarkson remembers wondering what, as a filmmaker, he was going to do next. "It's nice to have passion surprise you," he observes, "just as I was thinking what's going to excite me next? "I never in my life," he says, "would have expected it to be getting up on a board with wheels."

Tyler Perry’s ‘Daddy’s Little Girls’

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M Yarbrough

(February 12, 2007) *Writer/Director
Tyler Perry – the man who introduced America to the hilarious and wise character Madea – is bringing his talent back to the big screen in his new film “Daddy’s Little Girls.” But don’t look for the wit and wisdom from the motherly matron in this flick. Perry’s latest takes on the dramady without Madea. The film stars Idris Elba (“The Wire”) as Monty, a garage mechanic who takes on his callous, drug-dealing ex-wife for custody of their three daughters. Gabrielle Union stars as Julia, the workaholic lawyer who befriends Monty and lends her help.   “Casting is 90% of directing,” Perry said of the importance and success of bringing the two actors to the film. “When you choose the right talent, they can go instinctively where you want them to go. Idris Elba and Gabrielle Union are the masters of it and they made my job so easy.” So this time out, Perry’s job on-set only required his directing. Perry hung up his ‘actor’ hat and focused totally on the dynamics and nuances of shooting the film. He explained that it was quite a different experience, as only having one role was a lot less intense.  “This picture wasn’t overwhelming at all,” he said. “I feel like this is my first time directing because, before, 10 hours of make-up everyday and being in front of the camera and then you have everybody ask you questions all at the same time can be a little overwhelming. But in this situation was a pleasure. I got an opportunity to focus on the camera, focus on the shots, and to think about the camera placement more.”

Perry even confessed that since he didn’t have to be in front of the camera, he gained about 40 pounds while shooting because he was having such a great time eating the Krispy Kremes on the set. Nevertheless, there were other aspects of the film besides casting and undivided attention that Perry says made filmmaking almost effortless this time. He added that it was also easy to write the story because he had specific actors in mind, namely Union.  “Gabrielle Union was Julia all along for me. Even if she had said no, I would have had to send someone to her house and kidnap her. If I see it in my head it makes it so much easier. And Idris, when the two of them got together at the audition, it was electric.” In addition to that, Perry also gets a little help in the film from the star power of legendary actor Louis Gossett Jr., Malinda Williams, and Tracee Ellis Ross. Still he says that his success is due to his faith in God.  “It is my faith base; it’s my God connection and what that means is – it doesn’t mean, by any stretch of imagination that I’m perfect – but it affords me the opportunity to do things differently,” he said. “It has to be the faith because there is no way I can explain it. You can have all the talent in the world, but if everything doesn’t line up where it’s supposed to be – and we have no power over how things line up – and for me everything has lined up so it’s got to be something higher than me.”

Including religion in his films is a signature for
Perry, but so is including serious topics of the African-American community. “Daddy’s” takes on the dating dynamic of white-collar black women, the trials of decaying black communities, and absent black fathers.  “The most important thing about this film was to show that there are good black fathers,” Perry said. “We hear all the negativity about what we are as black men and fathers and how terrible we are – all of this foolishness. I know there are tons and millions of fathers who are good fathers. They don’t have much, but they love their children. I wanted celebrate them. And the reaction has been, ‘Thank you. Finally somebody is saying something about good black fathers. Our boys can see a positive image.’”  “Daddy’s Little Girls” opens nationwide Wednesday, February 14. For more on the film, check out the official website at www.daddyslittlegirlsmovie.com.

Melvin Van Peebles: Restless Rabble-Rouser Reflects on Career as Renaissance Man

By Kam Williams


Born in Chicago on August 21, 1932,
Melvin Van Peebles is best known as the incendiary iconoclast who financed, wrote, produced, scored, edited, distributed and starred in Sweet Sweetback’s Badass Song (1971) the politically-progressive picture which single-handedly inspired the rise of the blaxploitation genre. What few folks realize, however, is that moviemaking was only a fraction of this Renaissance man’s many talents.

How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (And Enjoy It), a retrospective on the versatile maverick’s entire career, reveals a man who also spent time as a novelist (in French), playwright, composer, painter, astronomer, enlisted man in the Air Force, and as a stock trader with a seat on the American Exchange on Wall Street.

Here,
Melvin shares his thoughts with me on just about everything.

KW: Hey, Melvin, thanks for the time.

MVP: No problemo.

KW: Congrats on your new movie, and recent lifetime achievement awards, even if, in my opinion, the recognition is a bit overdue. 

MVP: Thanks, I’m really a happy camper, as they say.

KW: Do you still have your seat on the American Stock Exchange?

MVP: No longer. Unless you’re going to be there continually, you don’t want to keep your seat because, first of all, it costs, but also, doing stocks is not something you can phone in. You got to do it right, otherwise…

KW: Were you one of those guys you see on the floor gesturing frantically?

MVP: No, I was a trader for a company. That’s different from the brokers who we sort of disdain as sort of just errand boys.

KW: So, how did you spend your time on Wall Street?

MVP: I had to do the mathematical calculations to arrive at whether I was going to buy or sell.

KW: and you were successful enough at it to write about the market.

MVP: I wrote a technical book about how to trade options. 

KW: Of which of your achievements are you most proud?

MVP: I like ‘em all. What the heck!

KW: How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company shows you to be so much more than simply the actor who played Sweetback. To me, you’re contributions as a trailblazing director and producer is of equal importance.

MVP: Normally, if I’m being acknowledged it is for something in front of the camera. This puts the spotlight on the fact that there are opportunities other than just being an actor. That’s what I think our kids sorely need to know.

KW: In my opinion, Sweet Sweetback was a groundbreaking film, not only because it was filled with black characters, but because of the picture’s progressive political point-of-view.

MVP: But not just the film itself was groundbreaking, also the fact that it was made by an African-American without the help of
Hollywood. This was before the rise of the independent era. The studios didn’t really take independent films seriously, till Sweetback was such a financial success. At that juncture, what came from that was not only what they call blaxploitation, but also the independent film. That’s all very important. Just as you said, you think of me mostly from that early era. And that’s what I really find so touching, because nothing happens outside of a historical context. No film is made without the people behind the lens. Of course, most people, even I, tend to look at films in the most simplistic way, and say, “Wow, so-and-so is in this film.” We talk about who’s in it, as opposed to who got it made. But there are financial and technical aspects which go along with it, that should be addressed and acknowledged, including those minorities who are doing excellent work as well.  

KW: When I was majoring in Black Studies at Cornell, I remember a professor praising Sweet Sweetback’s positive political perspective, which was so different from all the blaxploitation flicks which followed which were just new version of Stepin’ Fetchit coon shows. 

MVP: That was why the Black Panthers made it mandatory viewing for all of their members, for its political content. While that’s an immense aspect, you have to remember that if I didn’t have control of what was going on BEHIND the lens, I could never have gotten what you saw IN FRONT OF the lens.   

KW: I remember seeing your play, Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death and being so moved by Minnie Gentry’s [Terrence Howard’s grandmother] closing soliloquy, where she said, “May all your children end up junkies, too!” 

MVP: That was called, “Put a Curse on You!” That curse has actually come to pass. At one time, the general consensus was that only the African community was considered to be plagued by drug problems. People thought, “Well, it’s just a problem among those porch monkeys. It couldn’t happen in our community.” Yeah, right. It has since spread out and become huge all over the country.  

KW: Movies, Broadway plays, you did it all and on your own terms.

MVP: Yes, but once again, remember that the hard part was the business and technical side. People really, really, really to understand that, and that it can be done. You can take your own destiny. I want people to say, “Hmmm, I never thought of that. Gee, I guess so.”

KW: What inspired you to try to make your first movie?

