Friday, July 26, 2013

HOLLYWOOD BABEL: Speaking in Tongues—Ethiopian, Arabic, Castellano, Anglo

If you saw the movie “La Bamba” many years ago, and hopefully paid attention to the Los Lobos soundtrack, then you know there’s a folk version of that song that predates the pop-rock version that Richie Valens made famous, and in many ways is superior to it.  Did you know that it goes on forever?  My favorite verse is the one that begins: “Para subir al cielo…”, reminding me of the Spanish title of the Bunuel film “Mexican Bus Ride,” se necesita,  una grande escalera…” and so on into infinity.  I think at some point Jarocho son masters just make up their own verses and let the Homies decide what sticks.  And now Las Cafeteras does their own East Los Angelized version that just happens to rock, not suck.  Got politics? 

The best part of living in LA (‘Hollywood’ for short) for me is that it is at the crossroads of so many immigrant cultures.  With the possible exception of Nueva York, I doubt that any other American city even comes close.  Miami?  Naah.  Chicago?  No way.  Even my favorite city San Francisco really only specializes in a few Asians in geographical symmetry and a few Hispanics in cultural sympathy.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Summer Heats Up in LA

How’s this global warming working out for you?  If it gets any hotter, I might have to go buy some beachfront property in Point Barrow, and charge tolls from oil tankers looking for a northwest passage straight over the North Pole.  I know some people like it like this, and most others would prefer to ignore global climate change rather than give up their petroleum-guzzling toys.  It’s an exciting time to be alive; I’ll give it that.  Fortunately, there is plenty of outdoor entertainment in the summer, though the cocktail waitresses can’t be too happy about that, can they?  

Friday, July 12, 2013


“Hendrix of the Desert:” don’t you just love that name they try to hang on Vieux Farka Toure’, son of Ali, son of Ishmael and Mariam?  Yeah, about as much as I love PR rap in general, and ad copy in particular.  About as much as I love the attempt to fit Alex Cuba with the title “Hendrix of the North” or “Hendrix of Kootenay” or whatever it was, a few years ago.  The problem, in both cases, is that it’s just not accurate.  Alex Cuba’s pop guitar stylings are wonderful, but closer to Eddie Van Halen than those of His Majesty Hendrix.  And I dig Vieux, too, but he ain’t Hendrix; hey, he’s not even from the desert!  Hometown Niafunke is still the Sahel, not Sahara, last time I checked, and he obviously has sub-Saharan—not Semitic or Berber—physical characteristics, as the neighboring Tuareg do. 

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