Category archives: Music

  • The Asian-American experience in popular culture has been an interesting and sometimes troubling one. Where other minorities have made great, often vocal, strides in advancing their place in the pop culture firmament—music, movies, TV, comic books—Asians have not always been as successful. Bad Rap, directed by Salima Koroma and produced by Jaeki Cho, is an enlightening look at the careers of four Asian-American rappers—Dumbfoundead (Jonathan Park), Awkwafina (Nora Lum), Rekstizzy (David Lee) and Lyricks (Richard Lee)—as they struggle with prejudice and their own cultural expectations in a genre created and dominated by African-American artists. (Of course, white artists don't exactly command the field either, but Eminem is shown as the obvious example of major success.)The film opens with scenes of Dumbfoundead--the best known and longest performing of the four—onstage in front of an excited crowd, as the others praise his talent and 2011 song “Are We There Yet?,” which specifically addressed the experience of his Korean immigrant family. He interviews that he hates being called “an Asian rapper,” yet admits to also embracing that identity. Ultimately though, “I’m American,” he says, a sentiment that is echoed by others throughout the film.Bad Rap delves into hip hop history, starting with 1980s West Coast Filipino rappers who were heroes in the Asian community around the time that NWA and Ice Cube first became popular. We hear from rap pioneer MC Jin, who app[...]
  • The title of Barnaby (aka Barney) Clay’s new documentary, SHOT! The Psycho-spiritual Mantra of Rock, says it all, really. This rambling, entertaining portrait of legendary music photographer Mick Rock is full of its genial subject’s own musings on his life and art. It also encapsulates the excitement and excesses of the heady musical era that Rock (barely) lived through and documented. For anyone with a passing interest in the rock scenes of the late 1960s through '70s, this will be pretty fascinating stuff. For those, like myself, who remember wondering about the photographer whose impossibly appropriate name appeared on pictures of many groundbreaking artists, this will provide context, and then some. (For the record, the man’s given name is actually Michael David Rock.)The film opens with present-day Rock (now in his late 60s) loading his camera at a live TV on the Radio show. He talks about his process, which—at its best—makes him feel like an assassin, “I’ve got my sights on you, gonna take you out.” Later he clarifies, “I’m not after your soul, I’m after your f-ing aura,” which might prompt an eye-roll, except that he really did capture the essence of performers (and friends) such as David Bowie, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Freddie Mercury and Debbie Harry, among others. For many awestruck kids, Rock's images were their introduction to these genre-defying musicians.The film takes us through a more or less chronological account of Rock’s career, interspersed with[...]
  • The second film from Swedish director Kasper Collin, I Called Him Morgan is an evocative, beautifully filmed documentary of a remarkable life cut short and a remarkably fertile period in New York City’s jazz scene. In February 1972, acclaimed 33-year-old trumpeter Lee Morgan was shot to death by his common-law wife Helen in an East Village club. The murder shocked all who knew the couple, including Morgan’s fans and fellow musicians, many of whom tried to make sense of the tragedy afterwards.Using interviews; gorgeous, iconic, black and white still photos; archival film clips, and moody reenactments—all underscored by a fabulous soundtrack—Collin constructs compelling portraits of both Lee Morgan and his common-law wife Helen, making their way in New York City’s hopping jazz scene from the late 1950s through the early '70s. The story slowly builds up to that fateful night, providing details that many have apparently pondered for years. In doing so, Collin gives us a glimpse of the great talent possessed by Morgan, along with poignant memories of the people who nurtured and appreciated it. With its potent music, atmospheric footage of vintage NYC and artfully abstract recreations, the film also gives us a palpable sense of time and place.Collin's main resource is an interview that Helen gave to radio host and jazz scholar Larry Reni Thomas in 1996, a month before she passed away. This fortuitous conversation came about when Thomas was teaching adult education a[...]
  • We recently caught up with musician, singer, song writer and visual artist Yoni Wolf to discuss the new album from his band Why?.  Moh Llean will be released on March 3rd, and is the band's first release since 2013's Golden Tickets.What was the band’s motivation/inspiration for the latest album, “Moh Llean” and how is it different than the band’s previous releases?I can't say there is ever a specific motivation or inspiration. We are artists and we are drawn to making art in whatever state-- from whatever space we find ourselves. This one was no different, though of course it ends up with its own feel and identity based on our changes and developments as humans.Is there a particular story you wanted to tell or message you wanted to send with “Moh Llean.”I would say that whatever the album conveys thematically, it does so naturally without pre-conceptions or agenda.  That said, I think it is an attempt at openness in the heart and acceptance and peace.How did the hip hop element of the band’s sound come to be? Are you guys hip hop fans? Classic or modern day hip hop? Or, was it organic?I started out as a rapper. Hip hop is at my roots and core.  I don't think this album is very hip hop though.Tell me about the band’s creative process. Do you work remotely or do you go off to the woods to write together as a group?I wrote most of the stuff myself. My brother Josiah and I produced and arranged the stuff together.  We have a couple musicians-- [...]