MVP: One day, I was sitting in a movie theatre, and I said, “What the hell, I can do better than that.”

KW: Are you still running? I met you back in 1979 when I came over and introduced myself at the starting line of the
Boston Marathon. How’d you do that day?

MVP: I broke three hours. That day I was
2:57.

KW: That’s incredible. I finished in 4 hours and 18 minutes that day. Are you still running?

MVP: I did seven miles this morning. I ran all the way across
Manhattan and the 59th Street Bridge. It was pretty steep going and the wind was blowing hard in my face. I thought at least I’ll have the wind when I need it on my way back. Don’t you know that after I ran around Queens, and got back to the bridge, the wind had shifted and was blowing in my face again. I said, “Man, this racist wind out here.” 

KW: Have you run the
New York Marathon, too? My wife ran it a couple of years ago.

MVP: Oh, yeah, but I don’t like
New York anymore because I hate all that waiting at the Verrazano Bridge. I just get too cold.

KW: You should be in that contingent of world-class and celebrity runners, like Diddy, that they give special treatment to and place at the front.

MVP: No, you don’t want special treatment when you’re very serious about it, though I guess for my age-bracket, I’m pretty good. Still,
Boston is the one, brother. That’s the great one. I also enjoy the Buffalo to Niagara Falls Marathon. And Philly’s nice. But if you asked me my favourite, I suppose I’d have to say Boston.    

KW: You must eat very healthily to keep up this demanding regimen at your age. Do you have a special health food diet?

MVP: That depends on whether you consider neck bones health food. Me, I’m into
Uncle Ben’s and fat.

KW: How did you like “How to Get the Man’s Foot Outta Your Ass,” the biopic your son,
Mario, made about you?

MVP: I was bowled over by it. I thought it was just terrific. And the interesting thing was, it was all true. It brought back some very tense memories there, boy.

KW: You had already made Watermelon Man with
Columbia Pictures when you made Sweet Sweetback. So, wasn’t making a militant film a risky move for you?

MVP: Very. I had a three picture deal with
Columbia that I lost. And nobody’s offered me a job since. 

KW: So, it really set back your career

MVP: Oh well, what the heck. It doesn’t particularly bother me.

KW: But didn’t it have an effect on your life?

MVP: Oh, it had a major effect. For a long time, there were assassination attempts and all that good stuff. Okay, if you can’t stand the heat in the oven, what are you supposed to do? I mean, I was born and bred in the briar patch. I’m from the Southside of Chicago. So, it was no big deal. [laughs]

KW: Isn’t it ironic though, as someone who was so targeted by the mainstream and the government as a threat to be embraced by the Establishment?

MVP: Hey, look at how we have Martin Luther King Day now, and how did he go?

KW: Even as feared a figure as
Malcolm X eventually got his own stamp.

MVP: It’s all very classic. I’m not so surprised. They say possession is 9/10ths of the law. I say survival is 10/10ths of the law. And I always felt that one day my contributions would come to the forefront.

KW: Yeah, sooner or later, and you’re getting the last laugh now.

MVP: It may seem soon to you, but when you’re waiting, brother, it doesn’t seem all that rapid, if you know what I mean. [laughs heartily, sighs]

KW: What question would you love for someone to ask you that nobody ever asks? Is there any question I haven’t asked that you would like for me to ask? 

MVP: No, I really like to talk to people and to get their take on things. This has been very instructive. While we’ve been talking, you’ve shared your impressions and I find that fascinating, because you mustn’t forget that essentially, I’m, most of all, a writer. So, what makes people tick interests me, and I appreciate your questions. 

KW: Well, I appreciate your sharing your time, your wisdom, your reminiscences, and your sage insights about the industry. And in case I haven’t already, I want to express my gratitude for all your seminal contributions which changed the course of cinema history for black folks, opening doors and creating opportunities for many who have come behind you. And though I feel that many owe you a debt of gratitude, I don’t mean to suggest that Sweet Sweetback is in the same genre as the blaxploitation era it inspired.

MVP: It’s not. It’s a revolutionary film. What happened when Sweetback made all that money, the studios were in a very difficult position. They wanted the money, but they didn’t the message. This marked the advent of the caricatures which became known as blaxploitation. Hollywood realized that they were totally unfamiliar with black vernacular, so they had to hire some black people which meant the beginning of some job opportunities to do the costumes, the sets, etcetera. And now we’re slowly beginning to see some of the fruits of that.

KW: Thanks again, bro, I guess we’ve got everything covered.

MVP: Yeah, see you in
Boston!

Mirren, Whitaker Win British Academy Awards

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail -
Jill Lawless, Associated Press

(
Feb. 12, 2007) LONDON — A gracious monarch and a charismatic dictator took the top prizes Sunday at the British Academy Film Awards. Dame Helen Mirren was crowned best actress for playing the Queen in The Queen, which also was named the year's best picture. Forest Whitaker took the best actor prize for his riveting turn as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland, the story of a young Scottish doctor's entanglement with the Ugandan dictator. Last King was named best British film and also took the prize for best adapted screenplay. Peter Morgan, who wrote The Queen and co-wrote The Last King of Scotland, joked that the double triumph might spawn a sequel.  “Idi Amin wrote love letters to the queen, he offered himself as her lover,” Morgan said. “Forest, if you're willing, I think there may be some takers.” Whitaker beat Daniel Craig ( Casino Royale), Leonardo DiCaprio ( The Departed), Richard Griffiths ( The History Boys) and Peter O'Toole ( Venus) to the best-actor prize. Director Kevin Macdonald, however, said he initially doubted Whitaker was right for the role.

“He seemed such a sweet, gentle, lovable sort of person,” said Macdonald, whose last film was mountaineering documentary Touching the Void. “He proved he did have those depths of anger and paranoia and terror in him.” No film dominated the awards, popularly known as BAFTAs and considered an important indicator of success at the
Oscars in two weeks. The Last King of Scotland took three prizes, as did Guillermo del Toro's fantastical saga Pan's Labyrinth, which was named best foreign-language film and also won for costume and makeup design. Paul Greengrass was named best director for United 93, a docudrama-style reenactment of one of the flights hijacked on Sept. 11, 2001. Former American idol contestant Jennifer Hudson was named best supporting actress for the musical Dreamgirls, while Alan Arkin won the best supporting actor trophy for Little Miss Sunshine. Michael Arndt won the best original screenplay prize for Little Miss Sunshine. The Queen, which depicts the public mourning and palace intrigue that followed the 1997 death of Princess Diana, beat Alejandro Gonzalez Inraritu's multi-stranded saga Babel, Martin Scorsese's cops-and-crooks saga The Departed, quirky road comedy Little Miss Sunshine and The Last King of Scotland to the best film prize.

The James Bond thriller Casino Royale went home with just one prize — for sound — despite nominations in nine categories. The film's “
Bond girl,” Eva Green, was named rising star of the year, an award decided by public vote. The ceremony has become an essential pre-Oscars stop since it was moved in 2000 from April to a February date to precede the Academy Awards in Hollywood. Kate Winslet, Jake Gyllenhaal and Penelope Cruz were among the stars attending Sunday's ceremony at London's elegant Royal Opera House. Mirren, 61, is now a strong favourite to take the best actress prize at the Academy Awards on Feb. 25. To win the BAFTA, she beat a strong field that included Dame Judi Dench for Notes on a Scandal, Cruz for Volver, Winslet for Little Children and Meryl Streep for The Devil Wears Prada. Bookmakers were so certain Mirren would win that some stopped taking bets on her — a confidence shared by Dench. “I'm a betting woman, so I'll put money on Helen,” Dench said before the ceremony. “I'm just here for the show.”

