Thursday, November 20, 2014

4 generations of hip hop: clas/sick at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts 11/8/02014

The energy in this room is incredible.

We started with turntables and have moved to live mcs and a band.

The couple in front of me is in their 40s dancing with each other like they are back in college. Ain't nothin' but a G thing by Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre is on and a solo hip hop dancer is on stage with a gorgeous copper afro.
Crazy that even though I am not the biggest hiphop fan, I remember how seminal this music was. It changed house parties. It invited more folks to the dance floor with its hypnotizing hooks. The "head bob" was the dance move all men had to master.

The head bob distinguished East Coast youth from West Coast youth in America. East Coast head bobs emphasized the up motion with the head, emphasizing the "What's up" gesture. West Coast head bob emphasized the down motion; the chin pulled to the ground, grounded to the beat.
Next up is a tribute to Wu Tang Clan. Violins, upright bass, grand piano, conductor, and soprano on stage along with the mcs. Definitely a wild take on what was already an edgy art form in the early 90s.

This is a throwback to pre-corporate hiphop.

I would love for more of today's artists to genre bend like this and push the edge of their music.

Arrangements like this remind me of why I was drawn to the violin. It is an instrument with so many voices: like me. It can be elegant, driving, disquieting, soothing...

Oh wow...they just started dropping "Cash Rules Everything Around Me (C.R.E.A.M.)."
The crowd throws the chorus back at the MCs.

I stand like an anthropologist, surveying the vibe, entranced by the hip hop clarinet that just debuted on stage.  The solo dancer is a thick dude the color of deep amber, dressed in black, glowing with sweat and pumping his body; he has become percussion.

Four generations of hip hop are here. It reminds me of salsa. The dance floor and stage are for all called to move. Parents bounce babies on their laps, 20 somethings oscillate impossibly, the 40 somethings in suit jackets maintain a grounded groove.

DJ is up y'all. Taking off my reviewer hat and getting my dance on.

This event is dope. Thank you, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

The boricua is outtie to get her dance on...

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Spanish Harlem Orchestra

I graduated on May 24.

I got to celebrate the day with my parents at Yoshi's in Oakland--Spanish Harlem Orchestra was on the bill. If you want to make this Puerto Rican happy, you give her the opportunity to dance salsa with her dad on one of the most momentous occasions of her life. Scholarship and salsa: what can be better than that?

I hadn't seen my dad light up like that to music in a long time. He and my brother are my two favourite dance partners of all time. They lead and when we dance it's a playful salsa. We incorporate our mood into our dance. We turn. We dance silly vignettes. We embody the lyrics with our dancing. It's not a show-off thing. It's a joyful thing.

El conjunto brought it. Of course, I didn't scribble notes into my notebook, like I normally would do if I enjoyed the concert by myself. I was too busy laughing and dancing with my dad. But I was keen on the bandleader, the bass player, and the powerful brass that filled that room. Woe to the person who came to just watch. Salsa is not a music form to watch. One embodies salsa. And we filled every available space -- the dance floor, the aisles, and even the audience at the tables was moving their shoulders, tapping on their tables in rhythm with the congeros. At a salsa concert the audience and orchestra are one band.

In the weeks since my graduation I have been caught up in finishing one assignment and getting ready for summer teaching. Although I have found myself drifting into music, wanting to whirl and laugh and be filled with the percussive power of live salsa. Spanish Harlem Orchestra have been unofficially crowned as the successors to El Gran Combo. Feeling their energy live again? I am prone to recognize them taking the reigns of salsa and moving it forward. I was lucky enough to happen upon this live concert in Montreal. This is the energy I experienced.

Que bonita bandera. Que bonita ser boricua. Spanish Harlem Orchestra trae la tradicion.

WEPA, senores y senoras!