  • With an unprecedented climate of change and concern dawning in the United States, Art for Progress arts education programs are more essential than ever. AFP is embracing the ever-growing need for alternative and supplemental art, music, theater, and fashion programs for young people representing the voice of true expression in our city. Once again this has been an exciting semester for existing Art for Progress arts education programs in New York City’s public schools, and there are some new programs in the works for the second half of the school year.Our flagship music program at Humanities Preparatory Academy, which includes school day sessions as well as after school, is flourishing and has produced and cultivated a bunch of wonderful talent this semester. Everyone at the school is looking forward to the talent show on February 16th, which will include solo vocal and instrumental performances, and a variety of ensemble pieces and even a dance number.  AFP’s after school program at the James Baldwin School is also going strong and was well represented in the recent school-wide talent show on Friday, January 20. Students from both schools have been working hard after school every day, choosing songs and rehearsing. Especially impressive is the spirit of mutual encouragement among the students as the shows approach.As for AFP’s Young Adult Music Enrichment Program, tracking is nearly completed on Bronx rock band Statik Vision’s full-length album, and we are preparing [...]
  • We recently caught up with Brooklyn based band Slothrust, who are releasing their long awaited third album, Everyone Else on Dangerbird Records October 28th.1)   Are you native New Yorker's or transplants?Will and I are from Boston and Kyle is from New Jersey.2)   How would you describe your sound?Blues / jazz influenced rock music with a lot of dynamics and time signature changes ;)3)   How has the crowd responded to the new music from Everyone Else?Crowds we have performed to have responded really positively to the new music. We are very excited to tour and share it with more people.4)   Was there a particular story you wanted to tell or message you wanted to send with Everyone Else?There is not one story in particular that I am trying to tell with this record. Thematically, it deals a lot with water and dreams. I like thinking about different states of consciousness and things infinitely larger than the self.5)   What do you enjoy most about touring and performing live?I like seeing new cities and the exchange of energy that happens between performers and difference audiences.6)   Tell me about your creative process. Do you work remotely or do you go off to the woods to write together as a group?It's a combination of a lot of things. Generally songs come to me in pieces and we go about executing them in a variety of ways. In the past there hasn't been a particular formula for us.7)   Where do you find your inspiration[...]
  • Brooklyn natives Chayse Schutter (vocals), Justin Flores (guitar), Don Scherr (drums) and Dan Hernandez (bass) make up the borough's newest metalcore punk band Pocketsand. While juggling jobs and touring, the guys have managed to begin recording an EP and drum up a small following despite having only formed earlier this year. Listen to their song "Blinding" below and check out what Chayse and Don have to say about their latest musical endeavor:1. How'd the band start? Don: Chayse and Justin were working together at their day jobs, realized they were into the same sorts of heavy bands and decided they wanted to try to start a band in that vein of music for fun.2. How did you land on the name "Pocketsand"? Any connection to "King of the Hill"? Don: Chayse was watching an interview where someone said they would use pocketsand as a default defense move in a bar fight, thought it was cool and mentioned it to Justin who knew if from "King of the Hill."3. How would you define your sound? Chayse: Like throwing a trashcan full of nails down a set of stairs. Don: Heavy hitting punk that stabs you and nurses your wounds at the same time4. If you could expand that sound somehow (eg, add a new instrument or another member) how would you? Don: We use a lot of homemade samples in our live set that are spacey, sort of eerie soundscapes. We would love to keep that as part of our sound and expand on it for recordings.5. Is recording more of an isolated period or d[...]