FILM TIDBITS

No Settlement Reached In ACTRA Strike

Excerpt from The Toronto Star – Canadian Press

(February 08, 2007)  Two days of federal mediation aimed at settling the national performers strike ended Thursday without a deal,
ACTRA said in a news release. Federal mediator Elizabeth MacPherson has invited the union and producers to additional talks by phone next week, the union said. "The two parties narrowed the issues slightly but failed to reach agreement," said the union which represents 21,000 members across Canada. The performers went on strike Jan. 8 after ACTRA members voted 97.6 per cent in favour of walking off the job. A key sticking point in the dispute is compensation for performances viewed in new and emerging media platforms. Corner Gas star Eric Peterson, comedian Colin Mochrie and actress Wendy Crewson are among Canadian performers who have complained they're being asked to work for free on Internet and cellphone broadcasts.

Drought Ends For Movie Fans In India

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(February 08, 2007)  MUMBAI, India — The Oscar-nominated Canadian movie
Water will be shown in cinemas across India later this month, seven years after angry Hindu nationalists stormed the sets and forced its Indian-born director to stop filming. This time, distributors say, they don't foresee any trouble. “We plan to release the film on Feb. 23 in theatres across the country,” Sanjay Bhutiani, the film's distributor, said Wednesday. He had earlier said it would be released in March. The film's Indian-born director, Deepa Mehta, had to abandon shooting of the film in 2000 after Hindu nationalists, who alleged it was anti-Hindu, destroyed sets in the holy city of Varanasi. The Toronto-based Mehta resumed shooting the film in Sri Lanka four years later. “We are trying to get Deepa Mehta to visit India for the film's release,” Bhutiani said. “We don't expect any trouble.” Water has been nominated for an Academy Award in the best foreign language film category. The film, shot mainly in the Hindi language, centres on a home where widows were sent by their families to live in social exile. It depicts their desire to live a life free of stigma. Under ancient Hindu tradition, widows were considered bad luck and sometimes even blamed for their husband's death. Remarriage of widows was frowned upon — although there were no such social barriers for widowers. The Oscars will be presented on Feb. 25 in Los Angeles.

EURWEB.COM Hosts Red Carpet At PAFF Opening

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(February 8, 2007) *Electronic Urban Report creator
Lee Bailey has been chosen to host the red carpet gala at tonight’s 15th Annual Pan African Film Festival Opening Night Gala. Bailey will welcome such confirmed stars as Forest Whitaker, Quincy Jones, Wesley Snipes, Alfre Woodard and Kerry Washington as they make their way into the event at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles.  Also slated to attend are Ambassador Andrew Young, Honorable Ephraim Hlophe, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Swaziland to the United States, His Excellency Dr. Kwame Bawuah-Edusei, Ambassador of Ghana to the United States and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa. For the 15th consecutive year, PAFF will present over one hundred quality films from the United States, Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, the South Pacific and Canada, all showcasing the diversity and complexity of people of African descent. The event also includes one of America's largest fine art shows featuring prominent and emerging black artists and fine crafts people, including local, national and international poets, musicians and storytellers. Venues: AMC Magic Johnson Theaters & Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.

Eur Film Review: Constellation

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kam Williams

(February 8, 2007)  *When Carmel Boxer (Gabrielle Union) passed away, almost all of her extended family willingly descended upon their sleepy hometown of Huntsville, Alabama for her funeral. The only holdout was her brother Helms (
Billy Dee Williams), an embittered expatriate living in Paris. Helms had to be tricked into believing his sister had already been buried before he would return to his roots. Why? Because he had made such a mess of his life by the time he left there. He had grown up during the days of segregation and had dared to date and then even to wed a white woman. And though that marriage to Nancy (Leslie Ann Warren) would not last, it did at least produce an estranged, café au lait daughter in Lucy (Melissa de Sousa). His second marriage, to Jenita (Rae Dawn Chong), a black woman, didn't last
either, it did happen to produce another offspring, namely, relatively well-adjusted
Rosa (Zoe Saldana). If this scenario doesn't sound like enough of a soap opera, also back in town is Lucy's white husband, Kent (Alec Newman), and Rosa's black ex-boyfriend, Errol (Hill Harper), who cheated on her with her white best friend, Celeste (Ever Carradine).  For full review by Kam Williams, go HERE.

Oprah And Albom Team Up For Movie

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(February 13, 2007) DETROIT – Author and newspaper columnist Mitch Albom will work for the third time with ABC and the second time with Oprah Winfrey to turn his latest best-selling book into a made-for-television movie. Casting is under way and filming is expected to begin in July for the two-hour movie version of For One More Day. It's tentatively scheduled to air in December. The movie, produced by Winfrey's Harpo Films, will carry the Oprah Winfrey Presents title as did the 1999 film adaptation of Albom's Tuesdays with Morrie. Albom wrote the teleplay and will serve as an executive producer. He told the Detroit Free Press for a story Tuesday that Winfrey saw For One More Day in manuscript form and expressed early interest.  The book, which tells the story of a former baseball player who plans to end his life but finds redemption when he gets the chance to spend another day with his dead mother, debuted last year at No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list and has more than 4 million copies in print. "We're thrilled to once again see (Winfrey and Albom) partnered up," ABC Entertainment president Steve McPherson told Variety. "We're really only targeting these big franchise films, and a select group of minis that make sense for us." Lloyd Kramer, who directed Albom's second book-to-movie, the Hallmark Entertainment-produced The Five People You Meet in Heaven, will direct For One More Day.

T.O.'s Movie, TV Biz Take A Hit

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Bruce Demara, Entertainment Reporter

(February 14, 2007) Film and television production in Toronto suffered a precipitous decline in 2006, dropping 23 per cent from 2005 levels. Figures released by the Toronto Film Office show production, at $594,399,000, was down $178,704,000 or 23.11 per cent in 2006, compared to $773,103,000 in 2005.  "It's significant," said Toronto Film Office manager Rhonda Silverstone. The news comes at a particularly bad time for the city's film and television industry, which peaked in 2001 with $928 million spent on film and television production.  It's been in decline ever since: $886 million in 2002, $863 million in 2003, $802 million in 2004 and so on.  Production has nearly ground to halt so far in 2007, with only one major feature film, Hank and Mike, and a small number of TV projects filming in the GTA as a result of a strike by 21,000 ACTRA (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists) members, which began on Jan. 8.  Sixty per cent of ACTRA members live in Toronto. "It's slow, it's very quiet (this month)," Silverstone added.  Last year's disappointing results were expected because negotiations with all the major film trades and technical unions were not resolved until November, causing major U.S. studios to give the city a wide berth. A range of other issues have also hammered the industry, including the rising Canadian dollar and more lucrative tax credits offered in other jurisdictions. But the city's film commissioner, Karen Thorne-Stone, held out hope for a better 2007 if the labour dispute is settled. "We're in regular contact with studios and productions in both the U.S. and other countries, and they've all told us they'll be back looking at Toronto as soon as our labour issues are resolved," Thorne-Stone said.

::TV NEWS::

Mark Curry: Back to Life

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Feb. 12, 07) On the Feb. 15 episode of 'The Montel Williams Show,' actor and comedian Mark Curry will reveal the true life tragedy he recently endured for a show centering on guests who have overcome enormous odds and tragic circumstances to rebuild their lives. The 'Hangin' with Mr. Cooper' star said he was he lived through a freak accident last spring when he inadvertently knocked an aerosol can of spray starch off a shelf, in his California home.  According to Curry, the can hit a metal wall bracket that connected the water heater to a wall and ruptured, causing an explosion and a fire that engulfed him.  He suffered second degree burns over 18% of his body and spent three days in a medically induced coma.

"It was so bad, I didn't think about it--the pain was so excruciating that I just threw it out. I wanted to kill myself," he revealed to
Williams. "By the 4th day, I said, 'I can't do this.' I felt less than a man. I couldn't even look at my own body. I saw my hand with the peeling skin and threw up and I didn't look at myself again." Curry, who had a memorable role on Kirstie Alley's short-lived reality based Showtime series 'Fat Actress,' says support from fellow comedians helped to lift his spirits and that, coupled with the love and encouragement from his family, made him want to live again.
"Sinbad called,
Bill Cosby called and even Martin Lawrence's mother called. She sounded like my mother who'd just passed [away] earlier this year," he shared. "When the comedians called, they all joked and accused me of freebasing like Richard Pryor," he said, adding, "When Bill Cosby calls, you get up - I don't care what's wrong with you. They made me laugh and that helped."

Photo courtesy of The Montel Williams Show.

'Girlfriends': Hitting At Home

By
Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Feb. 9, 07) Though one of the beloved characters is no longer in the mix, the show continues to go on for the long running sitcom '
Girlfriends.' And the Mara Brock Akil created series -- which centers on black woman in Los Angeles -- always hits home with tackling topics and issues that affect their target demographic, such as adultery, paternity, sex addiction, interracial dating and HIV/AIDS. On the Feb.12 episode, domestic abuse will be at the center of the plot. While dining at Chili's, Maya (Golden Brooks) and her husband Darnel (Khalil Kain) meet another couple Alicia and Ray (played by China Shavers and television veteran Carl Anthony Payne) in the episode titled "Time to Man Up." Excited at the prospect of befriending another Black couple in their new neighbourhood, it seems like destiny. The attractive couple hails from Atlanta and turns out to live right next to them, and after spending some time with the couple, the always over-the-top Maya (best-selling author of the self help book 'Oh, Hell Yes') grows suspicious that Ray is abusing Alicia. When she tells Darnell, her friends and even calls the police, no one believes her and she is told to "mind her own business."

If you watch 'Girlfriends,' you know that words like that don't bode too well with
Mrs. Wilkes.  However, when Darnell overhears violent yelling from Ray and Alicia's house he can no longer ignore the signs and decides to "man up." Get it? That's the title of the episode.  "I believe the measure of a country is how well women and children are treated, protected and revered," Akil told The BV Newswire today regarding her motivation for dealing with domestic abuse on the show. "In America four million women a year are assaulted by their partners. By this number alone and my theory, America has a lot of work to do and it's not in Iraq." Okay! "So we at Girlfriends thought we would, one, shed some light on domestic abuse and it's continuing problem, as well as offer a solution to the problem - men in the community have to get involved and make these abusers know that abusing women is not all right. Not only will this help to end abuse, but perhaps salvage the American family." The episode, well executed and masterfully done -- as always, leaves the door open for continued discussion surrounding this topic. It's definitely worth seeing.

Penelope Corrin: CBC Comedy Gets A Fresh Face

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -


(
February 11, 2007) These days, heads look up when Penelope Corrin strolls through the CBC atrium. After all, she is a brunette stunner and it's as if the people sipping coffee suppose she's an actress – if only they could remember the show she's on.  Well, now she is a CBC regular of sorts. She's on the Royal Canadian Air Farce – for this month only. Maybe. "I've replaced Jessica Holmes, who has taken maternity leave," Corrin reports. "I thought I'd be outta here by the end of the month. But I'm now hearing she may want some more time off." The Air Farce has been making maximum use of their rental cast member. She starred in a recent sketch spoofing Nancy Grace – coming up with a cleverly malicious take on the CNN personality, right down to the screaming red dress and the overblown hand movements. Luba Goy was U.S. speaker Nancy Pelosi and they tried shouting each other down: "Call me Nancy, Nancy!" "The camera clearly loves her, she has a big future in TV. The way she got right into her characters surprised us – when she was Nancy Grace, she had the head movements down, even the hand gestures," says RCAF founding father Roger Abbott. In another skit, she was CBC's Gill Deacon, falling asleep on her own show and telling incoming Environment Minister John Baird to shout if he likes – "nobody's watching."

She was also a giddy, slurring
Paula Abdul dropping by Canada AM, and in a high state of confusion because she hadn't been up so early in years. Adds Abbott: "She didn't have a whole lot of experience working in a TV environment but she had no problems adapting ... It's a real challenge to come onto a show and understand our shorthand." Corrin is making the most of a lucky break. The RCAF was looking for temporary and rotating Holmes replacements. Corrin's name came up and she happened to be working in London (Ont.) at the time. "I went through the casting agent, Tina Gerussi, and did two rounds of auditions. I wrote a character piece, but as I was leaving, the panel wondered why I was carrying a guitar. It just happened I was going to do a skit using it, then backed out. But they sat back and demanded I show them and I think that got me in." Corrin and Holmes both attended Ottawa's Canterbury H.S., but were years apart. "I got my yearbooks out and showed Jessica our Midsummer Night's Dream: I was a fairy, she had a lead. She still didn't remember!"

Born and raised in
Ottawa, Corrin took drama at UBC and settled in to 12 years of mirth-making in Vancouver. "For some reason, little of Vancouver comedy gets on TV. I really didn't care. I was making folks laugh and proud of it." She's done guest dramatic work on such West Coast-based series as The L Word, Stargate: Atlantis and Masters of Horror. And besides appearing in comedy troupes she's also directed revues. "I'd like to stay in Toronto for a bit," she says. "My sister in Ottawa is having a baby – it would be nice to visit more often." At the Air Farce, "It's very collegial. That was a pleasant surprise. You just plunge right in. Everything is so meticulous, from props to wardrobe. I can get used to this high standard, it helps make the characters grow on me.  "We tape Wednesdays, two shows a night ... The second attempt usually produces the material that's used on air. "We did a funny bit about Luba Goy making me feel at home – I had to flush her cat out of the toilet ...  "But I want you to know it was really a crew member's cat, and was on a board out of view. Besides, the cat was a pro, there was no squawking. Honest!"

TV TIDBITS

‘Lost’s’ Perrineau Finds New CBS Drama

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(February 8, 2007) *Now that he’s no longer “Lost” on ABC, actor
Harrold Perrineau will join the CBS family as a cast member of “Demons,” a drama from CBS Paramount Network TV. The show centers on Gus, an ex-Jesuit priest-psychologist who performs exorcisms.  Perrineau will play a priest who has known Gus since seminary and is his confessor, confidante and good friend. Perrineau has starred for two seasons on “Lost” as single father Michael Dawson. Viewers last saw his character sailing off with his son in the show’s Season 2 finale. According to the Hollywood Reporter, there was a possibility that Perrineau could return to the Emmy-winning series, but sources said the sides could not reach an agreement.  In the meantime, Perrineau will next be seen in the features "28 Weeks," "Gardens of the Night" and "Your Name Here."

Four Finalists Named For Youth And Family-TV Prize

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail -
Guy Dixon

(Feb. 10, 07)
Toronto — Finalists for the $50,000 Shaw Rocket Prize for Canadian youth and family television productions were announced yesterday. The jury-selected finalists are Hope for the Future, a documentary travelogue of Canadian students to the Balkans; CTV's drama Instant Star about an Avril Lavigne-like musician fending for herself in the music business; the CBC's Make Some Noise, a documentary about Canadian kids fighting for causes around the world; and the CBC's The Snow Queen based on Hans Christian Andersen's tale. The winner will be picked by 700 Grade 6, 7 and 8 students across Canada taking part in the Royal Conservatory of Music's Learning Through the Arts program and will be announced May 3.