  • With the weather forecast calling for temperatures in the upper 90's on Friday, we did our best to prepare for an all day event in the sweltering NYC summer heat.  But upon entering the venue, it was clear that the organizers of the Panorama Festival planned appropriately for our day.  With many free water kiosks, tents and air conditioned art & music areas, it was easy to cool down if you were feeling overwhelmed by the oppressive heat.And although it's not so easy to get to Randall's Island, our timing was very good, and as we walked in Here We Go Magic was just starting to play in the huge tent to the north side of the venue.  I was happy to finally here the band live. Some years ago I interviewed Luke Temple, but lost touch with the band's more recent happenings.  They had a decent crowd for the early part of the day, and although they apologized for some technical difficulties, we were impressed with their set.As we made our way over to the main stage, we could hear Algier's set was already in full swing.  Algier's set was only 30 minutes, but their powerful, dark soulful sound was evident throughout.  While listening we were able to cool down over at the American Express spot.  We snapped together some complimentary sunglasses and enjoyed some refreshments for a bit before heading back to the pavilion to hear Preservation Hall Jazz Band. A rather large, enthusiastic crowd was now gathered and grooving to some of the best New Orleans style jazz you can fi[...]
  •      This Saturday Grammy award-winning Latina musician Carla Morrison played a free show at the Prospect Park Bandshell. She followed Hurray for the Riff Raff and Buscabulla as part of the Bud Light Music series, which was presented in association with the Latin Alternative Music Conference (LAMC). The Conference puts on an annual showcase, this year’s iteration meant to showcase both emerging and established artists. Morrison’s presence definitely represented the latter.      Apart from winning the hearts of a vast and dedicated fanbase, the pop artist has also won two Latin Grammys. In 2012, she took home both the award for Best Alternative Song for "Déjenme Llorar" and the Best Alternative Music Album award for Déjenme Llorar. She was also nominated for the Song of the Year award for "Déjenme Llorar". The record has since gone on to be certified Gold in Morrison's native Mexico. This bout of success began the previous year with Morrison’s nomination for the "Best Alternative Music Album" for Mientras Tu Dormías at the 2011 Latin Grammys and has continued to the present.      Originally from Tecate in the Mexican state of Baja California, Morrison began expressing an interest in music early. She moved to Arizona in her late teens to study music at Mesa Community College. Soon thereafter, she dropped out to pursue a more self-taught and personal musical education. She studied with David Barrios[...]
  • Yesterday, blink-182 released their new album California. A much anticipated record, it’s their first since ousting founding guitarist/vocalist Tom DeLonge. Early last year, the group announced the lineup change and welcomed Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio as a third member. At a Blink show shortly thereafter, bassist Mark Hoppus introduced Skiba, then filling in on guitar, as our “new step dad that is going to be living with us from now on”. After years of ill-will amongst the band, it seemed the Hoppus-DeLonge divorce had finally gone through. Since joining, Skiba has racked up a good amount of performance time with the band and earned himself something of a warm welcome from the fanbase. He proved he could sing all the old songs and sound enough like DeLonge to keep with the sound, but add just enough of his own personality as to not come across as a carbon copy. The real test would be their record. It would definitively answer the question blink-182 fans had been posing since DeLonge left, “Who the fuck is Matt Skiba?”The album opens with "Cynical". In the anxiety-ridden open verse, Hoppus introspectively sings over clean guitar. Before listeners have time to wonder whether this slower pace is the new Blink, Skiba and drummer Travis Barker breakthrough. What comes next sound definitely like the band. There are all the elements you’d expect from Barker’s fills to the back-and-forth of Hoppus and Skiba trading off vocalist duties. What started as a questionable way to [...]
  • Art for Progress’ after school music enrichment program at Hudson High School for Learning Technologies was especially inspiring this spring semester because of a dynamic group of multi-talented, and eager students. The program was reinstated this spring thanks to the efforts of principal Nancy Amling. The program had been inactive for the fall semester because a lack of funding, Ms. Amling was influenced in her decision to restart the program by an exceptional young student and musician named Terelle. Terelle’s enthusiasm and hunger for new knowledge were the ultimate catalyst for the formation of the program.Tarelle wanted to learn about how music works beyond the shapes he was learning on the guitar. Hudson HS currently offers a beginning guitar class as a part of the school’s regular curriculum. The class is focused on the mechanics of playing the instrument, but like most beginning guitar classes, it did not address the underlying music theory necessary for students who to build their skills beyond the basic guitar vocabulary.The group of students that comprise the AFP after school program at Hudson range from 9th-12th graders, and are led by Terelle.  He expressed a desire to learn some more universal musical concepts in order to set up a foundation upon which to develop their musicality. They were made up of aspiring singers, guitarists, pianists, and bass players of varying levels of experience. We explored the construction of scales, chord building and common[...]