::THEATRE NEWS::

Refugee Story Told By Refugees

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Raju Mudhar, Staff Reporter

(February 13, 2007) Sitting in the third row of the Theatre Passe Muraille,
Soheil Parsa is trying to keep his voice down and his energy up. It is the weekend before previews of his production of the acclaimed drama The Sheep and the Whale, and the cast is trickling in for rehearsal. He still has to tinker with some details and it's obvious he is tired.  This is the English language debut of the play written by Moroccan-born, Canadian playwright Ahmed Ghazali. Based loosely on a true story, The Sheep and the Whale is set on a Russian freighter in the Strait of Gibraltar that hits a small boat containing Moroccan stowaways, which sinks. Through the long stormy night, the freighter searches for a port willing to take the recovered bodies as crew members hunt the survivors.  The play touches upon several burning geopolitical issues but also plays with issues of identity. As such, Parsa wanted to make sure the story was told by people with a personal understanding of what it means to be a refugee.  The theatre is what brought Parsa to Canada. When he fled Iran more than 20 years ago, he knew it was the only choice if he wanted to pursue his dream.

"I was 28 years old when I fled my country after the Islamic revolution, but I had a very clear idea; I had one goal, to come and pursue my career as a theatre artist. When I came to this country, I barely spoke English and I had to start from scratch." He enrolled at
York University and supporting his family at a variety of jobs – bus driver, newspaper deliverer, doughnut shop employee – scraped by in order to realize his dream. Parsa says the theatre was where he first found something familiar, and discovering like-minded people let him know he made the right choice – even if it was a frustrating journey at times. "It was hard, but now I look back and think that it was part of what made me who I am today." The past five weeks of rehearsals have taken their toll on Parsa. And his mother died last Wednesday. But he feels confident that she wouldn't want him to forsake his art.  "She would understand, and my family is taking care of the arrangements, so I can finish here and dedicate the entire run of the show to her.... When you have no organized religion, this place, the theatre is my temple," he says.  Andy Velasquez, who plays Hassan, also knows what it's like to make a life in a new country.

"I know one of the things ... in terms of the things that I bring personally to the show, is that idea of being lost somewhere between two cultures," says Velasquez. "I'm from
Chile, but we left during Pinochet's time. We came here, and while I feel comfortable with my Canadian friends and life, in any new culture there can be a disconnect ... I'm not completely at home in either one. Whenever you're in one, you're missing something from the other."  Modern Times theatre company has partnered with Cahoots Theatre Projects to present the play. The companies have also mentored young refugees, through a program called Crossing Gibraltar, in weekly acting workshops. Five of those youths are in the show.  The result is a more ethnically diverse cast than is typically seen on Toronto stages, says Parsa. "Because the theatre community in Toronto is very similar to the political structure in this country, you rarely see people of colour. It's still very white. It's changing now, it's getting better, but it's still hard to see actors of colour, or directors from different communities in the mainstream."  From a logistical standpoint, the show has posed challenges. For a small theatre company, a cast of 17 would be unwieldy under any circumstance, but with some of the younger actors still in school, juggling rehearsals has made things interesting for stage manager Isaac Thomas. So has Parsa's method.  "Some of the actors haven't worked in a process like Soheil's," says Thomas. "In many instances, the actors basically work, and then the lighting and sound comes in at the end. With Soheil, he likes everyone to work together from the beginning: the lighting manager, the sound engineers. It's really quite brilliant and, in the end, his way leads to much more of an integrated product."   Previews for The Sheep and the Whale start tonight. Opening night is in one week.

Lillias White: Taking On The 'Blues'

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Feb. 9, 07) Tony Award winning dynamo
Lillias White has a new gig -- albeit a limited one. The 'Once On This Island' and 'Dreamgirls' star has been cast in the Off-Broadway premiere of 'Blind Lemon Blues,' a musical revue celebrating the legacy of blues musician Blind Lemon Jefferson -- credited with having a profound influence on shaping American popular music. Presented by The York Theatre Company and Documentary Arts in association with Central Track Productions, 'Blind Lemon' was created by Alan Govenar and Akin Babatunde who portrays Jefferson. Featuring Benita Arterberry, Timothy Parham, guitarist Sam Swank and Calvin Yarbrough, and Alisa Peoples Yarbrough, the show is packed with 60 songs from Jefferson's expansive repertoire. Jefferson was a blind street musician who played his guitar with a tin cup tied to its neck at the corner of Elm Street and Central Avenue in Dallas, Texas until a Paramount Records scout discovered him. Between 1926 and 1929, Jefferson made more than 80 records and became the biggest selling-down-home blues singer in America.  Set in New York City circa 1948 at the last recording session of the legendary Huddie Ledbetter -- better known as Leadbelly -- 'Blind Lemon' combines elements of traditional blues, gospel, rhythm and blues, soul, doo-wop, and rap to evoke the enduring legacy of Jefferson and his contemporaries, Blind Willie Johnson, Lillian Glinn, Hattie Hudson, Bobbie Cadillac, Lillian Miller and Leadbelly himself.

According to a spokesperson, after seeing a workshop of Blind Lemon Blues, playwright August Wilson said, "I listened to the music of Blind Lemon everyday for five years. Blind Lemon Jefferson was the voice of Black America at that moment." So if it's good enough for him, it will be good enough for me -- and maybe you. To be honest,
Lillias White can sing me the telephone book on her worst day -- and still bring down the house. She is "just a stone singer" (to quote the late, great clergyman Reverend C.L. Franklin from The Queen of Soul's 'Amazing Grace' landmark recording) and one of the most dynamic performers on The Great White Way.  And if the name Yarborough & Peoples rings a bell, it is because it is indeed the same duo who churned out chart-topping R&B hits in the 1980s, such as 'Don't Stop The Music." Performances for 'Blind Lemon Blues' will begin Feb 15 and continue through Feb 25 only at The York Theatre at St. Peter's in New York City. The York Theatre Company, believed to be the only theatre in New York dedicated to developing and fully producing new musicals, and preserving neglected, notable shows from the past, has for more than three decades garnered critical acclaim and recognition from artists and audiences alike.  This year marks the tenth anniversary of James Morgan's tenure as Artistic Director of the company.

::OTHER NEWS::

Luminato Promises 10 Days Of `Electrifying' A-List Talent

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

(February 13, 2007) Luminato stepped into the spotlight yesterday, when a special preview revealed the incredible variety of programming that will make up the 10-day arts festival scheduled to begin on June 1. Names like Eric Idle, Atom Egoyan, Philip Glass and Leonard Cohen feature high on the list of stellar participants who will provide Toronto with "wide-ranging programs and electrifying events that would help us see the world in a new light" as the National Ballet's Karen Kain told the crowd gathered at the Design Exchange for the official announcement. David Pecaut , the driving force behind the event, invited everyone to look on it as a celebration of Toronto's potential.  "The city is the canvas," he said, "and the festival is the paint."

Festival CEO Janice Price proudly announced a bill of more than 90 events that will take place at numerous venues all around the city's downtown core. They include the Mirvish Productions presentation of Vida! by the famed Danza Cuba company, Luna – an opera gala starring 16 of Canada's finest stars, including Isabel Bayrakdarian, Carnivalissima – a giant street festival which promises to combine Caribana, Mardi Gras, Junkanoo and La Diablada. World premieres of plays about Glenn Gould and Irving Layton will alternate with events like the Muhtadi International Drumming Festival and the Spiegeltent – a 1920s cabaret that will include everything from showgirls to acrobats. Another highlight is sure to be "Summer of Love," a giant outdoor installation which will attempt to return Yorkville to the hippie splendour it knew 30 years ago. And as previously revealed, Eric Idle's new comic oratorio "Not the Messiah (He's a Very Naughty Boy)," inspired by the film Life of Brian is expected to be a must-see, as will the collaboration between Philip Glass and Leonard Cohen, "Book of Longing." "I'm positive that we're going to be able to program something that will be of interest to everyone," said the ebullient Price, who came to this position only five months ago after successful stints at the Stratford Festival, Lincoln Center and the Kimmel Center. "This is absolutely not a one-time only event," she assured the Star. "We intend to be around for many years." Asked how she expected to define what would make this festival unique, she said, "Every year, when it's over, I'd like people to be able to think back about what they've experienced and say `You know what? Without Luminato, we wouldn't have seen that in Toronto this year.'" Luminato runs from June 1-10. For more details, go to www.luminato.com.

Harlem Home For African Art

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(February 10, 2007)  NEW YORK–A new $80 million (U.S.)
Museum for African Art will serve as "a cultural gateway to Harlem," which is enjoying a real estate and economic renaissance, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday. "This museum reaffirms our city's commitment to arts and culture as the backbone to the tourism industry," Bloomberg said at the Guggenheim Museum. Plans were unveiled for the new home of the Museum for African Art, which is to open in 2009. The first exhibits will include a recreation of an African village, a selection of ancient masterpieces and the work of contemporary artists both in Africa and in the so-called diaspora outside the continent. During its 22-year existence, the museum, now based in Queens, has had to borrow space for its exhibits, which have travelled worldwide. "We often joke about our nomadic existence," said museum president Elsie McCabe. At the same time, she said of its exhibits, "we've been everywhere from Birmingham to Budapest."

Construction on the building, designed by
Robert A.M. Stern, is to begin this spring. Bloomberg noted that the new building will be part of the Museum Mile, a stretch of Fifth Avenue that also includes the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which itself has a major collection of African art. The tree-lined walk down the avenue along Central Park also passes the Jewish Museum, the Cooper-Hewitt National Museum of Design, the Museum of the City of New York and El Museo del Barrio. The Museum for African Art, the first to be erected on the Museum Mile since the Guggenheim in 1959, will occupy 8,360 square metres, with galleries, space for conservation and storage facilities, a library, a restaurant, a shop, a rooftop for events and a children's reading area. The museum has named Enid Schildkrout as its chief curator. She has worked for three decades at New York's American Museum of Natural History and will be responsible for creating and organizing exhibitions, maintaining relations with scholars, collectors and other institutions, and working with architects and designers to plan the galleries in the new building.

The Baggage Inspired By Mary J. Blige

Source
: Steven Johnson, mattirousecollection@yahoo.com

OTHER TIDBITS

Canadians Up For Commonwealth Prize

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Jill Lawless, Associated Press

(Feb. 12, 2007) London —
Alice Munro and Peter Behrens are two of the homegrown authors vying for this year's Commonwealth Writers Prize. Behrens, who was born in Montreal but lives in Maine, was shortlisted for The Law of Dreams, which has already won the Governor-General's award. Munro was cited for The View from Castle Rock. Other best-book finalists are Mark Frutkin of Ottawa for Fabrizio's Return, Toronto-raised Claire Messud, who lives in Massachusetts, for The Emperor's Children, Nega Mezlekia of Toronto for The Unfortunate Marriage and New Brunswick-born David Adams Richards for The Friends of Meager Fortune.

Hudson Joins Elite Company With Vogue Cover

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(February 13, 2007) *When the new March issue of
Vogue magazine hits newsstands later this month, Jennifer Hudson will become one of only three African-American actresses to have graced the cover since its launch in 1892. The other two: Oprah Winfrey and Halle Berry. Noted celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz shot the Chicago native at the World Famous Apollo Theater in Harlem last month.  Hudson’s cover photo for the magazine’s annual Power Issue will be accompanied by a seven-page spread that reportedly includes three more portrait pictures of the “Dreamgirls” powerhouse.   Vogue will probably begin releasing images of the Hudson spread sometime next week, a source tells E! Planet Gossip.   Well if that's true, how is it that we have EXCLUSIVE photos (see below) from the shoot! How indeed. The magazine’s editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, chose Hudson for the cover despite the common belief in the publishing world that African-American celebrities on magazine covers do not sell.

(February 8, 2007) Up and coming fashion Design outlet Matti Rouse will pay homage to the Queen of Hip Hop Soul, Mary J. Blige, with it's new couture handbag the "Mary Jane."  The "Mary Jane" was inspired by the life of Blige, who helped to save Matti Rouse's CEO's Life.  In a candid video essay on Mary's website "Stevo" explains how Mary J. Blige's music saved his life after finding out his daughter had Leukemia Cancer. He embraces the audience in a real-life no holds barred testimony that's inspiring to anyone dealing with this deadly disease.  Mocked as "Mr. Blige" by friends, Stevo tells us why he choose "Mary Jane."

"Mary has always been an artists who have made a struggle in the right direction, so after seeing all of her efforts and what she is doing to place positive thoughts into this universe, it would only be right to show her love back. Besides, when I had no one on
December 31, 2000, to comfort me while dealing with my daughter's cancer, Mary J. Blige saved the day."  Matti Rouse expects the handbag samples to arrive spring/summer of 2007.  "Designing a bag to pay tribute to Mary J. Blige is an honour," said Stevo. "She didn't ask us, we choose her. Not because of her celebrity, but because of her humanity and constant efforts to educate those who were deprived."  View the Matti Rouse Collection here: www.myspace.com/mattirouse

::DANCE NEWS::

Cuban Dancers To Ignite Arts Fest

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Arts Columnist

(
February 10, 2007) They're Cubans, all women, who seduce audiences with a unique brand of dancing. They're persona non grata in the United States. And they're coming to Toronto in June, the Star has learned, to help ignite Luminato – the city's new annual arts festival.  The troupe is called Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba, named after the phenomenal 38-year-old woman who created the company 15 years ago and creates its one-of-a-kind choreography. "This is a great example of how Luminato will play an active role as a partner and developer bringing Toronto something in the spirit of adventure," says Luminato CEO Janice Price. Price had hoped to keep the news secret until Luminato's glitzy media launch at the Design Exchange on Monday. But yesterday she confirmed that in a three-way partnership with David Mirvish and Toronto arts manager Peter Sever, the troupe will perform at the Royal Alexandra Theatre from June 1 to 10. Instead of just bringing the company with its mixed-program act, combining Spanish flamenco and Cuban influences, Luminato will offer the world premiere of Vida, linking dances and music with Cuba's social history, seen through the eyes of an old woman.

Mirvish went to
Cuba last fall to see the Cuban dancers and fell in love with them. So did retired Toronto ballet star Veronica Tennant, who is making an hour-long documentary about the company which Price hopes to show at Luminato. As recently as 2003, this troupe toured the U.S. frequently and received rave reviews in New York, Chicago, Washington, Denver and Cleveland. But more recently, the Bush administration has clamped down on Cuban artists, refusing to let them into the country. The cost of bringing Vida here is about $1 million, but there could be a payoff. If Toronto embraces the show it could run well past Luminato into mid-July. The producers hope the Toronto run will create a demand all over the world – but if Americans want to see Vida, they'll have to come here. With a budget of $10 million for its first year, Luminato promises to offer Toronto over 90 events showcasing Canadian and international theatre, music, dance, film, design, literature and architecture.

Dancers Seize The Stage

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Dance Writer

(
February 08, 2007) To those on the fringes of the artistic community, the main stage can be a closed shop. But emerging and experimental performing artists are increasingly seizing the means of production and organizing their own showcase events to present work in progress. The latest such salon is A Month of Sundays. Dancer Aimée Dawn Robinson has rounded up a group of musicians and dancers who will be performing each Sunday in February at 1:30 p.m. in a little studio on the 8th floor at 96 Spadina Ave. Admission is $7 or pay-what-you-can. Robinson, Josh Thorpe and Colin Clark, all of them alternating on electric keyboard, acoustic and electric guitar, call themselves The Thorpe and their performance of what they call – quite rightly – "warped" songs, opened the series last Sunday. The meandering songs with their weird – possibly found – lyrics are built up by recording layered tracks of improvisations. Done live, to mostly tuneless strumming and keyboarding, they sounded like the vocal day-dreaming of a child left to play on its own. After that mood-setting music, Claudia Wittmann, under the influence of Japanese Butoh and the "poor" theatre practices of Jerzy Grotowski, performed a chilling solo to no sound but her own – and the flapping of some torn plastic sheeting over the windows. Beginning in silence from a standing position, she slowly brought herself to a crouching position and opened her mouth to expel an extended roar that one would hardly identify as human. In the coming weeks, Robinson will dance on a program with musical duo Moth Ring, dancer Ame Henderson and the musical group The Draperies. Composer Stephen Parkinson presents new work on the same bill as dancer Barbara Lindenberg. Expect the unexpected. For more information go to motherdrift.blogspot.com.

**************************

National Ballet of
Canada principal dancer Greta Hodgkinson makes a smooth transition into acting for the camera in Moze Mossanen's Roxana, airing tonight at 9 p.m. on CBC Television's Opening Night.  Mossanen adapts the story of the 17th-century courtesan from Daniel Defoe's novel to a 1950s setting, making Roxana a poor showgirl who dances for a few dollars at a nightclub and can't pay the rent on the coldwater flat she shares with her young daughter. Putting her beauty and seductive powers to more lucrative work, Roxana acquires wealth and social position as mistress to the powerful men enthralled by her.  Actor Sheila McCarthy plays Amy, a former dancer turned photographer who becomes a companion and quasi-servant to Roxana. She would like to have Roxana herself, and becomes a voyeur who betrays her. Roberto Campanella choreographs the dance sequences that run from a jazzy cabaret act, to a balletic waltz number in an art gallery, to synchronized lovemaking on a silk sheet as Roxana amuses herself with a succession of lovers. Former principal dancer Rex Harrington plays a besotted government minister blackmailed by Amy's photographs. Christopher Body is a man who is truly in love with Roxana, as illustrated in an emotional pas de deux. Roxana's rise should have led to a subsequent fall, but in this version, she simply leaves. The dialogue is clichéd and, cinematically, this Roxana reminds one of Butterfield 8. Except for a couple of dramatic glitches, the narrative is much stronger here than in Mossanen's previous dance films. The sets and costumes are suitably lavish and Hodgkinson seems to relish her role as a haughty, high-class whore. Tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m., Bravo! airs Roxana as a series of four dance shorts accompanied by interviews with Hodgkinson, McCarthy, Mossanen and Campanella.

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Harbourfront Centre's Kuumba Festival presents dance from every corner of the African diaspora. Classes with hip-hop artist
Ponytailz take place at the Lakeside Terrace on Saturday at 2 p.m. James Williams demonstrates his brand of jazz fused with hip hop, Afro-Cuban and modern dance on the same stage at 3:30. Ballet Creole performs at 5 p.m. and at 8 p.m. Cicely Bradley and Olisa Thompson of Nu-Styles, best known as celebrity judges on So You Think You Can Dance, give a workshop. The Choreographer's Ball, from 9:30 p.m. to 1 a.m., is a gathering of Toronto's top urban dancers, with a tribute to Shawn Cuffie of DLM Dance and Entertainment Company. All events are free.

Staging His Own Rendezvous

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail
- Paula Citron

(Feb. 8, 07) 'I've never understood what it did for dance in
Canada in bringing me down," Robert Desrosiers says. The Toronto-based choreographer is, of course, referring to the cause célèbre that rocked the Canadian dance world when the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council effectively shut down his company after almost 20 years by pulling his grants. It was 1998, and the man who had been one of the best known choreographers in the country was effectively silenced. "I didn't have the tools, I didn't have a creative centre to do my work," he says. By that, Desrosiers means the dancers and the studio space that a choreographer needs. Fast forward to 2007. Tomorrow night, at the Betty Oliphant Theatre in Toronto, Desrosiers, now 53, will unveil his new work Rendezvous, working with the dancers of Ballet Jorgen Canada. Says artistic director Bengt Jorgen: "I followed Robert's work closely, and behind his elaborate props and costumes was a great choreographer. I never forgot him even though he had dropped out of sight, and when the opportunity arose to commission a work, he was an obvious choice. He always had the craft and the artistic talent to touch people."

In its day, Desrosiers Dance Theatre, founded in 1980, was known as a wellspring of whimsical imagination. Desrosiers was considered a visionary and a genius who designed his own elaborate props, sets and costumes that made for large-scale dance extravaganzas. In fact, he may have attracted more non-dance fans to dance with his theatrical delights than any other choreographer in the country. The choreography, somewhat obscured by the lavish staging, was always breathtakingly athletic and notoriously challenging in its cunning mix of ballet, gymnastics and contemporary dance. Desrosiers acknowledges that there were financial concerns with his company. A former administrator had had a nervous breakdown on the job and the operations of the company were in a mess, but by 1998, an able new administrator was in place. On a note of irony, Desrosiers -- who won two of the country's most prestigious dance awards: the
Jacqueline Lemieux Prize in 1980 and the Jean A. Chalmers Award in 1985 -- was nominated for a Dora Award for his staging of Vivaldi's Sacred Songs the year the plug was pulled. In fact, it was the Vivaldi piece that made Jorgen sit up and take notice. "I was not enamoured of Robert's big pieces. I like choreography when movement itself creates ideas. Vivaldi's Sacred Songs had no props and costumes, and the sheer power of Robert's choreography shone through. It was pure dance at its best. It transcended the ordinary." The turn of the new century was not an easy time for Desrosiers, who admits that he watched a lot of television and did a lot of meditation. The loss of his company also coincided with his hip finally giving way to wear and tear, leaving him unable to dance. He still walks with a limp. As well, his long-time relationship with company dancer Robin Wilds came to an end. "I was more sad than bitter," he says. "I also went through a period of self-doubt. If my choreography was that bad, then it cast a negative light on me as a creative artist."

Desrosiers may have dropped out of sight, but he was busy. He went back to the visual arts, producing a series of pastel drawings executed at his cottage studio near
Bancroft, Ont., and had successful shows at galleries in Toronto and Hamilton.  He was also the featured choreographer in Robert Altman's film Company, which portrayed life inside a ballet company. Says Desrosiers: "Altman would tell you how he wanted you to do a scene and you just improvised away through all the takes. It was fun." What he wasn't doing in any of these activities was being his own man as an independent choreographer. In Company, he recreated an existing work. With the Mendelssohn Choir, it was the choir choosing the music. Which brings us to Rendezvous. Says Desrosiers: "This is the first time since my company where it is me alone as the creative spirit. Bengt [Jorgen] has essentially lent me his company. I've chosen my own costume designer, Evelyn Bastien, and my own composer, Eric Cadesky, and I'm working with wonderful dancers." Desrosiers's inspiration for the piece is how people are attracted to each other, not just romantically, but as strangers -- what he calls an instant communication. He is also interested in why the magnet also goes the other way, and puts people at loggerheads instantly. "It's about the dynamics of people who come together in a space, some whom may want contact and other who do not," he explains.

Jorgen finds that the piece shows Desrosiers's ballet heritage. He is, after all, a graduate of the
National Ballet School, but Jorgen also sees a contemporary sense of energy that is refreshing. "It has sparkle," he says. "It's pure Robert -- powerful, energetic and very physical -- yet he also manages to create nuance of character and relationships." Dancers Tara Butler and Dan King are delighting in Desrosiers's creative force in the studio, although they are exhausted both physically and emotionally by the demands of the piece. "Robert is unusual in that he doesn't use music to inspire creation," Butler says. "The piece comes from within the choreographer, from some internal musicality and rhythm that is naturally in him." Adds King: "I swear he makes us use muscles that have never been used before." Working with the Jorgen dancers has given Desrosiers a second wind, and he is excited about dance again. "I spent a lot of time on my own in the last seven years," he says. "I realized that I had lost my identity and had to start anew on a very personal journey. I believe we are here on Earth to learn. I guess my lot in life was to learn more than other people." Ballet Jorgen Canada performs a mixed program that includes works by Robert Desrosiers, Bengt Jorgen and Crystal Pite at Toronto's Betty Oliphant Theatre tomorrow and Saturday. The program is scheduled to appear in western Canada and Yukon later in the spring.

::SPORTS NEWS::

SPORTS TIDBITS

NBA Vet John Amaechi Out Of The Closet

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(February 8, 2007) *With
John Amaechi’s announcement Wednesday that he is gay, the former NBA center, who played for such teams as the Utah Jazz and the Cleveland Cavaliers, makes history as the league’s first player to come out publicly and discuss his homosexuality.   "He is coming out of the closet as a gay man," Amaechi's publicist Howard Bragman said Wednesday. Born to a Nigerian father and an English mother, Amaechi was raised in Stockport, England before moving to the U.S. to play high school basketball in Toledo, Ohio. He began his college career at Vanderbilt, but transferred to Penn State where he excelled as a two-time First Team Academic All-American. He was signed undrafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1995, then went on to play overseas, as well as in the States with the Orlando Magic, Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets.  Three years after his playing career ended, Amaechi has decided to come out of the closet, and is one of only six professional male athletes from one of the four major American sports (NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL) to do so.       In his book, Amaechi describes the challenge of being gay in a league where it is assumed that all players are heterosexual. He writes that while playing in Utah, coach Jerry Sloan used anti-gay innuendo to describe him. He also writes of the challenges he faced as a kid growing up in England, where he was raised by his mother and felt isolated because of his size and black race.

Aguilera, Braxton, Blige To Work NBA All-Star Game

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(February 14, 2007) *The NBA has tapped Toni Braxton and Christina Aguilera to entertain folks during halftime of Sunday’s
NBA All-Star game in Las Vegas, while Mary J. Blige has been booked to perform at the league’s NBA Cares event to be held the day prior.  Braxton, currently starring in her hit production show, "Toni Braxton: Revealed" at the Flamingo in Las Vegas, will open Sunday's halftime extravaganza by performing "Making Me High" from her “Secrets” album and "Take This Ring" from her “Libra” album. To culminate the show, Aguilera will perform "Ain't No Other Man" and "Candyman" from her platinum-selling album, “Back to Basics.” On Saturday, triple Grammy-winner Blige will pay tribute to NBA Cares, the league's social responsibility initiative, with a performance of her rendition of the U2 original hit "One" during NBA All-Star Saturday Night, airing live on TNT at 5 p.m. PT, 8 p.m. ET.   In addition to the musical acts during Sunday's All-Star Game, to be held Sunday (Feb. 18) at 5 p.m. PT, 8 p.m. ET at the Thomas & Mack Center, Cirque du Soleil artists will perform a dynamic display of acrobatic martial arts from the opening act of KA, the gravity-defying production presented at MGM Grand.  In a special performance, "Mr. Las Vegas" Wayne Newton will take part in the NBA All-Star player introductions.

::FITNESS NEWS::

Slim Your Butt & Hips

By
Joyce Vedral, eDiets Guest Columnist

You've heard it before: "wide load," "child-bearing hips," "big Butt!" Well, you can hone down that out-of-control rump if you're willing to work out just a little bit every other day. But it gets better! While you're at it, you can tone your flag-waving triceps and hamstrings (back of your legs).  How can you do this? You do special exercises that attack two body parts at a time. It saves time and prevents boredom. I find that working the hip-butt area can be boring.

One of my favourite ways to work fat off the hips and butt is to do two-for-one hip-butt exercises.  For example, why not get your hamstrings toned while zapping your hips and butt? And why not tighten those flag-waving arms (the triceps) while melting down your hips and butt? This makes me more motivated to work out, especially on days when I really don't feel like disturbing my lazy tranquility. And yes, like everybody else, I have those days.  The following two "double whammy" exercises will go a long way toward getting rid of your reindeer rump -- and at least it gives you a good start by Christmas. As I said, you will also make headway on your hamstrings and arms. So let's get started!

Butt & Hamstring Toning Hack Squat

Position: Stand with your feet a natural-width apart, holding a broomstick or barbell behind your back (see start photo).

Movement: Bend at the knees to a comfortable position, not more than your knees can go and not more than thighs parallel to the floor. Flexing your butt, hips and back thighs, rise to start position and repeat the movement until you have done 12 repetitions. Without resting move to the next exercise.

Butt/Hip & Triceps Toning Floor Lift

Position
: Sit on the floor with your legs extended straight out in front of you, and your arms at your sides, elbows bent. (See start photo.)

Flexing your triceps and hip muscles as you go, lift yourself off the floor by straightening your arms not quite fully. Flex your triceps and hip/butt area an extra time, and return to start position. Repeat until you have done 12 repetitions.

Repeat the sequence two more times. This little routine will take no more than five minutes and goes a long way toward getting your reindeer rump, along with your hamstrings and arms in shape! To get there faster, it's a good idea to add more exercises for this area and for the rest of your body!

::MOTIVATION::

Motivational Note - Why Having a Goal Isn't Nearly Enough

By
J. M. Gracia; www.motivation123.com  

Twenty-three out of twenty-five people couldn't give me the answer I was looking for. Unfortunately, this means that twenty-three of the twenty-five people I met with will never experience the motivation necessary to get what they want. If you want to get motivated to change something in your life or achieve an important goal, you must know the answer that ninety-two percent failed to deliver. Before you can offer the right answer, however, you have to know what I'm looking for.

I Used to Believe This...Not Anymore

So much has been said about the importance of having goals that many people have been lured into the false notion that having a goal naturally leads to the motivation to achieve it. Even more, setting a specific goal with a timeline will all but guarantee success. As someone who has set goals in the past, I'm sure you know firsthand that merely having a goal isn't enough. While setting clearly defined goals is critical to living the life you want to live, lasting change requires something more than a specific goal. And this extra step was something that twenty-three out of the twenty-five people I spoke with didn't know. They had goals, some of them even specific and scheduled, but without answering the most important type of question, the motivation to achieve success will be short-lived. And if you don't have the motivation to follow through on your goals and dreams, you'll never succeed. That is why you must take that extra step, you must answer the most important questions.

Here is the Missing Link

If setting a clearly defined goal isn't enough, what's the missing link? W-H-Y That's right, the missing link is why you want the goal. Without a strong and persuasive 'why' behind each one of your goals you'll never achieve it. As I sat down with those twenty-five individuals I asked them each about their personal and professional goals. Every one of them had an answer. Some took time to think about what they wanted while others already had a clear idea of what they hoped to achieve. After the goal was identified, I asked each the exact reasons why they wanted to achieve the goal, the compelling and powerful motivators. Only two out of the entire group offered satisfactory answers. I say 'satisfactory' because reasons such as being happier or making more money aren't strong enough. Reasons such as these will never overpower the habits and obstacles that stand in your way. We will soon discuss specific techniques to uncover the reasons you need to get what you want, but before we do that I want to mention a note about choosing your goals in the first place. If you don't know what you want, nothing else matters. I have worked with many people who only knew that they wanted something different in their lives, but it stopped there.